Sound BlasterX Katana

For living rooms, it used to be a big push for multi-speaker configurations with a big receiver. For some people, this is still the goal, especially for surround sound. But recently there has been a trend where people have been moving to soundbars. They take up a lot less space while still being an audio improvement over your TVs speakers and they better fit with today’s ultra-thin TVs. There are some downsides though and performance can be a little limited. Well, Sound Blaster came out with the Sound BlasterX Katana and they don’t even like to put it in the same category as a traditional sound bar. They call it an Under Monitor Audio System aka a UMAS. This is because beyond having speakers under your monitor it has a built-in 224 bit DAC, a Dolby Digital 5.1 Decoder, and 5 drivers all with their own amps. With my wife getting a new desk, we started to look at her options and the Katana from Sound Blaster looked to be a good fit to keep the desktop footprint low by using unused space under her monitors. So today I’m going to check the Katana’s out and see just how they perform.

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Primochill Praxis Wetbench

Typically when it comes to open air cases you have crazy one-off builds that are really only useful for tradeshows and then you have testbenches. The testbenches are normally plain looking and lack much more than the ability to add a fan or the bare minimum components needed for a testbench. A few years ago Primochill introduced their Wetbench line and they have revised it to the current iteration with huge changes in the design. I’ve been following it for a while but its allure finally got me after seeing it all over the internet on tech YouTube channels and websites so I reached out and surprisingly they were happy to send over a nice orange and white Wetbench for us to check out. If you follow us on Facebook or Twitter or my personal Instagram you have most likely seen the Wetbench in action recently. Well, it's about time to sat down and spoke a little about the overall experience.

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Project Build: Carmine - Part 2

So a few weeks ago I got started on our Ryzen based project build. At the time the plan was to put together a reasonable Ryzen build with a nice red theme. We picked out the case, the motherboard, and a power supply. Well, today I’m going to run through the rest of the go fast bits so to speak. That means we need some sort of storage to get our OS on, memory, a video card, and to pick out which CPU we want to go with as well. So today we run through those parts and at the end I will include a small preview of what else is coming for this build. I’ll give you a hint, while the original plan was to put together something reasonable things have gone a little crazy on the water cooling front.  

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RX580 Crossfire Testing

So last week AMD launched the 500 series of cards and I had the chance to check out two different RX580 variations. So like always, if I get a pair of cards in and they support Crossfire or SLI I have to see what they are capable of. So as soon as I had my reviews posted I got the XFX and Sapphire cards on the testbench and started seeing what they can do. Like previous multi-card testing articles, this is mostly just me posting up results with less commentary than normal. So get ready to flip through a whole bunch of results.

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MSI GTX 1080 11Gbps Gaming X+ 8G

So this week has been mostly filled with information on the AMD 500 series launch but today Nvidia taking the NDA off of their updated GTX 1080’s that were introduced at the same time as the GTX 1080 Ti. The new GTX 1080’s now have 11Gbps memory, just like the 1080 Ti. MSI sent over the GTX 1080 Gaming X+ for me to check out so today I’m going to run it through our recently refreshed test suite and see how it compares to the GTX 1080 Ti and the original GTX 1080 as well. Being an aftermarket card it should run cooler and quieter than the two Founders Editions that I tested, but how does it all translate to in game performance. I test at 1080p, 1440p, and 4k to see just how they all compare.

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XFX RX580 8GB GTS

With the official RX 500 series launch, we learned that the new 500 series cards are hopped up versions of the 400 series of cards. With that in mind, all of the aftermarket cards have to up their game to keep things cool. So today I’m going to check out a second card and see how much they ended squeezing out of the card and what they had to do to keep things cool and quiet. That card is the RX580 8GB GTS from XFX. XFX kept their old cooler design on some of their cards, but for their flagship the GTS they went a completely new design. I’m excited to see how that looks and how it performs. Let’s dive into it.

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Sapphire Nitro+ RX580 8GB LE

2017 has been crazy and we are only a few months in really with multiple big launches from AMD. They launched their RX 400 series of cards last June and the excitement and hype has hardly slowed down in AMD groups. Now that Ryzen 7 and 5 are both out and with rumors of Vega starting to pick up AMD decided to slip in the 500 Series launch. This might be one of the worst kept secrets with cards being sold worldwide for the past week or two but today is the day we finally dive into it all officially. For the launch, AMD sent over the latest Sapphire Nitro+ RX580 in an 8GB Limited Edition version. So today I’m going to run through what the 500 Series is all about and then I’m going to test the Sapphire card and see how it compares. For even more fun I dug out the RX480 Nitro+ that dominated our RX480 charts to see how the new card compares to its year older brother.

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Asus Strix H270F Gaming

After the Intel 200 Series launch, I took a look at a range of boards on the Z270 chipset all in the mid range as far as pricing and features. The Asus Strix Z270E board ended up being great and I have been using it with all of the Ryzen testing as well for comparison testing. Well, a shipping mix-up when waiting for a Z270 ITX board for an upcoming project build meant I ended up with an Asus Strix H270F Gaming in its place. It might have been an accident, but it is a good chance to check out a similar board but from the H270 line. H270 drops overclocking and gives a lower number of PCI lanes from the CPU which means less for PCIe options, fewer M.2 storage options, and less for USB. But it still gives a lot of features at a lower price point, so today I'm going to check out the Strix H270F and see if it’s a good option for someone who might not be planning on overclocking their new build at all.

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Ryzen Stock Coolers

With Ryzen 5 now available, the possibility that people will be running stock coolers has gone up considerably. Because of that, I figured today we could take a quick look at the performance of the new Wraith Spire and Wraith Max coolers. I did the same thing last year when the Wraith Cooler was first introduced. So today won’t be a big article, I’m just going to run through what CPUs they work with, compare the differences, and then see how they perform.

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AMD Ryzen 5 CPUs

So last month AMD introduced Ryzen to the world with their Ryzen 7 processors. I took a look at all three and also did some more in depth gaming testing. Well, now it's finally time for AMD to introduce the Ryzen 5 CPUs for those who are looking for more of a budget friendly option. A few weeks ago they sent over a kit with the Ryzen 5 1600X and the 1500X and I’ve had a little time to spend with them. So today I’m going to run through the new series then take a look at how the new 4 and 6 core flagships from AMD perform. Then tomorrow I’m going to check out the coolers they bundle with them as well.

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Rosewill RK-9300

Back in 2012 Rosewill introduced their RK-9000 mechanical keyboards and while they didn’t look fancy or have a lot of the features that a lot of the other boards had, they were extremely popular. They were popular because they were inexpensive mostly, but people also really liked the simple styling. Rosewill went on to bring out a few other variations including models with backlighting but they recently caught my eye with a new RK-9300 model that was still simple but brought along with it a floating key design. I thought it might be a good time to break up all of the RGB gaming keyboards with Rosewill’s new board so today I’m going to take a look and see what it’s all about.

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Project Build: Carmine - Part 1

So the launch of Ryzen was exciting because AMD was finally rejoining the high-end market on the CPU side of things and a lot of the benchmarks were very exciting. So once it was all finished up I had to get a proper AMD build together. The original plan was my wife's new PC might be running a Ryzen 7 CPU but ITX AM4 boards aren’t out yet so rather than wait I decided to build an AMD themed build right away. While Ryzen has gray and orange as its colors I decided to stick with the traditional black and red as AMD has used them both a lot in the past. So I started gathering parts and decided on a project name as well. This build is going to be called Carmine as it is a shade of red while also avoiding the traditional red themed names like Ruby. I’m still working on getting in components and planning out the build but I did want to at least get a post up with the base components we are going with, so check them out!

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Sennheiser GSP 300

When it comes to headphones the Sennheiser brand is well known for their great audio performance both in the enthusiast market and the professional market. They have even been in the gaming market for a while now, I even covered the PC-350’s all the way back in 2009. I was really excited about the PC-350’s back then for their performance and their comfort but the price point was out of range for most regular gamers. It took 8 years but they did finally decide to move into the regular price range of gaming headset. So I’m really excited today to check out the Sennheiser GSP 300’s and see how they compare to the recently improving gaming headset market. Sennheiser finally has a model at a price point that won’t scare people away, but is it too late?

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How to get LAN Sponsors

With a lot of the aspects of hosting a LAN event, you can normally find someone with experience in the area. That isn’t always the case when it comes to getting and keeping event sponsors. Most people fly blind when they start and frankly it leads to emails that if you look back later you would be extremely embarrassing. Even though I have always done well with sponsors, looking back on some of my emails I wish I could go back and just stop myself. Well, I don’t have a time machine, at least not yet, so for now I will settle for stopping some of you before you make mistakes. Hopefully, with a few tips I can help everyone host better events. Better events all over will lead to more events for everyone to go to and we can help keep the LAN tradition alive and well. So hang on I’ve put together a whole bunch of information, I hope it helps.

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Intel i7-7700K vs. AMD Ryzen R7 1700 in Gaming

So at the Ryzen launch I took a look at the 1800X and the 1700X and compared them to the Intel i7-6900K and the i7-7700K and I followed that up with the Ryzen R7 1700. Well around that time Intel sent over the i7-7700K, the one I did my previous testing on was a loaner. So rather than cover everything everyone has already seen with the 7700K I wanted to change things up. I posted up on our Facebook asking people what they would like to see compared between the 7700K and the R7 1700 and I ended up with a list of games and someone also mentioned streaming performance. I decided to combine that list with all of the games we already test our video cards with and I put together a big list of games to check out. After a LOT of testing, I’m ready to finally sit down and check out the results. Are you guys ready? I know I am!

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Midwest RepRap Festival

Well, this weekend I took a break from playing Ghost Recon Wildlands and made the trip over to Indiana to check out Midwest RepRap Festival. While the name most likely isn’t obvious to most people, but RepRap is the community around 3d printing. So unlike Maker Fairs where 3d printing is also very popular, this time the entire event is exclusively focused on it. This event started off as a small get together of friends in a garage and is quickly growing out of control. A few of the big names in 3d printing were there and we have the chance to stop and talk with a few people. We also brought the camera along so I figured I would make a quick post to share what we saw.

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Toshiba OCZ VX500

When it comes to SSDs most people these days are starting to focus on NVMe drives or at least M.2 drives. There is still interest and need for SATA drives as well though. A lot of the SATA drives have been focused on cheaper TLC based NAND but there is still a need for MLC NAND and that’s where the OCZ VX500 that was introduced last fall has been hanging out. It’s designed as a replacement for the OCZ Vector 180. They have dropped the Barefoot 3 controller and moved to a Toshiba based TC358790. That combined with the MLC NAND has me excited to finally take a look at the VX500 and see how it performs and where it fits in today’s marketplace.

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AMD Ryzen R7 1700

The AMD Ryzen launch was exciting and filled with drama. The hype levels peaked just before the launch and while the performance was amazing in almost every benchmark there were some people surprised at the in game performance numbers and a few of the early issues with the new platform. On top of all of that, for me, I was also dealing with a dead CPU right at the launch. Our original review was written to include the R7 1700 but due to having trouble with it those results had to be pushed until AMD sent a replacement. Well that came in and I was able to get it tested but our review queue was already filled with completed coverage. So today I finally have the chance to take a closer look at it. Now I recommend everyone check out my original review for most of the details on the launch as this was an unplanned article, but once you are done we can run through the performance of the lowest priced Ryzen 7 CPU and find out if it is the value CPU to pick up right now.

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OPSEAT Master Series Gaming Chair

At this point, there is a whole list of companies who are now selling their one racing style gaming chairs and it is starting to make it hard to figure out who you might want to go with. One of the new companies that reached out to us about checking out their chairs is OPSEAT. Unlike some of the other brands, the OPSEAT has a brand name that is taken right from gaming. OP is a term used in games to describe a champion or weapon overpowered. Their Master Series is their first line of chairs, but I’m curious to find out if they really are overpowered. One thing is for sure though, they do seem to be one of the only brands with a chair priced where a lot of people can afford it. If the OPSEAT is good, this could end up being a good buy, so let's get it put together and see what it’s all about.

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Logitech G900 Chaos Spectrum

So I recently had the chance to check out the G533 wireless headset from Logitech and I was impressed with its performance. While testing it, I have also been checking out Logitech’s newest wireless gaming mouse, the G900 Chaos Spectrum. While some people may prefer to stay wired for performance reasons, the gap between wired and wireless is getting smaller. With that, there are a lot more people looking at wireless devices for the added convenience. For me, I’ve been using wireless headsets for my Coms for a while now just because it is easier than getting tangled in the cord. The G900 has a great optical sensor and it shares a lot of features with Logitech’s mice so I’m excited to put it to the test today and see what it is all about.

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