Date Joined: 08/30/04
Pros: Includes everything needed to build a custom loop, good value for the money, RGB is killer, fans and pump are very sufficient.
Cons: Only includes instructions for water block, reservoir needed a tube glued back inside, could use a couple extra 45 degree fittings.
Overall Review: First off I’d like to start off by saying that I have almost zero experience with liquid cooling aside from an AiO cooler I installed on my FX-8320e. This kit was a bit more of a challenge, but despite the lack of instructions I was able to piece everything together with minimal heartbreak. The final product turned out more spectacular than I had imagined and the versatility of the RGB is impressive to say the least. I do like the fact that it uses a remote to control the color of the LEDs. It does supposedly support motherboard RGB but after reading a few other’s attempts with Aura I decided against attaching it to my Hue+ controller.
The fittings included in the kit have double O-rings and a very aggressive grip that contributed to a couple finger blisters. In my opinion it just made the final product that much more worth it. The PETG tubing was very easy to cut with a tubing cutter and a small slice with a utility knife ensured a smooth edge. I did have to heat up and bend the tube that came from the water block to the radiator, I was able to get a couple of smooth 45 degree curves without any issues. It would have been easier to use a proper tubing bender and a silicone insert to prevent the tube from kinking but for gradual bends a person could get away without using those.
The reservoir had a loose tube inside when I received the unit, the glue holding it together evidently did not survive shipping. I removed “Warranty void if removed” label and reapplied some tougher epoxy to the tube, it’s been holding strong for four days without any issues or leaks. I’m not sure how much fluid the pump moves per hour but it drank about 8 oz. of fluid in less than two seconds. Despite that the pump is very quiet, almost inaudible.
The radiator is thicker than any PC radiator I’ve ever seen, this seems to really help with CPU temps. The Arctic Freezer Xtreme V2 air cooler I had prior kept the CPU around 55c at idle and above 70c under artificial load. This is the temperature where the CPU starts to throttle, I stopped the stress test when the CPU dropped to 84% utilization after five minutes. The CPU temps dropped immensely under the liquid cooling, sitting roughly 23c at idle and 45c under artificial load. I was able to achieve a stable 4.20 GHz overclock with 55c at the highest. I ran this test for about an hour to see if it would get any higher but it sat steady. The fans are still relatively quiet under full power, they seem to move a decent amount of air. Very comparable to my 120mm NZXT case fans.
In conclusion, despite a few hiccups and a lack of general instructions I have to say that this is a great kit, especially for the money. It includes everything necessary to build a full custom loop and gives the end user plenty room for upgrade-ability down the road for a GPU or three. If I were to buy each component separately it would be almost double the cost of this kit. 3/5, I’d rate a perfect score if it came with proper instructions and a pump that didn’t require voiding a warranty to use.
Pros: Awesome air flow, nearly the entire front of the case is mesh. Not a whisker of over heating during a heavier load.
Magnetic filters is a great idea, easy to pull off and clean and even easier to get back on.
Looks in general are awesome. The glass side window is a good look on any case, and is nice to have on a cheaper one such as this. I also am a bog fan of shrouds to hide cables.
Cons: Only one front fan pre-installed. When you want to just build and go, waiting on more fans to arrive is annoying.
The bottom dust filter will be difficult to get off without having to flip the case over or getting help from someone else, a pull tab or something along those lines would be a nice addition to remedy that.
Overall Review: This case is a solid 4 stars to me. The price points allow you to reinvest saved money in some extra parts (especially more fans, since you'll need them in the front panel), and it looks great. I'm not a huge RGB person, so a case that won't blind me at 2am is great. I'm curious to see if the full mesh front eventually has drawbacks though. The dust cover will surely help, but with the entire front panel being mesh it has the potential to get very dusty very quickly.
Pros: This is a bare drive Seagate IronWolf 4TB NAS hard drive. No accessories arrive with the drive. Although you can use this disk as an internal drive in your desktop it is designed to be installed in a NAS and can be powered 24/7. My environment is quite noisy so all I can say is this drive isn't any louder than the other disks I have installed in my system. This drives functioned as it should through my testing which included filling the drive to capacity with large and small files, reading from and deleting multiple times. See other thoughts for experienced read/write speeds. Keep in mind this is intended to be installed in a NAS. If you are looking for a local drive with lots of speed this isn't the model for you.
Cons: None to be reported. Will report back if I later have an issue with this disk.
Overall Review: I would personally look at the larger capacity disks. They are not that much more and in my world I would rather have too much storage than not enough. To protect yourself with these larger volumes I highly recommend mirroring or utilizing a trusted backup solution. No disk is perfect and they will all eventually fail.
Transfer speeds tested with a local SSD going to and from the Seagate NAS disk.
Write (local disk to local disk small files) – 40 MB/s
Write (local disk to local disk large files) – 180 MB/s
Read (local disk to local disk small files) – 25 MB/s
Read (local disk to local disk large files) – 170 MB/s
The disk comes with a 3 yr warranty
Pros: The Asus ROG Strix Scar 17.3” notebooks is a pretty nice setup for the price. Included in the box is the notebook, AC adapter, Republic of gamers clip, Instruction guide, Warranty card, and a page of stickers. Overall the notebook is quiet at idle and not overly loud at full load. The weight is about average weight for a 17” notebook. The customizable multi-color light-up keyboard is a nice touch. Inside is a 1TB Seagate Hard drive, a 128 GB Kingston M.2 SSD, 16 GB RAM, an NVIDIA GTX 1060, and an Intel 9560NGW wireless card. Overall I had a good experience with this notebook with a couple exceptions noted in the cons section. That said, the Strix is a good choice for the casual gamer or college student.
Cons: I ran into the “your PC had problems” error on boot up multiple times from a fresh startup. It loaded fine on restart each time. It seems to be related to starting to type in my login password before the system was ready. I only guess that as the computer wouldn’t type anything into the password box and then the blue screen would hit.
Even after all system updates there is a system event WHEA-Logger ID 17.
None of these really impacted my ability to use the notebook (which is why I still gave it 4 eggs). I will probably try to re-install Windows 10 from scratch to see if it resolves the issue. This isn't something a new owner should have to do on a brand new out of the box notebook though.
Overall Review: There is an access panel at the bottom of the notebook which you can open and add additional RAM if you have a need. You can also change out the pre-installed hard disks if you feel you need to upgrade them. With a little extra effort you can completely open the bottom of the laptop and change the pre-installed RAM, though replacing any of the pre-installed hardware will probably void the warranty.
The notebook currently comes with a free copy of Call of Duty with purchase.
3DMark11 Score X5078
1TB Seagate FireCuda Hard disk Model ST1000LX015
128 GB Kingston M.2 SSD Model RBU-SNS8154P3/128GJ
16 GB Hynix DDR4, 2666, Model HMA82GS6CJR8N-VK
Wireless Intel Model: 9560NGW
As always I will report back if I have any new information to report about this product.
Pros: Upon receiving this computer I unpacked it immediately. Everything was very well packed so that the contents were well protected from each other and any damage the box may incur. After unwrapping the tower and getting a first look, everything looked very sleek and clean. The tower is quite small so it wouldn’t take up much space and conveniently puts commonly used connections on the front of the case for easy access. I especially like the inclusion of a USB-C port on the front. It does include a mouse and keyboard for quick and easy setup, they appear to be the “ACER Black USB Wired Standard Keyboard and Mouse Combo.” They are nothing extravagant but they will get the job done. The keyboard has low profile keys but they have a nice weight to them that I did not mind typing on. The mouse felt like a typical cheap mouse, very light but works just fin. Once everything was connected it powered up quick and easy with the last few steps of Windows 10 Home setup required. After completing those I was able to see what kind of software was pre-installed on the computer. It did include the Acer Care Center which helps you optimize your system to get the most out of your machine, keep apps up to date, backup and restore tools and a direct connection with the Acer Care Center in case you have any issues. It also included a trial version of Office 365 and Norton Security to help keep your system and information safe. The Intel Core i7 is very powerful and while 8 GB of ram isn’t a huge amount, it is more than enough for a majority of tasks. The included DVD-RW isn’t something I typically have a lot of use for but it can be nice to have. I do like how the DVD-RW is fit into the case vertically to help keep the case very slim. The Creative Sound BlasterX provides rich and immersive audio and the Gigabit Wi-Fi provided very high speeds that allowed for flawless gaming. Lastly I want to make note of how incredibly quiet this computer is while running. If there were no lights on the front I would have a very difficult time determining if it was powered on. The only time I ever notice it making any kind of noise is after gaming for a while and the fans start running at very high speed. Overall this is a great computer that will meet the needs of most people. With its compact design and quiet fans you might even forget it’s on the desk if it wasn’t for its stylish looks.
Cons: There was an occasional brief lockup with certain tasks and when trying to play games things did look like they were not rendered properly. After checking I found out the drivers for the AMD Radeon RX 580 were not installed so I would recommend doing that immediately after plugging it in. It is also worth mentioning that the Radeon RX 580 supports up to 4 monitors. Once the drivers were installed I tested this machines gaming capabilities by playing Fortnite at max settings.
Overall Review: Load times were quick but could definitely be improved with the addition of a SSD. The frame rate was silky smooth and stayed maxed out the entire time I played. I also tested the performance of this machine with some video editing and running a few virtual machines. It was able to process everything I threw at it with no issues.
Pros: The Acer Aspire 7 model A717-72G-700J is very nice laptop computer for the price. Included in the box is the 17” laptop with Full 1080P resolution screen and full backlit keyboard, an AC adaptor, a setup guide, limited warranty pamphlet, and FCC declaration of conformity certificate.
Out of the box you can almost immediately begin using this beast of a computer for whatever needs you desire. The included i7 processor and 16GB of ram are plenty for most any home user. The downsides I have run into are related to the included Windows 10 Home for the most part.
The screen is easy on the eyes and the included VR Ready NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card with 6 GB dedicated video RAM should keep the mobile gamer very happy.
There is an included fingerprint sensor for use as an alternate login option. Internally there is a TPM chip for use if you plan on encrypting your disk(s).
I found the keyboard light and responsive for typing and enjoy the fact it also has a num pad.
The laptop is very quiet in normal resting mode and running basic applications. When I ran 3DMARK for testing the fans did end up spinning up fully. When full spun up the fans are noticeable but not loud by any means.
The results of the 3DMark test can be found here. https://www.3dmark.com/3dm11/12884324. It scored 5146. More details below if the link quits working.
Cons: I know you want to just turn this one and take off personalizing everything. That said, you should set aside the first few hours with your machine just installing Windows Updates. After that you should be good to roll. I'm not counting this against the laptop, it is just the nature of today's OS's.
It’s pretty heavy, though I am probably not used to such a large laptop.
The right side USB ports are very snug. I feel like I could break a USB port trying to insert a flash drive.
Although the screen is 17” (diagonally) the actual laptop is 19.5”. That may make it a bit large for most backpacks. In my opinion if you’re going to make the footprint of the machine that big why not go with a larger screen and a smaller screen frame?
The touch pad is, well, a touch pad. It is responsive but I really wish we could go back to having left and right buttons. This touch pad, and all others I’ve experienced, have a hard time detecting if I’m trying to do a right or left click. I end up resorting to an external mouse.
The power brick is large and a feels like a little over a pound.
Overall Review: Memory = Micron MTA8ATF1G64HZ-2G6E1 (2x8GB) Chips
Additional slot for 2.5” SATA hard drive.
Internal M.2 SSD = Intel SSD 600P Series 256 GB Model SSDPEKKW256G7
WiFI model = Intel 9560NGW
Personally I’m not a fan of bloatware and will probably remove almost all of the pre-installed software. A 30 day trial subscription of Norton Security should give you plenty of time to find a good Antivirus option.
3DMark info if they link above doesn’t work.
Graphics Test 1
Graphics Test 2
Graphics Test 3
Graphics Test 4
Pros: The LG gram model: 13Z980-U.AAW5U1 Notebook is a nice lightweight notebook package. Included in the box is the notebook, a power supply, a USB-c to Ethernet 10/100/1000 adapter, an installation guide, and a warranty booklet.
The notebook itself has good performance right out of the box. It doesn’t feel bogged down. The included G8 Intel I5-8250U processor is a good middle of the line processor for the budget minded consumer. The computer comes with a 256 GB M.2 SSD (Hynix HFS256G39TND-N210A) installed (there is an additional slot to add a second M.2 Drive if needed), 8 GB RAM (4 GB on-board + 4GB chip Hynix HMA851S6AFR6N-UH PC4-19200), Windows 10 Home, LG’s utilities, a few bloatware programs that can be quickly removed, and around 204 GB of free space left on the disk. The notebook comes with a Webcam, a Microphone, 2x USB 3.0 ports, 1x USB-c port, a Micro SD slot, a headphone jack, and an HDMI port.
The keyboard has a good feel. It is flat with slightly raised keys. It is also back-lit. For anyone that uses or plans to use this notebook in the dark or low light conditions this is a really great feature.
The computer specs state the battery will last around 22 hrs. In my use of the machine these seems possible if the only thing you’re doing is looking at the desktop. It does seem to have really good battery life though (around 10-12 hrs) compared to other notebook computers I use (some with extended batteries) that barely make it 3 hrs.
The screen supports 1920x1080 resolution. It has a glossy appearance, is easy on the eyes, and has a good brightness level. It may not be a good option in an environment where glare is a factor.
The speakers are not bad for a laptop. A little tin'y and not much low range but I never expect much from laptop speakers. They have a good volume level which is better than most.
Cons: None as of yet. I will report back if I run into any underlying issues that didn’t come up in my initial review.
Overall Review: My initial grief was with Windows 10 Home, not the laptop. I accidentally went down the path of an online account. It is forcing me to create an online Microsoft account or requires Gmail, Yahoo, ect. I had to force a power off and start over to get back to the option to create an offline account.
It’s very white, the case is white, the keyboard is white, the USB-c to Ethernet adapter is white, and the power cord is white. If you like white you will like the color of this laptop. It may be hard to keep clean though.
Pros: I'm quite impressed with the Cooler Master MasterLiquid LIte 240 AIO CPU watercooler. I have past experience working with liquid cooling back when your only option was to buy all the parts and pieces individually, hook up your own pluming and then cross your fingers that it didn't leak. This system is far nicer to set up. I just happened to have a Cooler Master tower to try this in which was another big plus as there were already mounts built into the case for it. Install was a breeze. My CPU temps on a Ryzen 7 processor went from 50-53 c idle with air cooling to 32-33 c idle with the Master Liquid Lite 240. Under load it hardly breaks a sweat. I have yet to see it climb over 40 c. Included in the box is the reservoir (already connected to the heat sync/pump. Mounting brackets and screws for various AMD and Intel chipsets, a CPU fan power splitter (not needed if you have 2 CPU fan headers and a pump header on your motherboard), a very poorly designed installation book, and a warranty guide. The system is pre-filled with liquid and doesn’t appear to have a way to change the fluid out. When running it is quiet, I wouldn’t go as far as saying silent but it is much quieter than most air cooled CPU heat syncs.
Cons: The installation manual isn’t the greatest. A possible con is if you don’t have a tower that is pre-configured to mount the radiator you may run into trouble. There isn’t a lot of extra slack in the coolant tubes.
Overall Review: If you have an Intel CPU be sure to change out the mounting brackets before you mount the motherboard to the case.
Pros: The Deep Cool Gammaxx GT RGB CPU Cooler is massive and quiet. I’d like to start by saying wow. Included in the box is 120mm fan, a CPU heat sync (with built in programmable RGB leds), a number of brackets for various CPU types, a syringe of thermal paste, an RGB controller plug for Motherboards that support RGB controls, a RGB controller plug for manually setting the colors, and a guidebook.
The fan is quiet and moves a decent volume of air. It also has been keeping my CPU 5-10 Deg F cooler than the stock heatsink. The colors are nice and the fact you can customize them to match other colors in your case a plus. I would recommend this fan to a gamer using a full tower case who doesn’t want to bite the bullet and go to water cooling.
Cons: From an experience standpoint none as of yet. See other thoughts for what you may consider a con.
Overall Review: Did I mention this is huge? Smaller cases may have trouble fitting this into their case. It may also have a proximity issue depending where your RAM is placed on your motherboard. Be careful lining up the screws. They are easy to strip. You will need to change out your backer plate on your motherboard to fit this CPU cooler. That may require removing your motherboard.
Pros: The Western Digital My Passport 1TB external drive is a good external drive with plenty of space for a home user. Included in the box is the drive measuring 11 cm x 8 cm x 16 mm, a USB 3.0 cable measuring 17 ¾” end of tip to end of tip, a quick setup help card, and a Technical Support / Limited Warranty card. Included in the drive is the Western Digital application which allows you to setup backups or manage the disk itself. You do not need to install this software in order to use the drive. The drive performs well on a USB 3.0 connection. In my testing I noted the following results. Large file write 107 MB/s read 109 MB/s, many small files write 100 MB/s read 105 MB/s.
The look and feel of this device is nice. I received the white one which would be a great blank canvas for those of you that may like to do some custom artwork.
I would recommend this device for users that need a low cost backup solution.
Cons: None to note as of this review but I will write about any future issues that occur, if any.
Overall Review: I did not personally test the Western Digital application.
Pros: The WD MyPassport SSD external storage drive comes in a compact easy to carry format. Included in the package is the drive measuring 3.5” x 1.75” x 3/8”, a USB-C cable measuring 18 5/8” (end of tip-end of tip), A USB – C to USB-A Adaptor, a quick guide, and a Warranty/Technical Support guide.
The design of the MyPassport is decorative and would fit well in an executive office setting.
Speeds are good. In my testing on one large file on a USB 3.0 connection I achieved 200 MB/s write and 370 MB/s read. On a folder full of pictures I achieved an average around 140 MB/s write and 240 MB/s read.
I would recommend this device as a good external storage option for quick data access. I don’t think this would work out well as a secure storage option if you plan on connecting it to more than one computer (see cons). If you plan on using this on multiple computers that are not your own you may be better off just formatting it and utilizing bit locker or some other software encryption means. Unfortunately that would mean you are not going to use the internal hardware encryption built into the device and could affect performance.
Cons: WD Discovery software required to be installed on computer to utilize encryption option. This makes it difficult to use this as secure storage I can move between different computers that are not my own.
FMOD gets flagged as malware by Sophos AntiVirus. At this point I quit using the WD Software and started just using this as an external storage disk.
Overall Review: If you use the WD Discovery software it needs to be updated immediately after install.
I didn’t personally use the WD Discovery software after receiving the AntiVirus flag during install so I cannot comment on its functions.
Pros: The Netgear 24-Port Gigabit Ethernet Unmanaged Switch is a pretty simple device that can be deployed by even the most basic user. This is literally a plug-and-play device with 24 auto-sensing ports. Included in the package is the switch, a quick install guide, a power cord, and rack mounting hardware.
I would recommend this for a home office or small office type environment and for users that do not have the need for a managed switch or the knowledge of how to setup a managed switch. This switch has no fan and is silent. Connectivity and speeds are comparable to other gigabit business switches I have used.
Cons: The only thing that made me cringe about this switch was Step 1 of the install guide. They show your Computer, Server, WiFi router, and internet being plugged into this device. From a security stand point you really shouldn't have your computer/server directly exposed to the internet as depicted. A better depiction would be to show the link going to a firewall prior to the internet. That is just my perspective though.
Overall Review: The Netgear 24-port switch, although rack-mountable is narrower than a standard switch rack you would find in a server room. This unit measures 10” wide. With the Rack adapters it will still fit a standard rack it just seems small.
Pros: The TP-Link Archer C2 AC750 setup was a breeze and comparable to other routers in the TP-Link family. You can configure this router via the web interface or use the included CD (Mini CD). You can install using the Easy Setup Assistant or go into the more advanced settings. Overall the look and feel of this router is nice.
Cons: This router seems to drop connections often. I'm not sure if it is interference as there is really no other WiFi in the area I am testing. It also has a poor range. I would suggest looking for a different model if you want to have a more stable connection or just don't use the WiFi and hard wire your devices.
Overall Review: Included in the box is the router, 2 antenna, 1 3' 11 1/2" CAT5.E network cable (measured end to end), 1 AC adapter, a mini CD, Quick install guide, and a GNU public license notice.
Pros: Cost. The Blaze B05 is pretty much a steal when it is sub 10.00 as is the case at the moment. Read/Write speeds are average but I wouldn't pick this model if I was worried about speed.
Cons: I really don't have any at the moment. Based on price I'm worried about reliability but so far it is working and survived a burn-in test. I will report later if something fails.
Overall Review: Included on the drive is the Silicon Power secure backup & security software. I did not install nor test this software.
Pros: The TP-LINK AC1900 Touch Screen Wi-Fi Range Extender could be mistaken as a piece of modern art on your furniture, if it were not for the antennas. It measures 11 1/8” W x 7 ¾” (includes antennas) D x 2” (7 ¾” with antennas up) H. Included in the box is the AC1900, an AC adaptor, a 3’ 11.5” (measured end of connector to end of connector) CAT 5e Ethernet cable, a quick install guide, a technical support pamphlet, and a GNU public license notice.
Setup was a breeze using the touch screen interface. Once the unit has been set up you can pretty much forget about it.
You have the ability to see what devices are connected to your AC1900 and block them if needed, you can customize your LAN, DHCP setup, clock, screen brightness, WPS, and change your admin password from the touch screen interface.
You can also login to the web interface where you have additional options to upgrade the firmware and backup/restore the system settings.
All in all I would recommend this device to home users that want a simple-to-setup range extender.
Cons: Typing on the touchscreen with my big fingers is a bit of a pain and not super responsive. It is also hard to tell if you are typing a capital letter or not.
There is a slight noise that comes from the unit when there is active network activity.
Overall Review: As always I will report any issues with this device as I use it more.
Pros: The Asus RP-AC56 Dual-band Range Extender/Access Point is a worthwhile investment if you are in need of extending your network range on a budget. The device can run in 5 different modes; Repeater mode, Expressway (Router to repeater use 5 GHz only, repeater to client use 2.4 GHz only), Expressway (Router to repeater use 2.4 GHz only, repeater to client use 5 GHz only), Media Bridge mode, and Access point mode. Without going into too much detail all of these options allow the Asus RP-AC56 to become the go-between between your computer and your router.
Out of the box you can simply follow the instructions on the quick start card by pressing the WPS setup button on your router, then pressing the WPS setup button on the RP-AC56. Once the LEDs turn on solid you can simply move the RP-AC56 to the furthest range of your network. There is a performance light included on the RP-AC56 that will either turn green or red depending on the quality of your network connection. Wherever you intend on utilizing the RP-AC56 be sure the Wi-Fi performance light is green.
If you are like me you probably don’t like the automated setups. In that case you will still like the RP-AC56. Once powered on simply connect a laptop or desktop to the device through Wi-Fi or Ethernet on 192.168.1.1. From there you can get into the advanced setup options. The RP-AC56 is quite user friendly.
Cons: Only one and it is my issue. I don’t use WPS on my routers so my only choice was to go through the web interface for setup. I have not run into any real cons at this point.
Overall Review: Included in the box – A RP-AC56 Quick Start Guide, a card giving directions how to contact ASUS if you are having trouble, a registration card (Asus calls it a VIP Member Warranty Notice), and a FFC legal print out.
You will need your own router (wireless or wired-only) as the go between the RP-AC56 and your internet modem. The RP-AC56 is simply a Range Extender/Access Point for your existing network.
There is an audio (3.5 mm jack) on the RP-AC56. If you login to the RP-AC56’s web interface and select Audio you can use this port to stream music and control the music from your Apple or Android phone.
Pros: There isn’t a whole lot I can say about the Western Digital Red 4TB NAS Desktop Hard Disk Drive Model WD40EFRX-68WT0N0. A hard drive either works or it doesn't. I received two of these and installed in a NAS storage enclosure for testing. The mirroring setup was quick and painless. My read/write speeds have been comparable to the other disks I previously had installed in the NAS enclosure. I will be keeping them under moderate to low I/O usage and powered on 24/7. I believe time is going to be the deciding factor for the drive quality. These drives do run noticeably cooler and quieter than the WD Black drives I replaced.
Cons: None as/of yet.
Overall Review: Will report back if I run into any issues.
Pros: The SteelSeries Rival 300 Gamin Mouse is a pretty cool wired gaming mouse. Included in the box is the Quick Start guide, the mouse, and a pair of SteelSeries stickers. To make full use of the Rival 300 you need to install the software located at steelseries.com/engine. This software (version 3.6.4 as of this review) allows you to make custom setting changes to your mouse including changing the illumination color, change some lighting effects, configure sensitivity, and customize all 6 buttons including macro programming. There is also an option to save custom configurations so you can have a normal mouse for say word processing use, then switch to your high performance mode for gaming use. The Rival 300 Gaming mouse is highly responsive and will take a little bit for me to get used to it. Some other options in the SteelSeries Engine 3 are custom colors for supported games. For example you can setup your scroll wheel color to change based on your characters health or the logo to change colors based on another feature. I’m not sure how well that was thought out as your hand will be covering the logo while you are playing. Last but not least you can also customize what the mouse buttons do in different apps. I highly recommend this mouse if you want an edge while PC gaming.
Cons: If I had to find a con it would be the weight. It feels very light which makes it hard to control. I may just need to get used to the weight.
Overall Review: The model I received was due for a firmware update out of the box. The update was easy to install with the SteelSeries Engine software and took about 30 seconds to install.
Pros: The TP-LINK WiFi Smart Plug model HS100 is a pretty simple device that works. Included in the box is a Technical Support pamphlet, a GNU license notice, a Quick Start Guide, and the smart plug. Although not flawless (see cons) the initial setup of the plug is mostly painless. All you need to do is install the TP-LINK Kasa app on your mobile device, open the app, set up an account, then run through the device setup directions. Once the setup is complete you can do a few functions; Turn the device on and off remotely, see how long the device has been used, schedule the on/off, set a vacation mode where the device will randomly turn on and off during the time periods you select, and a timer mode where the device will turn on or off after a set time period.
Cons: The device setup is a little buggy. After entering my wireless network details the device stayed on the configuring screen until it failed. I restarted the process and received the same error. I was still able to turn my device on and off after escaping out of the error so the configuration must have worked. I experienced no other issues.
Overall Review: You can add multiple TP-LINK WiFi Smart Plugs to the Kasa app. This is a 15 Amp plug.
Pros: The StarTech USB 3.0 Docing Station (Model USB2SDockDD) is a very simple docking station with 5 USB 3.0 ports (2 up front, 3 in back), 1 Gigabit Ethernet port, 2 DVI connections, and a front headphone jack. I purchased this as my laptop (even the dock that came with it which had 2 different video ports) only supported 1 external monitor. With this dock I am able to continue to utilize my laptop monitor but also have 2 additional monitors running off the dock.
The dock came with a driver disk but I didn't need it with windows 8.1.
Cons: I don't know if this is a con with the dock, my monitors (HP EliteDisplay E24li), or with Windows 8.1. When I lock my machine all the screens go to sleep. When I unlock my machine the HP screens stay asleep until I try to open something on that screen. A little annoying but I don't have any way to point a finger at what is really causing the issue yet.
Overall Review: Although I don't have a need to use them I did try out the docks USB 3.0 and Gigabit port and they work well.
Pros: The Gigabyte GA-Z170X-Gaming 6 motherboard is a pretty sweet board for a reasonable cost considering what it can do. Casual desktop users should look for a lesser model as this one has more options than you will need. First off pair this board with the latest Intel I7 LGA1151 processor, up to 64GB of DDR4 2133 Dual channel RAM, and your choice of up to 2 M.2 SSD and you have the beginnings of a nice gaming rig. You could also skip the M.2 SSD and go with up to 3 SATA Express drives or up to 6 SATA 6G/s drives all with RAID 0/1/5/10 options. Once you get this machine connected to your LAN party using one or both of the onboard Gigabit LAN ports you are set.
If you are not happy with the onboard video chipset that offers 512MB of shared memory for the HDMI and DispayPort video ports and can each support 4096x2304 resolution, you can always upgrade and add up to 2 video cards running SLI or up to 3 video cards running CrossFire (The box only includes 1x 2-Way SLI bridge connector).
The BIOS gives you all the options you would expect from a gaming motherboard. You can stick to the defaults, or go crazy overclocking all you want. One thing that I noticed on this board was the ECO and OC button. If you want a casual night of watching movies, save some power and run in ECO mode. If you want a serious night of Gaming use the full potential of the system by hitting the OC button to use your customized Overclocked mode!
This board ran Windows 10 nicely. I didn’t have much time to mess around with any gaming prior to this review but will follow up with any notable additions on a further review if necessary.
Cons: There are very few cons to this board.
One of the ones I noticed is if you decide to go with dual video cards they will share the PCI Express x16 channel bandwidth and both cards will run at x8. This is a little disappointing for a gaming motherboard.
Also if you are using a M.2 SSD’s in the lower slot (Slot M2H_32G) you cannot use the PCIEx4 slot and vice versa. So no 3-Way Crossfire video setup if you want to have 2x M.2 SSD’s.
Onboard buttons are nice when you are doing the initial setup of a motherboard, but most of us end up closing our board up in a case and use buttons that are available externally. It would be nice if the OC and ECO buttons were available without having to open the case up every time we want to push them.
Overall Review: Included in the box is the following. The motherboard, the user’s manual, the driver disk, a multilingual install guide, a 2-Way SLI bridge connector, a backer plate for your case, 4x SATA connectors, a quick connector for the front panel plugs, a G1 sticker, and a Do Not Disturb door hanger.
The Audio OC chip is interchangeable. I haven’t personally messed with these so I won’t attempt to review it. The Audio line out is also adjustable with a series of DIP switches on the board.
Pros: The Trendnet TV-IP320PI IP camera are nice little 1.5 MP IP cameras. Included in the box is the camera, mounting screws with sheet rock anchors, a cable boot, an instruction manual, a PoE information packet, a utility CD, a drilling template, and information about the app.
The setup for the IP camera was not very straight forward (see cons), but once I was able to get into the camera it has a nice interface and some basic settings such as continuous/motion record and the ability to schedule. Keep in mind there is no internal storage on the camera, you will need an external storage option such as a NVR, FTP, or SAN option.
The night vision on the camera works well at about 30’.
Cons: It states the password must be 8-16 characters long using upper, lower, number and symbol. It wouldn’t accept a 16 character password that met those options however it took a shorter version.
The TRENDnet software locked up on me quite a few times during the setup (Windows 8.1) after changing the password or choosing fixed IP. I ended up picking DHCP just so I could get logged into the camera remotely then manually changed it.
Overall Review: Keep in mind you will need an external storage option for these cameras.
The setup is a little buggy but once you can get into the camera everything works well.
Pros: WHAT IT COMES WITH 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2.4GHz & 5GHz WiFi; 4x Gigabit Ethernet; 1x Gigabit WAN; WPS, WPA/WPA2 security; Smart WiFi remote access platform USB 3.0, 2.0 and eSata port for NAS storage also included in the box is the power cord and one fairly short Network Cable.
Cons: This is one of the most expensive -- and possibly the largest router on the market other than going to Cisco asa. The current default software doesn't offer enough configuration options for Wi-Fi experts, and the Web interface might require some getting used to for first-time users. Router Seems to Runs warm nothing I have not seen before from other Linksys routers.
Overall Review: If you can afford the hefty price tag, the Linksys WRT1900AC Wi-Fi router is easily one of the best home routers on the market. You will be more then satisfied with its performance.
Pros: The Seagate Backup Plus 4TB Portable Storage drive has quite the capacity in a small form factor. Read and Write speeds are typical of other USB 3.0 devices I have used. Included in the box is the Drive, and an 18” USB 3.0 cable (measured from the tip to tip). The Drive comes with a free 2 year 200GB OneDrive cloud storage option. This would be a great device for storing videos for viewing on the road.
Cons: The drive is quite a bit thicker than I was expecting. It is a little over 3/4 of an inch. Not necessarily a con but needed to mention it.
Overall Review: Data Transfer Speed based on Windows 8.1 copy from an internal SSD.
Write speed of lots of small files ~3 MB/s
Write speed of large files ~ 25 MB/s
Read Speed of lots of small files ~6 MB/s
Read Speed of large files ~ 42 MB/s
Internal drive (at least my model) was a Samsung Momentus 4TB drive.
Pros: The NETGEAR ProSAFE 8 Port Gigabit switch (Model GSS108E) box includes; The Switch, a mounting bracket with 2 screws, a power cord, 2 Velcro straps which can be fastened into place with a screw, a resource CD, and an installation sheet. The switch is constructed nicely and features a plastic frame (unlike the 16 port model GSS116E) and a cable lock slot.
Out of the box you could just hook this switch up as a plain old switch, though I do suggest at least changing the default password for the management interface. If you want to get a more robust use out of the switch you can login to the web interface. The Web interface has a nice layout and as of this review the firmware that comes with the unit is the current firmware available from NETGEAR’s site. From the web interface you have the ability to name your switch, set the management IP, check port status and change individual port speeds and flow control, setup mirrored ports, setup a VLAN, QOS, and more. The interface gives you basic and advanced setup choices for most settings, letting you decide how detailed you want to be with the setup. You can also use the included ProSAFE Plus Configuration utility included on the cd (there appears to be an updated version of this software on NETGEAR’s site).
I experienced no noticeable file transfer speed differences when going through this switch vs our enterprise class Cisco switches.
The 8 port switch also comes with 2 USB Charge only ports.
Cons: No major functional issues found so far.
Overall Review: I would recommend for a classroom or lab type environment where you need a lot of connections in a limited space and a need for a managed switch.
The unit measures 12” x 2 1/2” x 1 3/8” (WxDxH) looking from the connection face of the unit.
If I experience any issues with this switch down the road I will post a new review.