Anidees AI-06 V2 Silent Mid-Tower Chassis Review

Introduction


Today in the eTeknix office we have the brand new Anidees AI-06 V2 mid-tower chassis, which offers up a big revision of their popular AI-06 model. Taking an already robust chassis, adding in more flexible storage solutions, a card reader, improved cooling support, a larger side panel window (on the relevant model) and more. Today, we have the Silent equipped model, which comes fitted with sound dampening materials on the interior, although windowed and standard solid side panel without noise dampening materials edition are also available.

Equipped with an aluminium finished from panel door, multiple radiator and fan mounts in the front, top, back and bottom of the chassis, removable storage bays, an SD card reader and more, we’re really looking forward to taking a closer look at this chassis, so let’s get it out of the box and see what it has to offer.

  • Rotate door with Aluminum line-finished for elegant look.
  • Moveable front mesh design for ventilation and easy maintenance.
  • Accommodates 120 mm radiator in the rear, 120/140mm radiator in the bottom or 240 mm radiator on the top or front.
  • Dust filters on the front and at the bottom.
  • Rear retaining holes for water cooling kit.
  • Cable management and CPU retaining hole for easy maintenance.
  • Air cooling support 6 fans, 140mm fan*5, 120mm fan*1
  • Supports up to 140 mm fan x 5
  • New Velcro fastener design for better power supply stability
  • USB 3.0*2, USB 2.0*2, SD Card reader, Fan controller on the top
  • Smoky Transparent side window (optional)

As you can see, the silent edition comes with a solid side panel on the left. The panel is held in place by a pair of thumb screws at the back, nothing fancy, but a well-tried and tested design overall.

There’s some branding in the bottom corner here, it’s quite tastefully placed and this means the front panel can be left looking nice clean.

Another heavy panel on the right, looking good in that lightly textured matte black paintwork.

The front panel is really smart, finished with a good layer of brush textured aluminium, giving it a nice premium look and feel.

The door is held shut with magnets on the right side, allowing you to easily open it up to access the front panel component.

In the door cavity, you’ll find a thick layer of noise-dampening materials, which should soak up a lot of unwanted noise from your systems cooling solution. There are three 5.25″ drive bays on offer also, each with an easily removable lock-in cover.

Further down, you’ll find a large ventilated panel for the front mounted cooling.

Around the back, you’ll find a 120mm fan mount, seven expansion slots, two water/cable routing grommets and the PSU cut-out; all pretty standard stuff, but that’s no bad thing.

The covers are reusable and come with some ventilation to help with overall airflow.

The top panel follows the design of the front of the chassis, curving at the edge to create a nice flowing design and featuring even more of that lovely brushed aluminium.

There’s a well equipped I/O panel towards the front, with SD card reader, four USB ports, HD audio jacks, and two nicely designed buttons for the power and reset. What’s also worthy of our attention is that there is a three-way switch, which functions as the built-in fan controller.

the base of the chassis features lots of ventilation for any base mounted cooling, as well as the PSU air intake. The PSU benefits from a slide out filter, but the remaining ventilation uses a simple clip-in mesh.

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.

Aorus Thunder K7 Mechanical Keyboard + Macro Keypad Review

Introduction


Aorus are back on eTeknix again today, following a long hiatus from our last review of theirs, the rather stunning Aorus Thunder M7 Gaming Mouse. In the office today, we have their new flagship gaming keyboard, the Thunder K7, and it’s packed to the brim with high-end features that are sure to excite professionals, gamers and well, many other people too!

  • World’s 1st Mechanical gaming keyboard with detachable Macro keys
  • Superior CHERRY MX Mechanical Key-Switch
  • Absolute Anti-Ghosting Multi-Key press Capability
  • AORUS Macro Engine

Equipped with a split design that allows you to not only detach the number pads completely and turn the main keyboard into an 80% width design, you can also attach the number pad on the left side of the keyboard and use it as a macro pad, or for any other purpose for that matter, and even then, you can also use the number pad all by its self if you really wanted! Of course, a funky modular design isn’t the only thing you can expect from this keyboard today. Equipped with Cherry MX Red switches, N-key rollover, anti-ghosting, LED lighting, macro engine, detachable wrist rest, and more, the K7 is sounding like strong competition for many other high-end keyboards on the market today.

The box for the Thunder K7 is absolutely huge, it may actually be the biggest keyboard box we’ve ever seen, and not by any small margin either!b There’s a huge image of the keyboard don the front, as well as a badge telling us this is the orange light edition, not the blue one in the big picture.

Around the back, a quick rundown of the main features, such as the modular design, Cherry switches, and the powerful macro engine.

The box opens up to reveal just why it’s so big in the first place. The keyboard is exceptionally well padded and the main keyboard, number pad and wrist rest are all separated by thick foam to ensure they stay secure in transit. Each component is wrapped in plastic bags to keep them dust free and there’s a large plastic shell over the top over everything to protect it from damage.

In the box, the keyboard, which comes hard-wired with a good quality USB cable and custom USB 2.0 gold-plated head, as well as a secondary cable for when you’re using the number pad independently.

The detachable wrist rest is pretty durable and has a good width to it. It is worth pointing out, however, that it’s the full keyboard size, so may look ridiculous if you’re using it in 80% mode.

There are some rubber grips on the bottom to keep it in place, but you’ll notice the lack of clips as the whole unit connects to the keyboard magnetically.

Ashes of the Singularity DirectX 12 Graphics Performance Analysis

Introduction


Ashes of the Singularity is a futuristic real-time strategy game offering frenetic contests on a large-scale. The huge amount of units scattered across a number of varied environments creates an enthralling experience built around complex strategic decisions. Throughout the game, you will explore unique planets and engage in enthralling air battles. This bitter war revolves around an invaluable resource known as Turinium between the human race and masterful artificial intelligence. If you’re into the RTS genre, Ashes of the Singularity should provide hours of entertainment. While the game itself is worthy of widespread media attention, the engine’s support for DirectX 12 and asynchronous compute has become a hot topic among hardware enthusiasts.

DirectX 12 is a low-level API with reduced CPU overheads and has the potential to revolutionise the way games are optimised for numerous hardware configurations. In contrast to this, DirectX 11 isn’t that efficient and many mainstream titles suffered from poor scaling which didn’t properly utilise the potential of current graphics technology. On another note, DirectX 12 allows users to pair GPUs from competing vendors and utilise multi graphics solutions without relying on driver profiles. It’s theoretically possible to achieve widespread optimization and leverage extra performance using the latest version of DirectX 12.

Of course, Vulkan is another alternative which works on various operating systems and adopts an open-source ideology. Although, the focus will likely remain on DirectX 12 for the foreseeable future unless there’s a sudden reluctance from users to upgrade to Windows 10. Even though the adoption rate is impressive, there’s a large number of PC gamers currently using Windows 7, 8 and 8.1. Therefore, it seems prudent for developers to continue with DirectX 11 and offer a DirectX 12 render as an optional extra. Arguably, the real gains from DirectX 12 will occur when its predecessor is disregarded completely. This will probably take a considerable amount of time which suggests the first DirectX 12 games might have reduced performance benefits compared to later titles.

Asynchronous compute allows graphics cards to simultaneously calculate multiple workloads and reach extra performance figures. AMD’s GCN architecture has extensive support for this technology. In contrast to this, there’s a heated debate questioning if NVIDIA products can even utilise asynchronous compute in an effective manner. Technically, AMD GCN graphics cards contain 2-8 asynchronous compute cores with 8 queues per core which varies on the model to provide single cycle latencies. Maxwell revolves around two pipelines, one designed for high-priority workloads and another with 31 queues. Most importantly, NVIDIA cards can only “switch contexts at draw call boundaries”. This means the switching process is slower and gives AMD and a major advantage. NVIDIA has dismissed the early performance numbers from Ashes of the Singularity due to its current development phase. Finally, the game’s release has exited the beta stage which allows us to determine the performance numbers after optimizations were completed.

Corsair Gaming K70 Rapidfire RGB Gaming Keyboard Review

Introduction


Ready to take your gaming seriously? We’ve got the (mostly) new Corsair Gaming K70 Rapidfire RGB in the eTeknix office today, and while you may be familiar with the K70 part, the keyboard now features the all-new and very much improved Cherry MX Speed switches! But what are MX Speed switches? They use the same underlying format as the extremely popular and lightning fast MX Red switches, but with a 40% reduction in actuation distance, meaning they’re even faster than ever before, making them the shortest response mechanical switches on the market today.

  • Ultrafast mechanical gaming keyboard: ultrafast 1.2mm actuation and light 45g switch force for truly unrivaled response time.
  • 100% Cherry MX Speed RGB key switches: ultrafast performance with the precision and durability of gold contact Cherry MX mechanical gaming key switches.
  • Aircraft-grade anodized brushed aluminum frame: with light weight and rugged durability you need for a keyboard that’s going to see a lot of action.
  • 100% anti-ghosting and full key rollover over USB circuitry: no matter how fast you go your keypresses will always register.
  • Advanced lighting control and large font keycaps: experience dynamic, vibrant multi-color backlighting.
  • The power of CUE: sophisticated macro programming and fast, fluid dynamic multicolor illumination for an enlightened gaming experience.
  • Detachable soft-touch wrist rest: the comfort you need for marathon gaming sessions.
  • Dedicated multimedia controls: the control you need to adjust your audio without interrupting your game.
  • USB Pass-Through Port: Positioned for uninterrupted game play and ready for your mouse or wireless headset adapter.
  • FPS and MOBA keycap sets: Textured and contoured keycaps provide maximum grip and enhanced feel

Every action counts when it comes to competitive gaming, and trimming the fat from the switch means that you’ll be triggering those switches milliseconds before the competition. It’s not a huge advantage, but every little bit adds up and no matter how small it may seem, an edge is an edge.

The packaging is really nicely designed, keeping the usual Corsair colours and showing off the most important features.

You’ll find all the usual stuff in the box, such as the documentation, two sets of gaming caps and a handy key cap puller.

ASUS MG24UQ and MG28UQ Monitor Review

Introduction


ASUS has rapidly become a dominant force in the gaming monitor sector due to the popularity of its ROG range. According to Digitimes, the company has seen a staggering growth rate of 30 percent throughout Europe in 2015. Models such as the PG278Q, commonly referred to the ROG Swift beautifully catered towards users requiring a high refresh monitor and G-Sync functionality. This combination proved to be extraordinarily successful and inspired future products such as the PG279Q. The advent of responsive IPS panels featuring enhanced viewing angles and colour reproduction compared to their TN counterparts, forged a new audience for the ROG series.

Today, we’re taking a look at the company’s latest gaming monitors which opt for FreeSync technology instead of the NVIDIA’s proprietary alternative. As a result, these products provide a fluid user experience at a more digestible price point. The MG24UQ utilizes a 4K IPS panel, 4ms response time and 178 degree viewing angles. This is targeted towards consumers who enjoy stunning image quality and yearn for a high pixels per inch display. In contrast to this, the MG28UQ is based on TN technology and has a 1ms response time. While the colour gamut isn’t as impressive on TN monitors, they have a quicker response time and better suited towards professional gamers. Of course, it’s all about your individual priorities and whether you care more about image quality or responsiveness.

Packaging and Features

ASUS MG24UQ

Firstly, it’s important to note that the press samples I received contain the MG24U and MG28U branding. After performing extensive research, I discovered these are now known under the UQ title instead for retail channels so please disregard the box’s naming scheme. As you can see, the packaging adopts a really bold, stylish design and lists the monitor’s key features.

The monitor’s base and cables are housed within the top section to allow for easy access. On another note, the hardened polystyrene inserts offer superb protection and ensures the display arrives in perfect condition.

ASUS gaming monitors incorporate a number of unique features including:

Rather bizarrely, the information here is incorrect and the PPI rate should read 185.


ASUS MG28UQ

The 28-inch model utilises identical packaging apart from the 1ms response time icon.

Here we can see the larger variant has a lower ppi rate, 1ms response time and USB 3.0 hub.

Cyberpower Infinity X55 Pro Gaming PC Review

Introduction


Cyberpower is one of most respected system integrators worldwide and quickly gained a superb reputation for their commitment to impeccable customer service. The company’s vast buying power means consumers can choose from a massive range of components and construct a system which suits their individual requirements. This level of flexibility is astounding and ensures the end-user receives a product with the best possible specification. Upgrades are listed using high-resolution images and include a brief outline of the pricing variation when selecting various parts. Of course, there are pre-configured options with a default configuration to help simplify the buying process. Cyberpower’s slick website manages to catch your imagination and become fascinated by the company’s custom PC range.

The latest PC to arrive for review purposes is the Cyberpower Infinity X55 Pro sporting an Intel i5-6660K processor, 8GB DDR4 RAM and XFX AMD Radeon R9 390 8GB. Cyberpower has utilised the Corsair H55 all-in-one CPU cooler to achieve a hefty 4.5GHz overclock. In terms of storage, there’s a high-performance 240GB SSD and 1TB mechanical disk. The Corsair VS 650W is a non-modular 80 plus white power supply with enough wattage to easily cope with demanding applications. This impressive specification is housed in the extremely unusual Corsair 600C chassis. Priced at £999, I’m fascinated to see the performance numbers in relation to other products under the £1000 mark.

Specifications

  • Name: Cyberpower Infinity X55 Pro
  • Case: Corsair 600C
  • Motherboard: MSI Z170A SLI Plus
  • Processor: Intel Core-i5 6600K Overclocked to 4.5GHz
  • Processor Cooler: Corsair H55
  • System Memory: Corsair 8GB (2x4GB) DDR4 LPX 2400MHZ
  • Main Boot Drive: Corsair Neutron XT 240GB
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): Western Digital 1TB 7200RPM
  • Graphics card: XFX AMD Radeon R9 390 8GB
  • Power Supply: Corsair VS 650W
  • Peripherals: N/A
  • Monitor: N/A
  • Optical Drive: N/A 
  • Wireless: N/A
  • OS: Windows 10 Home
  • Warranty: 3 Year Labour, 2 Year Parts, 1 Month Collect and Return plus Life-Time Technical Support
  • Price: £999

Packing and Accessories

The system arrives in a humongous outer box which offers exceptional protection during transit. More specifically, the thick cardboard adds rigidity and prevents the system from encountering cosmetic imperfections. On another note, the fragile notice instructs the courier to adopt a careful approach when handling the package.

Once opened, the main chassis box is held in place with supporting foam inserts and the accessories box. As a result, the unit shouldn’t move around in a brash manner.

Prior to turning on the system, a precautionary label is used to cover the power supply and inform the user to remove any internal packaging.

Here we can the huge array of protective inserts which cushions the key components from any sudden impact during delivery. These are absolutely essential additions to ensure the system arrives safely and without any cables being misaligned. Honestly, I’d prefer Cyberpower to use a foam pack instead because of the harder material and more secure positioning.

The system is bundled with a handy troubleshooting guide, component documentation, driver’s disk, PCI brackets where the GPU has been installed, power cord and SLI bridge. Unfortunately, the troubleshooting guide was placed underneath the chassis box which led to some hefty creases.

CPU-Z

GPU-Z

InWin 909 E-ATX Aluminium & Tempered Glass Chassis Review

Introduction


Building an extreme gaming rig, enthusiast grade workstation of simply a system that offers some akin to installing a work of art in your office space can be quite an expensive endeavour. The InWin 909, the latest addition to their already quite extensive selection of premium chassis, looks like the perfect chassis for the job, and while it comes with a bit of a hefty price tag, the sheer volume of aluminium and tempered glass, as well as the extensive component support on offer looks set prove that you really do get what you pay for.

Impressively Detailed Craftsmanship

“909 is constructed with solid materials, and its chamfered edge design and sleek anodized aluminium are beautifully crafted to masterfully create a streamlined and smooth enclosure inside/out.” and “features a single piece 4mm brushed aluminium shell and an elegant back panel that hides unnecessary rear I/O cables. The clutter-free design demonstrates the elegant aesthetics of simplicity.”  – InWin

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebJVLcP_ass

Specifications

Equipped with luxurious 4mm brushed aluminium panels, topped off with 5mm thick tinted tempered glass, the InWin 909 is certainly classed as a premium grade product, a far cry from the steel, plastic and plexiglass of seemingly thousands of chassis products available on the market today. Of course, building materials are one thing, but with USB 3.1 Type-C connectivity, LED lighting, dust filters, support for E-ATX motherboards, multiple high-end graphics cards, extensive water and air cooling, and so much more, metal and glass is just the start of what the InWin 909 in all about.

In the box, you’ll find a hefty component bag, featuring the usual documentation, a good assortment of screws and bolts, as well as USB 3.0 header adapters, and motherboard power cable extensions to help accommodate the sizable 909 dimensions.

The InWin 909 is certainly sizable, with a huge tempered glass side panel that covers the not only fairly tall, but quite long chassis. It’s likely that if you’re putting this on, under, or beside your desk, it could stick out quite a bit, so it may be best to get out a tape measure and ensure you even have room to accommodate it, as well as suitable breathing room at the back for ventilation. The glass certainly looks impressive, with a heavy tint that doesn’t give much away, however, if you throw some lighting into the chassis interior, you’ll soon see the benefits.

There’s a nicely designed I/O panel on the left side of the chassis too, giving you access to a master lighting control, three USB 3.0 ports, one USB 3.1 Type-C, HD audio jacks, a power button and LED indicators. This is great if you plan to put this chassis up on top of your desk (where we/InWin think it belongs) but it could be impractical if you have it on the floor, as the ports will be awkward to reach.

Another huge glass panel on the right side, meaning that no matter which angle you view the InWin 909, it’s going to look pretty stunning. Just keep in mind, immaculate cable management is vital here, as everything will be on show, so make sure you use the cable tidies that are included in the component bag.

The front panel is formed from the same piece of aluminium as the top and bottom of the chassis, giving it a flawless flowing design that just emanates quality. The black brushed detailing brings out all the little details in the metal work too and it is topped off with a lovely In Win logo strip on the bottom half.

Each of the side panels is mounted on a rubber coated peg and held in place by four aluminium thumb screws for easy access.

Around the back, there’s all kinds of ventilation, fan and radiator mounts, but aside from the PSU cut-out at the bottom, you’ll notice a complete lack of slots for the expansion cards and the motherboard as they’re set further inside the chassis; we’ll show you how in just a moment.

Creative SoundBlaster X Pro-Gaming H5 Headset Review

Introduction


Creative are on of the most iconic and instantly recognisable brands on the market when it comes to audio. Having created some of the most popular and best-performing consumer audio products for the PC market over the last few decades, I’m sure many of you, if not all of you, have owned or used a Creative product at one point or another. So when I heard that Creative felt they had one of the best gaming headsets on the market and that it would cost less than £100, I simply had to try it out.

CLEARER, LOUDER, HARDER, BETTER!

“The Sound BlasterX H5 radiates with comfort in every element of the design. It’s made up of reinforced steel headband and aluminium architecture. Sound BlasterX H5 features an ergonomically-tested design that guarantees comfort over long stretches of gaming sessions, and withstand the rigours of gameplay. Specifically designed for our pro-gaming teams, the H5 Special Edition is distinctly branded with a BlasterX label on both side-plates. Fans could use this chance to take their loyalty to a whole new level. Every time they put them on, it’s a way of showing their appreciation for great sound and comfort, and what they consider as the ultimate weapon for their gameplay!” – Creative

There are a few key design aspects that are going to be important with this headset, such as the fact it was designed for eSports. This means you can expect leather ear pads and a semi-closed back design, helping block out all that unwanted, game distracting, ambient crowd noise. We’ll also be expecting the detachable noise-reduction microphone to be pretty robust and focused on your voice, not the voices of the crowd.

 

“Experience your game the way it’s meant to be heard. The Sound BlasterX H5 is equipped with large, responsive 50mm FullSpectrum drivers that deliver astounding sound. Rated at 118dB/mW, the Sound BlasterX H5 is among the loudest gaming headsets of its class. Feel the tremor of every bone-shattering explosion and hear the rattle of gunfire in your gameplay, like no other.” – Creative

The packaging for the H5 is pretty stylish, with a clear bowl-shaped lid on the top showing us a fairly uncompromised view of the actual headset.

Around the back, there’s a little run down of some of the features, as well as the included accessories.

In the box, you’ll find the headset, obviously, as well as a detachable microphone, 3.5mm 4-pole to dual 3.5mm 3-pole extension cable and a 3.5mm 4-pole in-line controller cable.

Do AMD Drivers Really Deserve Such a Hostile Reception?

Introduction


AMD has a serious image problem with their drivers which stems from buggy, unrefined updates, and a slow release schedule. Even though this perception began many years ago, it’s still impacting on the company’s sales and explains why their market share is so small. The Q4 2015 results from Jon Peddie Research suggests AMD reached a market share of 21.1% while NVIDIA reigned supreme with 78.8%. Although, the Q4 data is more promising because AMD accounted for a mere 18.8% during the last quarter. On the other hand, respected industry journal DigiTimes reports that AMD is likely to reach its lowest ever market position for Q1 2016. Thankfully, the financial results will emerge on April 21st so we should know the full picture relatively soon. Of course, the situation should improve once Polaris and Zen reach retail channels. Most importantly, AMD’s share price has declined by more than 67% in five years from $9 to under $3 as of March 28, 2016. The question is why?

Is the Hardware Competitive?


The current situation is rather baffling considering AMD’s extremely competitive product line-up in the graphics segment. For example, the R9 390 is a superb alternative to NVIDIA’s GTX 970 and features 8GB VRAM which provides extra headroom when using virtual reality equipment. The company’s strategy appears to revolves around minor differences in performance between the R9 390 and 390X. This also applied to the R9 290 and 290X due to both products utilizing the Hawaii core. NVIDIA employs a similar tactic with the GTX 970 and GTX 980 but there’s a marked price increase compared to their rivals.

NVIDIA’s ability to cater towards the lower tier demographic has been quite poor because competing GPUs including the 7850 and R9 380X provided a much better price to performance ratio. Not only that, NVIDIA’s decision to deploy ridiculously low video memory amounts on cards like the GTX 960 has the potential to cause headaches in the future. It’s important to remember that the GTX 960 can be acquired with either 2GB or 4GB of video memory. Honestly, they should have simplified the process and produced the higher memory model in a similar fashion to the R9 380X. Once again, AMD continues to offer a very generous amount of VRAM across various product tiers.

Part of the problem revolves around AMD’s sluggish release cycle and reliance on the Graphics Core Next (GCN) 1.1 architecture. This was first introduced way back in 2013 with the Radeon HD 7790. Despite its age, AMD deployed the GCN 1.1 architecture on their revised 390 series and didn’t do themselves any favours when denying accusations about the new line-up being a basic re-branding exercise. Of course, this proved to be the case and some users managed to flash their 290/290X to a 390/390X with a BIOS update. There’s nothing inherently wrong with product rebrands if they can remain competitive in the current market. It’s not exclusive to AMD, and NVIDIA have used similar business strategies on numerous occasions. However, I feel it’s up to AMD to push graphics technology forward and encourage their nearest rival to launch more powerful options.

Another criticism regarding AMD hardware which seems to plague everything they release is the perception that every GPU runs extremely hot. You only have to look on certain websites, social media and various forums to see this is the main source of people’s frustration. Some individuals are even known to produce images showing AMD graphics cards setting ablaze. So is there any truth to these suggestions? Unfortunately, the answer is yes and a pertinent example comes from the R9 290 range. The 290/290X reference models utilized one of the most inefficient cooler designs I’ve ever seen and struggled to keep the GPU core running below 95C under load.

Unbelievably, the core was designed to run at these high thermals and AMD created a more progressive RPM curve to reduce noise. As a result, the GPU could take 10-15 minutes to reach idle temperature levels. The Hawaii temperatures really impacted on the company’s reputation and forged a viewpoint among consumers which I highly doubt will ever disappear. It’s a shame because the upcoming Polaris architecture built on the 14nm FinFET process should exhibit significant efficiency gains and end the concept of high thermals on AMD products. There’s also the idea that AMD GPUs have a noticeably higher TDP than their NVIDIA counterparts. For instance, the R9 390 has a TDP of 275 watts while the GTX 970 only consumes 145 watts. On the other hand, the Fury X utilizes 250 watts compared to the GTX 980Ti’s rating of 275 watts.

Eventually, AMD released a brand new range of graphics cards utilizing the first iteration of high bandwidth memory. Prior to its release, expectations were high and many people expected the Fury X to dethrone NVIDIA’s flagship graphics card. Unfortunately, this didn’t come to fruition and the Fury X fell behind in various benchmarks, although it fared better at high resolutions. The GPU also encountered supply problems and emitted a large whine from the pump on early samples. Asetek even threatened to sue Cooler Master who created the AIO design which could force all Fury X products to be removed from sale.

The rankings alter rather dramatically when the DirectX 12 render is used which suggests AMD products have a clear advantage. Asynchronous Compute is the hot topic right now which in theory allows for greater GPU utilization in supported games. Ashes of the Singularity has implemented this for some time and makes for some very interesting findings. Currently, we’re working on a performance analysis for the game, but I can reveal that there is a huge boost for AMD cards when moving from DirectX11 to DirectX12. Furthermore, there are reports indicating that Pascal might not be able to use asynchronous shaders which makes Polaris and Fiji products more appealing.

Do AMD GPUs Lack Essential Hardware Features?


When selecting graphics hardware, it’s not always about pure performance and some consumers take into account exclusive technologies including TressFX hair before purchasing. At this time, AMD incorporates with their latest products LiquidVR, FreeSync, Vulkan support, HD3D, Frame rate target control, TrueAudio, Virtual Super resolution and more! This is a great selection of hardware features to create a thoroughly enjoyable user-experience. NVIDIA adopts a more secretive attitude towards their own creations and often uses proprietary solutions. The Maxwell architecture has support for Voxel Global Illumination, (VGXI), Multi Frame Sampled Anti-Aliasing (MFAA), Dynamic Super Resolution (DSR), VR Direct and G-Sync. There’s a huge debate about the benefits of G-Sync compared to FreeSync especially when you take into account the pricing difference when opting for a new monitor. Overall, I’d argue that the NVIDIA package is better but there’s nothing really lacking from AMD in this department.

Have The Drivers Improved?


Historically, AMD drivers haven’t been anywhere close to NVIDIA in terms of stability and providing a pleasant user-interface. Back in the old days, AMD or even ATI if we’re going way back, had the potential to cause system lock-ups, software errors and more. A few years ago, I had the misfortune of updating a 7850 to the latest driver and after rebooting, the system’s boot order was corrupt. To be fair, this could be coincidental and have nothing to do with that particular update. On another note, the 290 series was plagued with hardware bugs causing black screens and blue screens of death whilst watching flash videos. To resolve this, you had to disable hardware acceleration and hope that the issues subsided.

The Catalyst Control Center always felt a bit primitive for my tastes although it did implement some neat features such as graphics card overclocking. While it’s easy enough to download a third-party program like MSI Afterburner, some users might prefer to install fewer programs and use the official driver instead.

Not so long ago, AMD appeared to have stalled in releasing drivers for the latest games to properly optimize graphics hardware. On the 9th December 2014, AMD unveiled the Catalyst 14.12 Omega WHQL driver and made it ready for download. In a move which still astounds me, the company decided not to release another WHQL driver for 6 months! Granted, they were working on a huge driver redesign and still produced the odd Beta update. I honestly believe this was very damaging and prevented high-end users from considering the 295×2 or a Crossfire configuration. It’s so important to have a consistent, solid software framework behind the hardware to allow for constant improvements. This is especially the case when using multiple cards which require profiles to achieve proficient GPU scaling.

Crimson’s release was a major turning point for AMD due to the modernized interface and enhanced stability. According to AMD, the software package involves 25 percent more manual test cases and 100 percent more automated test cases compared to AMD Catalyst Omega. Also, the most requested bugs were resolved and they’re using community feedback to quickly apply new fixes. The company hired a dedicated team to reproduce errors which is the first step to providing a more stable experience. Crimson apparently loads ten times faster than its predecessor and includes a new game manager to optimize settings to suit your hardware. It’s possible to set custom resolutions including the refresh rate, which is handy when overclocking your monitor. The clean uninstall utility proactively works to remove any remaining elements of a previous installation such as registry entries, audio files and much more. Honestly, this is such a revolutionary move forward and AMD deserves credit for tackling their weakest elements head on. If you’d like to learn more about Crimson’s functionality, please visit this page.

However, it’s far from perfect and some users initially experienced worse performance with this update. Of course, there’s going to be teething problems whenever a new release occurs but it’s essential for AMD to do everything they can to forge a new reputation about their drivers. Some of you might remember, the furore surrounding the Crimson fan bug which limited the GPU’s fans to 20 percent. Some users even reported that this caused their GPU to overheat and fail. Thankfully, AMD released a fix for this issue but it shouldn’t have occurred in the first place. Once again, it’s hurting their reputation and ability to move on from old preconceptions.

Is GeForce Experience Significantly Better?


In recent times, NVIDIA drivers have been the source of some negative publicity. More specifically, users were advised to ignore the 364.47 WHQL driver and instructed to download the 364.51 beta instead. One user said:

“Driver crashed my windows and going into safe mode I was not able to uninstall and rolling back windows would not work either. I ended up wiping my system to a fresh install of windows. Not very happy here.”

NVIDIA’s Sean Pelletier released a statement at the time which reads:

“An installation issue was found within the 364.47 WHQL driver we posted Monday. That issue was resolved with a new driver (364.51) launched Tuesday. Since we were not able to get WHQL-certification right away, we posted the driver as a Beta.

GeForce Experience has an option to either show WHQL-only drivers or to show all drivers (including Beta). Since 364.51 is currently a Beta, gamers who have GeForce Experience configured to only show WHQL Game Ready drivers will not currently see 364.51

We are expecting the WHQL-certified package for the 364.51 Game Ready driver within the next 24hrs and will replace the Beta version with the WHQL version accordingly. As expected, the WHQL-certified version of 364.51 will show up for all gamers with GeForce Experience.”

As you can see, NVIDIA isn’t immune to driver delivery issues and this was a fairly embarrassing situation. Despite this, it didn’t appear to have a serious effect on people’s confidence in the company or make them re-consider their views of AMD. While there are some disgruntled NVIDIA customers, they’re fairly loyal and distrustful of AMD’s ability to offer better drivers. The GeForce Experience software contains a wide range of fantastic inclusions such as ShadowPlay, GameStream, Game Optimization and more. After a driver update, the software can feel a bit unresponsive and takes some time to close. Furthermore, some people dislike the notion of GameReady drivers being locked in the GeForce Experience Software.  If a report from PC World is correct, consumers might have to supply an e-mail address just to update their drivers through the application.

Before coming to a conclusion, I want to reiterate that my allegiances don’t lie with either company and the intention was to create a balanced viewpoint. I believe AMD’s previous failures are impacting on the company’s current product range and it’s extremely difficult to shift people’s perceptions about the company’s drivers. While Crimson is much better than CCC, it’s been the main cause of a horrendous fan bug resulting in a PR disaster for AMD.

On balance, it’s clear AMD’s decision to separate the Radeon group and CPU line was the right thing to do. Also, with Polaris around the corner and more games utilizing DirectX 12, AMD could improve their market share by an exponential amount. Although, from my experience, many users are prepared to deal with slightly worse performance just to invest in an NVIDIA product. Therefore, AMD has to encourage long-term NVIDIA fans to switch with reliable driver updates on a consistent basis. AMD products are not lacking in features or power, it’s all about drivers! NVIDIA will always counteract AMD releases with products exhibiting similar performance numbers. In my personal opinion, AMD drivers are now on par with NVIDIA and it’s a shame that they appear to be receiving unwarranted criticism. Don’t get me wrong, the fan bug is simply inexcusable and going to haunt AMD for some time. I predict that despite the company’s best efforts, the stereotypical view of AMD drivers will not subside. This is a crying shame because they are trying to improve things and release updates on a significantly lower budget than their rivals.

ASRock E3V5 WS (Intel C232) Super Alloy Motherboard Review

Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging


Today’s motherboard review lands right in the middle of everything. Not because it’s all over the place, but because it has a lot of usage scenarios and support for pretty much any setup. You could use ASRock’s E5V5 WS motherboard in a gaming system as well as in a server setup as both of those setups are fully supported, but its real area of operation is to act as the base for a powerful workstation.

The ASRock E5V5 WS uses an LGA 1151 socket and the board is compatible with both E3-1200 v5 processors such as the one I’ll be using later on in this review, but it also supports normal 6th Generation Intel Core processors – so basically the entire Skylake and Skylake-S line-up. As backbone behind the CPU that you end up using is the Intel C232 chipset that is perfectly tuned for workstation environments and a motherboard like this. Memory wise you can use normal DDR4 DIMMs as well as ECC UDIMM memory modules with a speed of up to 2133 MHz in the four DIMM slots with 15μ gold contacts for a total of up to 64GB RAM.

The gold contacts in the memory slots aren’t the only quality feature in this motherboard. The E3V5 WS motherboard is part of ASRock’s Super Alloy series and comes with premium 50A power chokes and is made of a high-density glass fabric PCB. It also features ASRock’s full spike protection that protects from sudden surges, lightning, and electrostatic discharges (ESD).

The network connection isn’t controlled by the average low-performance controller either and we find an Intel PHY i219LM controller on this motherboard. The Gigabit Ethernet controller supports Wake-On-LAN, supports 802.3az energy efficient ethernet and PXE. The Ethernet controller is one of the parts that is protected by the Full Spike Protection. The second part with protection is the USB. The ASRock E35 WS features two USB 2.0 ports and four USB 3.0 ports on the rear panel and you can connect another four USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports via headers. All of these are protected by the ASRock Full Spike Protection. The audio is also protected by this and we find a 7.1 channel HD Audio controller, the Realtek ALC892. It features Blu-ray audio support and uses ELNA solid audio capacitors. Last but not least, you also find legacy PS2 connectors for both your mouse and keyboard.

 

Internally we find good expansion options too. Since we are dealing with an Intel-based motherboard, we also get IRST for RAID setups across the six SATA3 6 Gb/s connectors. Supported modes include the normal RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 modes.

There are two PCIe Gen3 x16 slots that support both Nvidia Quadro and AMD FirePro workstation graphics cards as well as consumer graphics cards. There is also full support for the use of AMD’s CrossfireX technology for multiple graphics card usage. As I mentioned earlier, you can make a great workstation with this motherboard. There are three more PCIe Gen3 x1 slots available for further expansion and neither of them will be blocked by the use of two-slot graphics cards. Even with a CrossfireX setup, you’ll still have access to the three x1 slots.

Quality hardware and components are just one side of the story, we also need a good BIOS and proper software to have the best experinece. The E3V5 WS comes with both of those features too. The UEFI BIOS has the easy EZ mode dashboard besides the advanced setup pages, which contains multiple readings of the system’s current status. You can check the most crucial information of your system, such as CPU speed, DRAM frequency, SATA information, fan speed, etc.

Even better, you can reach the tech support purely from the systems BIOS, as long as the system has an internet connection. You can also install LAN drivers onto your windows installation directly from the BIOS.

The ASRock OMG (Online Management Guard) technology allows you to establish an internet curfew or restrict internet access at specified times for your kids. Stay in control of their surfing times without yelling. This probably isn’t the most used function in a workstation system, but it could be used to shut down any connection attempts outside of office hours. Another useful feature is the USB Key function that can replace the password question when you log into windows. Do it by plugging a USB drive in instead.

The well-known ASRock XFast RAM and XFast LAN are also built into this motherboard. The XFast RAM feature allows you to fully utilize the memory space that otherwise can’t be accessed in 32-bit systems, among others. XFast LAN is a quality of service protocol that prioritizes the important traffic so you don’t have to wait for loading times. ASRock Live Update and APP Shop also help to make the maintenance easier.

Specifications

The specifications are taken directly from the manufacturers product page and can as such be subject to changes in future revisions of the product.

Key Features:

  • ASRock Super Alloy
  • Server-Grade LAN chip support
  • Supports the Intel Xeon E3-1200 v5 Processor & 6th Generation Intel Core Processors (Socket 1151)
  • Supports DDR4 2133 & ECC UDIMM memory modules
  • 2 PCIe 3.0 x16 and 3 PCIe 3.0 x1
  • Supports AMD Quad CrossFireX
  • 7.1 CH HD Audio (Realtek ALC892 Audio Codec), ELNA Audio Caps
  • 6 SATA3 and 6 USB 3.0 (2 Front, 4 Rear)
  • Supports Full Spike Protection, ASRock Live Update & APP Shop
  • Microsoft Windows 10 64-bit, 8.1 64-bit, 7 32-bit, 7 64-bit, Server 2012 R2 64-bit, Server 2012 64-bit, and Server 2008 R2 64-bit support

Packaging and Accessories

A quality motherboard also deserves a great look package, and the E3V5 WS got that. The front makes no secret about the boards power.

On the rear of the box, you will find a detailed photo of the motherboard itself as well as feature highlights and specifications.

Inside the box is a user manual, a driver disk, two SATA cables, and an IO shield besides the motherboard itself.

D-Link DCS-2630L Full HD 180-Degree Wi-Fi Camera Review

Introduction


Home security is an ever growing trend as technology gets smaller and better, and at the same time, it has also become a lot for affordable for the everyman. Today I’m taking a look at one of the best options in this category as I’m having D-Link’s DCS-2630L Full HD 180-Degree Wi-Fi camera in my testing area.

Where most home surveillance cams still come with a 720p resolution, the D-Link DCS-2630L adds on top of that and goes for the full 1080p HD experience. While 720p already was a great step up from the old 480p CCTV resolution, it just doesn’t beat the full 1080p experience. The Wi-Fi camera doesn’t just feature a higher than usual resolution, it also has a wider field of view, allowing you to monitor an up to 180-degree wide area. Basic cameras only feature 90 or 120-degree view, which allows the DCS-2630L to monitor a lot more real estate that might prevent you from having to set up multiple cameras. The wide-view feature is also a lot better to look at than a traditional wide view fisheye view that distorts things.

Recording video during daylight is an easy thing, but you’ll also want to monitor what is going on when it is dark. After all, that is the time of day we usually associate with the need for protection. D-Link added night vision capabilities to the DCS-2630L with the help of infrared LEDs. The camera is able to see in the dark at a distance of up to 5 meters (16 ft) with as little as 0 Lux light. The IR LEDs can be turned on manually, but the camera also features a light sensor that determines when the LEDs are needed.

Next to the six infrared LEDs it also features two PIR sensors that detect infrared radiation when a person or animal passes for an enhanced motion detection. And that is another one of this cameras features next to just being able to show and record what is going on. With motion and sound detection, the camera is able to start recording automatically and also push notifications to your Windows, Android, and iOS device to let you know that something is going on.

D-Link didn’t just built-in a high-quality microphone to picks up on loud noises like the breaking of glass and the ability to send notification alerts about this to you, it also features 2-way audio that lets you send audio back. A high-quality speaker lets you respond to what you see using your mobile device.

The Full HD sensor features a 1/3-inch 3-megapixel sensor to deliver images in sharp and rich detail while the camera lens is made of glass for the best possible results. All this coupled with the de-warping technology provides you with a clear and ultra-wide 180º field of view surveillance. The camera comes on a wall mountable metal stand with flexible tilt for the perfect angle. It also allows for 360-degree camera rotation to ensure that your video is perfectly level no matter where you mount it.

It isn’t just an ordinary camera on the Wi-Fi field either and it sports a proper IEEE 802.11ac dual-band connection for reliable connection and streaming. It also features a convenient WPS button for quick and simple connection with the rest of your network infrastructure. Everyone can press a button. Besides the wireless connection, the DCS-2630L also features a micro SD/SDXC card slot with support for up to 128GB memory cards. This is enough for up to a week of continuous clip recordings in 1080p.

A status LED lets you know what your camera’s doing, which is a simple but very useful thing. The whole camera in itself is very power effective and only requires a USB connection, portable battery, or power adapter to run. That also allows for a very flexible placement.

Feature Highlights

  • 180-degree Ultra-Wide-View
  • Full HD 1080p video
  • Night vision up to 16-feet
  • Sound & motion detection triggers e-mail / push alert notifications
  • 2 PIR Sensors – Enhanced motion detection senses when a person or animal passes for accurate
  • notifications
  • microSDXC card slot – Record continuous, scheduled, or detection triggered video clips directly to a
  • microSDCX card up to 128 GB
  • Unique De-warping technology maximizes the video quality with less distortion to eliminate a fish-eye view
  • Built-in two-way audio
  • mydlink app support for iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows phone

Specifications

Packaging and Content

The D-Link DCS-2630L is a consumer camera and the package is made to be as eye-capturing as the camera catches images. The front displays the camera and usage scenario as well as the product highlights such as 1080p and wide eye lens.

On the rear, you will find more detailed information about the functions and features, all in full colour.

Each of the two sides is full of information too. On one side you find the features listed above the minimum requirements for usage.

On the other side, you’ll find a simple representation of the camera’s easy setup and usage as well as what’s inside the box.

Besides the Wi-Fi camera itself, you also find the Quick Install Card with default information and QR-code for easy setup as well as the quick install guide, a GPL code statement, and an assistance card if you should have trouble.

There’s also an AC/DC adapter included with a plug fitting the region where you bought it. Due to the clever usage of micro-USB, the camera is also easily powered otherwise.

Gladiator Computers BATTALION 800 Gaming PC Review

Introduction


Gladiator Computers is the name given to Aria’s custom PC division and provides consumers with a wide range of options to suit various budgets. Just in case you’re unfamiliar with Aria, they’re one of the leading PC hardware stores and have an excellent reputation among customers. Currently, the company’s TrustPilot rating is scored at nine out of ten which evokes a sense of confidence when investing in a pre-configured PC. Of course, you can customize each model and select between various cases, memory configurations, CPU coolers and lots more! As a result, it’s incredibly easy to make savings on various components if you’re not overly concerned about colour coordination. On the other hand, consumers who demand a visually appealing system can add LED lighting or other extravagant extras.

Today, we’re taking a detailed look at the BATTALION 800 featuring an Intel i5-6500 processor, 16GB DDR4 2133MHz memory, Gigabyte Z170-Gaming K3 motherboard, 120GB Samsung 850 Evo boot drive and the Zotac GTX 970 Gaming Edition graphics card. Furthermore, Gladiator Computers have employed a very reputable air cooler to find a great balance between thermal dissipation and noise output. There’s also a quality non-modular power supply with an efficiency rating of 80+ White. I’m interested to see how this will impact on cable management especially given the budget chassis in the basic bundle. Priced at £889.99, the system is targeted towards mainstream consumers utilizing a single 1920×1080 display. Let’s see how it performs compared to other machines sporting a similar specification.

Specifications

  • Name: Gladiator Computers BATTALION 800
  • Case: Game Max Destroyer Windowed
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte Z170-Gaming K3
  • Processor: Intel i5 6500 3.20GHz Base, 3.60GHz Turbo Quad Core CPU
  • Processor Cooler: Raijintek Aidos Direct Contact CPU Cooler
  • System Memory: Corsair 16GB DDR4 Vengeance LPX 2133MHz
  • Main Boot Drive: 120GB Samsung 850 EVO Series Solid State Drive
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): 1TB Seagate Barracuda Hard Drive 3.5″ SATA III
  • Graphics card: Zotac GeForce® GTX 970 Gaming Edition 4GB
  • Power Supply: Corsair VS550 550 Watt 80+ White Rated ATX
  • Peripherals: N/A
  • Monitor: N/A
  • Optical Drive24x LiteOn Internal DVD-RW Drive
  • Wireless: N/A
  • OS: N/A
  • Warranty: 4 Year Standard Warranty (2 Month Collect/Returns, 1 Year Parts, 4 Year Labour)
  • Price: £889.99

Packing and Accessories

The system is dispatched in an extremely large outer box which offers superb protection against damage during delivery. On the top, fragile tape has been used to instruct the courier about the item’s delicate nature. This should reduce the possibility of the delivery driver throwing the package around. I do think there needs to be side handles because the box’s large surface area is difficult to lift from an angle.

Inside the package is a huge collection of packing peanuts to prevent the chassis box from moving around. While these inserts can be irritating if they manage to scatter all over the floor, this is a small price to pay for the superb level of protection.

The chassis box utilizes thick cardboard which feels pretty sturdy and provides an additional layer of cushioning.

Despite the case’s budget focus, there’s been a great deal of attention paid to the packaging including durable foam supports. The top cover also ensures that there’s very little chance of cosmetic damage occurring during the unboxing processing.

Gladiator Computers have positioned a sticker over the power supply’s AC connector to prevent you from booting up the system with the foam pack still installed.

The foam insert is absolutely essential because it prevents each component from becoming dislodged. Furthermore the cushioning should allow fan headers and other cables to remain in their optimal position. When it comes to packaging, foam packs are possibly the most important safety aspect and it’s great to see them used in this custom configuration.

In terms of accessories, the system is bundled with a thank you note, installation guide, driver/software disks, a funky door hanger and loads of documentation.

Other notable mentions include a power adapter, retail component packaging, CPU cover (required for warranty purposes), front bay cover where the optical drive is positioned, tasty Haribo sweets, various adapters and an assortment of fittings.

 

CPU-Z

GPU-Z

Roccat Kova Optical Ambidextrous Gaming Mouse Review

Introduction


Roccat is one of the biggest gaming brands on the market, offering a huge range of peripherals that have been winning over consumers at home, pro gamers in the eSports community and beyond. Their gaming mice, keyboards and headsets are often regarded as some of the best in the business, and from what we’ve seen in previous reviews here at eTeknix, they certainly know how to impress.

“Armed with the latest proven ROCCAT® technological innovations, the successor to the ROCCAT® Kova is equipped to the teeth. The new ROCCAT® Kova[+] unites powerful technology with intelligent software and an advanced V-shaped design for left or right-handed use.” – Roccat

“Put what you’ve learned to use and combine new experiences so skillfully that your thinking and actions are always one and the same.” Dr. Erik J. Dale, ROCCAT Scientist

The Kova comes equipped with all the right features for competitive gaming. You’ll find a high-quality optical sensor, which offers up lag free tracking with high IPS and acceleration capabilities, so we’re expecting great things from this in our testing section.

  • 3200dpi optical Sensor
  • 130 ips maximum speed
  • 30G acceleration
  • 1000Hz polling rate
  • 16-bit data channel
  • 2m USB cable
  • Width 6.4 cm , Height 3.8 cm , Length 12.8 cm , Weight 98 g

First of all, let’s check out this quick product feature trailer from Roccat, as it’ll walk you through some of the unique aspects of the Kova.

The packaging is typical Roccat, keeping the same box shape and general design we’ve seen on all their mice for years now. There’s a clear image of the product, as well as a rundown of all the major specifications.

Around the back, a bit more technical information, but let’s move onto the fun stuff and get it out of the box!

In the box, you’ll find the mouse, which comes hard-wired with a 2-meter black braided cable, as well as all the usual documentation.

Thecus N2810 2-Bay 4K Capable SMB NAS Review

Introduction


Today’s review is a little bit special as I don’t just get the chance to test one of the newest NAS on the market, but also a new operating system at the same time. Thecus N2810 2-bay SMB multimedia NAS server with 4K playback is in the testing area and it comes with Thecus’ brand new ThecusOS 7.0.

Thecus N2810 NAS is powered by an Intel Celeron N3050 Braswell dual-core processor with 1.6GHz base clock and a 2.16GHz burst speed. This is a great processor for NAS usage as it’s both powerful and energy-efficient. On top of that, the N2810 supports hardware AES 256-bit encryption for that extra layer of security without impacting performance the way a software solution will. This is backed by 2GB DDR3 memory, but you can upgrade the system to a maximum of 8GB DDR3 RAM should you require more. The standard 2GB should still be plenty for normal usage scenarios and seamless 4K media playback.

Thecus opted for a full USB 3.0 setup which is a nice thing to see. Thanks to the USB bus’ compatibility you can easily use legacy devices while having maximum speed on your modern equipment such as high-end flash drives and external SSDs. There are two USB 3.0 ports on the rear and one on the front. The front port also features a convenient one-touch copy button that allows you to copy content to or from a USB drive with a single press of the button.

The two RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet ports on the N2810 support 10/100/1000 BASE-TX Auto MDI/MDI-X and Wake-on-LAN. You can naturally also set them up for link aggregation and Thecus allows you to set all seven modes: Load balance, Failover, 802.3ad, Balance-XOR, Balance-TLB, Balance-ALB, and Broadcast.

There is also the HDMI port for direct playback on your TV or monitor without the need for any other device at all. This is a feature we see more and more on modern NAS devices and it is one that I really love. While streaming is great, a direct connection allows for higher compatibility with formats and there are fewer points of failure or lag on the way. That said, the Thecus N2810 has absolutely no trouble streaming either, but we’ll get to that later.

Keen eyes will already have spotted the serial UART port too and that isn’t something that we usually see on NAS devices, it is however an awesome feature. We sometimes find the port on the PCB, but rarely on the device itself. UART stands for Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitter and is part of the serial communication protocol.

The N2810 is the first Thecus NAS to run the completely new ThecusOS 7.0 operating system and user interface. The refreshed OS offers an easy to use and intuitive user interface and quite a lot of new features over the previous OS including the new Photo Station, Thecus App Center with over 700 apps, and user profiles. Besides the design and feature improvements, it also got a push in regards to the performance where it gets even more out of your hardware.

The N2810 steps up to the challenges that 4K playback creates and provides a robust hardware platform that is able to handle multiple tasks with ease. The built-in HDMI port allows you to transform the NAS into a multimedia hub by connecting it directly to your TV or media center to utilize the power of KODI. There are plenty of streaming options too with basic DLNA as well as Plex Media Server that can stream to your consoles with ease. The server can also automatically assemble iTunes, iPhoto, and Aperture content. Apple TV and Chromecast are both supported too, completing the circle of media abilities.

The N2810 is an SMB NAS and as such comes with a comprehensive list of enterprise-oriented features too, although none of them are limited to firms and enterprises, home users can take equal advantage of them. The Thecus System Failover feature is a fault tolerance process that creates mirrored data volumes. With at least two Thecus NAS available, data is copied by schedule and all changes are mirrored between the two NAS. While the second NAS is not visible, it communicates with the primary NAS. In the event of a power or network failure, a scheduled maintenance, or other unforeseen circumstances, System Failover automatically redirects operations to the secondary Thecus NAS, which then acts as the primary NAS.

Local failover is also achieved easily with a Thecus NAS and Snapshots. With BTRFS support, users can enjoy the simplicity of snapshot backups through BTRFS subvolumes. Snapshots of data at various time points can be manually or automatically made and just as easily later restored to rollback files or folders to previous states.

To complete the backup and failover abilities, the N2810 comes bundled with Acronis Backup Software that can backup all your data to the NAS with a single click as well as local backups and Time Machine support. Real-time remote replication (Rsync) is naturally also supported and it is one of the easiest to use and widest available backup methods.

Security is an important factor on a NAS, after all, it’s the device that holds all your files, memories, and data. Whether you’re an enterprise user or a home user, a virtual private network can come in very handy. The N2810 can operate as a VPN server and allow users to remotely access through a secure network.

Thecus also added Intel Security to the package that gives you an active defense against viruses that might have made it onto your NAS. The software protects you by scanning the files on your NAS and defending it against possible threats. Intel Security is the world’s largest dedicated security technology company and Thecus users will be able to benefit from Intel Security’s powerful software on their NAS entirely for free.

With the Thecus N2810, it is also an easy task to set up your own personal cloud service that will work with mobile iOS and Android devices with the use of Thecus’ T-OnTheGo app and your PCs. The mobile app enables users to access, copy, stream, and edit any data between their NAS and mobile device. Your own personal cloud, available from anywhere with internet access. The access from anywhere is made as easy as it could be thanks to the built-in DDNS feature that will give your NAS a name rather than a difficult to remember and mostly changing IP address.

You can also reverse the whole thing and use the public cloud systems together with the N2810 NAS. The system will work with DropBox, Amazon S3, and ElephantDrive cloud backup functionality. Guard your data with RAID at home and an additional level of protection in the Cloud. Just drag and drop files into the folder on your NAS and access them on any computer or mobile device with DropBox, Amazon S3 or ElephantDrive.

With currently available hard disk drives you get up to 8TB in the consumer sector and 10TB in the enterprise sector. With two drive bays at your disposal, that’s already a lot of storage and you can take maximum advantage of this storage thanks to iSCSI and the efficiency of iSCSI thin provisioning. Connect through iSCSI for the fastest data transfer speeds available and make wasted disk space a thing of the past with thin provisioning’s flexible storage functionality.

Feature Highlights

  • Embedded with Intel Celeron N3050 Dual Core CPU
  • Running on the newly-designed and enhanced ThecusOS 7.0
  • Seamless 4K Multimedia Playback
  • Uninterrupted Accessibility with Thecus System Failover
  • Secure Remote Access with Virtual Private Network (VPN)
  • Faster Transfers: 2 LAN Ports for Link Aggregation
  • 99% Virus Prevention: Bundled with Free Intel Security
  • Complete Client Side Protection: Bundled with Free Acronis Software

Packaging and Accessories

Thecus packed the N2810 in a beautiful box that clearly shows the intended usage, as a 4K capable multimedia center.

The rear of the box continues the beautiful full-colour wrapping with the feature highlights. There’s no doubt that you have a premium device in your hands when you look at the package.

It continues on the sides where the brand new Thecus OS 7 is presented on one side.

The second side reveals the hardware specifications, device size,  and package content.

Inside the product is a quick installation guide and a product disk as well as the warranty card and product notes.

Besides the manuals and the NAS itself, there is also a power adapter with connection cord, two sets of drive tray keys, an RJ45 LAN cable, and a security latch for the power cable that can prevent accidental removal.

SilverStone EP03 USB 3.0 Charging Hub with Display Review

Introduction


USB hubs are nothing new and an essential tool for port multiplying which allows you to connect more devices to your system than you have ports available. This is particularly useful for mobile systems that come with very few ports on their own, but a stationary system can benefit equally from a good USB hub. In today’s review, I am taking a closer look at SilverStone’s EP03 USB 3.0 hub with built-in supercharger function and an integrated display for monitoring voltage and current on all ports.

At heart, SilverStone’s EP03 is a 4-port USB 3.0 hub capable of 5 Gbps transfer speeds. It is naturally also compatible with both USB 2.0 and 1.1 devices on both the host port and the individual connectors. That in itself is nothing new, but everything else is. In fact, this is a pretty smart hub.

When you pick the EP03 hub up and hold it in your hands, you have no doubt that this is a quality built hub. It feels sturdy and it also looks pretty good with its simple plastic case and top plate made of brushed aluminium.

The top is also what instantly reveals one of the features that make this USB hub unique, the built-in display. You can watch the current and voltage in real-time on the display for each of the four ports. Port selection is handled by the small button next to the display which lets you cycle the four ports.

As the display already indicates, this isn’t just a USB hub for peripheral and drive connection, it is also an intelligent charging station that can satisfy users’ increasing demand for fast charging of power-hungry mobile devices. It can deliver 2A to each of the four ports simultaneously and is fully compliant with the USB power delivery specifications 1.2 (BC 1.2).

In addition, the built-in protection mechanism ensures the EP03 can deliver power evenly and safely according to the number or the state of battery charge of connected devices. All these features can also be used to check if a new/replacement charging cable is up to the task and comes with the proper specifications compared to your original cable.

The SilverStone EP03 comes with an AC adapter included which both ensures that you have enough current to all ports, but also allows you to use it as charging station with the use of a host system. It comes with built-in over current and over voltage protections too, so all your connected devices should be safe.

The hub is built around a Genesys Logic GL3522 chipset which actually is a USB 3.1 Gen 1 controller, but that just leaves internal headroom and ensures the best possible connection.

Feature Highlights

  • Integrated display for monitoring voltage and current
  • Supports current up to 2A for each USB port
  • Provides four 5Gbps Super Speed USB 3.0 USB ports
  • High quality brushed aluminum design
  • Supports over voltage and over current protection
  • Includes AC adapter for stable power delivery
  • Compliant with USB power delivery specification 1.2

Package and Accessories

SilverStone always has some great looking packages for their devices and it’s no different for this USB 3.0 hub with fast charging and power meter. It presents itself colourful to the user and begs to be taken home. I know I wouldn’t walk past it.

The rear of the box explains the features in multiple languages.

One of the sides has more details on the product itself in the form of images and text.

And the other side has all the detailed specifications. Overall, a box that tells us everything there is to know about the product inside.

Inside the box, we find a USB 3.0 cable, an AC/DC power adapter, a user guide, and the USB hub itself.

Seagate NAS 8TB (ST8000VN0002) Hard Disk Drive Review

Introduction


Just as you wouldn’t use a low-end graphics card for high-end usage, you shouldn’t use the wrong hard disk drive in your storage system either. There is a reason for every product and you should always pick the one suited for the task at hand, especially when you deal with your storage. Today I’m taking a closer look at Seagate’s impressive 8TB NAS HDD and we will take a look at how well it performs.

As said, when you pick your storage, you need to pick the right one for the task and not just grab anything you can find. This is particularly important when we talk about systems that have to run continuously and in environments with a lot of drives closely packed together. The Seagate NAS HDD goes beyond the standard desktop drives in this regards as it is built exactly for these scenarios.

Vibrations can damage your drives and the can also have a direct impact on your drives speed, and the more drives you install close to each other, the more vibrations you’ll get. The Seagate NAS HDDs are rated for usage in systems with up to 8 bays which gives you an impressive raw capacity of 64TB. The Dual-plane balance system enhances drive performance in aggressive NAS workloads for better vibration tolerance.

The Seagate NAS 8TB drive comes packed with 256MB cache, which is double that of the 6TB model. It uses the default SATA3 6GB/s interface that makes it compatible with pretty much any NAS system. The performance isn’t without either as it comes with a rating of 150 IOPS and above and a sustained sequential read performance up to 230MB/s, an exceptional performance for a mechanical drive. The pure capacity is pretty nice too considering the default 3.5-inch form factor and it has an areal density of 1333Gb per square inch. The average seek read and write latencies are rated to be 8.5ms and 9.5ms, or lower. The whole thing is rounded off with an 180TB per year workload rating, a 1 million hour mean time before failure, and a 3-year warranty.

The great performance comes from Seagate’s years of experience that the put into the hardware and also the firmware that controls the drive. NASWorks is optimized for use as storage drives and it has been tuned to deliver higher performance, a better reliability and interoperability with popular NAS enclosures, and it has the RAID Recovery feature that prevents the NAS from a full RAID rebuild if the RAID degrades. Extended error recovery controls correct data without the need for full drive rebuilds.

Performance isn’t everything, but as we’ve seen above, that part is well covered. There are two further factors that need to be considered before you decide which drives to use: Acoustics and power consumption. A drive that consumes a lot of power can quickly drive up the total cost of ownership and it’s also bad for the environment. The Seagate NAS 8TB drive has an average power consumption of 9W during active operations and an idle power consumption of 7.2W. When in sleep or standby mode, the drives will consume as little as 0.6W. The 8TB NAS HDD doesn’t make much noise either and is rated for just 2.6 bels during operation and 2.5 bels when idle.

Seagate also offers the optional +Rescue Data Recovery Services for extra peace of mind. With this extra service, Seagate has your back and can recover the data from a possible failed drive. Whether the error is due to mechanical failure or accidental damage, most data can be recovered when done right. It is a fast and easy recovery process where your data can be restored in 15 days or less. This is also a field that Seagate is very successful in with an approximately 90% success rate in data recovery.

So if you need drives for backup and disaster recovery, multimedia server and storage, file and print server sharing, archival, remote access, virtualization, or a private cloud storage, then this might be just the right drive for you.

Feature Highlights

  • 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1TB capacity options
  • Seagate NAS HDDs are built and tested to provide industry-leading performance for small NAS systems.
  • NASWorks technology supports customised error recovery controls, power management and vibration tolerance for optimal performance and reliability with workloads up to 180TB/year workload rate limit (WRL).
  • NAS error recovery controls optimise drive health by helping to ensure drives are not dropped from the NAS and sent into a RAID rebuild.
  • Improved vibration tolerance and emission in multi-drive systems with dual plane balance.
  • Advanced power management supports multiple power profiles for lowpower, 24×7 performance.
  • Quiet drive operation enhances the customer experience in living room or office environments.
  • Optional 3-year Rescue recovery service plan protects against data loss from viruses, software issues, or mechanical and electrical breakdowns in a NAS or RAID environment.

Specifications

Package and Accessories

Tesoro Ascalon Spectrum Optical Gaming Mouse Review

Introduction


Tesoro is one of the coolest gaming brands around, and while you may not think of them first when shopping for a new peripheral, they’ve proven to us here at eTeknix time and time again that they can create competitive, unique and affordable products that would make great additions to any desktop gaming setup. With that in mind, I’m very happy to see their new Ascalon Spectrum Gaming Mouse in the eTeknix office today. It may not be the most high-end mouse ever, but if previous Tesoro reviews are anything to go by, it will no doubt have a few cool tricks up its sleeves.

Equipped with a high-quality 6400 DPI optical sensor, 7 fully programmable buttons, macro recording, and a fast 32bit ARM Cortex CPU, the Ascalon is tuned for competitive gaming, ticking off all the major features you could ask for in a good gaming mouse.

Key Features:

  • 6400 True DPI
  • 1000 Hz Ultra Polling Rate
  • Detection 200 ips, acceleration 50g
  • 7 Independently programmable buttons
  • Adjustable DPI Control, Polling Rate, Liftoff distance and Shooting Speed
  • Cursor Capture Technology
  • User-Friendly UI
  • Instant Recording
  • 512KB onboard memory
  • 32bit ARM Cortex Premium Processor
  • Adjustable RGB LED control
  • Human ergonomics for the most comfortable grip and antimicrobial soft-touch finish
  • Compatible with Windows XP / Vista / 7 / 8 / 10

The packaging is pretty cool, with a clear shot of the mouse design on the front, as well as a cool image of what looks like a sword in the background; makes sense, since all Tesoro peripherals are named after mythical weapons.

Around the back, you’ll find a nice breakdown of all the major features, such as the RGB lighting as the button layout.

In the box, you’ll find all the usual documentation, which looks as nicely designed as the rest of the packaging, giving a nice premium vibe overall.

PNY CS2211 XLR8 240GB Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


Today’s review is a special one for me as it is the first time I get to review a PNY SSD. I got the XLR8 CS2211 2.5-inch gaming branded SSD on the test bench today and it will be interesting to see how well it does. The PNY CS2211 SSD is available in three capacities from 240GB over 480GB to 960GB from which I’ll be testing the 240GB model today.

PNY is no stranger in the SSD market and they created some great drives in the past for all sectors of the market, but they’re probably most known for their graphics cards. But we aren’t here to talk about graphics cards, it is about storage today. PNY has taken what they have learned from their previous drives and created the XLR8 branded CS2211 drive, and it shows in the performance ratings.

The drive is rated for a sequential performance of up to 565 MB/s reading and 540MB/s writing, which is about as good as it gets on the SATA3 interface. The random input-output performance is equally impressive with 95K IOPS ratings for both reading and writing. Those are at least the ratings for the larger models and the small 240GB version can’t keep fully up with that. It still comes with impressive ratings despite being a little slower ,with an 87K IOPS rating and a drop in sequential writes to 470MB/s.

It is no surprise that the drive has such good ratings as it is built with only the best components. It utilizes 15nm Toshiba MLC NAND and a Phison PS3110-S10 controller aided by 256MB DDR3 cache package

PNY gave the CS2211 the XLR8 styling as a gaming product, but the design has been toned down a bit in comparison to the previous XLR8 drive design. It is a beautiful design that makes the drive stand out and also makes in an optimal candidate for systems that proudly shows what components they are made off.

There are a lot of products that get a ‘gaming’ label in order to appeal to that market segment, but the CS2211 does deserve this label. It is a perfect gaming drive thanks to its high IOPS performance on top of the high sequential performance. You’ll copy fast, load fast, and should experience even less loading times in-game.

Feature wise we find the basic Trim and SMART capabilities, but the CS2211 also comes with background garbage collection, end-to-end data protection, and error correction code for up to 120 bits per 2K sector. Overall, we see a drive that presents itself very well and PNY agrees with a 2 million hours mean time before failure rating and a full 4-year warranty.

The 7mm slim drive is perfect for usage in both desktop and notebook systems where it also will fit well in 9.5mm drive bays thanks to the included adapter bracket. The SSD doesn’t feature the DevSleep function that I really like to see in drives, but that isn’t a deal breaker and most gamers don’t want power saving features, they want pure and raw performance which the CS2211 delivers.

Aside from the beautiful brand sticker on the top, the drive is built with a standard 2-piece snap-together enclosure that holds the PCB and doesn’t require any screws that could loosen themselves over time in high-vibration environments.

The PCB itself is a two-thirds length one with a total of eight NAND chips distributed over the front and back. The Phison PS3110 S10C controller sits firmly in the middle of the PCB. Next to it we also see the Nanya DDR3 cache chip that helps the drive to achieve the great speeds that it can.

Specifications

  • Capacity: 240GB
  • Part Number: SSD7CS2211-240-RB
  • Form Factor: 2.5 inch
  • Height: 7mm
  • Interface: SATA-III 6Gb/s; backward compatible with SATA-II 3Gb/s
  • Max Sequential Read Speed: 560 MB/s
  • Max Sequential Write Speed: 470 MB/s
  • Max Random Read Speed: 87,000 IOPS
  • Max Random Write Speed: 95,000 IOPS
  • NAND Type: MLC
  • Ideal For: Gaming, Hard disk drive replacement, photo and video storage, and boot drives

Packaging and Accessories

The PNY XLR8 CS2211 solid state drive came packed in a simple black box with the PNY logo on the side.

Inside the box is the SSD itself as well as a 9.5mm adapter for usage in notebooks and laptops designed for the 9.5mm thick drives. By adding the adapter to the drive, you make sure that it’s firmly seated in the system and doesn’t rattle around.

Normally you’d get the drive in a more colourful wrapping and with an included registration key for the Acronis True Image cloning software. Review samples like this one sometimes come with a few things missing because the company is in a hurry to get the drives to us so we can test them for you – and they know that we don’t need the extras.

Mionix Castor Optical Gaming Mouse Review

Introduction


Mionix are one of my all time favourite gaming brands, as they’ve created some of my own personal favourite peripherals over the years. Of course, I’m not the only one who thinks this, as Mionix products have won many awards around the world and that fills me with confidence that their latest gaming mouse, the Mionix Castor, is going to be something special.

Equipped with a fast processor, ergonomic design, fully programmable buttons, RGB lighting and more, the Castor is certainly well equipped, so let’s take a closer look at what it has to offer. First up, however, here’s a quick product video from Mionix, it’s a little strange, but I’d love to know what on Earth they’re pretending to play here; any guesses?

Technical Specifications

  • 32bit ARM Processor running at 32Mhz
  • Right handed truly ergonomic design
  • Supports palm, claw and fingertip grip
  • Grip friendly soft touch rubber coating (4 layers)
  • 6 fully programmable buttons
  • 3 steps in-game DPI adjustment
  • 2 integrated LEDs in 2 colour zones
  • Up to 16.8 Million LED colour options
  • Color shift, Solid, Blinking, Pulsating and Breathing effects
  • On-Board memory 128 kb built-in memory
  • Large black PTFE mouse feet
  • Gold Plated, Full speed USB 2.0 connection with Plug and Play
  • Cable 2m long PVC cable with cable reinforcer

Sensor Specification

  • PMW – 3310 gaming grade IR-LED optical sensor
  • Up to 10000DPI
  • MAX tracking speed of at least 5.45m/sec (215 IPS)
  • No positive or negative hardware acceleration
  • Adjustable Lift Off Distance

Software Features

  • Up to 5 Profiles saved to the in-built memory
  • Adjustable X / Y Axis
  • Polling rate adjustable in four steps up to 1000Hz
  • Live record macro manager
  • Up to 16.8 million color LED options
  • Customize RGB manger
  • Pulsating, Blinking and Breathing LED effects
  • Color Shift lighting mode
  • Angle Snapping adjustable in 15 steps
  • Angle Tuning adjustable from -30 to 30 degrees
  • LOD Calibration tool
  • S.Q.A.T – Surface Quality Analyzer Tool
  • Lift-off distance (LOD) Calibration feature

Dimensions & Weight

  • 122.46×70.42×40.16 mm / 4.82×2.77×1.58 in
  • Netto (w/o cable): 93.8 gr
  • Netto (cable incl.): 141.5 gr

The Castor comes packaged in a very compact presentation box, with a nice image of the mouse on the front and not much else, apart from a few technical details around the sides/back.

Opening up the box, we see that the mouse has been well protected by a custom shaped cardboard interior, which will help greatly in keeping it safe while it’s being shipped to you.

The Castor comes hard-wired with a durable black braided cable with a USB header.

BIOSTAR RACING H170GT3 (LGA1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction


BIOSTAR might not be the most recognizable motherboard brand in western markets but their pedigree for creating reliable products is worthy of praise. When compared to MSI, Gigabyte and ASUS, the company struggles to entice consumers with unique aesthetic designs. Furthermore, the BIOS and software package has been sorely lacking and in dire need of change. Thankfully, BIOSTAR have acknowledged these criticisms and decided to forge a brand new range based upon a racing theme to please petrolheads with an avid interest in enthusiast hardware. Each RACING motherboard sports a chequered flag PCB and stylish LED illumination while introducing a new BIOS layout. Clearly, this is a major departure from BIOSTAR’s previous products which evoked a fairly mundane appearance.

The BIOSTAR RACING H170GT3 is based on the mATX form factor and supports up to 64GB DDR4 with a maximum speed of 2133MHz. Intel’s H170 chipset blocks multiplier overclocking which means you have to resort to your processor’s default turbo frequency. Of course, there’s been some controversy surrounding BCLK overclocking on H170 and B150 motherboards to unofficially achieve boosts fairly close to traditional multiplier overclocking. Sadly, Intel has voiced their displeasure regarding this phenomenon and pressurized manufacturers to disable BCLK overclocking via a BIOS update. As a result, we have to rely on stock figures to determine the motherboard’s performance. Previously, I’ve seen some astounding results when it comes to storage with BIOSTAR products, and I’m interested to see if this trend continues.

Specifications

Packing and Accessories

Here we can see the absolutely stunning packaging which contains a carbon fibre inspired cover and vibrant text. This coincides with the RACING focus and feels quite reminiscent of a luxury sports car’s interior.

On the opposite side, there’s a detailed diagram showing the motherboard’s layout and explanation of its unique selling features. Once again, this is presented a superb manner and makes you inquisitive about the product’s specification.

In terms of accessories, the motherboard includes a user’s manual, Vivid LED DJ instructions guide, SATA cables, driver disk, and I/O shield.

Corsair RM1000x 1000 Watt 80 PLUS Gold Fully Modular Power Supply Review

Introduction & Packaging


Corsair have been known to produce some of the best power supplies in the business and today, they look set to continue that trend with the release of their high-end RM1000x. Not everyone needs 1000w of power, of course, but when you do, it’s likely that you’re also the kind of system builder who demands the best performance from your components. Previous high-end PSUs from Corsair have reaped some of the best results we’ve ever seen, with ripple so low we thought there was an issue with our testing equipment, so to say we’re a little eager to see what this one can do would be quite the understatement.

“Corsair RMx series power supplies give you extremely tight voltage control, quiet operation, Gold-certified efficiency, and a fully modular cable set. Built with all Japanese 105°C capacitors, they’re a great choice for high-performance PCs where reliability is essential. 80 PLUS Gold efficiency reduces operating cost and excess heat, and Zero RPM fan mode ensures virtual silence at low and medium loads. And, the fully modular DC cables make builds and upgrades easy, with clean, great-looking results.” – Corsair

https://youtu.be/596KPO56l-8

Equipped with all the usual safety features you would expect, as well as 80 Plus Gold efficiency, all Japanese capacitors, a ZeroRPM mode, a powerful 135mm fan, fully modular cable design and more, the RM1000x certainly ticks all the right boxes and to sweeten the deal, Corsair has given it a 7-Year warranty! That last part fills me with a lot of confidence.

1000W is a lot of power, more than enough to power an extreme workstation or gaming system with enthusiast overclocks and multiple graphics cards. As you can see, that 12V rail can push a very mighty 83.3A, more than enough power for 

The packaging is very nicely designed, with a big and clear shot of the PSU on the front and that stand-out black and yellow Corsair branding.

Around the back, a quick technical rundown of the efficiency, hybrid fan mode and connectors.

There’s quite a lot of stuff in the box, with a durable protective bag for all the modular cables, a soft bag with the PSU inside, heavy-duty power cable,  cable ties, screws, and all the usual documentation.

Lexar 512GB Portable SSD D512 USB 3.0 Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


Today we are taking a closer look at fast external storage, more specifically Lexar’s newest portable SSD called the D512. Lexar also offers the drive in a smaller D256 version with 256GB capacity, but I have the pleasure to have to big 512GB model on the test bench today.

Right away we see that we have a small and compact drive which is perfect for a portable unit. On top of that, it is also a very light drive that you barely will notice when you have it packed next to the rest of your items. So we have a strong portable drive right of the start, but what about the performance. Performance has to match and that’s where a portable SSD shines over a flash drive. Both types of drives use NAND technology, but other than that there are big differences.

Lexar’s portable SSD is capable of sequential transfer speeds up to 450MB/s when reading and 245MB/s writing which is pretty nice for a portable storage solution that is as small and light as the D512. The is no official rating for random performance, but we’ll naturally have a look at that once we get the benchmarks rolling.

The tiny D512 provides plenty of space for you while you are on the go and travel about. Whether you want to take along you movie collect, music library, and photos, you’re covered with plenty of storage. It is also an optimal drive to unload all your vacation photos onto from memory cards and portable capture devices.

One of the unique things that come with the D512 is the capacity meter on the front. The first five LEDs act as such and will light up as the drive gets filled with data. This allows you an instant view on the drive fillage as soon as you plug it into your system. The second unique feature works in conjunction with Lexar’s other Workflow products. The new portable SSD uses the same form factor and connector which makes it compatible with the Workflow drive hubs. Just plug the drive in and you are good to go. I love the Workflow system so much and use it almost every day for my work here at eTeknix.

The drive is also highly compatible when it comes to volume setup as it supports both NTFS, FAT32, and exFAT. On its own, the drive is fully plug-and-play and doesn’t require any drivers or tools of any sort. This naturally originates from USB standard that is plug-and-play by definition.

Lexar is part of the Micron Group which also means that the drive is equipped with some of the best NAND flash on the market and that has undergone high-grade quality checks before assembly.

Feature Highlights

  • SSD-level performance — up to 450MB/s read and 245MB/s write speeds
  • Sleek and compact design
  • Available in 256GB and 512GB capacity options
  • LED capacity meter displays available storage space
  • Great for use with Lexar Professional Workflow line products
  • Two-year limited warranty

Package and Accessories

Lexar packed the 512GB Portable SSD in a neat white box that shows the drive’s look and basic specifications on the top.

The bottom of the box also has the system requirements, which is a USB port, as well as the basic specification again, but in several languages.

Inside the box, you will find the portable SSD itself as well as a USB 3.0 cable.

Both sides of the drive are covered with a protective plastic film to make sure it arrives scratch-free in your hands. It also gives you that little bit of joy it is to remove the film from your brand new device.

Turtle Beach Star Wars Battlefront SandTroopers Gaming Headset Review

Introduction


Turtle Beach are back with their second Star Wars branded headset today, with the release of their Star Wars Battlefront Sandtrooper Gaming Headset, a multi-platform stereo headset that comes well equipped for the multi-platform gamer. Of course, some of you may also remember we recently reviewed another Star Wars headset, the Turtle Beach X-Wing headset. The X-Wing was the more budget friendly model of the Star Wars/Turtle Beach deal at £29.99. While the Sandtroopers isn’t overly expensive, it’s certainly the more premium of the two at £69.99.

“The Star Wars Battlefront Sandtrooper is a feature-rich universal gaming headset for Star Wars fans and collectors. The Battlefront Sandtrooper offers crystal clear multiplayer chat when connected to the PlayStation®4 controller and other console controllers, and the 3.5mm connection makes it perfect for mobile/tablet devices. Fans will experience amazing sound through booming 50mm speakers, and the headset also includes in-line controls for Mic Mute and Volume, plus an adjustable, high-sensitivity boom mic that can be removed when watching movies and listening to music.” – Turtle Beach

Equipped with powerful closed-back drivers, a detachable microphone, lightweight design, multiformat support, in-line controls and, of course, that sleek new Star Wars inspired detailing, the Sandtrooper is certainly sounding like a competitive headset, so let’s move on and take a closer look at what it has to offer.

Full-Range Audio
Booming 50mm Neodymium speakers deliver sound the way Star Wars was meant to be heard.

Convenient Controls
In-line controls conveniently place Mic Mute and Master Volume right at your fingertips.

Crystal Clear Chat & Audio
Use the high-sensitivity adjustable boom mic for in-game and online chat, and then remove it when listening to music and watching movies.

The packaging is typical Turtle Beach design and has plenty of cool graphics on the front showing off the design, as well as the Battlefront/EA branding which the headset was designed for.

Around the back, a little technical information, but nothing we won’t be able to see for ourselves when we get it out of the box.

In the box, you’ll find all the usual documentation, a detachable boom microphone and some backplates for the drivers; It all comes very nicely packaged too, which is always a welcome bonus.

Under the top tray of components, you’ll find the headset and it’s cables all neatly tucked away and well protected.

Inateck Headphones Roundup Review

Introduction


Picking the right headphones can be quite tricky, but with a great range of versatile and reasonably priced headphones in their range, it seems the Inateck has got you covered. Today we’ll be taking a look at three of their latest sets, all of which come targeted at a slightly different part of the market. Hopefully, we’ll be able to help guide you in which ones offer the best performance, features and value for money to suit your own needs.

Inateck produces a huge range of products, such as mobile accessories, USB hubs, hard drive docks, laptop bags and so much more. They’ve had great reviews in the past and their brand continues to grow in popularity, so I’m looking forward to testing out these headphones today. In the eTeknix office, we have their new Aries Dynamic Driver In-Ear Headphones (BH1101), the Taurus Wireless Sport Headset (BH1001) and the more affordable Wood In-ear Hi-Fi Headphone BH1105’s. They all have some a little unique about them too, so it’ll be interesting to see which  ones offer up the best options and performance overall given their respective price ranges and target audiences.

Aries Dynamic Driver Headphones

“Built in modern aluminum-housings and classic premium genuine wood, Inateck Aries BH1101 likes more like a work of art. 22 cored anti-oxidized cooper wire can better extend its service life. Furthermore, the PU Aluminum Foil cable makes it sturdy and tangle free.”

Wood In-ear Hi-Fi Headphone

“What is the most important thing to headphones? A well-rounded and clear sound! BH1105 is not only superbly balanced but also offers awesome bass, trebles and ear protection. The Zebra Wood pumps up your sound to an orchestral-like level. Bring a concert with you wherever you go.”

Taurus Wireless Sport Headphones

“Inateck Sport Bluetooth headset-BH1001 provides a comfortable, curved fit. Its magnetic design allows the two ear buds attract with each other, forming a circle that could hang on your neck to avoid falling down or losing when you finished exercising.”

The packaging on the headsets/headphones is pretty simple, with a minimal waste box and some stylish representations on the front.

Around the back, quite simple again and a few major specifications on the Aries and Taurus boxes.

Silverstone AR07 & AR08 CPU Cooler Review

Introduction


SilverStone is back on eTeknix again today, with their new AR07 and AR08 CPU coolers. Both coolers are designed to be affordable, quiet, stylish and pack great value for money performance. We’re going to be putting both of them on our test bench today, and while we’re expecting the bigger AR07 to offer up better performance, we’re still eager to see what the smaller and more affordable AR08 is capable of.

“The Argon series coolers are designed to provide the best cooling solution for your CPU. To improve performance even further, unique and exclusive heatsink fin designs such as interweaving diamond edge and arrow guides are included. For users looking for a no-nonsense top performing cooler without the premium price, the Argon AR07 is the perfect choice.” – SilverStone

Both coolers come equipped with a triple heat pipe design and a high-quality fan tuned for silence. The AR07 has three 8mm thick pipes, a 140mm PWM fan and the AR08 uses 6mm pipes with a 92mm PWM fan.

Argon Series AR07

  • Great balance of silence and performance
  • Unique interweaving diamond edged fins for improved performance
  • Exclusive arrow guides distribute airflow evenly among heat pipes
  • Three Ø8mm heat-pipes and aluminum fins for excellent heat conducting efficiency
  • Heat-pipe direct contact (HDC) technology
  • Includes compact 140mm PWM fan for excellent cooling and low noise
  • Anti-vibration rubber pads included for additional noise dampening

Argon Series AR08

  • Great balance of silence and performance
  • Unique interweaving diamond edged fins for improved performance
  • Exclusive arrow guides distribute airflow evenly among heat pipes
  • Three Ø6mm heat-pipes and aluminum fins for excellent heat conducting efficiency
  • Heat-pipe direct contact (HDC) technology
  • Includes compact 92mm PWM fan for excellent cooling and low noise
  • Anti-vibration rubber pads included for additional noise dampening
  • Intel Socket LGA775/115X/1366/2011 and AMD Socket AM2/AM3/FM1/FM2 compatible

Both coolers come nicely packaged with all the main specifications detailed around the box, as well as lots of images showing the fan, fin stack, block, heat pipes design and more.

In the box, you’ll find fan clips, a universal backplate for Intel and an AMD bracket, mounting arms, 3M pads, as well as all the required screws and some thermal paste. Both coolers come with a very similar mounting kit, the only exception being that the AR07 comes with larger fan retention clips.

Corsair SF600 80 Plus Gold Fully Modular SFX Power Supply Review

Introduction & Packaging


The world of Small Form Factor (SFX) power supplies has been a fierce battleground over the last few years. Gaming systems have been getting smaller, the HTPC and Steambox markets are growing in popularity and the demand for a tiny PSU that can keep the system small, but still deliver the high-performance grunt required by modern gaming GPU/CPU combos is at an all time high. Enter the new Corsair SF600, the latest contender on the market and judging by the specifications, it may be the best one we’ve seen to date.

“SF Series power supplies bring legendary Corsair performance and reliability to the SFX small form factor standard. They have the features found in full-size high performance power supplies, with certification for 80 PLUS Gold efficiency, superior voltage regulation, Zero RPM mode for virtually silent operation, and 105°C All Japanese capacitors for better reliability.” – Corsair

Equipped with 600W of power, more than enough for any high-end and overclocking gaming rig with a single GPU, 100% Japanese 105c capacitors, a zero RPM fan mode for ultra quiet performance at lower loads, fully modular cables and that super compact SFX form factor, the SF600 is certainly an attractive unit. To make the deal even sweeter, it comes backed up by Corsairs confidence inducing 7-year manufacturers warranty!

The packaging is very nicely designed, keeping in theme with other current Corsair product ranges and featuring a clear product image and the main specifications prominently displayed.

Plenty of technical information around the back too, showing off the efficiency and fan speeds at various load scenarios.

In the box, you’ll find two protective bags, one for the cables and another containing the PSU. There is all the usual documentation, a mains power cable, cable ties and screws; everything you need to get you setup and ready to rock.