IFixIt has performed a comprehensive technical Teardown of the iPhone 6S to examine the handset’s build quality and overall construction. The iPhone 6S features an Apple A9 processor with embedded M9 motion co-processor, 4.7-inch 1334×750 (326 ppi) screen containing 3D touch functionality, 7000 series aluminium enclosure and Ion-X glass making for the best protection on the market today. Additionally, the device opts for a 12-megapixel iSight rear camera featuring 4K video recording. The front shooter is a fairly standard 5-megapixel sensor and you can choose between 16GB/64GB/128GB SKUs.
As with any modern Apple device, a range of tools and patience is required to do a component rundown. This is only a brief overview, and the complete guide can be found here. Apple utilized the usual array of ribbon flaps and hidden screws, but the new Taptic-engine takes up quite a large amount of space. Furthermore, the display assembly is rather hefty at 60 grams, and marks a 15 gram increase from the previous model. Rather surprisingly, the panel section weighs the same as Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus handset.On another note, the 3D touch sensor is labeled 343S00014 which doesn’t pinpoint to any major manufacturer but falls in line with Apple’s ICs. The battery capacity has been reduced from 1810 mAh to 1715 and comes in at 3.8V, 6.55 Whr. Apple had to reduce the battery size and capacity due to the Taptic Engine and thicker display. Finally, here is a complete rundown of the logic board ICs:
Apple A9 APL0898 SoC + Samsung 2 GB LPDDR4 RAM (as denoted by the markings K3RG1G10BM-BGCH)
Qualcomm MDM9635M LTE Cat. 6 Modem (vs. the MDM9625M found in the iPhone 6)
InvenSense MP67B 6-axis Gyroscope and Accelerometer Combo (also found in iPhone 6)
Bosch Sensortec 3P7 LA 3-axis Accelerometer (likely BMA280)
After an excruciating wait, AMD is finally poised to officially release the mini-behemoth, Fury X, across retail channels today. The embargo lifts at 13.30 GMT for both reviews and availability in stores. However, consumers will face a hefty premium for the initial batch due to a limited supply of units. While the MSRP is $649/£550, retailers have already started price gouging with cards ranging from $670 to a colossal $999. This price hike will come into effect throughout the UK according to Overclockers UK’s Head who predicts “NVIDIA will not move price when AMD has such limited stocks and all resellers are price gouging and sell way over £600 due to such limited stocks.”
AMD has received some criticism of late as the Fury X utilizes HDMI 1.4 instead of 2.0 and cannot display a 60hz refresh rate on 4K Televisions through this interface. I want to reiterate that the Sapphire retail box with a HDMI 2.0 logo circulating around the internet has been photoshopped and AMD currently recommends DisplayPort 1.2a for 4K 60Hz content.
In terms of raw performance, the Fury X is a mysterious beast and priced to compete against the 980 Ti. Given that factory overclocked models such as the G1 Gaming can outperform the Titan X, expectations are high. It’s uncertain if the 4GB HBM will become a bottleneck at 4K in games such as GTA V, Watch Dogs and others which already teeter on exceeding this figure. Arguably, HBM’s bandwidth should assist in tackling higher resolutions and AMD seems to market the Fury X as a 4K capable card.
Will you be picking up the Fury X on launch? If not, what could convince you to upgrade?
Gamers out there tend to do all sorts of crazy things to upgrade their rig it seems. The latest has YouTuber, Alex Schank, who has content on channels like ASTeretoypicalGamer or BasementPresentation.
He states that he lost his ‘love’ and has “nowhere to turn to”. Aside from a gamer, Schank apparently makes guides, challenges and skit videos.
“I am a YouTube video maker that has lost his love. My video card has bit the dust and I have no where else to turn :(.” Schank states on Kickstarter.
Schank says that his old GeForce GTX 570 “crapped out”, leaving him without any “backup plans”. He cannot buy a new graphics card because he has a little boy and puts his needs above everything else.
There have been no supporters up until now for Schank’s case, which does not come as a surprise. He stated that he wants to raise at least half the sum for a new GeForce GTX 780 Ti and start “making regular videos again and streaming on Twitch.tv once more” for his community.
Cooler Master has revealed a new addition to its Silencio series PC cases, the Silencio 452. It is the ninth enclosure in the Silencio series, and comes with sound absorbing foam padding, as all Silencio series do, to minimizes noise produced by components. It is made out of solid steel and comes with rubber feet at the bottom that prevents vibration. It also comes with removable dust filters behind the front door and at the bottom for easier system maintenance.
ATX and microATX motherboards can fit in the Silencio 452, having two 5.25-inch drive bays, six 3.5-inch drive and two 2.5-inch drive bays. Being a mid-tower case, the Silencio 452 can easily fit in video cards of 386 mm/15.2-inch in length with the HDD cage removed, or a maximum length of 282mm / 11.1-inch with the HDD cages. Coolers of height 6.2 inches can also fit into the chassis. At the front, there are two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port and as SD card reader along with HD audio connectors.
In terms of air dispersion , the Silencio 452 has two 120mm fans, one at the front and one at the back, that come standard with the chassis. This being a silent case, the fans installed are quiet when they’re running full tilt at 15 dBA. Users wanting to install liquid cooling solutions will find enough room to fit in a 240mm radiator at the front of the case, or a 120mm radiator at the back of the chassis.
The Cooler Master’s Silencio 452 is now available at a price range of $95. More information about the case can be found here.
For its 10th Anniversary, Scythe announced a special edition of its Ashura tower cooler which bears the name Scythe Ashura Shadow. The first noticeable feature about the Ashura Shadow is its eye-catching black anodized finish which even extends to the baseplate.
The company claims to have made several design tweaks to the Ashura heatsink, the connecting heatpipes, and the solid copper baseplate, all of which contribute to improved performance. Given the previous Ashura model, the Ashura Shadow features six 6mm copper heatpipes connecting to anodized aluminium fins with overall dimensions of 145mm x 161mm x 65mm and weighing 750g. A single 140mm Glide Stream fan with pulse width modulation control is included in the pack, along with clips to connect another fan to the rear for push-pull cooling. Using just the supplied fan, Scythe states that the heatsink varies from 13dBA at its slowest 500rpm speed to 30.7dBA with an impressive 97.18CFM airflow.
The Ashura Shadow is compatible with all recent Intel and AMD sockets along with mounting clips, a screw-based mounting system, tightening tool and a small portion of thermal grease all being included in the packaging. Scythe has claimed that the Ashura Shadow will be produced in strictly limited quantities.No details of pricing has been officially made available up until now, having the price tag only rumored at $53 / €39.50 / £33 excluding V.A.T.
TUL Corporation (Technology Unlimited) announced another PowerColor choice of the R9 series for hardcore gamers, the PowerColor R9 290 OC. Based on the brand new “Hawaii” GPU, the R9 290 offers gamers latest DirectX 11.2 support, delivering fierce performance and revolutionary intelligence. Meanwhile, users are available to experience 4K ultra resolution gaming now without sacrificing a single detail.
The PowerColor R9 290 OC is built with AMD “Hawaii” GPU, which utilizes the latest GCN architecture, and has 2560 stream processors, providing the best performance without compromise. Also, The R9 290 OC use the highest standard memory with 4 GB of GDDR5, clocked at 975 MHz core, 30 MHz above reference board, together with 1200 MHz memory clocks, offering gamers an immediate framerate gain. Furthermore, sharing the same memory interface, 512-bit, with R9 290X, successfully tackles demanding games titles without effort.
The AMD TrueAudio technology and Mantle play an important roles with the release of R9 290 OC. The AMD TrueAudio technology is the first discrete GPU featuring programmable audio pipeline, delivering a unique audio user experience on PCs. With Mantle support, game developers can get the unparalleled access to the GPU core, and bring a brand new way of looking at the world of digital gaming. To enable higher performance and more power efficiency, the PowerColor R9 290 OC supports AMD PowerTune technology, performing intelligent assessment of the GPU’s real-time power draw.
PowerColor R9 290 OC technical details:
Core Speed: 975 MHz
Memory Speed: 1250 MHz (5.0 Gbps)
Memory: 4 GB GDDR5
Memory Interface: 512 bit
Output: DL DVI-D / DL DVI-D / HDMI / DP
Thank you TechPowerUp for providing us with this information
While I’m sure many of you love our big, in-depth technical reviews of hardcore graphics cards, extreme cooling solutions, gaming systems and more, I personally think it’s great to slow down and take a look at some of the finer details of system building, the finishing touches and the visual treats that can really complete your system. The Silverstone PP07 cables are just one of those type of components and if you love to get a clean-looking finish on your system, while also adding some practicality of extending your PSU cables then these could be the ideal product for you.
Silverstone have a great reputation for aftermarket solutions with their power supplies and cooling products and the PP07 are just the latest edition to their collection and I would expect they carry the same high level of quality that can be found across the entire Silverstone product range.
The cables are all sold separately and as you can see they each come in individual clear packets. There are more cables in the range, but we feel this is about all we really need for you day to day build and to get a general feel for the quality of the cables themselves.
First up we have the PP07-MBB 24pin motherboard cable. It’s worth pointing out all cables are female to male connections intended to be extensions, not replacement cables. The cable has a glossy black sleeving and as you can see it’s cables are individually braided giving a sleek premium effect but also making the cable easy to manipulate.
Next up we have the PP07-PCIB PCI-E 8pin to 8pin (6+2) cable, perfect for hooking up a graphics card and the 6+2 pin format makes is widely compatible with the bulk of GPU’s on the market today, just keep in mind that you will likely need more than one of these cables per GPU as many graphics cards these days feature a 6+6 / 6+8 / 8+8 power configuration.
The PP07-IDE6B is a straight forward 6pin to 6pin PCI-E cable, similar to the one above, but obviously more specific in that it only works on 6pin connections.
The PP07-BTSB is a SATA connection that takes 1 x 4pin MOLEX and gives you 4 x SATA power connections, extremely handy for cutting down on excess cables inside the chassis by converting a single power cable to run four HDDs or similar SATA powered devices.
Finally we have the PP07-EPS8B 8pin to 8pin (4+4) EPS12V motherboard cable, which should be compatible with the bulk other consumer motherboards thanks to the 4 + 4 pin design, typically we find that lower performance boards or smaller boards such as M-ITX feature only 4 pins, while many desktop solutions need 8pins, so it’s handy that this cable caters to both.
I’ve been using these cables as a complete set, sometimes just a few of them and other times the complete set for out chassis reviews here at eTeknix over the last two months, over that time I have had a lot of experience bending, flexing and generally giving these cables a hard time as I strive to get clean-looking builds for the review photos.
One thing I have noticed is that compared to some other extension cables I’ve used, the Silverstone cables are really stiff, this isn’t a bad thing, but it makes them handle very different to the often soft flex of other brands. This also means that they feel very durable and that is no bad thing, but it also makes them possitionable and much like a stiff pipe cleaner they can be bent to an angle of your desire and will typically stay bent. The cables are quite glossy and this gives them a nice premium look compared to the mostly matt finish or softer look of many other extension cables.
Of course there isn’t really a whole lot to say about this product, it has a simple task to complete in offering an extension to your current PSU cables and that is exactly what it does. There are many reasons why you may want to do such a thing, given that some older PSU designs have shorter cables, or at least cables that are too short for some of the larger full-tower chassis now that power supplies are often mounted in the bottom of a chassis meaning the 12v cable may not reach the top of the motherboard. There are also many visual reasons to add pro cables, as the effect of sleek black cables can really make or break the design of a build, especially those who favour modding their systems or having a side panel window to show off their components.
Silverstone are well-known for their high quality designs and build quality and these cables don’t disappoint on both those aspects, they’re really well made, they feel durable, they haven’t suffered any damage in the two months I’ve been using them even though I take them in and out of systems on a regular basis and I certainly intend to keep on using them for the forseeable future alongside several other pro cable kits that I use on a day to day basis.
If you want high quality cable extensions that look great, then you can’t go wrong with the Silverstone PP07 extensions, overall a very simple but effective product.
Thank you Silverstone for providing us with this sample.
Thermaltake had one of the biggest presence for chassis products at this years Computex, with a huge range of new products, popular products and a few fan favourites thrown in for good measure. They’re already off to a great start to 2013 with the launch of their Urban and Chaser ranges and its something that really shines through with what was on show on their booth.
On display are the S21, S31, S41 and S71 Urban chassis in this stunning grey/white/silver effect finish and with the light purple LED lighting in the top of the front panel looks chassis look super cool and it gives a subtle contrast to the typical black or white chassis we see.
They had some incredible mods on display too and this tank modded chassis looks awesome, doesn’t actually fire anything though, such a shame.
If the one above is too bit then you could also go for this smaller tank mod, although if the little guy in the top is to give a relative scale of this thing, I wouldn’t like to get in the way of the full size model.
He does look like he’s having fun though, wouldn’t you agree?
Not sure what I like more, the Captain America front panel or the Arc Reactor on the back, either way, I want one of these cases, even if it would look silly next to my desk!
Here we see the A71 Snow Edition, fitted with extensive HDD docks on the front, a cool colour matched fan controller and some pretty cool high end components, as far as display systems go, this one is awesome.
One of the funkier entrys to the Urban range is this tidy mITX chassis, a really nice option for those looking to build a HTPC / Steambox.
Today I will be taking a look at the latest entry to the Thermaltake chassis range, they’re all new Urban S31. There are two main models for this chassis, one without a side panel and one with, but I’m lucky enough today to have hold of the edition with the side panel window.
Priced at around £90 for the windowed edition, or £85 for the non windowed its safe to say that this chassis isn’t cheap, as you approach the £100 mark your entering some extremely competitive territory, where anyone spending that kind of money is looking to build a mid to high-end performance rig. For this kind of money you want support for modern features and components, good style and design, great build quality and usually something extra that makes the chassis stand out from the crowd, something that isn’t so much a gimmick, but something that adds true value to the product.
Thermaltake have a fantastic reputation in the PC market, not only from their award-winning chassis designs, but also for some of the best power supplies and CPU coolers and with many years of knowledge under their belt I’m confident that they can make a great product.
First impressions from the specifications are good and you can see below that the chassis has a competent array of cooling capabilities, as well as plenty of room for storage and expansion cards, more than enough for most mid to high-end rigs, certainly more than enough for the build we will be doing today.
The S31 comes in a well designed box, with a full colour print on all sides and this gives the whole thing a nice premium vibe before we’ve even opened it.
In the box I found a nice assortment of screws, cable ties, an instruction booklet and a drive adaptor bracket.
In the eTeknix office today we have the X2 6018 (although I’ll refer to it as “X2” for this review), from Spire and with a price of around £50 / $70 it’s set to take on the more budget friendly side of the market, the sweet spot for the general consumer and mid range performance systems.
Spire is not the biggest name in the tech world, at least not here in England and that’s fine, big reputations don’t exactly happen over night, but that does mean I’m going into this review unaware of what to expect from Spire in terms of quality and features. However, Spire do have a good team behind them and I have heard of them a few times before, as well as seen a couple of their chassis in use while at LAN gaming events, so I’ll take that as a sign of some good things to come.
“X2 is originated by a team of PC enthusiasts based in The Netherlands, the design heart of Europe. X2 redefines the true meaning of performance PC hardware. With our exceptional style coupled with genuine product quality X2 is irrefutably above and beyond the rest. X2 strives to surpass the needs of our peers with the satisfaction and our guarantee of reliability, compatibility and consistency in our products. Our mission is to provide the highest endeavor of performance while obtaining top-quality levels in all our products.” – X2
As you can see from the specifications below, the X2 is fairly well equipped, with a few features that generally set it apart from a lot of other products in the under £50 price range, such as the integrated fan controller, side panel window, native USB 3.0 support and two good quality 120mm fans, one of which is fitted with blue LEDs.
The packaging is pretty fancy for a budget chassis too, with a full colour image on the box, something we rarely see even on premium models and it shows that Spire is willing to invest in their marketing, which I usually take as a good sign.
In the box I found a nice little accessory box which contains all the usual nuts and bolts, a few cable ties and a handy user manual.
This week I have been putting the Knucker gaming keyboard from TteSports to the test, but this one is a little different to a lot of gaming keyboards on the market as it sets to combine some of the benefits of membrane keyboards with some of the benefits of a mechanical keyboard, yet its going to do it all for a very reasonable price tag, I aim to find out if it’s managed to succeed.
A quick search on Google will find you the Knucker available for around £35 including delivery and that sounds like pretty amazing value for a gaming keyboard, especially one from a well-respected brand such as TteSports. Of course for those of you who haven’t heard of TteSports before, they are the gaming orientated branch of Thermaltake, who are one of the most popular chassis and component manufacturers on the market, but their gaming brand TteSports have been working at the grass roots level within the pro gaming and eSports scene, even sponsoring a few gaming teams along the way such as Team Infused.
TteSports are building a firm fan base and a good reputation thanks to their strong affiliation with pro gamers, eSports and of course the millions of fans who follow the sport, attend events and of course play the games themselves. Gamers always want the best peripherals to enjoy their game with and if they’re priced fairly and performance is up to scratch, then a product can get very popular very quickly, so its important to get these things right.
The Knucker comes nicely packaged in the usual Thermaltake / TteSports colours and for a budget friendly product like this its quick a well design package. There are a few logos on the box as well as a few major features such as the anti-ghost, long key lifespan and repeat rate.
Around the back of the box we have a few more details about features such as the plunger switch, anti-ghosting, repeat rate and key life expectancy, but we’ll go into more detail on those shortly. These details are broken down into 15 international languages across the back of the box.
In the box I found a fabric bag containing some extra components, two stickers, the installation guide and a warranty booklet.
The extra components include a key cap remover, PS2/USB adaptor and 8 red key caps for the WASD UDLR keys.
The keyboard comes with a nice quality black plastic finish to the main chassis and keys, this is offset by a somewhat contrasting sky blue key lettering, some of which also feature red key highlights, it certainly makes the keyboard standout and while it does look a little strange at first, I quite like TteSports colour choices.
The keyboard comes with a permanent wrist wrest that offers a good typing position, its of a good size too but not so much so that it would over intrude on your desk space.
Along the edge we find a stylish little cutaway and a small red plastic strip, doesn’t server any practical function but it does add an extra touch of style to the overall design.
The keyboard comes hardwired, but it does feature a good quality braided cable that has a gold plated USB connection.
The underside features four small rubber grips, as well as two wide and fairly durable fold out feet, perfect for adding a little extra angle to your typing position.
One super cool feature of the keyboard is the dragon logo, press fn + F12 to awaken the dragon (make it light up).
Here we can see the “plunger” key mechanism, lets not fool around, this is still a membrane keyboard, it just has a fancy half mechanical mechanism over the top.
Here we can see the custom red key caps, which do look fantastic and key with the red / blue key colouring of the other keys, but offer a much easier way of spotting those most vital gaming keys at a glance.
Setup & Installation
Setup of the Knucker was quick and easy, of course I was able to use it via USB but I think its great that they’ve included a PS2/USB adaptor to allow compatibility with older connections. Windows found the drivers straight away and it only took a minute to get the whole thing setup and ready to go.
I’ve been using this keyboard for a couple of days now, so it’s helped me nicely through my play through of Bioshock and a few adventures in Planetside 2. tactile response from the keys is really nice to use and while it’s not quite as lush as a fully mechanical key, it’s better than that of a typical membrane switch, given that the device is technically engineered to be somewhere in the middle of both switches, its easy to understand how it feels like a halfway point in terms of performance, this is of course no bad thing.
The keys are snappy and responsive, perfect for a good few games on any fast paced FPS, or of course any game that requires a keyboard, 12 anti ghost keys means you’ll never suffer any lag unless you’re a 20 fingered Starcraft wizard, but overall it certainly performs far better than your average membrane keyboard.
This keyboard is for lack of a better word, nothing fancy, it doesn’t feature a mass array of multimedia keys, or macro keys, in fact, it doesn’t include any of those things, about the only flair you will find here is the light up dragon logo and the changeable key caps that add a nice touch of colour to the design. What it does feature however is enough for 95% of users, it’s a full size keyboard, has a good wrist rest and it’s really nice to type on, I’ve been working on this for a couple of days and it’s certainly more comfortable typing experience than your average membrane keyboard.
I’ve been playing around with a few TteSports products recently, and one thing keeps coming back to my mind each and every time I try a new product of theirs, how on earth can this be so cheap to buy!? It makes good use of lightly textured surfaces, well finished edges and general ergonomics to make a product that is both a pleasure to use and that is visually appealing, although the blue lettering on the keys is likely not going to be to everyone’s taste.
Plunger keys are also a little bit of marketing nonsense, this is just a membrane keyboard at its heart, but it is a very high quality one and the sensation is somewhat close to that of Cherry MX Black switches, but with a lighter force required (similar to Cherry MX Red) and with only a fraction of the noise, similar to that of any other membrane keyboard. So it takes some of the best qualities of each and that leaves a product that performs, feels and is priced between that of a membrane keyboard and a mechanical one.
The keyboard is incredible value for money and for those who want something that is straight forward, uncomplicated and stylish, typically someone who will be doing more web browsing, work and typing in general, then this is the perfect keyboard for you. Yet on those evenings when your done with your work and you want to fire up your favourite game for a couple of hours, the Knucker isn’t going to let you down one bit. Of course if you want something a little more gaming orientated with Macros and other multimedia functions you’re going to have to look elsewhere in the TteSports range.
Today I have the Silverstone RL04 chassis in the office today, as budget friendly solution from Silverstone that is part of their new Redline Series of chassis designs. Priced at around £42 shipped from most of the major online retailers, I won’t be expecting it to set the world on fire in terms of features, performance or build quality, but it’s not exactly the kind of money you want to just throw away on an important component either and Silverstone do have a very strong reputation to uphold, so hopefully I can find a nice middle ground between the budget friendly price tag and overall quality.
While this price range might not sound terribly exciting it is one of the most important sectors of the chassis market, it’s where the majority of system builders spend their money and there is a common misconception that everyone out there has high-end gaming PC’s, when that really isn’t the case at all. There is a lot of competition within the budget end of the market, and 99% of chassis manufacturers have plenty of products to cater to this price range, so much so that many manufacturers have more budget chassis designs than they do mid or premium options.
When I’m looking for a sub £50 chassis, I have three major things that I look for other than price, such as, are all the major features there that my build requires, does it look good, is it well made. It’s as simple as that, fundamentally all most consumers are bothered about is “will it work and will it keep working over time”, anything else is a bonus. So lets move on and see just what the RL04 has to offer.
The box is nothing fancy but it does feature a nice run down of the major features of the chassis as well as a high contrast mock-up of the chassis design.
In the box I found an easy to understand manual as well as all the usual nuts and bolts required to install your components.
“SHHH….” is the message that greets and fan of NZXT when they visit the NZXT.com home page, and there is no doubt that this little teaser is pointing towards a brand new chassis from one of the leading brands in the chassis market.
This chassis has got to be something special, given that it follows in the pretty big footprints of the Phantom 820 and 630, and other products from the Switch and Phantom ranges that have proven them selves to be truly epic over the last few years
The counter on the site has been ticking down for a while now, but it looks set to his zero at 5PM BST and you can be sure we’ll be watching like a hawk when that ticker vanishes and something… if anything, is shown.
NZXT has been giving sneak peeks for days, with each picture ranging from a blurry mess to some clear shots that detail more and more about this new product.
Heavy duty sound proofing on the side panels for noise reduction suggests either a silent system build ideal… or perhaps something to counteract the effects of heavy duty cooling fans? Given NZXT’s recent history, I’d guess the latter.
So what can we take from the images NZXT have revealed, well for starters we can see the usual NZXT fixtures and fittings on the HDD bays and Optical drives, so its already clear this is going to be a higher end model. There is an internal fan mount on the left side of the HDD bay.
Most interestingly that looks like an NZXT 200mm or even a 230mm fan in the front! and with another set of mountings above that, could this chassis hold 2 x 200mm fans in the front! If it can, this is going to be huge!
Another indication of the scale of the chassis can be seen in this image above. With twin SSD mounts on the rear and two full HDD bays at the front, this packs a lot of storage and I’m pretty sure I could build a house in the cable management area behind the motherboard, the clearance from the side panel to the back plate looks HUGE!
But that’s not the best bit of information I’ve discovered either, a look on the page source for NZXT.com/shhh shows a big panel of H’s, about 630 if my eyes are correct and if those front fans are to be what I think they are, then this is going to be the Phantom 630 on a diet of steroids… excited? I know I am!
When it comes to reviews we often see graphics cards, motherboards, chassis and many other components come through the office, but it has been a while since we reviewed all of these things together, which is why today we will be taking a look at something a little special, a £899.00 custom built gaming rig from PC Specialist. PC Specialist have a rock solid reputation behind them, a quick google will find you literally thousands of five star consumer reviews, reports and generally lots of nice things to be said about the team that work there. This is of course a good thing as with any industry, reputation matters and its that reputation that grabbed our attention, we want to see what all the fuss is about!
“Each and every one of the tens of thousands of computers and laptops we have manufactured has been custom built to our customers’ specifications. With our massive economies of scale we scour the world to bring you the best quality components from the biggest brands, such as Intel, AMD, Corsair and ASUS. When using our customer friendly and surprisingly easy-to-use website you’ll see how we concentrate our efforts around you and in turn provide an excellent service, excellent prices and excellent after sales technical support.”
Because they don’t sell off the shelf systems, PC Specialist aim to see you exactly what you need at as fair a price as possible, something that generally just can’t be achieved on sites like Amazon or in retail outlet stores. Given that we are a tech site I know a good percentage of you will be thinking “well, I can build this much cheaper myself!” and that’s great, personally I encourage that, I too build my own systems, but not everyone can, not everyone wants to either. When your buying a hand made system from PC Specialist you’re getting several things that add to the value, such as guaranteed component compatibility, technical support, a warranty, convenience and in the case of this system a professionally applied overclock.
As you can see from the specification above, the Vanquish X200 is no slouch, packing a powerful setup and compared to many other retailers it’s still offering good value for only £899.00 given that its pre-built, overclocked and comes with support.
The system comes in a fairly standard box via courier, nothing fancy but certainly enough to get in to you safely, so lets dive right in and see what PC Specialist have hidden within the box.
In box I found a welcome pack, a box about the same size as your average PC keyboard.
In the welcome pack you will find all the individual user guides and setup manuals for the included components, all the required driver back up discs, the spare screws and components from the chassis and the PSU power cable.
I have something a little different in the office today, the Xebec Easy Eye keyboard and while some of your are likely recoiling in shock, thinking “what on earth are you doing” well, I’m going somewhere with this and I think this is an important product in many different ways, so lets see if I can get to the bottom of this.
The Easy Eye is quite a popular product and while I expect you don’t see many of them on the pro gaming scene or the gaming scene at all really, there are a lot of people in this world that would have good use for a keyboard like this, its big, bright, simple and water proof, perfect for those who are hard of sight or perhaps other disabilities that would make the use of a regular small key-keyboard more difficult.
The thing that interests me the most however is that its effectively water proof and while I don’t expect it would survive an over night soak in the bath, Xebec say it should survive some severe spillage, which is something I aim to test.
Priced at around £15-£20 from most major online retailers its reasonably price too and so long its build quality is up to par and its actually a comfortable keyboard to use, I see a big market for this keyboard, I already know before I open the box that my dad would love this keyboard.
The box is nothing fancy but it does list a few of the major features such as USB connection, large print keys, high contrast design, multimedia hot keys, a low profile design, spill proof and UK layout.
Style wise I actually think it looks pretty good, it makes you eyes widen a little at first, but that’s the point. The keys are huge and feature massive lettering that is super easy to read and hopefully this is still true for those who are hard of sight.
It’s a full size keyboard design, and we have a full set of number keys, although the ins, home, pgdn, pgup, end and del keys have been compressed into a 2×3 format and the arrow keys moved to the left a little to keep the width of the keyboard within normal parameters,
The low profile design gives a nice flat surface across the whole keyboard, and this should make it easy for your fingers to travel across the board while typing, it also means that non of the keys are obscured by other keys, regardless of viewing angle.
Around the back of the keyboard everything is straight forward and only a USB cable pokes out on the top right side.
Underneath we have two flip up feet and two rubber grips, all fairly standard stuff. More importantly we have a range of holes which serve no other purpose than letting water drain through should you spill something on the keyboard.
Setup was as simple as plug and play, there are no extra drivers, no fancy software, no macros or anything like that. This is a pure and simple keyboard that you just hook up and use and it couldn’t be more back to basics than that. This is of course one of the designed intentions for the keyboard as some people have limited computer knowledge and just need their products to work straight away and that’s what the Easy Eye delivers.
Typing is actually quite pleasant on the keyboard, the soft touch of the keys gives a nice tactile feed back and while I can’t type quite as fast as before, I don’t feel its an unpleasurable experience, the keys have a nice travel and tactile feel to them and in all honesty its far better than I was expecting. It’s not going to be #1 for a StarCraft II tournament but its not going to stop you from doing any other day to day computing tasks either.
That’s right, I fully intend to test out the main feature of this keyboard, it’s time to take it outside and introduce it to my friend Mr Garden Hose. I’ve wrapped the USB cable in a plastic bag and used a cable tie to keep the connection dry, not sure if that will work or not as I’m writing that while the keyboard drys out!
After a quick blast of water the keyboard is well and truely dripping wet and there is only one solution for that, peg it out on the washing line in the sun to let it dry off.
An hour later and its time to hook it back up to my computer and see if it works…. OF COURSE IT DOES! Not a problem and dare I say it’s also remarkably dust free too. This test might not work every time as I’m sure I would eventually break the board, but should you knock a cup of tea, pint of water or something similar over this keyboard, it looks like its got a high survival chance. Should I do this with my own desktop keyboard it would be very very dead by now and I’d be looking at a £100 bill to replace it.
There were a few minor issues at first as the QWE and 789 keys refused to work at all, even after 4 hours of hanging out on the washing line in the sun there was still moisture within the keyboard, fortunately this dried out over night after leaving the keyboard close to the radiator over night, now all is good.
Other than a few water stains on the keyboard all was good and it looked fine, all the keys felt fine to press and there was no damage, now kick back and enjoy the video of me blasting the keyboard with my garden hose, because pouring a pint of water over it was just too boring.
Xebec have really hit on a few major issues here and while none of them are specific to my needs I think its easy to see why this product would appeal to certain people. Not everyone who uses a PC on a daily basis has need or desire for a high end gaming keyboard, with mechanical switches and a £100+ price tag, some people just want something that is simple and functional and thats certainly something that the Xebec provides.
The easy eye keyboard is tailored to the need of those who may be hard of sight and its big bright keys and bold lettering makes it super easy to read, obviously. My dad uses his PC everyday and he’s constantly having issues with seeing what he is typing and at 70 years old I know for a fact he would love this keyboard, not only because he can see it better but because he is terrible for spilling things on his keyboard, beer, tea, water you name it, all of killed his keyboards time and time again over the last few years and maybe this keyboard is the solution for him?
I was really impressed that it survived our water test and while it took a whole day to dry out, likely due to me over doing it with the hose, I have no doubt that this will survive most day to day spills. It’s not everyday that your going to hose your keyboard down and hang it on the washing line, although sometimes that wouldn’t be such a bad thing if you could.
Its modestly priced, performs well enough for day to day tasks and it can survive being attacked with a garden hose, overall I think that’s a pretty impressive result.
If you’ve had even a passing interest in computers, there is a good chance that you’ve heard of Corsair. Corsair has a solid history of producing some of the best computer products on the market that range from SSD hard drives, RAM modules, power supplies and chassis to name but a few. With such a wide product range Corsair have built up an extensive knowledge of what PC users need in their systems and how best to integrate the required hardware, something that has always reflected well in their previous chassis designs, including the ones we’ve previously reviewed here at eTeknix, such as the 200R, 300R and C70 Vengeance, all of which won eTeknix awards for their design and feature set.
As part of the Obsidian series of Corsair chassis, the 350D is set to take the entry level spot of the range, where it will sit along side the 550D, 650D, 700D, 800D and the gargantuan 900D chassis, but the 350D is the baby of the Obsidian family and it’s Micro ATX form factor reflects that nicely. Given the pedigree of the rest of the Obsidian series, Corsairs 350D has a big reputation to uphold and nothing short of a high-performance, feature packed product will cut it today.
Form Factor: Micro-ATX Mid-Tower
Color & Features: Black; Large acrylic side-panel
Materials: Aluminum (brushed), Steel, Plastic
Max VGA Length: 380mm
Max CPU Cooler Height: 160mm
Max ATX PSU Length: 180mm
Expansion: 5 rear expansion slots
3 x 2.5″ drive bays (modular cage)
2 x 3.5″ drive bays
2 x 5.25″ external bays
Cooling 1 x 120mm rear fan (included)
2x140mm front fan (1x included)
2x120mm top fans
Room for 2x240mm radiators (top/front)
Dimensions 17.7″ x 8.3″ x 17.3″
Weight: 13.3 lbs.
As you can see from the spec sheet, the chassis doesn’t have an over abundance of features, but that’s still impressive for a chassis of this size, with room for 2 x 240mm radiators, 5 hard drives, long graphics cards, large CPU coolers and M-ATX motherboards, so there should even be room for SLI.
The 350D comes in a fairly standard box, but it keeps with the styling of other Corsair chassis and features plenty of information on the chassis capabilities as well as a nice high contrast mock-up of the chassis its self.
Around the box of the box we have a nice break down illustration that shows all the major features of the chassis.
There wasn’t much in the way of extras within the box, but I did find a simple user guide and a collection of screws, bolts and cable ties that you will require to install your hard drives, motherboard and cooling solutions.
Digital Storm put an end to the age old debate of pre-built systems vs. DIY (do-it-yourself) with the launch of the VANQUISH line of gaming PCs. For years, enthusiasts have claimed they could build systems with the same high-end components Digital Storm configures for significantly less. The VANQUISH line narrows that gap to a mere $23-$58 difference making the decision a no brainer – DIY is simply not worth the hassle.
Like all Digital Storm systems, the VANQUISH line of PCs feature a carefully optimized selection of brand name, high-performance components to deliver a fluid smooth game playing experience. Digital Storm’s team of engineers meticulously review every tiny detail to provide customers with the peace of mind an average “do-it-your-self” cannot match.
Digital Storm VANQUISH systems are pre-built, pre-tested, and ready to ship immediately after an order is placed, eliminating the delays of traditional built-to-order systems. By building an inventory of all four VANQUISH models, Digital Storm can run its industry leading 72-hour stress test and benchmarking to ensure customers experience zero performance bottlenecks and get the most out of their hardware.
“When we decided to take on the DIYers we knew we had to offer impressively built systems that could compete in terms of performance as well as price,” said Rajeev Kuruppu, Digital Storm’s Director of Product Development. “For just $23-$58 more were giving customers a fully optimized system featuring the latest chipset platform and next gen-graphics. This allows them to focus on demolishing the competition instead of worrying about the reliability of their PC.”
It’s certainly an interesting market plan and one I expect is going to prove popular too, would you still build your own system or do you think its worth paying that little bit extra to have someone put it together for you, not only to save time but also for peace of mind?
I’ve had something a little different to play around with this week and as much as I love sitting indoors and playing with new gadgets, it’s always great when you get something that allow your to break away from your desk and get out into the sun.
I have with me the Hercules Wireless Audio Experience Bluetooth Speaker System, a fairly straight forward looking device, essentially just a wireless speaker with a big carry handle on the top, perfect for taking with you when you’re looking to kick back out in the sun. While I would exactly condone carrying something like this on a walk, on the bus or some other play like that, it is designed for trips to the beach, picnics, hanging out in the garden, that sort of thing, the latter of those I planned to test extensively.
Wireless audio is nothing new, but it’s certainly a trend that is gaining some popularity, given the increasing demand for digital music and the amount of people who play their music from their phone. Now we all know that music on a mobile phone speaker has almost always sucked pretty badly, even my phone which touts high quality speakers from “beats” and all that other marketing garbage still sounds god awful when I play music through it at any reasonable volume levels. So it’s obvious that the only way around this is an external audio device.
So lets jump right in and see what the WAE speaker has to offer.
Bluetooth 3.0 A2DP
10 m range
Android dedicated application
Frequency response: 80 Hz – 20,000 Hz
Power: 15 W RMS
Battery life: 12 hours
Power supply: 12 V/1.6 A
RoHS, CE, FCC, Bluetooth® compliant
Speaker dimensions : 340 (D) x 140 (W) x 120 (H) mm
As you can see from the specification above, the WAE packs a decent, if somewhat limited feature set. It’s got a decent wireless range (speaker to phone range) and its compatible with Bluetooth technology. Pictures can be deceiving though, and the speaker isn’t as small as it might look, with measurements of 34 x 14 x 12cm it’s not something you can just store easily in your average back pack, not least if your planning on having other items in there too.
The whole device is finished is glossy plastics that do give it a nice shine, with a clean and well designed, if someone simplistic appearance. the front panel is a hard plastic mould and features small square cut-outs which are fabric backed, perfect for letting the hidden speakers work their magic.
The front control panel is straight forward enough, you have volume up, volume down, a battery indicator and a power switch, They’re all nicely designed, but it shouldn’t take a genius to work out how to control the device and that is of course a good thing, simple but effective.
Around the back we have another hard plastic mould that is styled similarly to the front panel, but instead of smaller square cut-outs we have two larger bass ports, these should help add depth to the sound, unfortunately there is no way of sneaking a speak at the drivers or speaker cones, but if I’m honest, I doubt they’re anything special.
The back features a simple input panel with a control switch, audio line in for those who don’t need to or want to use the Bluetooth features and a power line-in port for the included power cable. This cable can be used to power the device if you so wish, but any time the device is connected to the mains outlet it will also recharge the device, it is a portable speaker after all.
Setup & Installation
Setup was pretty straight forward, the speaker didn’t have any charge when I took it out of the box, but I was able to complete the setup process with it connected to its mains charger. The first step to setup was to download the WAE controller app, which is available for both Android and iOS.
The app is super easy to use and it managed to find and pair up with the speaker on my first attempt. Once installed your presented with options to either stream music that is stored on your device, such as the audio from YouTube, MP3’s or radio.
The speaker is fully controllable from the app, allowing you to adjust volume, equalizer and more to your liking.
The app was able to use my 3G and Wi-Fi to browse from a huge selection of internet radio stations from around the world and it didn’t take long to search through them for a few popular favourites such as Kerrang, Radio 1, XFM and countless others
This speaker is said to be able to run for 12 hours on mid volume, I was able to keep it in the garden and use it at a more than comfortable listening volume for about 6 hours, turning it up on occasion when something cool came on and overall I’m pretty impressed with the sound. Sure it’s not going to touch my amp and custom speaker setup that I have in the house, but for something you can carry around with you it still packs a nicely balanced sound with a reasonable amount of bass. It’s distortion free at high volume, but I expect that wouldn’t do much favours for the battery life.
It’s a great little product and it’s size lends its self well for use at BBQ’s, trips to the beach and anywhere else where you want to take your music with you, but don’t want to listen to it on the pokey little speakers found in modern smartphones.
The only thing that concerns me is the construction, the device feels solid enough but the carry handle is moulded plastic and I’m not sure its all that strong. It’s more than enough to carry it around a little, but I would exactly be running and jumping with it in my hand (not that you would need to of course). The chassis plastics are nice to look at, but they’re not super strong and I fear it would smash if knocked over or bumped, not something I fancy testing, but something to be careful of.
That being said, I’m not expecting this to be an ultra durable, all terrain boom box, it’s a stylish little number that is meant for relaxing and enjoy some music, which is something its highly capable of. The battery life is great, it’s easy to recharge and it works not only with a wide selection of mobile devices but also anything with a 3.5mm jack plug, such as your iPod.
The RRP on this set is around £90 and that is far too high in my opinion, but it is on par with competitor products of similar spec, so maybe its just me that thinks that’s expensive. However, this is a modern world we live in and a quick google can find you one from some popular online retailers for a little over £50 and as far as I’m concerned, that’s pretty good value for money.
I don’t have an award for the WAE speaker today, that’s not to say it’s bad in any way, because it’s not, but it didn’t blow me away either. If you can pick one up for around £50 and you need a fairly powerful, easy to use and portable music solution then you would be daft not to at least consider this stylish offering from Hercules.
This week I’ve been playing around in my favourite games, working and wasting time on the internet, just like any other week then! The difference this week of course is that I’ve been using the Kone Pure Inferno Orange mouse from Roccat, the latest in a range of colour options as well as the latest addition to the extremely popular Kone mouse range.
These new limited edition colour editions of the Kone Pure were created to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the original Roccat Kone release, which has already gone on to win multiple award, including awards from eTeknix that I awarded myself. In Roccats own words “The Kone series includes some of the most successful gaming mice ever made, and has pioneered breakthrough design innovations such as Easy-Shift[+], Talk®, and Talk® FX – and tons more.” and they’re absolutely right, Roccat are doing some really exciting stuff with their products this last few years and its certainly set them apart from the competition.
It was only last August that I reviewed the premium grade Roccat Kone XTD, awarding it with our Editors Choice Award. Its a product I still use to this day and I personally regard it as the best gaming mouse money can buy, or its at least the one I’ve been most happy using on a day to day basis. So what new does the Pure Inferno Orange have to offer to the party?
The main impact here is definitely its design, this mouse has already proven its self to the gaming community, and this is Roccats way of saying thankyou and giving you a little more choice of style from the range. Just remember that the Kone Pure is a little smaller than the regular Kone, 91% of the size in fact, but still offers many of the same great features, so lets dive right in and see just what this funky little number can do.
The Kone Pure comes nicely packaged in a well designed, custom shaped box and it features plenty of information on the major features and functions, such as the high quality sensor, easy-shift[+] technology, multi-colour lighting and more, but of course well be taking a closer look at those features in a moment.
The box folds open to give us our first look at the mouse its self, which as you can see features a stunning black and orange chassis design. The inside of the box features a few bits of marketing and feature description.
In the box I found the mouse its self, which comes hardwired with a high quality braided cable and I also found a simple to understand setup and owners manual, not exactly a lot in the way of extras, but it keeps things simple and what else do you really need anyway!?
To my eyes, the first thing that really stands out is that fantastic colour scheme, sure its not going to be everyone liking, but I think it looks stunning. Both the orange chassis and the black top plate and made from a soft-touch plastic that gives a really smooth and premium quality feel to every surface of the mouse. Of course its not just about colour and there are plenty of practical things going on here too, down the left side of the mouse we have two high quality switches that function as back / forward tabs, although all buttons are customisable in the Roccat software.
The right side of the mouse features no buttons, but here you can see the ergonomic curves of the mouse chassis, its really well balanced too and both these combined make it really comfortable to hold.
The front end of the Kone Pure features some pretty hardcore components, such as the click Master switch tech – powered by Omron. These feature the world’s most advanced switch components (According to Roccat), that ensure extreme precision and a really nice tactile feedback (according to me). Between these two epic switches is the + / – controls that are used for DPI settings, although as with everything else on this mouse, these buttons can be configured from the included software.
The mouse wheel is pretty epic too, featuring the Roccat Titan Wheel, said to be build of the Earth’s highest quality components, with the world’s strongest axis shaft and most advanced encoder, making it strong, accurate and reliable. With 24 steps per rotation, rubber grip coating and 3KG push force in every direction, I have to agree with Roccat that this is one seriously high quality wheel.
On the underside we have the 8200dpi Pro-Aim R2 laser sensor, the same found in the Kone XTD mouse, lag free and extremely accurate thanks to its TDCU (Tracking and Distance Control Unit) that allows you to customise to your current gaming surface and more.
The other end of the cable, we find that the mouse comes with a nicely moulded USB connection that sits nicely with the style of the braided cable.
Setup & Installation
Just like any other mouse, you can plug in the Kone Pure and get gaming, it’ll work straight out of the box, but the real magic is in the Roccat software, as this gives you more customisation options than you can reasonably comprehend. Customise buttons, DPI calibrations, macros, extensive lighting colour customisation with 16.8 million colours, as well as lighting effects to choose from, and you can even have the mouse work in unison with other Roccat products such as the Isku Keyboard, combining macros between the two devices.
I’ve been using the Pro-Aim Laser Sensor in this mouse for a week and just as it was in my normal mouse (Kone XTD), its incredibly accurate. With 8200 dpi, a 10.8mp sensor, 1000Hz polling rate (effective 12000fps) and 30G acceleration its no wonder the mouse has never missed a beat, the only reason I miss a headshot these days is when I get it wrong, not the mouse.
The ergonomics of the mouse lend them selves well to gaming too and its easy to flick between the major buttons, dpi switches and deploy macros without missing a beat. Its a little smaller than the mouse I normally use, but I quickly adjusted to that after half hour on Borderlands 2.
The mouse buttons are very responsive and give great feedback that allows for some seriously fast paced clicking, switches are easy to press, but no so much that you find your self accidentally clicking them.
Day to day use of this mouse is where it really shines, it gaming performance is right up there with the best on the market but that’s something that really translates into other tasks that demand accuracy. I do a lot of work in photoshop and other multimedia applications so its important to have something that is pin point accurate, but also comfortable over long periods of time, both of which I get with the Kone Pure.
Roccat really has gone the extra mile with the Kone range and its very easy to see why the product has been proving popular for them over the years, not only with gamers, but also with those that just want a rock solid and reliable product for day to day use, not forgetting the part of the market who just want something that looks cool, and the Kone Pure certainly does look cool.
The only issues I’ve had with the Kone Pure is that its fairly light weight, this isn’t an issue of course this is my personal preference and unlike the Kone XTD, the Pure doesn’t feature additional chassis weights. This comes with one benefit though as it means the mouse glides beautifully on a multitude of surfaces, from the hard cloth of the Zowie Speed TF to the thick padding of the TteSports Dasher, all of which work wonders with the Kone Pure, even more so thanks to the laser calibrations that ensure you get the best settings for every surface.
The mouse also packs quite a performance punch of its own, featuring a 32-bit Turbo Core V2 processor that gives it snappy computing speed of its own, perfect for handling the multitude of customisation options, macros and functions without any lag or delay. This is backed up by 576KB of on-board memory, giving the mouse plenty of headroom to store all its macros and profiles, giving you instant access to your profile and settings in the heat of battle.
Priced at around £60 its certainly great value for money, even though £60 is for many (including myself) a lot of money, you do get quite a lot in return. There are many mice on the market within this price range that are great value for money, but don’ offer half the feature that Roccat has managed to pack into the Kone Pure. The addition of the funky colour scheme makes this one seriously cool product to own, the performance makes it cool to use, and the build quality ensure that you can enjoy both for a very long time indeed.
Much like the Kone XTD, the Kone Pure Inferno Orange is deserving of our Editors Choice Award, easily one of the most flawless peripherals on the market today.
Mad Catz, Tritton, Saitek and Cyborg, you may know some of or all of these brand name, but one thing you may not know is that they’re all divisions of the same company. Mad Catz have been making quite a name for them selves recently and while they do have a strong history and some great products that span many years and several gaming generations, its their latest brands and products that have been taking the gaming world by storm.
Over the last year we’ve seen a few entries to the F.R.E.Q headset range, first up we had the F.R.E.Q.5 headset, the F.R.E.Q.5 Red and now the F.R.E.Q.7 which have come under the various brands such as Saitek, but are all fundamentally Mad Catz F.R.E.Q. Headsets. the F.R.E.Q.5 has long been my number 1 personal headset of choice, ever since I wrote the original review for the product it literally hasn’t gone a day without being used for my daily gaming, music and skype activities.
I was ecstatic to find out I would have the opportunity to review this headset, and there was only one question in my mind when I saw it “do I finally have a contender that could temp me away from the F.R.E.Q.5?” Well that is what I hope to find out today, but given the performance of the previous model, the F.R.E.Q.7 certainly has its work cut out.
Mad Catz have a very clear cut product naming strategy, one that is well demonstrated by their R.A.T. mouse range, the R.A.T3, R.A.T.5, .RA.T.7 and R.A.T9 rank in order of low to high in terms of features, performance and price. Starting with the 3, the most budget friendly and the 9 being the most feature-laden premium product. The same principle is applied to the F.R.E.Q.7 and while it looks almost exactly like the previous model it does have some upgraded hardware which we’ll be taking a closer look at in just a moment.
Even the packaging for the new headset bares a striking resemblance to the previous model, very little is different here, the only tell tale signs that we have a new product are the Dolby Digital Pro Logic II badge on the box and of course the new product name.
around the back of the box we have a quick run down of the major features of the set, the most notable being 7.1 surround sound and 50mm drivers. You can also see here the detachable microphone and a photograph of a headset stand that is now included with the device.
In the box I found a well written instruction booklet, detachable microphone, 3.5mm to USB braided cable, USB to USB braided cable and of course the headset its self.
The microphone feels very well made and features a highly adjustable boom, red LED mute indicator, and as you can see it’s also fully detachable from the headset.
The new headset features near identical construction to the F.R.E.Q.5 and this is no bad thing, the mixture of high quality metal and plastics still makes this one of the best made headsets on the market.
Each ear cup is finish a mixture of plastics, the softer looking main body and the glossy black which features the Mad Catz graphic. Here you can also see a small plastic circle on the ear cup, this is a removable cap to protect the microphone socket, Mad Catz have nicely included a little notch on the headset stand which will hold the plastic peg when you don’t require it.
The left ear cup features the Dolby and Microphone buttons, while the right holds a high quality, metal construction volume toggle wheel.
Exposed wire from the headband to the drivers has been lovingly covered with a black and red braiding that will help protect the cable, but also adds an extra styling touch.
Soft leather padding should provide extra comfort during long gaming sessions,and a hollow rubber strip on the headband is extra soft to touch, but still feel supportive when on your head. The headset is fully adjustable and features high quality sliders that shouldn’t wear out over time. The addition of having rotatable ear cups allow you to wear the headset around your neck, handy for when you need to take a few moments rest between games.
The plastic moulded base may not look much but its a perfect way of keeping your headset stored on your desk and a welcome addition to the bundle.
As you can see, the headset clips onto the base nicely, serving as much as a presentation display as it does a storage device. Here you can also see the detachable boom microphone.
Setup & Installation
For use on the PC Setup was as easy as plug-and-play as windows found the basic drivers with ease for the USB connection. Of course this can be even easier if you only wish to use the 3.5mm jack plug, which is even compatible with smartphones to allow for use as a mobile headset, MP3 players or just about any 3.5mm equipped audio device.
The official software can be download from the Mad Catz website and this allows you to control volume, EQ and dolby on/off settings. Dolby mode only works via the USB cable and is not a feature you can use via the 3.5mm jack plug on something like an MP3 player.
When I reviewed the F.R.E.Q.5 I put the headset through its paces with a whole range of music and was amazed by the quality and also the performance of the various EQ settings. Judging from the specification on the box the F.R.E.Q.7 features identical drivers but after just a few songs I am certain they have made some tweaks and changes to the performance. Bass, mid tones and high frequencies are clearer than ever and I’ll be damned if I can think of a headset that sounds this good at playing back my music, excluding maybe a few pro audio focused sets that cost several hundred pounds more.
Movies was much the same as music, simply jaw dropping clarity for stereo drivers and the Dolby mode does an impressive job of giving you a wide audio field, bringing the sound away from your ears and filling the virtual room. I tend to find that virtual Dolby tech can be a little disappointing and that it tends to hollow out the sound, yet it looses none of its punch here.
Gaming is the real winner for the F.R.E.Q.7 as this is fundamentally what it was designed to do and its definitely where it shines through the most. The high quality microphone is perfect for online gaming, the powerful drivers manage to keep the low rumbles of bass in Battlefield 3 free of distortion and the wind in Skyrim can be heard roaring behind you with the Dolby mode enabled.
I use my personal F.R.E.Q.5 every day and I decided to put the F.R.E.Q.7 through all my daily tasks, long Skype calls, listening to music, gaming, wasting time on YouTube and most importantly to me playing my guitar, which I have loopped through my PC. I have to wear a headset for about 6 hours a day and its important that its comfortable and performs to an enjoyable standard on a daily basis and The F.R.E.Q.7 didn’t fail me once.
I think its pretty obvious at this point that I really like the F.R.E.Q.7, and I fear I may have come across somewhat smitten with the headset yet even though that may be the case, its for good reason.
The quality of the materials used in their construction and the overall build quality here is second to none, the overall finish is of a premium, high quality and highly durable product, add the general attention to detail that has gone into their design and overall style, which I admit may not be to everyone liking, but that much is true of any product and your already an long way to justifying the three digit price tag that goes with them.
While build quality and style alone can be enough to tempt some people to make the purchase, the thing that really matters to me is the audio performance and best in class sound quality is something that the F.R.E.Q.7 seems to do with ease, its virtually faultless in its execution of even the most demanding audio selections right across their full volume range and that is a rare thing in any headset. Not that you would want to take these to max volume of course as the drivers are likely to blow your ear drums before long.
Priced at around £130 / $200 US the F.R.E.Q.7 is far from cheap, but you do get a lot for your money in terms of quality and performance, so much so that I would still say the headset is excellent value for money. If you want to be amazed I can’t recommend the F.R.E.Q.5 headset enough, it’s about 30% cheaper, looks near identical and out performs just about anything on the market today, but if you want to be blown away then you need to be saving up for this model, plus you get a free plastic stand to display them on, and every extra feature counts when your spending over a £100.
I’ve already upgraded my headset to a F.R.E.Q.7, and that makes this a true editors choice product, the question for me now is, will it ever be topped, maybe Mad Catz will make a F.R.E.Q.9 and change the rule book once again, but only time will tell.
Roccat are one of the finest gaming brands on the market at the moment, and some of their product ranges have proven themselves time and time again, not only in reviews but with consumers, gamers and computer enthusiasts around the world. Roccat have a strong history of gaming products, and it was only a couple of month ago that I personally awarded the Roccat Kone XTD Gaming Mouse our Editors Choice Award, which I highly regard as the best gaming mouse I’ve used, which is why I’m still using it even today.
A quick look at the feature set of the ISKU FX turns up almost countless features and functions and just as we saw with the Kone XTD Mouse, it seems the ISKU FX is set to take the gaming keyboard world by storm. Priced at around £80.00 here in the UK it’s not terribly expensive for a gaming keyboard, it is however a little expensive for a keyboard that isn’t mechanical. So it will be interesting to see what the ISKU FX can offer us in terms of performance and features to justify its retail price.
MULTICOLOR KEY ILLUMINATION
with 16.8 million colors of your choice; with 6 brightness levels
3 EASY-SHIFT[+] ZONES
for easy key duplication
36 EASY-TO-REACH MACRO KEYS
including 3 Thumbster keys
MACRO LIVE! RECORDING
with dedicated M-Rec button; 180+ macros in 5 profiles
8 CONFIGURABLE MEDIA & HOTKEYS
25+ assignable functions
with an optimum keystroke & pressure point;
advanced anti-ghosting; 1000Hz polling rate
ROCCAT DRIVER + MACRO MANAGER
incl. Sound Feedback; Macro Presets for games,
multimedia and office apps
EXTRA-LARGE GRANULAR WRIST REST
with special surface texture
INTEGRATED CABLE CHANNELS
for better device organization
ROCCAT TALK – SET BONUS
get more out of your ROCCAT devices
by combining their functions
ROCCAT TALK FX
translates on-screen action into sensory
effects on your Isku FX
As you can see from the feature set above, the ISKU FX isn’t exactly lacking in bells and whistles, with a 6 level key lighting system, shift+, macros, hotkeys, media keys, custom software and more to keep you entertained. So lets move on and take a closer look at the ISKU FX.
The ISKU FX came nicely packaged in a fairly slim box, which is nicely decorated plenty with of graphics and specifications, as well as a nice illustration of the LED backlighting.
Around the back of the box is much the same, a few highlighting images for some of the major features as well as the international translations.
In the box I found the keyboard and nothing else, this isn’t a problem of course as there doesn’t need to be anything else included, official drivers are best downloaded from the Roccat website to ensure you have the most up to date edition.
The ISKU FX features a full size layout complete with separate arrow and number pad keys, a range of macro keys on the left, multimedia keys at the top and thumbster buttons below the space bar.
The overall profile of the keyboard is super sleek and with the feet down, the back of the keyboard is barely over an inch deep. This does mean your hand can glide over the keyboard in any direction and the low set keys don’t get caught on your fingers.
The extra three buttons here are really handy and fully programmable in the Roccat software, they’re also recessed into the keyboards body to prevent accidental clicks and you can easily use the wrist rest without accidental button presses.
The macro keys are complimented by a realtime record function and preset indicator LEDs that are nicely out of the way of the main functions but still easily accessible.
Underneath we have two flip out feet, four firm rubber grips and grooves for routing cables, perfect for keeping your desk space organised and cable clutter to a minimum.
The cable comes hard-wired with a durable USB cable, it’s not braided like a lot of Roccat products, but it does comes fitted with a good quality USB connector and Roccat branded mould.
Here are some of the actual lighting results I was able to achieve, its possible to bring out virtually any colour you can think of with ease thanks to the included software in just a matter of seconds and each colour can be set to a hot key profile, be adjusted to 6 levels of brightness via the keyboards light key, you can also enable effects such as breath and colour flow to really tailor the style to your liking.
Setup & Installation
General setup was as simple as plug-and-play and thanks to most of the functions of the keyboards hotkeys being handled by the keyboards processors you can start using the hot keys and macro recorder straight away. However if you really want to dive into the settings then you’re going to want to download and installed the Roccat drivers, which allow you to customise multiple profiles, shift+ functions, macros and a whole lot more.
I’ve been playing a lot of Crysis 3 and Dungeon Defenders this week, both of which game me a great opportunity to put the ISKU FX through its paces. The light response and low action of the keys make them an absolute joy to play and having so many customisation options to hand for macros, hot keys and the ability to change my Roccat mouse DPI, or just about any mouse setting for that matter via my keyboard for those all important sniper shots is a real game changer.
Because I do a lot of typing on a daily basis, as well as gaming on my PC, I need a keyboard that is comfortable to use over long period of time. The included wrist rest on the ISKU FX felt a little intrusive and out-of-place at first, likely due to its large size, but over the first few hours I came to find it helped provide a great typing position for work and play and now I’d feel weird not having the wrist rest there.
I don’t tend to use a lot of Macros in games, I’ve never taken MMO games that seriously and I don’t really need macros for much else that I play, I do however do a lot of Photoshop editing, the Roccat software comes preset with a bunch of handy Photoshop, Web browsers, media player and other popular software presets to get you on your way, but the Photoshop ones in particular have sped up my daily routing greatly.
The ISKU FX, much like many other premium Roccat products isn’t exactly lacking in features, it has so many features that it would take a review three time longer just to cover them all. One of my favourites however is the ability to customise the colour scheme of the keyboards lighting to just about any colour you can think of. There is also an open source developer API available that should see all kinds of colour based feedback functions brought to the keyboard in the coming months, I saw a few demonstrations of these possibilities at CES 2013 and while it may not be for everyone, any extra features included for the same price are a welcome bonus.
Overall I really enjoyed the Roccat ISKU, its software interface is the best in class and being able to tweak more settings than I’ll likely ever need to is something that does amuse me. Yet I have found my self trying to optimise various configurations and the concept is slowly growing on me, making little changes to the way I play my favourite games, especially the ability to use a key (in this case Caps Lock) to control my mouse sensitivity, hold the button down and it drops down to give me maximum precision when scoped in, let go and my mouse returns to normal, awesome.
I was expecting to dislike the use of a permanently attached wrist rest on this keyboard, given I’ve always used a fairly standard keyboard with no rest on it, but I don’t think I could go back to my old keyboard now that I’ve grown accustomed to the Roccats ergonomics. Plus how could I stop using this keyboard after spending so much time finding the right purple lighting to match my mouse and PC case lights, setting up my Photoshop macros and gaming preferences? I would be like loosing a limb.
Roccat are not the only big name gaming brand on the market and for some people it comes down to brand preference or loyalty, but the cold hard fact is that this keyboard is easily the best performing non-mechanical keyboard I’ve had the pleasure of using. It’s quite expensive at around £80 and for the same money you could get a full size mechanical keyboard, which I can bet will be a very nice keyboard for the money, but it won’t have any of the features you find on the ISKU FX apart from maybe an on/off back light. Would it be a better keyboard than the ISKU FX? Most likely not and any difference in switch type over a fast action membrane key is really matter of preference for most users. However, I do uphold that the ISKU FX has the best typing response I’ve found from a non-mechanical keyboard.
If your reading this review because you’re in the market for a great gaming keyboard then yes, it fulfils that promise and its a fantastic keyboard for gaming but it offers up so much more in terms of features, performance and overall value for money. If you have another Roccat Talk compatible product like the Kone XTD mouse then your going to find even more benefits than most, but its this seemingly endless feature list that makes this an easy Editors Choice Award worthy product.
Researchers at Georgia Tech have made plans to build a wireless antenna using atom-thin sheets of carbon/graphene which will have the potential to allow terabit-per-second transfer speeds at short ranges.
In theory, in short range you can move as much as 100 terabits per second which will approximately allow you to transfer about 100 high definition movies within minutes.
Ian Skyildiz, director of broadband wireless networking laboratory at Georgia Tech said,”“It’s a gigantic volume of bandwidth. Nowadays, if you try to copy everything from one computer to another wirelessly, it takes hours. If you have this, you can do everything in one second—boom!!”
Using the graphene antenna, it is possible to have terabit-per-second upload at the range of one meter for now. Graphene is a sheet made of carbon which is only 1 atom thick and is of a honeycomb structure which have many desirable electronic properties as the electrons are able to move through graphene with no resistance, therefore making it 50 to 500 times more faster than what’s possible using silicon.
To make the antenna, the sheet of graphene could be shaped into narrow strips with the width between 10 to 100 nanometers and 1 micrometer long. This will allow the material to transmit and receive terahertz frequency. The electromagnetic waves in the terahertz frequency will be in contact with oscillations of electronics at the surface of the strip, achieving the ability to send and receive information.
Graphene antennas don’t allow such high upload independently as they rely on many other components to do so, such as signal generators and detectors, amplifiers, and filters. The researchers also need to figure out how to mass produce this as working with material is extremely tricky as its properties changes when it comes in contact with other materials.
As one would expect, Georgia tech hopes that the prototype of the antenna within a year.
It was during MWC 2013 where Samsung said that they will be funding the research for intra-chip communication using a terahertz band. In their Global outreach program, Samsung said that they will give $120,000 to team of research from Universitat Politechnica de Catalunya-Barcelona Tech and the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Rumours have been flowing around for a while now surrounding NVIDIA and their new upcoming GPU that goes by the name Titan. Until now there has been speculation on its specs, performance & cost and now NVIDIA are finally lifting the lid and bringing forward their latest weapon to the battle ground, the GeForce GTX Titan.
Built on the GK110 silicon, the Titan (named after the worlds fastest supercomputer) features a whopping 2688 CUDA cores with 7.1 billion transistors, 6GB of GDDR5 memory and an impressive 250W TDP. The GK110 core that lies at the heart of the Titan is clocked to 837MHz and boosts to 876MHz, whilst the memory stays at the usual 1502MHz (6GHz effective) clock. One feature of the new card that did grab our attention is the new GPU Boost 2.0 that works in a similar fashion to the current GPU boost system that we know, but rather than watching the power target, the upper lining is based around the cards temperature, effectively giving a greater headroom for dynamically adjusting the core speed, keeping it under 80c when boosting.
Other new features on the Titan include better fan control by the card itself, an increased maximum operating voltage and display overclocking that increases the refresh rate of the monitor to display more frames over what the panel would otherwise normally handle.
NVIDIA have not made any direct claims as to how the GTX 690 priced card will compare in the single core battle between themselves and AMD following AMDs claim that they own the worlds fastest GPU and that they are keeping it that way, but they did say that they would let the benchmark results do the talking and rather than getting into a tit-for-tat battle, they would let the numbers in the real world do the talking for them.
All we can say for now is keep an keen eye out and we will get our first hand look on the Titan once we find one available to play with.
Arctic were formally known as Arctic Cooling and for a very good reason, as their main focus was of course; cooling. They have now developed the company into much more and offer a vast product lineup of sorts to the consumer who believe value is a major aspect of any purchase.
As of late, Arctic have started to develop audio products including headphones and headsets and with a big focus being on the home entertainment market in general. With this in mind, they have created their very own entertainment centre, known as the MC001 series. Within this series is an array of different variants including the MC001-DVDs which incorporates a SSD as the main storage drive and DVD burner, though today we are looking at something a bit different.
The MC001-BD is the same device but with a few subtle differences. Instead of including a SSD, Arctic have plumped for a large 500GB 7200RPM 16MB cache mechanical hard drive and a 4x Blu-Ray player for those wanting to watch HD content. Also included on the model we have today is a DVB-T tuner for watching live TV whenever you want.
Unlike other devices on the market, this is not just an entertainment or media centre but is a fully fledged desktop PC with Windows 7 Home Premium bundled on it, so that you can do work, surf the web or use it as its main purpose, being a media/entertainment centre.
With a sleek and slim design, the unit is designed to seamlessly integrate with your home theatre television arrangement with a style that matches, but can it offer an affordable solution to a DIY home-built system in a HTPC chassis?
Sapphire have always been regarded as one of the key partners for AMD based products, especially in the UK, as some regard them as the biggest AMD partner when it comes to graphics card products. Over the years they have decided to move into other segments in the computer market and today sees us delving into that area as we aren’t looking at a graphics card from Sapphire, or even their new ventured market of motherboards which happen to be made for the Intel and AMD platforms but instead we look at another Intel based product from the market leader.
Sapphire delved into the nettop market at the start of 2011 with the release of the Edge HD mini PC which offered up a simple ATOM/ION based solution in a small form factor with a wealth of connectivity options. There was sadly a few things that let the mini PC down and it mainly came down to the hardware used inside. Whilst it offered up a high-end ATOM/ION combination at the time, it was still a bit behind in terms of playing HD content to the fullest and Sapphire knew this too.
Moving forward to the present day and we see the Edge HD2 being released with slightly improved features, current hardware and also comes with the choice of having a bundled version of Windows 7 as standard. The original Edge mini PC gave us an ample Intel Atom D510 CPU running at 1.66GHz, 2GB DDR2 and a 2.5″ 250GB hard drive and whilst these are impressive considering the size that the Edge came in at at 19.3×14.8×2.2cm at 530 grams, Sapphire felt they could offer something slightly more impressive.
The Edge HD2 works off of the success of its predecessor but gives users a slightly improved set of specifications with a D525 1.8GHz Atom CPU, 2GB DDR2 800MHz, 2.5″ 320GB HDD and still utilising the nVidia ION2 graphics to give a perfect fully featured system in a small form factor that is smaller than most router and access point solutions and did we mention that it also comes with VESA mount capabilities?