Deriving a computer case from a Ferrari 458 seems like a bit of a stretch – but everyone's got to have an origin story, and that's where NZXT started with its Manta case. A previous tour of NZXT's offices showed us that case designers do, in fact, plaster photos of cars upon the office walls and leverage the visual prompts in concepting phases. The Manta makes its statement with curved, stamped paneling made of all steel, creating somewhat of a 'bubbled' look to the enclosure.
The mini-ITX case is NZXT's first venture into sub-ATX form factors since the Vulcan, but keeps to a familiar “tower” form factor that we're calling “Full-Size ITX.” It's not the shoebox form factor that ITX system builders may be used to and feels like a slightly distant cousin to the S340 ($70). In this NZXT Manta ($140) review, we run in-depth cooling benchmarks for a gaming system, analyze build quality, and determine overall value vs. other market contenders.
Aside from some odd encounters in the Fury X department and poor initial driver support, AMD's continued R9 roll-out has increasingly improved in its competitive posturing. We've already looked at the R9 380X as provided by Sapphire and remarked that we felt “confident in recommending” AMD's newest device. Today, we're moving to PowerColor's PCS+ R9 380X, a dual-fan-cooled 380X chip with a slight pre-overclock, but significant overhead for additional clock increases.
Our benchmark reviews the PowerColor R9 380X Myst Edition graphics card vs. Sapphire's R9 380X Nitro, including FPS, thermal, and OC testing.
For a review of the R9 380X as it compares to other cards – like the similarly-priced GTX 960 – we'd recommend our R9 380X review and individual game benchmarks (including ACS, Battlefront, Fallout, and more). This review specifically looks at the PCS+ 380X as it compares to our other R9 380X, the Sapphire Nitro card.
For years now, Cherry MX switches have been the norm in mechanical keyboards, but recently Cherry’s dominance has been threatened. Cherry’s patent expired, and now companies like Kaihua and Gateron are making clones of Cherry MX switches and altering the design to add features like RGB lighting. Other switches also exist, like the Romer-G switch that Logitech developed with Omron for Logitech’s G910 and G410 Atlas Spectrum keyboards. The Romer-G switches are designed with significant differences from the usual Cherry, Kailh, and other plus-stem clone switches, something we previously talked about a few times.
The latter keyboard is our review topic today. Logitech’s G410 Atlas Spectrum ($130) is a unique keyboard with RGB lighting, a tenkeyless design, and Romer-G switches. Romer-G switches are currently only available on the G410 and its larger brother, the G910 ($140).
Liquid-cooled graphics cards have blown up over the past year. They've existed before, but never to the level of publicity as spurred-on by AMD's Fury X and nVidia's high-end Maxwell board partners. With the MSI Sea Hawk 980 Ti, we explained why CLC systems for GPUs make excellent sense in the correct use case scenario. We mostly called attention to the obvious thermal reduction on the silicon, increased power efficiency by reducing capacitor leakage, and the ability for high-heat, “Big GPUs” to push more substantial overclocks. This is thanks to an avoidance of thermal throttling of the clock, meaning we become more limited by overall chip stability and BIOS vCore locks.
But liquid doesn't always make sense. CLCs drive the BOM up, increasing what the user pays for the solution. Most CLCs, depending on supplier (read about who really makes liquid coolers), are only good for a few years – five, on average – and that's undesirable to users seeking serious endurance. I'd imagine that most of our audience aims to build or upgrade systems at least once within a five-year period, perhaps mitigating the impact of this consideration. The issue is further diminished by just how easy it is to maintain these things: popping in a new cooler will get it up-and-running again, and they're fairly standardized (in the case of the 970 Hybrid or Sea Hawk, anything by Asetek will work). More work than required for an air-cooled card, but even those face decay from prolonged service life (often thermal compound or pads need to be re-applied).
At the surface, the GTX 970 Hybrid doesn't appear to like an application where “liquid makes sense.” That's what testing is for, and we'll look at use case scenarios for overclocking, ultra-low thermal systems, SFF rigs with thermal concerns, and more.
In this review of EVGA's GTX 970 Hybrid, we benchmark stock and overclocked performance in games (FPS), temperatures, and power consumption.
SilverStone’s Raven RV02 enclosure was once a chart-topper in our bench, laying claim to thermal superiority by taking risks. The RV02 uniquely approached system configuration by rotating the motherboard 90-degrees clockwise, a move that slipstreamed intake from three bottom-mounted, 180mm fans into the video card and CPU cooler. All of the air exhausted through a single top fan, creating a “Stack Effect” solution that yielded high-performance cooling for the GPU and CPU.
It’s been a while since the RV02 came out and made its splash and – a fact we didn’t learn until months after our review – that case was dust-prone, resultant of its positive pressure and all-bottom intake setup. We’ve been due for another risk-taker in the market.
Corsair today officially launches its new 600C and 600Q cases, each deploying an inverted motherboard design and strongly highlighting cooling efficiency. In the 600C/Q, the motherboard is not only rotated by 180-degrees, but inverted – it’s on the right side of the case, rather than the left. Without front-facing I/O, this is the only way to pull-off a 180-degree motherboard rotation. The models are differentiated by the right side panel (which, remember, is the access panel to the board): the 600Q (“quiet”) sacks the window in favor of a steel panel with sound-damping material; the 600C spotlights internals with its large window, somewhat similar to the company’s 760T arrangement (though not glass). The 600C/Q cases are each priced at $150.
“Team Red” appears to have been invigorated lately, inspired by unknown forces to “take software very seriously” and improve timely driver roll-outs. The company, which went about half a year without a WHQL driver from 2H14-1H15, has recently boosted game-ready drivers near launch dates, refocused on software, and is marketing its GPU strengths.
The newest video card from AMD bears the R300 series mark, from which we previously reviewed the R9 380 & R9 390 GPUs. AMD's R9 380X 4GB GPU costs $230 MSRP, but retails closer to $240 through board partners, and hosts 13% more cores than the championed R9 380 graphics card (~$200 after MIRs). That places the R9 380X in direct competition with nVidia's GTX 960 4GB, priced at roughly $230, and 2GB alternative at $210.
Today, we're reviewing the Sapphire Nitro version of AMD's R9 380X graphics card, including benchmarks from Battlefront, Black Ops III, Fallout 4, Assassin's Creed Syndicate, and more. The head-to-head would pit the R9 380X 4GB vs. the GTX 960 4GB, something we've done in-depth below. We'll go into thermals, power consumption, and overclocking on the last page.
Not every machine needs a Z170 motherboard. This fact is often overlooked by builders concerned with potentially limiting themselves in expansion options or framerate – a valid concern – but in instances where overclocking and multi-GPU arrays are not intended, B- and H- chipsets work perfectly. The chipset structure provides a hierarchy of prices for different target markets, with H170, B150, and H110 offering particularly compelling solutions for mainstream gaming PC builds.
Our previous motherboard review looked at Biostar's H170-Z3 board, which uses the H170 chipset and hosts both DDR3L and DDR4 memory slots. Today's review looks at the MSI B150A Gaming Pro motherboard, a business chispet-equipped board targeting the gaming market. MSI's B150A Gaming Pro hits the market at around $120 MSRP, justifying some of its price hike over competing boards by way of RGB LEDs.
This review looks at the power consumption of the B150A Gaming Pro, boot times, board layout, and UEFI power afforded to the user.
We recently reviewed the Corsair Strafe ($110), a mechanical keyboard with semi-customizable backlighting. Since then, the Strafe RGB keyboard has come out as the higher-end RGB version with the same chassis.
The Strafe RGB is a mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX Brown RGB, MX Red RGB, or MX Silent Red RGB switches, including a full 16.8 million colors available for lighting customization. Other than the option to set macros, the Strafe RGB is still a normal keyboard -- nothing too crazy about it, but that fits the Strafe’s market. The primary obstacle to the Strafe – which is the case with many PC components and high-end keyboards – is the price tag: $150, in this case.
Skylake's launch caused some initial curiosity because of its split RAM compatibility. The Skylake memory controller is capable of running both DDR4 and DDR3L memory – but not both simultaneously – and is compatible with platforms hosting both memory slot types. Importantly, DDR3 is not the same as DDR3L (low voltage), so just re-using Z97 platform DDR3 sticks won't necessarily (but could) work with Skylake boards.
Biostar's Hi-Fi H170-Z3 motherboard is among the first options to support both DDR3L and DDR4. With four DIMM slots and two per memory type, you're limited to a single DIMM per channel (dual-channel supported) with a maximum of 2 sticks per configuration. Using DDR4, a maximum memory configuration of 32GB (16GB per slot) is supported, with just 16GB (8GB per slot) on DDR3L.
Today we're reviewing the Hi-Fi H170-Z3. We've gone through the board design, UEFI, and some basic objective tests. Being that the board uses the H170 chipset, overclocking was not possible and not tested.
The company that generated industry-wide attention for its H440 case, launched in 1Q14, has returned from relative product-silence with its HUE+ LED controller. The HUE+ is outfitted with a number of substantial improvements over its championed HUE analog controller.
NZXT's HUE+ is a dual-channel RGB LED controller, complete with four high-density, fully addressable LED strips and an SSD form factor hub. It's possible to expand to eight total LED strips (four per channel) for 80 LEDs, each addressable through NZXT's existing CAM software. CAM, already established for Kraken CLC control and live FPS monitoring, makes available eight preset display modes, a pair of custom display modes, four lighting modes, and allows for fully-digital control over the LEDs.
We built a system using the NZXT HUE+ RGB LED controller and spent some time with CAM. This review looks at the new NZXT HUE+ RGB LED system, its build quality, brightness, LED bleed, and overall value. You can find a video review below, worth watching if only for a more visual representation of the LED functionality.
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