Enthusiast Peripherals (19)
In a market full of look-a-like products or flimsy gimmicks it is hard to find a truly interesting device. However, every now and then someone puts something together that is really out of the ordinary. This is what we found when we received a small package from Thermaltake in the mail the other day. Inside the slightly battered box was one of the most interesting gaming peripherals we have ever tested. We are talking about the Level 10 Mouse. This unusual aluminum creation was designed by BMW and using specifications from Thermaltake’s tteSports division. This $90+ dollar mouse comes in a variety of colors and has some impressive features to offer. So let’s see if this unusual design really brings something new to the gaming table or if it is all flash and show.
When Cooler Master Launched their new QuickFire Line of gaming keyboards with Mechanical switched they were very well received. We have had the chance to test out all of the models even though we have not always been able to try out the different Cherry MX Switch types (we have gone through Red, Brown and Blue). Now while all of the models were well received there were complaints about more than a few of the features that were built in. One of the most common complaints that we have heard about the QuickFire line up is that the QuickFire Pro did not have full back lighting. Instead Cooler Master chose to only light up a small selection of keys that they called the gaming cluster. Still this keyboard has been bought by many gamers because it is one of the only mechanical keyboards that supports NKRO over USB. As an added bonus the QuickFire Pro has two modes of NKRO; Full and 6-Key. Well for those of you that have wished for a mechanical keyboard with full NKRO over USB and full back lighting your wait is over. Cooler Master has taken some of the best features of the QuickFire Pro and put them in a smaller version named the QuickFire TK and the best part,… it has full backlighting. Read on to find out all of the nice details.
Although all-in-one water cooling systems are nothing new, their rise in popularity is something very recent. We have watched as multiple companies have launched products designed bring “enthusiast” level cooling to the masses. This type of move is also nothing new as we have watched it happen with RAID, SLI, and many other items that were once only for gamers and other computer enthusiasts Still what many do not know is that most of these companies all buy their parts from the same place; Asetek. This company makes great water cooling products and they resell the pieces to others. Now, while that represents most of the market there are some that still build their own; one of these is Cooler Master. Back at CES 2011 we were allowed to see a prototype water cooling unit and we knew that they were looking to do something very different. Now in last months of 2012 Cooler Master has released their work. Today we will be taking a look at the Seidon 120M all-in-one water cooling unit to see if all of Cooler Master’s hard work has paid off.
In the world of computer enclosures things can get boring pretty fast; after all how much can you do with a box? For too many companies the way to differentiate their products is to put in a window and extra LEDs and call it a day. There is little that is new to be perfectly honest with you. However, every now and then something comes out that does stand out from the crowd. We have seen it before with some very unique designs and concepts. One company that has done a fairly good job at keeping things interesting is Cooler Master and in particular their CMStorm line. While at CES this year (2012) we were shown a case that caught our eye and imagination. It was the CMStorm Stryker. We called it the Storm Trooper, not only for its connections to the CMStorm Trooper, but also because it reminded me of the Strom Troopers from Star Wars. We have one of these in our lab now and well… let’s dive in to see what you get and how well it performs.
Gaming keyboards have become popular over the past couple of years with multiple manufacturers working to outdo the other with their features and of course performance. The market has become big enough that we have even seen the return of the mechanical switch (something that many were glad to see go away). However, as with many high-end products the demand for these in the general market is not enough to overcome the higher prices. Manufacturers are looking to still offer compelling features and performance, but at a more reasonable price. One of the keyboards in this range is the Thermaltake Tt eSPORTS Challenger Pro Gaming Keyboard. It has many of the features that gamers are looking for (backlighting, multiple profiles, USB hub, replicable keys, etc.) without the high price. So let’s get this $66 gaming keyboard up on the bench and see how it performs.
Water cooling for high-performance cooling has been around for a very long time. It started (as many things do) with super computers and the need to maintain a specific temperature envelope. From there advanced cooling broke into the consumer market (over the course of a few years), in the form of heatsinks with larger fans and even TEC (Thermoelectric coolers) cooling. However, for the most part water was still avoided due to the potential for leakage and damage to components. However all of that changed very quickly once the 1GHz barrier was broken. Companies seemed to come out of the woodwork with pieces and parts for water cooling. Radiators, water blocks, tubing fans, pumps, you name it you could but it. Now that we are well into the 3-4GHz range for stock CPUs the water cooling industry is very strong with components in multiple places in the market. The concept of the self-contained cooling system has also caught on with products produced by multiple companies. Today we will be taking a look at one from Thermaltake called the Water 2.0 Performer. This $63 cooling system is supposed to be able to keep things cool for both AMD and Intel CPUs including the LGA 2011 Core i7. Let’s see how it does.
As we expand our coverage from core computer products to peripherals (and in the end everything else) we are moving into gaming first. We have already tested out more than a few mechanical gaming keyboards (and have more to come). Now we are moving into gaming mice with an emphasis on mice that allow for more than just high-resolution lasers for optics. For our second product in this genre we are going to take a deep look at Thermaltake’s Tt eSports Saphira Gaming mouse. This mouse was designed by a professional Starcraft 2 gamer and packs in a solid list of features. Let’s check it out shall we?
There was a time when the only type of keyboard you could buy was one with mechanical switches. This was pretty much it for the old AT days of computing. This style of keyboard later extended into the first ATX boards which featured PS/2 connectors (and later USB). This style of keyboard was later replaced by the smaller digital input (also known as capacitive and which was actually designed in the 1970s). These were nothing more than a sponge pad that would press a contact into two trace contacts on a PCB. As these were cheaper to make and boasted the same reliability as the older mechanical switches (which mean one switch per key) it soon became the standard and the older mechanical switch went away… That is until the gaming community resurrected it. Now we have a new generation of keyboards based on the old one-switch-per-key style of manufacturing. We have taken three of these for a stroll around the lab and now have a fourth to tell you about. This is the CM Storm Trigger Mechanical Gaming Keyboard. Let’s see if it can stand up to the rest of the pack.
In order to combat the growing popularity of console gaming (and also to support a growing population of gamers) many peripheral companies began to invest money into making real devices to support gaming on the PC. We have seen many of these products (usually mice of game controllers), but with the exception of a few of the mice we were not all that impressed with them. That is until we started to see the first mechanical switch based keyboards. As we spend a large amount of time behind the keyboard (and also still game) we had a serious interest in these devices. Most of them are centered on the Cherry MX switch. These mechanical switches come in different colors; each of these has different properties. We have shown you blue and brown and what they each bring to the table. Now we are going to take a look at the Thermaltake Tt eSports MEKA G1 Mechanical gaming keyboard. This product takes a little different tack on switches and has opted for Cherry MX Black. So let’s dive in and see if the MEKA G1 will be worth the $100 Thermaltake wants for it.
Cooler Master is celebrating 20 years of life (we got to celebrate with them at CES 2012), but it has only been in the last five or so that we have really watched them take off. With the launch of the HAF line and their push into the enthusiast level of hardware (and the CM Storm line) Cooler Master has simply bloomed. Over the years we have tested many products from Cooler Master and still have more to go through. Today we are finally able to show you their newest edition to the HAF line up; the HAF XM. The HAF XM is a mid-tower case that has plenty of room for your three-way SLI or Crossfire plus all of the hard drives you could want. You get all of this for around $130 so let’s take a look and see if the HAF XM is worth the price of admission.
As you might have noticed we are getting back into our coverage of not only the core components to computers, but also the peripherals that make the computing experience what it is. One of the most used (and often overlooked) components is the mouse. We have covered a few of these handy little items in the past; some good, some bad. One of our favorite manufacturers has been Cooler Master and their CM Storm line. When we first heard about this line we were a little skeptical; we have seen where other manufacturers have branched off and ended up with not much more than gaudy versions of what they already sell. However, with Cooler Master and the CM Storm line we have seen quite a bit more. Ever since we first tested out the Sentinel Advance we knew that Cooler Master was not playing around here and as you have been able to see with their recent releases of the QuickFire Rapid and Pro mechanical gaming keyboard the CM Storm line is here to stay. So with that in mind we are going to take a look at the highly anticipated Sequel to the mouse that started it all off for CM Storm, the Sentinel Advance II along with the CM Storm Speed-RX L Mousing Surface.
As the PC Gaming scene ramps up (now that nVidia has finally released Kepler) we are starting to see some very nice accessories to take advantage of the flexibility and power that you get when you build a PC for the purpose of gaming. We have shown you more than a few items that are meant to improve your gaming experience including headsets, monitors, audio cards and now even mechanical keyboards. Only a few days ago we showed you Cooler Master’s new CM Storm QuickFire Rapid mechanical gaming keyboard and already have its big brother in the lab. So let’s take a look at the QuickFire Pro and see if this Cherry MX sporting partially backlit gaming keyboard has what it takes to earn the cool $100 that it will cost you.
Although keyboards are normally not exciting there are a few that will certainly grab your attention especially if you are into gaming. During CES Cooler Master showed off their lineup of gaming keyboards under the CM Storm brand one in particular caught our eye, the CM Storm QuickFire Rapid. This is a small gaming keyboard with replaceable keys that we just had to try out. Cooler Master has finally sent one to us and we have been using it on our gaming system for a few days and are now ready to tell you if it is worth the $80 or not.
Only a few weeks after we showed you the performance of the MAINGEAR Epic180 we have another product from MAINGEAR in the labs. This is their DIY thermal interface material called the MAINGEAR EPIC T1000 (yes it is a terminator reference). The EPIC T1000 is a phase change alloy that changes from a solid to a liquid when exposed to heat. This creates and flow that is capable of filling in any and all pores and lines in both the CPU heat spreader and the head of your cooler (whether it is water cooling, air or other). This, technically can beat even the smoothest thermal paste on the market in terms of fill and also should be able to outperform them in terms of thermal transfer as the head of your cooler and the CPU are almost soldered together for an even and continuous surface contact. So let’s take a look at what you get with this new DIY kit from MAINGEAR and also see if it really can improve performance.
Not all that long ago we talked to you about the MAINGEAR Epic180 water-cooling system. This self-contained unit was built by CoolIT to MAINGEAR’s specifications and intended for use inside their Shift systems (sorry you cannot get one of these unless you buy a MAINGEAR computer). The design of the product take a lot of factors into account and while some of the choices seem very simple, if you look at other products out on the market they might not be so obvious to everyone.
In the world of boutique computer builders Maingear is a name that really does stand out. Their Shift line of custom-built, high-performance systems are some of the best you can get on the market. The reason for this is that they are not content with using the stock hardware that you get in many other “custom” builds. Yes, there are going to be parts that are the same as Maingear does not make its own CPUs, Motherboards or Video cards… yet. However many of the other components that are taken for granted have been customized not only to provide a better look, but also to improve the overall performance of the system.
ThermalTake has launched some bold designs (and some rather gaudy ones too). Some of these have been successful while others have received ridicule from the online community and gamers (even coining the phrase “Friends don’t let Friends use ThermalTake” at one point. However, over the last few years they have moved forward with their products and are now putting out some solid work. One of the products that I have been very interested in is the Level 10 series. This new case line-up is less like a PC enclosure and more like a piece of art. Of course the original Level 10 enclosure will also set you back around $750. This price tag puts it out of the reach of most gamers and also off of our RADAR for now. Instead we are going to take a look at the much more reasonably priced Level 10 GT. This uniquely designed PC case comes in two colors (black and white) and will run you $255 and $290 respectively. As we have grown bored of shooting cases in our lab we also decided to move our initial coverage to a different location. With that said, let’s take a look at the Thermaltake Level 10 GT (VN10006W2N) Snow Edition shot on location in Bahia Honda State Park, Florida. Snow at the beach anyone?
When people think about cases many different things come to mind. To some the best case is a simple black box (or beige) that they put their components into and that is that. Others want more style to the box that holds all of their expensive hardware. But that raises a question, what is style to one person might not be to another. We also have to consider that what I may think is a great feature is a useless add-on to someone else. It is with this in mind that we take a look at a rather unusual case. This is the V9 BlackX Edition. This mid tower enclosure has a very interesting feature in that it has dual SATA HDD docks on the top of the case. This is along with the usual features that you would expect to find in any PC case. So let’s see if the V9 BlackX is a great device, or is it just a giant drive dock.
Cooler Mater is a company that is certainly moving up. It was not that many years ago that they were not well thought of. This was until they released a lineup of cases and coolers that showed they were serious about their business. We saw products like the HAF932, the CM storm series cases and mice, the V8 cooler and others. While this was going on their more consumer based products were benefiting as well. We saw the Hiper 212+ become a favorite of many air cooling aficionados. We used them exclusively for over a year in our labs. Back in January we saw some nice new designs from Cooler Master in their suite at the Bellagio, today we have one of these in the lab and are eager to tell you how it performed. This is the CM Storm Spawn Gaming mouse. Let’s see if it has increased our frag rate.