PAX East 2016 has a strong hardware presence, and the number of zero-hour announcements backs that up. MSI, Corsair, AMD (a first-time exhibitor at East), nVidia, Intel, Cooler Master, Kingston, and a handful of other hardware vendors have all made an appearance at this year's show, ever flanked by gaming giants.
Today's initial news coverage focuses on the MSI Aegis desktop computer, Corsair's updated K70 & K65 keyboards, and the AMD Wraith cooler's arrival to lower-end SKUs. Find out more in the video below:
It takes our technicians minutes to build a computer these days – a learned skill – but even that first-time build is completable within a span of hours. Cable management and “environment setup” (OS, software) generally take the longest, but the build process is surprisingly trivial. Almost anyone can build a computer. The DIY approach saves money and feels rewarding, but also prepares system owners for future troubleshooting and builds a useful, technical skillset.
Parts selection can be initially intimidating and late-night troubleshooting sometimes proves frustrating; the between process, though, the actual assembly – that's easy. A few screws, some sockets that live under the “if it doesn't fit, don't force it” mantra, and a handful of cables.
This “How to Build a Gaming Computer” guide offers a step-by-step tutorial for PC part selection, compatibility checking, assembly, and basic troubleshooting resources. The goal of this guide is to educate the correct steps to the entire process: we won't be giving you tools that automatically pick parts based on compatibility, here; no, our goal is to teach the why and the how of PC building. You'll be capable of picking compatible parts and assembling builds fully independently after completing this walkthrough.
Gaming laptops have historically been synonymous with “cinder block” – particularly true for the GTX 980M, GTX 980, and GTX 970M units we've reviewed – but that isn't always the case. Still, slimming down the form factor comes at the substantial risk of increased thermals. Packing high-performance silicon densely into a small box is a breeding ground for poor dissipation potential, offset only by careful controls (throttles) and, normally, a hefty amount of copper. Thermals happen to be our test specialty; we're particularly interested in exploring the temperature readings of MSI's new GE62 Apache Pro 6QD laptop, a 15.6” portable with a GTX 960M and i7-6700HQ.
But it's not all about thermals. Our GE62 6QD Apache Pro ($1300) review benchmarks gaming (FPS) performance of the GTX 960M & i7-6700HQ, looks at thermals, and tests battery life. For a bout of fun, we threw in a battery life test with the keyboard backlight and background software disabled, just to see if it'd increase longevity. Games used for real-world benchmarking include GRID: Autosport (battery life analysis), DiRT Rally, The Witcher 3, GTA V, Metro: Last Light, and Shadow of Mordor.
The GTX 980's entry into laptops – without suffixed “M” demarcation – provided a look at the world of true desktop graphics as integrated on mobile devices. We reviewed MSI's GT72S Dominator Pro G ($2760) with its GTX 980, conducting additional overclocking tests to determine just how far the desktop part could be pushed when crammed into a laptop.
Turns out, it was pretty far. And we're revisiting the subject with Intel's new i7-6820HK and the GTX 970M. This benchmark looks at just how far a laptop CPU and GPU can be overclocked, then runs game FPS and Adobe tests to determine if OCing is worth it. We use The Witcher 3, DiRT, GTA V, Shadow of Mordor, and Metro for FPS tests, then run trace and automated testing for Photoshop and video editing software. A CyberPower Fangbook 4 SX7-300 was used for the benchmark, which is outfitted with the 6820HK unlocked CPU.
The Star Wars Destroyer case mod was an obvious draw to MSI’s suite at CES 2016, thus far unrivaled in its seemingly monolithic artistry, and served as a magnetic pull for the company’s new products. That’s common in Convention Land – a fabled realm stocked with bags of chips and bottles of water – and a means for companies to generate outside interest in the passerby attendee crowd. The Destroyer was covered in our previous video and article; today’s content shifts focus to MSI’s new “Vortex” product, named for its approach to thermal dissipation through a vertical shaft.
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.
MSI is launching its new Z170A Krait Gaming R6 Siege motherboard, heretofore “mouthful,” in collaboration with Ubisoft. The Krait Gaming R6 Siege is essentially a new version of the existing Z170A Krait Edition. The Krait R6 Siege motherboard will come bundled with Ubisoft’s new Tom Clancy game, Rainbow Six Siege (standard edition), a continuation of the tactical squad shooter series. This promotion starts on December 1st and runs through March 1st, 2016.
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.
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.
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