With the big push for everything in the cloud we have been focusing on ways to consumers and businesses to bring their data back into their own control. One of the least expensive methods for this is through the use of a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device. These are devices that have a minimum of two drive bays and allow for you to set up RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) Volume for performance and/or redundancy. Today in the Lab we have a five-bay NAS device from Thecus. This is an Atom based system with support for up to 15TB of RAW space and 3GB of memory. So let’s take a look at the Thecus N5550 and see what this $600 (empty) NAS has to offer as we dig deep into its design, build and features.
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.
As we continue our coverage of both Ivy Bridge and the Z77 Express chipset we now head over to Gigabyte. Gigabyte is a company that has worked very hard for the position they have in the market. They were originally a manufacturer who concentrated on compatibility and stability rather than working on pushing the envelope in terms of speed and performance. However that was a long time ago. Now they are definitely working to get the most out of each product. We have watch them develop their line up since the P55 days and know that they are more than capable of putting out a motherboard (and other products) that can satisfy your performance needs. So with that in mind let’s take a look at what Gigabyte has built into the GA-Z77X-UD3H in terms of design choices and features.
As the devices we carry around with us get smaller and smaller there is going to be an increasing want (or need) for larger and faster portable storage devices. We have watched over the last few years as the storage capacity of USB flash drives (Pen Drives, Thumb Drives etc.) has grown rapidly. It was not that long ago that a 1-2GB drive was something to have. Now we have small flash drives in the 64, 128 and even 256GB range! Kingston has been one of the companies on the forefront if this charge into larger capacity and faster performance. We have tested out multiple products from them from encrypted storage devices to the hefty DTUltimate G2 32GB USB3.0 thumb drive. Now we have a new product on the bench from Kingston. This one is being sold under their performance name HyperX. The Drive boasts 64GB of storage and 225MB/s of read performance! If the paper is to be believed this is almost twice the performance of the DTUltimate G2, which topped out at around 116MB in our testing. Let’s dive in and see if the paper claims match the real world performance.
With the increasing popularity of the SD form factor for media storage (SDHC, SDXC, etc) in modern devices like Cameras, Camcorders and more it was no surprise to see many mobile devices built with an SD card reader. However, most desktop were left out as there is no spot on a motherboard to deal with this. So many photographers and videographers end up tethering their cameras to their systems just to get their images onto them for work. This is awkward and can be annoying. True there is an option for a multi-card reader, but many of those are slow or can be as bulky as the cameras were. With the release of the USB 3.0 specification and the rise of the case with USB 3.0 ports on the front it was time to revisit the multi-card reader. Today we have a small USB 3.0 multi-card reader from Kingston that is not much bigger than a USB flash drive. So follow along as we introduce you to the Kingston MobileLite G3 USB 3.0 Reader.
Although not as sexy as a new CPU, GPU or Motherboard USB flash drives are still used on an almost daily basis by many, many people. These are the indispensable little products that we carry our files around in. I know quite a few IT people that carry complete operating systems on them (I keep a Linux Live USB handy). It has also become increasingly popular to keep a web browser on a USB key to maintain better privacy (when combined with TOR). Now the problem is getting a USB key that has enough room and speed to keep things humming along so that these are extra steps are not slowing you down when you are working. We have gone through quite a few USB keys and are now taking a look at another one from Kingston; The DataTraveler Elite 3.0 32GB USB 3.0 Flash drive.
With all the news about the Z68 and P6x chipsets these days is seems that many people feel the X58 is done. Well that is not the case; many manufacturers still see this as a viable top end platform for Intel and are making some great boards for this market space. The nice thing about this is that they are not just making the high-performance/dollar products but are still working on quality boards for every price level. One of these is the Gigabyte X58-USB3. It is a mid-range board that leaves out SATA 3.0 but still keeps many of the other features you would expect from an X58 board (SLI, Crossfire, etc). Gigabyte has made sure they add in USB 3.0 for you while keeping everything around $180. Let’s take a look and see if it is worth that price.
With all of the excitement surround a CPU launch from both AMD and then Intel some of the smaller products have been overlooked. These are parts like the A75 chipset and the Llano CPU. We have had one of these up on the test bench for a while now. Mostly to run the performance tests and see where this hardware falls in terms of real performance, but also to try it out and see just what it is like to use. After all this is a platform that AMD was putting a good deal of stock in for future sales and market share. We wanted to see what it would be like to actually use one. We have already taken a look at the design philosophy and features So without any further preamble we bring you the second half of our Gigabyte A75-UD4H motherboard review.
AMD is a company that not too long ago was on top. They had done something that no one thought possible; they were able to outperform Intel clock for clock. But they had a problem; they had a winning CPU but had to rely on others for a solid platform to run on. This prompted AMD to buy ATi (one of the companies that had a good chipset for AMD) which gave them a GPU business and a chipset business. The problem has been paying the bill on that particular purchase. This has prevented them from putting a lot of money into R&D and has also led to some, well unimpressive products (on the CPU side not the GPU). We have worked through several CPUs and chipsets; each one improving a little over the other but never really catching up to what Intel has on the market. Now things could be different; nVidia has allowed SLI on an AMD chipset and AMD is making good strides in terms of what their chipsets can do (with limitations from the CPU and IMC). We have their latest chipset in the form of the Gigabyte 990FXA-UD5. This is a Three-Way SLI AMD motherboard with lots to offer. We are going to look at the design, layout, and cover some design philosophy and features along the way.
At the request of some of our readers we are going to start splitting up the way we do our reviews. However, instead of the normal “unboxings” that we find out on the Internet we are going to break up our normal review into two distinct parts. There will be the first part that will cover design choices, board layout, and features. This will be followed up with our normal performance section. We feel that this will give everyone the pieces and parts they are looking for. You can still read both (they will be crosslinked) and also discuss them on our new forum, but this way we can cover things quicker and in a more complete fashion without making each review too long. For our first dive into this new style we have the MSI Z68A-GD80B3 up on the test bench and behind the camera lens. This board follows the same trend as most of MIS’s recent product, but now they are into their second generation; you get Military Class II and OC Genie II. So let’s dive into the more theoretical part of our review and take a look at the packaging, board layout and the features for the MSI Z68A-GD80B3.