This is just a quick hardware news recap before we get buried by CES 2020. We wanted to get a few of the industry stories covered before product-centric coverage takes over for the week (which you'll mostly find on our YouTube channel). For this week, the main story is combination of both Samsung's power outage and other stories of increasing DRAM and SSD prices in 2020. We'll also talk about over-reaching expectations for both NVIDIA and AMD GPUs.
We spent the whole of 2017 complaining about airflow in cases, and it seems that some manufacturers have heard our complaints for 2018. Cooler Master has revamped its H500P to now feature a mesh face, and has also resolved significant build quality concerns with the front and top panels. Enermax rebuilt its Saberay to use mesh front and top panel inserts (optionally), a major step forward. Lian Li put out the best case at this year’s show, focusing on both looks and airflow (with two different models).
This is our review of the best cases of 2018, CES edition, following on a now six-year (!) tradition of “Best Case” coverage from CES. We started CES case round-ups in 2012, and have advanced them significantly since. Our demands have also changed significantly, as we look more toward function-focused designs that can artfully integrate ease-of-installation features.
Adding a day to our CES 2018 trip meant that we were able to regroup with about half of the NA-based "YouTubers" and technical media outlets, allowing for a lot of discussion on content creation, quality of content, and products shown at the event. One of those meetings was with Luke Lafreniere, formerly of Linus Media Group and presently of Floatplane (under the same roof, technically), who joined us to "review" CES 2018. During this on-camera-only content, we covered major product launches at the show, best and worst products, improvement to the case industry, and lacking product elsewhere. We also venture into the topic of virtual reality gaming and its waning marketing, alongside discussion of blockchain branding attached to nearly every major vendor.
It's a fun, looser video, and allows us to decompress with other media. For our video audience -- and even those who prefer the articles -- we think this one will be enjoyable for all of you, if only for the candid approach to the PC industry in early 2018.
This year’s CES saw content expansion for us, adding a second video producer to the road crew. This allowed us to better split article/video load, and balance sleep marginally better with work – up to 5 hours average for everyone, rather than the usual sub-5.
Anyway, there were plenty of products we covered in video format that didn’t make it into articles, and that was entirely due to physical limitations of the time-space continuum. We wanted to bring reader attention to some of the must-watch videos from the show, including our coverage of the Lian Li O11 chassis (the best case we saw at the event), the SilverStone Micro-STX form factor case, and Enermax’s updated Saberay.
Here they are:
For the first time in about 30 years, the mechanical switch market has a substantially new piece of technology instead of a modification on an old one. Cherry announced a high-precision switch targeted at notebooks and low-profile desktop keyboards. The switch uses a shallow design while maintaining the well-known characteristics of the standard MX Red switch. After meeting with Cherry, we learned that the company's R&D department had invested over 5 years to achieve the 11.9 mm design that does, after some simple side-by-side comparison, feel a lot like Cherry’s other MX linear switches, the black and red. The MX Low Profile RGB Red is about 35% shallower than the standard MX switches, which measure 18.5 mm. We also learned that the company was originally shooting for a 50-60% size reduction, but found that to be impossible if the standard Cherry MX characteristics were to be maintained. The switch was fully developed and built in Germany, which to der8auer’s approval, means that it fits the “German Engineered Perfection” mantra that we’ve seen in the industry.
Although the actuation characteristics remain about the same, the travel has been reduced from 4.0 to 3.2 mm. This leads to a shorter bounce time (typically 1ms) which results in higher switching frequencies for quick response gaming. Gold-Crosspoint technology is still in use to prevent corrosion or dust build up on the contacts, and the switch is rated for over 50 million keystrokes with no loss of quality. Contrary to what we were told during the meeting, one of the switch specifications is not what we originally thought. The IP rating is IP40, meaning it has no liquid resistance. This was likely just a miscommunication here due to the fact that the Cherry engineer we met with spoke German as his primary language.
We have a long, known history with the Cooler Master H500P. Our review set the stage, with our mesh mod “fixing” the product (as we said), and the disappointment build closing-out the year. Although Cooler Master didn’t particularly like what we had to say (and challenged us on the mesh mod), it seems that the company took the criticism to heart. Nearly every issue we complained about has been fixed. The company never told us about these changes, of course – we had to hear about it from you all, via Twitter – but we found out, and we visited the suite to look at the H500P Mesh and H500M.
The H500P Mesh enclosure fixes these primary concerns from our review: (1) The case falling apart, (2) the limited intake, (3) the power supply shroud installation procedure, and (4) the left panel no longer ‘wiggles’ or ‘wobbles’ side-to-side.
Ahead of CES 2018, ASUS is announcing their ROG bezel-free kit, a way for gamers to augment the visibility of the display bezels within multi-monitor setups. Such a product theoretically offers a seamless display setup; or rather, the imitation of one. The bezel-free kit makes use of vertical lenses affixed to mounting brackets on the top and bottom, that attach the monitors at a 130 degree angle. From there, the lenses use light refraction to essentially wax away the appearance of the bezels. How well this works, or how obtrusive the lenses or mounts are, remains to be seen. Should GamersNexus get a chance to see this up close, we’ll update accordingly.
NZXT today announced its first-ever motherboard, the NZXT N7, a $300 Z370 board with integrated HUE RGB and GRID fan controller. This is NZXT’s first attempt at a motherboard, and seems to take a very NZXT-approach to everything: It’s visuals first, with this one, using the company’s newfound perforated design aesthetic across a steel surface plate on the board. NZXT has a lot of interesting – and odd – design decisions in the N7 motherboard. We’ll walk through some of those today.
The NZXT N7 motherboard is an ATX Z370 option, and we think we found NZXT’s OEM partner – we’ll save that for the end.
At CES 2018, Corsair announced its new K63 wireless gaming keyboard and Dark Core gaming mouse, both of which are slated to battle Logitech in the wireless peripheral arena. Corsair is targeting low latency, moderate battery-life configurations in a TKL Cherry MX Red keyboard, with the mouse using a Pixart 3367 modified optical sensor.
When asked for clarification on the latency figures given – always “1ms” – Corsair told GamersNexus that the 1ms number cites the spec for transmission latency on the wireless signal, not click-to-response latency. We should have the latter eventually, but not today. The mouse is built with two variants, at $80 and $90, with the more expensive model branded the “SE,” and capable of wireless Qi charging. On a “Qi spot,” as they call it.
GamersNexus secured an early exclusive with the new Gigabyte Gaming 7 motherboard at CES 2018, equipped with what one could confidently assume is an AMD X470 chipset. Given information from AMD on launch timelines, it would also be reasonable to assume that the new motherboards can be expected for roughly April of this year, alongside AMD’s Ryzen CPU refresh. This is all information learned from AMD’s public data. As for the Gigabyte Gaming 7 motherboard, the first thing we noticed is that it has real heatsinks on the VRMs, and that it’s actually running what appears to be a higher-end configuration for what we would assume is the new Ryzen launch.
Starting with the heatsink, Gigabyte has taken pride in listening to media and community concerns about VRM heatsinks, and has now added an actual finstack atop its 10-phase Vcore VRM. To give an idea, we saw significant performance improvement on the EVGA X299 DARK motherboard with just the finned heatsinks, not even using the built-in fans. It’s upwards of 20 degrees Celsius improvement over the fat blocks, in some cases, since the blocks don’t provide any surface area.
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