NZXT S340 Elite

NZXT S340 Elite

Expanding on the S340’s renowned durability, the S340 Elite features a tempered glass panel to showcase builds with crisp clarity. The top IO panel has been optimized with an HDMI port and additional USB ports for a streamlined VR experience. It includes a magnetic cable management puck to conveniently store VR or audio headsets with fast and flexible mounting access. The S340 Elite is strong, compact, and takes the S340 chassis to new heights.

Asus RT-AC88U

Dual-Band Wireless-AC3100 Gigabit Router

Finally, somebody understands what I need in a gaming router, more ports. Gone are the days when I have just one computer. I have printers, network attached storage, Roku, multiple machines, plus my gaming rig. It is nice not to have to have a big switch. The dirty little secret is those little switches you buy at Office Depot, that say they are a gigabit switch don’t really work at full speed. Until you get into the ones that are 16 port or bigger the size of a rack you are not getting your full speed. 


This router also supports the full complement of wireless and a whole bunch of other features that will allow it to tune itself whatever you are doing. It’s not cheap at $300 but what good gaming router is at this point. It even has a function that will reboot the router on a regular schedule so you don’t have to remember to do it when the Wi-Fi goes out randomly. I would recommend this to any serious gamer out there, this will give you that little edge on the Internet.

 

Specifications

Ultra-fast 802.11ac Wi-Fi router with a combined dual-band data rate of 3167 Mbps for low latency online gaming, smooth 4K streaming and extremely fast file-sharing
Broadcom® NitroQAMTM technology boosts 5 GHz data rates up to 2167 Mbps and 2.4 GHz up to 1000 Mbps
4x4 antenna design with AiRadar universal beamforming for unbeatable wireless signal coverage
1.4 GHz dual-core processor improves USB and WAN/LAN speed
Link aggregation supports close to 2 Gbps wired transmission for more devices to enjoy faster access speed
Multiple capacity Wi-Fi with revolutionary MU-MIMO technology
AiProtection for total security and privacy
8 Gigabit LAN ports for 2x the number of wired ports typically provided
Parental Controls let you manage your family’s web activity and ensure a safe environment for younger users

Samsung 960 Pro and 960 Evo M.2 NVMe SSDs

Samsung 960 PRO and 960 EVO

These are fast.

If you thought that Samsung 950 Pro was fast, this is on another level. The 960 EVO is quite a bit faster than the 950 Pro was and the 960 Pro is substantially faster than both. The 960 EVO has a fantastic price point ($125 for the 250GB) that almost any gamer could afford. The 960 Pro is expensive ($300 for the 512GB) but it’s top of the heap, there isn’t much out there that is faster (3000 MB/S Read) than it without adding a few zeros behind the price tag. Switching back to a workstation running a SATA Samsung 850 Evo solid-state seems like a huge step back at this point. I would recommend this to any gamer or pro developer that wants faster load times.

I currently run the 960 Pro 1 TB in my personal gaming system.
 

Mayflower Electronics DAC

As I mentioned in my last blog post I had done quite a bit of research on headphones. This brand kept cropping up Mayflower electronics. Best DAC at this price point you can do no better. If you want to save even more money you can build it yourself if you know how to solder.

We went with Objective2 and ODAC Rev. B DAC & Amplifier handmade by Mayflower electronics in the USA.

This takes all of the sound out of the computer and puts it in your headphones from USB cable it is beautifully simplistic. The sound that comes out of this compared to what comes out of your sound card is incredibly different in the best possible way. There is also no added nonsense so you hear the games the way the game developers meant for you to hear them.

So if you have a good set of headphones or a very premium gaming headset you should really get one of these. It also has no drivers to speak of so you won’t have to worry about updating the drivers if your operating system changes.

Good old Creative Labs has not put out an updated driver for Windows 10 for quite a few of the old cards and only one driver since Windows 10 came out no updates whatsoever. Which is pretty surprising considering how many driver updates we get for video cards.

If you are looking to get some headphones like the AKG K712 Pro they won’t really function correctly without a DAC. I would highly recommend this brand very prompt shipment only took about three days and we’re in California and they are in New York.

AKG K712 PRO / K612 PRO

K712 pro

K712 pro

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been doing some headphone research on YouTube and across the Internet. I came to two conclusions; my sound card was a LIE and my headphones were under-powered. Now I don’t mean they were too quiet, but they were definitely not receiving enough output from my sound card for me to be able to experience their full glory and power.

Thank you to Tek Syndicate and HardwareCanucks

I won't spend much more time talking about the sound card, only enough to say you don’t need one. Your gaming motherboard will be able to output to your 7.1 surround sound speaker set out-of-the-box just fine, believe me.

What's most important is that you need a DAC, digital-to-analog converter. This will take care of all your audio needs. I will talk more about this in my next blog that will cover the Mayflower electronics DAC.

Okay on to the headphones, as you know I own a pair of Sennheiser Game Zeros. Connected to my Creative Labs sound card, these headphones sound weak. When I plug them into my new DAC, the different was like night and day. Better sound stage, bigger bass, more clarity. 

This got me thinking... how much better can this sound if I did a little bit of research and decided for the first time in many years to try a different brand, other than Sennheiser?

After watching many videos and searching the Internet, I went with AKG. I bought the K612 Pro, which sounded amazing and so much more spatial awareness than the Game Zeros. I felt like I was actually in the game!

But then, the little voice in my head started wondering...how much more better can this actually sound? So I went ahead and bought the K712 Pro. These were a step up, a BIG step up...with leather, memory foam, velour and a detachable cable. The K612’s had bass and spatial awareness, but these had so much more complexity. There is a level on Star Wars Battlefront where Darth Vader’s Super Star Destroyer takes off during the map. I had noticed it a few times by seeing it taking off... but now I hear it! It sounds like DOOM, it is amazing.

At this point, I know I have found my new headphones. I boxed up those K612’s and sent them right back. The K712's are going to be my new choice for gaming headphones.

 

K612 pro

K612 pro

Opera?

Wow, is all I can say about the new Opera.
I have been a long time Google Chrome user. For the last five years or so, Chrome is the only browser I’ve used. After the release of Microsoft Edge, I started looking around at the other browser offerings. Nothing really had changed, Firefox still had two different spots; one for URL and another for searching. This was just too slow for me. Safari has dropped off Windows completely - we will not miss you at all. I was reading an article about how Opera had a built-in ad blocker, which was huge. I’ve always used either Ad Block Plus or the newer uBlock, although both of those worked great, they slowed the browser down significantly. 

 


With the latest version of Opera, the built-in ad blocker is off by default but can easily be turned on, this takes about 100 to 150 MB in use. This is pretty small compared to Chrome, which uses closer to 300 MB if you add up all of the odd back-end tasks that run at all points in time. Still not sure why there are so many things running...

There are still a few things that I like about Chrome more than Opera. You can log into both normally, but Chrome remembers everything that you had going on when you log into a new computer, including apps. This is really convenient. Opera only remembers your favorites, which makes it so you have to go re-download themes and apps if you are switching computers, not a deal breaker though.
But the speed of Opera is as fast or faster than Chrome with the ad blocker turned on, which is really remarkable. I’ve been using it now for about two months and haven’t missed Chrome at all. We’ll see how long I stick with it. I would definitely recommend giving it a try.


Opera also has some of the best commercials I’ve ever seen, below are a few I really enjoyed.

Geforce GTX 1080

As soon as EVGA puts their custom ACX 3.0 cooler on a GTX 1080, we will have two of these in our test machine. There isn’t too much more to be said about this card other than it blows everything else out of the water. When you put two in SLI, you will finally have enough power to run 4K properly.
Now, it's just a matter of waiting for ASUS to make a Republic of gaming 4K @ 144hz gaming monitor. Only time will tell. I am really excited to get my hands on one of these cards and see how much more performance it has first-hand, rather than just benchmark numbers on the Internet. 
 

 

I’m also really excited to see that they’ve put some more energy into SLI. More bandwidth means more speed, more speed is good. Hopefully more and more game developers will get the ball rolling by coding SLI into their games. It reminds me of back in the day, when certain games couldn’t work with dual-core CPUs, seems ridiculous now. But the fact that some games don’t get SLI support for months if not years, or never in the case of Wolfenstein, sounds absurd. 

Roku 4

If you're like me and took the plunge to 4K this is something you simply must purchase. This has everything you love about the Roku with the ability to output at 4K. It also has a nice feature that will show you all 4K content across all services Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and many more I've never heard of before. There is even more content than I thought there would be in 4K. It has all the same functionality as the Roku 3 and a few new functions my favorite is if you push a button on top it plays music on the remote so you never will lose your remote again. All in all this is my favorite streaming box I've tried the Amazon fire and the Apple TV this seems to be the best all the way around.

Samsung SSD 950 PRO

So Fast and So Smooth

I thought the SM 951 was fast this puts it to shame. I keep thinking at some point I won't be able to tell the difference because it's already so fast going to the next thing would just be a small increment up. This is still noticeably faster it is the speed of a normal solid-state drive faster than the SM 951 which is very significant. On our test rig with most games there is no load times to speak of if you switch to a normal computer running a SATA Samsung 850EVO solid-state it seems like an eternity waiting for a game to load. The price has come down significantly as well this drive in the 512 GB flavor is just over $300 which isn't too bad for the speeds were talking. I would recommend this to any gamer or pro developer looking for that extra something.

Windows 10

We have been using Windows 10 for over six months now on our laptops as part of the insider program. I really enjoyed watching the operating system grow, change, and become even better with every new version. We had Windows 10 insider preview installed on two Asus Ultrabooks, one that is relatively new and an older one that would not run Windows 8; it just blue screened all over the place. I was pleasantly surprised when I was able to install on both of these Ultrabooks with no issue. The older one that had so much trouble with Windows 8 has not had any problems to speak of, which speaks highly of Windows 10 backwards compatibility with older hardware. 

Let me just start with our company policy. It is to never ever to upgrade with a Microsoft product. It always ends poorly with our experience. I just wanted to try the upgrade process. I tried it on my own workstation, the one I use every day that has all of my software on it. I did the upgrade process with Windows 10. After about 25 minutes I was in Windows 10, I only had to restart once for the video card drivers to install. With all of my software files, pictures, wallpaper where I had left them with Windows 8.1. I have been using it all day long with no problems whatsoever. 

I foresee great things with Windows 10. I will be installing this on our high-end gaming machine next to play with DirectX 12.

 

 

Oculus Rift consumer headset

Soon I will have one of these lovelies. Oculus Rift is going to be using dual 1080×1200 OLED displays. Which is lower than I was hoping for, but what are you going to do? Built in headphones seem interesting, personally I will be using my own headphones, so I hope they come off easily. They need to come up with a software something like VorX that will allow all legacy games to play on the headset easy. This will help the market, otherwise only tech people that are willing to be frustrated a little before they get a great payout will only use them. In the very few games that work currently are amazing, but I think until they are able to put a 4K display on each eye it will still look a little grainy or like a laser printer on eco-mode. I am still hoping that they get NVidia g-sync support as well. We will see if the steam offering by HTC comes out before these. With all the Facebook money, this company has, I do not understand why it has taken them so long to come up with a consumer version.  Only time will tell. I am really looking forward to owning a pair of these.

Corsair M65

I had still been searching for a replacement for my Logitech G9X and I have found it. Logitech's G502 is a technological marvel, but at the same time, it was not a perfect replacement for the G9X. Corsairs M65 feels much more like a G9X and does not have as many unnecessary high-tech things going on the mouse that I do not use. The other thing that corsair added is corsairs RGB lighting system, so it can match your case and keyboard. Which Logitech, for whatever reason, on the G502 decided no one wanted any other color except for blue. It makes no sense if you have a red gaming machine with a red keyboard. It just doesn't look right. Like their keyboards, this mouse's backbone is made of aluminum and you can adjust the weight with the weights at the bottom of the mouse. These screw into the base plate unlike the Logitech that has a plastic flap that is magnetically held to the bottom of the mouse. I own both of these mice and I find myself reaching for the Corsair when I am playing a first-person shooter or any game for that matter more than the Logitech, even though the Logitech has more tech built into it. It even feels like the G9X with the way it is textured. We will see what Logitech will do next but for now, I am gaming with this.

Corsair Gaming Mechanical Keyboards

This is one of the best feeling keyboards that I have used in years. Surprisingly, it is not a Logitech, which has been my go to keyboard manufacturer for the past 10 years. It is the Corsair gaming keyboard. I picked up a K70 and a K65. I do not use a 10 key on my gaming rig. The other little fun things with this keyboard is the RGB lighting system. Which allows you to do pretty much any light show you desire. You can make it really ridiculously distracting to yourself while trying to work or you can just make it look white like I do in the office. However, on my gaming machine I have it do all sorts of fun things. I really like the MX cherry red switches. They have a great feel for gaming and I have no problem typing on it either. I've never been a huge fan of mechanical keys, but these feel fantastic. I see what everybody's talking about. The best part about this keyboard is that it's made out of actual aluminum, so it has a very sturdy feel to it. All the other manufacturers at the moment doing these rainbow bright keyboards are made of plastic, which just feels cheap. I would recommend this keyboard to anyone looking for a high end gaming keyboard or even a nice office keyboard.

NZXT S340

I love this trend of case manufacturers removing all the unnecessary things from cases. This is my new favorite. It is very minimalist and cheap to boot. It does not feel inexpensive. Everything about it is nicely done and finished. The only thing that I do not like is where the PCI slots are on it. There is just a hole. It is a small complaint. The interior and top of the case are finish in a matte black, which just looks sharp and very modern. If you go with one of the special edition cases in blue or red, the entire case is matte black that looks clean. The way the cables are managed is downright incredible. It takes a unique approach to the problem with just a piece of metal to cover everything. Even with two video cards, the case remains very clutter free.

 

We were able to shoehorn an Asus Rampage V Extreme into one of these cases with slight modification. I think that on the mark two of this case, they should continue the cable management hide all the way to the top of the case instead of having been down. However, that in one very small complaint on a fantastic case, which is currently selling on Amazon for $69.99

Samsung SM951 SSD M.2

Samsung SM951 SSD

Our Distributor told us that this did not exist and did not know what I was talking about what is the tech world coming to. We would like to put these on our high in gaming machines but they are very difficult to get a hold of. At this point, these are only available inside of Lenovo laptops you can find a few of them floating around eBay but I would be careful. We are actually trying to order one from the Lenovo parts department otherwise there’s a 12 to 14 week wait time through a company that imports them directly from Samsung. Seeing, as I have never worked with them before I am reluctant to throw down over $500 and waiting that long for something with the company have never worked with before.
And these are hands-down the fastest solid-state on the market currently we would like to offer them in all our gaming machines and even some workstations due to the incredible speeds but their limited availability has made them not sellable at the moment. I will keep trying.

 

SilverStone FT05

I have been using a Silverstone FT 02 case for about three years now; I have loved how the motherboard was orientated in a 90° angle. I do not understand why more manufacturers do not utilize this. Heat rises this makes it so everything is pointing up instead of back. This coupled with three massive fans on the floor with a filter makes for incredible cooling without generating a lot of noise.

When I saw the new Silverstone FT 05 case, I was really excited they had gotten rid of a lot of useless things inside. There are no optical drive bays. There is room for two 3 ½ inch hard drives in an optional plastic insert. However, if you plan to use a real power supply something greater than 850 W you will not be able to fit this and the power supply in the computer at once. With the prices of solid-state drives, it would be silly not to use solid states in which there are room for two of them on the backside of the motherboard along with a slim optical drive bay. There is just enough room to shoehorn the new X99 Asus Rampage V Extreme in this case. A lot of website say this will not fit but they are just incorrect as you can see in the picture below there is quite a bit of extra space between that regular motherboard and the floor. In the one thing to keep in mind is with the new DDR 4 memory make sure you get something that does not have a huge heat spreader this will conflict with the water-cooling unit that I know you would want to run. They have added many of the features that the FT 02 had but were not as thought-out. Like the filters on the fans are held on with magnets and are easily removed without opening the case on the FT 05, whereas on the FT 02 you had to remove the side panel to access them. In addition, to access any of your ports on the FT 02 you had to pop the top off the case, which was just held in with friction clips which was a pain, on the FT 05 and you just slide it back and it easily lifts off.

I would recommend this case to anyone looking to build a compact well-ventilated gaming machine or workstation that still needs room for an extended ATX motherboard.

rv05-ft05-1.jpg

GeForce GTX 980

EVGA GTX 980

The GeForce GTX 980 is the latest in a long line of top-of-the-line graphics cards from Nvidia. This one surprised me with its incredible power and performance, but at the same time requiring very little in the way of power. The fans are off most of the time when you are on your desktop and only kick on when you are gaming. This makes for a very pleasant working environment when you are just doing your day-to-day tasks on the machine. We run two of these and our latest test machine everything so smooth.

Asus ROG SWIFT PG278Q

This is hands-down the best monitor I have used for gaming ever! If you are old enough to remember CRTs the big box monitors, towards the end right when LCDs first were coming out CRTs were running at 120 Hz. I had forgotten how nice it was to have a really high refresh rate. You can see so much more clearly. You are able to get the head shots that you want because you can see. The ASUS ROG Swift works at 2560x1440 144 Hz and you can use G-sync, which makes everything even sharper. There is no tearing, no shuttering and no lag. This monitor is made for gaming on a PC with a really high-end in NVidia graphics card. It only works with the display port. I would not put the money down if you do not have a GTX780 or higher NVidia graphics card. You just will not get the full affect with a lesser graphics card. If you have the money, $800 out the door I cannot recommend this monitor enough for gaming.

I know you are probably thinking, for that price I can get a 4K monitor. Well, do not. The technology is not there yet, and the amount of pixels rendered on a 4K display are excessive, even with the newest NVidia graphics cards . In addition, most 4K displays have a maximum refresh rate of 30 Hz, which is unbearable. There are a few out there that can run at 60 Hz, none of which are televisions' only monitors. 

Get this monitor if you are a hard core gamer.


Side note if oculus rift gets G-sync that will be the coolest thing in the universe.

 


How G-SYNC Works

Asus AC2400

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If you are looking for the end-all to be all 802.11 AC router, look no further than the ASUS AC 2400. We had done some testing with the original Netgear Nighthawk series and the new X4, but the lights just looked cheesy like they were from the 90's with white LED blocks. I don't know why they went with those. The user interface on the Asus was nice, clean and concise. Everything was right there in front of you. No digging to find the special features or IP version 6, it was just all there. The Netgear was fast, but definitely had some Wi-Fi connectivity issues in the two that we tested. On the other hand, this Asus out-of-the-box worked flawlessly and noticeably faster in my apartment and at my office than the Netgear Nighthawk. It is just a little bit thinner than the Netgear Nighthawk. With the blue LEDs situated in the front, it looks clean. The USB ports are inconvenient behind the trapdoor, but to be honest I never hook anything to my router personally. They are there and they are USB 3.0, if you want them. This is definitely the best router out there at the moment.

Polar Loop Activity Tracker

Activity Tracking with Smart Guidance
For anyone who wants to track their activity 24/7 and get guidance to reach activity goals. I picked this Smart pedometer because it worked with the heart rate monitor I already owned by the same company. I wanted to know how I was sleeping more than how active I was, and it turns out I was sleeping like a baby, which is good. It also encourages you and helps you reach goals to stay fit, which is really important in my industry where we spend most of the day sitting on our backside. I recommend one of these to anyone who wants to track their daily activities and makes a smart looking futuristic watch on top of everything else.