Cooler Master Barebones Novatouch

Well over a year ago we first had the chance to check out a keyboard from Cooler Master that I had been excited about for a long time, their Novatouch TKL. This was their first Hybrid Capacitive keyboard, they worked closely with Topre to design it with a unique stem design that lets you run keycaps designed for Cherry MX switches on it. This is important because as we found out about a year ago in our Keyboard Customization article, you can do a LOT to set your keyboard apart. So over the past year Cooler Master has been working to show everyone why the Novatouch is different, but at least in my opinion the price has been a bit hard for some people to get over. Well over time the price has some down, but in addition to that they have recently been selling a special Barebones model that brings the price down even more. The barebones Novatouch TKL is specifically for people who already plan on replacing the keycaps with something else, cutting the costs down by selling it without keycaps. Well I got the Barebones Novatouch TKL in as well as a new set of custom keycaps, today I’m going to show you what you can do with the Novatouch and reflect on over a years’ worth of use in the performance section.

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Tenda AC15 AC1900 Router

When it comes to networking nearly all of the companies that come to mind have been around for what seems like forever. It is rare to see new companies bust into the market. Well recently a new company called Tenda reached out to me about covering their latest router. I found out when researching them that Tenda has actually been around for 16 years, even though their name isn’t exactly a household name. The AC15 router that they wanted me to check out caught my eye though and I figured I would see what Tenda has to offer and find out if their new AC1900 router has what it takes to be the router you go with when moving to Wireless AC.

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OCZ Trion 100 480GB

After Toshiba picked up the bankrupt OCZ we have seen OCZ drives move to using Toshiba NAND. With the launch of the Trion 100 though things are a little different. For the first time this is full Toshiba drive that is branded with the OCZ branding. The Trion falls in OCZs product lineup as a budget drive under both the Vertex and Vector drives. The Trion 100 is the first TLC based drive for OCZ, TLC (Triple Level Cell) is similar to MLC but with an additional layer to provide a higher storage density and with that help lower costs as well. So today I’m going to dig into the Trion 100 and find out what makes it tick and then run it through our performance testing to find out how well it performs. Then at the end of the day we will put all of that together along with the price and find out if the Trion 100 is the budget drive for you.

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Sound Blaster X7 and E-MU XM7 bookshelf speakers

Like most of you PC and along with it my office is almost like a living being, slowly evolving. Every year or two I’m changing out my video cards, my motherboard, even keyboards and mice. It’s weird though, looking back there are only a few things that seem to be very consistent, my desk and for the most part my speakers. Well when I was replacing my desk last fall I decided that I wanted to move from the Corsair SP2500’s to something new. Now keep in mind, the Corsairs sounded good as did the Klipsch’s that I have before that. So to continue to evolve I wanted to go a new direction. Well the timing was good as Creative Labs had just recently introduced their X7 and more recently their E-MU XM7 bookshelf speakers. I loved the X5 when I covered it and for a long time I even used it over the onboard on my PC but the X7 looked to be a much more fitting permanent option. Well I’ve been testing both the X7 and the XM7 speakers for a while now and we can finally sit down and go over what they are and how well they performed.

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20XX Early Access Preview

I got my hands on a key for 20XX a week or so before the demo was released for Mighty No. 9, and I remember when it was announced somewhat shrugging, and starting a new run in the formerly mentioned title. The similarities between the two are obvious, not only in their influence from the Mega Man franchise but also that they are both in this weird, pre-release stage that so many games find themselves in. I’m still very much looking forward to a modern day Mega Man from the original development team, but 20XX has managed to scratch an itch that has otherwise been delayed.

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Tesoro Excalibur Spectrum

Back in June I tested and wrote about one of Tesoro’s new full RGB keyboards, the Lobera Spectrum. While I liked a lot of the keyboards features, the styling wasn’t exactly what I would look for in my own keyboard. So when they mentioned their other full RGB keyboard, the Excalibur Spectrum I jumped at the chance. The share a lot of the same features, but the styling on the Excalibur line is a lot cleaner and simpler compared to the Lobera, so I was excited to take a look at it and find out if it would really be a better fit for me and anyone else who prefers a little bit simpler design. Well I have been testing it for a few weeks now and I can finally sit down and talk a little about how it performed, find out if it lived up to my expectations! 

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LanOC at NeXus LAN 16

It’s been a little over two years since I made it to a NeXus LAN, and if I recall correctly it was their first event to be held at their new venue in the Miamisburg Moose lodge. The building was familiar with the signature round tables and the large stage area packed with busy staff members. The registration and prize tables seemed to spill out from the stage, and as we continued in it became clear why: NeXus had grown substantially since my last visit. The tables seemed to have doubled, claiming another room once separated by a divider.

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Mionix Castor

It’s weird, for a long time it felt like I was testing a new mouse every week or two week. More recently though that has almost completely flipped and my peripheral testing has been all keyboards. Well just before vacation and then the LAN I did have a bit of a chance of pace. Mionix sent over their latest mouse, the Castor and asked us to take a look at it. So I’ve been putting the new mouse to the test in the office while I have been getting caught up on work. Well I finally have a little time to be able to sit down and talk about Mionix’s latest mouse and how it performed, so hang on I’m going to go over everything.

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My weekend hunting terrorists (Rainbow Six Siege closed beta preview)

Only a few months have passed since Ubisoft announced at E3 that Terrorist Hunts would be returning in Rainbow Six Siege. Messages immediately blew up between our small gaming group. The three of us have been gaming together for a long time; at least a decade, if not more. When Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 released in 2008, we networked together a couple of Xbox 360s and played Terrorist Hunts endlessly. Eventually we migrated to the the PC and spent countless hours progressing our characters, unlocking weapons, and hunting terrorists all over again. Ubisoft would stop officially supporting online matchmaking, but it’s still possible to play online (we had to try after hearing the announcement).

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MSI R9 390 Gaming 8G

Early this month it seemed like we had nothing but video card content, at one point out entire front page was filled with it. Because of that I did take a bit of a break from them but I did have one last card here in the office I wanted to take a look at. This time around I wanted to take a look at an MSI R9 390 Gaming 8G that AMD had sent over. We have seen a few R9 390’s but nothing from MSI so it will be great to see how the 390 compares to some of the SLI and Crossfire testing we recently did and to also see how the MSI card compares to the other competition on the market.

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DIY cassette cases for Nintendo Game Boy

Part of why I enjoying collecting video games are the cases. When people look at me like I’m crazy for buying physical copies, I usually base my defense on the experience of opening a new game, but there’s much more to it. My friends and I used to hit the video rental store every Friday, and despite the old adage we had no other way of choosing a game other than what we saw on the cover. I’m sure this contributed to my infatuation with cover art, but I’ve talked to enthusiasts of other media, particularly music, and they share a similar love for album covers. When the games are on the shelf and all-- er, most-- the spines are uniform, it’s a great feeling.

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Gigabyte GA-Z170X-Gaming-7

With the launch of Intel’s latest chipset and the i7-6700 CPU it’s no surprise that they brought along with them a long list of new motherboards from every manufacture. At the launch I took a look at one of MSIs boards. After the launch though we jumped into GPU mode and covered the latest budget cards. Past that I slipped in a vacation and then of course our 17th LAN event. With all of that past us I can finally revisit Z170 and take a look at the Gigabyte GA-Z170X Gaming 7. I’m excited to see what Gigabyte has packed into the board as far as features go and to find out how it compares to the MSI. So today I’m going to dig through the Gaming 7s features then put it to the test, let’s get to it!

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Bit Fenix Alchemy 2.0 Magnetic LED Strips

When case modding was getting started everyone who wanted to light up their PC turned to cold cathodes for lighting. Things progressed and we later saw LEDs starting in plastic pucks and then later on strips becoming popular. While I don’t use lighting in every build, I have used them in a few. A few years ago we even took a look at lighting options from Bit Fenix. At the time they were still a relatively new company and they were starting to expand their product lines. Well a few years later Bit Fenix reached out, excited to show off the latest version of their LED lighting, the Alchemy 2.0. This time around they dropped the adhesive and went with magnets to keep the lighting in place. Considering how much we liked their first kits, I couldn’t turn down taking a look at the new design. So today I’m going to take a quick look and find out what they are all about. 

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GTX 950 SLI Testing

So yeah I know, it’s starting to look a little like all we cover around here are GTX 950’s and R7 370’s. Don’t worry today is the last time. Today I’m going to follow up the R7 370 Crossfire article and see how good our two GTX 950’s perform when paired up in SLI. As with all of our Crossfire and SLI articles, this is not a review as I have already tested and reviewed both cards individually. Today is just a quick look at their performance and to find out if the 950’s in SLI are a better value than any of the more expensive cards individually. Have a great weekend everyone!

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AMD R7 370 Crossfire Testing

So over the last two weeks I have taken a look at two different R7 370’s and two GTX 950’s so this week I’m going to pair them up and see just how good they perform in dual card configurations. Today I will start off the testing by testing and looking at how the two R7 370’s perform when in Crossfire. As with all of our Crossfire and SLI articles, this is not a review as I have already tested and reviewed both cards individually. So all I’m doing today is taking a quick look at what you can expect from two 370’s in Crossfire. Enjoy!

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MSI GTX 950 Gaming 2G

Last week Nvidia launched their GTX 950, a budget focused Maxwell card. At the launch I took a look at the Asus Strix 950. Well right after the Strix came in we had the MSI GTX 950 Gaming 2G come in as well. So today I’m going to see what sets the MSI apart and find out how it performs compared to the Asus as well as the two different R7 370’s that I have recently tested. This is a great chance to see how the Twin Frozr cooler on the MSI compares to the DirectCU II cooler on the Strix and to see what is the better option if you are on the market for a GTX 950.

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Asus R7 370 Strix 4GB

So last week was basically all about budget gaming with our first R7 370 review as well as the launch of the GTX 950. Well this week isn’t going to be any different. Today I’m going to take a look at another R7 370, this time the Asus Strix 4GB model. This gives us a chance to compare the Sapphire that I previously took a look and find out how the cards compare. It also is a good chance to see where the R7 370 sits now that the GTX 950 is out. To sit back and I’m going to see what the Asus R7 370 Strix 4GB has going on and then how it performs.

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Asus GTX 950 Strix

So yesterday I had the chance to check out the R7 370, AMD’s current budget video card. Well today Nvidia is officially announcing and releasing the GTX 950. The GTX 950 falls in between the GTX 960 and the GTX 750 Ti. This fills in a gap in the Nvidia lineup and should compete directly with the R7 370. Like I mentioned yesterday, this isn’t a price point that enthusiasts who are building high end PCs would be looking at but it does fall right into the sweet spot for budget gaming builds around the $600 price point. So with that in mind today we are going to see what the GTX 950 is all about, find out how it fits in between the 960 and 750 Ti in both performance and specifications, then find out if it is the right option for people looking at building their new $600 gaming PCs.

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Sapphire Nitro R7 370

While it is fun to get excited about the $1000 CPUs and video cards, PCI Express SSD’s, and all of the other cutting edge tech that we see coming through the office from time to time. The reality of life is that when you are building your new gaming PC you will move likely set a realistic budget and you have to work around that. A lot of people ask for feedback on their builds for helping putting together a parts list and a lot of those people are looking at a budget of around $600 for their new PCs. So at that price point typically an ideal video card is the main purchase as everything else is as cheap as you can get but the card budget comes in around $175 to $200. So today I wanted to take a look at what AMD and more specifically Sapphire has to offer at that price point. That is their new Nitro series R7 370.

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Cooler Master Quickfire XTi

In spring 2014 Cooler Master introduced their Quickfire Rapid-I backlit TKL keyboard. As soon as it launched my old Quickfire Rapid was put aside for the new model in my LAN bag and I’ve been recommending them along with the Code keyboard that I use on my main PC to anyone who would listen. The reason I also pushed the Code is because the Rapid-I was only available in the TKL form factor. After all of the waiting Cooler Master has finally introduced their full sized model, the Quickfire XTi. I’ve been spending a little time with the XTI and I can finally sit down and talk a little about its features and let you guys know if it was worth the wait. Going into testing I was especially curious if I would like it enough to get me to swap it with the Code on my main PC.

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