We have made it through another year. This year we published 116 reviews ranging from phones to computer components and beyond. Of those reviews we had a few that stood out enough at the time of publishing to earn an Editor’s Choice Award. This is a little different than our Top Honors or Recommended awards. Top Honors, for example, is given to a product that had at most a trivial issue that we could list as a fault and Recommended is anything that we would still recommend if you are on the market. Editor’s Choice on the other hand means that I would pick the product up for myself; a few times we had products with faults that still fell into this category. Today I’m going to look back and see what I’m still using and if things have changed.
This was our last Editor’s Choice winner of the year and obviously we really haven’t had time for things to change. I am excited to see what the competition will introduce this year at CES to compete with cases like the Storm Stryker.
Once again it’s a little early for our thoughts to change on this one. This was a case that I was a little concerned about when I was originally shown, but after getting my hands on it I came around. In the time after the review I have heard multiple people talk about this being their next case purchase. Considering its price I’m not really shocked. LanOC will still being using the XB going into 2013 as well as our cooling test bench, I doubt it will get replaced for a long time considering how well it works for that situation.
The Elite 120 Advance was giving this away for its price point and feature set. My personal LAN rig is using the PC TU200, a much more expensive case that required some adjustments to be able to fit all of my components into it. I was impressed by the room that the Elite 120 gave us compared to the Lian Li, and it was priced at a price point that anyone could afford.
The MSI GTX 660 Twin Frozr made it onto our list because of its amazing performance and cooling power. The GTX 660 performance and price point were almost enough to get this award but MSI went above and beyond with cooling performance that topped our charts.
With performance that rivaled more expensive offerings from AMD and with the hit game Borderlands 2 being bundled with it, the GTX 660 Ti was a given when considering the Editor’s Choice award. Even still today the performance is great and it comes with a copy of Assassin’s Creed 3, prices haven’t really dropped, but it’s still a good deal at its original price.
Most of you know that I am VERY picky when it comes to mice and when I find something that I like I continue to go back to it over and over, so it’s rare for a mouse to interrupt my cycle for much longer than it takes to properly review, other than when I’m just too lazy to swap them out. The Corsair M60 did just this. It was almost 5 months before I went back to my go to mouse after this review, sticking with the M60 for a long time. Even then there was no real reason to go back to my Sensei other than just out of boredom; I would still highly recommend the M60 to anyone. I can’t wait to see what Corsair introduces next on the mouse front.
Corsair went about a mechanical keyboard different than anyone else. For one they are the only mechanical keyboards right now that aren’t full mechanical. You would think that this would bother me, but this is the reason they were able to have media keys and they could also save money to keep the price of their all aluminum keyboard design within reach of most gamers. I still to this day use my K60 on my second PC in my office for when people visit and the K90 in my LAN bag. The reason for this is because they both are easy to keep clean, something no other keyboards can say. The K90 is especially nice for LAN use because of its backlighting as well.
When I mentioned earlier that I have a go to mouse that I normally go back to, it’s the Sensei from SteelSeries. When they introduced the RAW it fixed all of the issues that I mentioned in my review of the Sensei, because of that it was a given that this mouse would be on my go to mouse list. This is what I take to LAN parties and generally what I grab when I take my gaming laptop with me when traveling. The lower price makes me less worried about having to replace it when traveling but I still get the same performance of the Sensei.
Our Z77 Roundup was much more than a typical roundup. It was actually four motherboard reviews with the performance numbers put together. At 18 pages this monster is still our biggest article by far. Only one of the boards stood out enough for an Editor’s Choice Award and I still use this board to this day. The P8Z77-I Deluxe was the little guy in the bunch. Shockingly its Mini ITX size didn’t stop it from performing right up with all of the big guys. This board has been popular with people looking to build LAN rigs including myself. I still use the combination of this in the Lian Li PC TU200 as my rig when traveling to LANs and when our power was out for a week it also doubled as my work PC as well.
Phone reviews aren’t always a part of our typical reviews, but we do try to keep up with things as much as we can. When I had the chance to check out the Razr Maxx I was very excited. Battery life has always been an issue for me, especially when I am away from home and I basically work from my phone. The DROID Razr Maxx was worlds apart from anything I had tested prior. Even to this day the only phones that compete are the new Razr Maxx HD. It’s amazing that this hasn’t taken off with other manufactures really, I would be happy to give up a little extra space in my pocket to not have to worry about my battery life. During events like CES I have been known to pack a spare battery, spare phone, and a battery backup as well just to prevent my battery from dyeing while on the go.
The GTX 670 was introduced last May and still to this day is one of the top cards on the market. This is what I have been running in my LAN rig due to its performance and power requirements. At its launch I was impressed with its performance in comparison to the GTX 580 that was priced close to the GTX 670. Today you can get one for almost $50 less than before and it also comes with Assassin’s Creed 3 and Borderlands 2, both hit games from this year. I would say that this puts the GTX 670 still in the value category, especially if you need a few games to play on your new hardware.
With the launch of Ivy Bridge we took a look at the i7-3770K, Intel’s fastest offering. I was impressed with the improvements that were made on the GPU side as well as overall CPU performance. This was the best performance per core we had tested to date. While we might be inching closer to another refresh, right now the 3770 is still the go to CPU if you want high performance at a price that won’t make your wife kill you. Of course if you are looking at multiple GPU’s 2011 socket CPU’s are still the best choice.
The GTX 680 was the introduction of Kepler. Not only was I impressed with its performance but they introduced driver improvements and support for 3 + 1 monitors on one video card. Along with that the GTX 680 had a price that at launch triggered AMD to change their pricing and relaunch GHz versions of their lineup to compete. Do we still use it? Yeah. The GTX 680 replaced the GTX 580 in my main rig for the better part of the year until I built our project rig (that we will be publishing soon). It’s now a second rig for friends to play on when visiting.
When the R7950 launched I was impressed with its performance compared to what Nvidia had to offer at that time (GTX 580). After Kepler was launched, this card became a little less interesting, although I did still love the cooler design that XFX went with. We did see price drops over the year on this as well to help it compete. With a price drop of almost $100, they are still great cards to get. But considering the price at launch and Kepler’s performance, I wouldn’t have given this an editor’s choice had I been able to see the future.
The Quickfire Rapid was the first of many keyboards coming from Cooler Master in 2012. I loved the ten keyless Rapid for its space savings as well its high quality. After the past year, Cooler Master has made a few small changes to the design to have even less branding on it after customer feedback. We still use one of our Rapids on our test benches. LAN keyboard use was moved to the K90 from Corsair simply because it was easier to clean and had backlighting. Hopefully we see a version of the Rapid in 2013 with full backlighting!
The HD 7970 launched twice really, once just before the new year a few select websites got their hands on samples. Then while we were at CES last year we were able to publish up what we thought about it. We were lucky enough to get our hands on two cards. While both were amazing, the XFX card blew us away with its amazing heatsink design, still to this day I think it’s more of a work of art than almost anything else on the market. Because of this I’m sporting four of these in my build currently. I would be lying if I said I was a fan of the drivers, but the cards themselves are great.
Our first review for the New Year, just before we left for CES was the Cosmos II. I was blown away by all of its adjustability and cooling power. The only reason this didn’t become the case for my rig was because it couldn’t fit under my desk. It’s a shame really; it’s an amazing case still to this day. Of course the price is still a little much. I think Cooler Master’s other offerings throughout the year still have a lot of features while coming in at a price that people can afford, like the Stryker for example. If the Cosmos II came back through today, I doubt It would end up with an editor’s choice award, but it would still get its Top Honors badge!