FreshTech Solutions Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

FreshTech Solutions is one of the leading system integrators in the UK and forged an impressive reputation for their huge range of pre-configured PCs. Whether you’re on a tight budget looking to try out PC gaming for the first time, or a content creator seeking the absolute best performance, there’s something to suit your requirements. Each PC is backed by generous warranty period and it’s even possible to purchase additional cover for further peace-of-mind. For example, on systems costing £1000 and above, you can increase the warranty length from 3 years to 5 years for £25. If you’re opting for a cheaper rig under the £1000 mark, then it’s possible to select three years cover for £25 and five years support at a cost of £50. This level of flexibility allows you to protect your investment for a period which you expect to use the system for.

When selecting a custom PC, the number of configurations and pricing variation means it’s extraordinarily difficult for novices to judge which model to go for. It’s not always a sensible approach to spend more if you’re unlikely to reap the benefits. Therefore, we’ve compiled a list of custom PCs from FreshTech Solutions that we are happy to recommend at various price points. Hopefully, our readers will find this useful and those without technical knowledge can make an informed decision about which unit suits their usage scenario.


£529.00

Specification:

  • Skylake i5 6400
  • 8gb Crucial DDR4 2133MHz
  • 120gb Kingston V300 SSD
  • 24x DVDRW
  • EVGA 500w 80Plus White PSU
  • Nvidia GTX 950 2GB
  • Gigabyte H110M-S2H
  • Falcon Blue Case With Side Window
  • Windows 10 Home 64bit
  • 1 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 1 Year Parts, 1 Year Labour)

The first machine we’re taking a look at targets consumers on a very tight budget who want to enter into the Intel ecosystem. While you could compile a cheaper build using an AMD CPU and AM3+ motherboard, it doesn’t offer much headroom in the future if you suddenly demand additional horsepower. The majority of games are GPU bound but there’s some examples including ARMA III and more recently, Black Desert Online which rely heavily on a system’s CPU performance. This particular build features a large enough capacity boot SSD to install the operating system and enjoy a snappier feel in Windows.

Also, the GTX 950 2GB graphics card is a great choice for 1080P gaming providing you turn down a few settings. On another note, the lack of overclocking isn’t an issue at this price and won’t impact on the user experience during graphically intensive games. Ideally, I’d recommend paying extra for the next tier, but this is a great choice for beginners moving away from consoles for the very first time.


£699.00

Specification:

  • Skylake i5 6600K
  • 8GB Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz
  • Samsung EVO 250GB SSD
  • 24x DVDRW
  • EVGA 500w 80Plus White PSU
  • NVIDIA GTX 960 2GB
  • Gigabyte Z170-Gaming K3
  • Titan Blue Case with Side Window
  • Windows 10 Home 64bit
  • 1 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 1 Year Parts, 1 Year Labour )

The next system which retails for £699.00 offers overclocking functionality due to the unlocked K processor and Z170 chipset. Furthermore, the Gigabyte Z170-Gaming K3 contains an illuminated LED strip on the PCB to create a more ostentatious appearance. This higher end model includes the GTX 960 2GB GPU to maintain improved frame-rates at higher settings. It’s a significant boost over the GTX 950 and worth considering given the constant influx of modern titles requiring additional graphical grunt. Of course, it’ s still a budget option and pales in comparison to higher end graphics cards, but it should provide an enjoyable user-experience with a 1920×1080 display. Also, the boot SSD’s higher capacity allows you to store your favourites games and benefit from faster load times.


£899.00

Specification:

  • Skylake i5 6600K
  • 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz
  • Samsung EVO 250GB SSD
  • WD 1TB WD10EZEX HDD
  • 24x DVDRW
  • Corsair CX600 80Plus Bronze PSU
  • NVIDIA GTX 970 4GB
  • Gigabyte Z170-Gaming K3
  • Titan Red Case with Side Window
  • Windows 10 Home 64bit
  • 1 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 1 Year Parts, 1 Year Labour )

The next tier’s system costs £899.99 and has a number of key improvements including a secondary mechanical hard disk, 16GB RAM and GTX 970 graphics card. When discussing the previous systems it’s important to remember that I’d recommend adding a mechanical drive to store large sums of data. This allows you to easily install various games while ensuring the boot SSD doesn’t fill up rather quickly. Thankfully, this doesn’t increase the asking price by an exponential amount. On another note, the 16GB memory is useful when working with video, photo editing and other complex workloads. It’s not really necessary in games just yet but I wouldn’t be surprised if 16GB becomes the standard in the next few years.

NVIDIA’s GTX 970 offers absolutely stunning performance even with a 2560×1440 monitor and can exceed 60 frames-per-second in various titles including the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot. It’s unquestionably one of the best price to performance GPUs on the market and a suitable choice for a powerful gaming system.


£1049.00

 

Specification:

  • Skylake i5 6600K Tested Overclock to 4.6GHz
  • Corsair H80I V2 Water Cooler
  • 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz
  • Samsung EVO 250GB SSD
  • Seagate 1TB HDD
  • 24x DVDRW
  • Corsair RM750x 80Plus Gold PSU
  • NVIDIA GTX 970 4GB
  • Gigabyte Z170-Gaming K3
  • Falcon Gaming Case With Side Window
  • Windows 10 Home 64bit
  • 3 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 2 Years Parts, 3 Years Labour )

Moving towards the higher end market is a system which retails for £1049.00. This model contains a higher wattage power supply and Corsair water cooling unit to attain better temperatures. Furthermore, FreshTech Solutions guarantees the system will reach 4.6GHz and tests each overclock extremely carefully. This will be incredibly useful to consumers who feel apprehensive about overclocking their CPU and haven’t got any experience in this field. They really shouldn’t be concerned because the process is ridiculous simple. However, whenever anything goes awry, it’s important to have an excellent level of after-care support.


£1599.00

Specification:

  • Skylake i7 6700K Tested Overclock to 4.5GHz
  • Corsair H80I V2 Water Cooler
  • 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz
  • Samsung EVO 500GB SSD
  • Seagate 2TB HDD
  • 24x DVDRW
  • Corsair RM750x 80Plus Gold PSU
  • NVIDIA GTX 980TI 6GB
  • Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5
  • Fractal Design R5 With Side Window
  • Windows 10 Home 64bit
  • 3 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 2 Years Parts, 3 Years Labour )

The £1599.00 system swaps out the i5 6600K for Intel’s enthusiast flagship i7-6700K on the LGA1151 chipset. Once again, FreshTech Solutions guarantees an impressive minimum overclock to reach significant gains compared to stock values. Also, the 500GB SSD is a great addition which allows you to install various applications without constantly checking on the remaining capacity. The system is housed in the highly regard Fractal Design R5 chassis which creates a more premium feel. Clearly, the main improvement revolves around the GTX 980Ti and is a major step up when compared to the GTX 970.

Even though the GPU isn’t capable of running games at maximum details on a 4K display, it’s able to really reach high figures on a 2560×1440 or 3440×1440 monitor. If you want to improve the performance even further, it’s possible to add a second GTX 980Ti due to the power supply’s 750 watts rating. The Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 motherboard supports USB 3.1, SATA Express, multi-GPU configurations and opts for a superb audio solution. Once combined, this offers an absolutely staggering user-experience.


£1938.00

Specification:

  • Intel Core i7 5930K 3.50GHz
  • Corsair H80I V2 Water Cooler
  • 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 3000MHz
  • 512GB Samsung 950 Pro M.2 Solid State Drive
  • Seagate 2TB Hard Drive
  • 24x DVDRW
  • Corsair RM750x 80Plus Gold PSU
  • NVIDIA GTX 980TI 6GB
  • Gigabyte X99-SLI
  • Fractal Design R5 With Side Window
  • Windows 10 Home 64bit
  • 3 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 2 Years Parts, 3 Years Labour )

Up to this point, we’ve focussed on the consumer LGA1151 chipset which offers great value for typical desktop tasks. Unfortunately, the platform only supports up to a 4-core 8-thread CPU. This severely limits the computational power during multi-threaded workloads. As a result, many professionals opt for 2011-v3 powered systems because they can leverage extra performance using 6-core or even 8-core processors. The next system totalling £1938.00 utilises a hex core processor with 40 PCI-E lanes and a 2TB hard disk.

Not only that, the Samsung 950 Pro NVMe boot drive is capable of an astounding maximum read of 2500MB/s and maximum write reaching 1500MB/s. This allows games to load faster and helps to process huge 4K video projects in a more efficient manner. Of course, this elite-grade PC opts for the best possible hardware including the GTX 980Ti and Gigabyte X99-SLI motherboard. This means you can have a powerful workstation and play demanding games in your leisure time.

If you’d like us to review any of the systems mentioned above, please let us know in the comments section below.

Basic Solid State Drive Features Explained

When we report on storage news as well as in our reviews, we use a lot of terms and features that might not be familiar to everyone. The words and acronyms sound good and you chose your products based on whether they are present or not. But what do they actually mean? That is something that I’ll try to explain a little more today. I think there is a little bit for everyone here, whether you’re an advanced system builder or new to the area.

First I’ll start out with the basic features that are present in almost any storage drive these days, whether it’s a flash drive, hard disk drive, or solid state drive, and then slowly move on to the more exclusive features further down.


S.M.A.R.T.

S.M.A.R.T. is the most basic feature that you’ll find and at the same time it is one of the most useful ones. S.M.A.R.T. stands for Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology and it is a way for the drive to keep track of itself and let you have access to the information too. There are many tools out there that can read out the information for you and most systems can also keep track of them trough BIOS and chipset functions. A simple and free tool to get access to the information is CrystalDiskInfo.

Most SMART values are can be two values, either good or bad, but there are a few that keep track of total reads, writes, and power-on hours as well. An application like CrystalDiskInfo will also show you the expected health status as you can see in the image above.

S.M.A.R.T. can also include self-tests that can be run manually or scheduled by a lot of systems. The short and long tests will check electrical and mechanical performance and are basically identical. The short will only test small parts of the area where the long test will test the entire surface of the disk with no time limit.


TRIM

TRIM, also know as a Trim command, is a way for the operating system to inform a solid state drive which blocks of data are no longer considered in use and can be wiped. Internally, SSD operations are quite a bit different from HDD operations and TRIM was created because of that. The typical way in which operating systems handle deletes and formats would result in progressive performance degradation of write operations on SSDs.

With TRIM, the SSD is able to handle the garbage collection itself and free up the cells for new writes. We all know that a deleted file in the operating system doesn’t mean a deleted file on the drive, not until the physical location of the file has been overwritten. A mechanical drive handles a write and an overwrite action the same way, but an SSD doesn’t. It would first need to erase the area before it can write there again. It also means that a deleted file is gone ones the Trim command has processed the area.

There are manual tools to trigger the Trim command, but they’re aren’t needed if you got a modern operating system. There are independent tools for it and pretty much any SSD toolbox and software also has a button to send the command to the drive. This is a thing that we can expect to see removed from such software in the future as it’s fully automatic now.


Garbage Collection

Garbage collection is basically the same function, except that the garbage collection is performed on a drive level where TRIM is an operating system function. In return, it means that it also works on systems that don’t support TRIM and helps to keep the performance up.

I could go a lot into detail about how it works, but then we’re missing the point of easy information in this article. Without TRIM or garbage collection, the SSD doesn’t know what files have been marked as deleted and aren’t no longer needed. Those deleted data might still be moved around on the drive itself when it is optimizing and that will result in a lot of extra writes. There are many ways this is implemented in drives and it comes down to the drive itself, the controller, and manufacturer how exactly it works.


Wear Leveling

There are two types of wear leveling, dynamic and static. Static is also sometimes referred to as global wear leveling and it is this type that we usually find in solid state drives. Dynamic wear leveling, on the other hand, is mostly found on flash drives. Both types will attempt to use all physical flash equally so one chip doesn’t burn out before the rest and render the drive useless. Where the static will do this on the entire drive, the dynamic will only do this with memory blocks that get replacement data. The static wear leveling is a little slower but gives the drive a longer life expectancy. It doesn’t just help to prolong the life of the drives, it also helps with a more even performance.


DevSleep

DevSleep, DevSlp, or Device Sleep are all words for the same thing and it is the newest and most effective way for drives to enter a low-power sleep mode. In traditional low-power modes, the SATA link still needed to remain powered on to allow the device to receive a wake-up signal again. With DevSlp, the rarely used 3.3 V power connection is used instead to send the signal, allowing the drive to enter an even deeper sleep state by turning off more functions. The return is an even faster response time when it wakes up again and less power consumption. This is particularly useful for notebook users.


PFM+, IPS, and more

These are all synonyms for basically the same function, so I’ll stick with one that is present in one of the drives that we’ve recently reviewed: Power failure management plus (PFM+) that is present in OCZ’s Vector 180 series. With different names, they all perform the same function: get as much data safely to the storage drive in case of a power failure. There are extra capacitors in the drive that store currency in order to flush more data to the flash cells before all the power is gone. The capacitors also ensure that all metadata is safe and that the drive will continue to operate normally after a power loss, i.e. the NAND mapping table won’t be lost, which can brick the drive or at least slow down the next boot up as the drive has to go through a recovery process. This used to be a feature reserved to enterprise class drives, but we see it enter more and more enthusiast drives too.


ECC

ECC or Error Correction Code is present in a lot of devices and it is no different for solid state drives. It is an extra code that allows the drive to correct minor errors in sector reads and to recover data from sectors that have gone bad while storing that data in the spare sectors. It is basically what it says it is. It corrects errors.

Low-density parity-check (LDPC) is the go-to standard today for multiple reasons that I won’t go to much into here. In the past, it was rather BCH that was used, but that isn’t an effective method for modern SSDs. To say it short, LPDC allows you to correct more errors for the same ratio of user data to ECC parity. With ECC, fewer actions have to be repeated in case something goes wrong which in return gives a better overall performance.

eTeknix 2015 Christmas Buying Guide – Treat Yourself or Someone Else!

The time for holiday festivities is almost upon us and as the modern tradition of consumerism continues to grow, it becomes harder and harder to pick the right gifts for people every year, or perhaps it’s just me who struggles? Either way, we’ve sat around a Christmas fire, or just a general fire in November and December, getting into the gift buying state of mind and picked a range of our favourite products which we’ve reviewed here at eTeknix throughout 2015, as what better products to recommend than the ones we’ve had in our own hands and tested!

We’ve got a huge range of budgets covered here today, although I think it’s fair to assume that given we play around with graphics cards and a lot of enthusiast friendly products, there are some real wallet busters here too. Of course, you can use this guide to find some of the best products of the year to treat your family, friends and more, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t just spoil yourself too!


Rock Band 4 Band in a Box

Get ready to rock out this Christmas and no doubt many other days. Pick up the guitar, drum sticks, or just butcher your favourite song on the microphone. Rock Band 4 – Band in a Box is a fantastic gift and it’s a great thing to deploy at parties too, certainly beats the usual Karaoke chaos! It comes with the guitar, microphone, drums and the game for $249.99. To save costs, the standalone game with the guitar is just $129.99. In the UK, the Band in a Box is £219.99, while the guitar and game is just £109.99.

Check out the full review here.


Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ATX Chassis

The Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ATX Mid-Tower chassis is by far my favourite chassis of 2015, it just oozes high quality inside and out, with capabilities for high-end water and air cooling and so much more. It is available from Overclockers UK for £139.99 and is available in both Gun Metal and black.

Check out the full review here.


Raijintek Styx Micro-ATX Aluminium Chassis

What a fantastic little chassis this is! Built from beautifully finished brushed aluminium and available in a wide range of colours, this would make a great gift for someone building a new gaming system this Christmas. The Raijintek Styx chassis is available from Overclockers UK for just £64.99.

Check out the full review here.


be quiet! Silent Base 800 Chassis

Another expensive chassis on our list, but one of the best we’ve seen this year. If you’re wanting to build someone, or yourself, a gaming PC that not only looks great but is as silent as you could ever hope for, the Silent Base 800 Window is the way to go. It is available from most popular retailers for 149,90EUR/119 GBP/149,90 USD ex. VAT.

Check out the full review here.


Corsair Strafe RGB MX Silent Red Mechanical Keyboard

Featuring the innovative Cherry MX Silent Switches, the Corsair Strafe RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard is simply amazing to use. It’s packed full of features and is by far the quietest mech we’ve ever tested. A little expensive, but I’m sure anyone would be happy to unwrap this at Christmas. The Strafe is available for £139.99 from Overclockers UK, while the MX Red and the MX Brown are priced at £129.95. If you want the non-RGB version, you can find the MX Red and the MX Brown at £99.95 each.

Check out the full review here.


Thermaltake Commander Gaming Gear Keyboard and Mouse Combo

The TteSports by Thermaltake Commander Keyboard and Mouse Combo is a great gift for Christmas, it’s affordable, has a nice range of features and you get a keyboard and a mouse in a single nice and tidy (and easy to wrap) box! With prices around £23.99 it’s hard to say no to such a great deal! Readers in the US can pick one of from Newegg for an equally impressive $29.99.

Check out the full review here.


CM Storm Quick Fire XTi Mechanical Keyboard

RGB mechanical keyboards are everywhere this year, but the XTi from Cooler Master is my personal favourite so far. It’s no-fuss and bold design is great for home and office, gaming or work, with the added bonus that it’s incredibly durable and has some of the nicest lighting tones I’ve seen so far, even if it does only allow for a mixture of red and blue! You can pick up the XTi from Box for just £134, although there’s also a deal that includes a free mouse here!

Check out the full review here.


Corsair Scimitar RGB MOBA/MMO Gaming Mouse

The Gaming Scimitar RGB MOBA/MMO Gaming Mouse is packed full of features that will put a smile on any PC gamers face. With RGB lighting, excellent performance and a customisable keypad on the side, it’s one of the best mice we’ve ever tested. better yet, it’s only £69.95 from Overclockers UK.

Check out the full review here.


Logitech G502 Proteus Core Gaming Mouse

The Logitech G502 is a prime example of how great a gaming mouse can truly be. This is without a doubt the best mouse sensor we’ve ever tested and the rest of the mouse isn’t exactly lacking in features either. I’d be tempted to buy this one for myself this Christmas, but you could always treat someone else with it too. It’s available directly from the Logitech website (with free shipping) for just £69.99.

Check out the full review here.


G.Skill MX780

A relatively new entry on the peripherals market, the G.Skills MX780 is a fantastic gaming mouse, with a switchable left or right handed grip that makes it ideal for a wide range of gamers. With a retail price of just $59.99 it is exceptional value for a Christmas gift, and given its spec, it’ll go head to head with many of the best mice on the market.

Check out the full review here.


Corsair Void Headset

We were absolutely blown away by the Corsair Void series, some of the best sounding, most comfortable and best-looking headsets we’ve ever seen! They would make a great gift, but be careful, if you try them out before you give them away, you may want to keep them. The Corsair Void USB 7.1 RGB Headset is available from Overclockers UK for just £79.99. This is £10 cheaper than the Wireless headset which is £89.99, I prefer the wireless and think it’s not much more to pay for the extra tech, but you’re own preferences will obviously determine which model you prefer.

Check out the reviews for the USB 7.1, Wireless 7.1 and 2.0 headsets here.


Astro A40 TR + Mix Amp Pro

Eager to get the best of the best gaming headset for you or your loved one? Then make no exception, the Astro A40 TR Headset with Mix Amp Pro is the way to go. This is one that’s sure to leave a dent in your wallet, but as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. Available from the Astro store for £200, plus around £48 for the optional Mod Kit, the Astro is expensive, but the sound quality, features and comfortable fit are priceless.

Check out the full review here.


Crucial BX200 SSD

SSD prices are dropping constantly and there really has never been a better time to invest. If it’s for your own system, you can give yourself a great upgrade without spending a fortune, but the smaller drive sizes make excellent gifts to those who could do with a performance upgrade on their system. The Crucial BX200 comes with an MSRP of £234.49 ($299.99) for the 960GB model and £66.49 ($84.99) and £116.99 ($149.99) for the smaller 240GB and 480GB models, plus the small boxes are super easy to wrap up as a gift.

Check out the full review here.


QNAP TS-251 2-Bay NAS

Give the gift of a connected home this Christmas, from streaming your movies around the house, to backing up those important files, there are a lot of benefits to owning a NAS. Not the cheapest of gifts, but it’s one of those products where if you buy cheap, you’ll likely regret it in the long run. The QNAP’s TS-251 Turbo NAS can be found at NewEgg for $384.99, at Scan UK for £295.32, or through Geizhals starting at €284.

Check out the full review here.


Sapphire Nitro R9 380X 4GB Graphics Card

AMD have created a mighty powerhouse with the R9 380X and the Sapphire Nitro is one of the finest examples. It’s fast, sleek and affordable, more than enough power for 1080P ultra gaming, or 1440p high gaming, making it a great addition to anyone who wants the latest PC games for Christmas. The Sapphire Nitro R9 380X is currently available from OverclockersUK for £199.99. NeweggUS currently has this card listed for $229.99.

Check out the full review here.


Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 Graphics Card

Spend a little more, get a lot more, the GTX 970 is a superb card, but one that may be getting a little expensive for those looking for a Christmas gift. With enough power to play anything on the market and even delve into high-end resolutions, it’s a strong contender for something to put under the Christmas tree, or even put on your own wish list. The Gainward Phoenix GTX 970 is currently available in the UK from SCAN for £273.56 and for an estimated $360 in the US.

Check out the full review here.


Nvidia GeForce GTX 980ti 6GB Graphics Card

It wouldn’t be Christmas if we couldn’t all hope and dream, but the Gigabyte G1 Gaming GTX 980Ti is currently one of the best cards on the market and we would be crazy not to suggest the best of the best. Available in the UK for the £599.99 it’s certainly not cheap, although we’ve seen some great deals bringing it down below £500, so it’s best to shop around. Just imagine the look on your partners face when they unwrap this monster on Christmas day!

Check out the full review here.


DDR4

Getting a little more back to reality and reasonable prices, DDR4 memory is dropping in price quite nicely now. It was super expensive at launch, but now you’ll often find DDR4 kits at equal or lower prices to their DDR3 equivalents. That makes them a great upgrade for Christmas, but make sure you have a DDR4 motherboard to go with it!

Check out our latest memory reviews here.


Shield Android TV

Snapped up a 4K TV in the Black Friday deals? The Nvidia Shield Console is the most powerful Android device on the market, and it’s the perfect media player for Plex, 4K content on Netflix and more. Even better, it’s also a very powerful gaming system, with many AAA games available to play, as well as game streaming features that will leave you wondering why this device doesn’t cost more than £149.99! You can buy the Shield TV and accessories directly from Nvidia here.

Check out the full review here.


Thermaltake Water 3.0 Extreme S

Think someone could do with a cooling upgrade for their system, or perhaps even parts towards a new system build this Christmas? Treat them to an AIO water cooler and they’ll be able to reduce the noise from their system and unlock its overclocking potential! The Thermaltake Water 3.0 Extreme S is a little expensive, but it’s still a competitively priced AIO at just £81.98 and would make a great gift, especially if you’re just going to treat yourself.

Check out the full review here.


Alpenfohn Atlas

The Atlas is one of the coolest coolers we’ve seen this year, a tiny form factor with big performance and virtually silent acoustics. Building a system for someone or upgrading your own, this is one cooler you’ll want to consider and given that it’s available from Overclockers UK for a very reasonable £42.95, it’s another great addition to our buying guide.

Check out the full review here.


be quiet! Shadow Rock Slim

Need a premium cooler but don’t want to pay a premium price this Christmas? The be quiet! Shadow Rock Slim is more affordable, but still packs some impressive performance figures. It’s available from Scan.co.uk for just £30.52 + shipping here in the UK and from Amazon.com for $49.90 + $9.80 shipping in the US.

Check out the full review here.


Inateck Mercury Box Bluetooth Speaker

Love your music on the go, when you’re out at the park, or anywhere for that matter? The Mercury box offers up a huge sound from such a tiny box. Built from aluminium and featuring a waterproof design, it’s one of the best mobile speakers on the market, great for listening to music wherever you are! Available from Amazon.com for just $48.99 and readers in the UK can get it from Amazon.co.uk for £49.99.

Check out the full review here.


OnePlus 10,000mAh Mobile USB Power Bank

The perfect stocking filler, a 10,000 mAh mobile battery. This has enough juice to charge most mobiles several times, and it’ll even recharge high-end devices such as iPads with ease too. Perfect for travelling, and best of all, it’s super lightweight and affordable. The power bank is £13.99/$14.99/€15.99 and you can order it directly from OnePlus.

Check out the full review here.


Gaming Systems

Nothing says I love you like a kick-ass gaming PC. Of course, budgets vary wildly from hundreds to even thousands of pounds/dollars, but that’s the joy of buying a PC, or building your own, there’s so much to choose from! With so many awesome system integrators around these days, you can’t go far wrong. Chillblast, CyberPower, PC Specialist, Vibox, Freshtech or Overclockers UK.

Gaming in the living room? Why not invest in a CyberPower Syber Steambox! Prices start at £485 and go right up to £1905, giving you a great choice to suit your needs, and your budget.

A whole lot of gaming for not a lot of money from Chillblast, with their very competitive Fusion NightHawk, a great option for those looking for their first gaming PC at just £599.

Got a little more budget to play around with this Christmas? The super fast gaming systems from PC Specialist that feature ASUS Maximus VIII hardware also come with the gorgeous Gladius mouse! Systems in this category start at £890 for the i5 and GTX 960 model, all the way up to £1670 for the i7 and GTX 980 Ti.

Another mid-budget powerhouse, this time from Vibox with their Element X. At just £649, this MSI R9 380 and AMD FX-6300 powered computer is great for gaming and would make a great gift this Christmas.

Time to bring out the big gun’s and really treat yourself? Or perhaps you just want your friend or family member to open a present they’ll never forget? The FreshTech Solutions Stealth Gaming PC is an absolute beast, powered by some of today’s latest and greatest hardware. Of course, it’s not cheap at £1412, but this is not your run of the mill gaming PC.

Overclockers UK offer a range of gaming systems, and general day-to-day PC’s just like another other, but with the big advantage that they’re also a normal PC component retailer. If you want to build your own system, customise a build or pick a pre-built system, you’ll find lots to play around with here.

Check out our full range of system reviews here.

How to Rollback From Windows 10 in a few Clicks

Windows 10 has finally arrived and already accounts for an estimated market share of 0.375%. Microsoft’s figures suggest a staggering 14 million devices were activated within 24 hours of launch. However, Microsoft’s latest and probably last operating system has come under fire due to privacy concerns and users have reported some unnerving bugs. The procedure to revert from Windows 10 is relatively simple, but it must be done within 30 days of your initial upgrade date.

If you decided to perform an upgrade without transferring any files, make sure to back up any data on an external flash drive or optical media. Operating systems are prone to anomalies when using a system restore or reformat so it’s important to have a contingency plan. Once your data has been successful backed up, it’s now time to instigate the rollback from Windows 10.

Firstly, navigate to the Start Menu and click on the Setting tab. This will bring up the traditional Control Panel which contains a number of categorized options.

Click on the Update and security icon to access a new screen with installation commands.

Next, you should be able to see the Update and security menu which contains a host of system tools. On the left, there is a tab entitled, “Recovery”. Click this and the right hand section will display 3 key options. Ensure you select the “Get Started button” underneath the label “Go back to Windows 7/8/8.1”.

Once pressed, Microsoft allows you to cancel the process or offer feedback on the decision to drop Windows 10 from your system. To proceed, you must tick one of the boxes and click next.

After choosing a reason for the rollback, Microsoft asks you to confirm the decision to prevent customers from making any rash decision.

Then, your PC will begin to automatically downgrade from Windows 10 and doesn’t require any user-input. This could take 10-30 minutes depending if you have an SSD or mechanical hard drive. When the procedure is finished, you should be able to log into your previous operating system without any problems.

Please let us know if this guide helped you and your overriding opinions of Windows 10 so far.

Graphics Card Buying Guide Spring 2015

Introduction


Graphic outputs are the most important output of the computer no matter what someone tells you about how an Intel i7-5960x is the best CPU there is, you still require a graphical output to see the magic. When purchasing your computers, it is most likely that the graphics options are the most scrutinised part of all the components; however, choosing the right graphics card for you can be daunting with so many to choose from. Graphics cards come from two major manufacturers, AMD and NVIDIA; both are extremely good at what they do and can offer the consumer amazing graphical performance. From there, each manufacturer then has vendors; some cover both parties such as Gigabyte, others only cover one such as Sapphire for AMD and Zotac for NVIDIA. When considering graphics cards to choose from, you have to consider the following hardware factors:

  • System case size
    • It’s all well and good buying a Gigabyte G1 Gaming GTX 970 because you have the money, but when you find it won’t fit in your Shuttle PC case; jokes on you for not measuring
  • Processor
    • This factor only really comes into play when considering high power graphics cards and pairing with older generations of processors. The likes of an AMD Phenom X3 710 won’t give you the full benefit of an AMD R9 295×2 graphics card like an Intel i7 processor could.
  • Screen sizes, quantity and resolutions
    • You tend to find a lot of people will buy the highest powered graphics card and pair it with a standard 23″ 1080p monitor. That’s OK for achieving constantly high FPS, but pointless considering the cards power. The same goes for users who buy a low-powered graphics card and wonders why they can’t play Crisis on 3 screens.
  • Power Supply
    • This is where things get confusing for a lot of people. Imagine you just went into a local computer shop and bought a 600w power supply for £15, 9/10 times that 600w is only a burst value; meaning it cannot sustain 600w for more than a few seconds. This is one area of your computer that you should never do on the budget end, a general rule of thumb is £10 per 100w, but with components becoming cheaper; prices are falling.

OverclockersUK is one of the largest specialised computer component resellers in the UK, they are highly regarded in the computer enthusiast world and can offer some of the best deals in the UK, EU and sometimes the world. This buying guide will use the pricing and product range displayed on the OCUK website without offers and shipping. For the purpose of this buying guide, I will be concentrating on the consumer-grade discrete desktop single graphics cards; the offerings from integrated processor graphics will not be covered in great detail.

So let us do all of the legwork for you and show you what is best to buy at what budget.

This guide is updated quarterly/immediately after major releases. Last updated: 06/05/2015

System Buying Guide

Introduction


Picking the system that is right for you can be tricky. Sure you can head down to your local retailer, or favourite online store and pick all the parts you need, put it together yourself and I’m sure you would be very happy with the results; so long as you’ve done your research. First-time builders can be put off by the task of building their own system, which is understandable as you may have a lot of research ahead of you. Finding parts that are compatible, both in terms of specifications and size, can be a tricky task. Finding components that are a good performance match can also be tricky. Have you got the right speed of RAM, is your CPU going to bottleneck the performance of your graphics card, will your CPU cooler handle overclocking and more. These are just some of the troubles you can face.

Learning about building your own PC is no bad thing, in fact, I fully encourage you to do so, it can be a lot of fun! However, if like many of us you work Monday to Friday, maybe you have kids to take care of, or other hobbies, finding the time to not only research a system, but to also build and maintain it can be tricky. Fortunately, there are countless other options out there. You can walk into a high street retailer and walk out with a new PC, but as many of you know, many high street stores don’t have the best reputation for selling good PC’s at the right price.

PC Specialist are quickly becoming one of the most popular system integrators in the UK and we’ve had a lot of great things to say about their systems in the past. Buying from a system integrator makes life a lot easier as you can pick the parts you want, have parts recommended to you, it comes pre-built and crazily enough, we’ve even seen some systems that are cheaper to buy from PC Specialist, than they would be to build them yourself! Time is money and so long as you have money, you can certainly save time by having a system built for you, but which one is right for you?

This guide is updated monthly. Last updated: 19th May 2015

eTeknix 2014 Christmas Tech Buying Guide

Christmas time is almost here and as we wrap up warm over winter, we’re also wrapping up on a year of incredible products here at eTeknix HQ. We’ve had hundred of reviews this year, but no doubt many of you are eagerly writing your letters to Santa, or at least dropping hints to your parents, partner or friends for what you want for Christmas. Of course, there’s no doubt a fair few of you who are eager to treat themselves to something cool this Christmas. We’ve scratched our heads and had a really good think about what some of our favourite bits of technology are from this last year, and if you’ve still got some money left after the manic Black Friday sales, perhaps some of these products will be perfect for you.

While I admit that I couldn’t fit all of our favourites onto this list, its certainly a killer list of great products and they’ve all won awards from us here at eTeknix for one reason or another. If you’re after a headset, a chassis, a new keyboard, graphics card, or other cool gadget, you’ll find something that’s right for you in our guide.


Astro A38 Wireless Gaming Headset

The Astro A38 headset really stood out for me, not only is it one of the more stylish looking headsets I’ve ever reviewed, but the sound quality is nothing short of incredible. They’re a little expensive, but you certainly get what you pay for and Astro have yet to create a product that was anything less than stunning. They’re a perfect gift for yourself or someone else and ideal for those who love to listen to music and play games on the go, and the wireless technology and NFC pairing makes them very user friendly.

Check out our full review here – £144 from Astro Gaming


NZXT H440 Mid-Tower Chassis

A great PC deserves a great chassis and the H440 is certainly one of my all-time favourites. It’s not the biggest, and it may not even be the best chassis ever, that much is subjective, but it’s certainly got a lot of great features.  From the PSU shroud that helps keep cable management looking neat and tidy, to the comprehensive set of dust filters, thick sound dampening material lined panels and the large side panel window; you’ll find a lot to love about this chassis.

Check out our full review here – £89.99 from Overclockers


Thermaltake Core V71 Full Tower Chassis

Not all chassis’ are created equally, the Core V71 packs an incredible range of features that make it an ideal choice for high-end systems. The Thermaltake Core V71 looks great, but the real magic comes from its extreme flexibility. It has class leading radiator and fan mounting support and there’s no doubt that you’ll be able to build a stunning air-cooled system thanks to its array of 200mm pre-installed fans, or an incredible custom water cooling loop thanks to its modular interior. If you need extreme performance without spending crazy amounts of money, this chassis needs to be at the top of your list.

Check out our full review here – £131.34 from CCL Computers


Cooler Master Novatouch TKL Keyboard

Treating yourself to a high-quality mechanical keyboard is a solid investment for anyone who uses their computer a lot. Mechanical keyboards are expensive, but their overall build quality and performance goes a long way to justifying the cost. The NovaTouch TKL isn’t your average mechanical and features something called Hybrid Capacitive Switches that offer a truly premium and luxurious typing experience. If you want to treat your fingers to a more enjoyable typing experience, try out this keyboard!

Check out our full review here – £149.99 from Overclockers


Zowie FK1 Gaming Mouse

I have yet to use a Zowie mouse that wasn’t impressive and the FK1 is by far one of their best. While this mouse only offers minor revisions over its previous model, such as a slightly larger body and an improved sensor, it’s performance is second to none. It’s ambidextrous, has one of the best performing sensors available, great ergonomics and a stylish design. If you’re serious about your gaming and want something that offers eSports levels of performance, then you’ll love what the Zowie FK1 has to offer.

Check out our full review here – £49.99 from Overclockers


Nvidia Shield Android 5.0 Gaming Tablet

Mobile gaming is something that never really excited me, but Nvidia have really pulled out all the stops with their Shield Tablet. It’s powered by the incredibly powerful Tegra K1 graphics chip and it’s one of the fastest tablets on the market. It recently received an update that added the latest Android 5.0 operating system, as well as enabling Nvidia’s GRID cloud gaming service and all this comes on top of features like in-home game streaming, 4K video output, wireless controller support and a whole lot more. The Shield Tablet is easily one of the most versatile portable on the market.

Check out our full review here – from £239.99 at Overclockers


Nvidia GeForce “Maxwell” GTX 970 Graphics Card

Nvidia are on our list once again, first they dominate the mobile gaming market, now they’re showing their worth once again in the desktop GPU market. While we admit that the GeForce GTX 980 is an incredible graphics card, you’ll not be disappointed by their GTX 970 as it offers most of the performance of its bigger brother at a much more affordable price tag. This card is packed with the latest features, it looks fantastic and for gaming, it’s one of the best cards you can buy right now. If you want to welcome your computer into the world of high-end PC gaming, this is a great place to start.

Check out our full review here (Asus Strix GTX 970) – from £247.99 at Overclockers


Asus Rampage V Extreme LGA 2011-3 Motherboard

Intel really set a new standard for PC performance this year with the launch of their consumer X99 chipsets. It’s not a cheap upgrade right now, but a new support for the latest high-end CPUs, DDR4 memory and a wave of new features make this motherboard perfect for the enthusiast and professional markets. The Asus Rampage motherboard series has long been a popular choice and the V Extreme is certainly one of the best available right now.

Check out our full review here – £329.99 from Overclockers


Gigabyte Z97X Gaming5 1150 Motherboard

Extreme motherboards are one thing, but they’re a little out of the reach of your average consumer. The Gigabyte X97X Gaming 5 series of motherboards offers a lot of exciting features that make them a great choice for high-end gaming PCs, without the colossal price tags that you’ll find with enthusiast grade products. We loved this motherboard when we review it and while the black and red colour scheme is getting a little bit repetitive in the gaming market, it’s still a great looking board that is perfect for a wide range of systems.

Check out our full review here – £109.99 from Overclockers


Gigabyte Brix Ultra Compact System

A lot of the fame and glory goes to big gaming rigs with multiple graphics cards, loads of hard drives, water cooling and all that other crazy stuff, but this system turns all that on its head. The Brix may be small, but it packs enough power to be worthy of our Extreme Performance award! When space is limited, this little rig will fit on the back of your monitors VESA mount and it packs enough performance to get through a heavy workflow with ease. It’s a little expensive, but for a full-fledged PC that’s small enough to fit in a backpack, it’s a bargain!

Check out our full review here – £503.96 from Scan


PC Specialist Vortex 440 System

If you’re looking to upgrade to an X99 equipped system, then it’s likely that you’ll also be investing in DDR4 memory, a new CPU and a whole host of other components, so why not take all the fuss out of the process and invest in one of the best systems we’ve reviewed this year, the PC Specialist Vortex 440. We loved this system, partly because it was packed full of high-end hardware, but also because it was incredible value for money. Despite what the high price tag may suggest, the Vortex 440 actually worked out cheaper to buy than it would to build it yourself; now that’s a deal we can get behind!

Check out our full review here – around £1500 (customisable) from PC Specialist


OCZ Arc 100 240GB SSD

There’s a lot of SSD hard drives on the market right now and there are so many great ones that it’s now very easy to find one suitable for your system. The OCZ ARC 100 really stood out for us as it offers excellent performance, solid reliability, lots of features and it’s also competitively priced (per GB). Upgrading to an SSD is a great way to give your system a new lease of life, your system will boot faster and all of your games will benefit greatly from the speed boost. There is a cheaper 120GB model available, but the 240GB is the best balance of storage and value, making it a great choice for a boot drive.

Check out our full review here – £94.99 from Overclockers


Asus RT AC68U Dual Band Wireless Router

A really great router is something a lot of people overlook, it can be daunting spending a lot of money on tech like this, but the rewards soon pay for themselves. With more and more devices becoming internet connected, it’s likely that you’re not reaching the full potential of your devices networking capabilities. If you’re wanting to stream movies around your house from a NAS, play games online, while browsing the web from smartphones, tablets, consoles and other devices, then you’re going to see huge benefits from a router that can handle the most demanding workloads without sacrificing performance. The Asus RT AC68U looks great and offers a simple way to improve your home network. It’s expensive, but you certainly get what you pay for.

Check out our full review here – £166.98 from Overclockers


Crucial 32GB 2133MHz Quad Channel DDR4 Memory Kit

DDR4 memory marks the first major update to RAM memory formats in desktop systems in years, but it comes with a steep price tag. However, should you choose to make the leap for your high-end X99 platform build, then you should really consider the Crucial 32GB 2133MHZ kit. If you’re not too bothered about the aesthetics, this memory really does impress in terms of performance and offers excellent value for money vs many of the other DDR4 products on the market.

Check out our full review here – £319.99 from Overclockers


So, what will you be asking Santa for this year?

Oculus Rift Configuration Guide – Simulation Gaming

Introduction


The Oculus Rift is one of the hottest gadgets on the tech market right now. Sure the hardware isn’t ready for consumers just yet, but we’ve been lucky enough to get our hands on the Oculus Rift DK2 (Development Kit 2). We already reviewed the basic hardware and features of the Oculus Rift, but also I want to take a more in-depth look into some of the experiences available on the rift; starting with Simulation style games.

Many of you will have an image of plug and play features that allow you to strap an Oculus Rift to your face then start gaming, unfortunately that’s currently not the reality. Setting up games for the Oculus Rift can be a hit and miss experience, hopefully I can help smooth out a few of these issues for you. This article is as much a review for those thinking about investing in the technology, as it is an Oculus Rift configuration guide for those who already own it.

Simulation-style games are a big market for PC gaming, so I’ve picked out a few of my favourites (that also have VR support). Of course, Star Conflict isn’t exactly a common sim-game, but there aren’t exactly rules excluding it.

  • Star Conflict
  • Assetto Corsa
  • Life for Speed (LFS)
  • Euro Truck Simulator 2

Helping me in my gaming adventures, I will be using the follow extra hardware.

Essential Oculus Rift Setup Advice

If you experience judder or low fps, drop your games graphics settings down to low. If the game runs smoothly at this point, you know it’s your graphics settings and not the DK2 hardware. If you have judder at low settings you know the problem is with a different part of your setup. It’s often also good to start games with AA and AF disabled, enable them later if the game is running smooth. I can’t stress enough how much easier it is to just get the basics working first then build from there.

Go into your GPU configuration software, this will typically be Catalyst Control Centre or Nvidia Control Panel. Set all major graphics options to “let the application decide”. This is especially important for AA and AF settings. For most games you will need V-SYNC as “let the application decide”, but some games don’t detect this properly. If your game is experiencing judder, force VSYNC on and try again, else force off and try again. Some games have their own ways of handing VSYNC and conflicts can and will occur.

If your game is still not running smoothly, go to the GPU control panel, switch your desktop display to 75Hz (if it supports it). If you can’t do this at your current resolution, this will likely drop your monitors resolution lower to one that will support 75Hz (my monitor drops to 1280 x 1024). This will prevent VSYNC from confusing the DK2 as both the DK2 and your desktop will now be running at the same refresh rate (75Hz).

Multi GPU configurations have also been known to cause stutter, albeit in very rare circumstances. If nothing else works, try running the game on a single GPU.

Be sure to adjust your IPD, lens distance and lens type accordingly prior to use. These can make a vast improvement to the overall visual quality, but they will not have any effect on the frame rate of your game, just the overall visual quality.

I find that it is worth disabling GeForce Experience and AMD Gaming Evolved software. These programs are tailored to adjust your graphics settings to get the best performance and quality, which may overwrite the settings you’ve used to configure your games for the DK2.

All testing was done with the Oculus 0.4.3 SDK. Please make sure you have the latest graphics drivers and all updates installed for your games prior to trying to replicate any settings in this article.

Everybody Can NAS, a Beginners Guide to OpenMediaVault

Introduction


What is a NAS?

NAS is the acronym for ‘Network Attached Storage’ and that is just what it is. Storage that is directly attached to your network, thereby allowing you to access its content from all your smart devices. In this article I’ll take you along the road of setting up and configuring your own NAS, even for a small wallet. It sounds so simple and it is. But it is also something that can make your every-day digital-life a lot easier and more enjoyable.

Having a NAS in your household allows you to have a centralized storage for all your backups, media files and documents. This again gives you the ability to easy access them from all your devices, may it be your smart TV, your phone or tablet, your computers or game consoles and what else comes to mind.

Some of the first words that scare most people away from setting up a NAS themselves are ‘linux’ and ‘network’. While it might not be something you have experience with, I guarantee it’s all very easy and quick to do.

What about the hardware?

So how does it work and what exactly is it you ask? Well, a NAS is technically just a PC like any other, some might also refer to it as a server or computer. In the end it is the operating system that is the factor. The whole idea behind it is to have a centralized storage for all your files. To archive this, it has to be running all or most of the time and there are some key features we need to look at:

  • Low power consumption
  • Headless usage (no keyboard, mouse or monitor required)
  • Small form factor and silent operation

In my opinion there is the perfect device on the market for just that. It’s cheap, it’s solid and at many times you even get mail in rebates or cash-back on them. But more on that later.

What Skills and Tools do you need?

To set up a NAS? Actually not many. You will need the following skills: Use the screwdriver that is included, Able to attach a cable to a plug and you will need to be able to read and use a website.

You will also need a couple other small things in order to follow this little guide to setting up a HP micro server, but not much. You need a MOLEX to SATA power adapter, a SATA data cable and either some duct tape or a 3½ inch to 5¼ inch adapter. You will also temporary need a USB stick, a Monitor and keyboard during installation. And that is pretty much it, so you see, everybody can NAS.

The perfect device

For this job, Hewlett-Packard have created the perfect line of micro servers. The N36L, N40L and N54L, also known as G7 microservers. The only difference between the three models is the CPU speed. Slower doesn’t always mean cheaper, so check prices on all three devices before you commit. On my last purchase I found that the N54L was the cheapest of them all, but any of the three will do fine for a home NAS.

It has 4 cold-swap bays for your storage hard-drives and a 5¼ inch for either your boot-drive, extra hard-drive(s) or anything else that fits. In most cases, and in ours here, it will used for the boot drive.

The G7 microserver comes with a 250 GB 7200RPM HDD included and that is just perfect as system disk for our new NAS. If that wasn’t enough, it also has 4GB ECC memory included in 1 module with room for a second.

Inside it has two PCI-Express expansion slots, one x16 and one x1. The single also has additional control ports for HP remote-control cards.

It even comes with tools included, nothing extra is really needed. It can be run straight away with what’s in the box, but you will of course also need some hard drives as storage for all your files. You can start with one and upgrade later or you can fill it up right away, the choice is yours.

At the time of writing, the N54L can be had for €153 in Germany and £131 in the United Kingdom making it a real bargain. I couldn’t find it cheaper than $357 in the US making it less of a deal over there.

The HP N54L comes in a very simple cardboard box only printed with the name and a representation of the server on the front and back.

On the side of the cardboard box we find a small sticker with the model and serial number. The box doesn’t offer much information besides that.

Opening up the box we see all is securely packed in spacey Styrofoam and with the accessories on top.

Unpacking the accessories, we find power cables for UK and for Germany/EU, a small manual and update instructions.

Graphics Card Overclocking Guide Featuring The AMD Gigabyte R9 270

Introduction To Graphics Card Overclocking


Here at eTeknix we serve a wide range of readers: from casual to hardcore PC users as well as gamers, overclockers and more. As a result our readers have differing levels of technical knowledge about a range of different things: today we are covering the field of graphics card overclocking. This article is aimed at a specific set of people, those who have little or minimal knowledge about graphics card overclocking, but we hope that even more experienced overclockers may be able to pick up a few tips or tricks from this article.

To the seasoned PC enthusiast graphics card overclocking is a self-explanatory term but for the casual PC user it may be an alien term, so what does it actually mean? In its simplest form it is about increasing the clock speed (which is measured in frequency) at which your graphics card operates. By default all graphics will ship with two different clock speeds: a clock speed for the graphics card’s core (or engine) and a clock speed for the memory that the graphics card uses.These default clock speeds are referred to as stock speeds. The process of overclocking entails trying to raise any combination of those clock speeds above their stock level, whether that means the core clock, the memory clock or both. Hence the term overclocking is formed from the presumption that you will be clocking your graphics card over its stock levels.

That is of course a very basic explanation so we will bring more details in as we progress through this guide. The layout of the guide is as follows:

  • Firstly, we will answer the question why should I overclock my graphics card? We will present the case for overclocking and what you stand to gain from doing it.
  • Secondly, we will explore and elaborate the risks that entail from overclocking as well as ways you can minimise or correct for these risks.
  • Thirdly, we will explore some graphics card overclocking software to show you the options for overclocking and how you go about achieving an overclock
  • Fourthly, we will discuss how to find the right overclock for you and how you can go about testing whether a selected overclock is stable
  • Finally, we will benchmark our test graphics card in overclocked and stock mode to show you what difference overclocking makes

For our overclocking guide we will be using the Gigabyte R9 270 OC 2GB graphics card. This was kindly provided to us by AMD and it makes a great choice for an overclockable graphics card thanks to its large overclocking potential and very competitive price of just $180/£125 (prices accurate at the time of writing). It is also a fairly cool running graphics card that doesn’t consume too much power meaning it should be compatible with a broad range of systems. If you’re new to the ways of graphics card overclocking then the AMD R9 270 is certainly a great place to start.

The eTeknix Guide To Building Your Own NAS System For Under $220


Introduction


There may be a lot of people like myself who have missed the “NAS bandwagon” and have made do with other fragmented storage solutions up until now: multiple storage drives on different devices (laptops, desktops, tablets, smartphones) with the gap being bridged between those multiple devices through space restricted cloud storage (Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive) or portable storage (flash drives, external hard drives, SD cards). However, there has to be an easier way to unify all your storage needs – and that’s what today is all about. Like many of our readers I am a technology enthusiast – I like to get hands on with things and do it myself rather than just buying pre-built solutions that often hold a significant price premium. Therefore, what better way than to get involved with the NAS (Network Attached Storage) craze than to build your own! Your own centralised cloud storage, fileserver, storage server, media centre or whatever else you want to do with it – how cool is that? And despite what people may tell you, or even what your own preconceptions are, building a NAS has never been easier. There’s a wealth of affordable hardware out there and more importantly an abundance of free software to help you configure your own NAS setup.

The aim of this guide is quite a simple one – to take you through my personal experiences with building a 6-Bay capable NAS within a strict budget of $220 using FreeNAS. Why $220? Well I wanted to build a 2 disk NAS box capable of streaming media and storing all of my files for the lowest cost possible, but I also want the scope to be able upgrade to 4-6 drives in the future. A quick search on somewhere like Newegg will show you that 4-Bay diskless NAS systems start from $300 and range all the way up to $700, so I wanted to better those NAS systems and do it at a lower cost. I am only a home user (like most of you will be) so I really do not need loads of advanced enterprise features and technologies – I just need a reasonably fast NAS server capable of meeting my storage and media needs. Enter today’s build which I believe meets all of those criteria at a hair under $220. This build was an interesting one as we independently chose all the parts for our NAS guide that we wanted to use and then went to the companies to see if they were interested in sponsoring our build guide. A few weeks of planning later and here we are – so a huge thank you goes out to AMD, ASRock, Kingston Technology, SilverStone Technology and Western Digital for providing the parts to our NAS build guide. At just $220 this diskless NAS has the potential to scale up to six hard drives and offers a variety of RAID configurations as well as support for on-chip transcoding. So without any further ado let’s introduce all the details of our $220 NAS system, we will start by analysing the parts we chose: how much they cost and why we chose them.

[Christmas Buying Guide] What Gaming Tech Will You Buy This Year?

Christmas Buying Guide


The festive season is almost upon us and while many of us will be thankful and enjoying a tasty dinner with our families, there will also be a lot of people, your friends and your family who are eager to open their presents on Christmas morning.

I thought I would pick through some of my favourite reviews from this year and pick out three great gift ideas for each section with a gaming theme to them. Now these may not really be the “best” things I’ve reviewed, but I have looked at items that I think offer a nice mixture of budgets and great performance, not to mention things that will put a smile on someone’s face when they unwrap them.

So let’s get to it, if you have any great deals or suggestions for people please leave a comment below, I’m sure the rest of the eTeknix community will be happy to hear your ideas, as we all know how hard it can be picking gifts for people.

All prices are correct at time of writing, this is not a sponsored post and all links are to the best price from any respectable retailer that I could find.

Headsets


PX4 Wireless Headset from Turtle Beach – I only tested this headset recently and haven’t stopped using it on my PlayStation 4 since, it’s not cheap at £150, but if your after the perfect gift to go with a PlayStation 3 or 4 this holiday season then there really is no better choice on the market. £145.99 from Base.com

Ceres 500 Multi-format PC, PlayStation & Xbox headset from CM Storm – This is one of the best value for money headset on the market today, it works on several major games consoles and PC, looks stunning and it’s super comfortable. It is also the first console ready headset that CM Storm have ever made! £49.68 from CCLOnline.com

Level 10 M PC Headset from TteSports – If style is your thing then you’ll love the mixture of high quality materials and finishes on this headset, it’s designed by both Thermaltake and BMW, giving it a truly unique and very cool look. It is also one of the best performing headsets we’ve ever tested thanks to its well balanced and powerful sound. £109.99 from Overclockers.co.uk

Keyboards


Alu Series Mech from Cooler Master – This is one of the best looking keyboards ever made, features mechanical keys, gorgeous backlight effects and a top panel of cast aluminium that can be removed and customised. It’s a little on the large side, but if you have the desk space for it, there really is nothing finer. £129.95 from Overclockers.co.uk

Derandal from Tesoro – Named after the sword of Charlemagne’s paladin Roland this one seriously cool keyboard, packed with features and macro settings it will make a great weapon for anyone who wants the joys of mechanical switch keys and gaming prowess that will make your friend jealous. £72.72 from CCLOnline.com

Force K7 from Gigabyte – Low cost doesn’t have to mean cheap, this may not be the most feature packed keyboard on the market, but at this price you really can’t argue with the style, funky backlight and great build quality, a worth upgrade for anyone looking for a great keyboard for work and play. £31.19 from Lambda-tek.com

Mice


Kone Pure Optical from Roccat – This mouse is a little small for my liking, but it is a great choice for those who don’t have giants hands like myself, perfect for younger games and it features (literally) one of the greatest optical sensors we have ever tested, plus Roccat have some of the best software in the business, making this a divine weapon for any serious gamer. £59.81 from CCLOnline.com

Theron from TteSports – Another great mouse here and easily one of my all time favourite gaming mice, it’s not too packed with features, but what it does offer is precision gaming at an affordable price tag. £44.99 from Overclockers.co.uk

Ballista MK1 from Shogun Bros – When I first tested this mouse I expected it to be terrible, oh how wrong I was! This is the true diamond in the rough and I dare you to find a more feature packed, high performance product in this price range. £47.94 from Amazon.co.uk

Chassis


Dead Silence Cube Chassis from Aerocool – With the popularity of larger small form factor chassis increasing after the release of chassis like the Prodigy from BitFenix, there has been a battle for who can create the next best thing, the Dead Silence is the answer and there is simply nothing else that compares to the quality and features that Aerocool have packed into this product, effectively the greatest chassis Aerocool have ever made. £72.59 from Scan.co.uk

Cosmos SE from Cooler Master – Many will no doubt want the Cosmos II this Christmas, but if you want many of the thrills with the added benefit of a much lower price tag and a chassis that’s not as big as a house, then the SE edition it the perfect cure to those Cosmos II blues. £138.60 from Scan.co.uk

Prodigy M from BitFenix – In many ways, I don’t like the Prodigy M that much, but the fact that BitFenix have managed to cram in a larger motherboard space, room for multiple GPU’s and more cooling, all without compromising on the exterior size and design of the original Prodigy makes this one epic chassis overall, a worth upgrade for many Prodigy users. £64.99 from Overclockers.co.uk

This isn’t the last you’ll here from us before Christmas and we have many more great suggestions for you in many other different areas other than gaming peripherals and chassis. Stay tuned for more and of course if you have a few ideas of your own, feel free to post your suggestions in the comments section.

Featured image courtesy of Digital Storm.

[Guide] Go Custom With The Cooler Master Eisberg Prestige!

Today I am going to show you how to go completely custom with your new Cooler Master Eisberg Prestige we reviewed here. This guide should certainly help you if you are new to water cooling and even more so if you have just purchased the Eisberg as a single unit and need ideas.

When I first got my hands on a Eisberg 240l unit a while ago I loved it. The 400 litres per hour specification made me jump for joy and the 5v,7v and 12v usage made me think it could be used with a pump controller such as the amazing Lamptron CW611. I looked at the compression fittings and the ribbed tubing thats so common now with AIO coolers and couldn’t help myself to start asking questions. Maybe replacing the fittings and tubes would be nice? Perhaps even a bigger radiator? Maybe add a large reservoir for much more liquid volume and give me a decent fill/drain? All these questions needed answering so today I took action and you guys can have a front row seat.

The parts I will be using come from very well known and respected manufacturers of liquid cooling parts. EK Water Blocks, Mayhems fluids and Primochill. Obviously there are many more manufacturers out there so what I will do is list the correct sizes and explain the function of these parts so it will help you in your purchasing decisions. If there are alternatives to the parts I’m using I will also give you a list of alternatives.

The skill level for doing this is moderate. If you have built your own air cooled system this will be a small learning curve. If you have built a liquid cooled system previously there may be a couple of tips and tricks here for you.

Since we are toying with liquid and electrical components here Eteknix in no way holds responsibility if you spill a litre of fluid on your mobo or poke yourself in the eye with tubing.

With this said Let us move on to the next page so we can get cracking!

eTeknix Christmas Buying Guide

It’s that time of year again and were pretty sure many of you will have left that all important Christmas gift shopping right up until the last moment! So we thought that we might lend a hand to our followers and fans and since your already on eTeknix, we thought its best we share what we think are some of this years best products.

I’m sure not all of these would make an ideal Christmas present, but its always nice to treat yourself from time to time too, so lets start by taking a look at what each of us thought are the best of the best for this holiday season.

Myself, Andy, Chris and Ryan will be sharing our picks for the holiday season from our respective areas of the site, covering gaming, peripherals, cases, graphics cards, cooling and other hardware components that we think are worth your attention.

All links open in a new tab, so feel free to click away on what you like the look of, grab a drink and take a look at the reviews for our top picks.

Free-to-play PC Gaming Guide

Over the last month I have been trying out and as many free-to-play games as I can and I’ve even reviewed a few, I’ve done all this in an effort to show you which games I think are the best ones currently available to play today on your PC.

There are countless offerings available these days, everthing from massive MMO’s, First Person Shooters, Driving games and Simulators, what ever your gaming preference there is no doubt a game out there that will let you do it for free.  My aim is to see how much fun and gameplay you can actually get, without ever spending any cash.  Obviously these games need to make money and there are so many different methods that these games employ to achieve that goal, some offer paid DLC add on packs, micro transactions or even premium memberships to tempt you into spending your hard earned cash, but only if you really want to.

What I will be looking at is the core gameplay and content that is available for free, I’ve spent at least a few hours playing each title to get to grips with what it has to offer, picking my top choices along the way and even taking a quick look at a few of the free-to-play games you can expect to see released later this year.

If you want to find out what I think are the best free-to-play games available, then feel free to check out the next few pages.

Graphics card buying guide

To start off with, we would like to say that for the purposes of this article a graphics card is only really useful to someone looking to play games ( we are not considering ‘professional’ graphics cards like AMD FirePro and Nvidia Quadro cards). Although, there are a number of other purposes a graphics card may come in handy for such as Folding at Home (mainly Nvidia cards) or running multiple monitors.

However, in this article we will be focusing on graphics cards for gaming and how you would go about picking one. When you pick a graphics card these days the choice isn’t a simple as it may first appear, there are a multitude of factors that need to be taking into consideration to make sure you get the most out of your graphics card. We will be taking each of those factors and dissecting the main issues behind them further. The factors we think are important when choosing a graphics card are:

  • The power supply requirements
  • The number of screens you will use and at what resolution
  • The performance of the rest of your system, the CPU in particular
  • The amount of space in your case

We do not necessarily think your budget is an issue that is important when choosing a card, at the end of the day you make the ‘selection process’ of your graphics card using your budget and the performance figures of the potential candidate cards. Once you have narrowed down your choice to a handful of cards then it is important to consider the above criteria to then figure out which one is the most appropriate for you, note the card with the ‘fastest’ performance is not always the best card to get in most cases.

When it comes down to the question of ‘AMD or Nvidia?’, we don’t think this is a criterion that bares consideration. A graphics card is a graphics card and both AMD and Nvidia have their own unique perks but no one brand of card brings significant advantages over the other when it comes to gaming.

Next-Gen Xbox Guide

Last year rumours were flying around about Microsoft’s next console, naturally they want to keep things quiet so sales of current hardware are not affected, not to mention share prices.

With Job postings revealing that the Xbox Console Architecture team was hunting for new blood “Successful candidates will join a team that will be responsible for defining and delivering next generation console architectures from conception through implementation.”

ITProPortal also suggested in October 2011 that several employees were giving away their involvement on their LinkedIn profiles, such as “Xbox Next Gen Creative Director.”

Microsoft blogger MS Nerd outed the name Xbox Loop, claiming that the long-awaited console will be “far smaller”, cheaper and quite Kinect-focused when it finally lands on our shelves.

Speculation about new types of controller, not being able to play used games and “the cloud”, it can be hard to keep track of what is happening, so let’s start by breaking the console down into its various component and analyse them one at a time, maybe then we can wrap our head around the steady stream of rumours and leaks that have surfaced over the last 12 months.

eTeknix Christmas Hardware Buying Guide

Christmas is just around the corner and for those who still have their Christmas shopping to do we have lots of helpful advice for you before you decide to start buying.  We know value is at the heart of most buying decisions so we have structured our buying guide  into helpful price points between £50 and £150 for each of the component areas we have taken a look at which are processors, graphics cards, motherboards and storage drives.

The £50 price point is the entry level, for those looking for value for money and functionality without spending too much. The step up to the £100 marks a transition from entry to mid range and enthusiast giving significant performance increases, particularly in graphics. While the £150 price point is the point we consider the ‘maximum’ of what a money conscious buyer would go to when it comes to buying components.

With regards to building a completed system we advise that you take components from similar price points when you pair things together in order to avoid getting performance bottlenecks. We hope our processor, graphics card, motherboard and storage drive recommendations come in useful and give you some helpful food for thought this Christmas’ shopping period.

Amidst a hard drive crisis we also take a look through the best hard drives to buy as well as the best solid state drives: can you still pick up a decent amount of storage for a good price?