As phones, laptops, and other mobile devices continue to get smaller and smaller we have to compromise in some areas. A great example of this is overall sound quality. When was the last time you were shopping for an ultrabook and even considered what sound card was installed in it. I know when I picked up mine I didn’t give it any thought. Creative Labs recognized this and today is introducing two new mobile Sound Blaster products called the E1 and the E3. Today I have the chance to take a closer look at the E1 and see what it is all about.

With the Z87 launch, Asus made a few big changes with their mainstream motherboard line, the biggest being the change to the gold color scheme. That change came with a mixed response but the high quality and big feature set that Asus includes on all of their boards they were still very popular. With the Z97 launch, they have stuck with the gold theme but they have softened the color slightly to make it a little less polarizing. Today I will be taking a deeper look at the Z97-A, one of Asus’s mid ranged mainstream boards. I can’t wait to see what they changed for the Z97 launch and to see how the softer gold looks as well.

Typically, Intel keeps their chipset launches timed with new CPUs but todays (official) launch of the Z997 chipset does not come with shiny new silicon from Intel. There are rumors of launch days for a Haswell refresh but as of now, there isn’t anything official. Even without new CPUs we can still take a look at the latest in motherboards. To start things off, today I will be taking a look at MSI’s Z97 Gaming 5. With their new naming scheme we can tell right away that this is a gaming motherboard (of course) and the 5 is their entry level full ATX board with a 7 and a 9 that will round out the line. I’m excited to see what has changed and what remained the same!

Silverstone has been involved in the Mini-ITX gaming market for a long time now. Not only have they had a wide variety of case options, but they have also provided short cabled power supplies and more recently they have been the only manufacture with a good SFX power supply for small form factor gaming. On top of all of this, they have been known to really change things up with unique case designs. Their most recent Raven design would have to be considered unique as well. With a look that reminds me of modern day consoles, I suspect that the Raven RVZ01 could be the perfect case for a Steambox build. Let’s see if that is the case.

Once Fractal designs a case they normally go back through and make sure to design similar models that fit the needs of people who need small, medium, and large sized builds. There isn’t anything worse than finding the perfect case for you then finding out that it’s not going to fit your build. We already have taken a good look at the Arc XL from Fractal, so when the Arc Mini R2 came in the similarities were too hard to ignore. If it’s anything like its much larger brother we will most likely love the Arc Mini R2, but of course we have to take a much closer look to find out more about it.

The Mini-ITX market has been growing both in popularity and in options. That means where we used to have one or two motherboard options, nearly every manufacture has multiple options now. Along with that, we now have Mini-ITX focused heatsinks and video cards. Cooler Master is no different with them expanding out their Mini-ITX case lineup beyond the Elite 120 that we reviewed a while back. Today I have the chance to take a look at one of their other options, the Elite 130. It is very similar to the Elite 120, but with a little different styling. Let’s see if the Elite line can still hold its own against the growing competition.

Recently we reviewed the NH-U12S from Noctua, an efficiently designed tower cooler sized to combat most of the negative aspects that air coolers tend to face and we were pleasantly surprised by the performance. Today we take a look at the much larger NH-U14S from Noctua with a similar focus reasonable sizing and space for RAM and other board components while still bringing that top tier Noctua performance we have all come to expect. Will the U14S improve upon its smaller counterparts numbers or will we be left wanting? Join me to find out.

It’s a little crazy to think that just a few years ago Fractal stormed the market with their Scandinavian designs. Now Fractal is a common name in the enthusiast scene. They were able to do this because they never compromise on their design philosophies and their high build quality. As it turns out, people want a good product at a reasonable price, who knew right? Well today, I have the chance to take a look at a case from their Arc series of cases that are designed for increased cooling while still giving you the “fractal” styling that we know and love. Specifically today, I will check out their Arc XL, their largest model. I’m excited to see what sets the Arc XL apart from the competition and from Fractals other product lines.

Over the last few years In Win has really stepped up their game. They have been introducing limited edition case designs that are extremely unique and nothing like anything else on the market. After the first few designs I assumed they would run out of ideas but they have continued to innovate by incorporating tempered glass into some of the case designs. As most of you know I am a big fan of Mini-ITX builds so when In Win asked me if I wanted to check out their 901, a Mini-ITX case that incorporates some of the unique features of their concept chassis.

Over the past few years AMD has invested most of their efforts into their APU line. This has paid off for them in the way of performance improvements every launch and even more importantly this focus helped them score all three of this generations gaming consoles. Considering how many of the PC games that we play today are ports from those consoles AMD is in a great position to benefit from all of the fine tuning done on their console hardware. They recently introduced their Kaveri APUs and after spending some time making changes to our CPU test suite and retesting some of the competition I finally have the chance to sit down and talk about how their latest APU performs both from a compute side of things as well as the performance of the integrated graphics processor.

 

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