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.
The GT72 Dominator Pro G is MSI's latest gaming notebook, primarily symbolic for its inclusion of nVidia's GTX 980 desktop GPU. Last month, we reported that desktop GTX 980 GM204 chips were en route to the notebook market, already integrated in various form factors and manufacturer offerings. We've gotten hands-on with a few GTX 980 notebooks – the Aorus X7 DT, CLEVO P870DM, ASUS GX700VO, MSI GT72 – and have seen form factors spanning slim (<1” thickness) through the usual “desktop replacement” models (2”, for the GT72).
Our first GTX 980 notebook review is of MSI's GT72 Dominator Pro G, including gaming (FPS) benchmarks, thermal & temperature plots, battery life, and value. There's no softening the blow with this one: It's $3100, 2” thick, and weighs about 8.4 lbs. This is, in its truest form, a “desktop replacement” laptop. Of note, we previously reviewed CyberPower's Fangbook III with a GTX 980M, which is a rebranded MSI GT72 notebook using the mobile version of the GTX 980 – a slimmed-down offering from today's model. With the Fangbook on extended loan, we were able to re-benchmark performance and conduct a GTX 980 vs. GTX 980M laptop benchmark. To expand on this just slightly, a desktop GTX 980 was also benchmarked as a parity-check with the more thermally-constrained notebooks.
Liquid-cooled video cards have carved-out a niche in the performance market, granting greater power efficiency through mitigation of power leakage, substantially reduced thermals, and improved overclocking headroom. We've previously talked about the EVGA GTX 980 Ti Hybrid and AMD R9 Fury X, both of which exhibited substantially bolstered performance over previous top-of-line models. More manufacturers have seen the potential for liquid-cooled graphics, with MSI and Corsair now joining forces to produce their own 980 Ti + CLC combination.
This joint venture by MSI and Corsair sees the creation of a liquid-cooled GTX 980 Ti, using the existing Corsair H55 CLC ($60), an Asetek-supplied CLC. Depending on which company you're asking, the graphics card is named either the “MSI Sea Hawk GTX 980 Ti” ($750) or “Corsair Hydro HFX 980 Ti.” Both will have independent listings on retail websites. The cards are identical aside from the branding initiatives. The MSI & Corsair solution sees employment of what is typically a CPU liquid cooler, bracketing the H55 CLC to the GPU using a Corsair HG10 GPU CLC mount. EVGA's solution, meanwhile, uses a CLC with an extruded coldplate for GPU-specific package sizes, which could impact cooling. We'll look into that below.
For purposes of this review, we'll refer to the card interchangeably between the Hydro GFX and Sea Hawk. Our MSI Sea Hawk GTX 980 Ti review benchmarks gaming (FPS) performance vs. the EVGA 980 Ti Hybrid, temperatures, overclocking, power consumption, and value. The liquid-cooled 980 Ti cards are in a class of their own, exceeding base 980 Ti price by a minimum of $50 across all manufacturers. We're pitting the EVGA 980 Ti Hybrid against the MSI Sea Hawk in a head-to-head comparison within this benchmark.
The commonality of RGB lighting in PC components seems to be ever increasing. Despite its rise to ubiquity, RGB LED lighting is still a feature that isn’t included in budget products; for this reason, products that incorporate RGB lighting at a reasonable price point are particularly interesting.
The Thermaltake Poseidon Z RGB is a programmable RGB keyboard currently available for a little under $100 at Amazon and Newegg, making it one of the cheapest programmable RGB keyboards available. And today, we’re reviewing the Poseidon Z RGB mechanical keyboard, following our previous acclaim for Tt eSports’ non-RGB predecessor.
Logitech's newest headsets run the high-end of the gaming market, priced at $150 and $200 for the respective wired and wireless variants. We showed the engineering and “making of” behind the company's G633 ($150) and wireless G933 ($200) headsets last month, briefly explaining the Logitech Pro G driver.
The two headsets are boasted by Logitech as the company's return to gaming audio, further claimed to exceed the usual “good for a gaming headset” quotation. Logitech wants its “Artemis Spectrum” headsets – the G633 and G933 – to be recognized for performance across various use cases, primarily including gaming, music, and movie / entertainment categories. Our favored audio solutions specialize in single categories, so the attempt at versatility requires more comprehensive testing and analysis.
This Logitech G633 gaming headset review looks at the RGB LEDs, 7.1 surround sound setup through DTS & Dolby, comfort, build quality, and mic quality.
Active users of the site will notice that we've gotten back into case reviews recently and, thanks to some new methods, we've gone a lot deeper with methodology than previously. The bench now includes thermal-over-time charts – which add great value to design analysis – and we've spoken with a number of experts on small design features to spot. Until now, all the 2015 cases we've looked at have been mid-tower or smaller. This B2 Spirit ($180) enclosure is a giant in comparison; in fact, it can nearly fit an entire NZXT S340 within it.
The Rosewill B2 Spirit full-tower case is targeted at gaming PC builds, but can readily fit server-class HPTX motherboards. It's got some unique design features, like pop-out fans and an elevated top-panel plate, but also has some unique oversights. This Rosewill B2 Spirit review tests case build quality, temperatures, and competitive alternatives.
EVGA's Z170 Stinger ($200) motherboard, something we reported on months ago, markets itself on enthusiast-level features in a mini-ITX form factor. The motherboard hosts Intel's newest “Performance” Z170 chipset, meaning it supports the latest i7-6700K, i5-6600K, and all the other forthcoming Skylake CPUs.
The Z170 Stinger is inherently restricted by opting for a mini-ITX form factor, but attempts to make the best of the space available with careful selection of supported I/O through the chipset. The unit hosts a single PCI-e slot and two memory slots – standard for mITX – along with a set of four SATA ports. This is reserved compared to larger motherboards, but allows a 6.7” x 6.7” size for use in SFF or gaming HTPC system builds.
Our review of the EVGA Z170 Stinger gaming motherboard will run through the specs, cooler clearances, BIOS, and relevant tests. Aesthetics aren't really something we like to discuss – the photos do that – but we'll talk through a few key points on that front, too.
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