ASUS Surprises with XG-D2008 10Gbps Switch for Home Users

This one came quite as a surprise for me, but it is a very positive surprise as ASUS unveiled one of the first, if not the first, 10 Gigabit Ethernet switches designed for home users. We have long moved away from the slow mechanical storage drives and some people like me even moved on to something as crazy as NVMe drives in RAID setup. With that in mind, a Gigabit Ethernet connection becomes the biggest bottleneck in your system with a speed of around 120-125MB/s max. Even when you use link aggregation, you won’t be able to support these kinds of speeds.

ASUS’s new 10Gbps Switch is called the XG-D2008 and now that we’re starting to see the entry of 10 Gigabit Ethernet for home users, although mostly enthusiast users for now, it comes a little bit as a surprise to me that it is ASUS leading the front here. When we saw the NAS manufacturer Synology enter the router market last year, I figured that it just was a matter of time until they expanded into switches too. ASUS does however have a big experience in pretty much any field, so it doesn’t come as that big of a surprise after all, that they release a product like this.

Right now the information about the switch is very limited, but I really do like what I see. The design of the XG-D2008 is beautiful in what appears to be a unibody structure of aluminium with a brushed finish. The device is very simple and will blend well into any environment. While the port amount wasn’t revealed as such, we see the 8 in the name and can count 8 LEDs for LAN ports on the image, making it an 8-port switch.

The plug-and-play description points towards an unmanaged switch, although there still could be a user interface at the same time. We will make sure to update you with more information as they become available and hopefully also be able to bring you a review of this new 10 Gigabit Ethernet Switch with an enterprise-level performance yet a mainstream price tag.

Sony Announces World’s Most Advanced Home Cinema Projector – It’s Pricey!

Sony is one of the leaders in home cinema technology and they’re still the only force for 4K in the world of home cinema projection. Their latest 4K projector is a prime example of why their rivals have a lot of catching up to do. Sony is going as far as describing the new device as ‘the new reference-quality’ and that’s a very bold claim when it comes to cinema technology. This isn’t something you’re going to stick in your common living room, this hardware is geared towards enthusiast home cinema setups. Thanks to its immensely powerful laser light engine, it can push out 5,000 lumens of brightness, HDR, emulated BT.2020 colour gamut and it covers the entire DCI colour space; that’s pretty damn impressive.

The VPL-VW5000ES covers the full DCI-P3 colour gamut, offers up professional calibration tools, HDMI input with HDCP to accept 4K 60p signals up to YCbCr 4:4:4 8bit or YCbCr 4:2:2 12bit; so it’s certainly going to be future proof, this is bleeding edge stuff right here.

The VPL-VW5000ES projector is truly the ultimate home cinema solution, joining an impressive line-up of Sony home theatre projectors specifically designed for the high-end installer market, like the VPL-GTZ1 and Lifespace UX´s LSPX-W1S Ultra Short Throw models,” said Thomas Issa, Product Manager at Sony Professional Europe. “Our new projector combines the best technologies found in our professional cinema projectors to offer spectacular image quality as well as reliability, bringing the home theatre experience to the next level.”

So what does the best home cinema projector ever created cost? An eye-watering 65,000 Euros, and that doesn’t include the popcorn for movie night.

Is SpecialTech Being Revived as PC Modders?

To the dismay of many enthusiasts, SpecialTech entered voluntary liquidation back in February. I bought many products from the online shop and they were always at an extremely competitive prices and ultra fast shipping. It seems that on October 6th, SpecialTech Facebook page had changed its name to PC Modders. This change also occurred on the old SpecialTech web store to the new URL www.pcmodders.co.uk, however, the store is closed for now. This change has seemly gone unnoticed until now as a notification popped up when I logged onto Facebook this evening.

It’s still unclear whether this is the previous owner rebranding and starting again with what looks like a hefty stockpile or could this be a new owner that has bought out the struggling company and all stock to bring us PC cooling goodness once again.

We have contacted the previous owner of SpecialTech to clarify our thoughts and the future of the newly branded PC Modders.

When SpecialTech announced the news, it promised to uphold all present orders up to that date to not disappoint any customers. Were all of your orders upheld? Are you excited for the rise of PC Modders? Let us know in the comments.

Phantek Enthoo Mini XL Super Micro Tower Chassis Review

Introduction


A few months ago, I reviewed the gorgeous Phanteks Enthoo EVOLV Micro-Tower Chassis and I loved it enough to award it with our Editors Choice Award. This week, we’ve gone a lot further up the Phanteks range, to take a look at their mighty Mini XL Now, the world mini might not imply that this is a big chassis, but it certainly isn’t mini at all, and we’ll show you why that is in just a moment.

Features

Enthoo Mini XL includes 2 x 140mm fan in front and 1 x 140mm fan in the rear. Ability to upgrade to additional fans is possible. All fans included are Phanteks’ new redesigned and better performing SP series fans.

Appearance

  • Sandblasted aluminum faceplates with matte finish
  • Multi-color LED light strips
  • Stealth interior design

Cooling

  • Extreme cooling capacity
  • Support for up to 14x 120mm / 8x 140mm
  • Comes with 3 Phanteks premium fans
  • PWM fan hub plus 2x y-splitters allow for 8 fan connections* (11 fans max with additional y-splitters sold separately)
  • Extensive water cooling support. Provides up to 5 different installation areas for slim and thick radiators varying from single to triple (120mm and 140mm form factors). Clearance for push-pull fan configurations.

Functionality

  • Dual removable harddrive cages
  • 2x removable Drop-N-Lock SSD brackets
  • Fully equipped with dustfilters (1x top, 1x front, 2x bottom)
  • Removable top panel for easy fan installation and dust filter cleaning
  • Compartment for fan installation in top panel
  • Clean cable management using Phanteks’ preinstalled Hoop-N-Loop cable ties
  • Mod friendly structure uses screws NOT rivets
  • 10 color ambient lighting controller
  • 2x USB 3.0, microphone, 3.5mm audio jack

The Mini XL comes with support for Micro-ATX motherboards, despite being a little bigger than most mid-towers and almost as tall as some full-towers. It also comes with support, through the purchase of some additional brackets which I have at my disposal today, for mini-ITX motherboards. What’s important to mention is that this isn’t an either-or situation, as it’ll support both a Micro-ATX and a Mini-ITX motherboard simultaneously!

“The MINI XL introduces a new form factor, super micro ATX. With its unique power supply location, the Mini XL case has been redesigned with optimal cooling in mind. Resembling the Enthoo Primo, it offers extensive water-cooling possibilities and supports the thickest radiators in the market (80mm). The case brings modularity to a new level. Almost every single panel or bracket can be removed or relocated to serve different purposes. For the ones who desire even more, the Mini XL leaves options for additional upgrades. Pherhaps the most interesting one is the possibility to transform the MINI XL into a dual motherboard system.” – Phanteks

One of the biggest features of this chassis is its water cooling support and the best way to demonstrate this would be the video below. It’s obvious that water cooling enthusiasts are going to love this chassis!

In the box, you get everything you need to get you started, from hard drive and water cooling adaptor brackets, as well as a lovely mini component box for all the screws you’re ever likely to require.

First things first, I’m pretty sure this chassis is coated in some kind of military grade paint used for stealth jets. In a well-lit room with a camera flash for extra light, it still manages to look dark black; that’s not a bad thing, but it’s terrible for some of my photographs. The left side panel features two windows, the larger one on the left, then a smaller one on the right to show off two extra SSD mounts and the Phanteks logo on the inside of the chassis; a great way to show off your fancy SSDs.

The right side panel comes with two ventilated sections with magnetic dust filters on the interior. The one near the front can be used for cooling fans or radiators, or just passive cooling for the hard drive bays dependent on your internal configuration of choice. The section at the rear is for the PSU, which is side mounted in the top right of the chassis.

The front panel looks really cool, with a mixture of curved edges and bold shapes. You can see that the has an extended took to it, with the main section sort of floating from the bottom and right sides of the chassis, which comes with a ten colour LED light strip, further adding to that “floating” effect. This extended design means the chassis is quite wide, but that will help drastically with radiator support, as well as the dual motherboard configurations that are compatible.

Around the back, you’ll see all kinds of crazy things going on. There’s a PSU mount in the top left corner, a universal 120/140mm spacing fan and radiator mount on the right, then down at the bottom you have your Micro-ATX motherboard mounting. Now, it’s worth mentioning that the radiator panel as well as the small panel in the bottom right corner can be unscrewed completely, lifted out of the chassis and replaced with an alternative panel to allow you to install an SFX PSU and Mini-ITX motherboard on top of all the usual hardware; don’t worry, we’ll be doing that shortly.

The top panel is vast, allowing huge amounts of ventilated airflow for a wide range of fan and radiator configurations as you saw in the video at the start of this review.

The front panel is tucked to the right side of the top of the chassis and comes with the usual power controls, two USB 3.0 ports and HD Audio jacks.

Instead of smaller feet, the chassis has two long feet that run the full length of the chassis, giving it extra stability; There are six tough rubber pads to help keep it firmly planted on your surface of choice. There are two dust filters that cover the full length of the chassis, and what’s really nice is that these filters can be removed from the left side of the chassis, making maintenance a much easier task.

Synology DiskStation DS215+ 2-Bay NAS and All-In-One Server Review

Introduction


Last month I had the pleasure to take a look at the Synology DS715 [review here] 2-bay NAS and today I continue with Synology’s second recently released NAS, the Synology DiskStation DS215+.

The DS215+ is an all-in-one 2-bay NAS server that offers high performance while staying energy-efficient and providing a full set of business features. The dual-core CPU is powerful enough to handle multi-tasking applications and can help small and medium businesses to centralize their backups, protect critical assets, and share files quickly and efficiently – and that on a budget.

Inside the DiskStation DS215+, we find an Annapurna AL-212 dual core ARM processor with 1.4GHz with floating point unit and hardware encryption engine and 1GB DDR3 memory.

There are plenty of connection options on the DS215+ starting with the two Gigabit Ethernet RJ45 ports that allow you to set all modes of failover and link aggregation, including IEEE 802.3ad. The unit has two USB 3.0 ports for external drives and other devices as well as an eSATA port. Readers familiar with my reviews will know that I love it when they add the eSATA port as it is my preferred method of attaching external storage as it doesn’t have the same latency as USB does.

The hardware encryption engine coupled with the other improvements allow this unit to deliver twice the performance over the predecessor when dealing with encrypted storage.

Synology’s drive trays in these units are awesome and allow for a speedy setup as well as maintenance. The screw and tool-less design is as simple to use as pulling the sides off, inserting the drive and putting them back on. The trays are also lockable which is another bonus. You don’t eject them by accident and no false friend runs off with your drives that easy.

The software part is well covered by Synology’s DiskStation Manager (DSM), an operating system that has won a lot of rewards, and all well deserved. It comes with most basic and used features as standard and you’ll most likely find what is missing there in the add-on section. DSM is real easy to use and has great multi-tasking support.

One of the great features of DSM is the File station, a fast and secure way for sharing and managing your files stored on the DS215+. It has built-in FTP and email clients and allows drag and drop of files from both Windows and Mac OS systems. Mobile systems can do the same with the DS file app. HTTPS, SSL/TLS encryption, and link expiry dates also ensure file sharing over the Internet stays secure.

The basic file sharing on your network isn’t any problem for the DS215+ either as it supports it all. SMB2, FTP, NFS, WbDAV, windows AD and LDAP – you’ll find it all. Network recycle bin is also available on both AFP and CIFS shares.

The DS215+ allows for seamless account integration thanks to the User Home feature that automatically creates user folders to minimize effort while the Windows ACL support allows admins to fine-tune access controls and set up privileges through a familiar interface.

This is truly an all-in-one server as it is labeled with everything it supports. From file storage and media streaming over Mail servers and VPN servers, the DS215+ lets you do it all. It can also work as a print server with your USB printers and share them over the network as well as act as DNS server, Directory Server, RADIUS Server, DHCP Server, and Log Center. All that in one tiny box.

With the support of Windows AD, LDAP, and Domain Trust, DS215+ enables seamless account integration. The User Home feature can automatically create a “home” folder for every user account to minimize the administrator’s effort in repeatedly creating “home” folders for all accounts. Windows ACL support on DS215+ allows IT administrators to fine-tune access controls and set up privileges to files and folders on DS215+ through the familiar Windows user interface. With compatibility for major protocols, DS215+ can eliminate server configuration overhead and enhance IT administrators’ efficiency.

 

Backup and storage works in many ways and one very useful is the personal cloud the DS215+ allows you to set up. The Cloud Station allows you to sync files between devices in online and offline mode. The Cloud Station can remember up to 32 historical versions, encrypts the traffic, and can also sync between different NAS stations as well as mobile devices.

Security isn’t just well covered in the Cloud Station and Drives with the AES 256-bit encryption, the DS215+ also supports Antivirus and basic network security. You can also enable two-step verification for your users.

All of Synology’s mobile apps work great with this device, may they be DS note, DS audio, DS video, DS photo+, DS cloud, DS file, DS download, and DS cam. Everything right at your fingertips and on your smartphone or tablet.

 

That is a lot of functionality and features in one little device and one that saves both the environment and your wallet thanks to the low power consumption. When the HDDs hibernate, the DS215+ consumes just about 9W and less than 21 W when accessed. Thinking small can pay off in the long run.

ASUSTOR Readying New 4k Capable NAS and New Entry Level Series

There isn’t long time until Computex 2015 takes off and all the big hardware players will be at the event to showcase their latest advances and creations. ASUSTOR is of course one of the companies that will be present at Computex and they’ll present at least two new lines of NAS servers, the 61 Enthusiast Series and the 10 Series for the entry-level market.

ASUSTOR’s 61 Series utilizes the newest high-performance Intel Braswell processors and includes the AS6102T and AS6104T models with 2 and 4 disk bays respectively. Both devices in this series come with dual Gigabit Ethernet ports and 4GB memory out of the box. The maximum support amount of memory is 8GB in both models for those who need more than the standard 4GB. Compared with its previous generation, the 61 series feature superior transfer performance and provides smoother multitasking as well as the newly added support for 4K/2K high-resolution video output directly from the NAS. The new 61 series would be perfect to act as both your personal cloud storage as well as a home entertainment hub.

The ASUSTOR 10 Series on the other hand, is a brand new entry-level model. The 10 series was created for the price conscious consumer and it is based on a Marvell processor. It comes with what is called an “eye-catching diamond-plate finish” on the exterior and it is just as easy to use as your personal cloud and file storage as it could be.

I for once can’t wait to find out more about these new NAS series and I’ll make sure to keep you all updated as more information and specifications are released.

ASUSTOR AS5102T 2-Bay Enthusiast NAS Review

Introduction


I was pretty excited when I heard that the ASUSTOR AS5102T 2-bay NAS was on the way for a spin on my test bench. I’ve seen, heard and read a lot about ASUSTOR and their features but never had the pleasure of a hands-on experience. This has changed from today and I’ll be giving this unit a thorough lookover and testing.

The AS5102T is categorized as an NAS for power-users to businesses, and I had no doubt about that from the moment I took it out of the box. The NAS is relative heavy for its size and it’s a result of the absolute awesome build-quality. The AS5102T is powered by an Intel Celeron 2.0 GHz quad-core processor which combines with a rich variety of multimedia output functionality to give you an optimal choice for both work and play.

The unit is built around an Intel Celeron 2.0GHz quad-core CPU with a burst speed up to 2.41GHz. The 2GB SO-DIMM DDR3L memory can be expanded to a maximum of 8GB in two modules, it can take two 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch SSDs or HDDs of your choice and supports hot-swapping as well as easy migration to a new ASUSTOR NAS if this one ever should become too small. There is plenty of connection options with three USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, and two eSATA ports. One of the USB 3.0 ports is located at the front ‘inside’ the backup button for the same. A simple press of the key and the NAS will start to sync the drive with the specified location-based on your settings.sata, two gigabit ethernet ports,

The two Gigabit Ethernet ports support every possible setup from link aggregation to fail-over and dual-IP setups. The choice is yours. Another amazing feature is the direct output via HDMI 1.4a and S/PDIF. This allows you to connect the NAS directly to your TV, monitor, or audio system. No need for a dedicated HTPC. You can control it via a web interface, smartphone apps, or directly by attaching a keyboard and mouse to the unit. A true multimedia hub for all your photos, music and movies.

As mentioned above, you can control the AS5102T in multiple ways, but ASUSTOR adds one more to the list. They’ve also added an infrared receiver to the NAS and you can get this awesome little remote for it that works with the AS-6, AS-3, AS-2TE, AS50, AS51, and AS70 series. This is awesome, you can truly kickback and play all the media from your NAS in a convenient way.

With the newest version of KODI that was released just a few days prior to this review going live you’ll even be able to control the NAS and KODI with your normal TV remote. There are however two things you need for this to work, a TV that supports CEC function and an extra USB to CEC Adapter. But then it’s just plug-and-play assuming the TV has the CEC function turned on. Your ASUSTOR NAS is now fully integrated into your existing multimedia setup, awesome.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kV9OfBZVuyo

ASUSTOR also made sure that the unit is as eco-friendly and economical as possible. The system will only draw 17.7W in an average configuration compared to the 100-350W a PC easily can draw. The system will automatically enter sleep mode (Schedule S3) when needed and supports auto-standby for both internal and external disks. The 70mm fan is controlled by the system and only spins as fast as it is needed and I didn’t notice it at all during my time with the unit. You can also set your own custom power schedule with on, off, restart and sleep settings.

A really awesome feature that I didn’t expect to find was not only the LED Night Mode, but also that you’re able to customize what LEDs are turned on and off as well as how bright they should shine. The Night mode can be automatic or you can set your own schedule. The more I dive into the depth of this unit, the more I get impressed by it.

I previously mentioned that the unit felt heavy when I unpacked it and that is because it’s a full metal unit, well aside from the front panel and rubber feet, of course. The NAS features an aluminium casing along with a rust and corrosion resistant coating which combines with the metallic hard disk trays to fully make use of the natural cooling properties of metal. This significantly enhances the entire cooling ability of the system and it’s far superior for the job than plastic units who need bigger fans running at higher speeds to keep cool.

 

The full metal drive trays feature both a locking mechanism to prevent accidental ejection during operation as well as someone taking a drive with him when walking past the unit. Each tray has two LEDs directly built and the locking mechanism when you plug the trays into the unit is simply superb. Same goes when ejecting a drive again, it pops and slides out without a noise or any resistance. It just fits.

A premium device also needs a premium accessories bundle, and the AS5102T has that too. ASUSTOR was so kind to provide us with a remote as part of our NAS, but you’ll have to purchase that seperately if you wish to use a more traditional control of the built-in media player. They NAS also comes with two LAN cables so you instantly can take full advantage of both ports. While other NAS devices provide multiple LAN ports at times, they rarely come with more than one cable. It’s a nice touch from ASUSTOR to include one for each port.

The AS5102T has a tiny footprint with only 10.8cm width, 23cm depth, and 16.35cm height. It weighs about 2kg due to the use of superior metals over plastic and the generally great build quality.

 

ASUSTOR has a long list of apps ready for your mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, among them AiData, AiRemote, AiVides, AiDownload, AiMusic, AiFoto, AiSecure, and AiMaster. Everything looks to be covered with just the right app for each occasion.

ASUSTOR has one more amazing function that I’d like to tell a bit about before we move on and take a closer look at the device itself. The MyArchive function allows you to use hard disks as removable storage archives. Plug in an archive when you need it and swap it out for another one when it isn’t needed anymore, or just to cut on the power consumption. It’s as easy as plug and play and works by keeping any OS related files off the drives.

There is a limited amount of drive bays reserved for this function and in the case of the AS5102T it is one. Larger models allow for two bays to be used for the MyArchieve function. The lazy person can even buy additional disk trays to eliminate the need for screwing when replacing drives this way. This is also a very cost effective way of storing a lot of data, especially when we look at the Seagate Archive HDDs. The 8TB variant costs less than a 6TB WD NAS drive as we use in our tests, and that is an offer that is hard to resist. But keep in mind that these drives are heavily optimized for reading and will have bad writing performance compared to NAS drives.

While AiRemote and AiDownload will be some of the most used tools, the AiMaster is the one worth highlighting. Not only will it allow you to initialize your new NAS from your mobile device, it also allows you to generate the entire setup, change and modify it at any time anywhere. All you need is a networked connection to your NAS. We’ll take a closer look at just this aspect a bit later in the review.

Would You Pay £6899 for an Ethernet Cable?

Making a mockery of the “enthusiast” market has been a thing for as long as I can remember. From HDMI cables that cost hundreds of pounds, to speaker wire that makes promises so grand, it may as well be forged from unicorn horns. Standard cables are perfectly fine, typically the only time you’ll need a slightly more expensive cable is if you’re installing them into walls, where you want the cable to be more durable. So what about ethernet cables? How much should you be spending on one of those?

If you want “The Diamond” cable from AudioQuest, you can expect to pay £6899.00 for a 12m cable that comes with a 5 year warranty!

“The Diamond is a top-grade Ethernet Cable which is the result of a lifetime’s research by AudioQuest made from the very best materials available. This really is a ‘money no object’ cable for the dedicated Hi-Fi enthusiast that has extended into a world of digital audio sources.” – audiovisualonline

That’s about as much as I’m going to humour that affront to technology, as RJ45 signals are digital and unless you’re stringing together a bunch of rusty coat hangers to make your cables, a standard £9.98 20m Cat6 from OCUK will do the job nicely, especially with 8m of extra cable and a total saving of £6889.02!

I wonder if anyone has bought one…

What’s the most you would pay for a 12m RJ45 cable?

OCZ Launches RevoDrive 350 PCIe SSD

OCZ’s RevoDrive line of SSDs have been at the forefront of the enthusiast market for quite some time now and with M.2 drives starting to push past the limits of the SATA specification, OCZ have announced the released of their latest pure PCI Express SSD; the RevoDrive 350.

Built to run through the PCIe Gen 2.0 x8 interface, the 350 offers up to 960GB of raw storage space with sequential speeds of up to 1.8GB/s within reach along with IOPs of up to 140,000 4K random write. To achieve these phenomenal speeds, the 350 play’s host to up to four LSI SF-2282 controllers and a spread of Toshiba’s 19nm NAND following their acquisition not too long ago.

Unlike previous generations of the RevoDrive and OCZ’s other PCI Express based drives, the 350 is built to target a wide-spread of market, ranging from the enthusiast gamer right up to the enterprise market where IOPs and drive longevity is key.

In addition the RevoDrive 350 will only appear as a single drive to the host system rather than multiple drives as seen previously. This is made possible through a new proprietary system known as Virtualised Controller Architecture (VCA) 2.0. In effect this will blend together the multiple controllers to provide greater performance to the system whilst using fewer resources – much like having four cores in a desktop processor.

OCZ’s Senior VP Daryl Lang stated; “The new RevoDrive 350 is built using proven technology with the added benefit of utilizing in-house premium Toshiba flash and OCZ’s proprietary Virtualized Controller Architecture (VCA) 2.0 to deliver highly efficient performance aggregation while reducing the burden on host resources.  This next generation PCIe SSD is the ideal solution for performance-minded users looking to maximize both bandwidth and density for the complete gamut of gaming, content creation and workstation applications.”

With its sleek new design and superior performance figures, the 350 certainly looks the part and on paper it sounds great, we’ll just have to wait a little longer to see what the cost will be and when they will be available. We know historically that the RevoDrive has included a strong price tag, but with the price of NAND coming down in addition to being produced in-house, we could potentially see a more desirable price tag when the drive arrives on the shelves.

Source: Press Release

AOC Q2770PQU 27″ PLS Monitor Review

Introduction


For content writers and image editors such as myself, having a large display with a high-resolution to work on and maximise our workspace is virtually a must have and whilst a 1920 x 1080 workspace is usable, it’s not ideal – especially when you’re referencing from a data sheet or a reviewers guide. There is of course the option to have two displays side by side and this is great as it does give you the capacity to view two separate items at once with loads of space to work in, but having even more space to work within is highly sought after – in short a 1920 x 1080 resolution doesn’t quite cut it for me these days.

Going up from a standard HD resolution does mean that we generally have to go up in a physical dimension as well and above 24″ the next step is 27″. At this point we move to the 2560 x 1440 and 2560 x 1600 set of resolutions and whilst there is only a small difference in the height of each resolution, surprisingly there is a bigger gap in the price. This is part of the reason why many users stick to the standard HD workspace. Fortunately for the professional user group the number of monitors coming to market sporting the slightly lower 1440 pixel height is quickly growing and with 4K panels appearing in growing numbers, the price associated with moving up from 1920 x 1080 is dropping at a steady pace.

The Q2770PQU is one of AOC’s latest creations and like a number of their other products it’s not short of any features. On top of the 2560 x 1440 resolution, the display boasts a 80,000,000 : 1 dynamic contrast ratio, 5ms GTG (Grey to Grey) response time, 300cd/m² brightness, a pixel pitch of 0.233 x 0.233 mm and a super wide viewing angle of 178° (horizontal & vertical) – all from a LED backlit PLS panel. Top this off with a set of built-in 2W speakers, DVI-D, VGA, HDMI and DisplayPort inputs, a height adjustable and rotatable stand and finally a pair of USB2.0 & USB3.0 ports and what you’ve got is one mouth-watering package.

Like the spec list, the accessory set is by no means short-staffed. A cable for DVI, VGA and DisplayPort connectivity is available along with a 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable and a USB3.0 host cable. A regional kettle lead is also bundled in with a CD and user manual to get you up and running.

Aside from the accessories, I will make a note that the box suggests that this is an IPS panel and not a PLS as listed. I can confirm that this is a PLS panel and any sources that list IPS are incorrect – all other listed specifications for this panel are correct – an error was made during the beta stages for this product that resulting in review samples having IPS printed boxes – all final production boxes and sources have been corrected.

OCZ Vertex 460 240GB Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


Over the last few months, OCZ have been in the limelight with the news of imminent bankruptcy and to be quite honest, for us reviewers and particularly those of use that review their products it has been very had to ignore the facts and what was going on. As a result I was very sceptical that I was going to get any more products from them and these were the last days of one of the best SSDs names out there. Fortunately though, help was on hand and following a buyout from Toshiba, OCZ are once again back in the game. With Indlinx controllers at their heart and now having Toshiba’s own NAND packages spread around, OCZ have now got a stable supply of components for their SSDs and with this set of critical changes taking place, there is no other way to display their come back but to release a new drive.

Following in the footsteps of the Vertex 450, the Vertex 460 is home to the same Indlinx BareFoot 3 M10 controller, however on the NAND front the younger and fresher drive takes advantage of Toshiba’s 19nm MLC NAND packages and the resulting combination sees a drive that on paper looks quite promising. The rated performance figures put it up with some of the class leading drives, although it has been priced in the region of other mainstream drives.

Whilst some people are sceptical that the buyout from Toshiba will help out OCZ in the longterm, OCZ  are still going to run under their own name and the essence of OCZ’s previous products is still going to be there. I personally have high hopes for them and I look forward to seeing a number of class leading products roll off the production line in the near future. There is only one way to see how the rejuvenation process has gone and that is to put the drives to test and see what they are made of.

Bundled in with the Vertex 460, we are provided with a typical OCZ array of extras including a 2.5″ to 3.5″ drive bay adaptor, a copy of Acronis True Image Home for drive to drive migration, screws for installation and a ‘I my SSD’ sticker.

MSI Z97 XPower AC Motherboard Supports Delid Haswell CPU

With recent generations of CPU’s suffering from low quality TIM between the heatspreader and the CPU die, many enthusiasts have been using delid CPU’s, in which they’ve removed the protective cover to either swap out the TIM for something better, or to use the CPU without its protective lid. Applying a CPU cooler directly to the CPU die can work wonders for cooling, but obviously comes with a fair amount of risk in terms of damaging the CPU.

Enthusiasts are keen to squeeze any performance they can from their system, especially those with a big focus on overclocking performance and the new Core i7-4790K from the Haswell refresh is likely to be a prime choice for many enthusiasts. MSI have already won a lot of praise for overclocking support, but their new generation of motherboards will support Delid Haswell and Haswell Refresh processors right out of the box.

The Z97 XPOWER AC will have the latest Delid Die Guard included, which will provide protection for the rest of the CPU and give you a good mount for any cooling components. Are you brave enough to flip the hood off of your new high-end CPU? I know I’m not.

Thank you WCCF for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of WCCF.

ADATA Premier Pro SP920 256GB Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


In the world of solid state drives, there are a vast number of advantages to be seen and had over the older mechanical counterparts and aside from raw capacity and the consequent price per GB of storage, the SSD is bar far the superior option to opt for when upgrading or building your new system. On the face of it, solid state drive are all about pure speed and whilst they are able to hit the limits of what the SATA III interface can handle, there is a whole lot more to the humble SSD to what lies on the surface and the crib sheets that are laid beside them.

The behind the scenes operations that hard drives rely on are pretty set in concrete and whilst there are some minor differences in performance to be seen, the way in which data is read and written to the drive stays the same with the iconic spinning platters and a read / write head which flickers back and forth hundreds of times a second. Solid state drives as we know by now are much more different and the lack of moving parts as indicated in their name means that everything is electronically altered within the silicon chips that are laid out on the PCB. How this data is read and accessed though does vary and overall we find three types of NAND available; synchronous, asynchronous and toggle. Typically we see most drives on the market offering up asynchronous or toggle mode NAND and this on the basic level comes down to the price. As we know, if you want better and more consistent performance, then you’ll be expecting to pay that bit more and this is exactly the case with synchronous NAND. The performance levels that are on offer on paper may look vastly greater, but in the real world the differences in speed are a lot closer than expected – the real advantage comes in sustained performance. I will go into this all a little later on to explain how it all works.

In the latter part of last week, ADATA gave us all a bit of a tease with an image on their Facebook page that teased us all with a portion of the drive on show with today’s date (2nd April 2014 for those not reading this on the launch date) down the left hand side. Buy why are ADATA keen to do this? Surely the launch of a new drive can’t be that special?

Well in some respects this is just another SSD; it doesn’t offer up a 2TB capacity as I’ve seen some speculate and ADATA haven’t found a way to rip through the limitations of the SATA III interface – nor is it a RAID0 drive within a single 2.5″ frame – damn I love it when people try to spread rumours! What the SP920 is, is in fact a drive that has been designed and built to meet the demands of our home entertainment driven lives and this where the aforementioned synchronous NAND comes into play.

Built around one of Marvell’s latest controllers, ADATA have chosen to use the more expensive NAND in favour of faster and more efficient file transfers from the drive – something which async and toggle mode drives struggle with as the volume becomes more congested with stored data. Multimedia files such as high-definition films and audio files or uncompressed data as we techs refer to them can put a lot of strain on the drive and in some cases we see the performance slowly drop down when being read – especially as the volume fills as mentioned above. This is what the SP920 is made to combat and thus why ADATA are proud to get the enthusiast community wanting more information.

Inside the SP920 packaging we get what is becoming a somewhat new industry standard bundle with a 2.5″ to 3.5″ drive bay adaptor, 7mm z-height to 9mm drive converter, screws for installation, quick start guide and a copy of Acronis’ drive migration software to make the upgrading process much quicker and less painful.

Crucial M550 512GB Solid State Drive Review

Introduction


During the middle stages of last year I took a look at a SSD that, in my eyes, set the ball rolling when it came to high capacity drives and with options of up to 1TB on offer, Crucial’s M500 made its statement loud and clear – you don’t need to sacrifice performance for space. To follow in the footsteps of the M500 and to keep Crucial at the forefront of the SSD market, a drive that is able to offer the performance whilst costing less is what is needed. Bring forth the leaner and more refined M550.

Based loosely around the M500, the M550 strives to take the performance and value one step further, with a more powerful single core Marvell controller, paired with 256MB 1066MHz DRAM and up to 1024GB of raw storage. As well as controller improvements, the NAND has seen a rise up to 256Gb dies and as a result of all these improvements, we are now looking at sequential read speeds of up to 550MB/s and 500MB/s write; with read and write IOPs levels of 95k and 85k respectively also available. The key factor though is price and the purchase price is not the only monetary figure that has been put under the microscope. With the market slowly moving over towards the mobile era, system and component manufacturers are looking at ways in which they can reduce the power needs of their products – the end goal being longer battery life but with the same strong performance on tap.

This price per performance factor is where Crucial have focused the M550 at, so in addition to the power usage and to stay one step ahead of the competition, the drives will be available in SATA, mSATA and M.2 formats.  The result from these focal points is a wallet that is not only happy at the point of purchase, but also further down the line as the cost of ownership is taken into account.

Like any other Crucial product that I’ve seen, the contents of the box are to the point with little more than a 9.5mm drive spacer included alongside the 7mm slim drive.

Powerful 80Plus Platinum Rated 1250w PSU Released By Deepcool

Deep cool have already hit the market with a great range of power supplies that range from 400w for the lower end of the market, to 750w products that are ideal for multi-graphics card systems, but their fun doesn’t stop there! After a successful start in the power supply market, they’ve decided to up the power and offer something epic for the extreme performance end of the market, enthusiast gamers, overclockers and coin miners with the launch of the Deepcool Quanta DQ1250.

Offering up 1250W of continuous power, the DQ1250 is built with energy efficiency at its core performance, offering up a stunning 80Plus Platinum certification, the worlds strictest energy efficiency classification for powers supplies. This level of efficiency, as well as its might power output of 1250W is achieved through the use of top quality Japanese capacitors. The power supply features two 12V rails delivering 45A and 65A each output at peak consumption. As for regulatory, DQ1250 has CE, FCC, CCC, CB, EAC and TUV. And as for protection, this power supply has over voltage protection (OVP), short circuit protection (SCP) and over power protection (OPP).

A hybrid fan design uses a separate circuit design to keep the fan at zero rpm for silent performance when the peak PSU is under 30% load, or the ambient temperature is below 25 degrees, while fan delay technology will allow the Quanta’s 140mm fan to keep spinning for 15~30 seconds after being your system has been powered off, ensuring all parts cool down completely to help improve the lifespan of the components.

With flat ribbon cable design, it is quite easy to put the wires on the back of motherboard tray to get a great airflow in the case. This power supply is semi-modular design with only the mainboard and two ATX 12V CPU cable (700mm) fixed onto the power supply. All other cables are modular and packed in the box. There are 8 PCI-E (6+2Pin) connectors, 16 SATA connectors, 10 Peripheral (Big 4Pin) connectors and 3 pieces of extensional connectors: 2 for PCI-E and 1 for small 4Pin.

Deepcool have been on a bit of a roll recently, with one great product after another and we’re hoping the same is true of the Quanta DQ1250, and with high efficiency, high quality construction and components, and mighty performance this does look set to be a great option for extreme-systems and coin mining rigs. We don’t have pricing information just yet, but given the specifications we would expect it to be in excess of £200.

Thank you Deepcool for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Deepcool.

Cooler Master Cosmos II Super Tower Chassis Review

Introduction


Today we are lucky enough to take a look at one of the most prestigious chassis designs on the market. Many of you will already be familiar with the Cosmos II as it has actually been on the market for a couple of years now, but it is still extremely desirable, popular and from what we’ve seen of it at trade shows or in custom builds, it is still awesome. This may not be a brand new product, but it’s still very much a flagship chassis for Cooler Master, and it’s the first time we’ve been able to get in close and take a closer look at what it has to offer.

Big chassis are gaining in popularity recently, the ever-increasing popularity of water cooling has led many gamers, system builders, and general enthusiasts to use bigger and bigger radiators as they seek to push the performance of today’s latest hardware to the very limits. Many high-end components demand a lot of space, bigger motherboards allow for more graphics cards, longer chassis allows for longer graphics cards, massive amounts of storage space allows you to create epic raid configurations and then you need more room still to keep all of it running cool and quiet.

The Cosmos II ticks many boxes, it’s big and heavy, promises class leading build quality and design, has room for dual socket motherboards, multiple graphics cards and a huge array of storage drives. On top of that it’s fitted extensively with mounts for extra cooling, dust filters and radiator mounts. In short, there isn’t much this chassis doesn’t promise to be able to do and for anyone building an extreme performance rig, the Cosmos II looks to be a great starting point. So with that said, lets take a closer look at what this chassis has to offer and see if it really can live up to both our expectations and to the level of quality that it promises.

The packaging is really nicely designed, with a great image of the chassis on the front. The box is nothing short of huge and is extremely heavy to handle.

Around the box we have three more images of the chassis, this time detailing some of the internal and external features such as HDD support and cooling mounts. In the box we also found the usual assortment of cable ties, screws, washers and an easy to follow instruction manual.

Overclockers UK Unveil New Line Of 8Pack Inspired Systems

Early last month, Overclockers UK became home to a new breed of high-end systems that have taken the process of hand-picking components for sale-able systems to a whole new level. The ultra high-end systems have certainly rustled up the extreme performance community and whilst some regard them as having a steep price tag, it has to be considered that each system is painstakingly put together after each major component is hand-picked and binned based in its out of the box performance.

Following on from 8Pack’s launch of three ultra high-end systems, there has been a second line of systems in development that offer up the same essence of the ultra high-end systems, but with a lighter price point, that for many will make them more within reach of purchase. With inspiration coming from the essence of 8Pack’s dedication to quality and performance, the Infinity line consists of six systems with three water-cooled systems known as the Tesseract, Quasar and Eclipse.

The cheapest system of the three, the ‘Tesseract’ comes with a baseline price tag of £3071.99 (inc VAT) and is based around an overclocked 4770k and twin GTX780’s in SLI on a Gigabyte Z87X-OC with 8GB or RAM and housed in Corsair’s Carbide 540 High Flow Cube chassis. Taking a move up the performance ladder, the ‘Quasar’, like the Tesseract has an overclocked 4770k, but is built on an Asus Z87 Maximus VI Formula with 16GB of RAM and twin GTX Titan’s in SLI, this step up in performance will set you back just over £1000 extra.

At the top of the new range is the £4967.99 ‘Eclipse’. Built around a high performance 4930k overclocked CPU on an Asus Rampage IV Extreme motherboard, this system also comes with 16GB of 2133Mz RAM and twin GTX Titans, again all water-cooled and this time built into the huge Corsair Obsidian 900D chassis that has recently come to market.

All the systems come with a minimum of a 24 month return and collect warranty and are available to buy now at Overclockers.co.uk

Source: Overclockers UK Press Release

Intel DZ87KLT-75K Motherboard Preview

Whenever a new chipset launches, so does a new reference board from Intel, and today sees the DZ87KLT-75K being the board in question. Now while we can’t divulge huge amounts of information in terms of features to do with the chipset and speaking about performance completely out of question, we can obviously comment on the design of the board and its aesthetics.

Firstly, it is worth noting that you are unlikely to see mass amounts of these boards appear within the retail sector, as they are generally used as reference and media viewing, though you may occasionally see them used in system integrator machines or for OEM purposes, but as it gives a further insight into the upcoming technology, we want to show as much as we can without giving too much away.

You’ll notice some similarities with their previous reference boards including those from Z77 and X79 with the black PCB and blue colour scheme that surrounds it, but with Intel being Intel, it would be wrong not to use their own blue colouring, right? It uses an ATX form factor and is jam packed full of features, so we will try to highlight a few that we can see from a visual perspective, as we don’t really want to get in trouble for breaking any NDA’s.

Around the CPU socket we find two Intel branded blue heatsinks, with one quite small and the other quite the opposite with it being on the large scale and including a skull as we’ve see before from Intel. There is still plenty of space around the CPU socket and a single 8-pin ATX power connector gives us an idea on the power delivery for the CPU giving us a small indication as to what we can work with in terms of overclocking.

The other cooling on the board is a small Intel branded heatsink covering over the chipset Not much else to see here barring some jumpers, SATA ports and a Mini PCI-Express/mSATA expansion slot.

As with all of our previews, we’ve kept the writing short, and focussed more on the videos, and therefore we invite you to check out the video below for a more in-depth look at the design of the board, but don’t expect any benchmarks or performance results, as remember this is just a preview.

 [youtube]http://youtu.be/lpfnNKhPKRQ[/youtube]

Design wise, for a reference board, Intel have really done a great job. The black PCB and the cosmic blue colour scheme really adds a professional feel to it, and the inclusion of the skull shows that it means business, and we can only hope that is reflected in the review in terms of performance and of course; overclocking.

Feature wise, we can see plenty of SATA ports, a nice variety of expansion lanes with x16 and x1 PCI-Express and a legacy PCI lane for those with older generation expansion cards. Also on top of this is the Mini PCI-Express/mSATA slot just beneath the Intel branded chipset cooler for those wanting to add even more functionality to their system. Debug LEDs and quick buttons for power and reset will see overclockers and enthusiasts loving this board too and with plenty of fan headers jotted around the board for extra cooling, which enthusiasts should also welcome with open arms.

Rounding things off, this isn’t a lot more we can say without getting in trouble with our friends at Intel, so we have to cut things a bit short and leave it there, as all of the features that we can mention are in a what you see is what you get style, and hopefully the video has more than shown you that in terms of specifications and of course design.

With talks of this being the last Intel board being produced before they pull out of the DIY market, we can honestly say that they’ve finished things off nicely, but we sure do hope that there is more to come in the future from them, as this is certainly an improvement on the Z77, which was an improvement over its predecessor, so it’s clear to say that Intel are learning and fast, and we hope that the rumours stay as just that; rumours.

MSI Z77A-GD65 Gaming (Z77) Motherboard Review

Whilst at CeBIT earlier in the year, I swung by the MSI booth to see what products they had to show off to the world. Now for most people that attended the show, being able to look around MSI’s booth was not going to be possible as they were situated in an area that was out of bounds to the general public, meaning that only those associated with the industry, like us at eTeknix, could have a look. Whilst on their stand, there was something that caught the eye and in some respect looked a little odd. Typically when we see MSI motherboards from a glance we expect to see the blue or yellow highlighting that appears on their boards, however one cabinet housed something different and in some respects a little bit special.

This change that caught the eye is MSI’s new line of gaming orientated motherboards. The obvious question is why do they stand out so much? Well until now, MSI have stuck with blue or yellow schemes on their boards, but the gaming line use red – which to some is an automatic association with gaming. So why the new line? Well a number of other key players in the market have their own lines of gaming orientated boards, ASRock have the Fatal1ty association, Asus have Republic of Gamers (ROG), Gigabyte have G.1 and now MSI have Gaming. Essentially these new boards from MSI are tweaked and tuned variants of the standard Z77 range so at their heart they have a very similar product spec, but they feature some components that will benefit gamers during their online battles. The most notable of these is a NIC from BigFoot networks – the Killer E2200- which reduces in game latency by prioritising game traffic over other network communications.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/QE6KcbkxLiA[/youtube]

MSI’s box, features a bold dragon on the front and everything is pointing towards the gaming aspect. A new MSI gaming logo sits to the right above the product name and on the flap to open the box the tag ‘Just Game!’ is printed. Inside there is a decent accessory set with four SATA cables, an SLI bridge, driver CD (although we recommend going to MSI’s website to get the latest drivers), quick connect headers, voltage check cables, a bold case badge, red and black coloured IO shield and various manuals with a door card for warning others in the house that you’re too busy gaming to pay any other attention.