MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon

With the wide range of new Coffee Lake based 8th gen CPUs from Intel, there needs to be just as much of a selection when it comes to motherboards. Not every board will fit each build or theme and depending on the CPU you may need more or less features. MSI has done a great job with a whole list of different models on Z370. For the launch, they sent over the Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon, one of their higher end boards and I’ve been testing with it. Today I want to check out what they have going on for features and see how it compares to the rest of the market. Is the Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon the board to get for your new build? Let’s find out.

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Corsair Spec-04 TG Budget Build

So today Corsair is introducing their new Spec case and typically I would check it out in one of our traditional case reviews. I’ve done this so many times in the past, in fact I counted, we have done 112 case reviews over the past 9 to 10 years. To do something different this time around I decided rather than do a review that we take a look at the case then do a build in it. So like the original Spec-04, the Spec-04 Tempered Glass model is a budget case. It has an MSRP of $59 so to go with that I thought I would put together a budget build to go along with it. I can’t wait to see how well it performs!

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Asus ROG Rampage VI Apex

Well, we are far enough past the original X299 launch that the refined and crazier motherboards are starting to come out. This isn’t anything new, Asus especially likes to take more time for their crazy boards, not just rushing everything out to make it to launch day. In this case, it also gives them the chance to tweak things, like work on the VRM cooling that was found to be an issue with a lot of the X299 boards after the launch. This works out timing wise as well given Intel finally launching their last few high-end Core-X CPUs. In fact, Asus sent this board over specifically to test with that launch. Well with that out of the way I can finally also take a closer look at the board itself. You know the Rampage VI Apex is something special when it stands out even when compared to the Prime X299 Deluxe. So let's check it out.

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Asus ROG Strix Z370-F Gaming

Well, the Coffee Lake launch is here and to support Intel’s new CPUs we also have new motherboards. As I write this I have two boards in the office that I have been testing, the first being the Asus ROG Strix Z370-F that I used to test the two CPUs for the review. Asus’s boards have been solid and this one doesn’t look to be any different. As a Strix board, it has Asus’s now standard color neutral layout that uses black and gray, RGB lighting, and the angular Strix look. Today I’m going to take a look at its features, confirm that it performs well, check out the UEFI, and then talk a little about where it sits in the market and find out if it is worth picking up.

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Intel 8th Gen Core CPUs – Coffee Lake

Its hard to believe considering we just finished up an Intel launch, but it is already time to check out Intel’s next launch. Kaby Lake was launched at the beginning of this year and the Mainstream lineup of CPUs is getting refreshed with Coffee Lake and Z370. This is the 8th generation of Intel’s Core processors going back to the original launch back in 2006. While I’m sure Kaby Lake owners aren’t going to be all that happy about the relatively early launch, but those who waited might be excited to find out that Intel has added cores to the mainstream lineup and is bumping up the entire product stack. As someone who is still building my wife’s Kaby Lake build, I completely understand the feeling. But as long as she never finds out her new PC is already out of date I will still be alive long enough to put the i7 and i5 CPUs that Intel sent over to the test.

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EVGA X299 Micro

So the X299 has been an interesting one. Intel introduced high-end CPUs at the last minute, there was a lot of drama at the launch about VROC, cooling issues post-launch, along with strong competition from AMD with the Threadripper launch. A lot of the board manufacturers have been revising and making changes but EVGA has been waiting to get things right before putting their X299 lineup into the wild. While as of writing this I don’t see any for sale in regular retail stores, EVGA did finally send over a board. Today I’m going to check out the X299 Micro, their Micro ATX board. Given the performance X299 is capable of, I’m excited to see if this board could be a good mATX build option to pack a lot of performance in a smaller package. EVGA typically keeps things simple with a blacked out look and little to no lighting for those who just want a clean good performing board. Let’s find out if that is the case again.

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Intel i9-7980XE and i9-7960X - Core-X Again

It’s been a crazy year in the CPU market, with that craziness also pushing the rest of the market as well. Back in June Intel introduced their new Core-X line of CPUs as well as the X299 chipset. That launch was missing the top portion of their CPU lineup though. The increased competition and the surprise announcement from AMD of Threadripper seems to of prompted Intel to expand on their planned lineup. They added four more CPUs up above the i9-7900X with 12, 14, 16, and 18 cores. Well, the wait is over, they are available and today I’m going to check out the top two that Intel sent over. The i9-7980XE is Intel’s new flagship CPU with 18 cores and 36 threads with the i9-7960X just behind it with 16 cores and 32 threads. Let's see what they have to offer across a range of tests.

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Project Build: Carmine - Part 3 – Custom all the things

Wow, so it was all the way back in April when our last installment of this build was published. Back at that point Ryzen 7 was new, now we have Ryzen 3 and 5 as well as Threadripper. So things have been a little crazy. At the time I was looking at cooling options and the original plan was just to add an AIO cooler but at the time no one had AM4 brackets available. I ended up reaching out to Alphacool, they had contacted me a year or two ago about working together on a build but I didn’t have anything that really fit. It just so happened they had AM4 support early on, fitting this build perfectly. I will go into more details inside, but I ran into multiple delays and hiccups but Carmine is finally all together. It’s about time we catch up and show off what has been done to the build.

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Ryzen ITX Cooler Roundup

My interest in Small Form Factor builds has grown over the years as my office space has slowly filled up and had less space and each time I take a PC to a LAN event. We have built our Lunchbox project builds all the way back to when nothing was available but that isn’t the case anymore. There are countless case options, tiny power supplies, ITX motherboards with full sized features, and even video cards that will fit in tight spaces. Most recently with the AM4/Ryzen introduction, I was extremely excited to finally have the chance to run an ITX build with a proper high-end AMD CPU. Up until recently, you could really only do it with their APUs. Well even months after the Ryzen launch ITX boards were basically not available, but that is all starting to change with boards getting in stock from Gigabyte, Asrock, and Biostar. Well to celebrate that I decided to bring together a collection of at least most (I’m sure someone will contact me asking for X brand) of the ITX sized coolers that currently have AM4 support. A few of the coolers I got in are pushing the limits of ITX. But today I’m going to check each of them out, make sure they fit an AM4 ITX board (and ram), and test each cooler for noise and temperatures using Ryzen CPUs from the R7, R5, and R3 platforms. Hopefully, we will get a better idea of what fits, what doesn’t, what looks amazing, what is quiet, and what will work with each level of performance. It’s a lot to take in so let’s go ahead and get started.

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AVADirect Avant Mid-Size

Now I know most of you have no problem building and upgrading your PC, hell for me that is half of the fun. But for everyone I know that builds their own PC, there is another person asking me or friends to help put everything together. Not everyone has friends that can help and some people just don’t have the time to do it as well. This is especially true with things like renovations around the house and working on or building cars but for some reason, there is a big stigma when people would rather buy a prebuilt PC. For me, it's not something I need to do but I completely get why some people would go that route and frankly I would rather people be going with boutique builders who use off the shelf parts that are easy to fix or upgrade later than proprietary PCs from other companies. Anyhow the Ohio bases AVADirect sent over one of their Avant builds a while back and we have been playing with it. It’s about time that I sit down and talk about the build, its performance, and the overall experience.

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Project Build Iris – Part 2

So last week I went into detail on the case, power supply, and the fans I went with in Iris. Those are cool, but it’s the components inside that determine how fast the computer is going to be. So today I’m going to go over the “go fast” goodies so to speak. I will talk about the reasoning on the motherboard and CPU and what else is going with it. Considering that my wife ends up playing more games than I do, making sure this build was extremely fast was important. I don’t need her getting angry at me when her games don’t work!

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Cooler Master MasterSet MS120

So for people who get really excited about meticulously picking out each and every component and part for their new PC you might know exactly what you want for a mouse and keyboard. But for a lot of people, especially with the popularity of things like PC Part Picker that help just about anyone pick out their components, you just want something simple and that you know is going to work. For a while now Cooler Master has actually been producing these combo packs that get you a mouse and keyboard at a decent price. Well with the recent introduction of their new mice they are following that up with their MasterSet MS120. This gets you both a mouse and a keyboard, but what exactly do each of them have going on? Today I’m going to check them out and find out.

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Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ITX

I haven’t really had time to check out too many cases over the last few years but I’ve been trying to do a little catching up. On my very short list was a small ITX case that I’ve been seeing around all over the place from Phanteks. The Enthoo Evolv ITX is one of those rare cases that is priced like a budget case but seems to have some of the features and styling that you find in higher end cases. So I reached out to Phanteks and they were happy to send over the case. I’ve been testing it out with our Ryzen ITX setup and I wanted to sit down and talk a little about the case. So let's dive in to see what Phanteks has going on with this popular case.

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Project Build: Iris – Part 1

So 5-6 years ago I had a crazy custom painted build in the office and my wife came in and snatched it up. I like to tease her about it but the fact is she gets more gaming time in than I ever do so that build has been put to good use over the years. It’s had its video card upgraded a little but overall it has been extremely long in the tooth and as I was writing this is actually died on her. So a while back I started putting together plans to build something specifically for her, something more fitting than the rig she snatched up. So my base idea was something in your face, flashy, with lots of bright colors. This is just her style, always picking the crazy colors. She picked up her nickname (Koolaid) back when we were dating because her hair was never the same color. Anyhow with this project, I kind of set off with a theme best described as unicorn vomit, but she picked out the name Iris. In Greek mythology, Iris is the personification of the rainbow and messenger of the gods. I think that sums up what I was going for with this build. Anyhow! Today I’m going to just start things off by touching on a few of the base components and then we will come back later to talk about the go fast parts and what we are going with to get those crazy colors.  

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Cooler Master MM520, MM530, and MasterMouse Pro L

It must be that time of year, everyone is introducing their new and updated mice. It just so happens that I haven’t had a Cooler Master mouse in the office for a while now. Well, they are introducing two new mice today, the MasterMouse MM520 and the MasterMouse MM530. I went ahead and had them include the MasterMouse Pro L as well so we could take a look at the whole range. They all are similar in that they are all 3360 sensor based with Omron 20 million click switches, so they already have a few things going for them. Let's see what else they have going on.

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MSI X299 SLI Plus

If you aren’t into flashy builds or if you are building a PC to be used in an office environment it seems like it is getting harder and harder to find simple but feature filled motherboards. Thankfully a few of the manufacturers like MSI have Pro focused lines. This is especially important with X299, a platform that overall seems better focused on workstation builds. Well MSI just happened to send over the X299 SLI Plus from their Pro lineup and today I’m going to check it out and see what it has going on.

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Fractal Design Celsius S24

Okay so just about everyone has their own variation on the AIO water cooling kits these days. Most are working with Asetek as well, so most of the designs are about the same. Well Not long ago Fractal joined the fun but they aren’t exactly known to just do what everyone else is doing. Fractal is known for their very specific styling and quiet cases. So when I heard they were bringing out an AIO I was really curious how they would be doing things differently. This past week I dug into the Fractal Celsius S24, today I’m going to talk about it and then see how it performs.

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TP-Link Deco Mesh Wi-Fi

Over the past 10 years having wireless access in your home has gone from being nice to have to basically a requirement if you have internet. Of course wireless has been around longer than that, but just looking recently with the growth of mobile devices, tablets, laptops, and smart home devices it used to be just a few devices in a home where now it is easy for a family to have 20 or more devices connected without getting into smart home devices. It's amazing how quickly even a good router or access point can get over loaded with that number of devices on them, not to mention just being able to get a signal in all of the corners of the house. I live in an older house, combine that with a very high number of PCs and electronic devices, the wireless range in my house is really bad. I upgraded years ago from a basic router to a PF Sense setup and recently I added a long range wireless AC access point. Well at CES this past year mesh networks were all the rage and TP-Link seems to be one of the first out with their Deco Mesh Wi-Fi system. Today I’m going to see what they are all about and then do some in depth testing, comparing a mesh setup with one long range access point. I’m excited to see what is going to give me better coverage and better speed in all of the rooms in our household.

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WD My Passport SSD 1TB

When it comes to data storage there are all different form factors and options. If you have a huge computer and don’t need to transport the data you can just toss a hard drive in and you are good to go. I take advantage of network attached storage for most of the data around the house but I also used a few flash drives for on the go. But when you need more space the thumb drive options get expensive, huge, and they aren’t exactly fast as well. So you are left with a portable hard drive but again speeds are terrible. Well recently SSDs have been making it into the portable market and the WD My Passport SSS really caught my eye to be paired with my Ultrabook for when I’m on the go and between test benches around the office. With a small form factor and a Type-C connection, it looks to be what need but first today I want to put it to the test and see how it performs.

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Be Quiet! Dark Base Pro 900 Orange

I think everyone knows at this point that I’ve been on a big ITX kick for a while now. But sometimes when you need to build something completely crazy you have to go bigger. I did that with our Fridge build years ago. But what cases are a good pick to do that now? Well, it just so happens that I’ve had the Dark Base Pro 900 in the orange model from Be Quiet! sitting around the office for FAR too long. It’s about time I build something in it and see what it is all about. With a tempered glass side panel, orange highlights, and a lot of modularity it has the potential to be a great case. Let’s take a closer look and see if it is.

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