NVIDIA Pascal to Enter Mass Shipments in July

Yesterday, we reported on AMD’s plans to supposedly launch their next graphics architecture, codenamed ‘Polaris’ in June. The details surrounding NVIDIA’s response with Pascal aimed at consumers was unknown but it seemed likely the range would arrive at a similar date. According to new information sourced by Digitimes, Pascal will be unveiled during Computex and enter mass shipments in July:

“The graphics card players will begin mass shipping their Pascal graphics cards in July and they expect the new-generation graphics card to increase their shipments and profits in the third quarter.”

Interestingly, the report claims that AMD might only unveil the Polaris range in June, and shipments could occur at a later date. Apparently, NVIDIA will have the advantage and be the first company to release their new line-up to the public:

“Meanwhile, AMD has prepared Polaris-based GPUs to compete against Nvidia’s Pascal; however, the GPUs will be released later than Nvidia’s Pascal and therefore the graphics card players’ third-quarter performance will mainly be driven by demand for their Nvidia products.”

Thankfully, both graphics card manufacturers look set to release brand new products and I cannot wait to see the performance improvements and pricing across various tiers. AMD appears to be focussing on performance per watt on Polaris and the demonstrations thus far have been impressive. Sadly, we haven’t really seen anything from NVIDIA’s new consumer line-up, so it will be fascinating when the samples finally arrive. It’s still unknown which products will opt for HBM2, if any. It’s clear that the majority of models from both companies are set to utilize GDDR5X. While this isn’t a patch on HBM2, it’s a good improvement from the older GDDR5 standard.

Recently, there were some murmurings about NVIDIA delaying mainstream Pascal under 2017. This doesn’t look like the case at all, and if anything, reports suggest they will be the first to market.

Check Out The Raspberry Pi Powered “GameBoy Zero”

Who remembers when the original Game Boy was released? Released by Nintendo back in 1996, the Game Boy was the first handheld gaming device for a lot of people and in recent years, people have looked to emulate the system. While being able to play with your smartphone like it was a GameBoy is nice and all, what about upgrading your Game Boy to play something a little more modern?

The Game Boy Zero may look like a Game Boy with two extra buttons, but in reality, it’s a lot more. Featuring a new colour LCD screen the Zero is actually powered by a Raspberry Pi which runs an emulator, giving you access to all kinds of  games using software called Emulation Station, giving you games all the way from the original platform and the MegaDrive to the GameBoy advance.

By modifying a Game Boy cartridge the creator, Wermy, managed to conceal a micro SD to SD card adapter, meaning you can easily update and change-up the software the Game Boy Zero plays. With two extra buttons (for the X and Y Buttons) and even two (slightly concealed) buttons on the back to act as the L and R buttons, the creation is anything but unimpressive.

MSI is Now Offering Cashback on Selected Motherboards

Consumers have a staggering array of options when considering a new motherboard and it can be quite tricky to narrow down the choices. MSI produces a stunning range which targets various price points and user demands. Whether you’re looking for a flagship X99 server-grade product, or affordable H170 gaming motherboard, there’s something to suit everyone’s budget. The company has recently launched a promotion which allows you to receive cashback on the following motherboards:

X99A GODLIKE GAMING – £40.00
X99A GAMING 9 ACK – £40.00
X99A GAMING 7 – £30.00
C236A WORKSTATION – £30.00
Z170A GAMING M9 ACK – £30.00
Z170A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM EDITION – £30.00
B150A GAMING PRO – £22.00
H170A GAMING PRO – £22.00
C236M WORKSTATION – £22.00
Z170A GAMING M7 – £22.00
Z170A GAMING M5 – £22.00
Z170A-G45 GAMING – £22.00
Z170A GAMING PRO – £22.00
Z170A GAMING PRO CARBON – £22.00
Z170A KRAIT GAMING 3X – £22.00
Z170I GAMING PRO AC – £22.00
Z170A TOMAHAWK AC – £15.00
Z170A TOMAHAWK – £15.00
Z170A SLI PLUS – £15.00
Z170M MORTAR – £15.00
H170M-A PRO – £15.00
H170I PRO AC – £15.00
B150M NIGHT ELF – £15.00
B150M MORTAR – £15.00
B150I GAMING PRO AC – £15.00
B150I GAMING PRO – £15.00

Please note the cashback offer is only available residents of the United Kingdom, France, Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Poland, Spain and Turkey. Furthermore, you need to have a valid proof of purchase from participating retailers. If you’re eligible, the claim process is really simple and shouldn’t take too long to complete. The promotion ends on the 18th April 2016, and all claims must be filled 30 days after the purchase date. Although, you can’t leave it longer than 60 days to complete.

To register your product and instigate a claim please visit this page. Cashback offers are always a great incentive and reduces the price of a product you’re considering by a decent amount. Perhaps, this is enough of a saving and an encouragement to upgrade to a higher-end model. Please remember the promotion is for a limited time so it’s important to register your claim as soon as possible. Personally, I feel the Z170A Pro Carbon is a bargain even without the cashback offer.

Cooler Master Releases MasterKeys Pro Series Keyboards

Cooler Master released their newest series of keyboards, the MasterKeys Pro series. The new MasterKeys Pro is available in two versions so you get just the size you need, want, and prefer, whether you like a full sized keyboard or rather a TKL without the num pad. Both versions feature the same functions and customizability, so pick which is best for your gaming needs. The full-sized version is called the MasterKeys Pro L and the TKL version is called the MasterKeys Pro S.

The Cooler Master MasterKeys Pro has a minimalistic design, but don’t let that fool you. The keyboard features full RGB backlighting with multiple effects and full customizability. On top of the extra bright LEDs, you find the Cherry MX switches of your choice, whether that might be red, brown, or blue switches.

It appears like a very simple keyboard when looking at it, but the MasterKeys pro is anything but simple. It is built with a 32-bit ARM processor which increases the possibilities when it comes to on-the-fly macro recording as well as general features. Most keyboards rely on software solutions to handle things and you can use Cooler Master’s software tool to configure and set up your keyboard to match your needs, but you don’t have to. You can do everything software-free too via the on-the-fly system built into the MasterKeys Pro keyboards.

“The MasterKeys Pro offers multiple lighting modes. Presets include Color Wave, Breathing, and other responsive effects. You can choose between red, brown, or blue switches to match your tactile preference,” said Kevin Yang, Peripherals Product Manager. “And you get all the features, whether you prefer a full size keyboard or a tenkeyless design. In addition to easy-to-use software, we are working on a Software Development Kit (SDK) to truly help Make It Yours.”

Cooler Master needed to completely redesign the interior of the MasterKeys to fit both the original Cherry MX switches as well as the much bigger and brighter LEDs used here. The end result looks stunning and should provide you with a stable partner for your online battles. The sleek lines, refined symmetry, and a heavy-weight quality build will help you keep things clean and simple. Speaking of clean and simple, the full-sized L version comes with hidden positioning grooves on the bottom of the keyboard, giving you 180° cable management and the ability to keep your keyboard and desktop sleek and organized regardless of arrangement preference.

The keys themselves have a soft-to-touch and long-lasting UV coating for a great experience and long-lasting effect that won’t result in missing letters and discolored keys.

Both the MasterKeys Pro L and MasterKeys Pro S are available in Europe from today, March the 15th, for a recommended retail price of €169 and €139 respectively. If all that peeked your interest, then you should check out our full review of the MasterKeys Pro S for an in-depth analysis and verdict.

Inno3D GTX 980Ti iChill Black Graphics Card Review

Introduction


Closed-loop liquid coolers have become extremely popular in the CPU market due to the cleaner build, and greater space around the CPU socket compared to traditional air cooling hardware. This means you can install an all in one liquid cooler without having to make concessions in terms of memory compatibility or worry too much about your motherboard’s PCI-E arrangement. As you might expect, all in one liquid coolers have progressively moved into the GPU sector to offer improved overclocking headroom and a lower noise output. There are some interesting parallels between CPU and GPU all in one liquid cooling though which needs to be addressed.

Firstly, many air coolers like the Noctua NH-D15 can outperform Asetek units, while being much quieter. It’s a similar picture with graphics cards because proficient air cooling setups including the Gigabyte Windforce X3 and Sapphire Tri-X provide a superb noise to performance ratio. Liquid cooled graphics cards have a price premium and involve a more complicated installation process. It’s important to remember that Maxwell is a very mature and efficient architecture which allows vendors to enable a 0dB idle fan mode. Despite my own qualms about closed-loop liquid cooling, it’s fantastic to see products which cater to a different target market. There’s clearly a demand for pre-assembled liquid cooled graphics cards, and their appeal is bound to grow in the next few years.

Today, we’re taking a look at the Inno3D GTX 980Ti iChill Black which utilizes a very powerful hybrid cooling solution. The GPU incorporates a traditional fan which only switches on during heavy load, in addition to a 120mm fan/radiator combination. The Arctic Cooling radiator fan is constantly on but has a very low RPM curve to maintain silent running. This impeccable hardware allows for an impressive core clock of 1203MHz and default boost reaching 1304MHz. The memory has also been increased to 7280MHz. As you can see from the chart below, this isn’t the greatest configuration we’ve encountered from the factory, but it’s exceedingly fast and should be a top performer. It will be fascinating to contrast this graphics card with the marvellous Inno3D GTX 980Ti X3 Ultra DHS which opts for a hefty air cooling design.

Specifications:

Packing and Accessories

The Inno3D GTX 980 Ti iChill Black comes in a huge box to properly house the closed loop cooler’s tubing and protect against leaks during shipping. Honestly, the picture doesn’t provide an accurate depiction of the packaging’s size. I have to commend Inno3D because they have taken the precautionary steps to reduce the possibility of damage occurring and utilized strong foam inserts as cushioning materials. The box itself features an attractive render of the GPU, and outlines its specification.

On the rear portion, there’s a brief synopsis of NVIDIA’s Maxwell architecture. I’m a bit surprised to see the back doesn’t contain any information about the liquid cooling solution and the acoustical benefits compared to NVIDIA’s reference cooler.

In terms of accessories, the graphics card is bundled with mounting screws, 6-pin PCI-E to molex adapter, case badge, DVI-D to VGA adapter and installation guide. There’s also a driver’s disk which you should disregard, a copy of 3DMark, and other documentation. This is a great selection of items and provides everything you need to get started! The mouse mat is surprisingly high-quality and relatively thick.

Amazon.JP Delivering Japanese Video Games Worldwide!

We all like that new game smell. Opening up the post to find that new game, the case screaming for you to open it up and slide in the disk. Sometimes the game you want to play isn’t available in your country, a case that is most common with Japanese releases. Don’t worry, as Amazon.JP has started delivering Japanese video games worldwide.

With select games and even consoles now available for international shipping, you can enjoy some of those releases that you’ve missed out over the years. Currently, the offer only applies to items sold directly by Amazon.jp with international shipping.

In order to do this, you may want to view Amazon.jp in English, an option that you can find on the right-hand side of a product page (shown below).

With fair prices for games like Dark Souls 3 costing just ¥ 6,473 (around £41 without shipping), you could soon find yourself building up an international collection of games. Some consoles these days don’t care about the region of the game, for example, the PS4 and Xbox One while others you may have to reorder to enjoy the Japanese releases (the Wii U and 3DS among them).

Are you looking forward to ordering your first game from Japan? What games are you going to pick up? Tell us your experience in international games and delivery services in the comments below.

Corsair Hydro Series H5 SF AIO CPU Cooler Review

Introduction


Picking the right cooler for your system can be tricky, but when it comes to sticking a high-performance CPU in a compact gaming system, your choices are often quite limited to a range of low-profile air coolers. Corsair is looking to solve this issue with the new Corsair H5 SF Hydro Series Low Profile Liquid CPU Cooler, an AIO unit that’s small enough to mount over the top of a mini-ITX motherboard! Unlike most AIO that must be mounted on a 120/140mm fan fitting, this cooler is a similar shape and size to a 5.25″ drive and comes with a special bracket that mounts it above the CPU like you would expect an air/tower cooler to install.

“The Hydro Series H5 SF is a low profile liquid CPU cooler that provides efficient cooling for small form factor Mini-ITX systems. Building a small form factor system shouldn’t have to mean compromising on processor speed, and with the H5 SF you can provide reliable cooling for your system’s high-performance CPU.” – Corsair

While I’m not expecting huge performance from the new cooler overall, when it comes down to cooling a compact gaming rig, it’s very likely that it’ll still be better than most low-profile air coolers that would fit the same system. Corsair has some impressive figures of their own, but how do they hold up in the real world? That’s what we hope to find out.

“It has a pump assembly with a copper coldplate and flexible, low permeability tubing, just like our larger Hydro Series models. They’re matched with a one-piece blower which cools the circulated liquid by drawing cool air from the inside of your PC and exhausting it outside the case. So, in addition to keeping your CPU cool, the H5 SF provides additional cooling for the motherboard and other components by constantly pulling cool air across them.” – Corsair

Equipped with copper and aluminium construction, high-quality tubing and support for all major sockets, the H5 SF is certainly promising. So let’s move on and take a closer look.

The packaging is typical Corsair, with the usual black and yellow theme at work, as well as a nice big image of the product, showing us the design of the pump and radiator.

Around the back, a nice technical breakdown of the specifications, design and a little image of how the radiator looks when mounted on a mini-ITX motherboard.

The packaging is nicely done on the interior too, with lots of protective cardboard around all major components, as well as protective plastic bags and stickers to prevent any minor marks or scratches.

In the box, you’ll find everything you need to get the cooler installed on major Intel and AMD mini-ITX platforms. All the screws are really good quality with a nice dark nickel finish and there’ sa durable L-shaped support bar for mounting it above the motherboard.

Sony Discontinues PlayStation TV in the US And Europe

Sony’s first entry into the handheld market was originally very successful although it struggled to match the appeal of the Nintendo DS. Despite this, the PSP had a great library of games, and became quite popular as an emulation device. During the last decade, the market has changed at a rapid pace due to the advent of smartphones and mobile gaming. This means, that the dedicated handheld sector is quite niche, and extraordinarily difficult to get a return of investment. Clearly, the exception to this rule is the Nintendo 3DS which continues to sell remarkably well in Japan despite mobile puzzle games being very successful in the Asian market. Perhaps this is down to Nintendo’s incredible software library, and selection of exclusive games you simply cannot experience on a mobile handset.

In contrast to this, the PlayStation Vita didn’t appeal to a large number of people and resulted in poor system sales. To be perfectly frank, this is Sony’s own fault and I’m sure they could have forged a larger community to keep their handheld section profitable. Instead of adopting a respectful attitude, the company forced users to pay absurd prices for proprietary memory, which didn’t even come with the console. As you might expect, this deterred many consumers from investing because it increased the asking price by a significant amount.

Later on, Sony launched the PlayStation TV, which is a tiny console designed for media streaming and capable of playing Vita games on a large screen TV. However, the console’s lack of a gyroscope and microphone meant certain features couldn’t be used in the same manner as Sony’s handheld device. On another note, Sony did a terrible job marketing the console and didn’t provide a clear message about its functionality. It’s a shame because the console has a lot of potential and should have done better with proper software support.

As expected, Sony has officially discontinued the PlayStation TV in the USA and Europe, although it’s still in stock from some retailers. When this stock disappears, I doubt the retail channels will be replenishing their supply.

Xbox One Hardware Upgrades Could End Console Generations

Xbox Chief Phil Spencer has revealed that he is considering the introduction of hardware upgrades for Xbox One, as part of its “Universal Windows Platform” program, which aims to unify Microsoft’s console with PC platforms, in a move which could spell the end of future Xbox generations. Speaking to Polygon, Spencer explained that Microsoft sees the PC as a platform of innovation for gaming, and so the company wants to shift the Xbox into that sphere.

“We see on other platforms whether it be mobile or PC that you get a continuous innovation that you rarely see on console,” Spencer said. “Consoles lock the hardware and the software platforms together at the beginning of the generation. Then you ride the generation out for seven or so years, while other ecosystems are getting better, faster, stronger. And then you wait for the next big step function.”

“When you look at the console space, I believe we will see more hardware innovation in the console space than we’ve ever seen,” he added. “You’ll actually see us come out with new hardware capability during a generation allowing the same games to run backward and forward compatible because we have a Universal Windows Application running on top of the Universal Windows Platform that allows us to focus more and more on hardware innovation without invalidating the games that run on that platform.”

Spencer sees the unification of various platforms as a boon to those who want to play older games, too, as the PC ecosystem, and relevant upgrades, would support broader backwards compatibility.

“We can effectively feel a little bit more like we see on PC, where I can still go back and run my old Doom and Quake games that I used to play years ago but I can still see the best 4K games come out and my library is always with me,” he said. “Hardware innovation continues while the software innovation is able to take advantage and I don’t have to jump a generation and lose everything that I played on before.”

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980Ti Xtreme Gaming Graphics Card Review

Introduction


NVIDIA’s cogent strategy to launch the Titan X at $999 and subsequently release the GTX 980Ti with similar performance at a significantly reduced price was a master stroke. This made the 980Ti compelling value and a great choice for high-end consumers wanting the best possible experience at demanding resolutions. Admittedly, there isn’t a GPU on the market capable of driving a 4K panel at maximum details but you can attain 60 frames-per-second with reduced settings. Evidently, the 980Ti has proved to be a popular choice especially when you take into consideration that factory overclocked models can easily pull away from NVIDIA’s flagship graphics card. While there is some competition from the Fury X, it’s not enough to dethrone custom-cooled 980Ti models.

Some users might argue that the upcoming Pascal architecture built on the 16nm manufacturing process and utilizing HBM2 ultra fast memory is reason enough to hold off buying a top-tier Maxwell solution. However, the current estimate suggests Pascal won’t launch until Q2 this year, and there’s no indication regarding pricing. As always, any new product has a price premium and I expect enthusiast Pascal cards to retail at a high price point. This means purchasing a Maxwell-based GPU right now isn’t a terrible option unless you require additional power to enjoy 4K gaming and have deep pockets. One of the best custom-designed GTX 980Ti cards on the market is the Gigabyte G1 Gaming. This particular GPU rapidly gained a reputation for its overclocking ability and superb Windforce triple fan cooling hardware.

The latest addition to Gigabyte’s graphics range is the GTX 980Ti Xtreme Gaming sporting a 1216MHz core clock, 1317MHz boost, and memory running at 7200MHz. One major improvement is the use of illuminated RGB rings behind the fans which creates a very unusual, and stylish appearance. Gigabyte’s GPU Gauntlet is a binning process which selects the best performing chips with impressive overclocking headroom. Once discovered, the top chips are incorporated into the Xtreme Gaming series, and G1 Gaming. By default, the Xtreme Gaming is bundled with a hefty overclock and should offer sensational performance. Although I expect to see some further gains due to the excellent cooling and stringent binning procedure. Could this be the best 980Ti on the market thus far?

Specifications:

Packing and Accessories

The product comes in a visually appealing box which outlines the extreme performance and gaming focus. I really like the sharp, dynamic logo with bright colours which draws you into the packaging.

On the rear side, there’s a brief description of the Windforce X3 cooling system, RGB illumination, GPU Gauntlet, and premium components. The clear pictures provide a great insight into the GPU’s main attributes and it’s presented in such a slick way.

In terms of accessories, the graphics card includes a driver disk, quick start guide, case badge, sweat band and PCI-E power adapter. It’s quite unusual to see a sweat band, but I’m sure it could come in handy during a trip to the gym or intense eSports contest.

MSI Launches B150M Gaming Pro Motherboard With Free Mouse

The majority of consumer motherboards supporting Intel’s latest architecture utilizes the Z170 chipset. This makes business sense due to the large number of enthusiasts purchasing DDR4 memory speeds in excess of 2133MHz and engaging in overclocking. For the more budget-conscience user, the H170 and B150 chipsets provide great performance with some limitations. As previously mentioned, the main drawbacks revolve around the lack of overclocking and maximum memory support for DDR4-2133. In recent months, there has been some furore surrounding BCLK overclocking which allowed the end-user to overclock on a H170 or B150 motherboard. Unfortunately, Intel has quashed this idea on new products and tried to force consumers to use a new BIOS to disable this functionality.

Intel’s B150 chipset is primarily designed for business customers so it seems a little strange to see gaming features on B150 motherboards. Honestly, I mostly see these products being purchased by consumers with a limited budget opting for a locked multiplier CPU and cheap memory. The latest B150 motherboard to be announced is the MSI B150M Gaming Pro. As its name suggests, the motherboard adopts the mATX format and suitable for a compact build. The B150M Gaming Pro features two DIMM slots, and supports a maximum capacity of 32GB. This should be more than enough to power an affordable gaming rig, or business PC. As you can see from the header image, the motherboard contains a single PCI-E x16 slot, and 6 SATA 3 ports. There’s also 6 USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports on the rear and 2 on the front via an internal header.

On another note, the motherboard supports MSI’s DDR4 Boost technology, LAN Protect, Game Boost and utilizes their Military Class 4 components. The Click BIOS 5 makes navigation remarkably simple, and there’s overvoltage protection to maintain maximum stability. In terms of audio, the product has a Realtek ALC887 codec and Audio Boost. The package is bundled with MSI’s DS B1 Interceptor gaming mouse sporting a 1600 DPI, gold connector, LED illumination and removable weights!

Computer Science Now a Core Subject in Chicago Schools

Chicago has a history of making large moves with the latest technology. From installing cables to help avoid power cuts to trains with no drivers, Chicago doesn’t want to stop there and has now become the first state that recognises Computer Science as a core subject.

Computer science is a debated subject, with pressure from governments and companies to help boost people’s knowledge of the technology they use every single day. Chicago public schools will now consider the classes as a core requirement, meaning that the 107 schools in the state which currently teach the course will be only the start.

In order to make sure the Computer Science course is there to help, the school district is working with not just companies but also Code.org, the group behind the hour of code initiative. With President Obama putting aside around $4 billion to help fund computer science courses across the U.S., and personally learning to write some code, Computer Science is quickly becoming more than an idea for schools.

With governments and companies like Apple running classes, it is quickly becoming clear that the need for people to understand not just how to use computers, but how they work and what they do is growing as we use more technology on an everyday basis. Combine that with schools opening up eSports courses to help promote teamwork and logical thinking, sometimes you almost wish you were back in school.

Multiple Motorola Devices Will Not Be Upgraded to Lollipop

These days we are being told that we need to install or swap out software and hardware all the time to keep it up to date. With everything from Windows Updates recommending a whole new operating system to a “security update” locking up your iPhones. When I decided to try out Windows Mobile (when it was first released) I liked the OS, except that it didn’t support anything. To my surprise (or not as the case was) they decided that my handset would be one of the ones that wouldn’t get the Windows 8 Mobile upgrade, leaving my phone outdated and out supported. It would seem that Motorola made the same decision with the Droid Ultra, Maxx and Mini editions regarding the latest Lollipop update.

On their forums Motorola posted the following:

“We apologise that we will not be upgrading DROID Ultra/Mini/Maxx to Android Lollipop, as we had hoped. We know how important software upgrades are to our customers, and we’re very sorry that we are unable to provide the upgrade.”

In an attempt to bring back any customers upset by this those with the Ultra/Mini or Maxx handsets can upgraded to the DROID Turbo 2 for $524 or the DROID Maxx 2 for $334.

The worst part about all of this is that the upgrade was promised and now instead of delivering on that promise they want you to pay for a new handset. No doubt this is going to upset anyone with one of the mentioned headsets, are you one of those people and if so how do you feel about this?

Surface Book Launches in the UK

Microsoft is probably most well-known for their software, with everything from the Windows operating system to the Office tool suite commonplace in homes around the world. One thing that Microsoft have been keen on expanding though is their hardware. With the success of the Microsoft Surface, a tablet that featured a magnetically docked keyboard and was well-known for its high power and low profile. Now the next phase in Microsoft hardware has been unleashed in the UK in the form of the Surface book.

The Surface Book was announced half way through last year, with Microsoft creating a system for people to swap out their Macbook’s for a Surface book, with claims that it would be twice as powerful as a Macbook Pro. Surprisingly this didn’t go down too well with Tom Cook over at Apple who then described the Surface Book as deluded.

The new Surface Book will set you back, at least, £1,299 if you are looking at an i5 model  but upgrading it to the top of the line will set you back £2,249 for an i7 and dedicated NVIDIA graphics (rumoured to be NVIDIA’s 940M).

Are you interested in the Surface Book? For the price tag is the 13.5 inch screen a little too small for your taste? If you are looking at buying one you can find out more at the Microsoft store.

NVIDIA Preparing For GTX 950 SE Release

NVIDIA manufacturers a wide range of graphics cards to suit various budgets, and the majority of media coverage revolves around their flagship products. However, this is a very small niche, and the many customers opt for GPUs at a more affordable price point. Furthermore, this makes sense given the widespread use of monitors with a 1080p or lower resolution. On the other hand, budget GPUs can offer fairly poor performance, and it’s worth spending an extra £50-100 due to the significant leap in frames-per-second. This isn’t always possible due to budget constraints, but I always recommend a mid-tier graphics card to find a good balance between performance and cost.

The latest budget-friendly GPU from NVIDIA is incredibly similar to the GTX 950 with a number of minor cutbacks. To reiterate, unlike the Ti branding, the GTX 950 SE will be a cheaper alternative to the GTX 950. NVIDIA is planning to retire the GTX 750 Ti and requires two SKUs in their new product line-up. The GTX 950 SE features one less streaming multiprocessor which results in a CUDA count of 640.  The TMU count is reduced to 40, and the total ROP amount reaches 32. This particular GPU opts for a 128-bit memory bus and 2GB GDDR5 memory.

According to ExPreview, custom variants of the GTX 950 SE will consume around 70 watts under load. This means vendors could incorporate a single 6-pin PCI-E, or draw power without the need for a PCI-e connector. Apparently the GPU’s core and memory clock speeds are lower than the GTX 950. Clearly, the GPU’s appeal greatly depends on the price gap to the GTX 950. If there’s a minimal difference in the price, but a marked performance change, then I can’t see it selling very well. NVIDIA is planning to launch this latest graphics card sometime in March. If you’re interested in the lower end solutions, we can take a look at a sample and see how it performs!

IN WIN H-Tower Now Available From Overclockers UK

IN WIN manufacturers some of the most unusual and wacky PC chassis designs the industry has ever seen. Many of their products seem like prototypes which you wouldn’t expect to see grace the enthusiast market. However, the company always tries to innovate and offer something truly unique instead of mass producing lower priced cases. Granted, they do make some budget options, but the majority of their clientèle comes from spectacular chassis designs. For instance, the D-Frame and S-Frame caused a great deal of media attention and discussion from hardware enthusiasts. The S-Frame in particular is a major talking point due to the open air design and premium construction. This incredible piece of technology isn’t cheap and costs upwards of £600. This makes it a very niche product and caters to the 0.001% of PC builders with a very high budget.

The company’s latest chassis takes this one step further with the release of the IN WIN H-Tower. This behemoth is capable of transforming the case’s structure wirelessly. When the H-Tower is in motion, the side panels unfold outwards to reveal a spacious interior with the motherboard main plate rotating 90 degrees to showcase your hardware.

Here we can see a detailed look at the model’s specification:

– Material: Aluminium, SECC
– Colour: Black/Red
– Internal Drive Bay: 3.5” x 1, 2.5” x 4
– M/B Form Factor: E-ATX (12” x 13”), ATX, Micro-ATX
– Power Supply: ATX12V, PSII and EPS
– Power Supply Mounting Area: Length up to 230mm
– I/O Port: USB3.1 Type C (19-pin) Connector x 1, USB3.0 Type A Connector x 3, HD Audio
– I/O Expansion Slot: PCI-E Slot x 8
– Supports High-end Graphic Card (Length up to 340mm, Height up to 200mm)
– Thermal Solution: Supports 120mm Top Fan x 3, 360mm Radiator (Height up to 35mm), Supports at Least 200mm Height CPU Heatsink Based on Different Mounting Position
– Dimension (HxWxD): Closed: 617 x 322 x 502mm (24.3″ x 12.7″ x 19.8″), Open: 620 x 680 x 785mm (24.4″ x 26.8″ x 30.9″)
– Net Weight: 23.03kg
– Gross Weight: 32.1kg

Overclockers UK is now stocking the H-Tower, but it’s limited to around 50 units worldwide. This means, it’s very expensive and Overclockers UK has a limited number for sale. When it comes to pricing, the H-Tower costs an astronomical £1889.95, and around $2400 in the USA.

Let us know in the comments section what you think of this case.

ASUS B150 PRO GAMING/AURA (LGA1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction


Since the official reveal of Intel’s latest mainstream LGA1151 platform, we’ve analysed the performance numbers of various Z170 motherboards and even taken an analytical look at the non-overclocking H170 offerings. However, there’s another chipset available to consumers even though it’s primarily marketed towards business users. More specifically, the B150 chipset includes Intel’s Small Business Advantage software package to manage a small network of PCs using fairly rudimentary desktop applications. As a result, it seems quite a bizarre choice to release a B150 motherboard which adopts a lavish visual design, although it might be suitable for business clients wanting to play games during their downtime.

In a similar vein to the H170 chipset, there are some technical limitations when opting for the more budget friendly options. For example, B150 motherboards support a maximum of 18 HSIO lanes (in addition to 16 PCI-E from the CPU) compared to 26 on Z170. Additionally, overclocking is disabled even with an unlocked multiplier CPU, the PCI-E lanes are reduced from 20 to 8, and there’s a small dip in USB 3.0 ports down from 14 to 12. Despite these cutbacks, there’s still more than enough connectivity, and features to please a large quantity of consumers. The ASUS B150 PRO GAMING/AURA is a fascinating motherboard because it brings many of the high-end components from the Z170 range and comes with an excellent array of gaming focussed software. This means, it’s possibly the most ostentatious and impressive B150 motherboard I’ve encountered thus far, and I expect to see some impressive performance numbers in our typical benchmark procedure.

Specifications

Packing and Accessories

The motherboard is packaged in an attractive box which outlines the RGB sections and high-speed M.2 support. Additionally, there’s a promotional 15-day code to access a premium account in the free-to-play title, War of Warships.

On the rear, there’s a basic overview of the board layout, a technical synopsis and details about the AURA RGB lighting system. Furthermore, ASUS also provides information on the Digi+ VRM, USB 3.1 connectivity, premium audio hardware and gaming software.

In terms of accessories, the B150 PRO GAMING/AURA includes a user’s guide, cable labels, zip ties to help with cable management and drivers disk.

As you might expect, the motherboard comes with an I/O shield, SATA cables and M.2 fixing screws.

VirusTotal – Anti-Virus For Your Firmware

Malware happens all too often, with it spreading like a wildfire around the world due to the connectivity offered by the internet, with banks and companies being offered money to install it. While not all malware is bad, it’s not something you want to invite into your system and Google’s new VirusTotal service looks  set to provide an anti-virus for your firmware.

Firmware is an often neglected piece of code. It can be found acting as a bridge between your hardware and your software, more than often your operating system. The problem being that it’s often hidden from anti-virus and malware scanning software, even more so due to its notorious ability to survive clean installations and reboots.

VirusTotal will allow people to upload firmware images and then scan them for any signs of malicious code and even mark it as legitimate or suspicious, meaning you can quickly detect if that new BIOS’s image is actually going to help or destroy your new PC.

Being able to scan and detect viruses that have hidden under the radar for so long will come in handy for many. After it was revealed that malware could have been hidden in the firmware for hard drives by the NSA, people have been on guard and this new tool could soon have an array of firmware images to help scan, detect and protect systems around the globe.

Being able to scan everything from files to even URL’s, you can be certain that a site is safe and the files you download are safe before you even hit the link next time.

SilverStone Releases SATA and USB 3.1 Add-In Cards

SilverStone has been on a frenzy lately, releasing a lot of new products. Among them are two new PCI-Express add-in cards that could come in very handy and add some modern features or extra functionality to your system. The two new PCI-Express cards are the ECS03 2-port Hardware RAID SATA controller and the other is the ECU04 internal USB 3.1 add-in card.

The SilverStone ECS03 is a PCIE-Express Gen.2 x2 add-in card that will give you system another two SATA3 ports. The card has an ASMedia 1062R controller that supports RAID 0, RAID 1, SPAN, and non-RAID modes. The controller supports normal SATA 6Gbps drives and it’s backwards compatible with previous SATA generations. It also supports port multiplier for those that wish to split the ports up or use it with external multi-drive enclosures. The low-profile design also makes sure that it’ll fit almost any chassis and setup.

 

The SilverStone ECU04 is a PCI-Express card that will add an internal USB 3.1 19-pin header to your system, allowing you to get speeds up to 10 Gbps. The card is compliant with both the eXtensible Host Controller Interface (XHCI) specification Revision 1.1 and the USB Attached SCSI Protocol (UASP) Revision 1.0 to give you maximum compatibility and performance. The ECU04 also comes with a low-profile slot cover for usage in SFF builds. The extra power requirements to the card will be provided through the normal SATA power connector on the card.

Thanks to the XHCI support, you won’t need any drivers for the ECU04 on operating systems that support this, and most do. Windows 7 users will need to install the provided drivers, but everyone else should have a plug and play experience.

The ECS03 comes with an MSRP of 40.15 USD and the ECU04 has an MSRP of 29.59 USD. Both cards should be available now. Does your system have enough of these ports or are you tempted by either of these new cards. Let us know in the comments.

Roccat Announces Renga Stereo Gaming Headset

Roccat has rapidly gained an impressive range of products including keyboards, mice, headsets, and gaming surfaces. The company is renowned for manufacturing reliable peripherals while adopting a unique aesthetic design. This is achieved without impacting on affordability and there’s something to suit various price brackets. Furthermore, Roccat has an official League of Legends team and continues to help the eSports industry. Their latest creation is the Renga stereo gaming headset for the PC, PlayStation 4, mobiles, tablets and other devices. The headset opts for an over-ear design, and produces a premium audio experience.

More specifically, the Renga utilizes a high-end 50mm neodymium driver in each ear cup to provide crisp trebles and a deep powerful bass. Furthermore, the headset features a reinforced skeletal frame which adds a robust feel while remaining surprisingly light. On another note, there’s ventilated ear cups, an ergonomic headband, and plush ear cushions. This ensures the headset is comfortable for long durations and should be a great option for streamers. The in-line remote control provides quick access to commonly used sound settings and allows for on-the-fly no-look control. The bundled microphone apparently offers crystal clear recording and can easily switch between gaming and music playback. It’s also rotatable which means it should be fairly easy to find the optimal positioning.

René Korte, CEO and founder at ROCCAT described the new announcement and indicated this is just the first product in a new range:

“The Renga is the first of our newly-designed headsets built for just one use – the perfect stereo sound experience”,

“Lightweight, robustly built and compatible with almost any device, the Renga is the everyday gaming headset that comes with an affordable price tag, without making compromises in quality.” 

 

 

The ROCCAT Renga will be available in late February with a suggested retail price of 49,99 Euro/USD. This is an excellent price when you consider the features and Roccat warranty.

BIOSTAR Unveils New Pro Series FM2+ Motherboards

BIOSTAR has just announced its brand new Pro Series FM2+ lineup of motherboards designed specifically for AMD FM2+ processors. These new motherboards are aimed at those of you who are looking to build cheap and relatively powerful PCs based on AMD’s FM2+ socket CPUs. What makes them stand out among other similar offerings is the fact that they feature an enhanced power design that ensures increased durability and stability. Moreover, they are equipped with reinforced metal CPU retention backplates, and with improved audio solutions based on high-quality capacitors from Japanese manufacturer Nichicon. The Iron Heart Protect CPU backplate definitely deserves a closer look, as it prevents bending caused by heavy CPU coolers thus ensuring that the board does not suffer any circuit damage. The plate also draws away heat from the CPU and VRM areas, which is always a big plus.

The models included in the new lineup are the A70MD PRO, A70MG PRO and A68MD PRO, all of which support DDR3 RAM of up to 2600 MHz (OC). Other highlights include 5-phase VRMs, USB 3.0 connectors and BIOSTAR-specific features such as BIO-Relife, BIO-Flasher and BIO-Watch. Clearly, these are not the most feature-rich BIOSTAR motherboards out there, but considering the fact that they are aimed at more budget-friendly users, they’ll definitely get the job done without issues.

SteamOS Update Lets You Play With Xbox One Elite Controller And More

Some like PC, some like Console. People choose different platforms for different reasons, but the creators behind the ever popular PC gaming platform Steam came up with an idea to bridge the gap. Enter Steam machines, a combination of PC and Console, which meant that you could play games like you were on a console but you could upgrade it like a PC. So why not grab your controllers and play on the latest SteamOS version.

Steam OS is based on the popular operating system Linux. One of the main selling points behind Linux is that it is open source. Open source is when software is freely available in both the finished product and the code that builds it up. This means that you are able to see how it works and add functionality as you wish.

The latest update, 2.60, for SteamOS features not only security patches and updates to the Linux system as a whole but options for an extra controller. The Xbox One Elite controller features a variety of buttons, including some hidden underneath, where your hands naturally rest while holding a controller. If you feel up for giving the controller a spin on SteamOS you now can but sadly only if its wired.

If this wasn’t enough why not check out its new Bluetooth support. Being able to connect a range of devices through Bluetooth you could soon be playing with Playstation 4 controllers and headsets without a wire in sight!

While updates will help the platform, SteamOS recently took a hit when it was revealed that it played games worse than Windows 10 did. We might see that changing soon and with updates coming out more and more it might be worth retesting that comparison soon.

Overclockers UK Expands to Eight More GAME Stores

Overclockers UK launched their new partnership with GAME back in early December and it was a big success. The two companies joined forces in this partnership to bring an extensive range of exclusive gaming PCs, components, and accessories in a few selected GAME stores and GAME’s online site.

The partnership started relative small with just two shops setting up Overclockers UK displays, but that is about to change. The two initial stores will be expanded with eight more which makes it a total of ten GAME stores across the UK where you can find the great PC hardware provided by Overclockers UK. Today you can visit the Teeside Shopping Park and the Metro Centre and will be greeted with a shiny new interactive display from Overclockers UK. The display offers customers the chance to play the latest games on cutting edge PC hardware.

The two stores displays launched back in December are in Basingstoke and Manchester. Yesterday they opened up in Stockton and Newcastle Upon Tyne, and today it is Glasgow’s turn. Tomorrow it will be Chester, Friday it will be Cardiff and Gloucester while the last two shop displays will be launched on Saturday in Portsmouth and Bournemouth. You can find the full details to each of these locations below.

It is really great to see PC hardware making a comeback to the streets after so many years where we have seen a steady decline in the same. I have no doubt that this will continue to be a success for both GAME and Overclockers UK.

Launched in December:
BASINGSTOKE – Festival Place, Unit 15, Festival Place, Basingstoke, Hampshire, RG21 7BE
MANCHESTER – Trafford Centre, Manchester Unit L29, 46 Peel Avenue, Manchester, M17 8DF

Tuesday 5th January:
STOCKTON – Teeside Shopping Park, Unit 4B Teeside Park, Stockton, TS17 7BW
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE – Metro Centre, Unit 23A, Gateshead, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE11 9YG

Wednesday 6th January:
GLASGOW – Braehead, Unit 57 Braehead Shopping Centre, Kings Inch Road, Glasgow, G51 4BP

Thursday 7th January:
CHESTER – Grosvenor Shopping Centre, 46 Forgate Street, Chester, Cheshire, CH1 1HA

Friday 8th January:
CARDIFF – St Savid’s Dewi Sant, 50 Grand Arcade, Cardiff, CF10 2ER
GLOUCESTER – Eastgate Shopping Centre, Unit 8B Market Way, Gloucester, GL1 1QH

Saturday 9th January:
PORTSMOUTH – Gunwharf Quays, 226 Commercial Road, Portsmouth, Hampshire, PO1 1HG
BOURNEMOUTH – Castle Point Shopping Centre, Unit 21, Bournemouth, BH8 9UZ

Seiki Unveils New Displays @ CES 2016

CES 2016: Seiki is an upcoming brand which already produces a number of incredibly affordable televisions and has a significant user base in the UK. Their impressive growth stems from the emergence of absurdly cheap 4K TVs well before the likes of LG, Samsung and more catered towards the mainstream market. Back when 4K TVs could cost over £700, Seiki, unveiled budget models for only £300. Given this success story, Seiki is expanding into other markets, and releasing 4K connected TVs which vary in size between 40″ and 65″. Seiki have also implemented Bongiovi DPS technology to create fantastic audio reproduction which improves clarity, adds missing harmonics and enhances bass resonance.

The company is also moving into the 4K monitor arena with MVA panels which utilize a 3.5ms response time, vibrant colours and 178-degree viewing angles. This makes it a great choice for PC gamers seeking the 4K experience on a budget. In terms of screen size, the 4K monitors will come in 28″, 32″ and 40″ variants. These displays are very promising and after speaking to the rep at CES 2016, we should be receiving review samples of these monitors very soon.

When more information arises about the pricing, and availability, we will update the article.

A Look At The Steam Survey Results For November 2015

I will only pick out the most noteworthy Steam Survey Hardware and Software results for November 2015; otherwise, I might be here until New Years day 2017.  So, what do we have? Below are the Steam monthly survey stats, starting with the most common type of OS (Operating System) that is being used amongst Steam gamers.

As you can see below, Windows is the most dominant Operating system with 95.26% usage, Windows 7 64 bit is the most popular with 35.63% usage, this is down slightly (-1.04%). Windows 10 64 bit has risen slightly by 2.39% with current usage at 28.81%.  These stats hide an interesting point, with many reports noting that back in August 2015, only 17% of users were running Windows 10, therefore, this is around a 59% increase in the last three months. Of course, there are many factors including the persistent attempts by Microsoft to push at all costs their latest OS onto consumers.

Unsurprisingly, Steam users are not in favour of Mac or Linux’s operating systems considering only 3.64% and 0.98% of users respectively implement these operating systems when utilizing steam to play games.

When it comes to preferred CPUs for all formats, Intel is unsurprisingly the big winner, 76.31% Windows Steam users own an Intel CPU for November 2015, while Windows users of an AMD CPU is at 23.69%, this is down ever so slightly (- 0.28%) compared to October 2015.

Other noteworthy stats for the CPU section include 47.93% of Steam users owning a dual-core CPU, while 45.12% own a quad-core CPU.

Ram stats are quite interesting, and yes I am a geek, the most popular configuration of Ram is 8GB and is being used by 32.06%, this has risen slightly by 0.36%, although 12GB and higher is at a healthy 16.04%.

By all means check out the full in-depth list of stats, it’s certainly revealing and conveys Steam users preferences and also how well manufacturers are placing their products within the market.

Crucial Ballistix Sport LT DDR4 2400MHz 16GB (2x8GB) Dual Channel Memory Kit Review

Introduction


The overwhelming majority of gaming builds revolve around a red and black colour scheme which makes it relatively difficult for hardware manufacturers to produce other colours in large numbers. Any niche section of the market isn’t prioritized as companies attempt to maximize sales and cater to the mainstream customer. On the other hand, white components have become more popular in recent years and look absolutely stunning. For example, the ASUS Sabertooth Mark S compliments the Avexir Sabranco memory in a beautiful way. Sadly, it’s pretty rare to see memory kits with a white PCB especially on the DDR4 platform.

One of the more affordable DDR4 memory kits comes from Crucial and even implements a gorgeous white PCB! Crucial’s LT branding is slightly confusing as the DIMMs utilize an identical specification to the standard Sport range. The only difference is the revised heatspreader design. This particular memory kit operates at 2400MHz, and requires 1.2V. Additionally, the timings are fairly tight for DDR4 at 16-16-16-39 but this is to be expected compared to higher frequency alternatives.

Specifications

Packaging and Accessories

The memory kit comes in a traditional blister pack and outlines the key specification. I also found it quite easy to remove the modules without applying too much force.

A Closer Look

Here we can see the aesthetically pleasing heatspreaders which adopt a low profile design to enhance compatibility with large air coolers. More specifically, the modules measure 40mm in height and you shouldn’t experience any clearance issues. From a visual standpoint, the white PCB, central Ballistix logo and retro-inspired decal looks phenomenal. Additionally, the edges feature a textured finish which enhances the memory’s unique appearance. I’m also quite fond of the stylish cutouts which are easily visible once the DIMMs have been installed.

BIOSTAR GAMING H170T (LGA1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction


BIOSTAR’s retail presence in the western market is rather small as stockists focus on the more recognizable vendors among consumers. Despite this, BIOSTAR is one of the leading Taiwanese global brands and produces a huge range of affordable hardware. Back in 2013, the company launched the first motherboard with an integrated Wireless LAN module which shows their commitment to innovation. Granted, BIOSTAR’s aesthetic design is an acquired taste and I strongly believe this is an area which needs fine tuning especially if they want to appeal to enthusiasts. While some users don’t really care about a motherboard’s appearance, it’s becoming quite common for system builders to have colour coordinated builds. Nevertheless, it’s always fascinating to test any BIOSTAR product and determine how well it stacks up against the competition.

As its name suggests, the BIOSTAR GAMING H170T is built on Intel’s H170 chipset, which supports the latest Skylake processors. Unlike the more expensive Z170 platform, overclocking is theoretically disabled on H170. However, BCLK overclocking is possible on H170 motherboards with the correct BIOS and even allows non-K CPUs to reach an impressive frequency boost. On another note, it’s essential to check every H170 motherboard’s specification as some models opt for DDR3L compatibility while others use DDR4 DIMMs up to 2133MHz. This particular example caters to the lower-end audience and features a maximum capacity of 32GB DDR3 memory, dual Gigabit LAN, 32Gb/s M.2 connector, and Realtek ALC892 audio codec. As a result, the GAMING H170T offers an attractive package for the budget-conscience user and I expect it to master the price to performance ratio.

Specifications

Packing and Accessories

The motherboard comes in an attractive box which clearly displays the model name on a leatherette background. This evokes a premium feel and reminds me of the Logitech G27’s leather rim. The overall design is understated but striking enough to appeal to the gaming clientèle.

On the rear, there is a brief synopsis of the motherboard’s connectivity options, power phases and other essential features. Furthermore, graphical diagrams are used to explain the benefits of high-end components such 10K rated capacitors and durable ferrite chokes.

In terms of accessories, the motherboard comes with a basic guide to use the Smart Ear 3D Utility, product catalogue and user’s manual. Unlike many booklets these days, the product catalogue is in colour which encourages the end-user to browse BIOSTAR’s extensive product range.

Other additions include a driver disk, I/O shield, SATA cables, and M.2 screws.