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MSI-GeForce-GTX-970-Gaming-4-GB-635x478
Hardware

Introduction

Two years ago, NVIDIA announced Kepler, their latest architecture which made debut on the GeForce 600 series and that was a start of a new NVIDIA. An NVIDIA that focused on raw performance and fearsome dies which operated at such high temperatures, that there were memes around the web of Thermi (Fermi joke). NVIDIA sort of rectified the issues with original Fermi cards with the release of some good gaming and budget friendly cards such as the GeForce GTX 460 and the 500 series after it but those issues with Fermi thought NVIDIA a lesson which is the reason why Kepler was considered one of the most efficient graphics processing unit in 2012.

The initial Kepler was a gaming card while NVIDIA tamed their high performance GK110 unit for the HPC market. The pricing on the GeForce GTX 700 series is undoubtedly some of the highest we have seen from NVIDIA in a while with the $999 US GeForce GTX Titan, GTX Titan Black to the $2999 US GTX Titan Z but today, we are looking at a card which is not just priced great but absolutely great performance with a nice custom design.

ASRock-X99-Killer-FATAL1TY-Motherboard
Hardware

Introduction

The ASRock ‘FATAL1TY’ X99X Killer is a serial killer that you want to have on your side. Okay, okay – so it’s not really a serial killer (at least not during the daytime), but the ASRock X99X Killer completely kills the competition in terms of a budget gaming board that delivers in a lot of ways in terms of all the current ASRock X99 offerings. The MSRP of $289.99 comes with this board that is layered with a black/red design surface and adorns the X99 emblem of CPU support. The board itself features Super Alloy components, which are simply stunning, ranging from the Aluminum Alloy heatsinks, to the Power Choke 60A that provide for better current saturation across the PCB. The ASRock X99X Killer also comes with the Killer e2200 LAN which is something that we only see in higher end boards, and it’s a great thing to see this being used here for network performance being optimal per gaming packet.

Being the choice for the hardcore gamer on a budget, ASRock really delivers something for the value. The ASRock X99X Killer comes with the Realtek 1150 powered chipset that runs across the I/O with support for Purity Sound 2.0 – a real nice software multiplexer for audio that can handle 7.1 surround sound before the world starts looking to 12.1 for consumer use.

Noctua NH-D15
Hardware

Introduction

The Austrian based cooler manufacturing company, Noctua, is a name renowned by several enthusiasts and overclockers in the PC industry. Emerged back in 2005, Noctua has become one of the most respected cooling product manufacturer in the industry with their legacy products such as the highly acclaimed Noctua NH-D14. Released back in 2009, the NH-D14 hit the market like a wild fire offering superb cooling performance on the most high-end Intel and AMD processors with its dual heatsink stack design which several cooling product makers have followed since.

Noctua, at their core are a desktop-centric manufacturer aiming to deliver specialized coolers with incredible cooling performance and low noise output that has won the hearts of many enthusiasts since 2005. Looking at the current state of the desktop PC market, the OEM shipments are constantly declining while there is still a boom in the DIY market which Noctua aims to deliver high-end products for. This decline in the PC market has been due to the emergence of compact and portable devices such as smartphones and tablets which don’t require a high-end cooling solution nor do casual users need to overclock. So one asks, why is there a need for high-end coolers when all they want to do is browse the internet and watch movies. The only thing such bulky coolers will do is output more noise which would be a let down for the product itself.

MSI-X99S-Gaming-9-AC-Motherboard_4
Hardware

editors choiceIntroduction

Intel’s first generation High-End Desktop platform, the Nehalem (X58 Tylersburg) was launched back in November 2008 which ushered in a new era of high performance computing for desktop users. In 2011, Intel released the second generation update based on their Sandy Bridge architecture which was codenamed Sandy Bridge-E. The Sandy Bridge-E processors have lasted a good two and a half years in the tech industry and now we are making the transition into Intel’s third HEDT platform, codenamed Haswell-E (X99 Wellsburg).

The Haswell-E processor family comes a whole slew of a new generation of motherboards, packed full of new features to propel the technological race forward into a state of electric proportions. The LGA2011 V3 socket has brought about a lot of positive commotion in the industry with the X99 chipset while the DDR4 memory is the latest standard in the memory architecture which will boost performance plus bandwidths at very low voltages compared to its predecessors. The X99 motherboards from various manufacturers have been given the same enhancements as the latest Z97 series boards which were introduced with the Haswell Refresh CPU lineup and updated with enhanced designs suited and built for the enthusiast crowd.

MSI Nightblade Z97 Review_Official_1
Hardware

Introduction – The Mini-ITX Revolution

Today, we have a very special product for review from MSI (Micro Star International) which is aimed towards the gaming community. The PC form factor is constantly evolving, from what once used to be towered desktops have now evolved into small form factor devices and PCs. We are looking at a trend of ITX gaming which has taken over the tower as the choice of gamers and the demand is constantly increasing. Even Valve, a name renowned by all of the PC Gaming community have entered the hardware industry with their own Steam machines which bundled with their Steam OS would integrate useful features and hassle-less gaming so that the users spend less time to figure out how the game works and get to play the game itself as soon as it’s installed. The Steam Machines are planned for launch in 2015 and will be available in several Mini-ITX and low profile PC systems that were unveiled at CES this year.

However, Valve isn’t the only one who has entered the market. Long before Valve, several manufacturers did try to please the enthusiast audience with their own Mini-ITX brand but it didn’t worked out as well since the top tier community always prefers the large E-ATX sized boards and full tower cases so that they get the full feature set of a specific platform and the ability to get better temperatures and cooling as their preferences. Time has been changed, and the reason we are once again seeing an influx of systems in the Mini-ITX market is because the PC hardware has evolved over the time and we are seeing brilliant new hardware technologies in the industry. The Mini-ITX boards which had to be skimmed down for the small form factor are now retaining the entire high-end feature set of their ATX sized brothers while the processors have become more power conservative through adopting smaller node designs. This has once again led in a boom in the Mini-ITX industry with manufacturer’s like Bitfenix and Corsair making new improved case designs for the form factor. The cooling industry has also seen a switch from the traditional air coolers to AIO liquid coolers which take less space inside the PC chassis and deliver better cooling performance.

HIS-Radeon-R7-250X-iCooler-1-GB_Official_4
Hardware

Introduction

Here we are back again to review another one of AMD’s latest Radeon R7 graphics card from their AIC partner HIS (Hightech Information Systems). Almost two and half years have been passed since AMD introduced their GCN core architecture and it shouldn’t be a surprise if I told you that the architecture is still being featured on AMD’s latest Volcanic Islands Radeon R7 and Radeon R9 series graphics cards.

The Volcanic Islands family is branded as the Radeon R200 series and takes performance and value to the next level. Technically speaking, the Radeon R200 series cards which include the Radeon R9 280X, Radeon R9 270X, Radeon R9 270, Radeon R7 265, Radeon R7 260X, Radeon R7 260, Radeon R7 255, Radeon R7 250X, Radeon R7 250 and Radeon R7 240 are GCN rebrands aside from the latest Hawaii based Radeon R9 290X and Radeon R9 290, with the addition of new features but rather than giving away the same cards at the same price ranges, AMD added a few new features which we will detail in this article and slashed the prices so much that the Tahiti chip that once was $549 can now be bought for $299 US.

Mind Path To Thamlus Logo
Games

Mind: Path to Thalamus – One Guy Made This!

Envisioned and brought to life by sole developer Carlos Coronado, Mind: Path to Thalamus proves a rather impressive work. I have covered a fair few indie titles over the years, so I know full well the amount of talent that can be found in these smaller studios; often times leading to experiences that easily trump your average AAA release.

Devil's Canyon Logo
Hardware

Introduction

Back in June 2013, Intel launched their Haswell generation of processors (4th Generation Intel Core) which was an architecture scaling from 95W desktop parts to 4.5W Mobility parts. The Haswell architecture was decent in terms of power efficiency and was the first to bring 22nm to the consumer market but over at the desktop side, things weren’t all that great. The Core i7-4770K processor, the flagship of the desktop lineup had enhanced just about everything over the 3770K, it featured a faster graphics chip, better overclocking support and was priced similar to its predecessor however the core performance of the Haswell chips wasn’t a dramatic improvement over Ivy Bridge and to make things more bitter, the processor was unable to reach high overclocks due to the low quality TIM (Thermal Interface Material) used for packaging the processor.

The Core i7-4770K remained Intel’s flagship processor till Q1 2014 and we were all hoping that Intel would sooner or later launch their 5th Generation Broadwell processors based on the updated 14nm microarchitecture but during late late 2013, Intel reported that they will be delaying Broadwell due to 14nm node production vows and this resulted in the time-frame shift from mid-2014 to early 2015. Broadwell does comes out during the Holiday season this year but the upcoming SKU is aimed for mobility market rather the destkop one which launches in Q2 2015.

InfinityRunner_Title
Games

Infinity Runner: Much To Run, Short On Fun

As if the outcry for the next Mirror’s Edge release wasn’t evidence enough, gamers need more free-running in their life. A rather untouched genre to be sure, Infinity Runner is hoping to scratch that itch for players. From the minds behind the largely underrated Master Reboot – Wales Interactive – the game seems to take on the darker tone of their past work, while providing a much more directed experience this time around. The game is on rails. That’s as directed an experience as you can ever expect, really.

BIOSTAR-Hi-Fi-Z97WE-Render-_1
Hardware

Introduction

Founded in 1986, Biostar is one of the prominent hardware manufacturers of the tech industry focusing in the Asian market. What started as a motherboard manufacturing corporation has now expanded into new markets such as add-on-cards and multimedia solutions along with graphics cards (popular in mainland China).

Coming to multimedia, the motherboard we are going to test today has a large focus on the audio system that it features on-board. The Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE comes with an isolated PCB on the motherboard that houses the on-board audio system which other manufacturers have started to offer starting with Haswell generation platform however it should be noted that Biostar was the first to implement this technology back in 2012 prior to Haswell as a part of their Puro Hi-Fi design scheme. So credits for this design scheme have to be given to Biostar in setting a new industry standard.

In addition to the feature, the Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE is also special due to its pricing. The board comes at a very reasonable and budget friendly $124.99 US which is lower than what a motherboard with similar feature set may cost. Whether or not these features are as impressive as the higher quality parts remains to be seen in this review.

Razer-Adaro-Wirelress-Headphones_6
Gadgets

Introduction

Razer is one of the world’s leading gaming gear and peripheral maker with a focus on three fundamental aspects – technology, ergonomics, and validation. The company Razer has aimed to deliver on the promise of their motto, “For the gamers, by the gamers” with products that are geared for the gaming audience.

But that has changed with the launch of the latest Adaro audio series which are aimed to please the general music loving crowd which includes audiophiles, DJs and casual users. The Razer Adaro Audio series lets Razer enter a new market audience which isn’t restricted to gamers but open to everyone who loves music popping up inside the ears.

Today, we will be testing out the latest Razer Adaro Wireless Bluetooth headphones which aim to deliver a light-weight and comfortable on-the-go experience to users at a price of $149.99 US. Let’s see whether the new line of audio products from Razer live up to the expectations.

Gigabyte-Z97X-Gaming-3-Motherboard_Official_1
Hardware

Introduction

With over 20 million motherboard shipments over the last year, we are talking about the one and only, Gigabyte. Founded in 1986, Gigabyte has become the pioneer of the motherboard industry with a large lineup of products that not only include boards but All-In-Ones, Laptops, Tablets and Gaming Peripherals. As of 2013, the company matches ASUS as the vendor with most shipments of boards giving an idea of the company’s growth in the current year.

With the launch of Intel’s Haswell platform, Gigabyte launched four tiers of lineups for their motherboards -Gaming/Overclocking/Ultra Durable/Black Edition (BK). Each lineup is built for a specific range of consumers. With the 9-Series chipset, Gigabyte is expanding their motherboard line with new products, one of which will be detailed in this review.

Today, we will be taking a look at the entry level Gigabyte Z97X-Gaming 3 motherboard which is part of the G1 Gaming lineup which is aimed towards the gaming and mainstream audience. You will find some useful features like Killer LAN and Audio chipsets on this board due to its line positioning but comes at a low cost of $132.99 US which is the affordable range for any budget user. But before we talk about the board itself, let’s take a look at the new chipset and socket which support the latest Haswell processors.

Always-Sometimes-Monsters-Logo
Games

Always Sometime Monsters: Choices, Choices

Always Sometimes Monsters is a peculiar title. It manages to tell an interesting story, which is lucky considering it is little more than an interactive novel. At times it does try to pull away from its conversations and opportunities for player decision making, however. Sadly, these sections tend to fall flat, providing uninspired activities that serve only to make the game fell more like, well, a game. It does little more than water down what is otherwise a compelling experience.

This game is all about player decision making. You are confronted with both minor and heavier issues in your hours with the title, and tasked with dealing with the consequences of your actions. Even the smallest detail can have large consequences down the road, sometimes even hours after the fact. In terms of story telling and player interactivity, that’s impressive not something you often see within a game.Always-Sometimes-Monsters-Logo

You start off by choosing the character you will follow throughout the game’s entirety, as well as your partner of choice. Players are given free reign in choosing their race, gender and even sexuality, simply by starting conversation with a character of your choosing while at a party. You are first given control of a literary agent; one who ends up playing a large role in the title’s story, looking for their next big talent. Whoever you choose to share a drink with at the party is the avatar in which you control through the rest of the game.

NZXT-Phantom-820_8
Hardware

Introduction

The PC chassis is often the most overlooked in terms of a new setup, but is one of my most favorite aspects of building a brand new computer. High-end chassis are incredibly broad and varied, and sometimes there is a sea of features that can become confusing for people who are looking into liquid cooling and what not. The NZXT Phantom 820 is everything that anyone would ever really want at $249.99. It comes with a sleek design and is a dream for air/liquid cooling fanbases worldwide.

HIS Radeon R9 280 IceQ X2 OC 3 GB GDDR5_Official_6
Hardware

Introduction

Here we are back again to review another one of AMD’s latest Radeon R9 graphics card from their AIC partner HIS (Hightech Information Systems). Almost two and half years have been passed since AMD introduced their GCN core architecture and it shouldn’t be a surprise if I told you that the architecture is still being featured on AMD’s latest Volcanic Islands Radeon R7 and Radeon R9 series graphics cards.

The Volcanic Islands family is branded as the Radeon R200 series and takes performance and value to the next level. Technically speaking, the Radeon R200 series cards which include the Radeon R9 280X, Radeon R9 270X, Radeon R9 270, Radeon R7 265, Radeon R7 260X, Radeon R7 260, Radeon R7 255, Radeon R7 250X,  Radeon R7 250 and Radeon R7 240 are GCN rebrands aside from the latest Hawaii based Radeon R9 290X and Radeon R9 290, with the addition of new features but rather than giving away the same cards at the same price ranges, AMD added a few new features which we will detail in this article and slashed the prices so much that the Tahiti chip that once was $549 can now be bought for $299 US.

Today, we will be looking at the HIS Radeon R9 280 IceQ X2 OC which is the latest GCN 1.0 rebrand featuring the Tahiti Core architecture. HIS gave us the non-reference Radeon R9 280 for the test which features their high-end IceQ X2 cooler and a beefy custom designed PCB to deliver more power over the reference models which would come handy to overclockers and enthusiasts. Boasting the well-known Tahiti Pro core which has been replaced by its successor aka the “Hawaii Pro”, AMD now offers the R9 280 (also call it a Radeon HD 7950) for $280  (now retailing for $249.99) compared with its original launch price of $449 US two years ago, surprising that the card and its price have the same number? Let’s find out whether the card lives up to the legacy that made Tahiti remain dominant in high-end and performance range for two long years.



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