enfrdeitptrues

Hardware

  • EMTEC SpeedIN' X600 USB 3.0 Portable External 1.8” SSD

    boxart
    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.  

  • Gamdias Hermes E1 Combo

    boxart
    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.

  • Gamdias Hermes P2 RGB Optical Mechanical Switch Gaming Keyboard

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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.

  • HIS HD 5570 1GB

    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.

  • HIS HD5750 1GB review

    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.

     

     

  • HIS HD7870 review

     

    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.

  • HIS Turbo Charger

    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.

  • Portal router

    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.

  • SpeedIN’ USB 3.0 S600 256GB

     

    boxart
    Hardware Info:

    SpeedIN’ USB 3.0 S600 256GB
    Developed by: EMTEC
    Read Speed: Up to 400 MB/sec
    Write Speed: Up to 300MB/sec
    Price: Approximately $111

    Thank you EMTEC for sending us a review sample.

    USB flash drives are quite popular and smaller sized drives are fairly inexpensive with 16GB drives costing less than $5 on Amazon.  USB 3.0 256GB drives sell for less than $50 as well.  Sadly, the EMTEC SpeedIN’ USB 3.0 S600 256GB isn’t available in North America yet, but the converted prices put it over $100.  While the SpeedIN’ USB 3.0 S600 256GB is certainly a nice device, is it worth the premium?

    The design is simple and elegant with the smooth black patterned finish.  While it’s not obvious, there is a red LED that flashes dimly when the device is being accessed.  There’s also a notch on the corner to attach a key ring if desired.  My only concern with the notch is that it’s thin plastic and it makes me wonder how durable it will be in the long run.  

    Enough about the looks, let’s talk about how fast it is!  According to the website the read speed is rated at 400MB/sec while the write speed is up to 300MB/sec for the 256MB model we reviewed.  We ran some data transfers using traditional hard drives to solid state drives as well as running a CrystalDiskMark.  Though our results were good, they didn’t reach the numbers on the manufacturer’s website.  

    SpeedIN’ USB 3.0 S600 256GB
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great performing USB drive; password protection available
    Weak Points: The default file system is FAT32 which does not allow files bigger than 4GB; only available in Europe
    Moral Warnings: Depends on what you put onto the drive 

    The CrystalDiskMark gave the read speed between 333-368/MB and 92-165MB/sec for the non-4K tests.  This is pretty fast given the USB 3.0 interface.  Of course it’s not going to touch the speeds of a SATA connected SSD drive.

    SpeedIN’ USB 3.0 S600 256GB

    Not surprisingly, the speeds will drop dramatically if connected to a previous generation USB port.  Another technical detail worth mentioning is that this device is FAT32 formatted by default and cannot take files bigger than 4GB without reformatting it to another file system like NTFS in Windows.

    Many people still use traditional spinning hard drives and transferring data from a hard drive to the flash drive peaked at 157MB/sec for me.  In this test I transferred my e-mail folder which is 15GB in size.

    SpeedIN’ USB 3.0 S600 256GB

    I have two solid state drives in my system, one 240GB for booting my operating system (Windows 10), and a 1TB for storing games.  When transferring my mail folder from the flash drive back to my OS drive the max transfer rate was 357MB/sec.  The max speed from transferring a game, (DOOM) to the flash drive was 257MB/sec.  Due to the FAT32 file system in place, I was not able to copy all of the files over since at least one of them was 5GB in size.

    SpeedIN’ USB 3.0 S600 256GB

    Included on the drive is a password application that lets you set up a secure partition as well as a public partition.  The public partition will show up as an accessible drive in the operating system while the other one will require the password to access it.  Be sure to provide a hint if needed because you will not be able to recover your password if it’s forgotten.    If an incorrect password is entered six times, the secured partition will be formatted.  

    All in all, the SpeedIN’ USB 3.0 S600 256GB is nice and fast USB drive.  Though the numbers aren’t as fast at the website claims they’re still pretty good.  Definitely faster than some of the cheaper 256GB USB flash drives out there.  People who want to do more than just copy files around will really appreciate what this USB drive has to offer. I hope that this device comes to North America and that it will be competitively priced.

  • Stargate 3DS

    boxart
    Hardware Info:

    Stargate 3DS 
    Supports 3DS and DS games
    Supports ntrboothax/magnethax
    Supports some emulators
    Fully updatable
    Price: $80

    Thank you StarGate for sending us this flashcart to review!

    Let's get the obvious elephant in the room out of the way: 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 3DS has an excellent library.

    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.

    Stargate 3DS
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Supports most retail 3DS games in your region and all DS games and homebrew
    Weak Points: Some 3DS games do not work; DS mode does not currently work with a CFW 3DS; homebrew 3DS games nor eShop titles work; no simple way to dump your own games using just this that I am aware of; battery life is fine during gameplay, but sleep mode time is much shorter; if you accidentally press the buttons on the back, you can lose some game progress
    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 (in which case you probably have CFW installed and may not need this cart)

    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.

    What the StarGate team has done is create a flashcart that is dual mode: it has a 3DS mode, and a DS mode. In 3DS mode, it shows you a game icon, just like any other cart. To switch games, you cycle through them via a set of two buttons, which can be thought of as next and previous buttons. These are installed by placing clean dump 3DS ROMs on the root of the filesystem of a microSD card that you put inside of the Stargate 3DS itself. There is also a microUSB port for flashing firmware in case Nintendo blocks the cart somehow, which is fairly forward thinking in that way. All of that functionality is a tight fit, but it works very well.

    DS mode is not unlike other popular flashcarts like an R4 or Supercard. When in this mode, you see an icon for 'Alex Rider Stormbreaker THQ' like many other flashcarts show. I have never seen anyone actually play Alex Rider, but there are a lot of people with that game in their play history. When launching it in this mode, it starts an easy to use menu where you can browse the integrated microSD card's filesystem and choose a .nds file (Nintendo DS ROM) to launch. You can also chose a .3ds file (3DS ROM), and it will exit out to the main menu, after which you will find that 3DS game selected on the 3DS home screen.

    I did not have any large microSD cards that have a lot of space free on them available, so I setup a 1GB card with five 3DS games, as well as five DS games. I tried a recent title by itself (Metroid: Samus Returns) and the other smaller titles (Cubic Ninja, Jewel Master, Angry Birds, Adventure Time, and Freakyforms) together and they all worked flawlessly. The StarGate team has made it clear that a few games do not work yet (Pokemon Sun and Moon, and others) and they are working on fixing these compatibility issues soon.

    The emulator features promise to offer NES, SNES, and GBA compatibility. These features are not released yet, so they could not be tested as of the writing of this review. Any DS compatible homebrew will work as is, so emulators for older systems like the Game Boy and such should easily be covered by the DS homebrew community.

    Stargate 3DS

    This is the only card in existence that I know of that has all of these features. It does a lot, though the MSRP of $80 is only for the most committed. The real challenge for them is that hacking the 3DS to install CFW (custom firmware) has never been easier. If you have a supported DS flashcart (which typically cost around $20), you can install a special installer onto it, and then install a CFW onto your 3DS in about 5 minutes.

    Installing CFW is more complex than using this cart, but it's also much more powerful. You can run 3DS homebrew, dump your 3DS cartridges yourself, use the same SD card that your 3DS uses, and more. In the absence of CFW, this card would be fantastic. But as is, it's really only meant for those not able or willing to install a CFW on their 3DS out of fear or a lack of technical skill. And while you can use this cart to install CFW via ntrboothax, once that process is completed, you can't use this cart (at least in stock form) in DS mode on that 3DS anymore. I didn't prove that this was the case, as I don't want to hack our last non-CFW 3DS, which would make continued testing of this cart a little difficult.

    I did find a couple of downsides to using the Stargate. For one, sleep time battery life, where you close the 3DS, seems to be quite significantly impacted. On the 3DS we used to test, while in a game or in the main 3DS home screen, in neither case did the battery last the night while closed with this cartridge inserted. Another issue (which is more user error than technical) is that whenever the cartridge buttons are pressed, it will switch games - which is by design, but you can be in for a real shock if you bump it in the middle of a game, or while putting it in your pocket. As long as the 3DS is not powered off, the cart will change games, as well as draw some power.

    The Stargate 3DS card strives to be the easiest solution for someone who wishes to carry their library around with them in the simplest way possible. It's also practically risk free, since there are no console modifications that can get in the way of future system updates, or cause problems for users (or even be a bricking risk, despite how small that risk is). If you are risk averse, or want to stick with the strict non-modification guidelines that Nintendo requires for your 3DS to still be covered under warranty, then the Stargate 3DS is an excellent choice. It's just a shame that there currently is no way to avoid either having a CFW'd 3DS around to dump your games, or otherwise requiring a visit to the darker parts of the internet (and the moral and legal hazards that requires) to get them.

  • Vufine

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Vufine
    Developed by: Vufine
    Release date: July 2015
    Price: $149
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Vufine for sending us a review sample!

    Google Glass is no more, but the concept was great.  The two things that killed Google Glass were its price and privacy concerns with the built-in camera functionality.  Vufine solves both of those problems but has some flaws of its own.  Unlike the Google Glass, the Vufine is not wireless and unless you want a cord in front of your face, you have to use it on your right eye.  The biggest advantage of the Vufine is its reasonable price of $149 which was 10% of the cost of Google Glass.  While the Google Glass looked better, it certainly wasn’t worth $1,500.

    Vufine can be worn with glasses or with a headband if you want a techy Rambo look.  If you don’t wear prescription glasses, there’s a non-prescription pair included.  Sadly, the plastic frames aren’t of the highest quality and came with one temple/arm much looser than the other.  If you have wire-frame glasses, there’s a stabilizer to help secure the magnetic Vufine dock onto the thinner temple.

    Vufine
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Cheaper and more welcome alternative to Google Glass
    Weak Points: Wired; Not compatible with Samsung S6/S7 or any phone lacking MHL support; blurry text; looks tacky

    The Vufine is rather light, but it will weigh down your glasses a bit.  The docking station is seven grams and the Vufine is twenty-six grams.  Some of that weight is from the built-in battery that lasts about ninety minutes and takes the same amount of time to fully charge the unit.  You can use the device while it’s charging.  What’s one more wire, right?

    Since the Vufine does not have an operating system of its own, it’s setup through the device it’s plugged into as a secondary display.  It worked flawlessly with my laptop and I was able to set it as a secondary monitor and set the resolution to 1280 X 720 (default), 1176 X 664, or 800 X 600.  The Vufine's screen appears to be 4:3, but because of the 720 resolution it cuts off a little bit.  

    The roughly 1-inch screen worked well with large fonts, but smaller fonts were blurry and illegible.  I’m sure it would be fine for watching funny cat videos at work with headphones and nobody would be the wiser!  

    Other fitting uses could be a viewfinder for a Go Pro or any type of camera.  If you have a smartphone that supports HDMI it can be great for GPS navigation or for playing Pokemon Go.  Android users should take note that the Samsung S6 and S7 phones no longer support MHL so the Vufine or upcoming Vufine+ devices WILL NOT work.  As an S7 owner I was not able to use my GPS or Pokemon Go on my bicycle or walking.  Driving with the device operational is considered illegal.

    In the end, the Vufine is a neat concept, but since the mobile functionality is not there for me and the millions of other Samsung 6/7 owners I have a difficult time recommend this device or it successor the Vufine+.  IPhone owners should be fine as long as they have a lightning adapter.  Since the text is blurry and hard to read I don’t plan on using this with my laptop unless I have something to hide (which I don’t).

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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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