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Charles C.

Charles C.

Joined on 08/24/04

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Most Favorable Review

Awesome board with plenty of features

GIGABYTE AORUS GA-Z270X-Gaming K7 (rev. 1.0) LGA 1151 Intel Z270 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.1 ATX Motherboards - Intel
GIGABYTE AORUS GA-Z270X-Gaming K7 (rev. 1.0) LGA 1151 Intel Z270 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.1 ATX Motherboards - Intel

Pros: Supports 7th gen CPUs out of the box Onboard U.2 Latest USB tech Dual LAN Detailed fan control & temperature sensors

Cons: BIOS is a tiny bit un-intuitive

Overall Review: Gigabyte’s Gaming K7 mid-level entry into the Intel Z270 chipset world is fully loaded with features. The new line, dubbed “Aorus” has a lot of varying models, which we’ll get into later. The obvious main feature is Intel’s new Z270 chipset. Said chipset gets you an extra 4 PCI-E lanes to play with (24 total over the Z170’s 20), meaning you can run your dual SLI at 8x2 and still have plenty of lanes left for M.2 storage or what have you. The board itself helps you take advantage of those extra lanes by providing a plethora of storage connection options. You have plenty of standard SATA 6 ports (six total), two M.2 connectors (one of which supports up to type 22110, the longer M.2s), and a U.2 connector for some NVMe goodness. The board is also Intel Optane ready, though we aren’t scheduled to start seeing any Optane hardware until Q2 2017. In the box was the board, connector plate, 4 SATA cables, an SLI bridge, LED strip adapter cable, 2 branded velcro straps, a sheet of branded writeable cable labels, driver CD, user’s manual, and two dust plugs if you choose not to use the built-in HDMI or DisplayPort connectors. There’s also a case badge if you like NASCARing up your PC. The user’s manual, as usual for Gigabyte, is top notch, explaining every detail of the board along with photo references. The Gaming K7 uses a standard ATX mounting hole pattern so no worries there. The four memory slots are in a good position and can be accessed with the CPU cooler installed (though admittedly a stock Kaby Lake i5 cooler was used). Overall the board itself is rock solid, with lots of stainless supports for the various slots and connectors. You never feel like you’re flexing the board while you’re installing it. This board went into a new system build to replace an aging home media server / video surveillance PC. The idea was to vastly increase the capability and drastically reduce power usage. A Kaby Lake i5-7600 was slapped onto the board along with 32GB (4x8) of Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR2400. Fully loaded and configured with an array of motion detected IP cameras and multiple Plex clients streaming video, the system didn’t miss a beat, and sucked only a paltry 60 watts total, compared to the previous system’s 220 watts under the same load. The video features and power savings of the Kaby Lake processor are very apparent. The BIOS on the Gigabyte Z270X-Gaming K7 is chock full of features. You’ll have to be quick on the trigger to get into it initially as it’s a very fast boot screen. It’s a brand new board so I assumed the System Information screen reporting my Kaby Lake i5 as running at 7392.13MHz was incorrect. I’ll chock it up to bugs. It also wasn’t terribly obvious to me that I had to hover the mouse over the right edge of the BIOS screen to see general system information. The RGB Fusion feature along with the LEDs on the board and included programmable RGBW pin header will let you light up your case so well that Clark Griswold would be proud. The fan/water pump control system combined with six onboard temperature sensors gives you complete control over your system’s cooling. All of the controls are individually settable and controllable via Gigabyte’s Windows based APP Center software. Gigabyte offers several variations in this Aorus series of motherboards. This Gaming K7 is right smack in the middle of variations and on the lower end of the price range. Note that the “K” vs the not “K” actually means the board has less features. The full range of Aorus boards goes from the Gaming K5 ($179 as of this writing) to the Gaming 9 ($499 as of this writing). The features range from extra Ethernet NICs to support for 4-way NVIDIA SLI/AMD CrossFireX to more U.2 connectors (can you say NVMe RAID 0?) and even Thunderbolt 3. While this Gaming K7 board is a great deal ($199 as of this writing) I highly recommend going to the Gigabyte website and using their comparison tool to view all of the differences in the variations so you end up with exactly the right board for you.

Most Critical Review

Decent solution if you can’t run network cable

Netgear XAVB5421-100PAS AV500 1-Port Essentials Edition Powerline Kit with Pass-Thru Outlet,up to 500Mbps
Netgear XAVB5421-100PAS AV500 1-Port Essentials Edition Powerline Kit with Pass-Thru Outlet,up to 500Mbps

Pros: Dead simple setup Easy to extend Ethernet access Good enough throughput for most people Secure mode

Cons: Actual throughput nowhere near manufacturer claims Appliances on same circuit can slow throughput Device blocks the other outlet on a standard wall plate

Overall Review: This powerline network extender from Netgear is an interesting device. It comes with two identical devices and the idea is that you plug one into your router and the other anywhere else in your house to provide a direct Ethernet connection back to the router. In the box are two of the devices, two Ethernet cables, and an instruction manual (which strangely pictured the European version, though the operation is identical). The setup was dead simple. Plug one of them into power near your router and plug the Ethernet cable into it and an available Ethernet jack on your router. Then plug the other device in wherever you want to extend to. A simple button press will set up “secure mode” which supposedly is there to prevent someone from plugging one of these into another outlet and sniffing your network. Not likely in a single family home but perhaps useful in apartments or dorms where one might share power circuits. Of note is that there’s no indication you’re in secure mode except when you initially set it up. The manufacturer claims of up to 500 Mbps were way off for my testing. See the full results below, but when plugged in directly to an outlet (as the manual suggests) and into an outlet on a different circuit, the best speeds I could achieve on a large file transfer over the network was about 52 Mbps. To make a worst case scenario, I ran a microwave (not the same outlet, but the same circuit) and saw a slight drop, to about 44 Mbps. To make a best case scenario I plugged the devices literally into each other and got a best speed of about 90 Mbps. While these speeds are far below the manufacturer claims, they’re still good enough for the average user who just wants to stream netflix or play games. Another thing that majorly misses the mark here is the pass-through outlet. While that was a great idea, the device blocks the ground hole of the outlet above it on a standard wall plate. So even with the pass through you still lose an outlet. Very poor design choice Netgear. Also, the recommendation not to plug this into a power strip is based in fact. When I ran the same tests with one device plugged into a power strip, the speeds dropped from 52 Mbps to 30 Mbps, and the microwave running dropped that further to about 16 Mbps. So while it does work, the throughput starts to drop significantly. I'm curious why this is and if surge protection is the culprit. If so, you may want to reconsider this device if your home has whole home surge protection (mine does not). Overall this is a decent solution if you need to extend your network and absolutely cannot run actual network cable to the location. I’ve tested lots of wireless extenders and this is a much better option which should be more consistent. I don’t like that throughput is so much off of the manufacturer claims. Netgear would have gotten an extra egg from me for honesty. Test details: 1.15 GB file, gigabit LAN connection between two PCs running Windows 8.1. Control transfer (with LAN directly plugged into router): 12 seconds (766 Mbps) Powerline next to each other: 103 seconds (90 Mbps) Powerline on different circuit: 176 seconds (52 Mbps) Powerline on power strip: 314 seconds (30 Mbps)

12/18/2015

Great for less tech savvy folks, not so much for power users

Norton 360 Deluxe for up to 5 Devices (2023 Ready), 1 Year with Auto Renewal - Key Card
Norton 360 Deluxe for up to 5 Devices (2023 Ready), 1 Year with Auto Renewal - Key Card

Pros: - Cheap - Easy to install - Tons of features

Cons: - Bugs you all the time about features you haven't set up - Local app doesn't seem to do much - Takes over simple windows functions and calls them "features"

Overall Review: I tried this item out for review purposes and have very mixed feelings about it. As far as what you'll receive, it's just a card with a code on it to sign up for the Norton 360 service. The card I received said "Must activate by no later than 12/31/2021 and it let me activate anyways. Upon installation I had a new tray icon which constantly bugged me to set up all the features of Norton 360. You can really tell once Norton bought LifeLock the shift from physical device production from viruses to more online privacy type protections. Overall this product might be a great fit for less tech savvy folks who just want all the features offered here, such as VPN, monitoring, virus protection, cloud backups, parental controls, etc. For anyone who actually knows their way around computers, most of the features listed by this product already exist as free products which are well known. Or even built into Windows itself. As something of a "power user" myself, I found it intriguing to take a look at stuff like their Dark Web Monitoring, but ultimately found that it's no more than a list of publicly available information, packaged up in this "oooh ahhhh your dark secrets are out there falling into the hands of evildoers" kind of way. E.g. I had a big red screen saying my information related to dropbox was exposed to the dark web in 2016, followed by nothing more than a bulleted list of best practices. Well it's publicly available information that dropbox had a data breach in 2016 where 68 million users had emails "compromised". What does Norton expect me to do with this information in 2022? It literally tells me to change my password. It's just pointless and remedial information. Some of the alerts were even as vague as "your email was exposed on a list on the dark web". Ok, now what? Norton encourages you to enter as much of your personal information as possible. Bank accounts, credit cards, phone, address, driver's license, etc. Honestly there is no way I would ever consider dropping all that information into one place like that. Especially when there appears to be no real benefit. Norton does have the "Identity Advisor" which can help you actually resolve identity theft issues, but that is not included and presented to you as a purchasable option. Same with the "Privacy Monitor Assistant" which basically auto sends emails to the website with requests to remove your data. I cannot speak for the VPN, password manager, or cloud backup services as I flat out did not want to give them my information in the first place. Overall I struggled with this review as I can definitely see the benefit for a much less tech savvy user to get all these things lumped into one product. But for the power user this is an annoyance and waste of time. So basically I'd give this 4 stars for the folks who really need all these things and don't want to figure out how to set up the better versions of services. Then I'd give 1 or 2 stars for anyone reading this who knows how to set up their own VPN or cloud backup or password managers.

Good face trimmer for the price

Philips Norelco Multigroom Series 3000 All-In-One 13-Piece Trimmer, MG3750/60
Philips Norelco Multigroom Series 3000 All-In-One 13-Piece Trimmer, MG3750/60

Pros: No oil to mess with Guards/heads pop on/off easily Long run time Cordless

Cons: Grease on heads can get on other accessories in the bag Smali amount of guards, none available separately Carry case is rather cheapy Not sure which model youre getting

Overall Review: This face hair trimmer from Philips Norelco is a pretty nice deal for the price. In the box youll get the trimmer, 3 ft long charging cord, storage bag, three different blade heads, and seven different sized guards. The storage bag is kind of an afterthought and is a cheap feeling material with a plastic zip bag style zip top. Its doubtful the bag will hold up to lots of traveling. The white grease that comes dobbed on the heads can also easily get all over the other accessories once you put it all in the bag (see attached pic). Assuming over time that grease will end up being gone and no longer lubricate the trimmer properly. The lack of needing blade oil is great, although it makes one wonder how long the trimmer will last. A minor confusing point to the buyer is the item is listed (even on the actual packaging) as the MG5750/60. Upon opening the package I found out I had the MG5750, not the 60. The only difference I can see via the manual is that the 60 has 15 minutes more runtime. So I guess Norelco put a bigger battery in one of them and decided it wasnt worth telling the buyer which one they get. So I guess its random chance? Strange. The guards have printed sizes in millimeters which are quite difficult to read. The user also has to translate to the normal guard sizes for trimmers by looking at the manual. The sizes are 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 12, and 16 mm, which translates to ½, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 normal guard sizes roughly. Make for sure you don't accidentally think you're putting standard #5 on when in fact it's 5mm! I personally normally use a 6 or 8 for a longer beard, so if you have a longer beard this isnt the trimmer for you. A quick search showed that larger guards are not available separately either, nor do the higher model number Norelco face trimmers (the 5000 or 7000 series) have larger ones either. Theres no indicator that the trimmer is charging or that its fully charged, the manual just says it takes 8 hours to fully charge. So if youre out of juice youre not trimming your face for a while. The trimmer does operate with the cord plugged in but its unclear if it will do so on a dead battery. A standard USB-C or something might have been nice to have over the barrel jack. Overall this trimmer performs great for the price and has the appropriate accessories for most face trimming needs.

Not for the video quality nerd/hardcore gamer

Rosewill Wireless HDMI 4K Extender Video & Audio Transmitter & Receiver | Supports 1080P@60Hz and 4K@30Hz with 60ft Range | Works with PC, Video Game Consoles, Streaming Devices, More (RCHE-20002)
Rosewill Wireless HDMI 4K Extender Video & Audio Transmitter & Receiver | Supports 1080P@60Hz and 4K@30Hz with 60ft Range | Works with PC, Video Game Consoles, Streaming Devices, More (RCHE-20002)

Pros: -Solid construction-Compact

Cons: -Doesn't work through walls-Video not perfect even with line of sight

Overall Review: This UltraHD HDMI Extender from Rosewill is a nicely compact pair of sender and receiver units that allow you to wirelessly transmit an HDMI signal. In the box youll find the sender, receiver, a power cord for each, and the instructions. No HDMI cables are included. The units themselves are a very solid aluminum case (which seems counter-intuitive to wireless transmission). According to the manufacturer, they operate on the 60 GHz spectrum, which by definition does not penetrate walls.Set up is pretty dead simple, plug in a HDMI cable from the sender to your source, and from the receiver to your display, then plug both the sender and receiver power cables in. The lights slow blink, then fast blink, then stay solid to indicate searching, establishing, and good connections.Tests were performed with a laptop outputting 4K resolution to a 4K 32 monitor and playing 4K YouTube video. As a control the video was played with a direct cable from the laptop to the monitor and the video was flawless (no dropped frames noticeable).An initial wireless test was with the units right next to each other (about 3 inches apart). There was a noticeable missed frame every now and then, but the video was still very good, and the issue would be forgiven by most people, although youd expect it to be perfect at that close range.A second test pulled the laptop and sender unit about 15 feet away with direct line of sight between them (no walls or other obstructions). This test showed increased dropped frames, however the video was still very watchable, assuming youre not a video quality snob. Switching the video down to 1080p helped some, but there were still some dropped frames. Another modification to this test involved the same location and distance, but dropping the sender just behind a countertop wall (open air to the receiver but a short, small wall). This significantly increased the dropped frames to an annoying level. The video still played, audio was still good, but the dropped frames were unacceptable at this point.A third test moved out to 20 feet away with a single interior wall in between the two, and while it did initially establish a connection, the video had more dropped frames than good frames, and after a few minutes completely lost the connection.The last test, mostly just to verify it would not work, was about 40 feet away through two walls, and no connection could be established at all. Again this is not surprising, given the spectrum the units operate on.Note that in all of the tests, the attempt was made (as per the instructions) to face the units towards each other. It did not appear to make any difference, and it should be noted that while the units are aluminum and have a very heavy feel to them, an HDMI cable with some twist memory to it will easily turn the unit, making it difficult to face them the direction desired. You'd need to use really "loose" HDMI cables, or physically mount the device to a board or table (spoiler alert, there's no mounting holes on the units anywhere).Overall these devices have a limited use case: a small-ish room where you absolutely cannot run a HDMI cable and have perfect line of sight and can mount them in a way that keeps them aimed at each other, and you dont mind an occasional dropped frame in your video. It certainly isnt going to work well for the fast twitch gamer or home theater video quality snob. Given that limited use case and the relatively steep price, this item gets two stars. The second star being for the substantial build quality and edge case of usefulness.

Just as tough as its name

ASUS TUF Gaming Laptop - 15.6" 144 Hz FHD IPS-Type - AMD Ryzen 7 R7-3750H - GeForce RTX 2060 - 16 GB DDR4 - 512 GB PCIe SSD - Gigabit Wi-Fi 5 - Windows 10 Home - FX505DV-NH74
ASUS TUF Gaming Laptop - 15.6" 144 Hz FHD IPS-Type - AMD Ryzen 7 R7-3750H - GeForce RTX 2060 - 16 GB DDR4 - 512 GB PCIe SSD - Gigabit Wi-Fi 5 - Windows 10 Home - FX505DV-NH74

Pros: Great graphics card at this price point Fast refresh monitor Built like a tank Nice texture to the exterior surfaces

Cons: Battery life is garbage Only one external monitor port No accessories Default configuration not good

Overall Review: The TUF FX505 from ASUS is a great entry into the gaming laptop market. This particular model (the FX505DV-NH74) is loaded down with a Ryzen R7-3750H processor, 16 GB DDR4, a 512 GB NVMe, and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 with 6GB GDDR6. Plenty of horsepower to respectably run the latest games all tied up in a 4.8 lb package. Though you probably won’t leave behind the 1.4 lb power brick so be sure to include that in your go bag. The box contents were fairly meager (not even a sticker, ASUS?). You’ll find the laptop, power brick + cord, a small manual, warranty card, and small zip bag with four tiny screws which appear to be extras for the M.2 ports. Once you get everything out and plugged in you’ll notice there’s no power status indicator on the brick that it’s plugged in. Some folks may like that as it’s one less LED to put black tape over, others may rather have it and know the brick is plugged in. Upon first power up you might want to run by the BIOS (F2) and make sure you have the latest (Version 305 as of this writing). The BIOS has an “EZ” mode which is a little silly as anyone with enough knowhow to enter the BIOS is going to need the advanced mode anyways, but I digress. Boot the rest of the way up and you’ll be greeted with all the Windows 10 mumbo jumbo (note if you leave your wifi off you can skip the Microsoft account registration by “attempting” to sign up with no connection). By the way if you’re cranky about boot speeds, this thing boots from completely off to the Windows login screen in about twelve seconds. You’ll also notice immediately on boot up the keyboard defaults to a rotating rainbow of fading multicolor lights under its lightweight chiclet keys. Thank you ASUS for actually including the utility (Armoury Crate) which allows the user to customize these lights to their heart’s content. Speaking of pre-installed software, ASUS did a great job with only a single noticeable piece of bloatware, McAfee LiveSafe, though it will begin hounding you with a “recommended by ASUS” banner if you don’t either activate it or remove it. There’s also a My ASUS app which you may sign up for to register your device for customer support. The touchpad is nice and large and by default responds to the typically expected gestures such as two-finger scrolling/right-click, pinch zooming, etc. The touchpad is positioned well and my large hands have no issue accidentally activating it while typing. The key layout by the numpad is a bit crammed which forces the right side arrow keys down. It’s a little awkward if you’re a constant user of those arrow keys. Rounding out the tough looking (ahem, TUF aka “The Ultimate Force”) exterior is the look and feel of a pretty sturdy computer. ASUS claims the FX505DV to be MIL-STD-810 Rev G certified, though it’s unclear from their website if they simply performed the tests themselves or they have an actual Certificate of Compliance (for those reading this looking for such things). If you’re only browsing the photos you might be fooled by the brushed aluminum look of the case. It is in fact all plastic. At first this bothered me a little but after some use, I realized it really is very durable, and the texture the “fake” brushed look gives is very pleasant to the touch. So much so that I like it better than if it was brushed aluminum in the first place. The only indicators you have to look at are four very small LEDs which indicate power state, charging state, drive activity, and airplane mode state. Even in a well lit room, you have to get really close or put a flashlight on it to be able to tell what those indicators were. That said, it’s nice that the same four LEDs are visible with the lid shut as well. There is a red LED on the power button itself, but appears to only help the user find the button which would otherwise disappear amongst the black void that is the top of the computer. Once you’re ready to start plugging things in, you’ll notice all of the external ports (yes even power) are on the left side of the laptop. ASUS’ reasoning for this layout is to avoid interference with right-handed mousing (sorry lefties!). While you’re plugging everything in you might notice only one display output, an HDMI 2.0 jack. No mini DisplayPort or secondary HDMI, so if you want more than one external monitor you’ll have to go find another solution. The audio jack is a 3.5mm TRRS so it’s ready to go for your headset. No adapters to split the signals were included. Built-in side firing speakers are sure to annoy your neighbors on the plane nicely and do sound decent. The included built-in camera is nothing to write home about and probably good enough for your dog to recognize you when you video call him from your business trip. Now that you’ve plugged everything in it’s time for some performance numbers! Straight out of the box with no tweaking, the numbers were terrible. I then realized that even though this *gaming* laptop carries the rather beef