SilverStone’s CES 2016 product arrangement illustrated the company’s preference shown toward function. The company’s cases largely consisted of improvements upon existing designs – like the SFF Raven series – with one new mid-tower landing at the ~$60 price-point.
The SilverStone RL-05-B is progressing through final prototyping stages and will enter market availability shortly. SilverStone’s annual cooler showcase had thinner pickings than usually, but still had a set of four CPU coolers that we briefly discussed on camera.
Without fail, five years running, case manufacturer In-Win has presented the most definitively impressive and artistic PC cases at CES. The company sometimes acts like boutique car companies: They don’t seem to understand “stop,” adding to designs until they hit $400, $800, and – in one remarkable case -- $2400. In-Win does make lower-end, affordable enclosures, but that spotlight is nonetheless stolen by what are clearly intended to be “halo” products; of course, there’s nothing wrong with that for a tradeshow.
CES 2016 wasn’t any different. In-Win had its 805 and 809 enclosures representing the affordable market (to some degree, anyway), with the $800, 30th anniversary H-Frame and $2400 H-Tower fronting the high-end. The video immediately below shows the H-Tower, the next one (and article) carry on with the 805. A photo gallery is below the article.
Two new SSDs piqued our interest from Kingston Technology at this year's CES: the Kingston UV400 and unnamed PCIe HyperX SSD. The second drive comes from the gaming side of the company – badged under its HyperX branding – and is a high-performance, NVMe drive set to champion the Predator SSD.
Kingston's UV400 SSD is the manufacturer's first foray into TLC Flash NAND. The drive isn't really new, though – it's just new to the US. The product was first tested in a few foreign markets to see how buyer response would be; in India and Russia, for instance, a price delta of a few bucks can be the swing needed to crush or propel a product into its market position. Following the company's international experiments, the UV400 is being brought to US e-tailers near the end of 2Q16. TLC will drive price down to a yet-unnannounced, but predicted, "very affordable" class.
Intel has plenty of floor presence at CES – building-sized booths, et al. – but the most interesting thing they brought to CES may have been in a separate demo suite. The suite was loaded with the latest laptops from each of the industry's most prolific manufacturers, one of which – a GT72 from MSI (we’ve reviewed them a few times) – hung mounted to a mobile VR rig. We’ll get to that in a moment.
We were first introduced to the new Razer Blade Stealth, an impressively light and thin laptop with a 1440p display and a USB type C port. The type C port can be used as a charging port for the laptop or as a Thunderbolt 3 connection. Intel used the USB C port as a Thunderbolt link to connect to the Razer Core, an external graphics card enclosure (we’ve looked at these before, too). The device inside the Razer Core was an AMD graphics card and the connection was announced by the software each time we removed or replaced the cable. Just for kicks, we also flipped the USB C connector because that's still fun to do that.
HyperX’s new Cloud Revolver headset champions the Cloud II, in the process shifting toward revitalized ID and badging. The Revolver demonstrably tunes headset fitment with the introduction of a suspension headband design, similar in core concept to some popular SteelSeires headsets, and mounts more circular ear cups. The Cloud II (reviewed here) uses somewhat of an oblong circle for its head phone design, an immutable headband, different drivers, and a different mic. Everything’s different at some level – probably a good thing for a maturing division of a large company.
The Revolver is outfitted with one 50mm driver per ear. At this time, HyperX didn’t have available information on diaphragm material and driver spec, but we’ll look more closely at those items when the review window opens. The positioning of the drivers and ear cup design enforces a wider soundstage, something which is generally beneficial to competitive FPS players.
The domineering maw of a Venator class Destroyer from Star Wars stares down visitors entering MSI’s CES 2016 suite, a case mod 400 hours in the making by Sander van der Velden. The Destroyer bears near-perfect resemblance to the iconic Star Wars ship; its 3D-printed PLA shell is textured with intended imperfections to more realistically depict its battle-hardened exterior. Behind all the plastic casing and a sturdy, aluminum frame, the Venator hosts a micro-ATX gaming PC that’s fully operational and cooled on an open loop – but all the function is aesthetically implemented.
System Integrator (SI) CyberPower launched its new Two Computers, One Case gaming PC at CES 2016, dubbed the “Pro Streamer.” The multi-system amalgam is housed within the Phanteks Mini-XL enclosure, a case outfitted with dual-motherboard mounting points for single-PSU operation of two complete computers. Outside of building an internally-housed NAS, local media server, or streaming pre-buffer rig, use cases are relatively slim for the Mini-XL. In this instance, the streaming rig is a sensible fit.
Four SKUs of Pro Streamer boxes exist, but we’re mostly talking about the lowest SKU, as that’s generally the differentiating factor between system integrators; if there’s a weak point, it’s always the lower-end SKUs with haphazard specification listings. For the Pro Streamer 100, CyberPower’s equipped the primary gaming PC (micro-ATX) with a Z170 motherboard, GTX 970 4GB card, 2x8GB RAM, CLC, and an i5-6600K; the secondary buffer machine is outfitted with a more modest Core i3-6300 CPU and stock cooler, 2x4GB RAM, and AverMedia Live Gamer HD capture card (a $200 device). These two builds are installed in the same Phanteks Mini-XL, landing the final price at $1900.
That’s the point of pain: $1900. For a single PC, $1900 easily affords a GTX 980 Ti (or two) and Core i7 processor, but the Pro Streamer setup is a two-PC solution with an ancillary capture card, adding substantially to build cost. This is effectively two computers.
Corsair’s CES suite warrants a few articles and videos, not the least of which includes a forthcoming interview on the topic of case manufacturing and tooling. The company’s newest lineup of cases – the Spec-Alpha, 600C (that we reviewed), and 400C – largely dotted the room, though our focus is on an update to Corsair Link.
Corsair Link is the company’s software utility for commanding “i” suffixed products and PWM-enabled fans. The H100i and HXi PSUs are enduring examples, both of which have some level of monitoring and control access through the software. It seems everyone’s got their own software these days, too – NZXT has CAM, peripheral manufacturers offer innumerable programs of varying utility and bloat, board manufacturers provide “smart” utilities that tap-in to the higher-level UEFI for OS layer firmware management. The idea isn’t new, but execution at a level of legitimate usefulness and stability is new; outside of reviews, our staff rarely goes on to continue use of applications required to change fan speeds and LED colors due to general sluggishness or instability.
Graphics manufacturer AMD and its Radeon Technologies Group (RTG) today announced the arrival of “Polaris,” a 14nm FinFET architecture derived from codename Arctic Islands. Polaris is due in mid-2016 and supersedes the aged 28nm process, which both major GPU manufacturers presently employ. The new node should drastically impact performance-per-watt, aided by FinFET transistors (shaped like a 'fin,' rather than planar, so containment of power is more efficient – i.e., less leakage).
Our team has already landed in Las Vegas for CES 2016 and, over the next week, we'll be posting video and written analysis of new products from all major manufacturers. Corsair's announced some of their new items ahead of meetings, to include the Spec-Alpha gaming PC case.
The Spec-Alpha ships in gray-on-black and red-on-white finishes, making ample use of jutting angularity and bezels on top of bezels. Part of the front panel is mesh-covered, the other covered by usual case plastics, and the entire enclosure sits atop black feet (which look a bit out of place for the white and red case).
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