enfrdeitptrues

Hardware

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    Hardware Info:

    Accell USB-C VR Adapter
    Specifications:
    Certified Oculus Ready
    Supports source devices with USB-C ports with DisplayPort Alt-mode, like recent NVIDIA graphics cards.
    May also function with Windows OS on devices that have DisplayPort Alt-mode via USB-C, such as HP EliteBook x360, HP ZBook, Dell XPS, MS Surface Book 2.
    Supports 4K on connected displays (though that is not its primary purpose)
    USB 3.0 Type A port is very convenient for VR headset use
    Eight feet (2.4 meters) long, allowing more movement and a convenient connection for VR use
    No drivers required
    MSRP: $49.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Accell for sending us this device to review!

    We've had a Virtual Reality (VR) headset since the launch of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. In many ways, these headsets give us a glimpse into the future, or at the very least, enable some really neat experiences that a flat screen and controller could never otherwise support. Being able to strap on a headset and step into a virtual world is really quite something.

    Despite this, cable management is always a bit of a tricky business. I have had to buy both HDMI and USB extension cables in order to support my HTC Vive, especially when using it from my desktop. My laptop is VR ready (GTX 1070), but ever since getting my new RTX 2080 Ti, I have been more inclined to use that for all of my gaming, VR included, for some reason.

    The NVIDIA RTX series of cards includes a USB-C Virtualink connector on the back of them. This connector is quite handy, because it allows you to get everything you need - both video, via DisplayPort Alt-mode, and of course the USB 3.1 data connection, all in one cable. Unfortunately, while most headset makers have committed to using these ports in their future products, no headsets currently on the market support this specification.

    That is where this Accell USB-C VR Adapter comes in. Rather than let that nice port on the back of that video card just go to waste, this adapter allows you to take advantage of it, using a cable that really does make life much easier.

    With my desktop gaming PC, I keep it inside of a desk cubby. (I cut holes in it and mounted fans to make sure that heat does not get trapped inside.) Once I run the cables I normally use in there, I rarely have to touch the back of the tower in normal use. However, connecting and disconnecting my VR headset is one area that requires some cables in order to get the most out of it.

    Accell USB-C VR Adapter

    What I did in the past was I bought a long HDMI cable, and rolled it up when I wasn't using it. Then I used a long active USB cable to cover the other part required. This worked, and I used it for years, but that extra cable that's always connected can get in the way or requires shoving it somewhere, and I still have to plug in the USB cable and unplug it when I'm done.

    What this new adapter allows me to do is have the single cable ran from my video card, directly into the USB and HDMI ports on my Vive breakout box. Then I connect my Vive as normal. That eight feet also happens to be the perfect length for me. While before my extension cables were excessively long, at around thirty feet each, now I have one that perfectly extends into my VR playing area. You see, I have my desktop in my office, and the common area/hallway is just outside of the doorway. This area is eight feet by thirteen feet, which makes for a great room-scale VR space.

    This USB-C extension cable, along with the three foot cables that come with the Vive, means that the breakout box is sitting just outside of my door. The Vive's headset cable is about fifteen feet long. It's almost like this combination was built for my exact room! I could not have asked for a more perfect fit. And when I am done, I just roll the small, thin, eight foot cord and adapter box up, and shove it next to my tower. So when it's not in use, it's completely out of the way. Again, perfect. As expected, VR through my Vive worked perfectly while connected through this adapter box.

    So, the Accell USB-C VR adapter is a perfect hit for its intended use case. What about other uses? Well, it does work as a USB 3 port, as well as a new 4K HDMI port. But I did find some limitations.

    Accell USB-C VR Adapter

    First of all, the USB port. I was able to prove that the port is indeed a 3.0 port, by connecting my USB 3.0 SSD up to it, and running CrystalDiskMark. The sequential reads and writes were virtually identical to connecting it to a connector on my case (which connects to my motherboard). The random I/O numbers were a bit lower, particularly the 4KiB Q8T8 values. But the write speed of 318MB/s that I got from the sequential tests proves without a doubt that the USB port is 3.0 in speed. In case it wasn't obvious, that port speed is dependent on how the video card/motherboard is configured; if it is connected to a USB 2.0 port inside of a laptop, for example, your results may vary. I can only vouch for the results I got using my NVIDIA RTX 2080 Ti.

    The HDMI port comes from a DisplayPort uplink, rather than a direct HDMI port. So, it does work, but there appears to be a small mismatch in how video modes are negotiated between the two technologies. (I tested another USB-C to HDMI cable and it has the same issue, so I don't think it's the fault of the adapter.) In the NVIDIA control panel, connected to my 4K monitor, I do see a full 4K (3840x2160) signal, at 60Hz. The only 'gotcha' is that the color spaces available is RGB and YCbCr422, rather than the full 444. What this means in practice is that the display must support HDR over RGB, which my Acer 4K monitor does, but many 4K televisions do not. So, full pixel color info + HDR support is technically present, but is dependent on what the display can support. (For those not aware, anything less than RGB or YCbCr444 will result in color distortions for some image types, especially on things like text over a PC input.)

    I am very pleased with the Accell USB-C VR Adapter. This is now a permanent fixture on my desktop computer, unless I get a new VR headset with a VirtuaLink connection. Until then, I look forward to many more years of increased convenience via this handy connector box.

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    Hardware Info:

    ECHOGEAR Dual Screen Monitor Mount for Gaming
    Model: ECHO-GM2FC
    Developed by: ECHOGEAR
    Release date: February 7, 2018
    Price: $119.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you ECHOGEAR for sending us a review sample!

    While my husband has had a dual monitor mount for quite some time and loves it, I never got around to setting one up until now. Learn from my failure and make sure that both of your monitors have VESA mounts before proceeding. The ECHOGEAR Dual Screen Monitor Mount for Gaming supports VESA patterns 75x75 and 100x100. If your monitors have those, the installation can take as little as fifteen minutes. With the crafty hack job my husband did, we still got this installed in one night despite one of my monitors lacking a VESA mount.

    The assembly process is pretty straightforward and the instruction manual is gamer-friendly and quite entertaining to read. It refers to the assembly process as a quest and calls the hex key tools bonus loot. If you get stuck during your quest, you can call ECHOGEAR 7 days a week. Even if you just want someone to chat with, according to the manual. Though their products come from China, the customer support is based in the United States.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Gamer-friendly instruction manual; easy installation; durable design that’s not shaky; monitors stay put; ability to hide the cables and cords
    Weak Points:  In order to  tighten the monitor tilt/angle, you have to remove the monitor from the device

    The hardware is high quality, solid metal, and there is nothing chintzy about it. The monitor arms are gas spring adjusted and can hold 20lb displays on each one. While adjusting the monitor height and distance is easily done, changing the monitor tilt/positioning if loose requires removing the monitor from the bracket to fix it. My other complaint is that the 100x100 mount has open hooks on one side, which turned out to be a bit of a hassle, as 4 closed mounting holes would have probably been easier.

    To stabilize the monitors, the base needs to clamp to your desk and requires its thickness to be .5”-3.5”. Make sure your display and power cables are long enough for their new positions. The design has crevices to tuck them away neatly. Unfortunately, my cables had just enough slack to reach the monitors and not enough to tuck them away properly.

    ECHOGEAR Dual Screen Monitor Mount for Gaming
    With this Dual Screen Monitor Mount, you can have your screens be vertical, horizontal, or a combination of both. Out of habit, I have mine set up as both horizontal. The finished setup looks great and my desk has so much more free space as a result. I’ll have to adjust to my new corner configuration and keyboard placement, but that’s a minor setback considering the advantages of this new arrangement.

    Hopefully, it won’t ever be needed, but ECHOGEAR backs their products by a five-year warranty. The asking price is reasonable at less than $120 and you can get a 10% off coupon code if you order it through ECHOGEAR’s website. If I ever get a third monitor, I’ll be sure to check out their $99 Triple Desk Mount system.
    ECHOGEAR Dual Screen Monitor Mount for Gaming

     

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    Hardware Info:

    Ematic Protective Carrying Case for Nintendo Switch
    Includes:
    Red and black two-tone carrying case, with eight cartridge slots and a large pouch up top
    Wrist Strap
    Screen Protector
    Microfiber Cloth
    MSRP: $13.71 
    (Walmart Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Ematic for sending us this case to review!

    We are a multi-Switch household, and purchased our first one on launch week. At the time, we got the very sweet-looking Breath of the Wild officially-licensed carrying case, and it has served us well. The main problem I have with it is that it uses space rather inefficiently; there is a lot of wasted room near where the cartridge holders are, and only a small pouch to hold your extra things. So, you can carry up to eight games, two extra Joy-Cons, four Joy-Con grips, and that's pretty much it. If you want to bring along a power adapter, or pretty much anything else, you'll be needing another bag. So, when we had the chance to review this case, I took the chance, because as nice as the Zelda case is, there are some things I wish it could carry.

    Once it arrived, I opened it up and saw a decent-looking red and black case within. I also noticed the screen protector and microfiber cloth, which are a nice touch, though I don't need those now. (I may if my glass screen protector cracks any more.) The case is made of EVA foam covered in some kind of nylon-like material, and is both soft to the touch and difficult to bend or crush. I would say my Nintendo Switch should feel very safe inside (if it had emotions).

    Ematic Protective Carrying Case for Nintendo Switch
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Very competitive price; strong material; logical use of space; holds much more than it appears; screen protector a nice bonus
    Weak Points: Looks very basic; top pouch could be more secure; wrist strap is really cheap and not very secure

    It's also impossible not to notice the huge bumps on the bottom, where the Joy-Con triggers go. They do make the case oddly unsymmetrical, but it is for a practical reason, since it allows the rest of the case to be slimmer, while still leaving plenty of space for accessories. And, if you don't mind stuffing it really full, lots of accessories.

    The screen-protecting cartridge holder goes in between the bottom part with the trigger bumps, and the top section where you can store all kinds of stuff. You could store several pairs of Joy-Cons, perhaps, but what I do is store one pair there, along the edges, and then pack the middle with all kinds of goodies. I have four sets of Joy-Con grips, the ZMI USB-C charger, and a USB-C dock that I have confirmed with experience works as a TV connection along with the ZMI power adapter. It's a really tight fit, and the black side of the case has a bit of a bulge, but it does fit everything, safely. All I need to do now is figure out how to fit an HDMI cable, and we can have a fully portable Switch ready for ARMS and Smash on almost any TV without having to carry bulky Switch docks and power supplies.

    Ematic Protective Carrying Case for Nintendo Switch

    The downsides that I see, other than being stuffed to the brim, are two: first, the top pouch, the one holding everything, is not sealed in any way. It is really easy to lose stuff if you tip it upside-down. The other issue is that the wrist strap is kind of cheap; it works, but it's nowhere near as snug and comforting for your things at the nice handle the official Nintendo case has. With that said, it's also much cheaper.

    The Ematic Protective Carrying Case for Nintendo Switch is a great little case that is both inexpensive and very functional. I can fit a ton of my stuff in there, and it protects my things without costing an arm and a leg. I'll probably be using it moving forward, despite the downsides. If that isn't enough praise, then I'm not sure what else there could be.

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    Hardware Info:

    Ematic Wired N-Switch Controller
    Red and black two-tone controller
    Turbo button
    Dual rumble motors
    7.2 foot (~2.2 meters) cord
    PC Compatible (via Steam's Nintendo Switch controller support)
    MSRP: $19.99
    (Walmart Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Ematic for sending us this controller to review!

    We are a multi-Switch household, and have lots of gaming PCs everywhere, so you can really never have enough controllers. We have enough so a small army could come by and enjoy some multiplayer mayhem together. However, the vast majority of those are for PC/Xbox or PlayStation consoles; on Switch, we have three sets of Joy-Cons (one for each Switch, and one extra) and one Pro Controller. We also have the Wii U GameCube controller adapter, which works great for Smash, but not for every game. So there is always a need for a good backup controller for adults or those who dislike tiny buttons.

    Ematic Wired N-Switch Controller
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Very competitive price; seems durable; comfortable to hold; more logically-placed home button than Nintendo chose; PC compatible (if you enable Nintendo Switch controller support in Steam); if you prefer the PlayStation button layout, this is a controller for you
    Weak Points: No gyro support; no amiibo support; looks very basic; D-pad requires more force to press than most controllers; buttons feel kind of cheap, but work fine; RT and LT buttons have a long throw, but only activate when fully depressed; 7.2 feet (~2.2 meters) is a decent length, but really could be longer

    Enter Ematic. For the very reasonable price of $19.99, you can order this most basic of Switch Pro Controller clones that does most of what you expect it to do. The sticks feel nice and work well, and use the PlayStation layout, with the D-pad in the upper left position, and the two analog sticks centered. The buttons and triggers are decent as well, though require just a tad more force than you might otherwise expect. It's not terrible, though. The triggers feel good, but are not analog (which is as expected for a Switch controller), even though the triggers have a significant range of motion, similar to Xbox or PlayStation controllers that do have analog triggers. The D-pad feels kind of cheap, but works well enough. My main complaint is that it requires more force than some controllers to activate, though to be fair, you could say the same about the Switch Pro Controller.

    Other than being wireless, the Switch Pro Controller does have some significant advantages over this, though. For one thing, it has an amiibo reader. (Okay, that's a joke. It doesn't have an amiibo reader, but that's not a big deal.) The bigger deal is motion controls. While most games work just fine without it, most first-party titles have some form of motion controls. Mario and Zelda come to mind. For other games, like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, motion controls don't matter. The Ematic controller lacks the gyro/motion control function entirely. It's a real shame, and you really miss it in Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

    Ematic Wired N-Switch Controller

    Other than the motion control issue, the Ematic controller does the job.  It certainly feels cheaper than the stock controller, but nowhere near as bad as some of my older third-party controllers, like the Rock Candy PS3 controllers I picked up several years ago; those things feel like one drop away from cracking open, while this one has a fairly sturdy shell, and seems like it could take a few licks.  Overall, while the lack of motion control is disappointing, and the cord could use a few more feet, it is a very good value for the price.  If you are looking for an inexpensive controller for young kids or guest players, you can't go wrong with this Ematic Wired N-Switch Controller.

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    Hardware Info:

    Ematic Wireless N-Switch Controller
    Red and black two-tone controller
    Approximately 7 feet long USB-C charging cable included
    Turbo button
    Dual rumble motors
    Gyro motion supported
    Bluetooth Connection
    32 feet (9.75 meters) wireless range
    20 hour battery life, with 2 hour charge time
    PC Compatible (via Steam's Nintendo Switch controller support)
    MSRP: $27.99
    (Walmart Affiliate Link)

     

    Thank you Ematic for sending us this controller to review!

    We are a multi-Switch household, and have lots of gaming PCs everywhere, so you can really never have enough controllers. However, most of them are for other consoles - our Switch-compatible list is much smaller, though growing, thanks in part to our review of Ematic's wired controller. And with Smash supporting up to eight players, and many with larger hands having a strong dislike for Joy-Cons, the more the merrier. So there is always a need for a good backup controller for adults or those who dislike tiny buttons.

    Enter Ematic. For the very reasonable price of $27.99, you can order this almost feature-complete Switch Pro Controller clone that does most of what you expect it to do. The sticks feel nice and work well, and use the PlayStation layout, with the D-pad in the upper left position, and the two analog sticks centered. The buttons and triggers are decent as well, though require just a tad more force than you might otherwise expect. It's not terrible, though. The triggers feel good, but are not analog (which is as expected for a Switch controller), even though the triggers have a significant range of motion, similar to Xbox or PlayStation controllers that do have analog triggers. The D-pad feels kind of cheap, but works well enough. On the wired controller, which looks basically identical to this (except it has a wire), the D-pad was really hard to press. Thankfully, this one is much better, though there is no way to know if it's because of luck and production tolerances, or if it's because this model is made a bit better. Either way, this one is quite nice.

    Ematic Wireless N-Switch Controller
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Very competitive price; seems durable; comfortable to hold; more logically-placed home button than Nintendo chose; PC compatible (if you enable Nintendo Switch controller support in Steam); if you prefer the PlayStation button layout, this is a controller for you; D-pad seems better than the wired version I reviewed (it could also be my sample)
    Weak Points: No amiibo support; looks very basic; while the D-pad on my sample is better than the wired one I reviewed, it could also be production variances; buttons feel kind of cheap, but work fine; RT and LT buttons have a long throw, but only activate when fully depressed

     

    I tested this as a PC controller, and it works well if you connect via Bluetooth, and tell Steam to configure it as a Switch Pro Controller. Steam's Pro Controller support only works for Xinput games, which is the vast majority of modern ones. But if a game only supports DirectInput, which is the much older standard, then don't expect much from this, as it doesn't report inputs to Windows' built-in USB controller tester. On Steam, both rumble and motion controls work as expected, which is really great.

    The Switch Pro Controller does have one advantage over this: it has an amiibo reader. Other than that, it's mostly a difference in layout and perceived quality. The layout is more a preference issue rather than an advantage. The Pro Controller has first-party status, which is great, but is it worth the extra cost? While I haven't tested the Ematic on every game I own, it did work pretty well on Zelda, which is a game that relies on motion controls quite a bit for aiming the bow. Otherwise it seems to work well enough.

    The Ematic Wireless N-Switch Controller is a quite decent Pro Controller alternative. It feels a bit cheaper than the stock controller, but nowhere near as bad as some of my older third-party controllers, like the Rock Candy PS3 controllers I picked up several years ago; those things feel like one drop away from cracking open, while this one has a fairly sturdy shell, and seems like it could take a few licks. Overall, it feels good, works great, and has motion control, which is very important for some games. The signal range was also great in my testing. It is a very good value for the price. If you are looking for an inexpensive controller alternative to the pricey official Pro Controller, and you like the PlayStation-style layout, then you can't go wrong with this Ematic Wireless N-Switch Controller.

    Ematic Wireless N-Switch Controller

     

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    Game Info:

    SpeedIN’ USB 3.0 X600 256GB SSD
    Developed by: EMTEC
    Read Speed: Up to 320 MB/sec
    Write Speed: Up to 100MB/sec
    USB 3.0
    Price: $144.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you EMTEC for sending us this USB SSD Drive to review!

    We recently had the good fortune to review EMTEC's fantastic SpeedIN' S600, which is by far the fastest USB flash drive we have ever seen, much less tested. Unfortunately, the prices on it have been going up as far as we can tell, and availability is hard to come by in the US.  (The situation seems different in Europe.)  Thankfully, this model, the X600, is available right now on Amazon for a much more reasonable price.  While the performance isn't quite up to the speed of the S600, it's still very good – and I suspect good enough for most use cases.

    To start with, I always evaluate a flash disk using CrystalDiskMark.  It seems to be a great way to baseline a drive's performance.  As you can see here, the sequential writes of close to 350MB/s is slightly over spec, while the write speed of close to 70MB/s is a fair bit under spec.

    EMTEC SpeedIN' X600 USB 3.0 Portable External 1.8” SSD
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Really fast read rate; write performance is acceptable; looks and feels very high quality; nice and slim
    Weak Points: Never been a fan of micro-USB 3.0 connectors; USB Type-C can't get here fast enough

    A utility I used quite a long time ago, and still pull up on occasion, is the venerable HD Tune 2.55.  It's the last version that was free, and it's still useful for read testing; write tests are not supported in the free version.  I use it for a few reasons: it shows drive consistency across available disk space, and it shows access times.  This here shows the one area that the X600 is faster than the S600 – the access time of 0.5ms is less than the S600's 0.7ms, and the burst rate is also higher at 63.3MB/s vs, 26.7MB/s.  Otherwise, the transfer rate seems to fluctuate between 200MB/s and 250MB/s, while the S600 is an almost perfectly flat line at 250MB/s.

    EMTEC SpeedIN' X600 USB 3.0 Portable External 1.8” SSD

    Next is the file transfer benchmarks.  Here, I simply copied a file from my desktop's SSD drive over to the USB drive.  Now, the picture kind of lies; it appears to be going over 300MB/s, but in reality, it quickly drops off to zero, climbs back up, then repeats.  I used a stopwatch to do the copy of an approximately 1GB file, and doing the math, I got a transfer rate of just short of 90MB/s.

    Then I copied it back to my other SSD (a different path) as a read test.  Again, it goes very fast, then tapers off.  The fast part is well over 300MB/s, and you can see that near the end it's 'only' 226MB/s.  Still plenty fast for most use cases, and way faster than virtually any non-SSD drive.

    EMTEC SpeedIN' X600 USB 3.0 Portable External 1.8” SSD

    The size and apparent durability and build quality of the X600 is quite excellent. It has a nice, premium feel, and feels like it can take a few drops and survive (not that I plan on testing that, nor should you).  I have always greatly disliked the long and skinny micro-USB 3.0 connector, and while I understand it's a necessary evil, I can't wait for USB Type-C connectors to become more commonplace on products like this.

    EMTEC's SpeedIN' X600 USB 3.0 Portable External 1.8” SSD is a very nice, fast external drive for a competitive price.  While I can't say I've scoped out all of the competition, what we do have here is a drive that performs much better than your typical USB key.  If you don't need the speed, then it absolutely makes sense to pay much less for a much slower drive.  You can get slower USB drives for about half of the price, but the read speeds are typically one half of the speed (or less).  If you are looking for an external drive fast enough to do more intensive work on, or even play games off of, then definitely take a good look at EMTEC's SpeedIN' series.  

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    Hardware Info:

    EWin Calling Series Ergonomic Computer Gaming Office Chair with Pillows
    Made By: EWinRacing
    Price: $220 after shipping with coupon code

    Thank you EWinRacing for sending us this office chair to review!

    I’ve been using computers for more than twenty-five years and have gone through many office chairs in the process. In many cases, you get what you pay for. I’ve had multiple $40 office chairs that ripped or broke after several months of use. Cloth chairs seem to last longer but are not as breathable as mesh office chairs. Prior to receiving the EWin Calling Series CLBC2D gaming office chair, I was happily using a mesh chair with rollerblade-style wheels which were smoother and easier on our vinyl and carpeted flooring. While the included back and blue caster wheels look sharp on the EWin Calling Series chair, I opted to install a clear set of rollerblade-style wheels instead. Other than the wheels, there is little else I would change on it.

    Assembly is easy as most of the hard work is already done. If you have ever assembled an office chair, this one won’t be much different. The typical five-legged nylon base, gas lift, and hydraulic base are used. The chair’s steel frame is covered by the high-density memory foam and quality leather-like covering. The back and headrest pillows are adjustable and comfortable.

    All of the necessary tools are included along with a pair of gloves and some spare parts. The total assembly time for my husband and I was about 30 minutes. We did make one mistake by swapping out the hinge covers that connected the back of the chair to the seat. Discovering and correcting this error didn’t take us too long though.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Very comfortable
    Weak Points: A little hard to rock in

    Once assembled, I was able to adjust the chair and arm rest height to my liking. The rocking ability is a bit stiff by default and we really had to loosen it quite a bit before I was able to rock the chair successfully. Reclining it is easily done though. The pillow positions can be changed and I like to raise the back pillow for better lumbar support.

    EWin’s chairs are specifically designed for certain weight and height parameters. The chair I received is made for gamers less than 6’3” and 330lbs. My 6’2” husband tried out the chair and felt that the shoulder area was too tight for him and would opt for the models that support people up to 6’7”. At a recent LAN party at our house, people my height and shorter found this chair very comfortable to sit in. My kids took a liking to it as well.

    EWin Calling Series Ergonomic Computer Gaming Office Chair with Pillows

    I’ve been using this chair for a couple of weeks and it’s held up pretty well so far and has been comfortable to use. Since my husband gave away my previous chair, I’m stuck with the EWin Calling Series chair which is not a bad thing. I look forward to many more weeks, months, and years of use. Each EWin chair is backed by a five-year warranty. The website prices are pretty reasonable and include shipping which is nice since our chair weighed in at 65lbs. FedEx left it on our driveway instead of bringing it to the door like other packages.

    If you’re in the market for comfortable office or PC gaming chairs, check out EWinRacing’s website. They often have a promotion that takes off a certain percentage off chairs for gaming with various coupon codes. If there are no sales happening, you can try our CCGR coupon code for 10% off.

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    Hardware Info:

    Gamdias Hermes E1 Combo
    Developed by: Gamdias
    Release Date: December 2016
    Price: $79.99

     

    Thank you Gamdias for sending us these products to review!

    *Advertising disclosure* - Gamdias was a former advertising partner with us, and is currently not as of this review.  This review is not influenced by this relationship.

    Gaming can be expensive when it comes to having fast enough hardware to run the newest and best looking games out there.  Many gaming accessories are available that can help improve your in-game performance and response time.  Gaming mice often come in many speeds and pretty colors and can cost upwards of fifty dollars or more.  Durable yet responsive mousepads are not cheap either and usually start around twenty dollars.  While cheap keyboards can be bought for twenty dollars or less, mechanical keyboards are typically three, four, or even five times that amount.  Gamdias has created a budget bundle consisting of a mechanical keyboard, a gaming mouse, and a mousepad all for under eighty dollars.  I have seen it for less than fifty dollars on Newegg.

    Right off the bat, I wasn’t impressed with the mousepad.  It seemed like a run of the mill foam mousepad that typically sells for five dollars.  After being spoiled by the QcK mousepads, I was not going to downgrade.  I gave the mousepad to my daughter and she seems to like it though.  Unlike the mousepad, the gaming mouse and keyboard did impress me.  My only complaint about them is that you cannot customize their colors or patterns.

     

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Nice gaming bundle for one low price.
    Weak Points: No software or customization options.

    The Demeter E2 mouse has a braided USB cable and an optical sensor that can support up to 3200 DPI.  The mouse feels inexpensive based on the texture of the plastic used, but it feels durable and works well in operation. The lighting on it changes from blue to red in a breathing like pattern.  Although the mouse can be considered ambidextrous, there are two extra buttons on the left hand side of it making it more convenient for right-handed gamers. The scroll wheel is clickable and there is a DPI button to change the sensitivity.  Since there is no software for this mouse you can’t be sure of your exact DPI setting and the colors and pattern cannot be altered.  The DPI options are 1200/1600/2400/3200.  

    The mechanical keyboard can’t be tinkered with via software either.  The keys are illuminated in red and there are a couple of lighting patterns available.  There are some programmable keys and some neat options like switching out the WASD keys with the arrow keys.  There’s even a key lock option to prevent kids or cats from altering open Word documents.  If you enable the gaming mode, the windows key will not interrupt your game by launching the start menu if pressed. 

    Gamdias Hermes E1 Combo

    The construction of the keyboard is solid and I like the thin aluminum faceplate.  The blue switches were a little stiff at first but after a couple of weeks, they loosened up a bit.  Writing reviews with this keyboard has been comfortable and the snap on wrist strap is great for those who are concerned about ergonomic support.    

    Overall, this is a great mouse and keyboard combo for budget conscious gamers.  While the customization options are limited, the quality, comfort, and precision are there.  As I mentioned earlier the mouse pad isn’t anything fancy, but it’s better than nothing.  If you’re in the market for a mechanical keyboard and a decent mouse, this is a good deal at $79, but a steal for under $50.

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    Hardware Info:

    Gamdias Hermes P2 RGB Optical Mechanical Switch Gaming Keyboard
    Developed by: Gamdias
    Release date: May 12, 2017
    Price: $149.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Gamdias for sending us this keyboard to review!

    *Advertising disclosure* - Gamdias was a former advertising partner with us, and is currently not as of this review. This review is not influenced by this relationship.

    I have been happily using the Gamdias Hermes P1 Gaming Keyboard since we reviewed it in April 2017. I’m a fan of the “clicky” blue switches and thankfully my family members don’t mind the noisiness of it. In fact, there are several blue switch keyboards in our house. (We have technologically spoiled children). Several reviews have been typed up on the Hermes P1 and it’s still functioning great and I have no complaints.

    Many of the same features of the P1 are available on the P2 including the custom RGB coloring, braided and gold plated USB cable, N key roll over, WASD/arrow key swap and more. A couple of the features that I miss on the P2 are the removable wrist rest and the metal plated top. The wrist rest is built into the design so if you’re not a fan of wrist rests, you may want to consider another model. While the P2 feels study, I still favor metal over plastic when available. Both the P1and P2 models come with key pullers and I miss the built-in holder on the bottom that the P1 offered.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Optical switches; volume knob; braided cable
    Weak Points: Non-removable wrist rest; expensive; less color options than the P1; software is Windows only

    Some new features that the P2 brings to the table are swappable, optical switches. The blue optical switches don’t bottom out like the standard mechanical switches. They have a nice sturdy feel to them and they react to gentle key presses nicely. The P1’s keys seem a little softer to press. The P2 will probably get softer over time and many key presses. I like the feel of both of them so I can’t really declare a winner here. I plan on using both daily, one at work and the other at home.

    One of my favorite new additions to the P2 is the volume knob. It’s so much easier to use than the media keys. While the media keys are still available, they only do incremental volume adjustment now. Muting still works the same way and I like how the volume knob is clickable and mutes the sound when depressed. Just in case you’re wondering, the WASD/arrow key function swap is still in-between the media key functions for some odd reason. Gamdias has been doing it this way for a while though.

    Though the Hermes P2 RGB Gaming Keyboard boasts of 16.8 million colors and four levels of brightness, I had a difficult time getting color variations from the initial seven in the Hera software. For the life of me, I could not get the keys to be purple. My MSI laptop with a SteelSeries keyboard has the same problem and both keyboards are more pinkish as a result. Unlike the Hermes 7 color (https://www.christcenteredgamer.com/index.php/reviews/hardware/6237-gamdias-hermes-7-color-mechanical-keyboard) mechanical keyboard we also reviewed, you can set the colors on this keyboard by individual keys and zones instead of settling for the default rainbow color scheme.

    If you like effects, you can choose between several including breathing, wave, marquee, ripple, and others. The default mode is neon where the keyboard rotates between several different colors. There are less effects available on the P2 compared to the P1. Like the P1, you can customize the color of each individual key or by region to make your keyboard truly unique.

    With the Hera software you can also configure macros and key assignments. The software is standalone so you don’t have to worry about it slowing down your system’s performance and you can just launch it when you want to make tweaks to your hardware. The settings remain in place when you bring the keyboard to another system. One downside to the software is that it’s only available for Windows.

    Unfortunately, the keyboard arrived with a defective switch. This caused extra characters to be typed when first logging into Windows. After the first login, the issue went away. Since the switches are swappable I was able to move the bad switch to the scroll lock key and the password issue went away. Thankfully, Gamdias was kind enough to send us three replacement switches and the keyboard is fully functional. Without their assistance, I would have been in a bind since I cannot seem to find replacement switches for sale anywhere. Which begs the question of why make them swappable if they cannot be replaced?

    On Amazon, the P2 lists for $149.99 which is a bit steep in my opinion. While swapping out the switches is neat, I honestly don’t foresee myself doing that anytime soon. Hopefully I won't have a need for the extra two switches Gamdias sent us. The P1 is currently on sale for $54.47 which is an excellent price for a mechanical gaming keyboard. I do like the addition of the volume knob and hope that it stays in upcoming keyboard revisions. I also hope that the wrist rests are detachable in the near future as well.

    If you are looking for other gaming keyboards available in the market, check out WePC's reviews

  •  

    boxart
    Hardware Info:

    Gamdias Hermes P3 RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
    Specifications:
    Mechanical Keyboard with Low-Profile Kailh Brown switches
    Brown and Blue variants available; Brown reviewed
    32bit ARM Cortex Processor keyboard controller
    RGB LED backlit keys, fully customizable with 16.8 million colors
    Media keys accessible via Fn key
    Windows key enable/disable
    Macro keys available
    Metal faceplate
    HERA Software for configuration, with onboard memory (software not required once configured)
    MSRP: $159.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Gamdias for sending us this keyboard to review!

    *Advertising disclosure* - Gamdias was a former advertising partner with us, and is currently not as of this review. This review is not influenced by this relationship.

    Gamdias has been sending us keyboards to review for several years now, and we are truly grateful for their kindness. Cheryl tends to review most of their keyboards, but she has a strong preference for Blue (or loud and clicky) keys, whereas I tend to prefer Brown or Red, because of their softer touch and quieter feedback. So, when this Hermes P3 RGB Mechanical Gaming keyboard was made available for review with Brown keys, I jumped at the opportunity.

    I've been typing heavily for over twenty-five years now since I got my first computer that my parents allowed me to call my own sometime in the early 1990s. Over that time, as my arms and hands gained mileage, I have found that a mechanical keyboard is simply a must – rubber domes require bottoming out for activation, and that really starts to hurt these hands after a while. My knuckles and finger joints get sore, and anything I can do to prevent this is critical as both my day job, as well as my evening pursuits, require quite a bit of typing (as evidenced by the existence of this review).

    There are several aspects to what makes a good feeling keyboard. The switches are extremely important of course, and these are using Kailh low-profile Brown switches, which are, to the best of my knowledge, a Kailh invention, rather than a Cherry clone like their previous switches have been. (Based on my Googling, they look a lot like PG1350 switches or the 'Choc' ones, but I have no way to know for sure.)

    These, like their larger Cherry colored inspirations, are tactile keys without an audible 'click'. The Blues have a loud pronounced click, while the Browns do not; they have some physical feedback, but not quite as much as the Blues. They also generally require slightly less force to activate than the Blues as well, though their spec sheets list them both as needing 50g of force to operate. Cherry Browns (and Reds) list a 45g activation force, which surprisingly enough, is noticeably lighter to the touch. It's still not bad though.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Low-profile keys are quick responding and the short travel is great for both ergonomics and games; metal plate makes it feel very sturdy; despite being a mechanical keyboard, the impact is very soft and feels great to these old hands; software works well, and stays out of the way via onboard memory storing the configuration
    Weak Points: I prefer the ABS keycaps on Cherry or Das keyboards; no wrist rest

    Another important aspect to keyboard feel is build quality, which leads especially to how it's mounted. If the shell feels wobbly and cheap, that can translate into keyboard feel in a very important way. Thankfully, this one feels really solid, thanks to the metal top and well put together plastic body. It's a fairly light and compact design, which feels much sturdier than it has any right to considering how light it is. They did a great job here.

    Another big contributor to keyboard feel is keycaps. The ones here are unique to this kind of switch, as there is no aftermarket for the Kailh low-profile switches just yet. These are definitely on the better side; I like them much more than some of Gamdias' older keycaps. But, I still prefer the more premium feel that Gamdias uses on the P2, or especially the ones on my Cherry or Das keyboards. I am not sure if it's the material (ABS) or the paint/coating, or what it is, but those just feel more premium. It's not a huge difference, but it's there. For the record, the Gamdias P2's keycaps are the closest I have seen from them to that same premium feel.

    But it may not be the keycaps themselves, but the way that they mount makes them feel different, also. The classic Cherry connectors (which translates to most of their clones also) is a simple '+' under each keycap that is pushed down and secured. These new Kailh switches use a two hook system that works well enough, though doesn't feel quite the same. But still, it's quite decent.

    And finally, the way the keys feel lacks the 'bounciness' of the other key styles. When typing, they feel like they bounce back into place quickly – but not as quickly as more full-sized keyboards. I don't know if it's the switches or simply the necessary compromises needed to fit the form factor; they feel nice, but don't 'bounce' the same way as the other keyboards do.

    With all of that said, please don't interpret it as dislike; indeed the exact opposite. This keyboard is really very nice to type on; it feels sturdy despite being light, and gives good feedback when typing. The low profile is really great; it's much more ergonomic and easy to make work in nearly any environment. There is a lot to like with this keyboard.

    The RGB LEDs are excellent and light quite well throughout the keycaps. The colors, which are configurable through Gamdias' HERA software, pass my wife's purple test – which is to say, it's one of the few keyboards that actually can display purple properly when asked; almost all do red, blue, or green correctly, but for some reason, many display purple as a shade of pink. Not here; purple is indeed purple.

    Gamdias Hermes P3 RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

    And HERA works really well here. There is onboard memory that can be used to store macros, default keybind changes, and more. And the best part is, once configured, it works no matter what operating system you use. I prefer the Windows key to be by my left hand, as common Windows shortcuts, like Win+x, are available from there, whereas the way the keyboard ships has it on the right. So, I went into HERA, set my preferred color, and activated the Fn <-> Win key swap feature, and then saved my changes. I then disconnected my keyboard, and connected it to my work laptop, which happens to be a Mac. It works perfectly – including the Windows key swap, color, all of it. This is especially important since my other keyboards use the same layout and I did not look forward to having to learn another one.

    You can record macros, both with HERA, and on the keyboard itself. There are two macro keys, where you press Fn + space or 'b', which can activate the macro as requested. There are also up to six profiles you can use, which can be used to change color schemes, macros, and more. You can also choose to have your keyboard swap the WASD and arrow keys, have the lighting make color waves, swirl in circles, swish back and forth, or simply be turned on or off if that's your thing. The location of the keypress to swap WASD and the arrow keys is most definitely a headscratcher, but that seems to be true of all Gamdias keyboards. There are also media keys accessible via the Fn key, which is always welcome, as I use them daily.

    The keyboard looks nice, though it has a plastic border around the metal keyboard plate that takes up space that I would prefer not be there. This also makes using a wrist rest more difficult, which is its biggest flaw to me – I really like a good wrist rest, and this keyboard does not include one, and the plastic border makes it more difficult to use a third party one. It's not impossible; I use a beanbag one okay, though I prefer more solid ones these days. Either way, if you don't use them, then I think you will really like this keyboard; if you do, then know that the ledge does kind of get in the way, though thankfully it's less than an inch long, so you can work around it.

    The Gamdias Hermes P3 RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard really shows how far Gamdias has come in the last few years. I felt that their older designs were less sturdy than some others I have used, and their keycaps, and the paint they used, were not to my tastes. But this one fixes almost all of those problems, as does our recently reviewed Hermes P2. And with this model, they are on the cutting edge of keyboard technology, as this is one of the only Kailh low-profile Brown switch keyboards on the market. It looks nice, feels nice, and works great. My biggest complaint is the price; at $159.99, there is a ton of competition in that price range, and I'm not sure if this is premium enough for that price bracket. Oh, and a volume knob like the P2 sure would have been nice!

  • boxart
    Hardware Info:

    HIS Gear Up Portable AC Power 65W
    Developed by: HIS Digital
    Release Date: December 13, 2014
    Specifications: Lithium Ion battery 3.6V 3400mAhx4, 13,000mAh, USB 2.4A
    Price: $199
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you HIS for sending us this Gear Up Portable AC Power 65W to review!

    Our family likes to do camping and long road trips and in both of these cases we'll be bringing our Gear Up portable AC power bank.  AC Power outlets are not readily available in our 2002 duct taped minivan and this device can keep our kid's tablet and 3DS' running smoothly for a nine hour car ride to see family in another state. A quiet car ride makes this device worth every penny!  

    When we went camping in the summer, the power outlet was outside and unusable when it was raining.   And it did rain on us a couple of times.  Next time we'll have the Gear Up with us so we can keep our cell phones charged.  It's important to have a decently charged phone if you rely on the GPS functionality.  

    Charging the power bank fully takes roughly two and a half hours.  With one full charge you can fully charge modern smart phones between four and seven times.  If you have a lower power laptop you can charge it off of that.  My power hungry Asus Republic of Gamers beast would balk at the power output, but a MacBook Air can get an extra two hours of usage.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great portable power source for USB and 120V devices.
    Weak Points: MSRP is pricey but I have seen it on sale for $99; the USB port still works on ours but it is slanted and not flush with the edge.

    The power bank's design is simple and easy to use.  There's a silver button that you can press to see the Lithium Ion battery's charge level.    There are four blue LEDs that represent 25% each.  When a USB device is plugged in, it will illuminate in blue to let you know that it is drawing power.  To use the power outlet you have to turn the switch on.  It's as simple as that.

    Included in the box is the power bank, and AC adapter to charge it, a converter for international charging, a carrying pouch, and a user manual.   It weighs less than a pound and its dimensions are 5.9 x 3.74 x 1.1.  It's pretty compact and is a lightweight travel companion.  

    My only complaint with the HIS Gear Up Portable AC Power 65W is that the USB port on ours is sticking out of it slightly.  It's not flush with the side as it should be.  The important thing is that it still works, but it does make me question the quality though.  Fortunately, it carries a one year warranty.  

    If you travel often or forget to charge your phone, the HIS Gear Up Portable AC Power 65W is a travel companion you may not want to leave without.  While the suggested price is $199, I have seen it for half of that price at Newegg.

     
  • boxart
    Hardware Info:

    HIS Gear Up Portable AC Power 85W 
    Developed by: HIS Digital
    Release Date: December 13, 2014
    Specifications: Lithium Ion battery 3.6V 2900mAhx8, 20,000mAh, USB 2.4A
    Price: $149 on Newegg

    Thank you HIS for sending us this Gear Up Portable AC Power 85W to review!

    We recently reviewed the Gear Up 65W AC Power Bank and the 85 Watt is worth the extra money if you can find it for a good price.  Not only can it provide power for bigger devices, it has two USB ports instead of one.  The charging time is a little bit longer between, three and four hours, but it's well worth the wait if you need to charge something in a pinch.

    These devices are well suited for car rides and camping trips.  With one full charge you can fully charge some modern smart phones up to eleven times!  If you have a lower power laptop you can charge it off of that.  My power hungry Asus Republic of Gamers beast would balk at the power output, but a MacBook Air can get an extra couple of hours of usage or fully recharged by it.

    For our video demonstration, my husband was able to play Super Smash Brothers on a Wii U completely powered by the Gear Up 85W AC Power Bank.  The gamepad was running off the Nyko UBoost.    

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Can simultaneously charge two USB devices and one 120V AC device
    Weak Points: Pricey if you don't pick it up on sale

    The power bank's design is simple and easy to use.  There's a silver button that you can press to see the Lithium Ion battery's charge level.    There are four blue LEDs that represent 25% each.  When a USB device is plugged in, it will illuminate in blue to let you know that it is drawing power.  To use the power outlet you have to turn the switch on.  It's as simple as that.

    Included in the box is the power bank, an AC adapter to charge it, a converter for international charging, a carrying pouch, and a user manual. There are two models of the 85W Power Bank, a US and a European one.  Both weigh 1.32 pounds and their dimensions are 7.32" x 5.08" x 1.1".  It's pretty compact and is a lightweight travel companion.  

    Unlike our 65W review sample, this one's USB ports are properly aligned and I have no complaints on its build quality.  If an issue were to arise, HIS offers a one year warranty on their products.

    If you travel often or find yourself away from AC outlets when you need them, I recommend picking up a Gear Up 85W AC Power Bank.  The retail price is $249, but Newegg sells it for $149.

  • First of all, thanks a lot to HIS for giving us the opportunity to review this video card.

    About HIS

    HIS is a graphics card company that primarily builds ATI-based products. They are a Christian company as well. This is part of their company statement: HIS was established in 1987 with the mission to produce the highest quality graphics cards in the industry. Besides strong devotion to excellent products and services, HIS has been conducting business with the aim to "Glorifying God". Honesty and integrity are the two key principals of how HIS are conducted. Ethical business practice has been an everyday commitment to our clients, vendors, and investors. Most of us pick a video card based purely on chipset and price. It\'s good to see HIS is more than a typical ATI card manufacturer - they have a mission that CCG can agree with. Even so, this review is based on the quality of the product reviewed; no unnecessary bias has gone into the review process.

    HIS HD 5570
    650MHz core clock
    1GB GDDR3 128bit interface
    Memory Clock 1800MHz
    PCI Express 2.1 Support
    DirectX 11 support
    Shader Model 5
    OpenGL 3.1 support
    HDMI, DVI, HDTV 1080p support

    The Comparison

    HIS HD 5750
    700MHz core clock
    1GB GDDR5 128bit interface
    Memory Clock 1150MHz (4.6GHz effective)
    PCI Express 2.1 Support
    DirectX 11 support
    Shader Model 5
    OpenGL 3.1 support
    HDMI, DVI, HDTV 1080p support

    Power Color HD 4650
    600MHz core clock
    512MB GDDR2 128bit interface
    Memory Clock 800MHz
    PCI Express 2.0
    DirectX 10.1 support
    OpenGL 2 support
    HDMI, DVI, HDTV 1080p support

    HIS HD 4770

    750MHz core clock
    512MB GDDR5 128bit interface
    Memory Clock 800MHz
    PCI Express x16, takes 2 slots
    DirectX 10.1 support
    Shader Model 4.1
    OpenGL 2.1 support
    HDMI, DVI, HDTV 1080p support

    XFX HD 4770 (Crossfire)
    750MHz core clock
    512MB GDDR5 128bit interface
    Memory Clock 800MHz
    PCI Express x16, takes 2 slots
    DirectX 10.1 support
    4.1 Shader Model
    2.0 OpenGL support
    HDMI, DVI, HDTV 1080p support

    MSI 8800GT (factory over clocked)
    660MHz core clock
    512MB GDDR3 256bit interface
    Memory Clock 950MHz
    Shader clock 1650MHz
    PCI Express x16, takes 2 slots
    DirectX 10 support
    OpenGL 2 support
    Dual DVI

    MSI GTX260 (factory over clocked)
    655MHz core clock
    896MB GDDR3 448bit interface
    Memory Clock 1050MHz
    Shader clock 1650MHz
    PCI Express 2.0, takes 2 slots
    DirectX 10 support
    OpenGL 2.1 support
    Dual DVI

    Benchmark System
    Intel Core i7 860 OC\'d to 3.59GHz
    Gigabyte P55-UD4P motherboard
    OCZ 8GB DDR3-1600
    Seagate 400GB 7200RPM
    Creative Labs X-Fi

    We ran the benchmarks using a 64 bit version of Windows 7 Professional. Windows gave the 5570 a 6.8 rating in desktop and gaming graphics. I no longer consider the Windows ratings to be valid since the 4650 got a 6.4 gaming score and it’s in last place on all of the charts. All of these benchmarks were ran at 1920x1200 wide screen resolution. The NVIDIA driver used was 195.62 and all but the 5570 ATI cards were using 9.12. Since the 5570 is brand new, I had to use the 8.56.1.15 drivers on the CD it came with. I no longer have some of the previous cards in my possession, but when I re-ran the benchmarks with the 4650, there was no difference in performance between the two drivers.

    3DMark Vantage

    These results were obtained using the performance test at the default resolution of 1280x1024. The HD 5570 comes in second to last place falling right between the HD 4650 and the 8800GT.

     

    Unreal Tournament 3

    The Unreal engine is known for its beauty and hunger for powerful video cards to run the latest games. For this benchmark we used UT3 version 2.1 (black edition). Sound and DirectX 10 were enabled. The 5570 is playable with an average of 38 frames per second. The HD 5750 more than doubles the performance of the HD 5570.

     

    Far Cry 2

    The Dunia engine is what powers the African based Far Cry 2 game. The detail and explosion effects are amazing. This benchmark would not run with antialiasing or anisotropic filtering enabled, and everything else is set to high detail. ATI cards seem to do well with this engine but the 5570 is hurting with less than thirty frames per second.

    Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

    This benchmark has antialiasing and anisotropic filtering set to 4X. The detail was set to High Quality and soft particles were disabled. This is an older game and the HD 5750 is playable at 35 frames per second.

    Half?Life 2

    This engine is older and all of the cards get great results here. Maximum quality was used, motion blur and bilinear filtering was enabled, and antialiasing was disabled. The HD 5570 does well here and can probably handle the Left 4 Dead games just as well.

    World in Conflict

    We ran this benchmark with very high detail. The graphics in this game look amazing. With an average frame rate of 13, the HD 5570 will have to have the detail or resolution lowered to make this game playable.

    Crysis Warhead

    The latest Crytek engine has been notorious for bring many systems down to their knees. These cards struggled. This benchmark was ran under the Very High setting which is not recommended; even the GTX260 was in pain here. I wouldn’t attempt to play Crysis on the 5570 but if you insist, lower the detail as much as possible.

    Dirt 2

    Dirt 2 is one of the first games available offering DirectX 11 support. If your card does not support DirectX 11 the game reverts to DirectX 9. All of the results here are in DirectX 9 except for the ones
    labeled DX11. The benchmark race results vary so I don’t consider it extremely accurate. The HD 5570 is not quite playable here.

    Conclusion

    The HD 5570 is an interesting card. It can play older games but it’s been too crippled to play many of the newer titles. The DDR3 memory limits the card considerably. The best selling feature is that it has a low profile making it great for small form factor multimedia PC’s. This card sells for around $85 and if you’re planning on getting gaming card for less than $100 get a 9800GT instead. If you’re looking for a powerful, low?profile, and high definition cable video card, look no further than the HIS HD 5570.

  • First of all, thanks a lot to HIS for giving us the opportunity to review this video card.

    About HIS

    HIS is a graphics card company that primarily builds ATI-based products. They are a Christian company as well. This is part of their company statement: HIS was established in 1987 with the mission to produce the highest quality graphic cards in the industry. Besides strong devotion to excellent products and services, HIS has been conducting business with the aim to "Glorifying God". Honesty and integrity are the two key principals of how HIS are conducted. Ethical business practice has been an everyday commitment to our clients, vendors, and investors. Most of us pick a video card based purely on chipset and price. It\'s good to see HIS is more than a typical ATI card manufacturer - they have a mission that CCG can agree with. Even so, this review is based on the quality of the product reviewed; no unnecessary bias has gone into the review process.

    HIS HD5750
    700mhz core clock
    1GB GDDR5 128bit interface
    Memory Clock 1150MHz (4.6GHz effective)
    PCI Express 2.1 Support
    DirectX 11 support
    Shader Model 5
    OpenGL 3.1 support
    HDMI,DVI, HDTV 1080p support

    Power Color HD 4650
    600MHz core clock
    512MB GDDR2 128bit interface
    Memory Clock 800MHz
    PCI Express 2.0
    DirectX 10.1 support
    OpenGL 2 support
    HDMI, DVI, HDTV 1080p support

    HIS HD 4770

    750MHz core clock
    512MB GDDR5 128bit interface
    Memory Clock 800MHz
    PCI Express x16, takes 2 slots
    DirectX 10.1 support
    Shader Model 4.1
    OpenGL 2.1 support
    HDMI, DVI, HDTV 1080p support

    XFX HD 4770 (Crossfire)

    750MHz core clock
    512MB GDDR5 128bit interface
    Memory Clock 800MHz
    PCI Express x16, takes 2 slots
    DirectX 10.1 support 4.1
    Shader Model 2.0 OpenGL support
    HDMI, DVI, HDTV 1080p support

    MSI 8800GT (factory over clocked)
    660MHz core clock
    512MB GDDR3 256bit interface
    Memory Clock 950MHz
    Shader clock 1650MHz
    PCI Express x16, takes 2 slots
    DirectX 10 support
    OpenGL 2 support Dual DVI

    MSI GTX260 (factory over clocked)
    655MHz core clock
    896MB GDDR3 448bit interface
    Memory Clock 1050MHz
    Shader clock 1650MHz
    PCI Express 2.0, takes 2 slots
    DirectX 10 support
    OpenGL 2.1 support
    Dual DVI

    Benchmark System
    Intel Core i7 860 OC\'d to 3.59GHz
    Gigabyte P55-UD4P motherboard
    OCZ 8GB DDR3-1600
    Seagate 400GB 7200RPM
    Creative Labs X-Fi

    We ran the benchmarks using a 64 bit version of Windows 7 Professional. Windows gave the 5750 a 6.0 rating in desktop and gaming graphics.  I no longer consider the Windows ratings to be valid since the 4670 got a 6.4 gaming score and it’s in last place on all the charts. All of these benchmarks are run at 1920x1200 wide screen resolution.  The Nvidia driver used is 195.62 and the ATI cards are using 9.12.

     

    3DMark Vantage

    These results were obtained using the performance test at the default resolution of 1280x1024. The 5750 surpasses the 8800GT by a healthy margin.

    3dmark

    Unreal Tournament 3

    The Unreal engine is known for its beauty and hunger for powerful video cards to run the latest games. For this benchmark we used UT3 version 2.1 (black edition).  Sound and Direct X 10 were enabled.  The 5750 beats the standalone 8800GT and is quite playable with an average 92 frames per second.

     

    ut3.png

    FarCry 2

    The Dunia engine is what powered the African based FarCry 2 game. The detail and explosion effects are amazing. This benchmark would not run with antialiasing or anisotropic filtering enabled.  ATI cards seem to do well with this engine and the 5750 has a 10 frame lead over the 8800GT card here.  The 4770 is competitive with only being a Frame behind the 5750.

    farcry2.png

    Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

    This benchmark has antialiasing and anisotropic filtering set to 4X. The detail was set to High Quality and soft particles were disabled.  I was surprised to see the SLI didn’t affect the performance at all.

    etqw.png

    Half-Life 2

    This engine is older and all the cards get great results here.  I was surprised to see the 4770 take a giant lead. Maximum quality was used, motion blur and bilinear filtering was enabled, antialiasing was disabled.

    hl2.png

    World in Conflict

    We ran this benchmark with very high detail.  The graphics in this game look amazing.  With the frame rates in the 20’s it may be worth cranking the detail down a notch.

    wic.png

    Crysis Warhead

    The latest Crytek engine has been notorious for bring many systems down to their knees. These cards struggled. This benchmark was run under the Very High setting which is not recommended; even the GTX260 was in pain here.  Perhaps the GTX260 in SLI may be playable at this setting. 

    crysiswh.png

    Dirt 2

    Dirt2 is one of the first games available offering Direct X 11 support.  If your card does not support DirectX 11 the game reverts to DirectX9.  All the results here are in Direct X 9 except for the one labeled DX11.  The benchmark race results vary so I don’t consider it extremely accurate.

    dirt2.png

     

    Conclusion

    The HIS HD5750 is a great card for around $140. It can handle many of the popular games out there and definitely holds its own against similarly priced Nvidia cards. If you plan on playing Crysis with it you\'ll have to turn the graphics down a notch or two. This is an excellent card choice for multimedia and HD movie watching. The built in HDMI adapter was a nice addition.   Dirt 2 and a gamer toolkit come bundled with the card as well.  There are two DVI ports and a VGA adapter too. If you\'re looking for a low budget gaming and multimedia card check out the HIS HD5750.

     

     

  •  

    First of all, thanks a lot to HIS for giving us the opportunity to review this video card.

    About HIS

    HIS is a graphics card company that primarily builds ATI-based products. They are a Christian company as well. This is part of their company statement: "HIS was established in 1987 with the mission to produce the highest quality graphics cards in the industry. Besides strong devotion to excellent products and services, HIS has been conducting business with the aim to "Glorifying God". Honesty and integrity are the two key principals of how HIS are conducted. Ethical business practice has been an everyday commitment to our clients, vendors, and investors." Most of us pick a video card based purely on chipset and price. It's good to see HIS is more than a typical ATI card manufacturer - they have a mission that CCG can agree with. Even so, this review is based on the quality of the product reviewed; no unnecessary bias has gone into the review process.

    HIS HD 7870

    *1000MHz core clock
    *2GB GDDR5 256bit interface
    *Memory Clock 1200MHz
    *PCI Express 3 support
    *DirectX 11.1 support
    *Shader Model 5
    *OpenGL 4.2 support
    *HDMI 1.4a, Display Port 1.2, DVI, HDTV 1080p support

    The Comparison

    HIS HD 7850

    *860MHz core clock
    *2GB GDDR5 256bit interface
    *Memory Clock 1200MHz
    *PCI Express 3 support
    *DirectX 11.1 support
    *Shader Model 5
    *OpenGL 4.2 support
    *HDMI 1.4a, Display Port 1.2, DVI, HDTV 1080p support

    HIS HD 7770

    *1000MHz core clock
    *1GB GDDR5 128bit interface
    *Memory Clock 1375MHz
    *PCI Express 3 support
    *DirectX 11.1 support
    *Shader Model 5
    *OpenGL 4.2 support
    *HDMI 1.4a, Display Port 1.2, DVI, HDTV 1080p support

    HIS HD 7750

    *800MHz core clock
    *1GB GDDR3 128bit interface
    *Memory Clock 1125MHz
    *PCI Express 3 support
    *DirectX 11.1 support
    *Shader Model 5
    *OpenGL 4.2 support
    *HDMI 1.4a, Display Port 1.2, DVI, HDTV 1080p support

    HIS HD 5870

    *850mhz core clock
    *1GB GDDR5 256bit interface
    *Memory Clock 1200MHz (4.8GHz effective)
    *PCI Express 2.1 Support
    *DirectX 11 support
    *Shader Model 5
    *OpenGL 3.1 support
    *HDMI, DVI, HDTV 1080p support

    HIS HD 5870 x2 in a CrossFire configuration

    HIS HD 5570

    *650MHz core clock
    *1GB GDDR3 128bit interface
    *Memory Clock 1800MHz
    *PCI Express 2.1 Support
    *DirectX 11 support
    *Shader Model 5
    *OpenGL 3.1 support
    *HDMI, DVI, HDTV 1080p support

    Asus GTX560 (factory over clocked)

    *810MHz core clock
    *1024MB GDDR3 256bit interface
    *Memory Clock 1002MHz
    *PCI Express 2.0, takes 2 slots
    *DirectX 11 support
    *OpenGL 4.1 support
    *Dual DVI

    Benchmark System

    *Intel Core i7 860 2.8GHz
    *Gigabyte P55-UD4P motherboard
    *OCZ 8GB DDR3-1333
    *Seagate 160GB 7200RPM
    *Creative Labs X-Fi

    We ran the benchmarks using a 64 bit version of Windows 7 Professional. Windows gave the 7870 a 7.9 rating in desktop and gaming graphics. With the exception of 3DMark 11, most of these benchmarks were ran at 1920x1200 wide screen resolution. The NVIDIA driver used was 285.62 and most of the ATI cards used a beta 12.1 driver provided by HIS. Because the 7870 is a newer card, we had to use the latest 12.3 Catalyst driver.

    Before HIS sent us these video cards for review, we owned 2x HIS HD 5870s, both in different PCs. We took this opportunity to benchmark them in a CrossFire configuration. This configuration is close to the cost of one 7870, if you don't mind buying used, so I thought it might be interesting to see how well it does.

    3DMark 11

    These results were obtained using the performance test at the default resolution of 1280x720. The HD 7870 (pink) owns all of these cards except for the CrossFire configuration, and has a 1,000 point lead on the 7850.

    Heaven Benchmark 2.5

    Unigine’s Heaven Benchmark was the first to incorporate Direct X 11. The HD 7870’s new processing design beats a single HD 5870 handily thanks to vastly improved tessellation performance, while also beating the 7850. While the 5870 CrossFire configuration does post a higher average frame rate than the 7870, this is because the maximum FPS is much higher. The CrossFire scaling also seems to be over 200%, which doesn't make sense as two cards should never be more than 100% faster than one. Watching it run suggests that something may be fishy with this. There are times when the frame rate speeds up unnaturally, while the 7870 does not have this anomaly. The 7870 has a much more consistent frame rate watching it, and is overall more enjoyable to watch as a result.

    Cinebench 11.5

    Cinebench is a great tool for testing Open GL performance. The HD 7000 series are the only models that feature OpenGL 4.2 support. In this test it has the highest score so far, but it's so close to the others that it's basically worthless. It appears to be CPU bound.

    Battlefield 3

    Battlefield 3 will bring any powerful system down to its knees. We had the graphics maxed and recorded the temperatures and frames per second using a beta version of MSI’s afterburner software. All of the video cards struggled here. The HD 7870 ran great with an average of 43FPS, which is by far the best value so far, and was a joy to play. The factory overclocked 560 gets pretty close. Reading the graph below may suggest that the 5870 CrossFire ran this game the best, but that is far from the case. While it had the best maximum frame rates, CrossFire introduces a very strange inconsistency that makes the game almost unplayable. For a short time it will run very smooth, and then a moment later it runs very poorly at what seems to be less than 10FPS, and then it speeds up again. I do not recommend playing this game on CrossFire unless you are very patient with AMD's bugfixes. This game is known to use more than 1GB of RAM at the highest settings, so that could definitely contribute to the poor performance. The HD 7870’s load temperature in BF3 was 69 degrees. The 5870s in CrossFire were a similar temperature, at 72 and 69 degrees each.

    Skyrim

    Skyrim is a popular game that offers enhanced textures to make video cards work even harder. The 7870 averages close to 48FPS and is playable with the graphics set to Ultra. The temperature stayed at 55 degrees. The 5870 CrossFire configuration earned a very slightly better 2FPS better. I think these cards are CPU bound at this point, and all play it well.

    Dirt 3

    Frame rate wise, the CrossFire configuration really shines here, with 98FPS. This game has by far the best CrossFire scaling of all of the games we tested. The 7870 puts up a very solid showing at 64.28FPS, beating out all other single card competitors in this comparison. Honestly, while CrossFire looks great, it has extra stutters and tearing that don't show up as an actual drop in frame rate that doesn't exist on the 7870. This is one of many reasons why I haven't continued to pursue multi-GPU setups for several years since my 8800GT SLI setup.

    Crysis Warhead

    The infamous Crytek engine still punishes video cards to this day. Most of these cards struggled. This benchmark was run under the Very High setting which is not recommended for most of these cards. This is another strong showing for CrossFire at 45FPS, and playing it confirmed that. However, the 7870 really isn't very far behind at 38FPS, and really shows up the other single cards by a considerable margin.

    Street Fighter IV

    Street Fighter IV has a unique cell shaded, comic book style look to it. Most of the cards did well and the HD 7870 rules all but the CrossFire setup with 180FPS. The moves go by so fast in benchmark mode that you can hardly see what is happening. Almost all of these cards are perfectly playable in this game.

    Thoughts on CrossFire

    This was the first time in a long while that I got to sit down with a Multi-GPU setup, and the first time I had CrossFire on my system for any length of time. While it definitely improves frame rates, and is often exactly what is needed depending on the game, in this case it was thoroughly hit or miss. While it was fun to see such fantastically high frame rate numbers, this setup was much more susceptible to minor frame rate variations and barely perceptible stuttering. The way our brains work, often times dramatic variations in frame rate can be more noticeable than the max FPS outright. Also, certain games like BF3 are nearly unplayable with CrossFire enabled. Having more video RAM on the 7870 was also noticeable at times, as the game would load in the middle of a level or other situation on the 5870s.

    Conclusion

    The HIS HD 7870 is a very nice gaming card that will satisfy many gamers. It can hold its own on resource intensive games such as Crysis, Skyrim, and Battlefield 3. Its strength lies in its new architecture, with its improved processing power and multimedia features. The improved processing power was really evident in the Heaven benchmark with its heavy tessellation. I was very impressed that it did better than the power hungry 5870 CrossFire configuration, despite lower maximum or average frames. The 7870 requires two power connections, just like my 5870's. I'm officially retiring my HIS 1GB HD5870 2x in CrossFire and moving on to this HIS 2GB HD7870. More consistent frame rates and lower power utilization really seal the deal for me. The HDMI 1.4a feature that this card supports includes not only 4k video output, but stereoscopic 3D. It even supports up to six displays! With a price tag of around $350, this is a fairly high end card at a pretty high end price. Nevertheless, it's probably one of the best cards at this price point.

  • boxart
    Hardware Info:

    HIS Turbo Charger
    Developed by: His Digital
    Release Date: December 21,2014
    Price: $12.99

    Thank you HIS Digital for sending us this charger to review!  

    I love my smart phone and I do a decent job of carrying it around with me throughout the day.  If I'm not wearing pants with pockets, I'll usually have it with me in my purse.  Sometimes I'll forget to take it out of my purse to find it dead or extremely low on battery.  Since I don't have a portable charging device I have to plug it into my computer or AC charger.   It takes forever which is typically why I charge it at night.

    If you have a Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 enabled device, getting the HIS Turbo Charger for $12.99 is a no brainer.  The kicker is that there are only a limited number of supported devices at this time.  Any Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 series device will work with it.  Here's a list of compatible devices:

    • Fujitsu Arrows NX
    • Google Nexus 6
    • HTC Butterfly 2
    • HTC Desire EYE
    • HTC One M8
    • HTC One Remix
    • LG G3
    • Motorola Droid Turbo
    • Motorola Moto X
    • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 
    • Samsung Galaxy Note Edge
    • Samsung Galaxy S4 (Japan)
    • Sharp Aquos Tab
    • Sharp Aquos Zeta
    • Sony Xperia Z2 
    • Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
    • Sony Xperia Z3
    • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    • Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
    • Xiaomi Mi3

     

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: 75% faster than normal chargers
    Weak Points: No adapter to convert it to European standards

    Unfortunately, my US based Samsung Galaxy S4 is not able to take advantage of the quick charging feature.  It still functions as a regular charger though.  I wrote a freestyle rap song to share my experience with it:

    I take my phone everywhere I go
    Before I know it my battery is running low
    I have to get ready for a romantic date
    I need a charger that won't make me wait!
    The HIS turbo charger says it's not slow
    Too bad I need a newer phone to utilize the Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0
    It still charges my device at the normal rate
    Hope it will be usable in time for my date!

    In all seriousness, the construction quality is good and I don't foresee this charger breaking on me anytime soon.  The part that typically breaks is the USB cable and those are interchangeable.  In fact, you'll have to supply your own since this charger does not come with one.

    There are US and Europe versions of the HIS Turbo charger.  Unfortunately  there is no adapter to convert it to European outlets.  The weight (0.07kg) and output (5V/2.1A 9V/2A 12V/1.5A ) is identical between the two.  If you travel internationally it's worth your while to pick up both models.  It's worth every penny to have your phone half way charged in only thirty minutes.  Just make sure you have a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 series device before purchasing this charger.  As of this review the only places to buy them are from Newegg or directly from HIS on their web store.

  •  

    boxart
    Product Info:

    PDP Nintendo Switch Pokemon Pokeball Commuter Case
    Notable features:
    Black case, with white handle and zippers
    Subtle, classy pokeball emboss that does not draw attention to itself
    White handle with the Pokemon logo
    Front pocket zipper pouch
    Fourteen cartridge slots
    Velcro strap and screen protecting pad with support for Switch or Switch Lite
    Small netting pouch
    Larger velcro sealable pouch
    Two smaller elastic loops for Joy Cons
    One large velcro strap for a Pro Controller or other similar full-sized controller
    MSRP: $29.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you PDP for sending us this case to review!

    We own multiple Switches, with our first one being purchased on launch week. At the time, we got the very sweet-looking Breath of the Wild officially-licensed carrying case, and it had served us well. The main problem I have with it is that is has a rather inefficient use of space; there is a lot of wasted room near where the cartridge holders are, and only a small pouch to hold your extra things. So, you can carry up to eight games, two extra Joy-Cons, four Joy-Con grips, and that's pretty much it. If you want to bring along a power adapter, or pretty much anything else, you'll be needing another bag. So, when we had the chance to review this case, I took the chance, because as nice as the Zelda case is, there are some things I wish it could carry.

    As you can see in our unboxing video, we were pleasantly surprised by how these things look. I have played (and reviewed) Pokemon games in the past, but I don’t have a strong attachment to them like I do for other Nintendo properties. As a result, I was concerned that the case could be covered in bright, garish colors; thankfully, that is not the case. It looks great! There is a subtle Pokeball embossing on the outside, with an all-black aesthetic. I really like how it looks; I’ll no doubt keep using it after this review, despite not really having strong feelings for Pokemon.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Looks and feels great; strong materials makes it seem like it will last a long time; good use of space; external zipper pouch is a nice touch that’s appreciated; classy looks that doesn’t make an adult embarrassed to carry a Pokemon Switch case
    Weak Points: Pro controllers may unintentionally activate because they are quite sensitive to movement

    One of the best things about the Switch is being able to support both deep singleplayer gaming experiences, and the ability to just pop it up on its kickstand and start playing Mario Kart with friends. As a result, for some of us, the ability to transport a power adapter, as well as a Pro Controller, is a must. The Joy Cons are for little people with little hands; as for me and my man hands, a Pro controller is more than a nice-to-have; it’s necessary. The fact that this carrying case has room for a Pro controller is a huge plus in my book. That it can hold that, along with two spare Joy Cons (for a total of four)? That’s just icing on the cake.

    There is also a pouch that is closed with velcro that seems like it’s meant to hold a power adapter in it, along with whatever other small accessories might come in handy. I keep an AC adapter, a USB-C to USB-A adapter, and a controller adapter so I can use other controllers with my Switch. All of these fit pretty well, and I was able to put my third-party USB Switch dock in there as well; now I have a fully portable gaming station I can take with me anywhere I go. An HDMI cable fits just fine on the outside zipper pouch.

    While this case is a bit larger than most, the two or so inches taller it totally worth it for me. It’s still small enough to carry around, throw in a bag, and so on, while being big enough to fit everything I need.

    PDP Nintendo Switch Pokemon Pokeball Commuter Case

    There’s only one downside that I noted, that apparently angered some reviewers on Amazon, is something I was able to confirm: if you install the Pro controller a certain way, the straps can activate the joysticks, and even cause the fit to be too tight to work well. The easiest solution for this is to flip the controller around – push the sticks into the back of the case, and have the back of the controller stick up. The buttons might still activate, but the Pro controller fits in there much better along with everything else. The way Nintendo made the controller, it’s nearly impossible to avoid potential button activation; I would recommend using the charger when you get to your destination.

    Given my needs to always ‘be prepared’ when I take my gaming stuff with me, I am pleased to carry a Switch case that is a bit bigger than the standard size, in order to able to carry pretty much everything I need. It’s totally worth it to me, and if you have similar needs, I think you’ll be really, really pleased with the PDP Nintendo Switch Commuter Case. And this Pokemon model is excellent as well, as it looks great!

  • unboxed
    Hardware Info:

    Portal router
    Developed by: Ignition Design Labs
    Release date: October 2016
    Quad-Stream Wave-2 IEEE 802.11ac Wireless router/access point
    AC2400; supports simultaneous 5GHz and 2.4GHz operation
    Multi-User MIMO and Active Beam Steering support
    Seven operating bands (including DFS bands)
    5GHz: Quad (4x4) radios, wide band, IEEE 802.11ac/a/n support
    2.4GHz: Three (3x3) radios, high powered, IEEE 802.11b/g/n, supporting legacy devices
    Bluetooth Smart 4.2 supporting Dual super wideband radar detector and traffic monitor for DFS support
    Ten total radios for maximum range, power, and flexibility
    Supports Adaptive Smart Mesh for daisy-chaining two or more Portals for extended range
    Five port Gigabit Ethernet ports (one is the WAN port)
    2x USB 2.0 ports for shared storage
    QoS, DLNA, and UPnP support coming, as well as more advanced features
    Price: $199.99 (MSRP)
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Ignition Design Labs LLC for sending us a Portal for review!

    The Portal router was successfully Kickstarted in July of 2016.  In fact, they raised nearly $800,000 from their $160,000 goal.  For as little as $139 early adopters were able to embrace their dreams of faster wireless internet in their multi-story homes.  This 802.11ac router operates on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. What sets the Portal apart from the other routers is its ability to operate in protected portions of the 5GHz radio spectrum that were originally reserved for weather radar systems.  By using these frequencies that other routers are ignoring, you get more dedicated airspace for your streaming needs.  

    These frequencies cannot be used by most routers, because the router must support a feature called Dynamic Frequency Selection, or DFS.  DFS is required because certain 5GHz bands are shared with radar systems, and by law, no consumer equipment can be allowed to interfere with radar.  However, the vast majority of people do not live so close to airports or coastlines that interfering with radar systems is likely to occur.  Since this interference is strictly prohibited, it cannot be the clients, but the router itself that determines whether or not to utilize that frequency spectrum.  That is where DFS comes in.

    The Portal router has the necessary antennas and radios required to constantly monitor the airwaves for any possible radar transmissions, and if needed, instantly move any Wi-Fi clients to another 5GHz (or even 2.4GHz) band.  It is this, along with some other features, that makes Portal special.  Most DFS enabled devices are enterprise level Wi-Fi equipment; now it's available for consumers at a very reasonable price.

    The real benefits of DFS may not be in a typical suburban home use scenario, but in a crowded urban environment.  Since the vast majority of home routers do not support DFS, the 2.4GHz, and now standard 5GHz Wi-Fi bands are becoming crowded as more and more people bring wireless networks closer together in apartment buildings, condos, and so on.  Where DFS comes in is that these regulated but still available bands can be used, which allows the Portal owner to tap into spectrums that almost no one else is using.  Now granted this is somewhat of a race – these bands may well be used up also at some point in the not too distant future – but that is where band steering comes into play.

    Band steering is where the router can automatically watch for channel interference levels, and the router itself will automatically change what devices use which band in an effort to keep performance and reliability as high as possible.  This also allows multiple frequency spectrum bands to be utilized at the same time, allowing several demanding guests to stream video, play games, or more, without impacting each other much (assuming your Internet connection can handle it!).

    According to the manufacturer, this router can adequately provide Wi-Fi coverage for up to 2500 sq. ft.  If you have a larger home, Portal routers can be daisy-chained for increased coverage.  My house is close to that size, and I was pleased with the Wi-Fi coverage.

    While I do not have a large variety of routers to compare the Portal against, I am a Linux System Administrator for my day job, and I know a thing or two about networks.  So, I proceeded to compare this new device against my existing Asus RT-AC68U.  While it is no longer cutting edge, it was one of the very best routers on the market when it was released, and I have been very pleased with it.  It absolutely blows the doors off of the NetGear N router I had before that one in both performance and reliability.  This has been the best router I ever had outside of the Linux one I built myself some years back.  (That one was awesome, but ancient hardware and also ancient Wi-Fi made it too difficult to update.  I also got lazy.)

    What I quickly discovered is that not only are no two devices that claim to support 802.11ac alike, but also slight adjustments to position, orientation, and more can have a massive impact in Wi-Fi performance.  Even slightly adjusting the screen changed performance by as much as 20% in some cases in my testing.  Keep this in mind as you look at my results – while I tried to be as scientific as possible, variations are simply impossible to avoid.

    The main tool that I used for benchmarking is iperf3.  This open source tool is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, as well as Android, and I used it on all of those platforms.  I used an Intel i7 860 running Ubuntu Linux on Gigabit Ethernet as the server.  For the clients, I used a modified Lenovo Ideapad Y580 running Windows 10 with a swapped out Wi-Fi card for an Intel 7260AC, a 2015 Macbook Pro Retina (thanks day job!), and my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. I also used my GPD Win for a fourth client in the multi-client test.  Not surprisingly, both Unix-based systems, with the latest Wi-Fi chips, performed the fastest.  The Mac and Samsung were both consistently faster than my Windows laptops, though to be fair, they are both much newer and likely have the most current Wi-Fi chipsets also.

    To baseline performance for the most common use case, I started with a simple speedtest.net comparison between the two routers.  I have a 50Mb down/10Mb up rated connection.  This showed negligible differences (all are in units of Mbits/sec):

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Excellent for multiple devices streaming simultaneously; easy to use; sleek design 
    Weak Points: Limited features in the admin panel; only one paired mobile device

    This is well within any margins of error; for all practical purposes they are identical in this test.

    I also tested the WAN interface speed, using direct wired connections on both sides.  I put the Portal in bridge mode.  Since I could not easily test the Asus router's WAN port without disrupting a lot that was going on in the network, I wasn't able to do a direct comparison.  Here is the result: 787Mbits/sec

    While I would hope for >900Mbits/sec, it's certainly a respectable result.  Looking online, The Asus doesn't do any better.  The switches on both devices performed admirably, at between 940-944Mbits/sec.  Each run would fluctuate between those numbers.  Considering packet and protocol overhead, no one should expect a full 1Gbit/sec on a 1Gb Ethernet link; these values are right in line with what I would expect.

    Next up is the main bulk of what we are here for: the Wi-Fi testing.  As I said before, iperf3 was the chosen tool for bandwidth testing.  I did the default 10 second test.  On the client side, I always added the -P 4 flag to connect with four threads.  This had consistently higher performance than a single thread, especially on the Asus.  All speeds improved with multiple threads, but the Portal was faster with just one thread than the Asus was.  I can't really explain it, but I decided I would stick to 4 threads as standard for these tests.

    As I said before, I used three main devices: my Windows laptop, the Macbook Pro, and my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.  I tested both with the Asus as the main wired router, and either the Asus or Portal in access point mode performing Wi-Fi duties. The Asus has a convenient Wi-Fi on/off switch, which I utilized, and I plugged or unplugged the Portal.  Both were configured with the same access point names and passwords, so it was mostly transparent to any devices on my network, other than a brief outage.  For the record, I have a lot of devices; I have seen well over 20 wireless devices at times show up in my connected devices log.  However, it's entirely possible that not all devices were connected during this test since the children were not home and not everything handles reconnection the same way.

    I tested by carrying each laptop/phone to seven different locations.  These locations are:

    On tower in closet: within two feet of the router

    desk: about 22 feet through a wall, stairs, and fish tank stand

    kids table: about 7 feet away, through the wall and fish tank stand

    kitchen table: about 7 feet away, through wood floor and dinner table

    living room table: about 20 feet away, through wood floor

    bedroom dresser: about 25-30 feet away, though 2-3 walls/floors

    girl's room desk: about 25-30 feet away, though 4-6 walls/floors

    Before I share the results, there is one dirty little secret about Wi-Fi: there are almost no devices that can use more than the double stream dual band connectivity of the Asus.  So the Portal supports up to quad (commonly referred to 4x4), but no individual device goes faster than 2x2 speed, with the very rare 3x3 device out in the wild.  Now, to the results:

     

    As you can see, there are no consistent winners or losers.  The "maximum performance at short range" award seems to go to the older Asus, as 813Mbits/sec is incredibly fast for Wi-Fi.  Of course, if you were that close to a router, you'd probably just plug it in.  Overall, depending on the device, the Portal or Asus tends to trade blows on which performs better.  Given this, you might think that there is no point to upgrade (if you happen to have the Asus RT-AC68U).  If you have a small number of devices, and don't have signal contention issues, you may be correct.  However, the benchmark numbers above don't tell the whole story.

    Where the Portal really shines is when you have multiple devices streaming simultaneously.  I tested four devices, all situated on the kitchen table (the same as above), using iperf3 on four different ports on the same server simultaneously. The maximum theoretical performance in this situation would be the WAN port speed of about 790Mbits/sec.  The four devices used were the same three as above, along with the Intel Atom powered GPD Win.  All used the same command line, with a respective port each.  Rather than show you the individual device results, I decided to sum them all up, as this is what matters: the total aggregate throughput.

    The method I used is a little bit unscientific, with some room for error.  I had the command ready to go on all four devices in front of me, then I hit 'enter' on all four keyboards within a second.  This likely inflates the values a bit, but I used the same process, so at least it's somewhat close, and it's a value I could use.  I ran the process twice on each router, before switching to the other and running it again.  Here are the results:

    The first time I did this on the Asus, I couldn't record the results; one of the systems actually had a timeout.  These other two runs as recorded all completed, though the two slower systems were dramatically so compared to the Portal runs, where the router appeared 'fairer' in how it dealt with that many clients.  These results really tell the story in my eyes.  Being able to handle that many high speed streams simultaneously really sold the Portal to me.  It is worth the switch for that alone.

    Outside of the primary Wi-Fi router or access point features, there are other common features like the WAN port for plugging in your cable/DSL modem and four Ethernet ports.  There are two USB 2.0 ports as well.  While many routers in this price class offer USB 3.0 for share storage, and this is indeed an oversight, this is not a feature I ever used on my Asus, and I won't miss it here.  I think the improved Wi-Fi features and performance is worth this sacrifice to hit the price point.  This router is equipped with Bluetooth technology to communicate with your cellphone or tablets via the free mobile app.  

    The mobile app has the cool ability to let you create temporary Wi-Fi networks for guests to join.  You can also enable a bridge mode if you have another router with better features in place.  That’s what we’re doing currently since our Asus RT-AC68U has some great features (Adaptive QoS, URL filtering, bandwidth usage reports) that we’re not ready to part with just yet.

    More features are in the works for the Portal router, but for now the bare bone requirements are in place.  From the admin page you’ll have access to the connected devices, DMZ, and port triggering.  While in theory we could still operate our various servers (Minecraft, Team Fortress 2, Team Speak 3) with the Portal router, I still prefer having the additional other features the Asus provides at this time.

    The developers behind Portal have an easy to use public ticketing system, and are actively developing and seeking feedback on both the web interface, Portal mobile phone app, and overall feature set.  I am slightly disappointed that currently there are features you can only configure on the web app, and others that can only be configured on the Portal mobile app.  It is very easy to use and a simplified interface, though as very much a power user, I look forward to the growing features that they have planned.  Another point of frustration is that right now you can only have one mobile device connect to a Portal as admin at a time.  So my wife and myself cannot administer the router through the app; there can be only one.  It's frustrating as there are a small number of configuration items not currently exposed through the web interface.

    If you’re looking for better Wi-Fi coverage throughout your house, and you have dozens of devices like we do, the Portal router is definitely worth looking into.  It's also simple enough that it would be a great option for the less technical loved ones in your life.  It has not crashed once in the time that we have had it.  It also auto updates, so users get new features constantly, and the less technical get a router that keeps itself safe from attackers – quite a nice proposition indeed.  If it’s advanced administration features you’re looking for, you may want to wait and see or buy something else until more options become available.

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    boxart
    Hardware Info:

    R4i Gold 3DS Plus Flashcart
    Supports DS games and DS homebrew, including emulators
    Easy access to ntrboothax/magnethax
    Price: Approximately $25 at love-gamecard.com

    Thank you to Love-Gamecard for sending us this R4i Gold Plus flashcart for review!

    R4. I cannot think of any two characters placed in succession that has likely given Nintendo more headaches than those two. In the height of the Nintendo DS era, they were reportedly so common and easy to find in Japan that people could find them at corner electronics stores. The laws were changed so that this is no longer the case, but their impact on the Nintendo DS, both the market (financial and otherwise), and the legacy, is hard to overstate. Nevertheless, they live in a legal gray area that often leads to shutdown orders or copyright infringement.

    Given this, why is Christ Centered Gamer reviewing a flashcart? *glares at person who requested it* Honestly, that's a really good question, and there is no easy answer, but let's give it a shot.

    At our house, we love Nintendo systems, and the games available on them. As a result, we often collect quite the library; we have over 40 games on both DS and 3DS, and easily over 30 on GBA as well. This is a common pattern for us; over a system's lifetime, we tend to collect most of the best games for any Nintendo system, and the DS and 3DS has an excellent library.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Supports all DS games and homebrew; has built-in ntrboothax/magnethax support to make hacking fully updated 3DSs very easy
    Weak Points: Build quality is not the best, as I had one of the tabs holding it together break on me; no convenient way to store the tiny magnet outside of the packaging
    Moral Warnings: It's easy to steal games, and acquiring them may require downloading them from the internet unless you have a means to rip your own ROMs

    This is relevant both because we don't have pockets of unlimited depth, and because we have children; we cannot practically carry that many games with us in cartridge form at one time wherever we go. This is especially important since we don't want to lose said cartridges when a child (or big kid) misplaces those tiny little wedges. So, for many years now, we have dumped our own cartridges (we are very strict about this; we do not download ROMs off of the internet) and put our library of games on our DS flashcarts. This protects us from losing hundreds or even thousands of dollars of games over time, while allowing us to still enjoy them (and even back up saves, which can be very convenient). We understand why some may feel differently, but by dumping our own games, it feels like a win-win – we are still giving Nintendo our money (we purchase each and every game) while still benefiting from the convenience that these devices offer. (And backing up your own games is actually legal.)

    That is why I've always loved the ingenuity in the console hacking space. While these devices (or hacked consoles) can be used for nefarious means, or to avoid buying games, what really happens for us is that we end up buying more games because of the ease of carrying them around and not having to worry about losing saved games that these devices (or hacked consoles) can do.

    The R4, as one of the most popular line of flashcarts of all time, is likely quite familiar to many readers of this review. It allows you to put ROM files on a microSD card, which you then insert into the tiny slot on the back of the R4 card. It has native support for Nintendo DS games; the 3DS thinks it's an obscure Japanese game, but once you launch it, you find a menu where you can browse the list of files available on the microSD card, and launch whatever games are listed there. You can put emulators for older systems there as well, along with required ROM files, and play those. Again, violating the law is made easy with these devices; please follow your conscience and be as legal as you can when taking advantage of these features.

    The performance of this device as a DS flashcart is as good as it's ever been. The menus are easy to navigate, and launching games is quick and easy. The R4 doesn't take too much battery power from your system while in use, unlike certain other cards from other brands (like the Supercard line, which works great, but impacts battery life). Honestly, this functionality is more or less time-tested, and many reviews exist online (and this cartridge is more or less the gold standard), so I think that's enough about the DS functionality.

    R4i Gold Plus DS Flashcart

    What makes this model unique, versus the R4i Gold RTS which immediately preceded it, is the additional hidden ntrboot mode. If you open the actual R4i cartridge, and you pull out the PCB, you will find a tiny switch that switches between NTR and boot modes. Boot mode is just like previous R4i cards - it loads a DS menu and works as a flashcart. NTR mode is unique, in that it allows you to very quickly and easily hack a fully-patched 3DS from scratch in a matter of minutes, rather than hours like it used to be before the discovery of ntrboot.

    You see, if you place the included tiny magnet in the spot that puts the 3DS to sleep (typically near the B button) and power it on while holding Start+Select+X, the system will go into a recovery mode, and will write to the firmware whatever is in the DS cartridge slot. (It's more complicated than that, but that's probably sufficient detail for the purposes of this review.) Hackers believe this recovery mode is what Nintendo uses to restore certain types of hardware failures, so it's not something they are easily able to patch out. And to date, they have not.

    After following instructions listed on 3ds.hacks.guide by downloading files and putting them on the SD card inside your 3DS (not the one in the R4i cart) and following the provided instructions, you can quite easily hack the 3DS with the popular Luma3DS custom firmware. This allows you to not only play Nintendo DS backups with the R4i cartridge itself, but also 3DS and eShop titles. There is also quite a bit of homebrew software that takes advantage of the more powerful 3DS hardware, including things like emulators. Sadly, enough other players out there take advantage of cheating features of the custom firmwares to make 3DS online play not quite what it could be, but that's the price we all pay for giving enterprising users lower level access to the hardware they purchased.

    Installing and using custom firmware is generally quite stable, but unexpected new bugs in operation are possible. It should also be quite expected that Nintendo will not repair any hacked systems under warranty.

    The R4i Gold Plus DS flashcart is easily one of the most feature-complete DS flashcarts on the market. While the older Supercard DSTWO, for example, does have some nice features utilizing the onboard CPU, it also drinks batteries for breakfast. The R4i does not have this issue, and with the added ntrboot/magnethax support, is easy to recommend to anyone who enjoys making the most of the hardware that they have purchased. But whatever you do, please do not break the law, or violate your conscience in the process.

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    boxart
    Hardware Info:

    RCM Loader Model One B
    Compatible with any Nintendo Switch firmware version
    Compatible with all Switches that have the first hardware revision (manufactured June 2018 and earlier)
    Includes USB-C dongle with integrated and boot up tool
    Integrated 2MB of flash storage to hold up to six payloads
    USB micro-B cable
    Small plastic case
    MSRP: Approximately $16 at Love-Gamecard (prices seem to vary widely)

    Thank you Love-Gamecard for sending us this device for review!

    I have always loved hacking my consoles - as long as I have been a techie, and I'd known it was possible to do so. I remember modding my PS1 many years back, and I also got flashcarts starting with the GBA so I could carry my library around with me. Ever since I reviewed the SX Pro about a year ago, the Switch hacking community has been hard at work enabling more and more features in their mostly open source custom firmwares (CFW). The most common are Atmosphere and ReiNX. SX OS is still quite popular as well, though it is proprietary and costs money. This RCM Loader supports all of these, as well as three other possible customizable payloads you can add if you choose.

    RCM Loader consists of four parts: a USB-C dongle, a boot-up tool, a micro USB cable, and a case. The USB-C dongle is the heart of the device, and has the USC-C plug, a micro USB-B port, and a button and LED for switching payloads. The case makes it convenient to store everything together, and lessens the chance of damaging it or losing any of the small parts.

    Like the SX Pro I reviewed last year, the RCM Loader takes advantage of the massive NVIDIA Tegra CPU flaw that was discovered in 2018. It’s in the Tegra boot ROM (Read-Only Memory), and as such, it cannot be patched or changed. The fix requires a hardware revision, and since the Switch is such a hot selling item, that means that there are approximately 15 million vulnerable units out in the wild, and no doubt a sizable portion of Nintendo’s most hardcore fans also desire to use their hardware in ways that Nintendo did not originally intend.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: All-in-one tool for Switch hacking; includes convenient case to hold everything; it's much easier to avoid losing the small boot up tool because it's all integrated; stores up to six customizable payloads; built-in 2MB of flash storage makes updating or customizing payloads very easy; enables all kinds of crazy customization that the Switch hacking community has come up with, including alternate operating systems
    Weak Points: If used improperly, you may find your console (or account!) to be banned by Nintendo; it's larger than some Switch dongles on the market; while it's worked perfectly, it does wobble a small amount in the case; it may be possible to brick your Switch with some of the more advanced hacking techniques (not the fault of this dongle)
    Moral Warnings: Enables piracy (but also works for backups, homebrew, and even custom operating systems)

    It has to be said up front that Nintendo very much dislikes the existence of devices like these, and has and will block consoles from their online services whenever they can detect it. Using devices like this to modify your console is against the EULA (End User License Agreement) that most people blindly agree to when they choose to start using their new gaming consoles. While some aspects of EULAs like that are for all practical purposes unenforceable in court or otherwise, the fact is that Nintendo can and will block unauthorized users from their network at their own leisure. Some of the capabilities of this device almost guarantee a ban, and it has already happened to several users. Be warned that caution is strongly encouraged.

    So, if these devices are so dangerous, and Nintendo hates them so much, then why are they so popular? Well, it comes down to two things: homebrew and piracy. Homebrew are applications like emulators, utilities, and more that are created by hobbyists, often for their own entertainment. Homebrew can be really great sometimes, as aspiring programmers desire to be well known in a tight-knit group, or simply want their cool device to do something the manufacturer never intended. Perhaps the most popular homebrews are game save manipulators, and emulators. These allow people to play games not originally designed for the system, or play their games the way they want to.

    Often homebrew meets a need not met by the original developers. For example, a glaring hole in the Switch’s software stack is a proper way to copy and back up saves, especially if they don't subscribe to Nintendo's online service (and even then, online save backups don't always cover every game). Homebrew developers have taken care of this, in the form of the Checkpoint homebrew application. Now, gamers can backup, or even copy saves in between Switches, or simply back them up to their PCs. Another need is to copy files back and forth between their Switch and PC wirelessly. Rather than needing to pop out that microSD card, they can now FTP onto their Switch and copy files. Another is simply a local file manager; being able to move, copy, and rename files can be very useful indeed; homebrew takes care of all this, and much more. You can even run Linux or even Android on the Switch.

    Piracy is another, and perhaps the most common, use case for the devices like these. You see, some more unscrupulous types will often download games off of the internet and play them on their Switch without paying for them first. At least some of the custom firmwares out there enable this.

    In order to get to all of this functionality, you have to prepare your Switch's microSD card by putting various files on it, depending on the chosen CFW. Once that's completed, you insert the included USB-C dongle into the charging port, insert the boot up tool (also called a jig) into the right Joy-Con slot, and boot the Switch up into USB Recovery mode. Hackers discovered this is done by shorting two pins on the right Joy-Con slot, and then holding volume up and pressing the power button. This must be done while the power is off; sleep mode is not enough. The boot up tool supplied in the kit shorts the pins exactly as needed; just take the right Joy-Con out, slide this thing in all the way, and you’re good to go. If it works as expected, your Switch should boot into a new menu that shows whichever payload you chose.

    If you plug the RCM Loader into your PC using the provided microUSB cable, a small 2MB (yes that's megabyte) USB drive shows up, which you can use to configure the RCM Loader. By default, it includes payloads for Atmosphere (slot 1), ReiNX (slot 2), SX OS (slot 3), and three user slots. Slot 4 has a SX OS knockoff called XK OS installed on mine, though you can easily change it to be something else if you wish.

    Once the RCM Loader is connected to a switch, you can press and hold the '+' button on the device to choose the desired payload. Each slot is actually a different color; Atmosphere is blue, ReiNX is green, SX OS is red, and XK OS is yellow. Magenta and cyan are only displayed if you fill the user payloads of slots 5 and 6. This may be quite useful if you choose to have Android or Linux use a different payload (I have not tested if this is possible or not; I am merely presuming that it is). Either way, having this flexibility is quite handy. I selected SX OS and chose to boot up my Switch that is currently running SX Pro from our previous review, and it worked perfectly.

    RCM Loader Model One B

    Rather than explain how to hack your Switch using this device, I'll say that there are several guides on the internet that can be easily found using the search terms 'switch hacking guide'.

    I have to say, I am impressed with the RCM Loader. It is perhaps the easiest say yet for the more technically-inclined to just plug something in and get started hacking a Nintendo Switch that has the unpatched bootloader. And with the convenient package, where the jig is built into the housing, it's much less likely that you will lose that important part. The ability to completely customize payloads is equally awesome, and the nice plastic case it all comes in is small enough to fix in most Switch cases, which is a really nice bonus.

    As always, there are moral and legal implications to consider when hacking a console, and as always, please do not steal game software. The potential for homebrew is always exciting, and if you play only your legally owned personal game backups, it can be quite nice and very convenient. As always, any time you go outside of the curated walled garden that the manufacturer wants you to live in, there may be weeds there, and you can incur the wrath of the gardener (in this case Nintendo). Please consider both the upsides and possibly severe downsides (like being banned from online play) that may come from climbing that fence. There may be vipers on the other side!

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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