Buyer's Guide

Are Notebook Coolers Effective? ft. CM Notepal X3

Published by:

Hey kid, check out this notebook cooler. It’s like, totally the hottest thing right now. Get it? That was a pun. You know what else you should get? This notebook cooler. Or should you? That’s what we’re gonna tackle today.

So notebook coolers have always been around, and for good reason. Heat problems are inevitable, especially when you cram so much powerful hardware into such a tiny little package. Back in the old days, you needed a targus chill mat just to keep your laptop from catching fire. But now, many manufacturers including ASUS and MSI are implementing a lot of features dedicated to cooling such as vapor chambers, turbo fan modes, and even dedicated discrete heatpipes for the CPU and video card. I mean, are these things effective or just a bunch of marketing non sense?

technosportccauth

That’s where we come in. We’re gonna take a look at whether modern gaming laptops need any special care in order to function at full speed. For our testing, we’ll be using Anthony’s MSI GS40 gaming notebook. It’s got the latest Intel i7 6700HQ processor and a GTX 970M graphics card, and on high performance mode plugged into the wall. It’s the mobile workstation he’s gonna be using at CES, so he needs this thing to perform as fast as possible.

We’ll be using 3dMark as our benchmark, since it’s a good representation of a somewhat high workload that most people would see with a gaming notebook. We won’t be doing Intel Burn Test or Furmark, since those tend to push hardware TOO hard and unrealistic loads. After all, we offer useful consumer advice, not stupid stuff like watercooling your macbook.

The first test is simple. We used the GS40 on a flat, wooden table. This is probably the most common scenario, although it doesn’t necessarily have to be wood. Metal and glass are acceptable too. With an ambient room temperature of 21 degrees celsius, our CPU and video card at idle sit at 55 and 45 degrees celsius respectively. Not bad, especially since the internal cooling fans are off at this point. We got a score of 3396 on Firestrike Extreme, and hit maximum temperatures of 75 degrees and 65 degrees on the CPU and video card.

For the notebook cooler, we decided to try the Cooler Master Notepal X3. It’s got a 200mm fan, USB passthrough, adjustable fan speed, adjustable height, LED lighting that you can toggle on off, and even a little vent at the front for cooling off sweaty hands. We set the cooler on the highest position and maxed out the fan at 800RPM.

Results? At idle, we see a decrease of 2 and 4 degrees. And performance? We got a score of 3428 in Firestrike Extreme and it lowered our max temperature by 5 degrees on both chips. It’s a nice drop in temperature, even if it didn’t really affect performance all that much. But more on that later.

Untitled-1

Anthony decided to do one more test, as kind of a worst case scenario. A bed. A nice, soft, fluffy surface that completely plugs up every vent on the bottom of the laptop. And you know what? It wasn’t actually that bad. At idle, the processor was just 2 degrees hotter but the video card jumped up 9 whole degrees. After running the benchmark, we hit a score of 3392, and a max temperature of 78 degrees and 71 degrees. Realistically speaking, that’s still relatively safe and usable for short periods of time. He didn’t try this test for longer amounts of time, but we’d imagine the temperature would steadily increase.

Now, what do all these numbers mean? Well, it’s safe to say that manufacturers have gotten pretty darn good at implementing effective cooling systems on notebooks. Not to mention Intel and NVIDIA, the two chip makers at play here have both done a really good job at reducing their power consumption and therefore heat output over the last few generations.  But as good as it is, we still DO NOT recommend using your laptop on your bed. After all, heat is one of the biggest factors when it comes to hardware failing.

But is a notebook cooler necessary? While it does help your computer run cooler, even in this worse case scenario with a very small machine but very high end hardware packed in it, it’s not going to make a huge difference in performance.

Buyer's Guide NCIX Techtips Overview

Intel Z170 Skylake: DDR3 vs. DDR4 Memory

Published by:

DDR4 memory was released to the public in 2014, with Intel’s X99 being the first consumer chipset to support the new standard. However, there was no backwards compatibility with DDR3, so enthusiasts who wanted to upgrade had to buy new RAM, new motherboards and new CPUs all at the same time. The launch of Skylake in August 2015 brought compatibility for both DDR4 and DDR3, so hip, hip, huzzah! Right? Well, not so fast. There’s more to this story than meets the eye. Like a transformer.

This video began as an exploration into the performance differences between DDR3 and DDR4 on the Skylake platform – and we will talk about those. But as Keys researched this video, he discovered things. Important, and scary things that sort of changed the flow of this subject. We will share those things with you too.

Untitled-1

When Intel was first releasing information about Skylake, news surfaced that the integrated memory controller on the CPUs would support both DDR3 and DDR4 memory. This was great news for users who were already running DDR3 in their system – which was pretty much anyone who had upgraded since DDR3 released in 2007. But, when Skylake launched, Intel only listed official support for DDR3L memory – a type of DDR3 that runs at 1.35 volts, rather than the standard 1.5. But why!? Well, DDR4’s default voltage is 1.2, and can go as low as 1.05 – meaning the memory controller for Skylake had to be designed for lower voltages, meaning higher voltage memory wouldn’t actually be officially supported.

While the lower voltage of DDR3L memory can allow for greater power efficiency and a longer lifespan, the fact that it’s much less common than the old standard DDR3 significantly decreases the pool of people who can now transfer their old RAM – and kind of takes the oomph out of the whole backwards compatibility thing.

Despite this, a few motherboard makers like ASUS, Gigabyte and ASRock released Z170 Skylake motherboards that listed support for not just DDR3L, but also regular DDR3 modules running at 1.5 volts and even 1.65 volts. Which what are these guys thinking right? Well, they’ll probably run fine and the boards themselves won’t be damaged but what they almost certainly WILL damage, over time, is the CPU – specifically the memory controller, which, as we’ve said, is not rated for those higher voltages. There’s a chance everything could work out fine, but do you want to take that risk?

Untitled-1

Ok, so back to the original topic, let’s say you do have some DDR3L on hand. Skylake motherboards either support DDR4, or DDR3L, not both, with the exception of a couple B150 models from ASrock and BioStar that have both DDR3 and DD4 slots on the same motherboard, although you can only use one of them at a time. So should you get a DDR3L-compatible motherboard to save a few bucks by keeping your old memory? Well… it’s a tough question.

Looking at some benchmarks of Skylake DDR4 vs. DDR3 performance, we can see some modest gains by the newer memory here and there, but overall, there’s really not a drastic change in performance going from one to the other. However, with DDR4, you get slightly lower power consumption, faster speeds, and the benefit of future proofing, as DDR4 is slowly going to take away market share from DDR3.

So, to recap – you can run DDR3 on a “compatible” motherboard, but with some risk of damaging your CPU over time, and that’s probably not worth the risk. If you have DDR3L, you can buy a DDR3 Skylake motherboard, but you might be shooting yourself in the foot in terms of future expansion. As always, it’s important to carefully weigh your options and do your research before jumping in headfirst. Although… you probably shouldn’t be jumping anywhere headfirst. Unless you’re a skilled diver and quasi-professional gymnast. Like myself.

 

Audio Buyer's Guide Headphones

Avermedia Aegis – gaming mic you can use w/ speakers!

Published by:

Headset hair. We all know what it is, but we feel powerless to do anything about it. What do you mean you don’t know what I’m talking about! Its the state in which you hair becomes after taking off your headset and there’s that portion of hair that’s been flattened. Today my friends. we may have the solution. The Avermedia Aegis desktop mic.

Untitled-1

Ok, so this video isn’t really about the headset hair epidemic. But one of the reasons some of us use headsets is because the mics on them are generally pretty good at filtering out background sounds coming from your speakers. It’s also for consideration to your fellow gamers because everyone else in your party doesn’t necessarily want to hear the death metal you’re blasting on your speakers instead of the in game background music. 

But some people don’t like to wear headsets, whether it’s to avoid the aforementioned headset hair, or just because the discomfort they can cause over time. Then there are those of us who have just spent a whole lot of money on a brand new speaker system, but you can’t use it because your desktop mic has the worst filtering system known to man.

This is where the Aegis comes in. It’s a mic that sits flat on your desk and is able to decipher and suppress background noise actively. On the top, the Aegis has a volume control knob, LED volume indicator, a nice and large mute button, and the mic. At the back you’ll find a microUSB port and a DSP switch.

The setup process is short and sweet. First off, put the mic somewhere less than 60cm away from where you will be speaking from. Then go to the avermedia website and download the Aegis Voice Engine. The next step is to install the software and then follow the onscreen instructions to connect the mic. It will automatically take you through the calibration and you’re set.

Jack tested out the mic out with Avermedia’s own Ballista trinity speaker system. Here are some recordings of those tests while I stand here and eat my lunch. or dance. or do whatever I feel like. 

I’ll let you guys be the judge as to how Avermedia has come so far, they have committed to better software and calibration to further refine the speaker sound suppression technology but the most interesting thing about this product is that it’s really cool to see this sort of technology coming to market, now that it seems like everyone and their mom wants a piece of the game streaming revolution. The mic mute button is a nice feature too, no need to fish around on an in line mic mute, just hit the button and you can mute yourself.

 

NCIX Techtips

Does Cable Management Affect PC Performance?

Published by:

Ahh yes. cable management. Probably the most overlooked aspect of a computer build. I know what you’re thinking; who cares? Cable management is all for show. If the cables inside my case look like a birds nest, what’s the big deal? Ok, good question – Is cable management really just for looks? Or is there a performance aspect to it? Lets find out.

Today we’re going to find out if cable management can affect performance of your PC. We’re going to have 3 scenarios. A PC built with the cables unmanaged, managed, and extremely unmanaged, meaning rats nest. Our methodology is fairly simple.  We turned on the system and ran Intel Burntest and Furmark to get the average operating temps in each situation.

technosportccauth
This is what a system with unmanaged cables looks like if you’re a lazy person, or if you were just in a rush to get your system up and running. So how well could this system fare in terms of performance? Well, In Furmark, we hit a max GPU temp of 68 degrees celsius. With the Intel Burntest, our CPU hit a max of 48 degrees celsius.

Untitled-1

Moving along, this is what the managed cable system looks like. If you took the time and effort to tidy everything up, the PC’s interior is super clean. So does cable management help with results? Well we hit a max GPU temp of 68 degrees for Furmark and a max CPU temp of 46 degrees.

technosportccauth

And this is the rats nest Jack took a bunch of extra cables that he didn’t need to sort of simulate a non modular power supply… and then some. OK, so he went a bit overkill with the extra cables, I think he had way too much fun doing so. Using the methodology of the previous two tests, we hit a max GPU temp of 68 degrees and 53 degrees for the CPU Burntest

Ok so these numbers do sound insignificant. While the GPU stayed pretty much the same, the CPU temps only fluctuated a mere 7 degrees. But you have to keep in mind other things that we couldn’t test for, things like dust build up on the dangling cables. This could equate to clogged fans and restricted airflow. 

So what are some tips for cable maintenance? Well our first tip would be that cable ties are your friends. They’re fairly inexpensive and will definitely come in handy when you need to tidy things up a bit. Velcro ties are another crucial tool in cable management simply because they are reusable.

Untitled-1

Another great cable management trick is obvious, get a modular power supply. Benefits include less clutter in the form of unused power cables, and being able to use custom sleeving and custom lengths from companies like Cablemod. So not only will your PC get better airflow, it will look balling as well. And finally, when cable managing, try your hardest to keep the cables that are behind the motherboard tray as flat as possible. That way you’ll have an easier time putting the side panel back on.

So in the end, cable management, is it worth it? The numbers say it doesn’t matter. But then again, you don’t want to be THAT guy who has the rat’s nest in your case, do you? I didn’t think so. 

Buyer's Guide Headphones

Beyerdynamic Custom One Street + DTX 350m: Portable

Published by:

A while ago, I did a video on the Beyerdynamic custom one pro. It’s an excellent headset that I’m actually using at my work PC right now, no joke! Well, Beyerdynamic thought they’d take the custom one to the streets with a couple of smaller, folding on-ear headphones. So, does the apple fall far from the tree? Well, I think it’s fair to say… these aren’t apples, they’re headphones.

So what do we got here? This is the Custom One Street, sort of a more portable version of the custom one pros, with an on-ear instead of circumaural, and this is the DTX 350m, an even smaller set of headphones that incorporate a lot of the same design cues. Let’s start with the Street, since you could say they’re the more interesting of the two. No offense, 350 m.

As you can see, the custom one street does look very much like a the smaller brother of the custom one pro: It’s got the same overall cup design, with the metal braces and 4 hex screws on the side plate. Just like the pros, you can replace the default side covers by removing those screws. With 16 nicely designed covers included, you’re sure to find one that suits your particular weirdness.

On the bottom of the cup, Beyerdynamic brought back the super cool custom sound slider from the custom one pros, which lets you adjust the bass response to suit whatever you’re listening to. Where the bigger headphones have 4 settings, the smaller Street has 3. With the slider all the way closed, you’ll get less bass, what Beyerdynamic calls an “analytical” sound. At halfway, you’ll get a medium amount of bass, and when they’re fully open, you’ll get max bass, man. Turn up that bass. Ungh. It seems kinda gimmicky, but in actual practice, it makes a pretty big difference having what, essentially, amounts to a physical EQ modifier on your actual headphone. Having the slider fully closed also ends up increasing the sound isolation. I love it on the Custom One Streets for the same reason that I still love it on the Pros – it gives you the ability to customize your listening experience. Wait. Custom-IZE. uuuwoooohhh

For all you sound nerds out there, here’s the specs: It uses a closed back design, with a frequency response of 20 to 20 thousand Hz, impedance of 38 Ohms, and a nominal sound pressure level of 103 decibels.

Untitled-1

Now, on the bottom of the custom one street, we actually have two 3.5mm jacks, so you can plug your cord into your ear of choice – but you can also plug another auxiliary cord from the headset to your friend’s headset, so it’s kind of a built-in audio splitter for long flights or a road trip. The included 1.3 meter cord has a nice rubberized texture, along with an inline mic that doesn’t have volume controls, just a single button for pausing and playing music, as well as answering and ending calls. I would complain about the lack of volume control, but I’ve had bad experiences with inline volume controls, so it really doesn’t bother me. I should also mention that the add-on gooseneck mic for the custom one pros also works with these, if you want to convert them to a gaming headset. Plus, it comes with a really nice hard carrying case.

Now, I really liked the sound signature of the Street. While the earcushions and headband, which are both replaceable, were pretty comfortable, I found the headband pressure to be a little too strong for my liking. Especially since they’re supra-aural, or on-ear, cups. But, I usually use circum-aural headphones, so if you wear on-ears more regularly, they might not bother you.

Now, moving on to the DTX 350m, that’s something that I actually liked about it. It didn’t have as high of a headband pressure. Now obviously, the 350m is the less expensive of the two headphones here, it’s around $70 bucks to the Custom One Street’s MSRP of $149, but I actually found myself using these more when I was bussing to and from work. The build quality is, again, clearly not as good as the Streets, but it doesn’t really feel cheap – just less premium. It’s got less padding on the cups and headband, but like I said, the pressure was less, so it still felt quite comfortable.

Untitled-1

In terms of specs, the 350m also uses a closed back design, a frequency response of 22 to 18 thousand Hz, an Impedance of 32 Ohms, and a nominal sound pressure level of 98 decibels. For those of you who know what some of those terms mean, yes, these have a slightly smaller dynamic range. But, I thought they struck an excellent balance between the heaviest bass setting on the custom one street and a more trebley sound you’d expect from a compact portable set of headphones. The sound isolation wasn’t that bad either, I never had a problem hearing a pretty full range on loud buses and the subway.

The DTX 350m comes with a 1.2m flat cable, so it’s hard to get tangled, also with an inline mic and a single function button. No hard carrying case with these guys, but they do flip around, so you can hold them up to your head like you’re a DJ. Overall, I would definitely recommend these for a solid portable listening experience, especially for the price, considering there are definitely some more expensive ones out there that are not worth that money. And if you want to bump it up to something with a little better build quality, with some nice bigger cushions, metal parts and customizable stylin side covers, plus adjustable bass response, move on up to the Custom One Streets. Overall, I think Beyerdynamic did a great job translating the versatility and reliability of the custom one Pros to the Custom One Streets. 

Buyer's Guide Cases Gaming PC NCIX PC

2015 Boxing Day Gamers’ Special NCIXPC Gaming Rig!

Published by:

Boxing Week is… KIND of a big deal up here in Canada. Originally, it was referred to a “Christmas-box” that post-men, errand-boys, and servants of various kinds expected to receive from their employers on the day after Christmas. Today, it’s basically the day, or week, after Christmas, where stores put up crazy sales and deals so… you can… return all the Christmas presents you didn’t like and buy new ones. Well, what better way to use that Christmas cash than by getting yourself a bad-ass gaming PC? That’s what NCIXPC was thinking, and that’s why they created this: The NCIXPC Boxing Week Gamers’ Special. 

We’ve got 3 PCs on the table, because NCIXPC worked with two key partners on this machine, Corsair and ASUS, to bring you the best performing machines for gaming at 3 distinct price points. And as with any NCIXPC, you can always tweak the components to your liking during the purchase process.

Untitled-1

For the case, they used the Corsair Spec line of cases – the Spec-01 for the first tier, and Spec-02 for tier 2 and 3. They feature excellent airflow optimization, with lots of support for extra fans if you so choose, and they all have a nice big window to gaze at your awe-inspiring rig inside. Pre-installed LEDs give the system a faint red glow when powered on, just like Kylo Ren’s lightsaber!! Sorry. I just watched Star Wars.

Every NCIXPC is hand-crafted by a dedicated technician, and they make sure to pay attention to small details like cable management. All cables are tucked away from the airflow path, which contributes to a clean-looking build. For the processor, we’ve got different options for the different tiers, but Tier 2 and 3 feature a K-series unlocked processor cooled by a Corsair H60 liquid cooler. This means you can get some extra juice by overclocking yourself, or use the built-in ASUS 5-point optimization – or, if you’re not into tweaking, you can just enjoy a more silent PC.

For memory, we’ve got enhanced bandwidth Corsair gaming-class RAM, and the just-released Corsair Force LE series SSD for your boot drive. Each tier of the Boxing Week Gamers’ Special has an ASUS Strix series graphics card, which features a zero decibel mode when under a light load. Finally, the Corsair 80+ Gold-rated power supply makes future upgrades a breeze. They’ll be so easy, your grandma could do it! Depending on… how mobile grandma is.

Untitled-1

NCIXPC has been building optimized gaming PCs for over 19 years, so they’ve developed some strong relationships with trusted brands in the industry. Which means they’re able to throw in some sick freebies with each system. Plus, they do everything in house – sales, customer care, production, quality control, and tech support. So you can rest assured, if you need assistance with your system, help is never far away. To get the details on each of these systems, and the freebies they come with, click here.

Buyer's Guide Overview

Skeye Drones – Product Overview

Published by:

Remember back when remote control cars were the coolest tech toy? Then it became those little remote control helicopters. Well, now it’s evolved one step further. Mini drones. And Nano drones. And pico drones. HOW SMALL CAN WE GO?!

These are the Skeye drones by TRNDLabs. They come in three distinct flavours, the Mini, the Nano, and the Pico. They also have a new one with 6 rotors, but we’ve only got the quad copters here for now. Don’t let the size fool you – these things pack a surprising amount of features commonly found in full size drones like our Yuneec drone. If you’re looking for a tool to capture high quality footage, then you should probably go take a look at that review instead by clicking here. But if you’re looking for a fun toy this holiday season, then these are it.

Untitled-1

These three are pretty similar, other than size. They all have four rotors, a full set of replacement blades, and the two larger ones even come with rotor guards. Because yes, you will crash these repeatedly. But since they’re so small and made up of mostly plastic, they’re pretty hard to break.

The largest one, which is funnily enough called the Mini, even has a camera attached. But let’s face it – it’s 720p, and looks about the same quality as a cheap webcam. It’s good if you’re flying it outdoors, but since it’s not stabilized on a gimbal, any micromovements in the drone are recorded so the footage can be pretty nauseating. It’s good enough to maybe pull a screencap from when flying, but don’t expect any sexy aerial footage.

Another common feature is how they’re powered. Each controller uses either double or triple A batteries, while the drones themselves charge via USB. They each have a proprietary connector though, so don’t lose the cable. They charge from 0 to full in under 25 minutes, and will give you about 7 minutes of flight time.

Untitled-1

With all that out of the way, time to talk about actually flying these drones. It’s pretty simple, with controls just like those RC helicopters or the higher end full size drones. The left stick controls your altitude and yaw rotation. The right stick controls your forward, backward, left, and right movement. There’s no control over your pitch or roll, since that’s all handled  automatically by the gyros.

The drones also feature some built in tricks. Instead of doing a boring traditional take off – you can just throw it in the air and add some throttle. It’ll automatically level itself and you’re ready to go. And once you’re already in the air, you can do flips too! Depending on which controller you have, there are built in macros for performing forward, backward, left, and right flips.

But let’s face it – these are toys. They’ll probably be given to younger kids, or in our case… immature adults. So we had a little competition to see just how easy and how much fun these things are to fly. You can watch that here.

And that about wraps it up. As you saw, the bigger the drone, the easier it is to fly. But it’s not like the pico and nano are impossible to fly.. you just need to practice with them. A lot.  Luckily for you, it’s a lot of fun. Even after you’ve banged them up a few times, you can use the built in trim function to stabilize the drone if it starts drifting a certain direction.

Buyer's Guide Cases Overview

BeQuiet Silent Base 600 PC Case Review

Published by:

It really seems like we do these mini build showcases almost every week now. But you know what? If manufacturers keep releasing cases then we’ll keep releasing these videos! Be Quiet has been around for a few years now, specializing in high end products that focus on silence. Which you could probably figure out from the name. I mean come on, it’s literally called be quiet. They have a line up of amazing CPU coolers and power supplies, but it wasn’t until just last year that they released their very first case. After taking the feedback from that, they’ve come out with their 2nd case: the Silent Base 600.

img_2654

At a glance, it looks very similar to the previous Silent Base 800. It’s still fits ATX and smaller motherboards, but the whole chassis is now a mid sized tower instead the previous full size tower. At the front, you’ll notice the same sexy black and orange colour scheme running along the filtered air intakes. The power button is still on the top, but the front IO and usb ports have been moved to the top corner – a funny compromise that manufacturers seem to all be doing now.

The front door swings open to reveal your 5.25” bays, and a built in 3 speed fan controller. You can also get a peek at some of the foam padding they use for dampening sound. This is also where the fan filter for the front comes out. The lower half doesn’t open, so in order to access the fan mounts you’ll need to pop off the entire front panel.

On the right side, you get the usual foam padded side panel with the optional vent and fan mount. We’re not sure why anyone would ever need the vent on the back, but I can at least appreciate the symmetry. On the left side, you have an option of either a windowed side panel or the same solid padded panel with the vent. We went with the solid one, since this is a silent case, after all.

The long feet from the bigger 800 are gone, but the replacements on the 600 aren’t bad. They’re large, solid, and padded with rubber so they do their job pretty well. On the inside, we start to really see the difference in size compared to its bigger brother. The largest board you can go with is ATX – no eATX or XL-ATX here.

Looking around,  we get the same high quality rubber grommets that stay in place very well, and a movable hard drive cage in the front with room for 3 drives. You can mount it on the bottom of the case, attach it under the 5.25” bays, or just take the whole thing out.

We were, however, disappointed that the optical drive bays are riveted in and not removable. So even though the front can hold two fans, there’s only room for a single 120 or 140mm radiator and not a dual sized one. The rear exhaust will fit a 120mm fan, while the top has room for up to a dual 240mm radiator. It’s good to see that Be Quiet still includes 2 high quality pure wings fans, which would already cost you like $25 on their own.  

Untitled-1

For this build, we obviously aimed for a silent build. Anthony went with an MSI Z170A Gaming M7 motherboard, Intel Skylake i7 6700k processor, a Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 3 CPU cooler, 16GB of Corsair DDR4 memory, 2 MSI GTX 970’s in SLI, an Intel 750 series NVME SSD, and a Be Quiet! Dark Power Pro 11 850W power supply.

The cpu cooler was an obvious choice – it can dissipate up to 250W while staying completely silent. Plus it looks way more badass than an all in one liquid cooler. It just fills up all the empty space perfectly. The power supply was an easy choice as well, since we’re clearly gonna match up the brands. We ran a quick temperature test on it using Intel Burn Test, and our CPU hovered around 64 degrees while the fans stayed inaudible.

We also ran the case through our fog test to get an idea of what the airflow patterns looked like. We were worried about the thin air intakes in front and the weird shutter design on the top, but we were pleasantly surprised. Since our case doesn’t have a window, we had to run the test a bit differently. With just the solid panel on, we can see a nice steady stream of air coming out of the top and rear of the case.

Untitled-1

Then we replaced the side panel with a piece of plexiglass, and got a glimpse of the air channels inside. Air is drawn in through the front and bottom, pulled through the two video cards, through the cpu cooler, then out of the case. No deadzones.

Finally, we wanted to do a third test where we installed a fan on the side panel, but we ran into a problem. Due to the height of the dark rock pro 3, there isn’t actually enough room inside for a fan, so if you plan on using a tall CPU cooler then you’ll have to live with a passive air vent. We put the fan on the outside just for kicks, and it’s not exactly surprising to see how effective it would be for people running two or three video cards.

That about wraps it up for this showcase and review of the Silent Base 600. It’s nice to see some of the changes that they’ve done, but there’s still plenty of room for improvements. Now, let’s take a moment to make a quick disclaimer: a lot of comments seem to think we’re paid to use certain parts in videos. No, we weren’t paid to specifically feature these parts. If we were, we’d tell you. Be quiet simply asked us to review their new case and we thought, why not? They’ve had good quality hardware in the past and we’re glad to see they’ve continued to deliver. Its comforts like that that remind you of just how special building a computer can be. Thanks for reading and leave a comment below about what you think of this case, and whether you’d pay more for premium features like these. 

Buyer's Guide NCIX PC

PC Holiday Upgrade Ideas: If You’re On a Budget

Published by:

Its that time of year again where the holidays are just around the corner and we’re here to give you a few suggestions on what upgrades you might want depending on your Christmas cash… I mean… budget.. yeah.. budget.

So you’re has been running a bit sluggish as of late and you’ve got a bit of cash to spend. But what part of the PC do you spend it on? Well I guess it all boils down to what your budget is. Here’s a short list that I’ve compiled for you in order of price.

Untitled-1

If you only have like… $25 dollars to spend on upgrades, maybe just save it for a rainy day! But if you’re system is desperately in need of some performance upgrades, definitely consider replacing some of the stock fans in your case. better airflow in a case can really help out with dissipating heat and give you better overall performance.

Untitled-1

If you have roughly $50 to spend, consider upgrading your ram. Now this will depend on how much ram you have already. If you’re someone who has 16GB already, its probably best to focus you upgrade cash on something else. But if you don’t have a lot of ram, you can pick up a 4gb kit of ddr3 for under $50.

Untitled-1

Next up is the $50 – $100 range. My top suggestion for the category would be a solid state hard drive. We’ve said it in many videos before but if you’re new here’s why. SSDs use flash memory. In a nutshell, an ssd doesn’t have any moving parts meaning it will be faster at writing and reading data. this is a great upgrade choice if your current system, whether its a desktop or laptop, has a mechanical hard drive. you can find most ssd’s in the 120gb range for under $100. But if you already have an SSD, how about adding more storage? right now you can get 1tb of hard drive space for under $100. If you’re like me you can never have enough storage space.

Untitled-1

Kicking it up another notch to 150 dollars, i’d recommend a power supply. something around 750W would have you prepared for any future upgrades. Having a modular power supply will result in less clutter and better airflow. Plus if the PSU has an efficiency rating of 80plus bronze or higher, that’s always a nice plus.

Untitled-1

Lets bump up the budget to up to $200 and beyond. This could be anything you want really. If you don’t already have a decent graphics card, definitely get one of those. I’m a bit biased towards team green, but that’s not to say team red doesn’t have any good offerings, especially with their new announcement about Freesync over HDMI.

So that about wraps it up for upgrading on a budget. Now in no way is this list a way of telling you what to upgrade first. its just our way of letting you know what you might want to spend a certain budget on. if you have any suggestions for what to upgrade at a certain price point, you can share it with us by leaving a comment down below. 

Laptops Overview

Is the new Macbook Worth It? Ft. ASUS Zenbook UX305

Published by:

If you’re subscribed to NCIX Tech Tips, you’re about to see a rare beast on this channel: an Apple product. GASP! Specifically, the new Macbook, that launched back in March 2015. It quickly gained a lot of attention for a number of reasons, firstly, because it was a new Apple product, and secondly, because it had Force Touch, a single USB Type C port and it was thinner than the Macbook Air. So how “revolutionary” was it, really? Will it stand up in a ruthless showdown against a Windows ultrabook with similar specs? Well, let’s find out!

Untitled-1

Before you, you see the 2015 Apple Macbook, as we’ve established, as well as an ASUS Zenbook UX305F – there are quite a few different variations of ASUS’ thin-form factor Zenbook, but this one is particularly useful for this video, because it has almost identical specs to the Macbook. So let’s go over those right now.

Both machines have a 5th generation Intel Core M processor with 2 cores and 4 threads – the Zenbook’s chip is actually just one step below the Macbook’s in Intel’s lineup. Actually, ASUS just updated the UX305 with Skylake processors, so while the one I have uses Broadwell, new ones will have 6th gen CPUs, so that’s nice. Both use onboard Intel HD Graphics 5300, no discrete GPU, 8GB of LPDDR3 SDRAM, and 256GB of solid-state storage, although the Macbook’s is PCIe-based, so expect it to run a little faster. Both laptops support Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11ac Wifi.

Now let’s talk about the differences. The Macbook’s display is slightly smaller, at 11 inches, with a resolution of 2304 by 1440, that’s a 16:10 aspect ratio, and an IPS panel. The Zenbook’s 13.3 inch display is also IPS, but with a 1920 by 1080 resolution. However, the Zenbook has a 720p camera, and what I think is a secondary sensor of some sort that enables you to use Windows 10’s Hello feature, so you can sign in with your face, while the Macbook’s Facetime Camera is only 480p. Looking at the ports, here’s where things get really interesting.

Untitled-1

The new Macbook has a grand total of 2 ports – a 3.5mm headphone jack on the right side, and a USB Type C port on the left that does support USB 3.1, so you can do all sorts of crazy things with it, from charging, to data transfer, to running external displays – but, you will need to buy a number of adapters to do those things, which of course, Apple sells for perfectly reasonable prices… That was a joke. The Zenbook, on the other hand, has 7 ports: microHDMI, full size SD card reader, dedicated charging port, headphone jack, and 3 USB 3.0 ports, one of which features what ASUS calls “charger+” and can charge your phone 50% faster than a regular USB port, even when the machine is asleep of turned off, so that’s cool.

So why the disastrously low number of ports on the Macbook? Well supposedly, Apple’s reasoning is that they wanted the device to be as thin as physically possible. Yeah, see, the thing is, the Macbook is 1.31cm at its thickest point, and the Zenbook is… 1.23cm. It’s actually thinner by 0.08 millimeters, even though it sort of appears to be thicker than the Macbook because of the latter’s gently domed top, sooo… basically now we have a laptop with only one port because… Apple thought it looked pretty. sigh.

Untitled-1

Now, the Zenbook is slightly larger than the Macbook, and heavier at 2.6 pounds to the latter’s 2 pounds, but that’s probably partly due to its larger battery – a 45 watt hour unit compared to 39.7 watt hours in the Apple device. And I’ve gotta say – the standby time on this Zenbook is AMAZING. I used it to write part of a script, closed it, and put it in my backpack for 5 days, opened it up, and it was at 88%. What! And having used other Apple devices, I know they usually have great standby time, and the Macbook did admirably, too, but it lost more power after a day and a half of not using it than the Macbook lost in almost a week. Just sayin.

And to round up the physical summaries of the devices, we’ve got a few extra features that bear mentioning in the Macbook. First up, it’s got a Force Touch Trackpad. It’s Apple’s pressure-sensitive tech that’s also in the Apple Watch and the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. It allows you to use some more contextual actions by clicking, and then pressing some more until it clicks again. How useful this is really is up to the software, but in using the stock apps on the Macbook, I really didn’t find that it helped anything at all. It is pretty cool to see Apple coming up with a new feature like this though, and it would be even cooler to see some software that innovatively uses it.

Second, its keyboard. Even though the Macbook is quite a bit smaller than the average laptop, Apple has fit a full keyboard on it by eliminating the side…bezels, or whatever you wanna call it, so it’s almost flush with the sides. But they’ve also developed their own new key switch that makes the buttons almost flush with the metal unibody. Typing on it wasn’t the worst thing in the world, but compared to the more standard switches on the Zenbook, it feels a bit like typing on a touchscreen. There is some physical feedback in terms of a click, but it feels like I have to lift my fingers up with every keystroke so I feel like I’m actually pressing something instead of pretending to. I hate to say it, but this feels like another feature in this device where Apple straight up sacrificed functionality for aesthetics. I love the way Macbooks look, and I would definitely take looks into account if I were buying a laptop, but I’m not going to pretend that it’s more important than having a comfortable typing experience. Sigh.

Alright – this video wouldn’t be complete without a benchmark, so here ya go. I used Cinebench R15, a great free cross-platform program, because I don’t have a Geekbench license, alright! The Macbook scored 96 on the CPU portion and 6.67 fps using the OpenGL test. Pretty low, but not super surprising, given that there’s only a mid-level Core M processor in there. What is surprising is that the Zenbook, with a lower-tier and lower-clocked processor, scored higher. 142 on the CPU and 12.86 fps in OpenGL. What! Again, not impressive, but what!

Untitled-1

Okay. If you weren’t convinced of the inferiority of the Macbook by this point, prepare yourself for the killing blow. Price. This Zenbook, you can find for anywhere from 800 to 900 bucks Canadian, or 650 to 700 US. Given the mediocre specs, there’s definitely a bit of a design premium, but arguably worth it. The Macbook? … 1550 Canadian, 1300 US. That is just… I don’t think I even need to comment on that.

So what’s the takeaway here? Both of these devices have been on the market for a while now, so many you no doubt already knew a lot of this information. I think what we can learn in general is: do your research. No matter how revolutionary, or beautiful, or fancy, a new product is, there’s probably something else out there that does a better job, for less money. Seek it out. Cherish it. And comment below if you’ve found it.