In this editorial research article for Benchmark Reviews, I’ll examine two $350 desktop computer systems, two widely different computer upgrade paths, and a data-based approach to attempt to answer the ever-popular question: “what should I upgrade next on my PC?”. Given that $350 and an AMD-based computer, is it worth adding $350-worth of graphics power, or should a gaming enthusiast take that same amount and use it to switch sockets to Intel?
Tag Archive: Tom Jaskulka
Not the first time NZXT has played with RBG LED lighting, the HUE+ provides all of the functionality (and then some) of the original HUE in an even more streamlined package. Coupled with NZXT’s free standalone software package CAM, the HUE+ Smart RGB LED Controller provides eight configurable LED presets out of the box, ranging from breathing LEDs to color fades and marquee scrolling. For the endless tinkerers and those looking for even more fine control over their system lighting, the HUE+ with CAM 3.0 allows for each LED to be individually addressed! That’s an impressive repertoire for an LED controller, but is it worth the price of admission? Benchmark Reviews has an opportunity to find out – follow along as we take a closer look at the new NZXT HUE+ Smart RGB LED Controller.
A year ago, I had the opportunity to review a Roccat Tyon – my first Roccat product since I purchased one of their Pyra and Kova mice many years ago. I remember the original Kova fondly, but it wasn’t…quite there yet. I liked the ambidextrous design, price point, Lamborghini-esque styling, and simple approach to performance (an optical sensor with driver-less configuration); I wasn’t quite as impressed with the overall build quality, lack of granular customization options or lighting. Will the new Kova change my mind? Will the improved sensor, new looks, lighting, and robust construction replace my first impressions? Benchmark Reviews has the opportunity to take the new Kova (ROC-11-502) for a spin, so let’s find out.
The Tundra line of coolers by SilverStone is about to get larger…by getting slimmer? Well, at least two of them are: the TD03 Slim and TD02 Slim. Containing aesthetics from the Tundra Lite coolers and coupling them with a slim radiator and fan (with a total rad/fan package height of 37mm), this AIO cooler seems custom-built for slim cases or anywhere where space is at a premium. Benchmark Reviews has the opportunity to investigate the cooling potential of the 120mm TD03 Slim – will it survive the cooling testbed? We’ll also see how this cooler performs in one of its “intended use” cases: the slim Fortress FTZ01.
Hot on the heels of Benchmark Review’s look at the Fortress FTZ01, SilverStone sent over their latest iteration of the mini-ITX “Z” chassis. Based off of the Raven RVZ02, today we have a chance to look at the Milo version: the ML08B-H. Following the same internal layout the Milo ML08 squeezes the same component clearances into an even slimmer chassis with some new tricks. New tool-less drive trays, a more accessible interior and two completely thermally isolated compartments identify this HTPC-oriented “Z2” case. Follow along as we take a closer look at the SilverStone ML08.
The NZXT Grid+ V2 is a voltage regulated, 30W digital fan controller fits in practically any case (it’s about the size of two SSDs stacked on top of each other) and adds digital fan control capability for up to eight fans across six separate channels. Join Benchmark Reviews as we take a quick look at the capabilities NZXT’s GRID+ V2 digital fan controller will bring to your build.
The Designed By Razer program was started last year to provide a way for manufacturers to collaborate with Razer’s design studio, allowing for products with the Razer branding that may not have existed otherwise. Razer ventured into the gaming laptop market with their Blade series of laptops; so far their desktop components have been limited to peripherals (keyboards/mice/audio). That changed with the introduction of the NZXT H440 | Designed By Razer ATX case. This special edition added some signature Razer elements to the mix – that treatment has now been extended to the H440’s sibling, the NZXT S340. Today, Benchmark Reviews has an opportunity to take a closer look at the S340 “Designed By Razer” edition from NZXT (model CA-S340W-RA). Can a budget-oriented chassis co-exist with a higher price tag?
Generally, a few months after the Raven version is released, a premium Fortress version – sporting clean lines and a few tweaks here and there – will follow. This was the case with the RV01/FT01, RV02/FT02…well, you get the idea. When SilverStone released their first ITX Raven case – the RVZ01 – it was only a matter of time before the Fortress variant emerged. The RVZ01 was a unique chassis even by Raven standards; how would the FTZ01 manage to maintain that premium Fortress look and feel? Well, wrap it in a unibody aluminum exterior for starters. Follow along with Benchmark Reviews as we see what else has changed in the SilverStone Fortress FTZ01.
Still one of the only players in the very small form factor market, SilverStone has consistently iterated on its various designs to bring us new improvements and features, case after case. Not content to rest with their niche ML05 HTPC enclosure, they dressed up the exterior with a full aluminum panel and released the ML06. That isn’t the case Benchmark Reviews is reviewing here – SilverStone decided they weren’t done, and evolved the internals of the ML06 into the product we see here today: the ML06-E. Featuring re-worked internals but the same exterior dimensions, the ML06-E is poised to be the best of the series so far. Let’s take a closer look.
Mionix, the Swedish manufacturer of a range of gaming peripherals, has a new star in their lineup: the Castor Optical Gaming Mouse. Designed to retain the ergonomic grip of the Naos while still accommodating the three main grip styles (claw/palm/fingertip), the Castor is poised to be a comfortable option for a wide variety of users. Coated in their customary soft-touch rubber coating, the smooth curves and Aurora multi-color lighting identify this newest addition as a member of the Mionix family. Benchmark Reviews was given a chance to take a closer look at the Mionix Castor – will the tales of exquisite craftsmanship, 10,000 DPI optical sensors, zero acceleration and a grip that appeals to everyone… appeal to everyone?
After Cougar’s fully featured 700K mechanical keyboard & 700M aluminum gaming mouse were released in 2014, a streamlined mechanical 600K & ergonomic 600M followed close behind. It’s not surprising then, in early 2015, that Benchmark Reviews has the opportunity to take a closer look at Cougar’s newest gaming keyboard; the 500K.
The Core series by Thermaltake launched with the E-ATX full tower Core V71 last year. Since then, Thermaltake has expanded into the mid-tower (V31, V41, V51) and mini-ITX (V1) form factors. The Core V21 that Benchmark Reviews will take a look at today rounds out Thermaltake’s lineup with their first micro-ATX Core offering. At first glance, the Core V21 shares many design similarities with the other Core chassis. As is true with many things in life, looks can be deceiving as the V21 is the first Core chassis to officially offer a multitude of motherboard orientations. While it arrives in stock format with a horizontal motherboard layout, it can be transformed in a matter of seconds to a traditional or inverted layout. We’ll see how this works as we build a system inside the Core V21 over the next few pages.
It looks like BitFenix are at it again. Fresh off the manufacturing line, Benchmark Reviews has received something a bit different from the company known for cases like the Colossus, Shinobi and Prodigy. As their first case with aluminum panels the slim micro-ATX Pandora brings a sense of style that is a significant departure from some of their recent enclosures. Available in black or silver, with or without a window, and in Core or ICON versions (which contain a 2.4″ LCD display in the front panel) fans of the micro-ATX form factor will have quite a few possibilities to choose from. For those that are looking for something a little more elegant without sacrificing a large footprint, the Pandora may be just the thing. Are there any compromises made to keep this case slim? Let’s dig in and take a look.
What a difference a year makes. In Q3 of 2013, Phanteks branched out from their well-known CPU cooling and fan items and released the Enthoo Primo computer case. Their first chassis won multiple awards and was quickly followed by the Enthoo Pro; a more accessible case that still exuded a premium feel from this brand-new case company. The Enthoo Luxe arrived quite a few months later, adding a splash of color to the lineup. With the premium tower, full-tower and mid-tower segments covered, Phanteks has delved into the smaller form factors. Today, Benchmark Reviews will review Phanteks’ latest offering, the micro-ATX Enthoo EVOLV. With rear-hinged aluminum panels, snap-on front and top covers concealing 200mm/140mm fans and multiple radiator mounts along with a few other surprises, will this aluminum-clad water-cooling oriented chassis pack as much of a punch as its bigger brothers?
The mini-ITX form factor has taken off in a big way. Packing a lot of power in a small space, these 17 x 17 centimeter squares have enabled new concentrations of computing power. Generally, you have to pay quite a bit for the privilege of shrinking everything down, but Gigabyte has a model in their Ultra Durable line of motherboards that brings a “Z” chipset to the ~$130 price point. With high-efficiency MOSFETs and on-board WIFI/Bluetooth, USB 3.0 and two gigabit LAN controllers (Intel and Atheros), the Gigabyte GA-Z87N-WIFI is a reasonably priced entry into the overclocking-capable Z87 chipset. Is it worth it? Follow along as Benchmark Reviews takes a closer look.
Sporting a configurable TDP and all of the Kaveri features (GCN graphics cores, Steamroller CPU cores, HSA, etc.), the A10-7800 which Benchmark Reviews will be looking at today sits right in between the A10-7850K and A10-7700K. What type of performance was AMD able to extract from this 65W APU? Read on to find out.
Back when I was given an opportunity to review SilverStone’s new Argon series of coolers, the system I was using at the time for testing CPU coolers was based on an AM3+ processor. The AR03 was recommended out of the two for my platform, due to it’s larger physical size than a Socket 1155 CPU – for which the smaller AR01 would be more appropriate.
Rosewill’s Legacy series of cases brought a new image with them to the Newegg in-house brand’s typically budget-oriented lineup. That’s not to say there weren’t splendid offerings available previously – I still maintain that Rosewill’s Thor V2 chassis is one of the best “price for performance” cases produced in recent memory. Even excluding the stand-out cases, there was a chassis at almost every price point that usually offered just as much as the competition at a lower price (even though they may have sacrificed a feature or a little build quality – usually negligible – to do so). Still, Rosewill’s penchant for penny-pinching produced (alliteration!) a few compromises along the way. Looking to provide some premium offerings and possibly shed their “budget” image of the past, Rosewill may just end up revamping their legacy with the new Legacy W1 Mini-ITX computer case. Available in black or silver with or without a window, this aluminum-clad mini-ITX case appears to be a premium answer to enclosures like the BitFenix Prodigy.
August 2010. A new company releases a massive enclosure aptly named the Colossus. The original Colossus was BitFenix’s first product as a company, and it captured the attention of the enthusiast crowd at the time with its various added features and performance capabilities. While Benchmark Reviews has taken a look at the Colossus before, the recent release of the micro-ATX (and mini-ITX) Colossus M got us thinking: how much performance was retained in the Colossus’ spiritual successor? The SofTouch finishes, LiteTrak systems and bold styling are all there, but how do the two compare when filled with similar hardware? Is the monolithic Colossus ancient history by now, or can BitFenix’s first product still hold its own? Courtesy of BitFenix, let’s see how the latest BitFenix Colossus stacks up against the original version.
Enter Fractal Design’s Node 804. While it isn’t an exact scaled-down replica of cases like the Carbide Air 540 or HAF XB, it still uses a cube/split chamber layout – this time in a micro-ATX size. With dimensions of 344 x 307 x 389 mm or 13.5 x 12.1 x 15.3 inches (WHD), the Node 804 is just a bit wider than a BitFenix Prodigy and almost exactly a third larger than the Node 304 (in the height and width dimensions – depth differs by only 15mm). The Node family is designed with a focus on Home Entertainment; with the vast array of fan, radiator and storage combinations that are possible the Node 804 could easily take on any number of roles. Benchmark Reviews has received the Node 804 for some testing, so let’s take a look at the newest member of Fractal Design’s Node family.
Announced at CES 2014, Kingston has released their replacement of the Blu series of RAM modules. Named “Fury,” the new HyperX series of DDR3 RAM claim to make overclocking even easier by automatically detecting the appropriate speeds and timings for your motherboard, making these modules “Plug and Play” ready. Arriving in 4GB, 8GB single, 8GB dual or 16GB dual-channel kits, the Fury line will have frequencies of 1333 MHz (CL9), 1600MHz (CL9), or 1866 MHz(CL10). A new asymmetric heat-spreader design in red, blue, white or black colors covers a stylish black PCB, adding a distinct look to this newest memory kit from Kingston. Benchmark Reviews received one of the dual-channel 8GB kits for testing (model HX318C10FWK2/8), so let’s see how these modules compare.
Thermaltake has recently added another chassis to their Urban lineup. A modern update of the classic Lanbox Lite chassis (also by Thermaltake), the Urban SD1 is designed for builders that are building around the mATX/mITX form factors and still want room for large graphics cards, AIO liquid coolers and multiple drives. Utilizing modular internals in a chassis not much bigger than many ITX boxes, the Urban SD1 promises an easy building experience. Weighing in at 5.8 kg and with dimensions of 239 x 280 x 456mm (HWD), will this sophisticated relative of the Lanbox / Armor A30 deliver on its claims of high-performance in a micro-ATX form factor? Benchmark Reviews was given an opportunity to build a system in the Urban SD1 (model CA-1A9-00S1NN-00), so let’s see what changes have been incorporated in this new member of the Urban chassis family.
Thermaltake is no stranger to the computer chassis market. With Reddot design awards for their Chaser A71 and Level 10 enclosures, they aren’t afraid to try different approaches to chassis design. With their new Core V71 Full Tower chassis, Thermaltake is offering an E-ATX capable enclosure that is both versatile and adaptable. Focusing on performance with either air or liquid cooling, the Core V71 offers an unprecedented level of flexibility and customization.
Finishing up a run of new cases based on the Prodigy, BitFenix has started shipping their Colossus M. Taking its name from one of BitFenix’s first full-tower enclosures, the Colossus M inherits the original’s distinctive lighting and combines it with the familiar internals of the micro-ATX Prodigy M. Offering a different approach from the smooth lines of the Phenom and the airflow of the Prodigy, the Colossus M wraps an angular, soft-touch shell around familiar internals while adding a few new tricks in the process. Have they saved the best for last? Benchmark Reviews has the micro-ATX Colossus M on hand (model BFC-CLM-300-KKLS1-RP), so let’s take a closer look at the unique traits that define this mini-Colossus.