What happened in hardware - May 15-28 Edition

Pascal benchmarks, Razer opens a brick-and-mortar store, and more!

How do you follow up an exciting week in hardware that saw Nvidia unveil its first graphics cards based on Pascal? By benchmarking and reviewing, of course! We put the GeForce GTX 1080 through its paces and learned more about its sibling, the GeForce GTX 1070. If you're into graphics, there's lots to digest.

While Pascal is the talk of the day, it's not the only development in hardware. A new report came out shedding light on which hard drive brand is the most reliable, G.Skill pushed laptop memory to new heights, Lian Li ventured into the value segment, and you can win some sweet gear from Nvidia in a Fallout 4 mod contest, to name some of the highlights.

Ready to get caught up? Let's go!

Nvidia posts GTX 1070 specifications

Now that the embargo on GTX 1080 information has passed and we've published our GTX 1080 review and performance analysis, Nvidia has posted the full specifications of their upcoming GTX 1070 to GeForce.com. We already knew a lot of what to expect, like the 8GB GDDR5 and 6.5 TFLOPS of performance, but how exactly do you get to 6.5 TFLOPS? Here are the specifications, with the GTX 1080 and some previous generation Nvidia GPUs included for comparison.

Razer gives gaming peripherals an Overwatch themed makeover

Razer just released a bunch of themed gear for fans of Overwatch, Blizzard's upcoming squad-based, multiplayer shooter that's destined for PCs and consoles on May 24 (a week from today). Among the peripherals that are available now is a mouse, mouse mat, and keyboard. Come June, you can add an Overwatch themed headset to the pile, too.

The mouse is a DeathAdder Chroma with textured rubber side grips and a 10,000 DPI optical sensor. It also has five programmable buttons, on-the-fly sensitivity adjustment, 1,000Hz ultrapolling, and every other feature of the regular DeathAdder Chroma, a rodent we're quite fond of. The only difference here is the Overwatch color scheme and branding, along with fancy LED lighting effects that reacts to in-game action.

Asus introduces PCE-AC88 4x4 Wi-Fi adapter

Asus has a new wireless adapter for your desktop that could boost performance, depending on what router you're using. It's the RT-AC88U, and it's the first PCI Express Wi-Fi adapter card to feature a 4x4 (4 transmit, 4 receive) MU-MIMO design.

It's also equipped with NitroQAM technology to supercharge throughput to up to 2,167Mbps on the 5GHz band, and up to 1,000Mbps on the 2.4GHz band, making it an AC3100 class adapter. If you own a fancy pants high-performance router powered by Broadcom's flagship SoC, this is the wireless adapter to unlock its full potential. 

G.Skill's DDR4-3200 laptop memory takes speed crown

Fresh off of unveiling new memory options as part of its flagship Trident Z line for desktops, G.Skill today announced the world's fastest DDR4 laptop memory kits running at 3,200MHz.

The new SO-DIMM kits are part of its Ripjaws series. There are two high capacity options available, 16GB (2x8GB) and 32GB (2x16GB). Both are built with Samsung DDR4 8Gb ICs, same as the aforementioned Trident Z additions, and require 1.35V.

"Tested and validated on the latest Intel platform featuring the latest 6th Gen Intel Core processors, these new DDR4-3200MHz SO-DIMM memory kits allow you to wield the power of a desktop system in a portable laptop or mini PC, perfect for casual gaming or working on-the-go," G.Skill says. 

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 review

Earlier this month, Nvidia officially revealed the name and a few core specs for their next generation GPU, the GTX 1080. They invited a bunch of press and gamers to the unveiling party, showed off the hardware, claimed performance would beat the Titan X by about 30 percent, and then told us the launch date of May 27 and the price of $599. Then they dropped the mic and walked off the stage. Or at least, that's how it could have gone down.

What really happened is that we had several hours over the next day to try out some demos and hardware, all running on the GTX 1080. We were also given a deep dive into the Pascal GP104 architecture at the heart of the graphics card, and we left for home with a shiny new GTX 1080 box tucked safely in our luggage. And then we waited a few days for Nvidia to ship us drivers, benchmarked a bunch of games, and prepared for today, the day where we can officially talk performance, architecture, and some other new features. 

MSI uses mini-ITX motherboard to set DDR4 overclocking record

MSI is proud as a peacock over a new overclocking record it set using its own Z170I Gaming Pro AC motherboard. The company sent us details along with links to screenshots showing it was able to take a single stick of DDR4-2133 memory to just over 5,000MHz.

Part of what makes the record frequency impressive is that MSI used a mini-ITX motherboard. The achievement underscores that you can wring big performance out of small form factor mobos, even of the diminutive mini-ITX variety, which are smaller than micro-ATX boards. 

Crucial cranks out Ballistix Sport LT DDR4 laptop RAM for gamers on the go

If you're in need of a RAM upgrade for your gaming laptop, you might be interested in Crucial's new Ballistix Sport LT DDR4 memory in SODIMM form. Individual modules can be had in 4GB, 8GB, and 16GB capacities, or you can opt for a dual-channel kit with Crucial offering up to 32GB in total capacity (2x16GB).

Crucial's pushing its Ballistix Sport LT line at "gamers and enthusiasts." Part of that approach entails a focus on aesthetics—the new memory features black PCBs with a digital camo print on the heatspreaders. Of course, you and others will never see the modules once they're installed in your laptop, not unless you pop the hood at a LAN party like you're at an auto show. 

Cooler Master aims to inspire creative PC builds with Maker series

Cooler Master is looking to shake things up in the DIY PC building community with its new Maker line that was introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year. In Cooler Master's words, the first wave of Maker products "delivers an ecosystem that embeds excellent performance and superb quality within a customizable medium which gives users the freedom to explore, express, and enjoy their creativity as it unfolds."

Got all that? Good, now let's move on to the actual products. The first wave consists of a case (MasterCase Maker 5), CPU air cooler (MasterAir Maker 8), and power supply (and MasterWatt Maker 1200). They're all high-end solutions aimed at builders who want to construct their own version of the utlimate PC, CM says. 

Toshiba trots out high speed OCZ RD400 NVMe SSDs

What happens when you combine Toshiba's NAND flash memory resources with OCZ's penchant for delivering enthusiast grade storage solutions? You end up with OCZ's RD400 series of NVMe solid state drives.

Toshiba says its OCZ RD400 series is one of its fastest consumer SSDs to date. That's not surprising since the bulk of solutions that have come beforehand have been SATA-based SSDs utilizing the legacy Advanced Host Controller Interface (ACHI) protocol, which predates SSDs.

The OCZ RD400 hitches its high speed wagon to the PCI Express Gen3 x4 lane where it's immune to SATA's comparatively low bottleneck. As a result, Toshiba advertises sequential read and write performance of up to 2,600MB/s and 1,600MB/s, respectively, along with 210,000 IOPS of random read and 140,000 IOPS random write performance (depending on the capacity). 

G.Skill pushes flagship Trident Z DDR4 RAM to 4,266MHz

While overclockers and enthusiasts debate what matters more when it comes to high performance RAM, frequency or latencies, G.Skill continues to flood the market with more options. It's latest offerings—new additions to its flagship Trident Z DDR4 memory line—cover both bases.

There are nine new kits in all. They range in capacity from 16GB to 64GB, more than enough for even the most demanding gaming systems, and use Samsung's ultra high performance DDR4 8Gb ICs.

For those who rate frequency above all else, G.Skill's top end offering is a 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4-4266MHz Trident Z solution with 19-23-23-43 latencies. It requires 1.35V. 

Ongoing hard drive test shows HGST is the most reliable brand

If you want to strike up a debate among techies, talk about hard drives. You'll hear anecdotal evidence of why one brand is the greatest ever and why another brand flat out sucks, but buying (or not buying) a hard drive based on one person's experience isn't the greatest way to go about things.

That brings us to BackBlaze, a cloud backup and storage provider that routinely reports on HDD failure rates. BackBlaze just recently released stats for the first quarter of 2016, and once again it found that HGST is less likely to fail than any other brand.

BackBlaze's latest review analyzed 61,590 HDDs used to store encrypted customer data in its data center. That's 9.5 percent more HDDs than its last review, which looked at 56,224 drives. Drive capacities ranged from 1.5TB to 6TB from HGST, Seagate, Toshiba, and Western Digital. 

Sweet gear from Nvidia up for grabs in Fallout 4 mod contest

We're fashionably late in covering this, but Nvidia is sponsoring a Fallout 4 mod contest in which it's putting up $40,000 worth of prizes to be spread out among 20 finalists.

The contest coincides with the release of Bethesda's Fallout 4 Creation Kit for PC. It's the same tool that Bethesda used to create Fallout 4, and it's available free to anyone who owns the PC version of Fallout 4 and a Bethesda.net account. If you decide to give it a go, you can check out the Creation Kit Wiki for details and tips. 

Asus announces overclocked ROG Strix GeForce GTX 1080

Nvidia's Pascal architecture already packs a mean punch, but why stop at reference specs? Asus sure didn't, not with its new ROG Strix GeForce GTX 1080. Sporting a custom cooling solution and premium components, Asus says the ROG Strix GeForce GTX 1080 runs cooler and performs better than any Founders Edition SKU.

In the default Gaming mode, the ROG Strix GeForce GTX 1080 features a base clockspeed of 1,759MHz, up from 1,607MHz on Nvidia's reference blueprint, and boost clockspeed of 1,898MHz, up from 1,733MHz.  To wring a little bit more performance out of the card, there's an OC mode that gooses clocks to 1,784MHz (base) and 1,936MHz (boost). 

Unlucky guy upgrades PC and loses $67,000 in Bitcoin

If you're thinking about upgrading your PC, be sure to backup every bit of important data on your storage device before making the transition, otherwise you could be out $67,000. Well, probably not, but it did supposedly happen to some poor soul who posted his sad story on Reddit.

Posted under the username me_is_idiot, the former college student explained how he heard about Bitcoins around six years ago and how they were going to be the next big thing. He figured he might as well collect some to supplement the money he was bringing in through websites he had setup with some sketchy ad networks.

"Over the course of one semester I'd gotten around 150 Bitcoins, which at the time was worth around $11. What a waste of fucking time!," he thought. "These things haven't exploded like they were supposed to, back to my matched betting and awesome websites!" 

Oculus Rift DRM update has unforseen consequences

A DRM update for the Oculus Rift has indirectly made piracy easier. Listen and you can hear the faces of Oculus employees hitting their palms as one. 

Update 1.4 was supposed to protect Oculus exclusives from the likes of Revive, a hack that got Rift games running on OpenVR headsets, including the HTC Vive. Previously, Revive translated Oculus Runtime functions into OpenVR functions—Oculus' game ownership checks ran as normal.

However, Oculus' new 'platform integrity checks' look for a connected Rift before launching games. To get around that, the latest version of Revive has to bypass every ownership check. Currently it only works for Unreal Engine games, but Unity games are being worked on. 

SteelSeries now taking orders for Rival 700 mouse

Back at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year, peripheral maker SteelSeries introduced the world to its Rival 700 mouse, what it claimed was the first-ever gaming rodent with a fully customizable onboard OLED display. If you've been patiently awaiting its arrival, it's now available to order in North America exclusively at the company's website.

Why would you want an OLED display on your mouse? Good question. The answer from SteelSeries is that it can be used to track in-game stats, change profiles, see mouse sensitivity settings at a glance, display custom logos and animations, and so forth.

The Rival 700 can also provide tactile alerts to in-game events. Subtle pulses let you know that you're low on health or ammunition, or whatever other warnings you configure it for. These alerts are felt in your palm and supposedly never impact the mouse's tracking. 

Biostar's lets racing themed B150GT3 motherboard out of the garage

Biostar continues to flesh out its line of racing theme motherboards for gamers. The latest addition is the B150GT3, a micro ATX board that Biostar says is a "special edition release" to celebrate "30 years of excellence." To highlight the special edition status, the B150GT3 features a custom "Biostar 30 Years" logo on one of the heatsinks.

Additional bling comes in the form of a checkered flag silk screen print on the PCB and customizable lighting. Users can choose from a variety of colors and effects, which are accessible through the Vivid LED DJ section of Biostar's Racing utility.

Of course it's the hardware features that matter and not the additional fluff. To that end, the board features an LGA 1151 socket for Skylake processors. It also has four DDR4 DIMM slots supporting up to 64GB of RAM, two PCI Express x16 3.0 slots, and two PCI Express x1 3.0 slots. 

AOC kicks off Agon gaming brand with a 27-inch QHD monitor

AOC might not be the first company you think of when it comes to gaming products, but it's hoping to change that with its new Agon gaming brand. Going forward, all future AOC products aimed at gamers will fall under the Agon umbrella, while existing solutions will be rebranded with the new moniker.

Why Agon? AOC explains it as such:

"The name Agon represents AOC’s commitment to the PC gaming segment and the spirit of competitive gaming. Agon is an ancient Greek word (ἀγών), which refers to aa struggle or contest'. The name is also intended to be an acrostic that represents AOC’s vision for Agon," AOC says. 

HP introduces VR-ready Omen desktops and laptops

HP is introducing a unified gaming portfolio under its Omen branding with a range of solutions at different price points. It's an effort to supercharge the OEM's involvement in PC gaming and "part of the company's strategy to reinvent personal systems," the company said.

Hopefully HP follows through with a long term commitment to PC gaming. That's been a weakness of HP, which never really capitalized on its acquisition of boutique builder Voodoo PC back in 2006. Years later, the Omen brand was supposed to bring Voodoo PC's DNA to the forefront of PC design, but even that has kind of faded into the shadows.

Perhaps that will change going forward with HP's renewed interest. The next wave of Omen by HP gaming PCs will feature four devices, including two laptops, a desktop, and a 32-inch Quad HD display. 

Corsair brings Bulldog PC and Lapdog controller out to play

Forget about who let the dogs out, the real question is who let them run amok in the living room? That would be Corsair, and we're not talking about canines here, but the company's Bulldog PC and Lapdog accessory.

Corsair's barking at living room gamers with a high-end PC that can sit aggressively in your home theater rack while you plop on the couch with its lapboard companion. These were shown off earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show but are now starting to reach retail.

The Bulldog PC comes as a kit or already configured. Both consist of a low profile Bulldog chassis, Hydro series H5 SF cooler, and 600W power supply.  

EK introduces water blocks for GeForce GTX 1080

If you're hoping to plug Pascal into your water cooling setup, good news, EK Water Blocks has a new full-cover liquid cooling solution (EK-FC1080 GTX) for Nvidia's GeForce GTX 1080.

The new water block comes in four different variations, including two transparent Plexiglas variants (EK-FC1080 GTX and EK-FC1080 GTX - Nickel) and two acetal models (EK-FC1080 GTX - Acetal and EK-FC1080 GTX Acetal+Nickel). EK says there's no difference in performance between models, only the aesthetics. All four cover the entire PCB of the card and apply cooling directly to the GPU, RAM, and VRM (voltage regulation module). 

Corsair and Asus ROG collaborate on themed memory kit

While MSI and G.Skill are busying chasing record high memory overclocks using liquid nitrogen, Corsair and Asus ROG are pimping new DDR4 modules fitted with themed Republic of Gamers red and black brushed aluminum heatspreaders.

Corsair's new Platinum ROG Edition DDR4 memory  (CMD16GX4M4B3200C16-ROG)  is specifically intended for select Asus ROG motherboards complete with a custom ROG XMP 2.0 memory profile that's only accessible on supported boards.  

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