UK’s biggest gaming festival, Insomnia, is just around the corner and it will open its doors tomorrow for Multiplay Insomnia 55, UK’s biggest gaming festival at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry. Following up on the last successful charity raffle, GIGABYTE again partnered with others to create the biggest ever charity raffle at Insomnia. There will be around £5000 worth of hardware prizes to win spread out over the two days.
The prizes that you can win include AMD processors, AOC monitors, Coolermaster power supplies and cases, Crucial memory, Fractal Design power supplies and cases, Kingston memory and HyperX SSDs, Tesoro gaming keyboards, mice, headsets and mousepads, as well as Netgear NAS and cameras. GIGABYTE is sponsoring a gaming laptop, motherboards, a graphics card, keyboards, and headsets themselves. All this can be won and best of all, everything goes to charity.
There will be two raffles, one held on Friday, the 28th of August and the second the day after, on Saturday, the 29th of August.
Like last time, all the proceeds will be donated to the local charity Zoë’s place, a baby hospice providing palliative, respite and end of life care for babies and infants aged from birth to five years and suffering from life-limiting or life-threatening conditions. This is truly a worthy cause and I hope a lot of the gamers attending the Insomnia event will be very generous. The added bonus of having a chance to win amazing hardware and this really is a no-brainer. Participate!
The motherboard that I am taking a look at today is a little bit special as it is considered to be the first mATX motherboard featuring Intel Xeon E5 V3 series with LGA 2011-3 single socket. The ASRock Rack EPC612D4U-2T8R isn’t just a rarely seen form factor in this category, it also packs a huge punch and plenty of features such as quad-channel DDR4 memory support, dual 10 Gigabit Ethernet, dedicated IPMI, and native support for up to 16 storage drives.
Just because you decide to create a motherboard in the mATX form factor as ASRock Rack did here, doesn’t mean that you can’t add plenty of features to it. It’s all about using the available space properly. You get a total of eight SATA3 ports that are powered by the Intel C612 chipset and on top of that you get another eight SAS3 12Gbps ports thanks to the added LSI 3008 RAID controller. If that isn’t enough for you already, then you have plenty of possibilities to expand that with two PCIe Gen3 x16 and one PCIe Gen3 x8 slot.
The networking is a little bit special on this board as it comes with dual 10 Gigabit Ethernet thanks to the Intel X540 network controller. These ports are still RJ45 and backward compatible with normal RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet components. The ASRock Rack EPC612D4U-2T8R also features a dedicated IPMI 2.0 connection based on a Realtek RTL8211E controller that allows you to manage all your servers from a single connection, locally or remotely.
Four DDR4 DIMM slots with quad-channel support allows you to use this motherboard for memory-hungry applications and while the QVR list only has up to 16GB modules so far, you should also be able to use 32GB modules in this motherboard and get up to 128GB memory to support Intel’s latest Xeon E5 processors.
Overall, with the high performance processor, storage, and network all together in a mATX motherboard, the EPC612D4U-2T8R is perfect for the compact storage solution such as mid-range servers, web 2.0 storage servers, and other warm data servers. It also fits snugly into ASRock Rack’s previous released storage solution 1U12L-C612D4U, and currently has EPC612D4U, EPC612D4U-2T, EPC612D4U-8R and EPC612D4U-2T8R for customers’ selection.
The specifications are taken directly from the manufacturers homepage and are as such subject to change in possible future revisions.
There is always something that sets each and every motherboard apart for the rest, sometimes it’s in features and other times it is the software. On this motherboard, it is most likely the Network and storage capabilities as well as the form factor.
Single Socket LGA 2011 R3 Intel Xeon processor E5-1600/2600 v3 series
ASPEED 2400. Integrated IPMI 2.0 with KVM and Dedicated LAN (RTL8211E)
Supports Intel Dual 10GLAN by Intel X540
Packaging and Accessories
A server motherboard doesn’t need to come in a fancy box with flashy images and slogans, and that is why we don’t get that here. The EPC612D4U-2T8R comes in a simple black box with a little graphic and basic keywords.
The rear of the box doesn’t provide much more information either, but it will tell you a little bit about ASRock Rack as a company.
I really like that ASRock Rack also packed the motherboard properly like seen below. It provides that extra bit of protection during the transport from factory to end-customer over a motherboard that’s just loosely packed into a cardboard box.
Besides the motherboard itself, you’ll find an IO Shield, driver disk, and manual along with six SATA3 cables inside the box. It is nice to see a printed manual come along as it will help a lot with the basic task of finding the headers and pins you need to set it up.
The motherboard I’m taking a look at today is a little something special. It is a tiny board yet it packs a punch that is worthy of a large right hook. The Supermicro X10SDV-F is a Mini-ITX motherboard with an onboard Intel Xeon D-1540 System-on-a-Chip (SoC) processor and lot of other goodies to go along with it. The Intel Xeon D-1540 is an octa-core processor with sixteen threads. It runs at 2GHz with a boost of up to 2.6.GHz. You will also need a lot of RAM to go along with that kind of CPU and that isn’t any problem for this tiny Supermicro board. It supports up to 128GB DDR4 memory with its 4 DIMM slots. You also get six high-speed SATA3 ports, a PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slot, a full speed PCIe Gen3 x16 slot and two Intel Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports. The bigger brother of this board is called the X10SDV-TLN4F which also features two integrated 10 Gigabit Intel Ethernet ports for those that need even more connectivity from a tiny board. Further, you get two USB 3.0 connectors on the rear I/O while USB 2.0 is provided via two headers. The remote management with a dedicated Realtek Ethernet port and built-in Aspeed graphics solution for maintenance and setup is another great feature and one that shouldn’t be missing on a server-grade motherboard.
There isn’t much you won’t find here. You can also choose whether you want to power it via a standard 24-pin power header or rather use 12V connectors depending on your power supply options. With a thermal design of just 45 watts TDP, the CPU can be passively cooled, but it is recommended that you cool the chassis properly.
The specifications are taken directly from the manufacturers homepage and are as such subject to change in possible future revisions.
There is always something that sets each and every motherboard apart for the rest, sometimes it’s in features and other times it is the software. On this motherboard, it is most likely the SoC and up to 128GB DDR4 memory support in this form factor.
Intel Xeon D-1540 SoC with 45W TDP
Up to 128GB DDR4 ECC Memory
ATX and 12V Dual power abilities and low power consumption
Dedicated IPMI Remote Management and SuperDoctor 5
6 SATA3 ports, M.2 slot, USB 3.0 on-board, Dual Intel i350-AM2 Gigabit LAN
PCI-E gen3 x16 slot
Packaging and Accessories
As reviewers we don’t always get the retail package on these products as we simply don’t need them and the companies wish to get the products to us as fast as possible for review. In this case, I got the motherboard in a simple OEM box without any accessories. Normally however the motherboard includes two 57.5 cm flat SATA cables and a standard I/O shield.
Intel’s C612 chipset brought along a lot of improvements for the workstation and server platform, not just support for Haswell-EP Xeon E5 processors, but also DDR4 memory support at full speed. Today I’m taking a look at one of Gigabyte’s many great server solutions and while most people aren’t that familiar with Gigabyte’s server-side of things, I can assure you that it is a quite impressive line-up. This is the first time we’ve taken a look at a server motherboard, and while we’ve analysed workstation type boards, you will see us opening up our site to a lot more content revolving around servers, their components and everything in between. With that in mind, I’m pleased to start our new server motherboard review section off with a feature packed, small but mighty motherboard from Gigabyte; the MU70-SU0.
The specifications are taken directly from the manufacturers homepage and are as such subject to change in possible future revisions.
There is always something that sets each and every motherboard apart for the rest, sometimes it’s in features and other times it is the software. On this motherboard, it is most likely the 12 RAM slots that you can run at full speed at the same time.
The box follows a very simple design and is perfect for the market it’s aimed at. There is no need for fancy artwork like we’re used to on consumer motherboards.
The rear of the box gives a little detail about 3 key points that are important to a board of this caliber including reliability, availability, and serviceability. These are all major factors for any IT admin needing a reliable product with quality components that is easy to set up and maintain.
Once in a while we see a new generation of products being released that completely change how we view the area and make what we used to think was good into something rather mediocre. Such a time is upon us right now thanks to Intel and their brand new consumer drives, the Intel SSD 750 Series. I’ll be taking a closer look at the 1.2TB PCIe Half-Height Half-Length (HH-HL) add-in card today, but the drive is also available as a smaller version with 400GB capacity and both capacities are also available as 2.5″ inch form factor with an SFF8639 connector.
The Intel SSD 750 series is an NVMe based drive which both is a wonderful thing and has a hitch at the same time. Your motherboard has to support it and you need the proper drivers to get the full potential. But assuming we have this, and major manufacturer are all upgrading their Intel 9 series motherboards to support this, then you have the next generation of storage drives.
What started out as something available only for enterprises and at a price that no normal person could afford has now moved into the consumer range. In a way, this storage drive can be seen as a consumer version of the Enterprise DC series and now that the processes have matured and a lot of R&D costs have been paid by enterprises utilizing the DC drives, we end users rake the benefits.
NVMe is the next generation of storage connectivity and it will replace the AHCI standard the same way that replaced the IDE. AHCI and SATA3 were created for with mechanical drives in mind and it’s far from the perfect platform to build flash storage upon. NVMe on the other hand is designed from the ground up for this use and performs a lot better thanks to this. NVMe lowers overall CPU overhead because NVMe has a simplified command set which minimizes the number of CPU clocks per I/O in comparison to AHCI.
I’ve talked a lot about how great this new drive performs, but I haven’t mentioned any numbers yet and that has to change. The drive is rated for impressive 2400MB/s read and 1200MB/s write performance at sequential operations and has even more impressive 440K IOPS read and 290K IOPS random 4K write performance.
The drive is rated for 70GB writes per day that equals to 219TB total bytes written over a five-year period. It comes with a mean time before failure of 1.2 million hours and is backed by a five-year warranty. SMART, TRIM, and ECC are also part of the package.
Diving further into the card and having a look at the PCB on the bottom of the card and we find 14-BFA packages with 20nm Intel Multi-Level Cell NAND and two Micron DDR3 DRAM packages.
Removing the giant heatsink isn’t an easy task, and it is one that I failed at. It is mounted so solid that I couldn’t make it move the tiniest bit despite having removed all screws. I wasn’t using more than a sensible amount of force on a product like this, and I had to give up as I didn’t want to destroy the card.
Inside the large heatsink that covers the entire card, we find a smaller one that can be removed and below we find the SSD controller.
Intel is using their own proprietary controller named the CH29AE41AB0 and I really like how Intel used proper thermal paste rather than pads. Overall the cooler design is impressive for a storage drive and it should keep the drive running perfectly in even the most demanding setups.
Our day ends at the Coolermaster stand at i54. The guys here showcasing a small sample of the products they produce, again aiming more at the peripheral sector in their mechanical keyboards and gaming mice. They were holding a Help Desk for anyone to pop along to talk about upgrades and any other possible upgrades for their machines. At the back of the stand, passers by could test their typing speed on a range of mechanical switches, so pop by if you’re in the arena.
They were joined by Team Banana, a small group who produced a very interesting piece of kit, in the form of a one-of-a-kind set of headphones. A very nice bit of kit indeed.
We aim to keep you updated with any news from Coolermaster and we aim to publish reviews of their products in the near future.
Have you been looking at the latest graphics cards, then looking at your own PC and thinking you’ve got a gutless gaming rig? I know the feeling, the new cards can be very tempting, at least until you check your bank balance and remember you’re not rich. High-end hardware is great, but do you really need a $1000 Titan X to enjoy your favourite games? Nope. If you’re thinking that your current system is a little outdated, that you need to upgrade the whole thing to be able to enjoy the latest games, you’re wrong and I’m going to prove it.
Now I will admit, if you have a good bit of money saved up to replace your entire rig, go for it, it’ll be awesome. However, if your budget is limited and your system needs a new lease of life, we’re going to see how much improvement you can get for a modest investment of just £300 (approx $440 US)!
I’ll be starting out with a rather humble system, which features the hardware listed below, which I think you’ll agree is pretty unremarkable by today’s standards. The motherboard is an overclocking board, but we’ll be running at stock clocks to help better simulate an under powered system, it just happens to be the most suitable board I had at the time.
Dual-core i3 4330 3.5GHz
MSI GTX 560 Ti 1GB graphics card
ADATA 8GB 1600Mhz Memory 11-11-11-28
Gigabyte GA-Z97N Motherboard
Western Digital 500GB Hard Drive 7200RPM
Silverstone Kublai KL06 Chassis
Seasonic 600W 80+ Bronze PSU
CoolerMaster Gemini Low-Profile CPU cooler
I’ll be upgrading the system with the following components, then benchmarking it in some popular applications to compare how much the performance improves.
As you can see, there’s nothing exciting about this system. Perhaps a couple of years ago, a system of this specification may have raised an eyebrow a little, but perhaps not so much today.
No SSD here, just a standard and rather well aged mechanical hard drive, so expect boot times to be enough to go and make a coffee.
The GPU has had a hard life, it’s actually the one we used to use for chassis reviews, so there’s are a few bumps and scrapes, but it’s still in perfect working order.
I’ve already benchmarked the system with this setup and we’ll get to the scores for that very soon, so let’s install our new Ballistix Sport memory, which has tighter timings than the old kit, it won’t be much, but it should give us that extra edge for very little investment.
The Crucial BX100, an absolutely incredible bargain at under £60 ($88 US); this will no doubt have a huge impact on the systems performance.
I’ll be using the new ASUS GTX 960 STRIX 2GB card for my upgrade.
It’s certainly one of the nicest GTX 960’s on the market right now and while I’m expecting great performance gains, it’s also aesthetically pleasing, so should provide a nice visual upgrade too!
The card also features more video outputs than the 560 Ti, giving you greater connectivity options.
It also features a nice back plate and only required a single 6-pin power connector vs the dual 6-in required by the GTX 560 Ti.
New components all installed, which only took about ten minutes to get them out of their respective boxes and plugged in.
The new year is almost upon us and to celebrate, we’ve teamed up with the good people of Cooler Master to help you welcome in 2015 with style. A great PC deserves a great cooler, so we’ve grabbed three of the most popular Cooler Master coolers to help you upgrade your rigs. We’ve got a Nepton 120XL and a Nepton 240 water cooling radiator, as well as the awesome Hyper 612 Ver.2 air cooler.
We’ll be picking three lucky winners at the start of 2015:
If you would like to show your support to eTeknix and Cooler Master you can like your respective Facebook pages. It’s a great way to stay up to date with the latest news, reviews and competition announcements.
Cooler Master have one of the biggest booths here at the show, not only have they brought along a wide range of chassis products ranging from their budget friendly N200 right up to their behemoth HAF Stacker and Cosmos II, but they’ve also brought along a huge range of gaming peripherals from their CM Storm range.
One of the most interesting new products here is the soon to be release Toper switch keyboard, a flagship product for CM Storm and one that has been highly anticipated due to its ultra premium switch technology, it won’t be cheap, but it’s already turning heads in the industry.
Their rigs are setup for people to sit down and play some games, but it’s their keyboard demo that’s really drawing the crowd. You have to strike all the keys on one of their Aluminium series keyboard as fast as possible and set a time, those who rank well will be walking away with plenty of cool prizes.
Upgrading your PC is a great way to boost your performance, but what if you could take your PC and make it look truly epic! Well thanks to the awesome team at Cooler Master you can give your system a gargantuan makeover with the modular Cooler Master HAF Stacker chassis, one of the biggest cases on the market today. One lucky winner will not only bag themselves the HAF, but also an extra section for the HAF, a powerful Vanguard 850W Fully Modular PSU and Nepton 280L high-performance CPU water cooler.
One lucky winner will win everything listed below, worth over £500!
Send an email to email@example.com with your full name, shipping address, contact number and a link to your Facebook profile*
Be sure to show the good people of Cooler Master your support for providing us with these incredible prizes and don’t forget you can keep up with all the latest Cooler Master products on their official YouTube channel.
Rules and regulations:
The competition is for EU residents only.
The competition ends at midnight GMT on the 4th August 2014 and winner(s) will be notified by Thusday 7th August 2014
In the event of a dispute, eTeknix staff hold the final say and no discussions will be entered into
Delivery is not in the hands of eTeknix and can take some time to arrive
Full shipping address and phone number is required in your email entry to speed up dispatch of prizes to winners and to prevent multiple entries
If the auto-fill email link doesn’t work, email us the information and include the subject “Win a Cooler Master HAF Stacker Mega Upgrade Bundle!”
In the event that the prize is unavailable, eTeknix reserve the right to offer an alternative of equal or greater value
CM Storm, the gaming division of legendary manufacturer Cooler Master is back once again with the release of their Sirus-C 2.2 gaming headset. The Sirus has long been a popular product of CM Storm, but this new model looks to kick things up a notch with improved performance and specifications. Not only is the headset compatible with PC, but also PlayStation 4, making it a tempting purchase for those who love to game on both PC and the latest Sony console.
Priced at a little over £70 from most major online retailers, the Sirus-C isn’t overly expensive, especially given the brand name and the multi format support, so it will be interesting to see how it stacks up to the competition. Especially when you can pick up something like the Turtle Beach PX3 and the MadCatz Tritton Pro+ for around the same money. However, the Sirus-C does have some impressive specifications behind it that should give it a leading edge, most importantly being the 2.2 drives, that’s two drivers in stereo configuration and two sub woofers to give your sound extra depth and low end grunt, something that will no doubt appeal to a gaming audience.
“Sirus-C delivers earth-shaking 2.2 channel sound with dedicated extra large 44mm and 40mm drivers in each ear for explosive bass and crisp sound. A built-in high-fidelity amplifier dramatically boosts signal power to make games and movies more immersive and music livelier. In addition, Sirus-C is coupled with an in-line remote that grants access to volume adjustment, microphone mute, chat volume (console mode), and PC / Game Console mode switching.” – CM Storm.
Having a good quality headset can really make or break your gaming experience, especially when it comes to competitive gaming. Having clear audio for team chat, or simply have a more involving and immersive soundscape for single player games. Lets not forget that comfort is also incredibly important, as when you’re gaming for hours on end, you don’t want to take your headset off just to find that your head hurts. CM Storm have had a good run in the past with our reviews here at eTeknix and today I’ll be expecting nothing less than a solid performance from this headset.
The packaging features a large window section, giving us a good look at the headset design as well as the in-line controller. Down the side of the box is a quick run down that details the headset in compatible with Xbox, PlayStation and PC. Although why they put PS4 on the front and not a badge for each format is a little strange as this could confuse some consumers.
Around the back we have a detailed run down of the major features such as the 2.2 drives, audio pass through cables, in-line controller and more. The left side of the box has the full technical specifications (see above).
Everything you need to get you going is included in the box. The headset comes hard wired with the in-line controller and a long braided cable that features both a 3.5mm connection and USB connection. There is also a 3.5″ female to dual AUX pass through cable, controller connection cable and the user / quick setup guides.
Computex 2014: Coolermaster rocked up with their latest mini-ITX chassis at the show, it’s been seen before ,but I suspect this is easily going to be one of the most popular mini-ITX gaming chassis this year.
It features room for a 120mm radiator in the front, 180mm ATX power supplies, 210mm graphics cards, and 3 HDDs / SSDs, making it a great choice for a compact gaming system, HTPC, LAN gaming rig or even a SteamBox style system.
The Elite 110 is already available from most major retailers for around £50.
The water cooling market offers up some very fierce competition these days, there are so many great products to choose from that it is becoming harder and harder to find a product that is best for your system. The overall quality and performance of all-in-one water coolers has been increasing steadily over the years and with every company trying their hardest to be the best it’s near impossible to buy a poor water cooler, so long as you stick with brand names such as Enermax, Corsair, Cooler Master, Antec, etc. Cooler Master have long been a popular choice for CPU coolers, many of their air and water cooling products have won awards year after year for their performance and that’s something we’re hoping to see reflected again here today. With a few rival products recently launched the Nepton does have some tough competition on their hands, but the Nepton has proven to be a great product before, and these new ones promise to be even better.
In the office today I have not one, but two new product from the Nepton range and I’ll be putting the new Nepton 140XL 140mm cooler and the Nepton 280L head to head to see what they have to offer, while also seeing how they stack up against the competition. Obviously we’re expecting the bigger, more expensive 280L to perform better, but we really want to find out how much better. When you’re out shopping for a new CPU cooler, it’s important to balance your budget and performance needs, perhaps you’ll discover that the 140XL is more than enough for your rig, or if you’re in the market for the 140XL, you might find out that you really need the bigger 280L.
Check out what Cooler Master had to say about their two latest products:
“The Nepton 140XL is Cooler Master’s latest watercooling kit that aims to bring watercooling to the next level. Nepton 140XL is using CM exclusive designed pump with effective waterblock. It has thicker and longer tubing for upgraded performance. In addition, dual JetFlo 140 fans + 38mm thick radiator also provide great cooling ability for over 300Watt heat dissipation, which enable user to overclock CPU to maximum performance.”
“The Nepton 280L is Cooler Master’s latest watercooling kit that aims to bring watercooling to the next level. Nepton 280L is using a CM exclusive designed pump with a highly effective water block. It has thicker and longer tubing for upgraded performance. In addition, dual JetFlo 140 fans + an extra large 280mm radiator provide substantial cooling power with over 300W heat dissipation, which enables users to overclock their CPU and maximize performance.”
With the 140XL costing around £75 and the 280L around £90, there is no doubt that these are high-end, premium grade products, so they’ll be competing with products from NZXT, Corsair and Enermax (to name but a few) for the money in your wallet, so let’s get right to it and take a look at what they have to offer and see which one would be best for your next system build.
Both of the coolers come nicely packaged, with plenty of details on the front of each box letting you know that they’re maintenance free, feature improved UltraFine Micro Channel CPU cooler blocks and durable tubing. The boxes are nicely laid out with protective plastic over the fans, radiator and pump.
All the fittings, brackets and other components are in a plastic pouch, keeping them safe in transit and preventing them from scratching up your new cooler.
In the box you’ll find all the fittings you could possibly need; a multi-socket back plate, fan Y-split cable, thermal paste, AMD and Intel mounts, spacers, screws and clips. This is the pile of components for the Nepton 140XL, but we’ll skip over the components for the 280L as they’re 100% the same.
Both the 140 and the 280 come with two identical 140mm fans. Both are high quality, nicely designed fans with black sleeved cables to help provide a clean overall design, while also featuring firm rubber pads on each corner to help reduce noise and vibration.
We stopped by the Coolermaster both at CeBIT 2014 and while they didn’t have anything we haven’t seen before, it’s always nice to take a nosey around all the top products from a brand in one place. Most importantly of all is the HAF Stacker, an incredible high-end enthusiast case that can be stacked on top of other HAF Stacker cases, making it as flexible and capable as you need with virtually no limits. We’ve actually got a three-part Stacker in the office, so keep an eye on the site over the next few weeks for a full review.
Next up we have the quick Fire Rapid and Trigger Z keyboard, with a choice of mechanical Cherry MX switch types, LED back lighting and superb build quality, these are great keyboards for gamers and generally anyone who has to sit working at their computer a lot. Have a craving for something a little more high-end? Then check out the Novatouch TKL (ten keys less) Keyboard at the bottom right, it features “Electrostatic Capacitive Switches”, which you may know as Japanese Topre switches instead of Cherry MX switches. It’s a tad expensive at around $200, but the build quality and general feel of the switch is nothing short of lush. This keyboard isn’t on the market just yet, but it will be very soon.
The Nepton 280L and the 140 were on display too, representing the latest water coolers in the Coolermaster range and promise big improvements over last years models. Again, we have these in the eTeknix office ready for testing at the moment, we’ll be bringing you a full review of them very soon.
The box like Elite 110 mini-ITX (bottom left) features support for a full size ATX PSU, a pre-installed 120mm fan and room for two 80mm fans, 3 x 3.5″ drives and 4 x 2.5″ drives. The Silencio 652 is a full ATX chassis which comes with a sleek front panel, plenty of filtered ventilation and is packed tight with sound dampening materials to help keep your rig as quiet as a mouse.
There are many more great manufacturers here at CeBIT 2014, so stay tuned for even more coverage from this weeks show.
When browsing through the countless pre-built systems that are on offer from the likes of Overclockers UK, Scan, CyberpowerPC and PC Specialist as we have here today; most of the time we find users spending on average around £1400-1600 (~$2300-2700 USD) for their new gaming rig and whilst you do get a great amount of power for your money, we do wonder how much extra pixel pushing power do you really get from a system that is around 20% cheaper to buy. Obviously there are going to be some obvious differences in the systems specification and this mainly includes the motherboard, processor and graphics card; but are you really getting 20% extra performance for your money or is it worth spending that bit less and spending that extra cash on a better monitor for example?
With the number of system integrators in the UK slowly increasing, staying one step ahead of the competition in terms of pricing and quality is a never-ending battle. Each company out there has their own little twist on what makes a great system and in the case of PC Specialist, it’s not just the system that you are paying for – customer service is important as well. Since we took our first look at one of PC Specialist’s budget gaming systems; namely the Vanquish X200, back in the first half of last year, we have come to learn that offering a top rate of customer service from the pre-sales end of the line right through to after-sales technical support is of a high priority to this devoted team of enthusiasts. Not only is this a passion driven business, but the extra care that they put into their systems does not constitute to a hefty price tag and it soon becomes clear that the price is far more justifiable with all the hidden extras that you get included – as standard.
The Vanquish 230XT that we’ve got in today comes with a delivered to your door price tag of £1137.00 inc VAT and inside it packs a strong mix of mid-to-high range components that have a better bang-for-buck appeal to them over some of the top end components that we see out there on the market today. Built onto an Asus Z87-A motherboard we have an overclocked and water-cooled quad-core 4670k running at 4.2GHz, teamed up with 16GB of 2400MHz HyperX Beast Memory from Kingston and an AMD R9 280X graphics card ready to deliver a joyful gaming experience. On top of all of that we get a 120GB HyperX 3K SSD and a 1TB hard drive for all of your games and media content to go on and all of this is packed into a budget friendly 230T mid-tower chassis from Corsair.
Bundled into the shipping box alongside the chassis, we find a smaller box inside of which PC Specialist include all of the extra accessories that one would typically find inside the box of each individual component used – after all, you are paying for all of these little extra accessories , and should you wish to upgrade one or two bits at a later stage you may find yourself in need of something that’s in this box.
Coolermaster are on a bit of a roll recently, they’ve had one hit product after another and their gaming brand CM Storm is no exception. Now we see them continue pushing forward with the release of two new gaming mice, or should that be old gaming mice?
The new Alcor and Mizar gaming mice are a look back at times when PC gaming was a much less complicated affair, simpler times that need a much more refined and straight forward gaming mouse that’ll just get the job done, but get it done very well.
Classic exterior design combined with high end and modern internal components blends the new and old here, the Alcor is fitted with the Avago 3090 sensor while the Mizar takes the Avago 9800 laser sensor.
The Alcor features a slick optical sensor with a DPI range of up to 4000 DPI over four pre-sets which can be toggled from two switches on the top of the mouse. Omron switches ensure great performance that should last a lifetime and the CM Storm logo features multi-colour LED lighting, perfect for indicating the selected DPI.
The Mizar’s laser sensor can handle up to 8200 DPI, which can be configured through four quick toggle pre-sets right from the mouse, while reinforced rubber side pads ensure maximum grip no matter how frantic your battle gets. Customisation software allows tweaking of DPI, profiles, LED lighting colour and assigning functions and macros to the 7 fully programmable buttons.
The Alcor and Mizar are available right now via the Coolermaster webshop, but will he hitting other UK outlets in the coming weeks. The Alcor is just £29.99 while the Mizar is £39.99, so they certainly sound like great value for money.
Thank you Coolermaster for providing us with this information.
When I get a full system in for review, typically I will find an Intel CPU lying at the heart of the system and whilst this is partly due to their high level of popularity,; along with their multitasking abilities – for some the overall cost factor can be a bit of an issue. Naturally this means that there is only one other route to go down and this is with AMD and their line of CPUs. From our own testing of AMD processors we know that they offer a slightly cheaper alternative to some of Intel’s top line chips – such as the i7-4770k, although we do find that in some tasks, they may struggle to keep up the blue teams performance. For gamers though, all-round performance is not the main priority – it’s having a system that can offer up a great level of gaming performance and for an affordable price.
Coming forward to the last few months, AMD recently announced the release of their latest CPU into the Piledriver group of FX chips – namely the FX-9590. Now like all new processor releases, it has come into the market with a mixed response from the enthusiast community, however it looks like it has proved its way and has settled itself down in the market as the new contender to Intel’s Ivy Bridge-E i7-4960X, offering a huge difference in price as we are used to seeing with AMD chips. We know as well that anyone looking for a high-end gaming system but on a tight budget is going to benefit from an AMD chip, although the trade-off is with performance in other workload areas as mentioned above.
Cyberpower PC as we saw at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show are right on the money when it comes down to building both entry-level and high-end systems and one of their latest systems to come to the market through their UK offices is the Ultra Fusion. This pure AMD system is built into the highly popular Cosmos SE chassis from Cooler Master and is set to offer some of the best gaming performance available for anyone who is a through and through fan of AMD – or even just a pure gamer at heart! Laid on to a Gigabyte motherboard and given some HyperX Genesis memory from Kingston, this closed loop water-cooled system certainly looks the part with its spread of blue lit fans, but the real question is, how does it stack up against an Intel / NVIDIA offering?
When I took a look at the Ultima 460i Scimitar from Overclockers UK a few months ago, one comment that I made about the system was its weight. This was partly down to the extensive list of water-cooling components that had been installed into the Cosmos II, but it also had a lot to do with the weight and bulk of the super tower chassis itself. Thankfully this little brother to the Cosmos II, is far more compact and therefore easier to handle and even with a full system built-in, it’s far lighter to move around.
Like most other systems that we’ve seen shipped out, alongside the system itself, we get the motherboard box included as well and inside this is all the manuals, warranty cards and accessories that comes with each of the components, just in case they are needed or if you wish to upgrade anything at a later date.
Coolermaster have long been one of my favourite chassis manufacturers, we loved their HAF range and we loved their Elite 120 when we reviewed it earlier last year. Their latest model the Elite 130 looks to take the Elite 120 to new levels and while in many ways this is just a refresh, it’s always great to see a manufacturer revisit their popular products and bring them up to date for a new audience, rather than throw away something great and forget about it. With some of the best chassis on the market, Coolermaster are proving a popular choice with system builders, they’ve often been praised by us here at eTeknix for their durable build quality, great feature sets and affordable prices, so we hope to see more of the same with this product today.
The Elite 130 is a smaller chassis designed to be the perfect choice for LAN gaming, or any compact gaming build that needs to be portable, small enough to fit in with a home entertainment centre as a HTPC / SteamBox style build or even just for those that want a small and affordable chassis for their office. It supports mini-ITX motherboards, has room for a few hard drives, it’s compatible with full size ATX power supplies and long graphics cards, and even a 5.25″ drive. So while we do stress this is a small form factor chassis, it is one of the bigger options in the mini-ITX category.
The packaging isn’t anything especially exciting, but given that it costs just £40 I’m hardly going to fuss about the one part I’ll be throwing in the bin should I buy this case. Around the sides of the box you’ll find a quick run down of the main specifications, as well as a tick box showing which model you have purchased.
In the box I found the usual assortment of fixtures and fittings, including cable ties, motherboard stand-offs, screws and a collection of vibration free rubber washers used to mount hard drives.
Today (after a little delay for which we apologise) we are announcing the winner of the CyberPowerPC £1200 Gaming system. We had a stupidly large amount of entries, and while we were at CES, we didn’t have a chance to go through the entries until now. By random selection, the winner has been chosen as:
CES 2014, we’re back in the Coolermaster Suite to take a look at their latest range of chassis and cooling products that will be hitting the market in 2014. First up we have the new Silencio 452 (pic above, left) and the Silencio 652 (pic above, right). Both new chassis come with support for micro-ATX and ATX motherboards, a clean looking front panel and are packed with noise dampening material.
The 452 comes equipped with two pre-installed 120mm fans, support for a 240mm radiator in the front and a 120mm radiator in the back, USB 3.0 & SD card reader built in, dust filters and 8 hard drives bays (6 x 3.5″ + 2 x 2.5″).
The 652 is pretty much the same as the 452, but will come with one 180mm fan and one 120mm fan pre-installed, but has support for up to five 180mm fans, support for more hard drives (10 x 2.5″ or 9 x 3.5″).
Project N-Box (pic below) is still a bit vague and appears to be in concept state. It offers a wrap around side panel window, room for ATX motherboards, two vertical 5.25″ drive bays, and a rear compartment for the PSU, storage, cable routing and extra cooling components.
The box like Elite 110 offers up a great solution for the mini-ITX market, comes with a single 120mm fan pre-installed and has support for two more 80mm fans on the side panel. USB 3.0, full ATX PSU and (up to) 210mm GPU support comes as standard, Impressively for its size the system will hold up to 3 3.5″ drives / 4 SSD’s.
That’s everything from the new Coolermaster chassis products at CES 2014, keep an eye on the site over the coming weeks and month when we look forward to bringing you in-depth reviews of the latest products from the show.
What better way to follow up on the reviews of the gorgeous Pulse-R headset we have a couple of weeks ago and the more recently published Mech keyboard, than with a review of the third part in this already exciting trilogy from CM Storm. The Reaper mouse completes a set of three peripherals and while CM Storm only sell these separately, they do all share a common design theme in the form of removable and customisable aluminium panels. While we do intend to roll out all three products for a round up in a few days time, we first want to get up close and personal with the features and performance of each product, because no matter how great they may look together, it means next to nothing without performance testing.
CM Storm are quickly gaining popularity on the gaming scene, they’re one of the hottest names around at the moment and this is thanks to an already exciting range of peripherals for the PC market. Their mechanical keyboard, headset, mice and even their mouse mats have all won awards from us here at eTeknix, as well as many other awards around the world. So with that in mind, I think the Reaper has a reputation to uphold, of course if it is even half as good as the Pulse-R or the Mech we’re still in for a treat and it can hardly let the team down after solid performances already, can it?
As you can see on the box below we have a really nicely designed front, with a great image of the mouse and a few listed features such as the 8200 DPI sensor, clutch button and ergonomic design.
Around the back we have another great image as well as a few bullet points that point out the DPI switch, lighting effects and other features.
The fancy cover slips off, under that you will find a tidy presentation box that holds the mouse and a simple owners manual.
Remember last week we took a look at the gorgeous Pulse-R Aluminum headset from CM Storm? And how we promised to follow it up again with another review from the same aluminium loving range of peripherals? Well here we are, delivering on that promise and we kick things off today with the CM Storm Mech mechanical keyboard.
Aluminium is the cool, of course aluminium has always been cool when it comes to designing PC components and peripherals, but it’s taken a brand like Cooler Master to realise that fact and bring something to market. Not content with just a single product, CM Storm have released a whole set of aluminium products, first we have the Pulse-R gaming headset that we reviewed last week, today we have the Mech keyboard and next week we will be looking at the Reaper mouse. While the three products are not sold as a set, they are designed to look great together.
Available for around £125 here in the UK the Mech isn’t exactly cheap, but in that respect, mechanical keyboards never are. While £100+ mechanical gaming keyboards are not uncommon, this price puts the Mech into the firing line of some truly fierce competition from Razer, Corsair and Ducky, all of whom have similar priced products that have proven themselves to be a solid investment. I have high hopes for the Mech, the Pulse-R headset was incredible and if the keyboard is half as good as that, we’ll be off to a good start. So let’s get right to the good stuff and see what CM Storm have to offer here.
As you can see from the specifications below, there are three switch types available, but the model we are taking a look at today is th SGK-7000-MBCL1 which features Cherry MX Blue switches. It is also backed up with 64 N key rollover, loads of macro functions, LED back lighting, dual USB 3.0 ports and a mini USB port for charging devices and 128k of on board memory (for macros and profiles settings).
The front of the box features a stylised image of the keyboard, as well as a quick run down of some of the major features. There is also a logo in the bottom right which details what kind of MX Switch the keyboard has, which in this case is MX Blue.
Around the back we have a few more specifications, as well as some close up images of the removable aluminium plate and the extra USB 3.0 ports on the back of the keyboard.
It’s also worth noting that this box is HUGE! Although given that mechanical keyboards are heavy to begin with and that this one has a slab of aluminium on top also, it’s nice to have that extra padding around it, especially if you order online.
Inside the box we see some foam padding and extra thick cardboard on the lid, as well as plenty of soft foam padding around the keyboard and a scratch proof cover over the keyboard its self.
Finally we see CM Storm have also added a protective film to any of the glossy plastic sections of the keyboard.
In the box we found a handy user guide that walks you through all the major features, a key cap removal tool, a small Allen Key and durable USB 3.0 cable.
While there may be a lot of serious business talk going on here today, involving many of the UK’s major retailers and distributors, there has still been room for a little fun.
The most notable bit of action came when Cooler Master took their HAF Bike out for a spin, this is a fully equipped PC system, with water cooler, graphics card and all the other normal bits. Of course not many PC cases have an extra chassis and a two stroke petrol engine, it’s noisy, it’s dirty and it’s crazy dangerous, but Cooler Master didn’t want the crowd to go home disappointed.
Unfortunately we missed out on getting some video due to my lack of bringing my good memory card, but we can still enjoy some great action shots.
That raps it up for today at Target Open Day 2013, enjoy the rest of the gallery and let us know in the comments what you thought of the HAF bike.
When it comes to picking the right peripherals for your system, it is safe to say that you are going to be spoilt for choice and regardless of your budget it will be hard to narrow down your choices for each component. While the keyboard and mouse options out there may be seemingly limitless, so too are the choices for audio equipment.
Today we are taking a quick look at five of the best headsets on the market for £100 or less (for our American friends that’s approx $150 at time of writing), hopefully offering something to suit many different budgets and while we do know of a few great headsets well above £100, even well above £200! They’re not often the play thing of your average consumer or gamer.
Budget is important, but so is performance and while I can’t admit to having tried every PC headset on the market, I have certainly seen more than a fair share of them. All the headsets I list in this article are ones that I have personally owned, tested and have written full reviews of here on eTeknix, so full review links will be provided. I’m not going to tell you these are the five best headsets on the market, these are my personal choices, if you think you know of a better headset for the same price range, by all means post it as a comment below and help others by sharing your advice in a constructive manner.
Were going to be looking specifically at PC headsets today and it doesn’t matter if you just want to game, watch movies in peace or Skype call your friends, I’m sure we have something here that will suit you. All prices were taken as approximate from Google Shopping and were correct at time of writing.
Today marks the launch of a brand new range of peripherals from CMStorm (Coolermaster), not content with the typical black plastic models that are flooding the market, CMStorm have decided to add a a touch of metal to their designs.
The new Aluminum range peripherals feature, you guessed it! Aluminum panels. These panels can be removed and this allows for some unique customisations, you could have them engraved, printed on or maybe just attack them with a Sharpie, the choice is yours.
We got hands on with these recently at iSeries i49 and the build quality is fantastic. The Mech and Reaper each offer a huge range of profile and key customisations, check out the price and specifications below for more details.
UK RRP £149.99
Removable customizable aluminium front plate
All mechanical Cherry MX Keyboard – Guaranteed 50 million+ keystrokes
Powerful 32 bit 72 MHz Rapid Fire Engine for quick hardware Macro playback
Fully programmable! Store up to 5 Profiles and 75 Macros on the Keyboard
2 USB 3.0 Super Speed ports for Gaming Gear or Phone/Tablet charging
Full LED backlight – 3 modes and 5 brightness Levels
UK RRP £64.99
Removable customizable aluminium plate
Aluminum and rubberized coating body structure
8200 DPI high precision Avago laser sensor
1000 Hz polling rate with 1ms response time
128kB flash onboard memory
Ergonomic right handed design
8 fully programmable buttons
UK RRP £74.99
Removable customizable aluminium plates
Optimized for gaming – clear highs and powerful bass
Durable aluminum Plating – can be removed and customized
Cushioned ear cups and headband for noise cancellation and maximum comfort during long gaming sessions
Convenient in-line remote with volume slider and mic mute switch
Detachable microphone arm with noise-canceling mic system for clear in-game team chats
Stylish white illuminated ear cups and mic (USB powered)
Thank you CMStorm for providing us with this information.
Coolermaster are one of my all time favourite chassis manufacturers, they’ve made some of the most iconic chassis of several PC generations that include the ATCS & ATCS 840 with the slide out motherboard tray, the incredible HAF range and the titan god that is the Cosmos II. Yet while many people regard Coolermaster for their high performance products, they’re also great at making budget friendly models such as the N200 which we reviewed recently, a chassis that I think is the absolutely best budget small chassis ever made!
So with Coolermasters history and of course the new N200 review, I have high hopes for the N400 and I’d love to see a repeat performance of the N200 here today. As you can see from the specifications below it packs plenty of features, including some interesting cooling options, so let’s get straight to the good stuff and take a closer look at what Coolermaster and the N400 have to offer.
Full mesh on the front panel
Supports a 240mm liquid cooling radiator or two 120mm fans on the right side / at the top
Supports a 120mm liquid cooling radiator in the rear
Supports up to 3 SSDs – 2 on the tool-less 2.5” cage, 1 at the bottom of HDD cage
Includes two XtraFlo 120 fans – one white LED XtraFlo (LED can be disabled) in the front and one (no LED) in the rear for optimum airflow – support for up to 8 fans
One optional 120/140mm fan can be installed on the left side panel to cool the graphics cards
Supports high-end graphics cards up to 320mm / 12.6 inch, including NVIDIA GTX 690 & AMD HD 7990
Dual Super Speed USB 3.0
3 dust filters (top, right side, bottom) for easy maintenance
In the box I found a good selection of items that included a bunch of cable ties, Kensington lock, an internal speaker, installation guide and the usual assortment of screws and bolts.
The front of the box has a high contrast image of the front panel and it gives a good indication of the chassis design, there are also some basic specifications listed down the right side.
Around the back of the box we have a lot more details that give us a break down of the major features and component compatibility.