A Good Quality Budget Power Supply2/19/2017 10:01:40 AM

Pros: I tested the CORSAIR CX-M series CX750M, 750W, 80 PLUS BRONZE, Intel Haswell Ready ATX12V & EPS12V semi-modular power supply. Here are the vital specs: + Form Factor: ATX12V / EPS12V + 750 Watt Maximum Output + Active Power Factor Correction + Semi-Modular Power Cables + Single Rail +12VDC Design + 80PLUS “Bronze” Certified + Efficiency: 85% + Outputs: +3.3V@25A, +5V@25A, +12V@62A, -12V@0.8A, +5VSB@3A + MTBF: 100,000 hours + Warranty: 5 Years Lets go over some of the more important specs: The ATX/EPS12V is the form factor or type of power supply (PS). This defines the type of system case it will physically fit into. The 750 Watt rating is the maximum power output, including all of the outputs summed together. I try to avoid power supplies with dual 12VDC rails with ratings of less than 650 Watts. The reason is they generally don’t have enough current on either 12V rail to properly drive even a single mid-range graphics card. Look to a 750W, or larger single-rail unit like this PS for: dual graphics applications, low-end workstations, or for moderate gaming use. Active Power Factor (A-PFC) correction helps to keep your utility company happy and to reduce your annual electric costs. The ideal PF is a ratio of 1.0. Anything below that is considered inductive and anything above is appearing capacitive to the utility company’s equipment. A power supply that maintains the desired PF ratio of 1.0 appears to be a resistive load for all intents and purposes to the utility company. Power supplies rated more than 75 Watts have to include PFC to be sold in Europe. Most power supply manufacturers now include PFC as a standard feature, so they can sell into any worldwide market. This PS has semi-modular output cables. This means the ATX motherboard cables are not detachable, while the: graphics, SATA and Molex DC output power cables are all detachable. Two of each detachable cable type were included with the PS. The motherboard cables had webbing, whereas the DC output cables did not. Modular PS normally provide for a neater cable layout. 80PLUS, White, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Titanium ratings? This is all part of a trade-marked 80PLUS voluntary industry standard created by Ecos Consulting and the EPRI in 2004, with pressure from the EPA and other Eco organizations. It refers to power supplies that have an 80% efficiency rating or higher. The white, bronze, silver, gold, Etc, was created by several large PS resellers to act as a buyers guide for consumers and IT-people when purchasing computer/server PS. An 85% efficient PS wastes less than 15% of the energy it consumes as waste heat. Note the bronze, silver, gold, Etc, has nothing to do with the quality or construction of a PS. A gold PS can use poor quality parts and have bad solder joints, or be made using a cheap PCB material, as long has it holds together long enough to pass the gold efficiency industry test standards. White power supplies just meet the minimum 80PLUS efficiency standard. Bronze units are generally 82-85% efficient, silver 85-88% Eff, gold 89 to 92% Eff. Platinum are in the 90-94% efficiency range. Titanium supplies are always more than 90% efficient and are designed for data center servers and are seldom seen in consumer grade equipment. Keep in mind these are just approximate efficiency ratings for each color range. The actual efficiency can vary based on the input voltage and the output loading. This power supply is rated 85% efficient, which is excellent for a bronze PS. This Corsair PS is notable for its 5-year warranty in this price/power range. This is a rare find on a budget power supply. This generally shows the manufacturer has a lot of confidence in the quality of their product. I also like the larger 140mm fan and the black wire finger guard mounted over it. Stamped finger guards used on lower quality PS tend to restrict airflow through the fan and can cause more fan noise, due to increased airflow turbulence.

Cons: All of the modular DC output cables included with this PS were black colored flat cables. Given the modest cost of this PS, this was probably one of the cost cutting features made to hold the unit’s cost down. Personally I prefer to spend a little more and get a gold PS with color-coded, web covered, DC output cables. I am also not a big fan of modular PS. The additional connection points needed where the DC output cables plug into the PS are another possible point of failure. They also create more voltage drop. Sorry but soldered output cables are more reliable in my experience as a system builder and suffer less voltage drop. While this is not a con, I would like to see PS manufacturers list whether their SATA power plugs have the keys orientated left or right handed. This unit had LH keys which means its better suited to a bottom mount tower case. A PS with RH power keys works best when located in a top mount tower case. In the latter situation the wires dangle down from the top, so you want the SATA keys to be on the near side, to easily align with the optical drives and hard drives. Otherwise the builder is faced with a twisted wiring mess of cables, which is the antipathy of a neat build. Rounded output wires are also more flexible and easier to install. I always look at the reviews posted on NewEgg before I purchase a new product. This PS had 430 reviews when I looked it up, which means its been around for awhile, with a lot of units sold. It had an overall 3-egg rating. After reading reviews posted over the past six months though, I’m concerned about the early and high failure rates reviewers are experiencing with the current production. I would only use this PS in a budget system where the end-user is trying to keep the overall system cost down and wants a modular PS. I would also keep in mind that people who normally would not bother to review a product, will be more motivated when they have a problem with it. So this can quickly skew the overall review ratings in a negative direction. In my personal experience of building PCs since the late eighties; Corsair generally has very high quality, reliable PS. The 5-year warranty does offer potential buyers some added purchase protection.

Overall Review: I will let you all in on a big secret, the warranty period is generally the key to the build quality of any given power supply. Price, eh not so much. Avoid PS with one-year or less warranties, they are mostly junk. The length of the warranty is the best guide to the seller’s confidence in the quality of their product. There are always exceptions to any rule. Some shady manufacturers will post a longer warranty, but when you read the fine print you find that you pay the freight both ways over-seas and the labor cost to repair the unit under warranty, or you get a refurbished replacement, so buyer beware. While this PS should fit most modern ATX tower cases. This power supply exceeds the dimensions of the original ATX form factor to accommodate the larger 140mm cooling fan. This PS may not fit some older, or smaller ATX cases. Before purchasing make sure the case you intend to use can handle a PS that protrudes 6.5 inches into the case. I would also allow for an extra two inches of depth for the output cables, or 8.5 inches of total depth space. This power supply is by no means the deepest PS that I have seen or used in my builds, its just a factor to be aware of. The variable speed fan ran quietly during my testing and provided excellent airflow. I credit this to the larger 140mm fan that Corsair used, versus the standard 120mm fans used by other PS. Corsair also includes a package of 10 black wire ties to help dress the cables with and four black colored matching mounting screws. The logo stickers applied to both sides of the PS are reversed, so no matter which mounting orientation you use (top or bottom mount) the logo showing is always right side up. All of the output jacks and cables are clearly labeled. These are all a nice added touches. As a longtime user of Corsair power supplies I have no issues with recommending the CX750M PS for end-users looking for a good, cost effective, power supply. These are also excellent replacements for older computers with failed power supplies. This power supply should have no problems powering two low-end to mid-end, non-over-clocked graphics cards. I would recommend a larger, more costly, gold PS for users who want to build a high-end gaming, or workstation system. This power supply should be fine though for most budget to middle market class end-user applications.

7 out of 8 people found this review helpful. Did you? 
Great Low-Cost SSD Drive1/7/2017 7:10:31 AM

Pros: I have been using these Toshiba OCZ Trion 150 SSD drives to upgrade older desktops and laptops. They also work fine in new builds. So far every SSD drive I have tested, has worked great, with no installation issues. My clients are very happy with the speed boost they provide. Its like breathing new life into a tired older PC. They also work in the recommended AHCI mode. These also make good secondary data drives for two-drive systems. Toshiba has a nice utility you can download from their support website to help setup and maintain your Trion 150 SSD.

Cons: None so far.

Overall Review: An economical solution for those that have been putting off upgrading to an SSD drive. Highly recommended. Don't wait, buy it!

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Economical Mounting Solution1/7/2017 7:01:09 AM

Pros: These adapter plates are inexpensive and allow a lot of adjustment range when the bottom slots are used. The black color works good with most builds. They have four mounting holes on each side of the tray, so if your system case lacks a front fan, you can mount the drive, so its recessed about and inch further than normal. This could increase clearance available to allow a full length graphics card to fit into a tight case for example and still clear an SSD drive.

Cons: The screws provided seemed to have non-standard threads. The holes were also poorly tapped. Standard M3 metric screws used on 2.5" drives did not want to thread properly into the tapped side holes. Even the provided screws felt like they were cross-threading and took and excessive amount of torque to get them to screw in. It felt like I was manually cutting threads. These only allow for mounting one 2.5" form factor drive in a single 3.5" bay slot. Some plastic adapters allow for double stacking of two mini drives.

Overall Review: I would like to see the manufacturer use standard Metric dimensions in their design and to properly tap the mounting holes to fit standard Metric hardware. They are usable as they are currently shipping, it just means a little more work for the installer.

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful. Did you? 
Good Quality Value Power Supply1/2/2017 8:26:24 PM

Pros: I tested the Corsair VS600 Series model CP-9020119-NA) 600 Watt, ATX12V/EPS12V 80%+ efficient White Certified Active PFC Power Supply. Here are the vital stats: ATX12V / EPS12V 600 Watt Maximum Output Active Power Factor Correction Single Rail +12VDC 80PLUS “White” Certified Efficiency Outputs: +5V@24A, +3.3V@20A, +12V@48A, -12V@0.3A, +5VSB@3A MTBF: 100,000 hours Warranty 3 Years Lets go over some of these specs: The ATX/EPS12V is the type of power supply (PS), its intended usage and form factor. The 600 Watt rating is the maximum power output, including all of the outputs summed together. Exceeding the current rating on one or more of the voltage rails will usually result in a current limiting circuit cutting in, an internal fuse blowing, or the PS output being shut down to protect the PS unit from overload. I have seen this occur on old power supplies that are failing. They are no longer able to meet their rated load and need to be replaced or upgraded. I avoid power supplies with dual 12VDC rails, with ratings of less than 650 Watts. The reason is they generally don’t have enough current on either 12V rail to properly supply drive even single mid-range graphics card. Look for a 750W, or larger unit for dual graphics applications, heavy duty workstations, or for heavy gaming use. Active Power Factor (A-PFC) protection helps to keep your utility company happy and to reduce your annual electric bill. The ideal PF is a ratio of 0.9-1.0. Anything below that is considered inductive and anything above is appearing capacitive to the utility company’s equipment. Excessive capacitance from lots of compact fluorescent lamps for example operating in a residential neighborhood can cause the local AC voltage levels to soar well above expected 120VAC, especially during the Fall and Spring, or during light usage periods and can cause damage to voltage sensitive appliances. PFs below 1.0 are inductive and cause the current in an AC circuit to lag the voltage. This can cause the motors in appliances, AC units and other devices to have difficulty starting, or overheat. It can also lead to local area voltage sags and it causes older analog Watt meters to under-read the amount of electricity being consumed by the customer. A terrible thing for a utility company! Older PS designs used passive elements, usually RC circuits, to help compensate for their tendency to appear inductive. This results because switching power supplies draw power in pulses. Active PF correction uses an active circuit to monitor and adjust the PF on the fly. It does a much better job of maintaining an ideal PF of 0.9 to 1.0. 80PLUS, White, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Titanium ratings? This is all part of a trade marked 80PLUS voluntary industry standard created by Ecos Consulting and the EPRI in 2004, with pressure from the EPA and Eco organizations. It refers to power supplies that have an 80% efficiency rating or higher. The bronze, silver, gold, Etc was created by several large PS resellers to act as a buyers guide for consumers and IT-people when purchasing computer/server PS. An 80% efficient PS wastes less than 20% of the energy it consumes as waste heat. Note the bronze, silver, gold, Ect, has nothing to do with the quality or construction of a PS. A gold PS can use poor quality parts and have bad solder joints, or be made using a cheap PCB material, as long has it holds together long enough to meet the gold efficiency industry test standards. White power supplies just barely meet the minimum 80PLUS efficiency standard. Bronze units are generally 81-85% efficient, silver 85-88% Eff, gold 89 to 92% Eff. Platinum are in the 90-94% efficiency range under actual testing. Titanium supplies are always more than 90% efficient and are designed for data center servers and are seldom seen in consumer applications. Keep in mind these are just approximate efficiency ratings for each color range. These ranges can vary based on the input voltage and loading. The efficiency of a power supply will also vary with the amount of load placed on it. Lightly loaded or over-sized PS tend to waste more energy in the form of excessive heat radiation. PS are usually the most efficient at the 50-75% load level. Resellers who re-brand an OEM PS are supposed to have the unit re-certified to post the 80PLUS trademark. The www.plugloadsolutions.com website lists certified efficiency ratings for hundreds of different PS models, at four different test load levels.

Cons: I have no real complaints about this Corsair VS600 PS given its value price, you could do much worse in this price range. I mean that as a compliment. Corsair in my years of working with their products builds solidly-built power supplies. I tried to look up this model on the plug load solutions site, but it was not listed. It may be too new of a model, or the site just needs to be updated. The PS specs list it as being 80PLUS (TM) certified. I would also like to see PS manufacturers list whether their SATA power plugs have the keys orientated left or right handed. This unit had LH keys which means its better suited to fit into a bottom mount tower case. A PS with RH power keys works best when located in a top mount tower case, the most popular type. In the latter situation the wires dangle down from the top, so you want the SATA keys to be on the right side to easily align with optical drives and hard drives. Otherwise the builder is faced with a twisted wiring mess of cables, which is the antipathy of a neat build.

Overall Review: The most common mistake I see people make is buying too large of a power supply for a system project that they are building. Over-sizing just results in: wasted money, more electricity consumption (due to waste heat), and more fan noise. In my 27+ years of custom building personal computers, the hardest component to choose can be the power supply. They vary widely in build quality and longevity. For a builder your worse nightmare is a customer returning with an expensive system you just built recently, due to a failed PS. And no they don’t always fail within the first month or year, if they are defective. Yet PS are the most common failure point I see in my consulting business. My expectation is that the PS will last the expected life of a desktop of at least 5-7 years of moderate usage. The major sellers like Dell and HP manage to achieve this goal in my experience using inexpensive custom made OEM power supplies. This is why I am underwhelmed by so many name brand retail PS brands that can’t seem to meet this simple goal. I once had a series of name brand (not Corsair) PS fail because the OEM used a cheap power switch that would fail after only about 20 operations. Internal arcing destroyed the under-rated SP contacts. Pricing a PS: For a customer who is price sensitive the VS600 is the perfect value solution for a basic PC build, or as a failure replacement. For the more discerning customers I use a bronze CX430 (430 Watt) size and up for my basic models. For my business professionals: CPA’s, doctors, engineers, lawyers, musicians, and light gaming customers, I will usually specify a 550 to 650 Watt, silver or gold rated PS model, with a minimum 5-7 year warranty period. Anything above gold for consumer applications is a waste of money in my experience. The little bit of efficiency gained is not worth the extra added cost. The only exceptions to this rule would be large enterprise and or data center clients, where they pay twice for their electricity. Once to power the workstation or server, and the second time in air conditioning costs, to remove the heat generated by running hundreds or thousands of computers/servers. Tip: I will let you all in on a big secret, the warranty period is the key to the build quality of a given power supply. Avoid PS with one-year or less warranties, they are mostly junk and will burn-up your build. The length of the warranty is the best guide to the seller’s confidence in the quality of their product. There are always exceptions to any rule. Some shady manufacturers will post a longer warranty, but when you read the fine print you find that you pay the freight both ways over-seas and the labor costs to repair the unit under warranty, or you get a poorly refurbished replacement back, so buyer beware. I tested this Corsair VS600 as a replacement in a circa 2011 Intel Core2, quad-core PC that was being upgraded. This PS has some heft to it, another sign of quality. It weighs in at just over 4LBs. Weight in a PS usually means more aluminum, iron and copper in my experience, a good thing. I also upgraded the boot drive with an SSD drive and added more memory. This PC also had an older NV6600GT graphics card and a 500GB HDD data drive installed. The older NV6600GT draws a fair amount of power, runs hot and can be a difficult load when two graphics cards are doubled-up in a system. I personally like color-coded wires. If I need to check the output voltages, I want to know what to expect when I apply my meter probes and don’t have to guess, like with all-black cables. The fact that the cables had full length webbing for protection against cuts and abrasions was a nice extra added feature in this price range. The 12VDC line measured 12.26VDC under load and the red 5VDC output read 5.04VDC on my Fluke meter. Both voltages were well within the recommended 5% tolerance. The fan stayed quiet at all times in this older basic build. I think a 430-525 Watt PS unit would have probably sufficed for this rebuild. With all SSD and onboard graphics card I would have definitely gone with a 430 Watt PS. You want to run your PS at around 50% of its rated load for the best efficiency. As a longtime user of Corsair power supplies I have no issues with recommending the VS600 for end-users, or builders looking for good solid, cost effective, power supply. These are also excellent replacements for older computers with failed power supplies, where you or your client just need to get a few more years of use out of an older system and don’t want to spend a lot of money on a replacement power supply.

2 out of 3 people found this review helpful. Did you? 
Acer & NewEgg - Ace The Competition11/21/2016 10:54:04 PM

Pros: I reviewed the Acer Aspire E 15 Gaming Laptop. The more I worked with this laptop the more impressed I was by its capabilities and at such a competitive price. I think that Acer has scooped their competition by being one of the first to market with a 7th generation Intel processor. Here are some of its outstanding features: + Intel 7th Gen i5-7200U 2.5GHz, 3.1GHz w/Turbo Boost + Nvidia Geforce GTX 950M w/2 GB GDDR5 VRAM + USB-C 3.1 - Supports reversible plugs + WIFI-AC w/MU-MIMO (Ultra-Fast) + 8GB DDR4 Memory + 256GB SSD Drive & 1TB HDD + 15.6" Full HD 1920 x 1080 Non-Glare Screen + Average Rated Battery Life of 12 Hours + Large Touch Pad, Supports Gesturing + Weight = 5LBS This Acer laptop beats most competitors on features and specs versus cost. All laptops are designed to a particular price point and have some compromises as result, but if given the choice between a 256GB SSD boot drive and a 1TB HDD combo drive setup, versus a single 256GB SSD and a DVD-RW drive for more money? I would go for the combo SSD/HDD drive option any day. There is a drive bay present for an optional optical drive if desired. Otherwise an external USB optical drive could be connected when required. The laptop case seemed sturdy and is textured to help hide finger prints. At 5LBs the Acer gaming laptop is easy to transport. Don’t forget to order a well-padded case to protect it when traveling. The initial customer experience with this laptop and Windows 10 Home 64-bit went very smoothly. Windows 10 asks you a series of Yes/No questions during the initial customer setup. These include: your time zone, Win10 features to, enable or disable, location sensing, to use or not to use Cortana, key-logging behaviors, privacy features, Etc. I disabled the anti-privacy features. I even went so far as to install Spybot Anti-Beacon to kill-off the remaining hidden Win10 adware/data aggregation features. According to what I have read disabling these settings will tend to help rein-in Windows 10 excessive Internet activity and make it operate closer to Windows 7 levels. Telling Windows 10 that you are on a metered Internet connection will also cut down on the Internet activity, but at the cost of slower update patching. My initial first impressions of the Acer laptop went something like this: Wow nice sharp LED back-lit, non-glare, wide screen. Nice sounding built-in speakers for a 15" laptop. They produced plenty of sound volume when cranked-up in my den. It sounded excellent when played through my den’s tube amplifier, using a pair of Polk monitor speakers and a subwoofer I got from NewEgg years ago. The 7th generation Intel i5 Kaby Lake, 14nm processor and the provided Liteon 90 Watt AC charger, both ran very cool while the laptop was in operation, even under heavy use. Speccy indicated the CPU temperature typically hovered in the mid 90°F range. In most usage situations the cooling fan was not even audible. I think Acer had to provide an over-sized charger in order to support the higher power demands of the USB-C 3.1 port and the Nvidia GTX GPU. These USB-C 3.1 ports can supply up to 3 Amps of current to run power-hungry external peripherals. I ran the Windows 10 Experience Index benchmark and came up with the following scores: CPU=7.5, Memory=7.5, Desktop 2D Graphics 5.1, 3D Gaming Graphics 9.9, SSD=8.1. The only disappointment was the poor 2D graphics score at only 5.1. I blame this on the Intel HD Graphics 620 chipset. I am looking to see if Intel has an upgraded graphics driver. Not being a gamer I was unable to put the built-in Nvidia Geforce GTX 3D GPU through its proper paces. Please note that although the Intel i5-7200U CPU is listed as a dual-core processor, it appeared as a quad-core processor in the Win10 Device Manager and to most Windows programs, due to its Intel hyperthreading technology. I had no issues with the CPU speed on this laptop, it was fully adequate for my applications. Every program I tested on it ran smoothly. The SSD boot drive helps a lot as well. The Qualcomm Atheros wireless adapter was very stable when connected to my 5GHz Linksys E8350, MU-MIMO enabled, WIFI-AC router. I found when connected via the WIFI-AC and I plugged-in an Ethernet patch cable, the wireless connection was disabled in favor of the faster gigabit Ethernet connection. This behavior is probably due to the installed Windows 10 Home, which is unable to support two simultaneous IP connections. The WIFI-AC speed achieved was 433.3Mbps. A CAT-6 patch cable provided a stable 1.0Gbps Ethernet connection.

Cons: No built-in optical drive. External USB BlueRay and DVD-RW drives are readily available if you require one. Interestingly the case appears to have a blank cover on the right lower clam-shell where a DVD-RW, or BlueRay optical drive could be added. Many Windows games are still sold on both CD and DVD media discs. Acer probably knows that downloadable and online games are quickly surpassing the sales of games sold on media discs, hence the decision to nix the optical drive and lower the overall laptop cost. The Lithium Ion battery is not removable. I did not remove the entire lower clam-shell cover, so I can’t say if its glued in, or replaceable by a technician. I did not see a battery meter on the tray bar either, although you could probably install a 3rd party battery monitoring App. The lack of a quad-core processor could be considered to be a con by many advanced gamers, but at the cost of shorter battery life, higher energy use and more heat output. This laptop runs cool enough that you can actually use it while it’s resting on your lap, without getting burned. If you ride a bus or train to work you might want to take this advantage into consideration.

Overall Review: The laptop came with MS-Office 2016 pre-loaded as a trial version. I bought an MS-Office Home & Student license card online and entered in the new license number when prompted. I also had to provide my email address and the password for my existing Microsoft account to activate it. Yes MS got me on that one. MS was then able to quickly determine who I was and display my MS account icon in the upper corner of the MS-Office 2016 applications. After a restart of MS-Word I was up and running a fully licensed copy of MS-Office Home & Student 2016. Pretty painless for an MS-Office installation. Office 365 is also pre-installed if you want to go the software rental route. So no large office downloads are required. A full system scan using MalwareBytes, turned-up around 45 minor PUP infections, all listed as “Probably Unwanted Programs” or PUPs for short. These were mostly registry entries for Amazon1Button.AppFish. I also removed a McAfee’s Antivirus trial balloon installed by Acer. I plan to install my own preferred free A/V software. One tip is to click-on a link called “Customize” during the initial Win10 customer setup process that allows you to skip creating, or logging on to an external Microsoft account every time you start your laptop. The link is displayed in a tiny light blue font against a white background. If you don’t watch for it closely you may miss it. I think that is by design ;>). This customization option allows you to limit your Win10 logon to a local administrator’s account, similar to Windows 7, versus an MS online account that pings Microsoft every time you logon to your laptop. Windows 10 also includes the built-in Microsoft cloud-based One Drive. You need a registered MS user account to activate it. Acer also offered an Acer Cloud client, which I have not yet had a chance to test. It has to be activated as well before you can use it. Although USB-C 3.1 is a relatively new USB interface, I actually had a new Seagate Innov8 USB-C 3.1 external 8TB, 3.5" hard drive on hand from another recent EggExpert test. So I tried plugging it into the Acer’s state-of-the-art USB-C 3.1 port. Unlike most USB ports, a USB-C plug can be plugged-in, in either direction, a long awaited feature. The Innov8 external hard drive which draws too much power for a USB 3.0 port, worked fine on the Acer's USB-C 3.1 port. Removing three screws allowed the bottom access cover to be easily removed. Visible were an installed DDR4 SODIMM and a second open socket for another optional DDR4 SODIMM card, which were both easily accessible. The Hynix 256GB M.2 SATA SSD card was also easily accessible for future upgrading. The Toshiba 1TB HDD to the left was surrounded by a silicone vibration dampener and appeared to be securely mounted. The HDD can be easily replaced for future upgrading. The wireless card was not accessible from this location. Removing a single screw allows for removal of the plastic blank filling in for an optical drive. An optical drive bay is present along with the SATA socket needed to install an optional DVD-RW drive. I might try installing a BlueRay, or DVD-RW drive later, for viewing movies with. Acer requested an expedited review on this laptop, so that they could get the results out about these new Gen-7 laptops before Black Friday; the official start of the make-it, or break-it holiday shopping season. I don’t have an issue with that request as this is an excellent laptop based on my brief experience with it so far. I am very impressed with its many outstanding features including: The smooth Windows 10 initial customer experience, minimal crapware cleanup issues, its ease of use and processing speed, its low-glare 1080 HD LED screen, which is both sharp and easy on the eyes, the dual storage drive setup is unique in this price class, its excellent high-speed networking capabilities, inclusion of a USB-C 3.1 port, two USB 3.0 ports and one USB 2.0 port, 12-hour extended battery life, large touch pad with active corners and gesturing support, easy upgrade-ability. After working with the Acer E 15 for about a week, I can highly recommend it without any reservations. This laptop would make a great gift for a college student, or for home, or small office use. If you are a power user on a budget, you should be satisfied with this budget gaming laptop, given its competitive price to performance ratio. Highly recommended.

13 out of 15 people found this review helpful. Did you? 
Inexpensive Cable Modem & WIFI Router11/13/2016 4:19:45 PM

Pros: I tested the Netgear N300 WIFI/C3000 Model Cable Modem Router. As you can see by its full name the C3000 is actually three devices in one unit. It has a Netgear N300 WIFI radio combined with a cable modem and a two port gigabit switch/router with DHCP support. Compared to other similar devices I have tested the C3000 is quite compact considering everything it can do in one unit. Looking at the backside, the C3000 has a USB port so you can attach a hard drive and share it with everyone on your C3000 SOHO network. There are two gigabit Ethernet output ports instead of just one. Four would have been more ideal, but I will take two any day over just one port. Next you see a coax connector for attaching the coax cable from your cable Internet Service Provider (ISP). Next is a standard round power connector for the AC power supply. Near the base is an On/Off switch. I like the idea of a power switch as it’s more convenient if the unit needs to be rebooted. Pulling a power cord in my den where all of my networking equipment is located could result in it falling into an abyss of cables never to be found again. So yes I like simple conveniences like a power switch. As far as compatibility goes the C3000 supports DOCSIS 3.0 which is the current defacto cable transmission standard in the USA. It is listed as compatible with the following networks: Time Warner, Comcast, Charter, Cablevision, Cox, Optimum, Xfinity, and others including WOW (Wide Open West), my ISP in the Detroit area. I was unable to test this feature, but the C3000 supports self-activation for XFINITY customers; get connected without a service call! That could easily save you an hour on the phone with the cable tech support! Netgear also provides 24/7 technical support on this product. The C3000 has a one-year limited warranty. I have used Netgear networking products in my consulting business for many years and can highly recommend them. The WIFI can be disabled in the onboard Admin web menu if not needed, or to save power. This can be handy if you already have a preferred WIFI router. The web menu and setup menu are excellent on the C3000. The number of parameters that can be tweaked and customized could keep a geek up all night. Up to three different Dynamic Name Server (DNS) providers can be specified. I typically use one from my ISP (not always reliable) and two from other DNS services like FreeDNS, OpenDNS, or even Google offers free DNS services. Do an Internet search on free DNS services to see what is available. DNS is what translates popular names like NewEgg.com into the IP address numbers the Internet uses. The WIFI-N supports WPA2 with either TKIP, AES, or both encryption algorithms running simultaneously for maximum compatibility with your wireless devices. Once connected the C3000 will show up under the SSID: NETGEAR49 The C3000 had a really cool feature under the admin menu called “Channel.” Opening this item produced a bar chart of all of the nearby WIFI stations and allowed me to choose a different WIFI channel that was less congested. The fact that it showed bars above each channel number and when you hovered your mouse over a bar, it listed the device using that channel and how many devices were on each those channels. This was a way cool feature! There is a hidden reset button located underneath the C3000, between the base plates, inside a ventilation hole near the center case screw. This can be used to reset it to the factory defaults. With a street price of $99.00, or $89.00 at NewEgg at the time of this review, the C3000 offers a lot of value for the money.

Cons: The C3000 seems to be a device that has been on the market for several years. The WIFI radio only supports WIFI-N, no WIFI-AC support is provided. Also the 8 x 4 DOCSIS single band channel bonding will limit the network speeds that the C3000 can connect to. Other competitor modems are offering 24 x 8 channels for slightly more outlay. A good investment for expected future cable speed increases. My test unit had firmware v1.01.11. The reason I mention this is that there does not seem to be anyway to upgrade the firmware on this device. This can lead to rapid device obsolescence, if for example it can’t be updated to handle improved cable or OS standards, or to patch security exploits. I also noted issues with the Net Genie web interface sometimes behaving buggy, as in freezing when updating its menu screens after I changed a parameter, or changed the default MAC address for example, or simply clicking on another menu item. It would freeze with the hourglass spinning away forever. I had to reboot the C3000 to recover it. I had better luck connecting to the router interface on the C3000 via its WIFI port, versus the Ethernet port with my ThinkPad notebook. Even disconnecting from the C3000 WIFI did not help. This was a rather odd behavior. Could these issues possibly be fixed with a firmware upgrade? Changing the LAN base IP address from to to work with my existing Linksys network broke the C3000. I could not reach its user interface at the new address with my notebook plugged into it? The C3000 only seems to work with octet addresses using: Any attempts to make it compatible with an existing Linksys network were met with error messages. So why offer a LAN screen if you can’t change the base LAN address? These changes were attempted with the C3000 isolated and only connected to one notebook? So this eliminates any chance of an IP conflict. One other annoyance was while I was viewing the internal menus in the C3000 it kept logging me off constantly. The logoff delay is too short. There is also no place to set the date and time in the router. I believe this is because it is designed to grab this data from the cable carrier network. I had just tested another cable modem and did not want to go through the activation process a third time with my ISP for fear of totally messing up my cable bill this month and incurring additional service charges. Having a bad date and time could have been why I could not connect reliably to the C3000's Ethernet port with Windows 7.

Overall Review: Pretty much everything you need to know to access and set up the C3000 is printed on labels hidden under the base, including the base IP address and the logon name and password. It also lists the default WIFI password. And the PW is a combination of a friendly name and short number. So its easy for us humans to remember it. You would want to change this PW for security reasons after your cable Internet is up and working. With an internal WIFI antenna the range on the C3000 was modest. Making it suitable for an apartment or a small home or office. You would need to use range boosters or access points in a larger building. I tested two different cable modems while reviewing the C3000 and I was not aware of the hassle in having to call my ISP (WOW) just to have them update their equipment to allow a new cable modem to connect to their network. I hear that Xfinity has a method where the customer can do this themselves, known as self-activation. The cable companies should be required to allow customers to perform these simple CM-MAC number upgrades themselves without having to involve a technical support agent. I would think it would be possible for the cable modem industry to come up with a method to clone the existing cable modem settings and save them. Then it would be a simple matter of moving the coax cable from one modem to another. This would save both parties a lot of time and money. The FCC should open up the cable industry more to help speed up this connectivity process. If you are paying the typical rental fee of $10.00/month to rent a cable modem from your ISP, the C3000 could easily pay for itself in only nine months. One caveat to keep in mind is if your present cable modem is also doing double duty as a VoIP device to operate your land line phones, (telephony) then the C3000 will not be able to replace that feature. I did not realize this when I was offered the C3000 for testing, that phone lines are an expensive upgrade feature on most cable modems. If you do not have any land lines, an increasingly popular trend these days to save money, then the C3000 should work like a charm. If you have multiple desktop computers or other devices that require a hard wired connection, just buy a Netgear gigabit switch with more than enough ports to handle all of your other wired devices. Connect the switch to one of the two Ethernet ports on the C3000. Then connect your other devices to the gigabit switch. The DHCP server in the C3000 will take care of issuing IP addresses to all of your connected devices. The other Ethernet port on the C3000 could be used to connect a notebook for trouble shooting purposes, or a nearby desktop PC. I can recommend the C3000, if you take the C3000's WIFI-N and other limitations mentioned in the cons area into account.

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Start Saving Money by Replacing Your ISP’s Modem11/12/2016 8:15:03 PM

Pros: I tested the Linksys model CM3024 cable modem. This modem is designed to replace the Internet access modem provided by your cable provider, a.k.a. Internet Service Provider (ISP). By buying your own cable modem you can avoid the monthly rental fees of $10.00, or more per month charged by most ISP’s. This can save you upwards of $120.00 per year, or more. With a street price of around $110.00, this modem will pay for itself in less than a year. The CM3024 modem should work with most all DOCSIS 3.0 cable systems. Check with your cable provider to find out if they are using the DOCSIS 3.0 standard or no first. According to Linksys the major ISP’s the CM3024 supports includes: Comcast/Xfinity, Time Warner, Cox, Charter, and I added WOW (Wide Open West) in the Detroit area. Please keep in mind that this is not a complete list of supported providers. Some older rural systems may not be compatible with the newer DOCSIS 3.0 cable standard. Check with your cable provider first before purchasing this modem to make sure its compatible. My ISP WOW only listed their own rental modem models on their website as compatible devices, but did not give me any hassle when I asked to install this Linksys modem in place of their Arris model. The CM3024 modem offers 24 DOCSIS download channels and 8 upload channels. Each DOCSIS channel carries a portion of the total bandwidth. The more DOCSIS channels the faster the cable system the modem can potentially handle. This modem supports DOCSIS (cable network) speeds of up to 960Mbps. Actual cable data download speeds are limited to a maximum of 300Mbps. At 300Mbps it should be compatible with most of the fastest DOCSIS cable systems available in the USA. This modem is not intended for use on fiber optic based (FiOS) cable systems. This modem has a built-in internal website you can access via your favorite browser. The website provides System Information including the current firmware version, device MAC address, serial number, Etc. A second menu tab labeled DOCSIS Provisioning provided the connectivity status of the modem and its boot state. The third tab labeled DOCSIS WAN displays both upstream and downstream signal parameters. A fourth menu labeled DOCSIS Events displayed an event log error list. This information can be used by your ISP’s technical support staff to diagnose any cable signal quality issues. The fifth menu displays the link status of the LAN port. On my network it was connected at 1000Mbps using full duplex mode. Four status LEDs on the front panel proved the most helpful. The first one glows green to indicate the unit is powered on. There are also two blue receive and send LEDs. The most useful is the Status LED. A steady green glow indicates the modem has successfully connected to your ISP’s cable network. The fifth blue LED flickered steadily to indicate Ethernet LAN activity. Tip: After the modem LED indicates it is connected to your cable network you may need to reboot your desktop, or laptop computer for it to access the Internet.

Cons: The CM3024 lacks a battery backup in case of a utility power failure. If you own an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) you could plug the cable modem’s AC power supply into that unit. The rest of these are mostly minor cons: No power switch is provided, you have to pull the power plug on the back to reboot it. No big deal. It does have a small hole that you can stick a toothpick into to reset the modem to the original factory defaults. Warning pushing the reset may erase any custom logon settings provided by your ISP. There is no USB output socket and only one Ethernet output port provided. In the Quick Setup Guide provided, no mention was made of the cable modem’s internal website IP address. I lucked out in that I had saved a bookmark for my original Arris cable modem in my browser and the new Linksys modem used the same IP address for its internal website. The internal website menu loaded quickly into my browser. For your reference it uses IP: 192:168:100:1 Note: If your current cable modem also provides your WIFI service, you will need to purchase a separate WIFI router to place downstream of the CM3024 to replace that service. The CM3024 does not supply any WIFI signals. This also applies to any VoIP telephone lines you may currently have. You can use a service like Skype over the CM3024's Internet connection. Warning: If you are no longer paying a monthly rental fee for their modem, your ISP may refuse to provide technical support if you have difficulty getting your Internet modem working. Check with your ISP first for their policy regarding BYOM, before purchasing your cable modem, if this possibility concerns you.

Overall Review: To hookup the CM3024, begin by screwing the cable company coax cable to the threaded connector on the back. Next connect the provided patch cable from the modem to either your WIFI router’s WAN input jack, or to any spare jack on a network switch. Note the CM3024 has no WIFI support, so you will need to use a PC or a MAC with an Ethernet wired connection for your initial setup and testing. Lastly attach the power cable and plug it in. The green power LED should light up. The CM3024 does have a DHCP server built-in, which means it can be used without a downstream router. You can plug your laptop or desktop’s Ethernet cable directly into it. The biggest hassle in connecting your new cable modem will probably be in dealing with your ISP’s telephone support staff. You will need to provide them the new MAC, or CM MAC address for your new modem. The CM MAC address is printed on a small label on the back of the CM3024. Your ISP will use this MAC address to locate your new modem on their network and add it to your cable account. When I called my ISP WOW, a.k.a. Wide Open West, I got a tech support agent that sounded like he was located in India. Combined with a poor cell phone connection I had a very difficult time understanding him with his heavy accent. I asked if I could reconnect my original Arris modem after my review testing was completed, but could not understand his response. The best way to deal with this issue in my experience is to simply end the call politely and then call back again. The chances of you getting the same support agent twice is very slim. After the new modem was activated and talking to my ISP’s cable network, as confirmed by my ISP’s support agent, I had to reboot my PC for the new setup to start working. I also had to respond to a Windows 7 question of what type of network my computer was now connected to? The best choice for most SOHO users is to choose the “Home Network” option. This reduces the Windows firewall settings to a level compatible with most small networks. Tip: While your support agent is still on the phone, run a quick Internet speed test to confirm you are receiving the correct download and upload speeds that you are paying for. In my case the cable system had defaulted to the lowest tier speed offered by WOW. I mentioned this to my agent and he did something on his end to reprogram the Linksys CM3024 to operate at my correct tier speed of 32Mbps down and 5Mbps up. This is a very important test to carry out before you hang up. Tip: To run an Internet speed test do an Internet search for “internet speed test”, then select the city, or server closest to your location. These sites provide a quick and accurate method of assessing your Internet download and upload speeds. Keep in mind that your ISP determines your maximum Internet tier speed based on the service plan that you have chosen. So installing a faster Internet modem will not provide any free speed increase in most cases. In some rare situations where you have had the same ISP supplied modem for many years, an older modem may be holding you back. This can happen if your ISP increased their network tier speeds and never updated the cable modem they provided you to handle the faster speeds. That happened to us recently when our rental modem died and was replaced by a newer faster rental modem. Our download/upload speeds more than doubled, while the monthly Internet service fee remained the same. Tip: Don’t count on your ISP to volunteer this kind of information. I ran another Internet speed test after completing the CM3024 installation and there was no difference in speed in comparison to our original commercial grade Arris Touchstone TG2472 modem. This result is to be expected. Since the Arris TG model includes telephony support. I will be going back to it ASAP, to restore our VoIP phone line connections, once I conclude this review. The Arris TG2472 is a huge bulky modem, so I may look for another smaller cable modem from NewEgg, that includes both telephony (VoIP) and Internet connectivity to eliminate the perpetual monthly rental fees. Up until now I was always concerned that I would end up ordering an expensive cable modem only to find out it would not be supported by our ISP WOW. So I really appreciate Linksys and NewEgg offering the CM3024 for to me to tryout. If you have dumped your VoIP line(s) for cell phones only, then by all means purchase the Linksys CM3024. It worked perfectly during my review testing period and will save you a ton of money in monthly modem rental fees. It also offered the most DOCSIS channels in it price range. Highly recommended.

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A Cost Effective Patch Cable10/16/2016 1:20:54 PM

Pros: I have not run into any DOA cables so far, so that would indicate that Coboc has good QC standards in place. Overall these cables are well-made and very cost effective.

Cons: The protective bubble over the latch lever is a little stiff on these cables and as the plastic ages, they become even stiffer and hard to operate. On some older Coboc cables I have had to cut the top of the bubble off, in order to unlock the cable, or use needle nose pliers on them. This is mainly on cables that are in difficult to reach recessed locations.

Overall Review: I use these both in-house and have many clients also using them for many years with no issues. While I complain about the stiff bubble latch protectors, I really have not seen any other similar system that works any better at preventing the latches from snagging and being broken off. I would put the blame on the original design of the modular telephone cables that first used this latching system for not using a sturdier latch design to begin with.

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Excellent Performing & Inexpensive SDRAM9/18/2016 8:04:43 PM

Pros: I reviewed the Silicon Power (SP) 8 GB (2×4GB) SO-DIMM laptop memory kit. This is a special DDR3L (low voltage) dual channel memory kit designed to run at a reduced 1.35VDC, vs. the more common 1.5VDC. This new "L" standard reduces power consumption and increases your laptop’s battery life. The label on the package states that this product can also be used at the full 1.5 VDC without being damaged. This is the first time I have seen this ability in an SO-DIMM module. Keep in mind that your laptop or other device must support low voltage memory. I installed the test memory kit into a Gigabyte Brix Gaming Mini-PC (desktop PC) with the specs shown below: + AMD Richland Quad-Core APU: A8-5557M 2.1GHz/3.1GHz Turbo + Ultra Compact ITX-PC: 5.0”W 4.5”D x 2.25”H + Boot Device: mSATA: Patriot Pyro 240GB m.3 Card + Data Drive: WD Black HDD, 320GB, 2.5”, 7200RPM, SATA-III + 2 x SO-DIMM DDR3L Slots (1333/1600 MHz) + IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi / Bluetooth 4.0 Mini PCI-E Card + AMD Radeon HD 8550G APU Graphics @ 1920×1200 Resolution + HDMI plus Mini DisplayPort Outputs (supports dual displays) + 4 x USB 3.0 Ports + Gigabit LAN Port + Headphone jack + OS: Windows 10 Home, v1511, 64-Bit (upgraded from Win7) Here are the Windows 10 Experience Index results without any BIOS tweaking. Processor (CPU) = 7.2 Memory (RAM) = 7.2 Desktop graphics performance = 6.1 Gaming graphics, 3D business = 9.9 Primary hard drive (m.3) = 8.0 The overall rating was: 6.1 HWInfo64 Produced the following specs for 1 of 2 SO-DIMM modules: Module Size: 4GB Memory Type: DDR3 SDRAM Module Type: SO-DIMM Memory Speed: 800.0 MHz (DDR3-1600 / PC3-12800) Module Manufacturer: Silicon Power Computer & Communications Module Part Number: SP004GLSTU160N02 The Brix mini-PC BIOS has a simplified laptop style AMI BIOS that does not allow the user to edit the memory parameters. But the Silicon Power SO-DIMM modules “Series Presence Detect” aka the SPD EEPROM memory chip; came properly programmed from the factory for the correct maximum rated memory speed. I did not need to manually set an extended XMP timing mode in the BIOS, to obtain the top rated memory speed. This is usually an issue on most desktop BIOS. Most desktop BIOS will set themselves at the more conservative 1333MHz speed, instead of the top-rated 1600MHz. This is done to cut down on the number of warranty support calls for non-bootable motherboards.

Cons: The two SO-DIMMs were packaged in a non-reusable, heat sealed, blister pack that required scissors to cut it open. I prefer memory packages that can be easily opened and re-closed, so I have a safe place to place to store my old memory.

Overall Review: I chose the Brix mini-PC as my test platform because it’s easy to open and replace the memory inside. It was also one of the few devices here at UFC, that supports the newer DDR3L-1600 memory standard. I was disappointed by the fact that the AMI BIOS on the Gigabyte Brix motherboard, does not seem to allow one, to modify the memory timings for testing, or over-clocking. Gigabyte used to hide these advanced memory settings on their full size motherboards under a hidden Advanced menu item. So I tried some of the old keystrokes that used to work in the past: like Ctrl-F1 or Alt-F2, Etc., to try and access the memory timings screen. But so far this effort has been a no-go. If any of the viewers have figured this out, please advise. While the memory speed listed by HWInfo64 indicates it is running at 800MHz, this is the correct speed for DDR3-1600 SDRAM. Please keep in mind that all DDR versions including DDR1-DDR4 SDRAM all run at half of the rated label speed. By combining the two dual memory channels together, the full rated, or specified speed of DDR-1600/PC-12800 is achieved. I normally run G. Skill Ripjaws with the about the same clock timings as this SP SDRAM, so I was relieved when the less expensive SP SDRAM performed perfectly. I also tried running various burn-in software in an attempt to stress the SP SDRAM and cause it to blue screen, but in the end, it was juast kept working. I seems to be just as stable as my more costly G. Skill SDRAM. The ability for the SP SDRAM to run at either 1.35VDC or at 1.5VDC is an added plus in my book. It also has a lifetime warranty against defects. My experience with the Silicon Power 8GB (2×4GB) 204-Pin DDR3 SO-DIMM DDR3L-1600 (PC3L 12800) memory kit P/N: SP008GLSTU160N22NE has been totally positive. I will continue to test it, but don't expect any issues. Very stable, highly recommended!

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The World's Largest External HDD8/18/2016 5:09:23 PM

Pros: I reviewed Seagate’s new Innov8 USB 3.1 type C external hard drive. The main advantage of this drive is its copious 8TB of storage capacity. It’s also an external drive making this huge storage capacity portable. This is the first 3.5" external hard drive of its size that can operate from a single USB-C port. No external power adapter is needed, or included. Unless you own a Mac with the latest Lightening port, the next fastest available data port is now the USB 3.1 type C, 2nd generation. This new USB standard supports data transfer rates up to 10Gb/Sec. Seagate also lists these additional advantages for the Innov8: + 8TB USB-C powered external desktop storage solution + Seagate Ignition Boost Technology + All-aluminum enclosure + NTFS driver for Mac + Features the new reversible USB type C port (I added this one - very nice) Warranty: Limited Warranty period (parts): 5 years* Limited Warranty period (labor): 5 years* *Note: NewEgg states 5-years, while Seagate’s website states only 3-years for the warranty? The Innov8 was packaged in an impressive display box with a top lid that included a closure flap that is held shut by two hidden magnets. The box is lined with a dense dark gray foam rubber to help cushion and protect the drive while its being transported. A rectangular shaped bottom cutout was big enough to hold the owners manual and the included 1Ft long USB 3.1 type C cable. There was also another cutout at one end to make it easier to get your fingers underneath the drive to help lift it out the box. This drive is fairly heavy at 3.3Lbs. The drive case is made entirely out of aluminum, with grooves machined into it to act as heat sink fins for passive cooling. The case features nice rounded corners, a front mounted blue activity LED and an overall heavy duty industrial appearance. The enterprise grade SMR HDD used inside the Innov8 is reported to use six 1.33TB platters. The Innov8 was very quiet while operating and only became slightly warm while in use. The Innov8 external drive was simple to install. Just make sure you have the requisite USB 3.1 type C port available on your host computer. See the Cons section below for further details on that matter. The Innov8 provided 7.27TB of available disk space. The Innov8 ships preformatted with the ExFAT file system. It also had an “autorun” file that was designed to launch your default browser and take you directly to Seagate’s website. Once at the website the new drive owner is prompted to register the drive and to download a free copy of the Seagate Dashboard backup software. Here are the Crystal Diskmark results: Sequential Read (Q=32,T=1): 38.274 MB/s Sequential Write (Q=32,T=1): 36.624 MB/s Random Read 4KiB (Q=32,T=1): 0.663 MB/s [ 161.9 IOPS] Random Write 4KiB (Q=32,T=1): 7.011 MB/s [1711.7 IOPS] Sequential Read (T=1): 41.732 MB/s Sequential Write (T=1): 38.592 MB/s Random Read 4KiB (Q=1,T=1): 0.629 MB/s [ 153.6 IOPS] Random Write 4KiB (Q=1,T=1): 6.530 MB/s [1594.2 IOPS] Note the slow random read/write 4KiB results. This is probably due to the SMR recording method used to multi-layer the data on to the platters, combined with a lot of head seeks, a low RPM platter speed and a lack of NCQ support. I next deleted the ExFAT partition and reformatted the drive to the NTFS file system and repeated the same tests. See the new results below: Sequential Read (Q=32,T=1): 39.797 MB/s Sequential Write (Q=32,T=1): 37.564 MB/s Random Read 4KiB (Q=32,T=1): 0.656 MB/s [ 160.2 IOPS] Random Write 4KiB (Q=32,T=1): 7.009 MB/s [1711.2 IOPS] Sequential Read (T=1): 41.523 MB/s Sequential Write (T=1): 38.591 MB/s Random Read 4KiB (Q=1,T=1): 0.615 MB/s [ 150.1 IOPS] Random Write 4KiB (Q=1,T=1): 6.958 MB/s [1698.7 IOPS] Surprisingly there was little performance difference between the ExFAT and the NTFS file systems on this drive. After reformatting the drive to NTFS, the Seagate Dashboard utility could no longer recognize the drive on my system, rendering it useless. The free Macrium Reflect 6.x backup had no issues locating the new drive. I used it instead to backup my two SSD drives to the Innov8. During the backup tests, transfer rates averaged a modest 250Mb to 292Mb/Sec, and took 32:48 to backup my C: drive with 69GB and over four hours to backup a data drive with 510GB of compressed backup data. I read that the Seagate Ignition Boost Technology uses an internal battery to help boost the normal 5VDC USB power supply up to the 12VDC needed to kick-start the 3.5" drive’s 12VDC platter motor. Once up to speed the battery is no longer needed. So you should probably avoid powering this drive on and off too frequently, or you may end up draining its battery similar to a car.

Cons: The main con is the Innov8's limited connectivity due to having only one data port (USB 3.1 type-C) on its drive enclosure. While it might be fashionable to only offer a single port, it would have been more practical if Seagate had also included a standard round 5VDC power supply connector for those situations where only a USB-type-A, (lower power USB 2.0, or 3.0 host port) is available. They could then offer an optional AC wall adapter to allow the Innov8 to be used with older hardware. A USB 3.0 type B port would have also been handy for attaching the Innov8 to present-day laptop and desktop computers. Using this type of port would again require an external power supply to power the Innov8. What would have been even more innovative in my humble opinion would have been for Seagate to offer a much smaller enclosure with two of their 2.5" - 4TB laptop drives stacked inside, using JBOD technology. That setup could probably be powered from a standard USB 3.0 host port, or using a dual USB-A plug hookup. I am also surprised that this external drive does not offer any WIFI support? What about an Ethernet port so it could be placed on a network? This would be a great use for a drive this large. To get around the need for a USB 3.1 type C port, I thought about buying a USB-A to type-C adapter cable, however Seagate’s Innov8 website states: “Using a USB-C-to-USB-A cable adapter will not damage the Innov8 product or computer, but using such an adapter is not supported.” Although the Innov8 should be backwards compatible with slower bandwidth USB connections, I suspect the power requirements of the Innov8 are the main issue here. My next thought was what about buying an active USB hub, with its own external power supply, but again Seagate’s website had this to say: “Can the Innov8 function while connected to a USB hub, dock, or dongle? Individual results may vary, but connecting the Innov8 to this kind of equipment is not supported.” What a bummer Seagate! I think it would be worth Seagate’s time and effort to do some lab testing and then recommend some alternative USB cables or hubs that will work reliably with the Innov8. This would make it more useful. You will quickly find that the more commonly available USB 2.0, or 3.0 rectangular shaped “A” ports as seen on most computers, simply can’t supply enough power for the Innov8 to operate reliably. Even though USB 3.1 type C is expected to be adopted into the market fairly quickly, it will be years until today’s current crop of desktops, laptops and tablets are replaced with newer models capable of handling the new USB standard’s 5V/3A current needs. By that time 8TB or larger external hard drives should be pretty commonplace. I would also expect this 3.5" drive with its heavier power needs to more quickly drain the battery on any laptop or tablet device that is not kept connected to an AC power source. That leaves the only current realistic market for these drives to be either desktop computers or small servers that can handle the higher USB power demands. Its fairly large and its heavy, this limits the Innov8's portability and overall utility. On the plus side you won’t have to worry about the Innov8 accidentally sliding off a smooth desktop. The supplied one foot long USB 3.1 type C male to type C male cable was way too short to be used for anything but laptops. A 3Ft/1M long cable would have made a lot more sense. From what I have read there are only two laptop models currently on the market capable of supporting the Innov8, an Apple Macbook series and a Google Chromebook series. That is not a lot of laptop choices. As newer laptop models are introduced this Fall, the USB 3.1 type C interface should become more commonplace. Most mid to high-end desktops should be upgradable with a PCI-E expansion card like the one I used for my testing. (See Other Thoughts below).

Overall Review: When offered the opportunity to test the Innov8, the first thing I asked myself was what can I plug the Innov8 into? Since the drive was already on its way, I immediately ordered an IOGear model GIC3C2 PCI-Express, USB 3.1 type-C expansion card for my main desktop PC. The IOGear PCI-E card I ordered has two USB 3.1 type-C, with reversible connectors on its back plate. They are rated to support up to 10Gb/sec and can supply the 5V/3A power needed by the Innov8. A PCB mounted female SATA power socket on the IOGear expansion card needs to be connected to a spare SATA power cable inside the desktop PC. This avoids drawing too much power from the PCI-E expansion bus and possibly damaging the motherboard. The IOGear USB 3.1 type C expansion card installed and performed flawlessly. Highly recommended. Search NewEgg for it. I encountered a strange issue with the Windows 7 File Explorer. I wanted to assign the drive a new drive label called “Innov8", versus the Windows default “Local Disk” label. After I hit “Apply” nothing happened. I repeated the command, still no go. So I viewed the drive using the Windows Disk Manager and the correct drive label was displayed. The “Safely Remove” icon also displayed the correct drive label. One forum site I visited recommended to unmount the drive and then try remounting it, this did not work. I next tried rebooting my system, again no go. I have seen this Windows bug before with flash drives that use the ExFAT file system, so after running the Crystal Disk benchmarks I decided to quick format the Innov8 using the NTFS file system. This solved the labeling issue in File Explorer. Seagate’s website offered little to no information on the particular desktop drive that was installed inside the Innov8's case. I suspect based on the leisurely transfer rates that it must be a slower 5,400, or 5,900 RPM, SMR archival hard drive. The five-year warranty, if that is accurate, indicates it may also be an enterprise grade drive. The new USB-C standard still does not support AHCI (Advanced Host Controller Interface) mode, nor NCQ (Native Command Queuing). NCQ helps to speedup random reads/writes by allowing the controller to reorganize the data to minimize the amount of head movement required by the HDD. This is probably why the Innov8 did so poorly on the 4K random reads/writes tests in the Crystal Diskmark. While the general trend in computing has always been toward smaller, lighter and faster devices, the Innov8 drive is kind of an anachronism. It utilizes a larger, heavier 3.5" HDD mounted inside a heavy, metal case, while offering limited connectivity. The 10 Gb/Sec, USB 3.1 type C interface seems wasted considering the slow HDD installed inside the Innov8. A USB 3.0 interface should have been plenty fast without the limited connectivity issues of the USB 3.1 type C interface. There is also the concern of putting all of your eggs into one big basket. Could you afford to lose 8TB of data should this drive ever fail? How would you backup the data stored on an Innov8? In its favor the Innov8 external drive has won a design award and it offers a large amount of storage capacity at an increasingly affordable price point. I would recommend that potential buyers hold off purchasing this drive and instead wait and see what the competition comes up with, then make your final purchase decision. Assigning an Egg rating for this drive was somewhat difficult. Basically you have one of the world’s first and largest external hard drives, yet offering only limited connectivity and limited portability, inside a nice looking, yet heavy case, and with poor data transfer rates. You may also need to purchase a longer cable and a laptop style case to store this drive in, if you plan to take it with you on the road. I don’t see too many people wanting to go to all of that bother. I was also disappointed by the drive’s overall performance. So the Innov8's mostly likely usage scenario is either permanently resting on a desktop, or connected to a backroom router or mini-server acting as mass storage device. Given its slow read/write speeds, limited utility and lack of redundancy, I can only award it three eggs.

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Inexpensive, But Not Very Fast8/7/2016 6:38:17 PM

Pros: I tested the Silicon Power 64GB Elite series micro-SDXC class 10 flash memory card. The card includes a micro-SD to SD card adapter to allow it to be inserted into a standard SD card slot. The card is rated up to 85MB/Sec read transfer speeds. The specific model I tested was: SP064GBSTXBU1V20NE. Silicon Power also offers an upgraded Superior Pro series card with an even faster 90MB/Sec read speed rating. You might ask what does UHS-I (1) mean? According to the SD Association that sets the industry standards for SD memory cards, SD cards are currently (at the time of this review) available in four standard bus memory speeds. They have a nice chart on their website that explains the four bus speeds. The bus speeds are listed from slowest to fastest: Normal speed 12.5MB/Sec, High speed 25MB/Sec, UHS-I 50MB/Sec or 104MB/Sec, and UHS-II 156MB/Sec or 312MB/Sec. Keep in mind that these are “read” speeds not “write” speeds. The write speeds are much slower. The faster speed listed for each UHS card probably refers to the type of flash memory employed. I am guessing that UHS stands for Ultra High Speed. By bus speed I assume they are referring to the SD card bus connection, not the memory bus controller inside the card. Just like SSD hard drives, the particular internal controller used inside a memory card can have a huge baring on its overall performance. The new UHS-II rated cards can be identified by an extra added row of contacts on the card. The extra set of pins provides for a faster bus interface. While a UHS SD card is backwards compatible with any SD card device, to obtain the full performance, the device the card is installed in must be UHS-I, or II compliant to use the faster features. Class ratings: The SD Association doesn't actually define the exact speeds associated with these classes, but they do provide guidelines. There are four different speed classes — 10, 6, 4, and 2. 10 is the fastest, while 2 is the slowest. With the introduction of the UHS-I standard three additional speed ratings that meet or exceed class 10 were added: U1, U2 and U3. There are also video speeds rated from: V6 through V90. Lastly, the SD Association has another nice chart listing the various class speeds and what video standards they can support. For example: This UHS-I card is rated at 10MB/Sec sequential write speed (V10), so it could only be used reliably for standard resolution video recording. You would need a card with a 60MB/Sec (V60) sequential write speed rating to record a modern 4K video stream.

Cons: The slow UHS-I 10MB/Sec sequential write speed rating is only good for recording standard video streams, versus Full HD, or the even more demanding 4K video camera streams. This would limit this card for use only in older video cameras, or for still cameras that can write a picture to a camera memory buffer first, then transfer it to the SD card. So it is best suited for non-profession snap and shoot cameras. The SD Association also offered this bit of fine print: “Maximum speed differs from the bus I/F speed. It varies depending upon the card performance. The average speed that a device writes to an SD memory card may vary depending upon the device and the operation it is performing. The speed may also depend on how other data is stored on the SD memory card.”

Overall Review: In actual use this card was pretty slow at writing data. I tested it by copying 8,752 high resolution MP3 music files of various sizes from the mechanical (7,200 RPM WD Black notebook HDD) in my Gigabyte Brix Gaming mini-PC to the Silicon Power 64MB micro-SD flash card. The micro-SD card was installed into a micro-SD to USB 3.0 adapter and plugged directly into a spare USB 3.0 socket on the Brix. The Windows 10 is loaded on to a very fast C: drive Patriot Pyro M.3 SATA card and should not affect my testing on the HDD D: data drive. I normally use my AMD FX-8350 8-core desktop system for these kinds of bandwidth tests, but the USB 3.0 system died on that motherboard. So I can’t access my internal AFT USB 3.0 card reader. I have a ticket open with the manufacturer waiting on a warranty resolution. This was kind of a grueling bandwidth test because of the large number of small MP3 files involved. This causes the memory controller inside the SD card to work overtime, to constantly update the exFAT file system on the SD card. The large 58.2GB copy process took well over three hours to complete, leaving only 68.6MB of free space left available on the SD card. With an average speed of around 8-10MB/Sec. Windows 10 displayed a nice bar graph showing the throughput write speed vs. time, while the copy process was under way. It indicated peak throughput rates of up to 16MB/Sec, all the way down to only 4MB/Sec, so nothing special to write home about. Considering the limited write performance of this card I would not recommend it for HD video camera use. It should be suitable for small point and shoot still cameras, or for MP3 music players, or for low-end tablets. The display card it was packaged in says it can hold up to 24,000 photos, or 16,000 song titles. You could also use this card to expand the amount of storage on a tablet or cell phone. I liked the bright choice of colors used on the outside of the card. The 64GB is in large numerals making it easy to determine the capacity of the flash card at a glance. The bright color scheme also made it easy to pick it out from my collection of boring black and gray cards I keep in a small box above my desk. I originally thought about using this card as a Window 10 Readyboost device. But Windows 10 rejected it, saying it would not provide any speed boost over my existing Patriot Pyro M.3 SATA device. This card has one huge advantage going for it, namely a very low price point in relation to the large volume of flash storage space it provides. Mechanical HDD’s still have these SD cards beat in regards to the amount of raw storage vs. the cost per gigabyte, but they can’t begin to compete when it comes to overall compactness. The card worked reliably during all of my testing. Highly recommended for the uses listed above.

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A Nice Sounding Set of Surround Sound Gaming Headphones7/25/2016 8:47:39 PM

Pros: I tested the Corsair Void Surround Hybrid Stereo Gaming Headset with the included Dolby 7.1 USB Sound adapter. These headphones are also available in a version without the Dolby 7.1 surround adapter and a battery powered wireless Bluetooth version. The headphones include a flip down microphone for communicating with a gaming partner. The red universal headset I received had a single 3.5mm stereo pin plug with one tip connector and three ring connections. These consist of: left and right stereo channels, a microphone output ring contact and a grounding ring contact. So being an electronic tech I’m looking at this pin plug and wondering how the heck do they get 7.1 surround sound with only two audio connections. So I did some research on the Internet. Turtle Beach a longtime PC sound card manufacturer had a nice video on YouTube that made it all clear with animations and audio demos. Do yourself a favor and do a search on YouTube for “Turtle Beach Surround Sound Demo”. The keyword regarding the Dolby surround system used with these headphones is the word “hybrid.” In all truthfulness there is only a single 50mm neodymium driver in each headphone cup, that’s it. Yes these are just plain old stereo headphones and nothing else special except for the added microphone. The secret to the surround effect is in the shape of the human earlobes. By emphasizing sounds in front of you and attenuating sounds from behind the head, your ear lobes allow you to localize where a sound originated from. Hybrid surround sound uses science to electronically process the audio signal output by your game or other stereo source to fool your brain into thinking these headphones are 7.1 surround capable when they really aren’t. The included Dolby USB Surround adapter is the secret sauce that makes all of this science actually work. Dolby Labs by carefully tweaking delay and reflection timing (echo effects), does a pretty convincing job of fooling your brain into thinking sounds are originating from behind and to the sides of your head. In fact you can plug any stereo headphone set into the included Dolby 7.1 Surround audio adapter and achieve pretty much the same surround effects. The effect is called ambiance. The best recordings result from using a dummy head with plastic earlobes and microphones mounted where the ear canals would normally be. These binaural recordings contain the added ambiance signals that the Dolby surround processor can use to decode and to recreate the original audio environment. I compared the sound of the Void headphones to another pair of Panasonic Technics RP-DH1200 DJ headphones that I own. The Voids had a muddier bass and less sparkle in the upper treble range by comparison. Audiophiles would say the Voids were more polite sounding than the DJ headphones and they are. The Voids were also more comfortable to wear for extended listening sessions. The Voids seem to be optimized more to the human voice range, which makes perfect sense considering their intended purpose. In listening tests my wife preferred the Voids to the Technics. The Voids were smoother sounding and less sensitive than the Technics headphones. Corsair should consider selling the Dolby Surround adapter as a separate stand-alone item. Just the cure for older laptops and desktop users who would like an inexpensive way to upgrade their PC sound systems.

Cons: Overall I liked the Void headphones. However there were a few weak areas. The microphone did a poor job of picking up my voice. I had to bend it inward so the tip was pointing at my mouth in order for it to pickup my voice properly. The mike boom is made out of a rather springy plastic material and the microphone kept unbending, back outward away from my mouth, requiring frequent readjustments. On the good side it stayed-up when not in use. It can also be switched-off when not needed. The Corsair Utility Engine was a rather clunky piece of software. I should not have to go to three different places to control one set of headphones. Having to hunt down the sound icon in the control panel to choose the default audio device was a waste of time. This should have all been controllable from the Corsair Utility. The other audio features should have likewise been better integrated into the Corsair Utility. Many of the features lacked logic on their placements in the Corsair Utility. The menu system was kind of a mishmash affair. The Corsair Utility should have been more easily accessible from the notification bar.

Overall Review: When I first connected the Dolby Audio adapter I could not get any sound out of it. With Windows 7 you have to dedicate a default audio adapter. Sorry, but MS will not allow you to run two adapters at the same time. Maybe this has been fixed in Windows 10, unfortunately my Win10 system is at the manufacturer being repaired, so I can’t test this theory at the moment. (The audio jack popped off the motherboard). Since my Asus Xonar was my default audio adapter I had to go into the Sound icon in the Win7 Control Panel and designate the new Corsair Dolby Surround adapter as the new default audio device. After that and locating the partially hidden volume control under the left headphone cup; suddenly everything started to work properly. The Dolby audio driver allows you to control the amount of sidetone volume that is reproduced by the headphones. Sidetone has been around since the early days of telephony and the invention of the hybrid coil. When you speak into a land line telephone mouthpiece, a small amount of your voice is instantly fed back to the handset earphone, so you can hear yourself speaking. This feedback tells you the phone is working correctly and prevents people from speaking too loudly into the receiver and hurting the person’s ears on the other end of the line. It’s a simple form of feedback. The amount used on land-line phones is only about 8%. I found a setting of about 50% worked good with the Void microphone/headset. The microphone has its low-end frequency response limited to 100 Hz. This is probably done to prevent puffing and wind noises caused by your breathing from disrupting the vocal audio quality. That is a good design compromise based on its intended function. This headset should be very useful for VoIP and for use with Skype. Since I am not a big gamer I listened to various audio sources to get an idea of how the Voids performed. There are some nice test videos on YouTube that will sweep just about any audio frequency range you could ask for. There are bass tests that start at 10 Hz and sweep up to 100 Hz. Other videos covered the mid-range and treble ranges. I also listened to MP4 video and MP3 audio files. I listened to a video on YouTube from an album called “Gift Wrapped” 20 Songs That Keep On Giving by Regina Spektor. The particular test track I listened to is called “My Dear Acquaintance [A Happy New year].” Yes its holiday music. But the recording quality is amazing on this track. On a high-end audio system the sound staging makes it sound like Regina is in the same room singing to you. The track starts out with the sounds of a helicopter flying over an urban war zone and then her piano is brought in. My subwoofer loves the deep bass of the helicopter blades swooshing overhead. The helicopter then fades away and you hear Regina singing her lyrics while playing the piano. There are sounds of mayhem in the background, including distant explosions, gunfire, Etc. (Not unlike gaming, eh). The sound staging on this minimally miked recording is outstanding. So it makes an excellent audio test for both headphones and speakers. On the Voids the initial helicopter sounded somewhat muted. On the Technics it’s a little better, but the deep bass output by my den subwoofer put both headsets to shame. Headphones obviously have their limitations. Another track I listened to was Vangelis Titans (ArtoriusMix) from the motion picture Alexander. This is an extremely dynamic movie sound track. The horns sounded strained and started to breakup on the Void (at high volumes - not recommended), yet sounded pretty natural on the Technics. The Technics seemed to have more dynamic range than the Voids. This track can also be found on YouTube. Overall I liked the Corsair Void Surround Hybrid Stereo Gaming Headset. The USB 7.1 Dolby Surround adapter was an amazing little piece of micro electronics. I have used other similar USB sound systems in the past, but this one blows those away. The headphones were comfortable to wear for extended periods, and while they are not audiophile quality, they provided fully adequate sound quality for their intended gaming purpose. Given their price point I would highly recommend them.

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An Excellent Balance of Cost vs. Function7/24/2016 12:18:37 PM

Pros: I reviewed the SteelSeries Rival 100 Optical Gaming Mouse. This mouse is aimed at the mid-range gaming market. They are sold in a rainbow of two-color combinations. The mouse I tested was colored Proton Yellow with a matte black top finish. Here is a list of its notable features: PHYSICAL FEATURES: + Material: Soft Touch Matte Black upper body, Glossy Yellow lower body finish. + Ergonomic, Designed for Right-Handed use. + Grip Style: Palm or Claw. + Number of Buttons: 6 + SteelSeries Switches: Rated for 30 Million Clicks + Weight: 120 g, 0.264 lbs + Height: 120.6 mm, 4.75 in + Width: 67.13 mm, 2.64 in + Cable Length: 1.8 m, 6 ft RIVAL 100 SENSOR: + Sensor Name: SDNS-3059-SS + Sensor Type: Red Optical + CPI: Increments from 1 to 4000 + IPS: 140 + Acceleration: 20 gs + Polling Rate: 1 ms + Zero Hardware Acceleration + Tracking Accuracy: 1:1 RIVAL 100 CUSTOMIZATION OPTIONS: + Gamesense Support + SteelSeries Engine Support: SSE3 + Multiple CPI Options + 6 Programmable Buttons + Onboard Profile Storage + Acceleration Customization + Deceleration Customization + Color Options: 16.8 Million Using the Rival 100 Gaming Mouse: Compared to my regular MS corded 2-button wheel mouse, this new mouse was a huge improvement in tracking and sliding capability. The red LED sensor in this mouse was able to work flawlessly over worn down areas on the Formica surface of my desktop. This wear has created a problem for my MS mouse, as it fails to track over these worn-out areas. On the other hand the SDNS-3059-SS sensor in the SteelSeries mouse had no problem navigating the worn surface areas of my Formica desktop. I also tested this mouse on a solid red surface and it continued to track flawlessly. The large Teflon pads underneath this mouse allowed it to slide smoothly and effortlessly over my desktop. The pads looks to be easily replaceable. The soft matte top surface had an unexpected benefit. When you reach for a standard ergo-mouse, the curved shape has a tendency to cause the mouse to scoot out from under your palm. The non-slip top surface of this mouse prevented that issue. The Rival 100 Gaming Mouse features six buttons which can all be reprogrammed to handle different custom functions via a software interface. I have never been a big fan of using the scroll roller as a button switch. I just find it too awkward. The Rival 100 adds a small click switch just below the scroll roller, which I did find useful and programmed it to switch the DPI between 1000 and 2000 DPI. I use it at 1000 DPI for everyday tasks and switch it to 2000 DPI when doing more detailed work. When set to 4000 DPI I thought the mouse was way too sensitive. Initially I found the scroll roller and the main left and right buttons to be rather stiff, but after a couple weeks of use they have started to break-in and take less force to activate. The buttons have a crisp, precise click-feel to them. My MS mouse scroll roller has a tendency to jump a detent or two all by itself. A very annoying habit when you are trying to read an article. This mouse did not exhibit that annoying behavior. The Rival 100 has two programmable colored LEDs. One is located under the front logo and the other is located underneath the scroll roller. I ended up settling on a pulsating blue color to contrast with the bright yellow mouse body. Some games are said to be able to control these LEDs as well.

Cons: Considering the relative low cost for this gaming mouse, some minor cons are not unexpected. While the left side mounted thumb buttons had a nice crisp feel, I did not care for the sharp edges where the two side buttons meet each other. These sharp points need to be rounded-off. The rear-most, left side thumb button was located too far back on the mouse for my thumb to reach comfortably. I had to physically lift my hand off the mouse and move it forward in order to reach the rear, left-side button. As a result, this button was fairly useless and seldom got used. I would have also preferred soft rubber grips on the sides of the mouse in place of the hard textured plastic finish. It would also had been better if the mouse weighed a little more. These last two cons come down more to my personal preferences than actual design flaws.

Overall Review: After using this mouse for two weeks now, I am totally sold on it and will not be going back to my old MS wheel mouse. The reduced friction while sliding, improved tracking, smoother scrolling and programmable features all have me hooked on this new SteelSeries Rival 100 Gaming Mouse. My first mouse was a white, 2-button MS dove bar serial mouse I purchased over 30 years ago. An excellent product in its day, but like everything else, pointing devices have improved dramatically over the years. This mouse represents a huge leap forward in pointing device technology. While I am not big into gaming, I found this mouse to be superior even for everyday desktop computer work. While writing this review I found I could reposition my cursor more accurately in WordPerfect than I could with my previous mouse. I have never been a big fan of Bluetooth mice. While I own a few, they have a laggy feel when compared to a good wired desktop mouse. I have no problem recommending this mouse to novice gamers or for general desktop users. Advanced gamers will probably want to opt for a more high-end gaming mouse with more custom features. For my money this mouse represents the perfect balance between cost and function.

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Easy to Install - Your Results May Vary7/24/2016 8:55:13 AM

Pros: I reviewed the Linksys WRT004ANT High-Gain Antenna 4-Pack. This kit is also offered in a 2-Pack version. See below the advantages sited by the manufacturer Linksys below: + High-Gain antennas expand your WiFi network's coverage. + Omni-directional design increases coverage across the horizontal plane. + 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz dual-band support provides faster connections. + Quick, easy setup with threaded RP-SMA connection ports. + 2x Gain: Offers up to double the antenna gain of standard antennas. + Dual-Band: Delivers up to 4 dBi in the 2.4 GHz band and up to 7 dBi in the 5 GHz band. Item number two above is a very important point to consider. Note that these antennas offer increased gain in the horizontal plain, but at the expense of gain in the vertical realm. The short antennas supplied with most routers are designed for omni-directional use, in that they radiate and receive signals in a spherical pattern similar to a lollipop shape. When you install these high-gain antennas you are essentially compressing that omni-sphere into a flatter pancake-like antenna pattern and gaining more coverage in the horizontal plain. So you are trading vertical coverage for better horizontal coverage. For example: If your home is a ranch style, or your business is located all on one level, then these high-gain antennas could help to extend your WIFI coverage, to either end of your home or business. If on the other hand you own a smaller quad-level home like I do, then these antennas are less likely to help. With a multi-level home or business you may be better off to stick with the shorter omni-directional antennas, and install a second router, or additional booster(s), or repeater(s), on the other floor levels. If you have a large back yard, or live on a farm and wish to improve the coverage further out into your yard, then these antennas might help. I say might, because there are so many variables involved in every WIFI installation. The location of your router in relation to your portable devices. The type of materials your home or business are constructed out of, the number of floors or partitions the WIFI signals have to pass through. Metal air ducts, steel doors and beams can all deflect WIFI signals in weird ways. The list of possible WIFI interference problems is nearly endless. These antennas are well-constructed in that they have stiff rotating joints that prevent them from falling over and help to keep them in the recommended upright position.

Cons: The package contained four antennas and no instructions or suggestions on how to best use them. No antenna braces were included as with similar past kits from Linksys. A check of the vendors web site also did not turn-up any additional documentation. After I connected the four extended antennas in place of the four standard antennas on my Linksys E8350 AC router, the signal levels indicated on my laptops in my kitchen area actually dropped from four bars down to three and the data rate dropped accordingly as well. The signal in my back yard and garage did improve. So I gained signal at a distance of 50 feet or more, but lost signal strength in the near-zone. These antennas seem rather pricey considering their mostly plastic construction. For that reason I would carefully weigh the Pros and Cons before making your purchase. Please make sure you can return them if they do not help your particular WIFI situation. If you look at other reviews on the Internet and based on my own experience in testing these, you can expect mixed results. They either helped people’s WIFI issues, or they did not. There seemed to be little middle ground. If your intended use matches my distant horizontal coverage recommendations above, then give these a try. On the other hand if you also need vertical signal coverage, then I would look to other solutions. Given the retail price of this kit, you could use that money to buy a nice second router, repeater, or a signal booster. If you are considering adding a second router, be sure to include the cost of having your ISP install another cable to feed the Internet WAN signal to that second router. Also ask if you will be charged for the second WAN feed. Typically ISP’s don’t charge if they can use a an Ethernet switch to supply the Internet WAN signal to the second router.

Overall Review: Other solutions I have used successfully in my PC consulting business to solve weak WIFI issues include: Adding signal booster amplifiers, installing repeaters, or additional access points, and or installing directional WIFI antennas. While these extended length antennas can offer a viable solution when their limitations are taken into proper consideration, there are also other cost effective solutions available as noted above that might serve you better. If these Linksys antennas were less costly then I would not hesitate to recommend them. At the current price point, I would only recommend this kit when the limitations listed above have first been carefully considered.

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Verified Owner
Ownership: 1 week to 1 month
Quietest 80mm Fan on the Market6/17/2016 2:35:03 PM

Pros: Very quiet and long lasting. I have older computers I built 7 or more years ago with these fans coming back with failed capacitors on the motherboards, DOA HDD's, Etc, but the Arctic Cooling fans still work. Just make sure to get the fluid bearings when you order. They way outlast dual ball bearing motors.

Cons: Never been fond of the light weight 24-26 AWG wiring on these fans, but they seem to work. The exhaust only models with the rubber suspensions do not last as long as the solid frame models. The rubber supports crack and wear out.

Overall Review: For the money you can't find a better case fan. I recently replaced a noisy 80mm ball bearing fan in a mini- ITX server with one of these. The owner could not believe the difference in how quiet the server was with the new fan installed.

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OCZ Trion 150 (960GB) Great SSD Review5/18/2016 9:13:27 PM

Pros: I tested the OCZ Trion 150, 960GB, 2.5" wide format, model number TRN150-25SAT3-960G solid state drive (SSD). This SSD is large enough that you could use it for storing data on as a separate drive from your main boot SSD disk. As I already have a fast SSD boot disk, so I decided to replace my older mechanical (DATA) hard disk with this new 960GB SSD. My existing boot drive is a Samsung 850 Pro (256 GB) SSD. The advantages of this OCZ Trion 150 SSD drive are many: + Low Cost per Gigabyte Capacity + 960 GB Capacity, (nearly 1.0TB). + Can replace most Data HDD. + SATA-3 Interface Support. + 15nm TLC (Triple-Level Cell) NAND flash. + Toshiba Controller. + Sequential Read/Write: Up to 550/530 MB/s (Its Fast). + Random Read/Write (4KiB): Up to 87,000/83,000 IOPS. + Choice of capacities: 120GB, 240GB, 480GB, 960GB + Slim 2.5" format: 7mm height for compatibility with thin notebooks. + Lower power consumption compared to HDD for longer laptop battery life. + 3-Year Advanced Warranty Program. + Downloadable Free SSD Management Software. The drive installed and full-formatted without any issues under Windows 7 Pro 64-bit.

Cons: Note these are mostly minor cons: Given the large display box the drive arrived packaged-in, I was surprised that the kit did not contain any: software disc, screws, or a 2.5" to 3.5" adapter mounting bracket. If you are installing into a laptop, you won’t need any screws or a mounting adapter. The included instruction manual was a multi-language booklet that was printed using a very small 6-pt font. A little hard to read for us senior citizens. Thankfully an easy to read PDF version is available for download from the manufacturers website. See the link below under Other: In regards to the formatting instructions the manual could have been clearer on whether to perform a quick format, or a full format. Being from the old school I am all for exercising all of the new bits, so I did a full format and was surprised that it took almost an hour for this SSD drive to complete the formatting process. Some other SSD drives that I have recently run full formats on seem to complete the process in a matter of seconds, leading me to suspect that they simply ignored the full-format command and instead performed a quick format. The OCZ Trion150 does not come with any Acronis® True Image™ cloning software per OCZ’s web site. As a work-around if you have licensed cloning software from one of the major HDD vendors, as long as you have one of their HDD drives installed as the source drive, it should allow you to clone to the OCZ Trion 150 SSD. There are also free downloadable cloning tools available.

Overall Review: My test system had the following specs: AMD FX-8350 (8-Core, 4000MHz Turbo CPU), Gigabyte 990FXA-UD3 M/B, with 16.0GB G. Skill, Dual-Channel DDR3-1866 DRAM, AMD Radeon HD-7700 Series GPU (1000MHz) graphics card. The OCZ drive was readily recognized by my Gigabyte motherboard BIOS and by the drive manager in Windows 7 Pro 64-bit. If you are in a rush to get your new SSD up and running, due to its large capacity, I would just run the default “quick format” in the Windows drive manager. You can find the OCZ SSD management software located at: http://ocz.com/us/download/ The OCZ Toshiba SSD Management utility was a well designed, easy to use application. I ran the built-in benchmark and got the following results: Sequential Read Speed = 525 MB/Sec // Sequential Write Speed = 422 MB/Sec. Random Reads = 243 MB/Sec // Random Writes = 90 MB/Sec. The Dashboard Overview tab in the SSD Management utility provided very helpful basic information including: that the SSD connected to a 6GB/Sec SATA-III interface, was operating in ACPI mode, that the drive’s firmware was up to date (v12.2), how much storage capacity was in-use and available, whether any over-provisioning was in effect, the drive’s operating temperature, and that the drive’s health (SMART) results tested okay. There was also an alert window, that said “no alerts”. When I ran the over-provisioning wizard I got an error saying the over-provisioning feature could not run on my SSD, because it “failed to interpret the drive format”. This is probably because I had already copied a substantial amount (541 GB) of data to the new drive. Normally you should try to create the over-provisioning partition before you copy any data to a new SSD. I did not think to download the management utility until after I had been using the OCZ Trion 150 for several days. I used Allway Sync to copy all of my data from my old E:\Data Disk (HDD) to the new D:\OCZ (SSD). If you are copying an operating system boot disk, then you should use cloning software. While the Samsung Magician SSD utility was able to display info about the Toshiba Trion 150 SSD and run benchmarks on it, the OCZ/Toshiba SSD Utility would not even acknowledge the presence of the Samsung Pro SSD on the same system. The Samsung Magician actually provided slightly better benchmark results fore the OCZ Trion 150, than Toshiba’s benchmark utility did at: 552 Seq Reads and 460 Seq Writes. The OCZ SSD slightly exceeded the Seq Write speed of my existing Samsung 850 Pro (256GB), with 480 vs. 497MB/Sec for the OCZ. Most of the other benchmark results were very evenly matched, which suggests that the SATA-III interface maybe the speed limiting bottle neck on my system. Very interesting as they say! The Toshiba SSD Utility was noticeably missing any kind of TRIM or performance optimizing tool. The Samsung Magician does have a built-in optimizing tool, but it only works on Samsung branded SSD’s. I found the current Auslogics Disk Defragger version 6.1.x.x (which is a widely available, freeware, HDD/SSD disk optimizer/defragger utility), has a nice SSD Optimizer and TRIM utility built into it. I typically only run an SSD optimizing tool once or twice a year on my SSD drives. Running them more frequently has reportedly been known to wear out the flash cell bits prematurely. Although most modern SSD have wear averaging utilities built into their controllers, I still tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to running TRIM/Optimizers. Never run an old style HDD defragger on a modern SSD, or you may wear out your SSD memory cells sooner, with little or no speed improvement. With the above benchmark results I believe that OCZ now has a highly competitive SSD product given the transfer speeds I obtained while comparing the OCZ Trion 150 (960GB) against my existing Samsung Pro 850 (256) SSD, (which BTW is a highly regarded SSD by the industry). If you extrapolate the cost of the OCZ Trion 150 (960GB) against a similar sized 1TB Samsung 850 Pro, there is simply no comparison price-wise. The OCZ Trion 150 is hands-down the runaway bargain SSD in that contest. Highly recommended!

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Corsair H100i v2 Water Cooler Review3/13/2016 1:28:08 PM

Pros: I tested the Corsair Hydro Series™ H100i v2 Extreme Performance Water / Liquid CPU Cooler kit. This kit is designed to replace your standard CPU heat sink fan (air-cooled) with a water-cooled system. Water cooling while more complex, has the potential to carry more heat away from your CPU than air does. If the goal is to reduce the temperature of the CPU processor to enable or improve on the over-clocking experience, or to eliminate CPU clock throttling caused by weak OEM HSF units, water cooling can help. The increased cooling can also allow for greater over-clocking on existing systems. Note over-clocking is dependent on many variables and your speed improvements may vary. IBM mainframes used water cooling for years. So its a proven method for cooling advanced CPU's Corsair water cooling kits are sold in either single or double-wide fan/radiator configurations. Generally speaking the more fans the greater the cooling capacity. Please note that higher capacity kits tend to have higher RPM fans, which can generate more noise. The model H100i v2 kit has a dual 120mm fan radiator and is one of the higher cooling capacity rated kits that Corsair offers. As a result it takes up more space inside the computer case than a single fan radiator kit. The kit's cold plate/pumping unit is compatible with the following processor sockets: Intel LGA 1151 Intel LGA 1150 Intel LGA 1155 Intel LGA 1156 Intel LGA 1366 Intel LGA 2011 Intel LGA 2011-3 AMD AM2 AMD AM3 AMD FM1 AMD FM2 The kit is well-made and the hoses are designed to rotate where they attach to the cold plate/pump unit for more flexibility during installation. The radiator hoses are fixed and do not rotate where they attach to the radiator unit. The hoses appear to be made out of durable material. USB Link monitoring software can be downloaded free of charge from Corsair. More on this Link App later. The cold plate has a mirror polished copper base to enhance heat transfer between it and the CPU. It comes coated with the common gray heat sink dope that is designed to melt and flow at normal CPU temperatures to improve heat transfer. It's best not to scrimp on the purchase price of one of these water cooling kits. Water and computers obviously do not mix and the last thing you want is a hose or water block springing a leak and spraying water all over your expensive computer electronics. From my past experience in using the Corsair kits, they are well-made and will not leak when installed in the manner recommended by the manufacturer. While you can purchase your own home-brew: water blocks, pumps, hoses and radiators and build your own custom water cooling system, you always run the risk of separate components developing leaks, airlocks and eventually destroying your high-end system. The ready made kits like those from Corsair and other vendors with their factory-sealed water loops are the most cost-effective and the best way to go in my personal experience as a system builder. The Corsair H100i v2 kit includes: 1) Dual fan - 240mm radiator, 2) 120mm PWM Fans (rated 2400 RPM @ 37.7 db-A scale), 1) Cold Plate/Pump Unit, Mounting Brackets, Mounting Hardware, sealed cooling loop, and installation guide. Monitoring/control software can be downloaded separately from Corsair's support web site. Corsair recommends to attach the included Corsair Link USB cable to a spare USB header on your motherboard and then download the free Corsair USB Link software to control the following features: You can customize cooling performance, monitor coolant and CPU temperatures, and change the color of the RGB LED lighting from the default white to match your system, or to change color based on temperature readings and other inputs. This definitely adds to the coolness factor! With a sealed loop system there is no need to ever top-off the water level due to leakage or evaporation. System maintenance is thereby reduced and reliability is increased. Sealed loop systems are the most cost-effective, versus custom built cooling loops. These positives all make sealed loop systems the smart way to go for those new to system building.

Cons: The larger diameter hoses used on the Corsair H100i v2 kit, while offering better water circulation capacity, have the downside of being rather stiff and hard to bend. Due to the degree of stiffness, I am a little bit concerned about the amount of torque load being applied to the water block and eventually to the motherboard. Some motherboards may warp more easily than others. One solution might be to soak the hoses in hot water just prior to installation to help soften them up for easier forming. While this is a minor con, I thought it bore an explanation. Corsair's motherboard fan wiring only supports 3-wire fan connections. The fourth blue fan lead that normally allows your motherboard to use Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) to regulate the CPU fan speed is not included in the Corsair fan header harness that connects in place of your CPU fan connection. Note the plug will still connect to a standard 4-pin CPU fan header to supply 12 VDC power to the pump and radiator fan. Additional circuitry located inside the water block takes over for the PWM fan control on your motherboard and relies on the Corsair Link App to control the radiator fans speeds. If you don't download and install the recommended Corsair Link App, your fans will default to operating at full speed and can generate a considerable amount of fan noise in this mode. Just a guess, but this might be the source of the noise complaints from other reviewers. With the USB Link App installed I would recommend to set the fans to the mid-level speed setting for the best compromise between fan noise and cooling efficiency. The fan output cabling due to its parallel design only has the ability to monitor one of the two connected radiator fans for rotational speed. If the fan connected to the end of the fan cable were to seize-up, the monitoring software would never detect the problem, because the 3rd tachometer lead connection is missing from part of the fan harness. This is a cost saving compromise to eliminate the need for a second fan control channel and cable. Lastly, Corsair recommends to mount the radiator fans installed to pull air into the case, versus exhausting it outward. In their instruction guide they diagram the radiator mounted to the underside of a case top with the two fans then mounted underneath the radiator to form an assembly. This goes against common sense in my opinion. Heat rises in tower cases and tends to stagnate near the top inside of the case. Every tower case I have ever worked with was designed to pull air in through the lower front panel and lower sides of the case and then exhaust the hot air out through the top, or via a high, rear mounted case fan. This is done to improve cooling for the hard drives and graphics card(s) and this system then relies on a top mounted, or high mounted rear case fan(s) to pull any accumulated heat upward and out of the case. With good air flow the temperature inside the case should remain only few degrees above the room ambient temperature where the system is located. Reversing this normal air flow direction effectively kills the chimney effect that occurs inside the case and can result in a higher internal case temperatures in my experience. Yes pulling outside ambient air over the radiator does help its cooling efficiency, but at the cost of a poorly ventilated tower case? I don't think its worth the bother to disrupt the normal case airflow patterns for a slight improvement in the water cooling system efficiency. I have achieved better cooling results with these water cooling kits by mounting the fans to the underside of the case top, then mounting the radiator to the underside of the fans. I install the fans to pull air up through the radiator and then exhaust it out the top of the case. This maintains the case designer's preferred airflow pattern, while still providing good airflow across the Corsair radiator. While this may make the assembly process more cumbersome, I believe the final results are well worth the added effort. Keep in mind that radiators generally perform best when the air mover is mounted to pull air through the radiator, versus trying to push air through the radiator. This also results in lower fan noise that the added turbulence would cause.

Overall Review: Unfortunately the 240mm radiator supplied in the Corsair H100i v2 kit was too thick to fit into my existing Antec 300 v2 midsize tower case. Typically you will need a mid-tower case or larger, with a bottom mounted power supply and two 120mm top mounted fans. This Corsair kit is designed to replace those two top-mounted fans. Because heat naturally rises, these kits work best if they are mounted on the underside of the top case cover. My Antec 300 case meets this criteria, however my Gigabyte 990 chipset motherboard places the AMD 8350, 8-core processor, too close to the inside top cover of the case. This should not be an issue on most Intel motherboard layouts. This resulted in a lack of vertical clearance for the Corsair radiator unit with both fans mounted. The H100i v2 kit that I tested requires 3" (75mm) of clearance between the processor and the top inside of the case. You will also need to be weary of protruding voltage regulator heat sinks, tall capacitors, DRAM cards and other large motherboard components, that are mounted near the top edge of the motherboard, that could interfere with the 240mm radiator/fan units supplied with these kits. I considered cutting out a portion the top perforated integral fan grills on my case to allow the water hoses and cold block to pass through and then mounting the fan/radiator unit externally for the test session. After some consideration I decided it was not worth the added expense of destroying a perfectly good case for the purpose of a single review. The final nail in the coffin on doing this review was the need to completely remove the motherboard to mount the cold plate/pump unit mounting brackets. Obviously it is easier to install these kits on a new build, before the motherboard/CPU are installed into the case. Would be nice if Corsair could come up with a retention lever mounting system that could work with the existing AMD motherboard CPU mounts, thus eliminating the need to remove the motherboard from the case. This would reduce the amount of time needed for retrofitting existing AMD systems. My experience with the Corsair H100i v2 cooling kit stresses the need to carefully measure the clearances needed to fit one of these kits into an existing system case, or to exercise care in selecting a new case to be compatible with the water cooling kit you wish to purchase. Alternatively in the worst case scenario have a Premier membership or similar account that allows you to return items that don't fit at little or no-charge. In conclusion based on my past experience of installing these Corsair water cooling kits for some of my clients, the single fan units are the most compatible, because they take up the least amount of internal case volume. If you are custom building a high-end gaming system, be sure to over-size your case height/depth to allow enough room for the planned water cooling system to mount. I have used a number of the Corsair kits over the years and have never had one come back due to water leakage, or any other defects. In my experience a single fan unit will work fine with processors that draw up to 125 Watts TDP. With a high-end, or older processor that exceeds 125 Watts TDP, I would recommend to use a dual-fan water cooler. If you are looking for a good low-maintenance, sealed-loop, water cooling kit I would not hesitate to recommend any of the current Corsair models. They are all well engineered to their individual price points and offer excellent value for your money.

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Worked Great As Expected!2/28/2016 10:28:09 PM

Pros: I tested two standard duty WD30EFRX Red 3TB NAS Hard Disk Drives (HDD) by Western Digital. WD also markets a heavier duty "Pro" version of their Red NAS drive series. This product's outstanding features include: Intellipower Motor Control SATA 6 Gb/s - Interface Transfer Rate 64MB Memory Cache 3.5 Inch Form Factor Low Heat Output/Low Power Consumption/Low Vibration Operation POR of 8,760 hours/year (24 x 7 operation) (MTBF) rating of 1,000,000 hours Up to 8-bay network attached storage (NAS) applications 3D Active Balance Plus Deployment Type: Table-top; Light workload NAS Lets start by going over some of the features listed above. First off, what is Intellipower? I have studied this term over the years and it seems to mean whatever WD marketing wants it to mean, depending on the particular drive model. In other words its more of a marketing term than a spec. WD's past marketing information stated: "A fine-tuned balance of spin speed, transfer rate and caching algorithms designed to deliver both significant power savings and solid performance". It generally refers to hard disk drives that spin slower than 7,200 RPM. These Red drives are thought to operate at between 5,000 and 5,900 RPM, with 5,400 being the most often stated RPM. The specs on WD's website simply state "Intellipower" for the RPM spec. No actual RPM speed is officially stated. Perhaps a WD rep could clear this confusion up? The SATA 6 Gb/Sec is the maximum interface speed. This is usually a buffer to buffer data rate between the drive and its host. The actual average measured sustained data transfer rate I saw according to published benchmarks is around 112 Mb/Sec. These drives are designed to be used in near-line NAS storage devices in a home or small office networking environment. They are not designed for OS boot drives in a desktop, unless you like waiting for your Windows and or programs to load. They could be used as a second "data" drive however in a desktop. When used in their proper application in a 1-8 disk Network Attached Storage (NAS) system they are ideal. In that application throughput is going to limited mostly by the network transfer speed. Durability becomes a more important factor. By operating at a reduced speed of 5,400 RPM, heat output, power consumption, wear and tear are all reduced as compared to a standard 7,200 RPM desktop drive. According to Tom's Hardware these Red drives have a Power On Rating (POR) of 8,760 hours/year and are rated for 24 x 7 continuous operation. After being in the computer business for over 35 years I have learned to take HDD MTBF ratings with a grain of salt. They are generally so over-rated as to be an almost meaningless spec. So ignore them when selecting a hard drive for your particular application. These standard "Red" drives are rated for use in up to 8-Bay NAS devices. Use the Pro series "Red" drives in larger arrays that use up to 16 drives. The reason for this is the NASware v3.0 firmware installed inside these drives is optimized to work best in arrays of 1-8 drives. What differentiates WD red drives from other desktop drive models is their Time Limited Error Recovery (TLER) spec. This WD firmware spec limits drive timeouts to less than 8 seconds. Longer time-outs could cause a RAID controller to think the drive is offline. The RAID controller might then mark the drive as defective, when it's really not. Drives have to take time-out breaks from time to time just like people do, to perform internal maintenance. During a time-out they move data from weak sectors to unused good sectors, to maintain the integrity of the data stored on their platters. It's a form of internal housekeeping. This internal maintenance is usually performed when the drives are idling and not being accessed. 3D Active Balance Plus is a system that can detect and counter vibrations generated by other nearby hard drives as is common in tightly packed NAS cases.

Cons: My Test Setup - I tested these two WD Red drives in a Seagate SOHO NAS box I keep in my basement. I had to remove the four existing 2 TB Seagate NAS drives to make room for the two new 3 TB WD Red drives. Keep in mind that these comments are not really cons, but more or less my general observations between the new and the old drives. First off the WD Red drives run noticeably cooler. I know this because the fan in the Seagate NAS only runs at the idle speed now with the two red drives installed. With the two red drives operating the fan just purrs along quietly. With the four older circa 2014 Seagate NAS 2 TB drives, the fan was working much harder, especially when the system was put under a heavy work load. Obviously to be fair, four drives are going to generate 2x more heat than only two drives do. But by opening one of the unused drive bays doors I can reach inside the NAS box and feel the top of the #2 WD Red drive and it barely feels warm to the touch! There is also almost no vibration either. This bodes well for the Red drive's longevity. Keep in mine that heat and vibration are two of the greatest threats to hard drive longevity. When I first shutdown my NAS and removed the four Seagate drives they were noticeably warmer to the touch by comparison. The only real Con here is the increased access noise with the WD Red drives. When these Red drives are seeking, they are perceptibly louder than the original Seagate drives. The four Seagate drives were very quiet. The cooling fan made more noise than the four original drives did. Now when I say louder these new Red drives are nothing like the older WD-640 GB Black drives from 5-6 years ago. You could hear those buzzing across a room. No these Red drives make a very mild clunking sound when in operation. If the cooling fan were running as fast as it was with the previous four drives, then you could not even hear these new WD Red drives. So the noise output is really not an issue to be concerned with when choosing these WD drives over a competitor's. Most NAS units live in utility closets where they are out of ear shot. At the time of testing I was sitting right next to my NAS unit.

Overall Review: I was impressed by the shear weight of these Red drives when I first picked one up. While not quite as heavy as the previous "Pro" series red drives I tested, they were still a lot heavier than most desktop drives that I currently work with. More weight in a hard drive generally equates to better quality and longevity. Per WD's request the drives were mounted in a 4-bay NAS unit during all my testing. My Seagate SOHO NAS runs a custom version of Linux designed for NAS devices. Linux is loosely based on the UNIX operating system. The original NAS system as it came from Seagate used four Seagate 2 TB NAS drives and was setup for RAID-5 operation. RAID-5 uses a stripping system to write data to three drives, while the fourth drive is used for parity checking. This allows you to swap out one defective drive at a time, without losing any data. Since I only had two Red drives to work with I opted for a RAID-1 configuration, which writes identical data to both drives. This method is also known as data mirroring. If one of the two drives was to fail, my data would be automatically backed-up on the second drive. RAID-0 is another option that stripes the data to both drives and in theory is supposed to provide faster read/write performance, but at the cost of data security. With normal network transfer rates, you probably would not notice much difference in the transfer speeds and would be putting your data at severe risk in the event one of the drives was to fail. Keep in mind all hard disk drives fail eventually, so always backup your data. The overall capacity of my NAS was reduced from 8 TB down to 3 TB with the new RAID-1 mirroring setup. The Seagate 4-Bay NAS had no problems formatting and setting up the new Red drives and was backup and running in under an hour. This process included installing updated firmware and re-downloading the Seagate NAS OS. BTW: I have been very impressed by the ease of operation of this 4-bay NAS from Seagate and NewEgg. So how did the Red drives work out? Data transfers over a network are always hard to pin down. Network congestion, file size/types, packet sizes, and the client/servers being used for the data transfer, all play into the final equation. I have a 1.0 Gb/Sec wired Ethernet in my home office. The Seagate NAS seemed noticeably slower with only two drives installed versus the previous 4-drive, RAID-5 setup, which is to be expected. Copying 31.2 GB of MP4 video files from another NAS, running NAS4Free BSD UNIX (also located in my basement), to the Seagate NAS took 17 minutes. Copying 10.0 GB of video FLI files between the two NAS boxes only took 3 minutes and 30 seconds by comparison. This worked out to an average transfer rate of 42 Mb/Sec, per Windows Explorer. Backing up my desktop's Windows 7 SSD boot disk, (on a 4 GHz, AMD 8-core workstation), produced an average data transfer speed of 405.8 Mb/Sec, according to Macrium Reflect. There are so many variables at work here I really hate to quote any data transfer rates. Please note all testing was done during the daytime and on a weekend, when my network was only seeing a light work load. I have seen transfer speeds in excess of 900 Mb/Sec on my network. So it all depends! The two WD standard Red drives performed as expected with no issues to complain about. Their overall cool, quiet operation speaks highly of their excellent quality. While these standard Red drives include a 3-year warranty, if you are running a larger business, you might want to look at the Pro duty Red series, or even the Registered Enterprise (RE) series hard drives from Western Digital. Those more expensive drives carry a 5-year warranty. The drives you choose will depend upon your application. For SOHO use these standard Red drives are just fine and are offered at a lower price point. Filling a 4-8 bay NAS can be an expensive proposition, so any money you save on HDD's can be well worth it. I recommend using a 4-8 bay NAS in the RAID-5 configuration, which requires four Red HDD's. A RAID-5 disk configuration provides improved data speed with superior protection against data loss. Highly recommended!

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A Great Product - Easy to Setup & Use1/10/2016 11:20:10 AM

Pros: I tested the TP-LINK - Google OnHub Dual-Band Wireless AC1900 Gigabit Router. I received the blue colored model for my testing. One thing I really like about this router is its appearance; gone are the ugly antennas sticking out that make other routers look like something out of B-rated science fiction movie. The OnHub has 13 internal WIFI antennas in total. Six for the low band, six for the high band and one for detecting and correcting local WIFI congestion. Some of the outstanding features include: WIFI-AC1900 2.4/5.0 GHz Dual band support An Easy Smart Phone Setup App The App supports both Android & Mac Smart Phones 13 Internal WIFI Antennas Memory: 4GB of eMMC, 1GB DDR3L, 8 MB NOR USB 3.0* Support Gigabit Ethernet LAN Support Bluetooth Smart Ready Built-in 3-Watt Audio Speaker Trusted Platform Module - Infineon SLB 9615 ZigBee local wireless mesh networking support* Accepts other decorative outer covers To install the OnHub: Begin by connecting the WAN and power cables, then download the OnHub installation App to either an Android, or a Mac Smart Phone. For an Android phone simply visit the Google App store. The App will request the usual onerous permissions to detect your location, snoop your phone's directory, Etc. After agreeing to these requests and entering your desired WIFI password the OnHub App will prompt you to hold your phone near the OnHub's top mounted speaker. The OnHub then communicates with your phone using audio signals that sound similar an old fashioned dial-up modem. The OnHub also has an LED light ring near the top that glows different colors depending on its current status. Red and amber both indicate problems, while a soft blue/green glow signals that all-is-well. The Android App also has an Internet benchmark speed test and an advanced features setup menu. The App can be used to set one of your portable devices as a preferred WIFI device for a specified period of time. This would be useful if you wanted to view a movie on a tablet without interruptions from other nearby WIFI devices. You can also control the LED brightness, view the OnHub's current status, any connected devices, trigger a restart, or perform a factory reset to the OnHub, all via the remote control phone App. Firmware and software updates are also handled by the phone App's intelligent user interface.

Cons: *It's not a finished product. The USB 3.0 port does nothing, the ZigBee support is turned off, will Google add voice control commands?, Etc. This also begs the question will it ever be completed? Google worked with TP-Link and Asus to co-develop the OnHub hardware. They plan to turn-on additional features via future firmware/software updates. That's nice, but Google has a long history of starting new projects and then abandoning them before they are ever completed. I would caution potential OnHub buyers to weigh spending $200.00 for an OnHub router until after Google and TP-Link turn-on more of the promised features and show they are truly committed to this new router platform technology. I had a problem getting the outer blue cover off of my OnHub so I could access the wiring jacks. No setup directions are provided in the box and you have to get the outer cover off in order to access the: WAN, LAN and power jacks. Google and TP-Link's OnHub websites were not much help either. I finally found a tear-down site that showed the OnHub with its cover removed. I was able to discern by the photos that it uses a bayonet locking mechanism. Pushing down and turning counter-clockwise real-hard finally broke the stubborn cover loose from its mounts. After that it was a cinch to hookup. Given its size and cost: the lack of a hard drive bay, SD card slot, or a working USB 3.0 port for connecting an external hard drive or a networked printer; I subtracted half an egg from the OnHub. The unit is large enough it would be nice if it had a hidden bay that you could slip in either an: SD, SSD, M.2, or an mSATA card to provide centralized NAS storage similar to a Mac Airport router. If you own: a Windows home server, a NAS server, or hard-wired Ethernet connected printer(s) in your SOHO that require fixed IP addresses, there is presently no way to assign a fixed IP range for these networked devices. They are normally assigned a fixed IP address above or below the normal DHCP range. There is also no way to specify a Windows workgroup name for your LAN. These are both oversights that are going to limit the real-world SOHO uses for an On-Hub in a Windows based peer to peer networking environment. Hopefully these and other shortfalls can be addressed in a future software update for the OnHub.

Overall Review: A lot of reviewers have complained about the fact the OnHub only has one Ethernet LAN jack. I really don't have an issue with that. Many users already own an Ethernet switch, or an existing 4-port router in their home or office that could be pressed into service. So simply run a patch cable from the OnHub's Ethernet out jack to a LAN switch located in an out of the way location, or inside a cabinet where all the wires are all kept out-of-site. The 4-ports provided on most routers are too few to be of much use anyways. I have a 16-port gigabit switch located in my den, where it and its connected wiring spaghetti are all kept mostly out-of-sight. I think that Google is on the right track here. I was able to place the OnHub out in the open in my family room, where it was closer to where we actually use our portable WIFI devices and provides better overall WIFI reception. As an EggExpert I have tested a lot of high-end AC routers in the past few years and the OnHub has so far provided the fastest, strongest, most consistent WIFI-AC connections to our various laptops, tablets and smart phones, as compared to any other router I have tested to-date. I ran the OnHub concurrently with another $200 WIFI-AC router. When I pull into my driveway after work, my Android phone automatically seeks out and connects to the stronger OnHub WIFI signal. My wife has noticed that her Android based Nexus-7 tablet now has a more stable Internet connection via the OnHub. Our previous AC router would cause the signal strength indicator to continually rise and fall and constantly drop connections to her tablet. The OnHub feels more like being connected to a hard-wired Ethernet connection than it does to WIFI. The OnHub automatically optimizes and determines the best frequency band and channel to use for a given WIFI device connected to it . If you are a power-user, I guarantee that you will be totally frustrated with the OnHub's lack of an onboard web site and the associated myriad of settings, that you would normally be able to tweak via your desktop or laptop browser. I subtracted another half an egg for this missing feature. Hopefully Google will add a built-in web site at a future date. Also if you don't have access to an Android or Mac smart phone you should take a pass on buying an OnHub. On the other-hand if you are a new-user, a technophobe, or Mac user, I can highly recommend the Google OnHub for its setup simplicity, fast WIFI connections and ease-of-use. If you are interested in using the USB 3.0 port for NAS storage, or the ZigBee home automation, or the Smart Bluetooth features, I would hold-off purchasing an OnHub until after Google activates these and other promised future software features. Highly recommended; provided the reader is aware of the device's current feature limitations.

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Junk Pure & Simple12/13/2015 1:39:15 AM

Pros: Has four DIMM slots that is one of the features that sold me on this board. I hear the DisplayPort does not work. I did not install the Killer utility, just the driver and the throughput is less than I normally get on my gigabit network when backing up the SSD hard disk, which you should do often with this system, since its so unstable. MSI would be better off to buy an Award BIOS rather than trying to bake their own.

Cons: Things were going smooth until I tried to reduce the excessive BIOS boot time by disabling some of the unused boot devices. Then the system froze after hitting F10 and rebooting and sat there dead for several minutes. Clearing the CMOS got it to boot-up again with a warning that it had recovered from a serious error. Then it could not find the Windows boot sector and I had to reset the boot sector device again. Eventually I was able to get the BIOS set the way I wanted, but it was an extremely clunky experience. Seems unstable at the rated DDR3-2133 with RAM rated at 11-11-11-30 at 1.6VDC? Wants to fallback to DDR-1600 which is unacceptable. Unstable at XMS-1 with G. Skill DDR-3. The worst part about this motherboard is the front panel connector JFP1. The pins are non-standard spacing and too short on this connector, so the case front panel cables keep falling off. Wasted almost an hour of time trying to get the connectors to slide on, only to discover the spacing was too close together and the pins are too short to support the connectors properly. I wondered whjy them pins kept bending. The large cover over the Southbridge further impedes access to this connector. MSI ought to provide a pin holder like Asus does to fix this manufacturing mistake. I can't send a build out to a cutomer with the power switch cable contantly falling off because the pins are too short! This is an unmitigated disaster! Something on this motherboard causes utility programs like Speccy to misread the CPU temperature. It constantly indicates a high CPU temperature over 180°F., even though when you view it in the BIOS it is normal 116°F. The heat sink also measures a normal temperature with an infrared meter. Not sure waht to make of this one? The CPU is seated properly against the socket base. Unless that is out of spec as well?

Overall Review: Been building systems since the 1980's and this has to be one of the worst motherboards I have ever worked with.

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Manufacturer Response:
Dear William, Sorry to hear about the issue you reported. Regarding your issue, can you ensure you have latest BIOS update provided from our website www.msi.com for best result? Also can you contact our MSI support team directly and provide us with your motherboard full serial number and system hardware's configurations so that we can help provide you with best support possible. Please do not hesitate to contact us directly at usreview@msi.com or at our support phone number 626-271-1004 M-F 6am to 6pm pst. and we will be more than happy to assist you, thank you. Thanks for choosing MSI Best Regards, MSI Review Team | usreview@msi.com
iRulu GT08 Bluetooth Smart Watch10/9/2015 6:04:44 AM

Pros: I tested the iRulu GT108 Bluetooth Smart Watch. The iRulu GT08 is really two devices in one. It can be used as a freestanding digital wristwatch and/or it can also act as a remote extension of your Android or iOS smart phone. This latter function requires that it be paired via Bluetooth to your Android, or iOS smart phone. I tested it with a Galaxy Tab III smart phone. It includes a USB cable, and a tiny instruction book. Some of the features/functions include: Alarm clock HD Audio & Video Recording/Playback Bluetooth 3.0 support Calculator Cell Phone Dialer Contact Manager Digital Camera (2MP) Email Reader/Writer Google Chrome Browser Internet radio Pedometer Music Player Near Field Card (NFC) Data Exchange Perpetual Calendar QR Bar Code Display* Sedentary Health Reminder Sleep Quality Monitor SMS Sync Mode (Android Only) 2x Stop Watch Modes Time & Date Display Watch/Smart Phone Finder World Time Display As you can see by the above list, this smart watch supports a large number of features/functions. This is not even a complete list. One thing to keep in mind is that many of these functions piggyback off the Bluetooth connection on your smart phone. These added functions will not be available when not paired with, or when out-of-range of your smart phone’s Bluetooth connection. The watch is charged by attaching the included USB cable to any USB port. The charge port also acts as a data transfer port. Both Windows XP/7 could talk to this smart watch for transferring files. *To use it with your smart phone, the watch requires that you download and install an App called BT-Notifier. The watch can be set via one of its menu icons to display a QR code that you can then scan with your smart phone. This will generate a URL that will take your phone’s browser to a site where it can download the BT-Notifier App. This App allows the watch to communicate with your smart phone via Bluetooth. In this mode the watch becomes an extension of your smart phone. So for example, you could keep your smart phone in your purse or pocket, while still accessing many of its common functions via the smart watches remote touch display; more on this later. The watch has a sharp, anti-sweat coated, 240 x 240 pixel (1” x 1”) 1.54” diagonal capacitive touch screen. The watch includes a beefy, replaceable, 350 mAh polymer battery to power it. Both the battery and SIM socket are accessed by prying off the bottom cover. The MTK6260A processor was very responsive to my touch screen commands. Simply put the amount of technology crammed into such a small device is simply mind boggling! I thought the cost to performance ratio was excellent as compared to other similar Android and iOS offerings.

Cons: The instruction book provided was written in Chinese language translated into English. As such the grammar was a little awkward. The main problem was that it was written in a 4-Pt font. I found it hard to read even with a magnifier glass. So I went online to iRulu’s website hoping to find a PDF version, however none was available that I could locate. This was very disappointing as there are many functions that I do not fully understand and would love to test. Many of the functions on the watch require a place to read and write the generated data. In some cases the watch seems to be able to use the Bluetooth link to store its data on your smart phone. In other cases it complained that it lacked a built-in SIM card for local storage. No SIM card was provided with my review sample. A search of NewEgg.com using the term “SIM”, turned-up about 10 different low-cost SIM cards, with varying specs and services. These SIM cards seemed more orientated towards unlocked smart phones than for use in a smart watch. With no SIM specs provided by iRulu, I would have no idea what type of SIM card to purchase to be compatible with this smart watch. I am wondering why they don’t just use a more common MicroSD card for the local storage? The time keeping accuracy on my review sample was very poor. After setting the watch down for about a week while out of town, I came back to write this review and found the time was off by nearly an hour. After a quick sync with my smart phone the watch then matched the correct time on my Galaxy Tab. The silicone watch band made my wrist sweat during humid weather or workouts. The band was also awkward to fasten. There is no mention of the watch being waterproof, so use caution when washing your hands for example.

Overall Review: Being a large man with fat fingers I found the watches tiny touch display frustrating to work with. I kept hitting nearby keys that I did not want. I also tried using the stylus that came with my Galaxy Tab smart phone, but the watch would not respond to it. Just trying to set the date and time was an act of utter frustration. The trick to this is to install the BT-Notifier App on your phone and allow the watch to sync with the time and date on your phone. You will still need to specify the time zone in the watch setup menu to get the correct location time. To operate the watch function, simply press the crown knob in on the right side of the watch. This activates the display back-light. By tapping the resulting clock display twice quickly, you can alternate between three different analog watch face styles. Note: The two smaller dials on the chronograph time display were faked dials that lacked any moving hands. They still looked cool though. I was surprised the watch did not offer a retro LED style digital time readout? They could even offer the LED’s in three different colors like: blue, green, or red. To bring up the main menu screen, just hold the crown button in for a few seconds. This home screen has menu and tool icons on it. To access the App menu screens you simply swipe from side to side on the time display or main menu screen. Three App menu screens are available with eight different round function icons displayed on each screen. These App menus are how you access many of the functions listed under the Pros section above. Swiping downward opens a menu similar to most Android smart phones with icons for turning on and off airplane mode, BT mode, controlling the display brightness, muting the internal speaker, viewing notifications, Etc. While the IRulu GT08 was a fun device to play with, I have to question other than a conversation piece, what it’s really good for? It duplicates most standard functions already found on your smart phone, only on a mini-sized display screen that is difficult to operate and harder to read? My Galaxy Tab has an over-sized screen so I am kind of spoiled in that respect. If you are dying for an iFruit watch, but can’t afford the cost, then this might serve as pacifier until you can save-up for the more expensive brand. This product is definitely aimed at the younger techno crowd, gadget hounds, early adopters and similar type users. I think it could make a great stocking stuffer for under $50.00. I would have liked to have seen more bio-metric features implemented, as well as some more advanced Apps and a way to add new Android Apps and features beyond those already installed. I am afraid that many of the finer functions were lost to me on this product due to the poor documentation and lack of a SIM card. If I learn more I will be sure to update this review in the future.

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The Amazing Brix Mini-PC10/4/2015 5:00:08 PM

Pros: This Gigabyte Brix mini-PC is very well built and well worth the discounted price I paid for it on NewEgg. I was wondering why it was so heavy. After taking it all apart to solve an over-heating issue, I soon found out why. It has two massive copper heat sinks mounted like a sandwich in the center of the case and almost as large as the case itself. One cools the CPU and the other cools the power supply regulators. The unit supports mSATA drives and still has space left over for a 2.5" SSD/HDD or a laptop sized hard disk. It also includes WIFI-AC and Bluetooth support. I connected my Brix to an older 24" Dell 1920 x 1200 DPI monitor by using a DisplayPort to DVI adapter that cost less than $10.00. The graphics was fast enough for all common desktop work. I am not so sure that it is up to tough gaming standards though. You should check first for compatibilty with your favorite games. The Brix performs as fast as most average modern laptop/desktop systems i have worked with. I installed an mSATA drive as the C: boot drive and it could boot-up Windows 7 in under 10 seconds. So it should be good for use as a second PC, media center PC, digital signage, kitchen PC, Etc. Due to its small 4 x 5" x 2.4" high dimensions I could think of a lot of places to use a tiny PC like this. The back of the case can be easily removed after first removing the bottom cover for servicing the motherboard and or the PS board. The CPU is permanently soldered to the motherboard. Installing a hard drive was fairly easily, see the cons below for one minor issue to watch out for.

Cons: The CPU in my sample runs way too hot from my experience as a PC Tech. It idles at around 190 to 200°F. I have seen it hit nearly 240°F! This is scary hot in my experience. I carefully disassembled the unit and removed the heat sink from the CPU and inspected it. There is another smaller chip that is also cooled by the same heat sink. The gray dope on the heat sink had barely transferred, indicating it had not completely melted and made full contact. The second smaller chip had a heat conductive foam pad on it, that was badly dented on one corner from uneven clamping pressure. I cleaned off the CPU, heat sink and then added new silicone heat transfer compound and added some more to the dent on the foam pad. Then reassembled the Brix. There is another large heating conducting pad that runs down the center between the two sandwiched copper heat sinks. This pad prevents the fan airflow from short circuiting between the two heat sinks and instead forces it to pass through the two heat sink finned areas, rather than over them. This should theoretically improve the heat sink to air heat transfer, so I left it alone. The two 50mm, high RPM cooling fans can be ultra noisy on this mini-PC. As loud as a cheap hair dryer in my experience. This is with Windows 7 64-bit Home Premium installed, with the balanced power savings mode engaged. No other AMD cool & quiet driver was provided by Gigabyte. I did some research and the original Cool-n-Quiet driver previously offered by AMD, was only intended for the Athlon 64 processors running under Windows XP. If anyone knows otherwise please advise. Sometimes when listening to digital music I will hear pops or clicks occasionally during periods of heavy background CPU activity. A DMA buffer overrun maybe? The supplied driver CD does not have an auto-installer menu. You have to launch each driver setup one at a time. I should deduct another egg for that over-sight by Gigabyte, but I'm feeling nice today. You have to loosen the hard drive mounting screws slightly to get the SATA plug to clear the bottom case lip, so don't try to force it. Once the SATA cable is attached then re-torque the four SSD/HDD mounting screws. Then carefully set the cover back on the case and install the four long case screws to lock it down. The SATA cable is very thin and looks to be very fragile. While these may seem like a lot of cons, many of these may be unique to the unit that I received.

Overall Review: I initially had trouble getting the new system to boot from a Windows 7 DVD mounted in an external USB 2.0 DVD drive. All I had to do was turn-off the USB 3.0 support in the BIOS. This also solved an issue with Windows 7 not recognizing the mouse and keyboard plugged into the external USB 3.0 ports, because no USB 3.0 driver was installed yet and evidently Microsoft can't be bothered to upgrade their installer on the Windows 7 DVD to recognize USB 3.0 chipsets. I am not sure that Windows 8.1 or 10 fair any better in this respect. Would be nice if the Brix had two extra USB 2.0 ports in addition to the four USB 3.0 ports, for backwards compatibility. There seems to be enough room on the back plane or on the front panel of the case. Once the above hurdles were cleared the Windows 7 64-bit Home Premium DVD installed without any further issues. The little Brix is very stable. It has never blue-screened or crashed. I have not installed any Optional updates on it though. YouTube videos played without any buffering. Both WIFI and the Gigabit Ethernet can be operated simultaneously for faster network access. The mSATA drive measured a 7.9 on the Windows Experience Index. I would not recommend the Brix for first time builders. It has extremely small Metric screws that require the right tools to: disassemble, install the mSATA drive and to mount the 2.5" notebook drive. The OS installation was also a challenge. Those who are all thumbs would be best advised to let someone else with more experience handle this for them. The Brix has been a lot quieter since I reseated the CPU heat sink and added more paste. I have thought about installing quieter 50mm fans, but finding that size fan with four wire mini plugs could be very difficult and may not even help. I think that Gigabyte has a great concept here, but I think they need to come up with a quieter cooling system. Some of the blame goes toward AMD for making such hot running chips in the first place. AMD needs to shrink their fab process so that they can produce processors with more advanced scaling that operate at lower voltages. Intel being the wealthier company can more easily afford the latest fabrication processes. AMD processors still offer more bang for the buck though in my experience. The Brix is still bleeding edge PC technology and Gigabyte deserves praise for their fine efforts. If you are looking for a moderately powerful quad-core PC that takes up little desk space and/or can be mounted to the back of a monitor, look no further.

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Nice Aroma Diffuser9/19/2015 9:08:41 PM

Pros: Produces an ultra-fine air/water mist that can contain an essential oil scent, or just be used as a small desktop humidifier. The kit includes a 120 VAC to 24 VDC wall plug power supply unit and a water fill cup. A jack on the diffuser allows you to unplug it from the power supply cord. This is handy when its time to rinse and refill it with fresh water. Some people may prefer to use distilled water in place of tap water. It has a small fan in the bottom, but it's so quiet you will never notice it. The unit produces a very relaxing swoosh sound similar to white noise while the ultra-sonic atomizer and fan are operating. It is a very relaxing sound. Would be nice for use on a: desktop, bathroom vanity, or on a nightstand in a bedroom. The diffuser has a subdued LED glow that can be set to automatically cycle through the colors of the rainbow, or you can lock it to a favorite color if you like.

Cons: Would be nice if you could vary the amount of output to match the room size, but this is a minor complaint. It can also somewhat difficult to open for refilling with water, due to the smooth round surfaces.

Overall Review: To operate simply twist the top half of the diffuser a small amount to unlock the top bayonet cover from the diffuser base. I just stick it under a faucet to rinse it out and then refill it up to the top of the central atomizer block. Put your finger over the air outlet during this process to keep any water out of the fan area. Then add 3-5 drops of your favorite essential oil scent. Reinstall the lid and place the unit on a flat surface. Plug-in the power supply and press the top button to turn-on the atomizer. The lower button selects either auto-color mode, or locks-on your favorite LED glow color. The unit produces a very quiet swoosh sound as the tiny fan circulates air through the unit and forces the scented mist out the top. It looks like a mini-volcano when its operating. It also reminds me of an old fashioned incense burner; minus the dirty smoke. The diffuser is designed to run for 5 minutes on, then pause for 30 seconds, then run for another 5 minutes, and so forth until it runs out of water. The unit will turn-off automatically when it runs low on water. It will also shutdown if it is moved or tipped while its operating. A nice safety feature. The run time will vary depending on how high you fill it and how dry your room is. It would not surprise me if it could run all day on a single fill-up. My wife and I are very pleased with it. We expect it will get a lot of use around the holidays. I also plan to test it with an available sinus mix blend of essential oils including: Eucalyptus, Pine, Peppermint, Lavender, Spruce, Marjoram and Cypress, to see if it helps to clear my sinuses this Winter. Highly recommended.

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No-Go on the WeMo6/14/2015 8:41:27 PM

Pros: I tested the Belkin WeMo LED Lighting Starter Set. Please note the included WeMo AC controller is UL listed for indoor use only. The two included 60 Watt equivalent LED bulbs produced bright warm-white light similar to incandescent light bulbs. The LED bulbs only draw 9.5 Watts each and are rated to last up to 22.8 years, when operated an average of 3 hours per day. What it does: The WeMo kit allows you to individually program the bulbs to dim gradually over a half hour sequence, for example in a bedroom, to help you fall asleep at night. The LED bulbs can be individually switched on and off according to a schedule that you program into the Android or IOS App. You can control the lights individually or as a group. The WeMo system works with any Android or IOS phone device; e.g. such as a tablet or a smart phone. It also requires access to your home’s WIFI service, or a 3G or 4G cell phone network. The LED bulb kit is just one of many WeMo home automation products offered by Belkin. Unfortunately there were not many Pros for the WeMo LED bulb kit in its current incarnation. I could not get the WeMo Android phone App to detect the WeMo AC interface device, which is supposed to plug into any centrally located AC wall outlet and control the WeMo enabled LED bulbs. I believe the AC interface that was provided in our test kit was defective.

Cons: Where to begin. . . First off the WeMo App requires an excessive number of Android permissions. If you value your privacy this alone could persuade many people against installing it. Here is the full list of the Android permissions required: Device & App history? Identity Contacts List? Location Phone Photos/Media/Files? Camera? WIFI Connection Information Device ID & Call Information? The permissions marked with question marks were rather questionable as to why they were needed to control WeMo devices in your home. Why it would need access to your Android’s: contacts list, photos/media/files, camera, and call information is beyond me? Are they planning on sending email adverts to everyone on your contact list? Is this for future marketing purposes? This all seems excessive. The AC controller must have been DOA as it would not communicate with the two LED bulbs even though it was on the same branch electric circuit in the same living room. After hours of trying neither my wife, nor I was unable to get the App or the AC controller to work together. I would blame most of the problems we experienced on the poorly written Android App. For example it would not rotate automatically when used on an Android tablet in landscape mode. This made the whole WeMo App seem rather amateurish. There was an email help system built into the WeMo App that I used to send an email request for technical support to Belkin. It has been over a week now and I have still not received any response back, other than an automated “we received your email help request.”

Overall Review: I let my wife download and install the WeMo App first on to her Android smart phone, as she was excited about testing this product. She was able to download and install the App successfully. The App proved to be rather difficult for her to master. She was able to use the Android App to locate the AC controller module that was plugged into a centrally located outlet in our living room. The controller refused all attempts to get it to communicate with the two LED light bulbs that were mounted in separate table lamps, which were both, switched-on in the same living room. At this point she hit a brick wall and even after a half an hour of effort was unable to get the AC controller to recognize the two LED bulbs. She ended up uninstalling the WeMo App from her smart phone in frustration and handing the kit back to me. I next tried installing the WeMo App on both a Nexus 7 Android tablet and later on an Asus Transformer Android tablet. I could not get the WeMo App to even recognize the AC controller, let alone the two LED bulbs on either Android tablet device. I tried holding in the reset button on the AC Controller, but the WeMo App still failed to detect the AC controller. The lack of any detailed instructions or theory of operation made trouble shooting this system for a home automation neophyte pretty much impossible. I could find little in the way of helpful information online at Belkin’s website either. In fact most of their online help info seemed to be old and out-of-date with the current LED bulb kit product offering. We continue to use the two LED bulbs as they work great as LED light bulbs. After a week and with no response back from Belkin’s technical support, I am left with no choice but to give the WeMo LED lighting kit a failing grade. If Belkin’s tech support eventually gets back to me and we get the system to work, then I will post another updated review.

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Manufacturer Response:
Hi, Your feedback is important to us. We'd like to get our support team to assist you with the challenges that you have. Send us an email at WEMOhelp@belkin.com with your contact details and the link to this review. Hope to hear from you soon. Regards, Belkin Support http://www.belkin.com/us/support
Works Good For Me5/30/2015 11:46:47 PM

Pros: Excellent PDF importing, editing and production capabilities. WP-X7 is much improved over the previous versions. Font handling is also improved. My Brother MFC remote networked scanner also works good under this version. Could never get my Brother scanner to work under WP-X6 without the graphics conversion driver locking up. Always worked with Word 2003, so I know the issue was with WP. Still reads my old WP5.1 docs without any issues. Try to do that with M$-Word.

Cons: None so far. I mainly use it for invoicing, so I have not used it enough to say if it suffers from the memory leaks common to the older versions. WP14 for example causes my XP system to slow down till it crashes, If I leave it leave open for more than a week, as you might when editing a large document like as book. Save often my friend!

Overall Review: For those complaining about the fact this is an OEM software version. I had no problems installing/licensing it on an AMD 6-core/MSI based motherboard system that I built from parts purchased from NewEgg. Usually OEM versions just restrict you to installing it on a single computer platform. It might complain if you try to install it on a large name brand like Dell or HP, but I have not personally tested this theory. In my own personal experience it installed and updated without any issues.

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