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MSI Gaming GT73VR 6RF Titan Pro Gaming Notebook Review

The portable gaming powerhouse packed with the latest GeForce GTX 1080 desktop grade graphics and 4k resolution.

Cooler Master MasterBox 5 Dual Tone Review

Great features and modularity at smaller size and lower price.

Unboxing and Review: Logitech K380 Bluetooth Multi-Device Keyboard

It's a pain to get just a bluetooth keyboard for each device. Why not go for one that actually works with multiple device altogether?

Unboxing and Preview: Raijintek Triton 280 Liquid Cooler

This is probably the best AIO we have tested to date.

February 27, 2015

Unboxing & Overview of the be quiet! Straight Power 10 600W CM Semi-Modular Power Supply


be quiet! has an excellent reputation among the enthusiasts around the globe, mainly with its cooling fans, CPU coolers and power supplies that has earned countless awards throughout the years. Instead of cooling fans and CPU coolers, we'll be checking on be quiet! latest power supply, the Straight Power 10 600W, 80 Plus gold certified model which features Semi-Modular design for better cable management.

As there's no local distributor in Malaysia, the be quiet! Straight Power 10 is available at the price of $129.90 from newegg.com


Specifications

*Extras can be found here: http://www.bequiet.com/en/powersupply/526

Overview

It's not hard for one to identify a be quiet! product - black classy minimalist design and a line that usually has something to do with quiet and efficiency. 


At the back of the box you'll find a diagram showing the types of cables used and the power output table.

Accessories

The included accessories is pretty common, a user's manual, modular cables, zip ties and screws.



All cables comes labelled to make installation easier, especially for the newbies.


Closer Look

Unlike most PSU that uses rounded fan grill, the fan grill used on the be quiet! Straight Power 10 is made up of a series of metal wire in parallel arrangement. 


At the side of the PSU you'll find be quiet! indented logo. 


At the other side of the PSU we can find the power output details listed in a table. The be quiet! Straight Power 10 CM 600W is capable of delivering 576 watts via the +12V rails, which is plenty much enough for most high-end graphics card in the current timeline, i.e: AMD R9 290X, Nvidia GeForce GTX 980.


Honeycomb mesh grill is known to be able to provide greater airflow through the entire area of the honeycomb surface and the design can be found on majority of quality PSU on the market. be quiet! is among the numbers of quality PSU manufacturer that implemented the honeycomb mesh grill design to their PSU.


Just like any other semi-modular PSU, the Straight Power 10 has the compulsory 24-pin cable attached to it and 


That the series of modular cable slots is labelled to make installation much easier.


The modular cable slot is also placed vertically to make cable management easier and reduce potential damage to the cables by bending side ways.


Testing & Conclusion

As Tech Critter do not own any industrial grade load tester to perform intensive tests on the power supplies on hand, we will be performing tests from the end user's angle. We've mounted the be quiet! Straight Power 10 600W on our Vector Bench Case and have gone through numerous tests which involves stress test and overclocking various hardwares i.e: Intel i7 4770K, Intel i7 4790K, AMD A10-7850K, AMD FX-8320E, AMD R9 290X, AMD R9 280X, Nvidia GTX 980, Nvidia GTX 970, Nvidia GTX 960, etc. 

Glad to say that we did not encounter any issues throughout all the tests conducted - the PSU fan did a wonderful job not only on cooling but acoustic as well; no coil whine issue found when the system is stressed with stress test and benchmark utility.  


Aside of the higher cost, we can't find anything bad of the be quiet! Straight Power 10. Really. Although there's no local distributor here in Malaysia for the brand, we would still recommend the be quiet! Straight Power 10 to enthusiasts who wants a power supply that is silent and reliable if there's a given chance to purchase one.  


Pros


  • 80+ gold rating
  • Modular cables for easier cable management
  • Virtually inaudible during normal operation and stress testing
  • Well labelled modular cables and modular cable slots

Cons

  • Price is higher than other competitors that offers something similar


Unboxing and Review: Asus Xonar U5 5.1 USB Sound Card and Headphone Amplifier



Just when I got comfy with my PC at home that I have to be away from it for a few days when visiting over the long holidays. Using my family's PC was okay but the thought of the inferior audio quality coming out from it when using my headphones is just too much. I was thinking of some solutions when Asus hit me up with the Xonar U5; a 5.1 channel portable soundcard and headphone amplifier... Perfect! 

Thanks to the people at Asus Malaysia for providing the sample of the Xonar U5 over the holiday season. The Xonar U5 is priced at RM339 SRP so let's get to the article now that I'm back in my comfy workstation.

The Bitfenix Aegis makes it's debut


AEGIS features a beautiful rounded shield-inspired front with the same ICON logo display featured on Pandora, with a sporty fresh design all around. It comes in black, white and 3 other vibrant colors (red, blue, yellow) and supports an impressive amount of fans and radiators: up to 8 120mm fans or 5 140mm fans, dual 280 radiators and even a dual 360 build is possible with slim rads. 



The 3 tool free storage cages are modular and can be moved around or taken out all-together, in which case there is still a hidden 2.5" slot behind the PSU and a "show off" 2.5" slot next to the mainboard tray. Some nice dust filters on the top, front and bottom and also a built in fan controller, a stylish PSU cover, rubber padded pump bracket and last but not least a neat Reservoir bracket, that let users attach a reservoir or pump/res combo to a 240 or 360 radiator.




Bitfenix ICON™ Logo Display
  • AEGIS features an even larger 2.8" ICON color Display compared to the Pandora
  • Simple Plug n Play USB cable and Drag and Drop app to customize the Case Logo
  • Open Source - ready for custom apps and scripts




MATX Performance
Up to 8 120mm Fans or 5 140mm fans - there is no air standing still in this case!
And thanks to Magnetic and clip-on dust filters all around, dust bunnies are banned for life


Watercooling Ready
AEGIS supports a 360+240 loop or a dual 280 radiator combo!
Pumps and reservoirs can be installed on the case bottom, or our bundled brackets which enable them to hang from the case top or front, or be secured directly to a 240 or 360 radiator!  

Pricing
AEGIS - 99E / 119 USD
AEGIS CORE - 79E / 99 USD

Find out more about the Bitfenix Aegis at:
http://www.bitfenix.com/global/en/products/chassis/aegis/

February 25, 2015

MSI Gaming GT72 2PC Dominator Pro Gaming Notebook Review


Playing games on a high end gaming PC is indeed a pleasurable experience, but for those who travels a lot and don't have much time to sit in front of a PC to play games would prefer to go for a gaming notebook to satisfy their gaming needs. That's when a gaming notebook comes to play. While manufacturers boasts on how their gaming notebook is specially tailored solely for gaming purposes, many failed to live up to that title. 

Today we'll be examining a gaming notebook from MSI, special thanks to MSI Malaysia in provision of their GT72 2PC Dominator Pro Gaming Notebook. A bulky one it is but we'll ignore its bulkiness for now and examine closely on what kind of performance and feature - will it be a worthy gaming notebook or will it be 'just another expensive notebook'?

February 24, 2015

AMD Discloses Architecture Details of High-Performance, Energy-Efficient “Carrizo” System-on-Chip


AMD (NASDAQ:AMD) revealed at the prestigious International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) that the upcoming A-Series Accelerated Processing Unit (APU), codenamed “Carrizo”, for notebooks and low-power desktops will deliver a wealth of new, advanced power management technologies while achieving substantial performance through new “Excavator” x86 CPU cores and a new generation of AMD Radeon™ GPU cores. Using a true System-on-Chip (SoC) design, AMD expects Carrizo to reduce the power consumed by the x86 cores alone by 40 percent, while also providing substantial gains in CPU, graphics, and multimedia performance over the prior generation APU. 

“As a part of our continued focus on building great products, the advanced power and performance optimizations we have designed into our upcoming ‘Carrizo’ APU will deliver the largest generational performance-per-watt gain ever for a mainstream AMD APU,” said Sam Naffziger, AMD Corporate Fellow and co-author of the AMD presentation at ISSCC. “There have been remarkable advances in performance and energy efficiency in computing since the birth of the modern microprocessor. However, the energy-related benefits that flow from new manufacturing processes have slowed, ushering in an era when alternative ways to improve processor performance and efficiency are needed. AMD has been pursuing Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) and proprietary power management technologies to make continued gains. The upcoming ’Carrizo’ APU takes a big step toward the AMD 25x20 energy efficiency goal and incorporates a wealth of new features that will be adopted across our full product line going forward.”  


New Carrizo Disclosures at ISSCC:
  • 29% more transistors in nearly the same die size as its predecessor, “Kaveri”;
  • New “Excavator” x86 cores provide an uplift in instructions-per-clock at 40% less power;
  • New Radeon GPU cores with dedicated power supply;
  • Dedicated, on-chip H.265 video decode;
  • Double digit percentage increases in both performance and battery life;
  • Integrated Southbridge for the first time on an AMD high-performance APU. 
Details will be presented at the AMD ISSCC session, “A 28nm x86 APU Optimized for Power and Area Efficiency,” by AMD Fellow and Design Engineer Kathy Wilcox. The presentation covers the technology, implementation, and power management features of the Carrizo APU.


Architectural Advances
New high density design libraries allowed AMD to fit 29 percent more transistors on Carrizo – 3.1 billion – in nearly the same chip size as the previous generation, Kaveri APU. This density increase has allowed a larger area for graphics, multimedia offload, and integration of the “Southbridge” system controller on a single-chip. The increased support for multimedia includes the new, high-performance H.265 video standard and double the video compression engines of its predecessor. The inclusion of H.265 in hardware will support true 4K resolutions, help extend battery life, and reduce bandwidth requirements when viewing compatible video streams.

The additional transistor budget also allows Carrizo to become the first processor in the industry designed to be compliant with the HSA 1.0 specification developed by the HSA Foundation. HSA makes programming accelerators such as the GPU far simpler, ideally leading to greater application performance at low power consumption. 

Chief among the design advantages for HSA is the heterogeneous Unified Memory Access (hUMA) within Carrizo. With hUMA, the CPU and GPU share the same memory address space. Both can access all the platform’s memory and allocate data to any location in the system’s memory space. This coherent-memory architecture greatly reduces the number of instructions required to complete many tasks, thus helping improve both performance and energy efficiency.


New Energy Efficient Features
Several new power efficient technologies make their debut on the Carrizo APU. To deal with transient drops in voltage, which is known as droop, traditional microprocessor designs supply excess voltage on the order of ten to fifteen percent to ensure the processor always has appropriate voltage. But over-voltage is costly in terms of energy because it wastes power at a rate that is proportional to the square of the voltage increase. (i.e. 10% over-voltage means about 20% wasted power).

AMD has developed a number of technologies to optimize voltage. Its latest processors compare the average voltage to droops on the order of nanoseconds, or billionths of a second. Starting with the Carrizo APU, this voltage adaptive operation functions in both the CPU and the GPU. Since the frequency adjustments are done at the nanosecond level, there’s almost no compromise in computing performance, while power is cut by up to 10 percent on the GPU and up to 19% on the CPU.

Another power technology that debuts in Carrizo is called adaptive voltage and frequency scaling (AVFS). This technology involves the implementation of unique, patented silicon speed capability sensors, and voltage sensors in addition to traditional temperature and power sensors. The speed and voltage sensors enable each individual APU to adapt to its particular silicon characteristics, platform behavior, and operating environment. By adapting in real time to these parameters, AVFS can lead to up to 30 percent power savings. 

In addition to helping reduce power use on the CPU by shrinking the core area, AMD worked to optimize the 28nm technology for power efficiency, and tuned the GPU implementation for optimal operation in power limited scenarios. This enables up to a 20% power reduction over the Kaveri graphics at the same frequency. Combined, AMD’s energy efficiency innovations aim to deliver power savings on the order of a manufacturing technology shrink while staying in a well-characterized, cost-optimized 28nm process.

February 17, 2015

Unboxing & Review: Western Digital My Passport Wireless 1TB


Western Digital has been a familiar brand when it comes to portable hard drives and it has been one of the most recommended brand around. While portable hard drives has been widely used to store files but sharing its content is limited to a single device at a time - that's the limitation of for the USB portable hard drive. Western Digital has came up with a better sharing alternative, the Western Digital My Passport Wireless that allows up to 8 devices to access the hard drive through built-in wireless connection.

We're lucky enough to be able to get our hands on one of the latest portable hard drive from Western Digital, great thanks to Western Digital Malaysia for providing us their My Passport Wireless 1TB to made this review possible.

Specifications


Packaging

The packaging is very simple and no technical jargon can be seen here.


The back of the packaging shows brief but descriptive the feature of the hard drive that can be easily understandable by almost anyone who takes a glimpse on it.

Accessories

The content of the box - USB power adapter, USB cable, User's guide, Technical support and warranty guide, the Western Digital My Passport Wireless.

Closer Look

The My Passport Wireless looks pretty much like your normal portable hard drive at first glance. Through further examination we find that it's larger in size, has a built-in rechargable battery, LED indicator, power button, WPS button.


At the left of the My Passport Wireless you'll find a SD card slot where you can insert a SD card to backup its content to the hard drive or vice versa, depends on the configuration in the web user interface.


At the top of the hard drive you'll find the power button, USB port and WPS button. The hard drive can be accessed via the included USB 3.0 cable or wirelessly. 


Pressing down the power button will enable the hard drive (green LED) and pressing down the WPS button will enable the wireless sharing feature (Blue LED).


Web User Interface

To access the drive, we will need to join the network to access the web user interface.


The screen above is prompted on first time access.


Next is to configure the password for an additional security so others will not be able to access the drive without your knowledge and permission.


Once the password has been configured, the hard drive will reboot itself for the action to take effect.



After the drive is ready, you can access the web user interface by entering the address as following:

  • For Windows Operating System: http://mypassport
  • For MAC Operating System: http://mypassport.local




Home tab: Mainly displays the status of the hard drive such as capacity left, remaining battery life, Wi-Fi connection status.


Wi-Fi tab: Shows the users connected to the hard drive and enable connection through the internet by configuring the hard drive to access a wireless network.


Admin tab: Configure language, password, SSH and FTP access, restore factory settings ( System Only - reset the system on the hard drive, System and Disk - resets everything, leaving the drive fresh without any content left.


Hardware tab: Allows user to select the drive operating mode (performance / battery life), Drive Lock (disable access to the drive via USB connection).


Media tab: Allows user to configure streaming feature, rebuild/refresh DLNA Database, rebuild the media files count, configure SD card import mode when a SD card is plugged in.


Support tab: Send system report to support, download system report, hard drive diagnostics, etc.


Firmware tab: Check for firmware update or update firmware using the firmware update file from local drive.

PC Connection


Accessing the drive on PC doesn't really needs any 3rd party software as you'll be able to access the device once you've joined the hard drive network.


Mobile Device Connection

It's basically similar to how it's done on PC, just join the network to access the drive.


After joining the drive, user can access it using the WD My Cloud app to access the drive content.


Content of the drive populated.


User can stream videos through the drive directly.


View pictures stored on the drive.


Listen to audio files stored on the drive.


Testing & Final Thoughts
Usability wise, the Western Digital My Passport Wireless really makes file sharing much easier without the need to plugging the drive to a computer. Setting up the hard drive wireless sharing isn't hard by following the instructions on the user manual and all it takes is just a few minutes to configure the wireless password. Accessing the drive with mobile devices requires the installation of the WD My Cloud app but PC / Laptop doesn't requires any 3rd party software as user can access the drive data by connecting to the drive like how we access a remote shared folder (\\mypassport). 

Battery life wise, the performance mode and the battery life mode doesn't makes too much difference as the average time taken to stream videos directly from the drive and drains the battery to a point where it needs to be recharged is approximately 4 hours 54 minutes, which we consider it to be pretty decent for such a small device.

The SRP for 1TB model is RM599 while the 2TB model is RM699, not everyone's choice of portable hard drive when affordability is to be considered. However, if you're one of those who needs quick access to the hard drive (sharing photos, backup photos from SD card), this is the drive you should consider to go for.

Pros
  • Wireless sharing up to 8 device
  • Quick SD card backup feature
  • Easy to use Web UI
  • The drive can connect to wireless access point and act as a wireless access point for device connected

Cons
  • Expensive
  • Wireless sharing is disabled when the drive is plugged into a USB port
  • There's a bug where WD My Cloud App cannot detect the drive and firmware upgrade is required to fix the issue
  • Manual wireless password reset in user's manual didn't state clearly whether it will reset only the hard drive system or resetting the entire drive that leads to loss of data