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

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

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


Rock Band 4 Band in a Box

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

Check out the full review here.


Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ATX Chassis

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

Check out the full review here.


Raijintek Styx Micro-ATX Aluminium Chassis

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

Check out the full review here.


be quiet! Silent Base 800 Chassis

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

Check out the full review here.


Corsair Strafe RGB MX Silent Red Mechanical Keyboard

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

Check out the full review here.


Thermaltake Commander Gaming Gear Keyboard and Mouse Combo

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

Check out the full review here.


CM Storm Quick Fire XTi Mechanical Keyboard

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

Check out the full review here.


Corsair Scimitar RGB MOBA/MMO Gaming Mouse

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

Check out the full review here.


Logitech G502 Proteus Core Gaming Mouse

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

Check out the full review here.


G.Skill MX780

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

Check out the full review here.


Corsair Void Headset

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

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


Astro A40 TR + Mix Amp Pro

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

Check out the full review here.


Crucial BX200 SSD

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

Check out the full review here.


QNAP TS-251 2-Bay NAS

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

Check out the full review here.


Sapphire Nitro R9 380X 4GB Graphics Card

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

Check out the full review here.


Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 Graphics Card

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

Check out the full review here.


Nvidia GeForce GTX 980ti 6GB Graphics Card

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

Check out the full review here.


DDR4

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

Check out our latest memory reviews here.


Shield Android TV

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

Check out the full review here.


Thermaltake Water 3.0 Extreme S

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

Check out the full review here.


Alpenfohn Atlas

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

Check out the full review here.


be quiet! Shadow Rock Slim

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

Check out the full review here.


Inateck Mercury Box Bluetooth Speaker

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

Check out the full review here.


OnePlus 10,000mAh Mobile USB Power Bank

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

Check out the full review here.


Gaming Systems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out our full range of system reviews here.

Astro A40 TR + Mix Amp Pro & Mod Kit Multi-Format Pro Gaming Headset Review

Introduction


We’re big fans of Astro here at eTeknix, time and time again they’ve delivered absolutely jaw dropping products, and for me personally, the best of the best when it comes to gaming headsets. Their latest headset, the Astro A40 TR is their latest and greatest wired headset, while also coming paired with their premium grade MixAmp Pro TR, offering a huge amount of features and performance enhancements that will no doubt please the gaming masses, eSports teams, Twitch streamers and so many others.

“Immerse yourself in Call of Duty: Black Ops III on Xbox One with the new A40 TR + MixAmp Pro TR and the Call of Duty: Black Ops III Mod Kit. We’ve worked with both professional gamers and top audio designers to deliver pristine Dolby Headphone Surround Sound. Transform the A40 TR Headset from open-back to closed-back in moments with noise-cancelling ear cushions, a voice isolating microphone, and closed-back Speaker Tags. The MixAmp Pro TR takes absolute control, allowing you to adjust your Game:Voice balance, or use the stream output to capture your audio for livestreaming.”

To get the full Astro experience, they’ve been kind enough to supply us with one of their fantastic mod kits too. This is a completely optional addition, but it’s a prime example of how you can really make each Astro product your own. You can change backplates on the drivers, have your own made to match your team logos, or pick from the selection available on the Astro site. The Mod Kit goes one further, however, adding a new microphone, head support, ear pads and backplates, giving you a very different look for your headset of choice.

Equipped with the Mix Amp Pro, the Astro A40 TR comes with a vast amount of cool features. You can customise every input every output, the EQ, tweak streaming audio to suit your needs and your audience’s needs, and best of all, you can link multiple Astro headsets for high-quality team chat, with zero lag!

“Free ASTRO Command Center software for PC and Mac users allows the customization of every input and output, as well as the creation of your own EQ settings.” “Control what your stream audience hears, including chat and game audio levels. Broadcast in 2-channel Dolby Surround Sound.” Reads the Astro website. “Faster than the speed of sound, this fully digital connection enables interference and lag-free local voice communications.”

With high-quality components throughout, this is certainly a well spec’d headset, let’s go take a closer look at what it has to offer.

First, here’s Astro to take you through some of the innovative features of the A40 TR, Mix Amp Pro and their new Mod Kits.

The packaging is really nicely designed, with clear images of the headset and mix amp, giving off a nice premium product vibe already.

Around the back of the box, a quick breakdown of all the major features and component specifications, but we’ll take a closer look at those ourselves in a moment.

As I said before, Astro also included their completely optional, but seriously cool Mod Kit for the A40 TR. This includes a new headband padding, backplates, microphone and driver padding.

In the box, you’ll find all the usual documentation covering warranty and the setup process, although there’s also some very handy videos on the Astro YouTube channel for this, which we’ll take a look at shortly.

All of the included cables are finished to a high standard, with soft rubber tangle free coatings. There’s a long optical cable (TosLink), 4-pole 3.5mm for the headset, with in-line controller, a propriatory link cable for daisy chaining multiple Astro headsets for team chat, and a long USB cable for primary power to the Mix Amp Pro.

There’s a fully detachable microphone, with a flexible boom.

It’s finished with a very durable metal housing around the gold jack-lug, as well as a metal finish on the head.

Astro A38 Wireless PC & Mobile Headset Competition

Eager to win yourself a sweet new headset? We’ve teamed up with the good people as Astro to give away one of their very impressive A38 Wireless Bluetooth headsets. The A38 is a great addition to any desktop or mobile audio setup, giving you the option to make calls, listen to music, play your games and more without the distractions of the outside world. They’re packed full of features such as noise cancelling microphones, Bluetooth 4.0, A2DP, HSP and AVRCP, with a retail price of £170/$200.

Thank you Astro for providing us with this awesome prize and remember you can follow Astro on Facebook and Twitter to keep up to date with their latest and greatest products and competitions.

Want to know even more about this awesome prize? Check out our full review here.

Entering couldn’t be easier and we’ve got lots of cool ways for you to earn extra entries and increase your chances of winning this fantastic prize.

Astro A38 Wireless Headset Competition

Astro A50 Wireless Xbox One Gaming Headset Review

Introduction


Astro is by far one of my all time favourite gaming brands. Their gaming headsets are quite simply some of the best around and have even given pro-audio and audiophile grade headsets a run for their money too. We’ve reviewed several Astro headsets over the years and they’ve always been premium quality products, with legendary performance and a great design. Of course, this kind of quality comes with a price and while Astro aren’t known for being budget-friendly, the phrase “you get what you pay for” has certainly rung true in past reviews. So, will we see a repeat performance today? And will Astros’ own reputation be tough to live up to?

“Just as consoles evolve, so do our headsets, so we’ve fine-tuned and updated our A50 to make the best available headset in wireless gaming to your Xbox One. Broadcasting with cutting edge wireless Kleernet 5.8ghz technology, the A50 employs three varied EQ modes designed to fit your audio needs. The uni-directional microphone delivers communication to your teammates by isolating your voice from any background noise in the room. We’ve designed this headset to be lightweight and adjust easily to your cranium to ensure maximum comfort for those games that last long into the night. And when you’re done it fits perfectly on its own headset stand.”

The Astro range covers all major formats, but their latest effort is designed specifically to work with the Xbox One. That’s not to say I can’t use it on the PC, but the re-branding of the A50 in this case means that it comes with a lovely black and green design to match the Xbox One official colours, an Xbox One controller connection adaptor and it’s certified to work with the console. As you can see from the specifications, the A50 is very well equipped with high-quality drivers, high-end wireless tech and a whole lot more.

The headset supports Dolby Digital 7.1 signal processing, 5.8GHz Wireless and more.

I don’t normally care for the packaging on products, but the box for the Astro is really nice and doubles as a storage box for the headset; everything is laid out nicely on the interior.

The headset and transmitter base at are the front of the box, behind which you’ll find the headset stand components and a few cables.

There’s also a clearly laid out quick start guide, which will make setting up the headset a much easier process.

All the included cables are of a good quality. There’s a pair of USB cables, the Xbox One cable, which has a flat tangle-free design and a TosLink optical cable.

The base unit is nicely designed, with a soft matte finish on the top and a little bit of glossy trim. There’s a pair of buttons on the top, one for main power, the other for Dolby mode.

The base of the unit has a thick rubber grip, so there’s little chance of it sliding around when placed on your desk or TV stand.

Around the back, you’ll find all the major ports, but most interestingly is the Opt Out, which allows for optical pass-through, great if you want to feed the audio to your TV or AV receiver when not using the headset, as it means you won’t have to swap over cables.

The headset is absolutely gorgeous, which I know is a subjective matter, but the look and feel of it just screams ultra-high quality. The soft touch black finish on the back of the drivers looks stunning and provides a nice contrast to the bright greens of the trim and cables that surround it. The back of the driver says “Voice” and “Game” on it, this whole panel is actually a massive two-way button and just tapping either side of the headset allows you to switch between channels for volume control.

The ear cups can be rotated inwards to provide a better fit on your head, as well as when wearing the headset around your neck. The side of the ear cup has a power button, profile switch and volume control wheel.

The ear cup padding is a high-quality memory foam with a very soft and comfortable cloth cover. The ear cups are quite large and are an over-the-ear design.

On the other ear cup, there are two more ports, one for the Xbox One cable hook up and the other is a micro-USB for charging the headset.

The headband is expandable with a cool sliding mechanism.

You can see the wire coiling up as you compress it, which is a nice touch. Despite this only being a push-through to adjust system, it feels incredibly strong and locks firmly in place once adjusted.

the headband has two solid support bars with a pivoting center part, which will help provide a clean fit over your head, without throwing the headset off-balance.

There’s more luxurious padding on the underside, which will help provide you with a comfortable fit.

The microphone has a fold up design and features a flexible and positional boom.

Overall, this is one fantastic looking headset and the build quality is nothing short of exceptional.

As I said before, this headset comes with a headset stand. The stand can be clipped together from the three plastic components included in the box and even has a small section on the bottom to house the transmitter base unit; perfect for keeping your headset stored neatly and preventing it from getting scratched which charging.

Astro A40 + Mixamp M80 Xbox One Headset Review

Introduction


I’m very excited about today’s review, as we’ve got another product in from the incredible brand that is Astro. My excitement comes from the fact that every product I’ve tested from the Astro range has quickly stood out as some of the best products in their respective categories and I’m hoping for a repeat performance from their latest product, the Astro A40 (Gen2) + Mixamp M80 for Xbox One.

The Astro product range is designed with eSports in mind, but also tailored towards the enthusiast gamer in general. As such, the Astro product ranges do command a premium price tag. The setup I’ll be testing today will set you back £170, similar in price to premium headsets from Turtle Beach, Tritton, Razer and more. Of course, paying a lot for a headset brings a lot higher expectations; at this price range you’ll want premium build quality, performance and a few bonus features in return for your investment.

The A40 comes bundled with everything you’ll need to get you setup on your Xbox One, including an Astro M80 Mixamp.

The Mixamp is really nicely designed, with the main volume wheel at the front, which also features a microphone mute switch in the centre.

There’s an EQ button, as well as a game and voice volume channel switches on the top.

The headset just oozes premium quality the moment you look at it. A mixture of soft cream on the headset, removable and customisable backplates on the ear cups and the stylish blue highlights everywhere else; it’s certainly unique in terms of design, but no doubt that it looks stunning.

The cable coils through an extending slider to allow for easy adjustment to your head size.

On the left side, we’ve got a fold up boom microphone.

The microphone is easily positioned thanks to its flexible boom. The microphone can be removed if you don’t need it, but you can also swap the back plates around and mount the headset on the other ear cup if you desire.

On the underside, you can see how the ear cups padding is angled to better direct the sound towards your ears. There’s also a small 3.5mm jack on the base of the left ear-cup for the Mixamp cable.

Both ear-cups fold completely flat, making it nice and comfortable to wear the headset around your neck between matches.

The padding is by far some of the best I’ve ever seen. It feels both durable and soft at the same time; you’ll have no issue wearing this headset for extended periods of time.

More thick memory foam and soft cloth treatment on the headband, which is mounted on a small pivot to help ensure a more comfortable fit.

The headband continues the same grey and blue theme across the top.

Overall a very stylish and unique looking headset.

The M80 Mixamp is simple enough and plugs right into the controller. It locks into place very securely too and I must admit that it was actually quite tricky to remove after testing.

Another cool feature is the little LED strip, perfect for showing you your current volume levels.

eTeknix 2014 Christmas Tech Buying Guide

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

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


Astro A38 Wireless Gaming Headset

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

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


NZXT H440 Mid-Tower Chassis

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

Check out our full review here – £89.99 from Overclockers


Thermaltake Core V71 Full Tower Chassis

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

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


Cooler Master Novatouch TKL Keyboard

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

Check out our full review here – £149.99 from Overclockers


Zowie FK1 Gaming Mouse

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

Check out our full review here – £49.99 from Overclockers


Nvidia Shield Android 5.0 Gaming Tablet

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

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


Nvidia GeForce “Maxwell” GTX 970 Graphics Card

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

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


Asus Rampage V Extreme LGA 2011-3 Motherboard

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

Check out our full review here – £329.99 from Overclockers


Gigabyte Z97X Gaming5 1150 Motherboard

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

Check out our full review here – £109.99 from Overclockers


Gigabyte Brix Ultra Compact System

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

Check out our full review here – £503.96 from Scan


PC Specialist Vortex 440 System

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

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


OCZ Arc 100 240GB SSD

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

Check out our full review here – £94.99 from Overclockers


Asus RT AC68U Dual Band Wireless Router

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

Check out our full review here – £166.98 from Overclockers


Crucial 32GB 2133MHz Quad Channel DDR4 Memory Kit

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

Check out our full review here – £319.99 from Overclockers


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

Astro A38 Gaming Headset Review

Introduction


Astro is one of the hottest gaming brands around. They’re proving a popular choice with pro gamers in the eSports community, as well as winning over consumers with their high-end performance, and premium aesthetics. We’ve reviewed a few products from Astro here at eTeknix and we’ve yet to be disappointed by any of them. The Wireless Astro A50 Multi-format headset (review) and the A40 Audio System 2013 edition (review) still stand as some of the best headsets I’ve ever tested, so I’m eager to see what their latest product has to offer.

The new A38 gaming headset we’re looking at today comes packed full of features. The headset is wireless, thanks to its use of Bluetooth technology, which also offers APTX low latency, AAC high-fidelity audio, active noise cancelling technology and more!

The Astro A38 also features NFC waring and wake up, and an array of integrated microphones for the integrated chat features and noise cancelling technology.

A headset that’s designed for gaming as well as those times you’re on the go, needs a good carry case. Fortunately, the Astro A38 come with a zip up compact hard case that should do a great job of keeping them safe and scratch free.

On the interior of the case you’ll find a snug pocket for your cables; there’s a USB to MicroUSB cable included.

The headset is really nicely designed, not only does it look unique, but it also feels fantastic thanks to the lavish soft touch rubbery finish.

Since this is a wireless headset, all the controls are located on the headset its self. On one drive you’ll find a small toggle switch for the microphone mute button, the power and call buttons. Here you can also see how the ear cups can be rotated 90 degrees.

The other ear cup has the volume controls and a microUSB port tucked away on the bottom for charging the internal battery.

As with most Astro headsets, the backplates on the ear cups are held in place with magnets. You can pull the covers off to customise them, or you can buy pre-customised ones from the Astro web store.

The headset is designed to sit on the ear. It features a unique design to its thick padding and its incredibly comfortable to wear.

The ear cups are offset from the headband; this unique shape provides a more comfortable and natural fit. The headband has a really good range of extension, making the A38 suitable for a wide range of head sizes. Because it can be made so small, it should also be suitable for use by younger games.

there’s only a small padded section on the headband, but the padding is soft and grippy; more than enough to keep the headset from slipping off your head. Despite the wireless technology and the internal battery, the headset is light weight and it more than comfortable to wear.

This is easily one of the more unique headsets I’ve ever tested, but it’s also one of the coolest looking.

Astro A50 Multi-Format Wireless Gaming Headset Review

Today we have some gaming royalty in the eTeknix office, the Astro a50 wireless gaming headset. Ever since we reviewed the Astro A40 headset a while back I’ve been dying to get my hands on the high end wireless edition. The Astro A40 simply blew me away with its incredible sound reproduction, build quality and comfort, so naturally I wanted to see what Astro could do with an even more ambitious and expensive headset!

The A50 is remarkably well equipped, featuring plenty of high end features that set it apart from the competition, as you can see from the spec sheet below there’s everything from a long life Li-Ion battery, 5.8 Ghz wireless tech, powerful drivers and more. Of course this kind of capability comes at a price and I’m sorry to say that the price is a staggering £250. This puts it out of the reach of your average gamer and into enthusiast territory, so while that may be a lot of money for a peripheral, the real question is “is it worth it?”

Due to the high price were going to be looking for nothing short of perfection, sure there are more expensive dedicated solutions on the market but this is still the upper price range for general gaming hardware, falling nicely in line with the highest price offerings from brands such as Turtle Beach. We’ll be looking for faultless performance, build quality and functionality and if they’re at least as good as the Astro A40 headset was, then we’ll be off to a great start, so lets get right into the action and see what this headset has to offer.

The A50 Wireless come in a really nicely designed box with a slip cover, on the front we see that it features Wireless technology as well as support for Xbox, PS3 and PC.

Around the back of the box we have a nice breakdown of some of the major features of the headset, such as the built in controls, wireless receiver, boom microphone etc.

Behind the slip cover we see more funky designs, lots of digital artwork and graffiti.

The box opens out in the middle, with the headset mounted on a clear plastic mould and the wireless receiver in the centre, first impressions are good and just opening the box feels a little special, lots of care and attention has been taken to get the presentation right.

Lifting out the headset we find another compartment that houses the extra components.

Aside from the headset we found three bits of plastic that can be clipped together to make a fancy stand (well see that later), the Wireless receiver, two USB cables, a 3m optical cable (Toslink) and an Xbox 360 controller chat cable. All cables feel of really nice quality, with good coatings and high quality connections.

Astro A40 Audio System 2013 Edition Xbox, PS3 and PC Headset Review

This week I’ve been testing out something a little bit special, the very cool A40 multi format gaming headset from Astro. The brand might not leap out at you and I too hadn’t heard of them until earlier this year. So who are Astro gaming and what have they been doing?

Astro Gaming makes high-end pro gaming equipment, the sort of products you will see targeted at pro gamers, eSports and hardcore enthusiasts who simply want the best of the best to help them enjoy doing what they do best, play computer games. Astro Studios are already a well established design powerhouse and Astro Gaming was spawned as a separate company using private funding and a passion for gaming. Essentially they took talented designers, enthusiast gamers and a pile of money and threw them all into a room, the Astro Gaming brand was created and from what I’ve seen of their product range, they’re doing some incredible work.

“Our company lives at the epicenter of technology, lifestyle and design” claims Astro founder, Brett Lovelady. “For years we’ve been involved in the design of many forms of consumer electronics, particularly in the video gaming arena. And now that video gaming has become a leading form of entertainment, with “gaming lifestyle” quickly taking root, we decided to leverage our experience and give people an authentic gaming brand to rally around at the heart of this culture. Our products are specifically designed for the underserved hardcore gaming professionals and core gaming enthusiasts. Our overarching commitment is to improve the sport of video gaming.”

In short, Astro are confident in their brand and even more so around the A40, which is highly regarded by fans and Astro themselves to be one of their greatest products, but with price tag of around $199.99 / £199.99 and all this talk about pro gaming and more, I am literally expecting nothing less than perfection from this headset today, nothing else will satisfy me for a headset that costs nearly £200.

The A40 sports an impressive specification list and with 7.1 Dolby Surround Sound, multi platform support, game to voice balancing, EQ modes, multiple connectivity options and even line-out for live streaming your audio. So lets move along and take a closer look at what the Astro has to offer.

First thing that really stands out is the packaging, a sizeable and fairly heavy presentation box with a nicely designed slip cover. The box features a really nice picture of both the headset and the controller.

Around the back is a little breakdown of some of the other features, such as surround sound, optical cable connection, detachable microphone and the ability to daisy chain multiple Astro headset.

The box folds out to display the headset, the controller and on the right we have a box stuffed full of components and cables.

Somehow I don’t think that connectivity is going to be an issue for the Astro A40, but given that it supports two consoles and PC’s, it needs to come with plenty of cables. From left to right we have USB, 3.5mm splitter, Xbox headset cable, boom mic, 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable, 4pin 3.5mm to 3.5mm with in-line mic, and at the top right we also has a Toslink optical cable.

The controller is really nicely finished and I for one wouldn’t mind having this on my desktop. A large control wheel at the top for volume and a smaller control wheel for the Game/Voice channel mixer take up the main features. But you’ll also find a power button, EQ pre-set and surround sound on/off toggle. There are four ports at the front, two for daisy chaining the A40 to other A40 headsets, one for the headphones and a line out to hook up your Xbox 360 controller for Xbox chat.

The controller feels heavy and this helps it stay firmly on your desk, it’s also got a high quality soft touch rubber coating around the outside that looks great against the glossy finish top panel. The back of the device features four more ports (bringing the total to 8) and these are optical line in, mp3 line in (or AUX line in) stream line out and USB in.

The headset is really nicely designed, with plenty of sleek curves and straight edges giving a very stylish look to the set. The headband is expandable thanks to two sliding arms on the left and right side that look more like a hydraulic system than anything else and it’s a nice change from the usual slide and click clips that you see on most headsets / headphones. The boom mic is attached to the left earphone here but since the covers can be removed from the headset you can in fact swap it around and have the microphone on the other side, which is a nice feature.

There is a small 3.5mm jack plug on the underside of the left earphone for hooking the headset up to the mixer / control unit.

One of the cooler features, as simple as it may be, is the headband, which is suspended between two strong support bars and the central bar moves around, this helps keep a really comfortable, but close fit on your head and ample padding here also adds even more comfort.

Here you can better see the height adjusters, which use friction rather than notches to lock into place, but they’re definitely robust and offer plenty of support.

The ear cups are finished in a super soft padding and fabric, even the covers for the drivers feature a light bit of padding, overall the ear cups feel soft as a kitten and should stay super comfortable after long gaming sessions.

The back of each ear cup features a magnetic cover that features the Astro logo.

There can be taken off and replaced with custom covers and its a great way to add a little personalization to the set, personally I think the headset looks cool even with the covers removed.

Setup & Installation

Adding the headset to my PC was incredibly easy, just hook up the USB cable, plug the headset into the base unit and I was up and running in less than one minute! Software can be downloaded from the Astro site, but all this does is patch the headset to fix any old bugs or issues, this process took about 30 seconds and the software was only 4.5mb, so overall I’m very impressed with PC setup.

The Xbox and PlayStation were easy too, assuming of course you have the correct connection points. I opted for a mixture of Optical and HDMI as this is the most practical method for my setup. The only difference is you need the USB cable for the PlayStation 3 and the controller to base unit cable for the Xbox 360, but again, setup was setup easy and straightforward. The only thing to keep in mind is that this is designed for pro gaming, a setup where your typically sat near your console or computer, not 20ft away with your feet up on the couch, so the cables are not typically very long on the A40.

General Audio Performance

I put the Astro through its paces on my PC first, picking out a selection of high quality FLAC audio files from my favourite albums and it didn’t seem to matter what I threw at the drivers on this set, I couldn’t find anything I didn’t love about the tone. The bass, mid ranges and high all feel independent and the set offers some incredible distance and depth to the sound scape that was well suited to heavy rock music. The lower death metal growls of bands like Bloodbath came through without distortion and the classical folk music high notes of Blackmores Night were blissful. Most importantly for me however are the mid tones, something often ignored on many gaming headsets in favour of heavy bass and screaming high tones, there is a warmth to the sound that just screams quality and it’s perfect for those who really love classic rock / prog rock.

Gaming Audio Performance

Games like Battlefield 3 tend to push the EQ way above normal, favouring heavily distorted bass tones that rattle your teeth, high notes of bullets ripping past you and very little in between and this often causes a lot of headsets to sound muddy and distorted, especially at higher volumes. That isn’t the case here however and you’ll go plenty deaf before you find distortion becomes an issue here. Even in the real thick of things you can still pick out the finer details of the sound scape and more impressive than anything else, you can still hold a conversation with your team mates, almost as if there are a second set of headphones giving you clear audio for voice chat over the carnage filled audio of the gameplay. There is of course a dial to alter the mix between game and voice chat, perfect for when you really need to ignore your friends, or block out the action.

PlayStation gaming audio sounded fantastic, as too did the voice chat but the headset really came into its own on the Xbox and this is likely due to the fact we have cross-game chat and voice chat is one of the A40’s strong points and both the microphones gave a loud and clear reading on all gaming formats.

Final Thoughts

Overall the A40 are nothing short of one of the finest headset on the market, although juding by the price tag, marketing and feature set, I think Astro already know this. The headset isn’t new either, it’s been on the market for  a good while and has already proven its self immensely popular with the well-funded end of eSports and enthusiast gaming scene, it would likely be even more popular if it wasn’t such an expensive set, but when it comes to high-end equipment, you have to expect to pay a premium for quality.

Build quality on this set is really nice too and while it does still have some plastic moulding on it, it should survive a few knocks and bumps if your travel around a lot. It does come with a decent packaging box that double as a protective hardware though and while it’s a little big and heavy to chuck in a backpack, at least it will keep the headset safe and sound to a certain extent.

Design is best in class too and I’ll be damned if this isn’t one of the best looking headsets on the market. Sure style is a subjective quality and there are plenty of great looking headsets on the market, but when you look for one that suits your style preference, the build quality and performance don’t always match up, in my opinion the A40 has all three.

The finally and most important feature of the A40’s however isn’t their sound, it isn’t the build quality and it’s certainly not their price either, its how comfortable they are. The headset sits on your head with so much grace and it’s got the biggest adjustment range I’ve ever seen on a headset too, ideal for those with tiny heads (or very high ears?!), or those with a big bobble head like myself, either way it’s headband is extremely comfortable and the lust padding on the ear cups is as soft as earmuffs.

It may not be cheap, but there is no doubt that this is one of the best headsets on the market and it’s going up against some tough competition in this price range too, but while you can spend £200 on a headset from few rival brands that may match the performance, you’ll have a hard time finding one that is anywhere near as comfortable, let alone one that works on three major platforms.