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3 February 2014
Welcome to Issue 125
Editorial
EDITOR
Ben Hardwidge
editor@custompcmag.org.uk
LABS
Antony Leather
Mike Jennings

GAMES EDITOR
Rick Lane

ART EDITOR
Bill Bagnall

PRODUCTION EDITOR
Julie Birrell

CONTRIBUTORS
Gareth Halfacree, James Gorbold,
Jim Killock, Matthew Lambert,
Paul Goodhead, Richard Cobbett,
Simon Treadaway, Tracy King
PHOTOGRAPHY
Antony Leather,
Danny Bird


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4 February 2014
Welcome to Issue 125
10
TECHNOLOGY BACKACHE
Is overuse of technology really
causing a backache epidemic? Tracy King
examines the evidence.
12
HOBBY TECH
Gareth visits his local hackspace in
Leeds, and investigates using a standard ATX
PSU as a benchtop power supply.
20
NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 780 Ti
Nvidia ups the ante with a new top-
end GPU, boasting 2,880 stream processors.
24
ASUS GEFORCE GTX
760MARS
Asus seizes an opportunity to make its own
Republic of Gamers dual-GPU card, but how
do two GTX 760 chips fare against the best
single-GPU cards?
40
MINCE PIE MEGATEST
Its December at Custom PC, and
that means only one thing a huge test of
seasonal pies. We taste16 mince pies,
complete with blind testing, from a range of
stores to find the best festive treats.
68
GAMING MOUSE LABS
We put five gaming mice through
their paces to find the one best suited for you.
106
BLOCKING CHILD
ABUSE SEARCHES
Jim Killock analyses Google and Microsofts
move to block paedophilia search results.
102
BATTLEFIELD 4
PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS
What hardware do you need to run Battlefield
4 at its top settings? We find out.
20 68 40
to
cover storY
DREAM PCs
46
Practically anyone with a modicum
of PC knowledge can cram expensive
hardware into a case, but it takes an
expertly skilled team to build a really desirable
overclocked PC, sporting customisation such as
acrylic tubing, laser-cut panels and modified
cooling systems. This month, four of the UKs top
system builders have worked hard to produce
gorgeous computers that demonstrate fine
craftsmanship, performance and original ideas.
Theres plenty of variety too, from custom
mini-ITX acrylic cubes that can play the latest
games at massive resolutions, to quiet water-
cooled towers built for 4K gaming and multi-
threaded performance. Whether you prefer a
pocket rocket or a full-sized tower, or if youre
just looking for inspiration for your own ideas,
youll definitely want to take a look through the
eye candy in this months Labs.
114
120
5 February 2014
1ssue 125
108
CHRISTMAS WISH LIST
Struggling to find inspiration for
gifts this Christmas? We take a look at some
ofour favourite PC parts, geek toys and
electronic gadgets, from stocking fillers to
expensive luxuries.
118
HOW TO APPLY
PLASTIDIP
Antony Leather investigates this versatile
painting material, which effectively enables
you to give your PC a temporary colour that
you can just peel off at a later date.
102
46
68
108
Reviewed this month
Hardware
GRAPHICS CARDS
20 Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB
22 PowerColor Radeon R9 270 OC
24 Asus GeForce GTX 760 MARS
CPU COOLER
32 Antec Khler H20 1250
CASES
28 NZXT Source 530
30 Fractal Design Arc Mini R2
KEYBOARD
34 Corsair Vengeance K70
NAS BOX
36 Synology DS214+
Mince pie megatest
40 Asda Extra Special
40 Duchy Originals Organic
40 Fortnum & Mason Cranberry
40 Greggs
40 Harrods Luxury Almond & Brandy
40 LIDL
40 Marks & Spencer Handmade
41 Marks & Spencer Traditional All Butter
41 Morrisons Signature
41 Mr Kipling Deep Filled
41 Mr Kipling with Brandy Flavour Sauce
41 Sainsburys SO Organic
41 Sainsburys Taste the Difference
41 Selfridges Nut Topped
41 Tesco Finest with Courvoisier
41 Waitrose All Butter
Custom kit
42 Gelid IcyPad Universal Cooler
42 Star Wars Death Star Cookie Jar
42 Cord Cruncher Earphones
Dream PC Labs test
48 Computer Planet VeeR
54 Utopia CRYO-G Renegade
58 Scan 3XS Bear
62 Yoyotech XDNA Aurum 24K
Gaming mouse Labs test
69 CM Storm Reaper
70 Corsair Vengeance M65
71 Gamdias Zeus E-Sports Edition
72 Gigabyte Aivia Uranium
74 Mionix Naos 8200
Games
90 Battlefield 4
92 Lego Marvel Super Heroes
93 Batman: Arkham Origins
94 Call of Duty: Ghosts
96 XCOM: Enemy Within
41
PRODUCTS
REVIEWED
Regulars
8 From the editor
10 Tracy King
12 Hobby tech
16 Incoming
38 How we test
76 CPC Elite products
88 Cynical hit
98 The engine room
106 Digital rights
129 Retro tech
130 James Gorbold
Community
112 For the win!
114 Readers drives
118 How to Apply PlastiDip to
your case
120 How to Apply PlastiDip primer
and effects
124 Letters
126 Folder of the month
127 Your folding milestones
102
S
o, farewell OCZ, probably. At the time of going to press, the
company whose premium memory used to be a common
sight in overclocked PCs, had filed for bankruptcy. I cant say
Im surprised. OCZ fell victim to a regular strategy blunder in our
hobbys marketplace focusing on just one area.
Long-term success in this business involves diversity without it,
you have nothing to fall back on when someone elses product is better
than yours. It was 3dfxs sole focus on graphics cards that saw it get
eaten by Nvidia all those years ago. Even if the gaming desktop GPU
market folded, Nvidia would still be able to fall back on its many other
product lines now, from its mobile Tegra SoCs to its Tesla equipment
used in GPU-compute supercomputers.
Likewise, its motherboard makers such as
Asus, Gigabyte and MSI that have survived over
the years. They all make laptops, graphics
cards and all sorts of other kit as well as
motherboards. Asus even makes Googles
Nexus 7 tablets, not to mention some games
consoles. Similarly, Foxconn doesnt need to
rely on motherboards when its manufacturing
iPhones, as well as ports for other manufacturers motherboards.
Back in OCZs memory-making heyday, it was competing against
Corsair. The latter is a great example of a company that has diversified
in all sorts of ways. Its gone from a premium memory maker to a
company that also makes fine examples of cases, CPU coolers, PSUs,
keyboards, mice and SSDs. If it had just stuck to making memory, it
wouldnt be enjoying anywhere near the same level of success.
Keyboards, mice and mouse pads offer large profit margins and few
RMAs there isnt much that can fail. Comparably, memory suffers
from regular price fluctuations, and overclockers are going to push it
to its limit too, possibly in cases without enough airflow.
The profit margins from memory are comparatively small. I can see
why OCZ abandoned it, but Corsair made the more sensible decision.
OCZ has filed for bankruptcy,
but Ben Hardwidge isnt surprised
Rather than canning its memory business to focus on SSDs, Corsair
kept its memory division, but gradually diversified into all sorts of
different areas.
OCZs PSUs and SSDs werent bad. The company had bought
Indilinx and PC Power & Cooling both firms with good pedigree. The
problem is that focusing on just a couple of product ranges makes you
very vulnerable. It only takes a huge company such as Samsung to
come out with a killer SSD, which isnt surprising when you consider
that it can make both the NAND and controllers itself, and youre left
without much of a safety net.
That isnt to say that OCZ wasnt afraid to innovate, with its bizarre
Neural Impulse Actuator (NIA) game controller being a case in
point.The idea was that the NIA would detect
brain movements, and control your game
accordingly. The reality, however, was that
youbasically had to gurn in front of your
monitor to control your game, and even then
itlacked precision.
In 2007, the PR firm handling OCZs
investment side invited me to a meeting with
the companys CEO at the time, Ryan Petersen. I asked him why you
would buy one of the companys new 2KW PSUs, and he replied with
the refreshingly honest answer that itsallabout willy waving, my
friend! He was right. Even now, I cant imagine a collection of desktop
components that would need that level of power. I also cant imagine
using the NIA now. In hindsight, I cant help thinking that less willy
waving, and more commitment to a diverse range of quality products
that people want to buy, could have saved OCZ.
Ben Hardwidge is the editor of Custom PC. He likes PCs, heavy
metal, real ale and Warhammer 40,000.

EDITOR@CUSTOMPCMAG.ORG.UK

@CUSTOMPCMAG
He replied with the
refreshingly honest
answer that its all
about willy waving
GOODBYE
OCZ
8 February 2014

from the editor
n
o one is free from bias, whether were assessing our own
health, or having negative reactions to technophobic stories in
major broadsheets that originated from medical quacks. Its
my job to look for the facts among the hyperbole, but thats difficult
when the territory is incredibly muddy.
One such territory is back pain. The Telegraph recently published
ascare story claiming technology is a back injury time bomb. Is it
really? I sigh, because newspaper editors dont always seem aware
of some facts. For example, technology solves more problems than it
causes. So if it was responsible for a huge tsunami of back problems in
kids who spend a lot of time indoors, hunched
over computers or carrying heavy laptop bags,
its also likely to have reduced the injuries from
book-filled backpacks or falling off swings.
And when people are injured, its technology
that helps to fix them.
This is where the Telegraph kicks up some
mud. Along with quotes from a legitimate
physiotherapist, The British Chiropractic
Association is quoted as reporting younger and younger people
attending practices with chronic back problems; the fault of increased
use of technology apparently, followed by a length technophobic quote
from charity BackCare, which promotes chiropractic.
You might ask, whats wrong with that isnt chiropractic like
physiotherapy? No, and no. If you, someone you know, or someone
they know, is seeing a chiropractor, theyve likely wandered into the
realms of quackery. If youre having problems with your back because
youre hunched over a desk all day, a better chair or a standing desk
will be a much better solution than chiro. More technology, you see.
Unless its the result of an injury, crumbled disc and so on, back pain
is largely a self-limiting condition. That means it comes and goes by
itself, but if a persons condition gets better by itself, they often attribute

it to expensive treatment theyve received. You have back pain, you
seea chiro, they crack your bones and claim that helps. The cracking
sound of bones is actually nitrogen bubbles popping and does
precisely nothing, but it sounds and feels like it does something.
Tickplacebo effect on your quackery bingo card.
They might also give you a nice massage, but you can get that
fromtrained sports therapists or physiotherapists. The dodgy beliefs
underpinning chiropractic are many, but include subluxations, a
magical concept invented in 1895 and completely debunked since
then. Subluxations are a sort of energy blockage in the spine that
chiropractics inventor claimed causes all
disease. Of course, that being laughable, some
of todays chiropractors brush that under the
carpet and talk about nonallopathic lesions
instead. Allopathy is what alternative medicine
practitioners call real, scientific, proven
medicine, so anything nonallopathic is
literally made-up silliness.
The idea of alternative medicine as the
antidote to our evil, technology-driven lives isnt new, although in
chiropractic, the irony is strong, as chiropractors overuse X-rays to a
sometimes dangerous degree. Expert consensus is that radiography
isnt useful for diagnosis in lower back pain, but chiros still use them.
If youre concerned about the impact of your computer-loving
lifestyle on your back, be wary of newspaper advice thats biased
towards unproven remedies. Use the technology in front of you to
research the evidence for expensive therapies. It might be more than
just your spine thats being manipulated.
Gamer and science enthusiast Tracy King dissects the evidence
and statistics behind some of the popular media stories
surrounding tech and gaming @TKINGDOLL
The cracking sound of
bones is nitrogen
bubbles popping, and it
does precisely nothing
IS TECHNOLOGY
A PAIN IN THE
BACK?
Newspaper reports claim that overuse of
technology is causing chronic back problems, but
the truth is more complicated, says Tracy King
Sceptical analYsis
10 February 2014
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12 February 2014
The latest tips, tricks and news in the world of computer hobbyism,
from Raspberry Pi and Android to retro computing
hoBBY tech
GARETH HALFACREES
AUTOPSY OF A GOOD BOY
Sometimes eBay is a great source of bargains,
especially when devices are sold as untested.
I picked up an Amiga A-500 Plus there for a
song, and it worked absolutely fine; it was just
missing its PSU.
Sometimes, however, this strategy doesnt
quite go your way. This month I placed a small
bid on an 8-bit console called a Good Boy. One
of many so-called Famiclones, the Good Boy
was a knock-off Nintendo Famicom, known
as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
in the UK. I didnt expect to win, but it seems
the word untested put off other bidders, so
itturned up on my doorstep a week later.
As with the Amiga, there was no PSU. The
rear of the case was clearly marked 10V, giving
me a handy clue, but before hooking it up to
my benchtop supply I decided to rip off the
lidand look inside. The first surprise was a
dangling three-core ribbon cable, which didnt
appear to connect to anything. Then I saw
something attached to the middle of a metal
bar. It turned out to be a voltage regulator that
had exploded. Not a good sign.
The Good Boy, which by now looked like a
Very Poorly Boy Indeed, had more surprises
though. Packed firmly in a corner of the casing
was what looked, at first glance, to be a
cigarette butt. From another angle, however, it
Theres still a chance the Good Boy can be
saved. If the capacitor and regulator blew
before the logic components received too
much voltage, the system will probably work.
For now, there are a couple of lessons to be
learned. The most obvious is, of course,
dontplug higher-voltage PSUs into lower-
voltage devices, unless youre looking for an
impromptu indoor fireworks display. Less
obvious, but just as important, is that when
buying something as being untested, it pays
to have a visual inspection first before firing it
up; had the components been only partially
damaged, its possible that switching on the
device would have killed the logic board, or it
might have even burst into flames. That flying
lead could have been in contact with part of
the circuit, and supplied 10V to places where
10V shouldnt be supplied.
revealed itself to be a capacitor rated to 16V,
which had shot off from its base like a little tiny
electrolytic rocket, caromed off the top of the
consoles shell, and wedged itself in its new
home with some considerable force.
The best explanation is that, with the
original supply missing, a previous owner had
jammed any PSU with a suitable connector
into the Good Boy. With the capacitor rated to
16V, that power supply was probably 24V at
least, resulting in the devastation seen here.
Im not sure how much blame the seller
can take, however; a popped capacitor has a
particular smell about it that you dont easily
forget, and this one had blown its top long
enough ago that the electrolytic contents had
long since evaporated. Its clear that, whoever
was responsible for the death of the Good Boy,
it happened quite some time ago.
What on earth is that? Oh, a capacitor. Where did that come from? Here, I guess. Diagnosis: not looking good
Shouldnt this be connected to something? Ah. It should be connected to that. Oh dear
13 February 2014
14
CUSTOMISATION
A benchtop power supply is a must-have tool for anyone working
with electronics. They supply stable voltages with fine-grained
adjustment, and they also often feature controllable current limits,
with the ability to connect power quickly and easily to circuits with
clips, probes or just plain old wire.
Sadly, they arent cheap: even a basic single-output model starts
at around 40, and if you want multiple simultaneous outputs and
more esoteric voltages such as the negative voltages required by
audio equipment and some vintage computing hardware you can
pay much more.
If only there was a device we all had lying around that could do
thesame job. A device such as, I dont know, an ATX power supply
unit. But how would you ever connect the cables to that PSU safely?
The answer is to use Dangerous Prototypes open-hardware ATX
Breakout Board. Kindly provided by the guys over at Phenoptix, this
ATX board has now become an essential part of my toolkit.
Its operation is simple: connect any ATX PSU to the header at
thetop, and you can then break out its voltages to screw terminals,
which are also capable of accepting banana plugs. For most PSUs,
that means immediate access to the 12V, 5V, 3.3V and the ever-so-
handy12V rails. Theres also room for an additional terminal not
supplied if you have an older PSU with the long-since-removed
-5V line.
The board is built with safety in mind too. Unlike a standard
benchtop power supply, which typically tops out at around 5A of
current, an ATX PSU is designed to pump serious power down its
various rails more than enough to melt wires and start fires if you
have a short circuit. As a result, the board includes 1.25A polyfuses,
which automatically reset if tripped, to limit the current you can
draw from the PSU.
That means you cant use the board to power current-hungry
devices at least, not without modification but that isnt the
boards purpose. As a flexible benchtop supply for testing bare
circuits, or devices missing their original PSUs, the ATX Breakout
Board shines.
Each power rail also includes an individual LED, turning the
board into a simple PSU tester as an added bonus. The design has
room for a bundled 9W resistor too, for those rare PSUs that refuse
to switch on if theres no load present, but I didnt need that feature
for any of my spares. If your supply does need it, and if you have one
of the older PSUs with a handy-dandy -5V rail, its a simple job to
solder the supplied resistor into place on the board.
While not as flexible as my real benchtop supply which can be
adjusted from 0-30V in 0.1V increments the ATX Breakout Board
is still just as capable for most jobs, and its much cheaper too.
Phenoptix sells the board for 12.79 inc VAT (http://tinyurl.com/
atxbreakout) with an optional, and highly recommended, acrylic
case (http://tinyurl.com/atxbreakoutcase) costing an additional
5 inc VAT. With its ability to make use of any spare ATX PSU you
have lying around, thats a very cheap way to get a range of voltages
onto your test bench quickly and safely.
The device also acts as a handy way to test power supplies
themselves: hook up its terminals to a multimeter, and you can
quickly connect and disconnect PSUs for testing.
REVIEW: DANGEROUS PROTOTYPES
ATX BREAKOUT BOARD
The Dangerous Prototypes ATX Breakout Board provides a neat way to turn an old
ATX PSU into a benchtop power supply
The optional case, produced by Phenoptix, keeps fingers away from any
dangerouscurrent
14 February 2014
hoBBY tech
14
This month, Ive been spending time at my
local hackspace in Leeds, which inspired
me to encourage others to do the same.
Hackspaces are vastly underused
resources when it comes to working on
hacking, tinkering or making projects.
Also known as hackerspaces, these
community-driven groups seek to provide
help and support to anyone who might
need them. Entirely funded and operated
by their individual members, hackspaces
exist all over the world, and luckily, my
local is just a short train ride away.
Getting started in programming can be
a daunting task, despite websites offering
tutorials by the dozen, but tinkering with
electronics is worse: suddenly you need
tostart shelling out for equipment,
components and boards, and wrong
decisions can be costly. Youll need deep
pockets if you fancy learning about laser
cutting or 3D printing, for example. While
prices have dropped dramatically in recent
years, an entry-level 3D printer still hits
the sharp end of 1,000 when youve
purchased all the little extras youll need.
Hackspaces solve that problem. Leeds
Hackspace has everything, including
oscilloscopes, soldering stations, 3D
printers, drill presses, modern PCs and
vintage computing hardware, laser
cutters and a pair of train station display
panels, which Im assured Chiltern
Railways supplied with its blessing.
Hackspaces arent just about using
expensive equipment cheaply though;
theyre also about their communities.
Members pay a monthly fee, which is
usedto fund everything from heating and
electricity to buying new equipment or
materials. Members range from experts
in their field, who often run workshops for
those wanting to learn a new skill, to
neophytes looking for help and advice.
Many hackspaces run open evenings
for non-members, and Leeds Hackspace
is no exception. Turning up on a Tuesday
night, I was greeted by a friendly group of
hackers who were more than willing to
THE HACKSPACE REVOLUTION
show off their creations ranging from a
converted arcade cabinet with individually
addressable illuminated buttons to a motion-
tracking Nerf turret. While there was a range
of ideas, each hacker had a common passion
for hacking, learning and sharing their
knowledge. Its absolutely the community
thatmakes or breaks a hackspace.
I rent accommodation with my girlfriend
and theres practically no place for woodwork
or electronics in the flat, Leeds Hackspace
member Christopher Stanto Stanton told
me. I also wanted to meet up with like-
minded people; I work as an IT technician at
Leeds University, but my colleagues dont
share my interest in computer games,
electronics, hardware, woodwork and open
source software and so on. It may be difficult
to believe with the IT Crowd image, but theyre
more into football and other sports that dont
interest me.
The hackspace actually consists of a group
of people paying a membership fee and
voluntarily working with each other, and for
the hackspace; thats what a lot of people
dont realise. Many come with the its us and
you mentality, but everyone can be a part of it.
Many hackspace members have active
projects on the go the aforementioned
arcade cabinet is a work in progress, and the
3D printer is in a constant state of tinkering.
However, others such as Stanto attend to
learn, socialise and expand their horizons.
With support from the current members,
Joining a hackspace means
getting to play with neat
hardware, such as 3D printers
You could also use a laser cutter, complete with glowing
warning sign
Most hackspaces have plenty of equipment, from
oscilloscopes to soldering stations
15 February 2014
CUSTOMISATION
15
GARETH
HALFACREE
is the news reporter at
www.bit-tech.net, and a
keen computer hobbyist
who likes to tinker with technology.

@ghalfacree
MOTOROLA OUTS
PROJECT ARA
Based around the same concept as the
Phonebloks project unveiled earlier this year,
Motorolas Project Ara seeks to create
customisable and upgradable smartphones
based on a common and open ecosystem
the same concept as modern PCs.
An Ara comprises a central endoskeleton,
or Endo, and modular add-ons that provide a
screen, radio, CPU, storage, sensors and
other components. Users can buy modules
separately to the Endo, so they can customise
its capabilities of upgrade it.
Motorola has pledged to have the first Endo
Developers Kits ready by the end of the year,
but hasnt indicated when Ara parts will be
commercially available.
HDMIPi SMASHES
KICKSTARTER GOAL
A Kickstarter crowd-funding effort to produce
a low-cost, small form factor display for use
with the Raspberry Pi has blown past its
funding goal and is heading to production.
The brainchild of Alex Eames and Dave
Mellor, the HDMIPi takes an off-the-shelf 9in
1,280 x 800 panel and pairs it with a compact,
custom driver to produce a portable display
for the low-cost microcomputer. Unlike rival
HDMI-compatible displays, the HDMIPi is
priced at just 75 inc VAT.
Ibegan learning more about electronics,
Stanto explains. I hope that it will lead me to
create a few projects Im currently working
on a monitor for our crested gecko terrarium
and also help others to gain the confidence
to create what they want too.
Outside the open evenings, membership
isnt expensive. Leeds Hackspace charges
25 a month for full membership, with
complete access to the space and its
resources, and it has discount memberships
available for students. Fees vary according
tothe specific hackspace, of course, but
compared with the cost of formal courses and
buying your own equipment assuming
you even have the space its a cost-
effective way to get started.
For its members, though, hackspaces
offer more than access to a workspace
and equipment. Its a sense of belonging,
and working together for a common good.
We are what we make it, says Stanto, and
hopefully thats something productive,
useful and accessible.
You can find information about your
nearest hackspace in the UK at http://
hackspace.org.uk, or internationally via
http://hackerspaces.org
Leeds Hackspace even has these Chiltern Railways
display boards
Leeds Hackspaces unofficial mascot demonstrates the
volume of its 3D printer
Whether your project needs woodworking or
robotics expertise, hackspaces can probably help
Ill be honest, I have no idea what this is, but you
have to admit it looks neat!
Of course, Leeds
Hackspace has firepower
to keep out intruders
NEW HARDWARE
16 January 2014
ANTEC LAUNCHES NEW P100 CASE
Antec has just announced its new P100 ATX chassis, which offers the
classically stylish look of its P180 and P190 cases, complete with the
distinctive front door, for just 75 inc VAT. Antec claims the new case
offers quiet operation via its quiet fans and foam-lined steel panels.
It can house a 317.5mm graphics card too, and has grommet-lined
cable-routing holes for a clean-looking interior as well. The P100 is
available from www.overclockers.co.uk now.
We take a look at the latest newly
announced products
OCZ FILES FOR BANKRUPTCY
SSD maker OCZ has filed for bankruptcy following a
failure to repay a loan. In a public statement, the firm said
that Hercules Technology Growth Capital had taken
control of its deposit accounts, prompting the firm to file for bankruptcy. According to the
statement, OCZ is in talks with Toshiba about buying its assets, but if a deal with Toshiba
doesnt materialise, OCZ expects to imminently file a petition for bankruptcy and
liquidate. OCZ was a main player in the PC enthusiast business for many years with its
ranges of overclocked premium memory. However, it canned its memory business a few
years ago, deciding to focus solely on solid state drives.
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ALL INCLUSIVE
NEW BITFENIX MINI CASE
Clearly enjoying the success of its acclaimed Prodigy case, BitFenix
has announced a new mini case called the Colossus M, which will be
available in micro-ATX and mini-ITX editions. Unlike the Prodigy, the
Colossus M doesnt have FyberFlex handles, so it wont wobble. The
new case can accommodate five 3.5in drives or eight 2.5in SSDs, and
theres room for a 330mm graphics card if you remove the central hard
drive cage. Meanwhile, the front light strip can be set to a variety of colours. The Colossus M can
be pre-ordered from www.overclockers.co.uk for 75 inc VAT.
WESTERN DIGITAL COMBINES
SSD WITH HARD DRIVE
Going one step beyond standard hybrid hard drives, Western
Digital has just announced the first hard drive to include a fully
fledged SSD on board. The Black comes in a standard 2.5in drive
package, which contains a 1TB hard drive and a 128GB SSD a big
jump over previous hybrid drives, which combine a hard drive with
a very small amount of solid state memory for caching. The drive is
potentially ideal for laptops or small form factor machines with
just one drive bay, meaning you get both speedy solid state storage
and plenty of room for data. The drive will cost 250 inc VAT.
1and1.cc.uk
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34
CORSAIR
VENGEANCE K70
A choice of Cherry MX
switches and a backlight
28
NZXT SOURCE 530
Theres loads of
room for expansion in this
80 case
36
SYNOLOGY DS214+
A fast NAS with a
1.33GHz dual-core CPU and
Link Aggregation support
30
FRACTAL DESIGN
ARC MINI R2
A micro-ATX case with
room for water-cooling
40
MINCE PIE
MEGATEST
Its Christmas at CPC, and
that means pies!
22
POWERCOLOR
RADEON R9 270 OC
Meet the new king of
affordable graphics cards
24
ASUS GEFORCE
GTX 760 MARS
Can two 760 GPUs beat a
single GTX 780?
42
GELID ICYPAD
UNIVERSAL
COOLER
Cool on the outside
18 February 2014
Our in-depth analysis of
the latest PC hardware

20

19 February 2014
HOW WE TEST, P38
Nvidia GeForce
GTX 780 Ti 3GB
With 2,880 stream processors at
its disposal, can Nvidias new
flagship justify its 559 price?

20

20 February 2014
HOW MUCH?
Price 559 inc VAT
Supplier www.scan.co.uk
Manufacturer
www.nvidia.co.uk
IN DETAIL
Graphics processor Nvidia
GeForce GTX 780 Ti, 876MHz
boosting to 928MHz
Pipeline 2,880 stream
processors, 48 ROPs
Memory 3GB GDDR5,
7GHz effective
Bandwidth 336GB/sec
Compatibility DirectX 11,
OpenGL 4.3
Outputs/inputs 1 x DVI-I,
1 x DVI-D, 1 x HDMI, 1 x
DisplayPort
Power connections 1 x
8-pin, 1x 6-pin, top-mounted
Size 267mm long, dual-slot
MDs Radeon R9 290X (see Issue 124, p20)
may not have decisively snatched Nvidias
performance trophy, but it shook Nvidia into
dropping its prices and introducing a new
high-end product the GTX 780 Ti.
When the GTX Titan launched, it wowed gamers
with the power of the GK110 GPU. This 7.1 billion
transistor processor featured five graphics
processingclusters subdivided into three streaming
multiprocessors (SMXs) for a total of 15, but with the
GTX Titan, one SMX is disabled, leaving it with 14. This
is no longer the case with the GTX 780 Ti, as its GPU
ships with all the parts fully enabled.
As a result, the stream processor and texture unit
counts have increased to 2,880 and 240 respectively
7per cent more than the GTX Titan.
This is complemented by 48 ROPs (16 fewer than
the R9 290-series cards) and a 384-bit memory
interface, thanks to the six memory controllers.
Aswith the GTX 780, this is connected to 3GB of
GDDR5memory; both the GTX Titan and R9 290X
havemore.
The cards 876MHz base clock (boost
clock 928MHz) is higher than other GK110
parts too, and the memory speed has also
been bumped up to a mighty 7GHz
(effective), for a total memory bandwidth
of 336GB/sec, the highest of any card
currently available.
With the same beautiful aluminium cooler as the
GTX 780 and GTX Titan, theres no denying that it looks
and feels like a premium product, and the silver fan
cap and green backlit logo are fine touches.
The fan cools the internal vapour chamber, which
draws heat directly away from the GPU, and indirectly
from the memory chips and power circuitry via a
metalcontact plate.
The PCB is also unchanged and, as such, the card
features the same SLI connectors, power inputs and
display outputs as the GeForce GTX 780 and Titan.
Despite the GTX 780 Tis increased power, the GTX
Titans full-speed double precision units and 6GB of
memory mean that Nvidia is continuing to position it
as the card of choice for researchers and prosumers
for whom compute performance is a priority. As such,
the Titan wont be seeing a price drop in the wake of
this launch.

PERFORMANCE
Our Battlefield 4 benchmark gives the GTX 780 Ti a
healthy lead over the GTX Titan, but the R9 290X has
better minimum frame rates, particularly at 4K and
triple-monitor resolutions, where only the 290X
achieves playable frame rates.
In BioShock Infinite, however, the GTX 780 Ti has a
strong lead over the R9 290X of at least 10 per cent.
This advantage improves at higher resolutions, and
the GTX 780 Ti is much smoother than the 290X at 4K.
The GTX 780 Ti doesnt exert its dominance quite so
clearly in Crysis 3, however, as the GTX Titan manages
to match or better its minimum frame rates at every
resolution, perhaps due to its larger frame buffer.
TheGTX 780 Ti and R9 290X are neck and neck across
three screens, and at 4K in this test, but the lower
resolutions allow Nvidias card to win.
Our tests also show the GTX 780 Ti consuming up
to50W more than the Titan, which isnt surprising
given the higher stream processor count and
increased clock speeds. That said, it draws less power
fromthe wall than the AMD R9 290X, despite nearly
always outperforming it, and is quieter and cooler.
Amazingly, the GTX 780 Ti proved to be a
phenomenal overclocker too, remaining stable with
abase clock of 1,100MHz a 224MHz increase, or
26per cent. We also hit a memory speed of 7.8GHz
(effective) an 11 per cent gain. At these speeds, the
cards frame rates rival and even trump those of dual-
GPU cards such as the GTX 690 and HD 7990. Better
yet, temperatures barely increased, and although the
fan became noisier, it was still tolerable and quieter
than the R9 290X.
A
NVIDIA
BLEEDING
EDGE
Fastest GPU for
gaming; gorgeous
cooler; excellent
overclocker
BLEEDING
GUMS
Ridiculously
expensive
THE GTX 780 Ti DRAWS LESS
POWERFROMTHE WALL THAN THE
AMD R9 290X, DESPITE NEARLY
ALWAYS OUTPERFORMING IT
Meet the worlds new fastest graphics card
GeForce GTX 780 Ti
teperformance is a priority. As su
i thewakeo
21 February 2014
GRAPHICS CARD
Idle Load Lower is better
TOTAL SYSTEM POWER DRAW
0 100 200 300 400 500
Radeon R9 290X
GeForce GTX Titan
GeForce GTX 780 Ti
BATTLEFIELD 4
1,920 x 1,080 Ultra Detail, 4 x AA
2,560 x 1,600 Ultra Detail, 4x AA
0 20 40 60 80
fps 74
fps 71
fps 71
fps 56
fps 52
fps 59 Radeon R9 290X
GeForce GTX Titan
GeForce GTX 780 Ti
0 12 24 36 48
fps 46
fps 43
fps 45
fps 33
fps 31
fps 37 Radeon R9 290X
GeForce GTX Titan
GeForce GTX 780 Ti
5,760 x 1,080 Ultra Detail, 4x AA
3,840 x 2,160 Ultra Detail, 0x AA
0 8 16 24 32
fps 30
fps 28
fps 31
fps 21
fps 19
fps 25 Radeon R9 290X
GeForce GTX Titan
GeForce GTX 780 Ti
0 10 20 30 40
fps 37
fps 34
fps 37
fps 23
fps 21
fps 28 Radeon R9 290X
GeForce GTX Titan
GeForce GTX 780 Ti
BIOSHOCK INFINITE
1,920 x 1,080 Ultra Detail with Depth of Field
Minimum Average
2,560 x 1,600 Ultra Detail with Depth of Field
0 30 60 90 120
fps 112
fps 105
fps 97
fps 96
fps 88
fps 87 Radeon R9 290X
GeForce GTX Titan
GeForce GTX 780 Ti
0 18 36 54 72
fps 64
fps 56
fps 56
fps 56
fps 54
fps 51 Radeon R9 290X
GeForce GTX Titan
GeForce GTX 780 Ti
5,760 x 1,080 Ultra Detail with Depth of Field
3,840 x 2,160 Ultra Detail with Depth of Field
0 10 20 30 40
fps 40
fps 39
fps 36
fps 33
fps 32
fps 29 Radeon R9 290X
GeForce GTX Titan
GeForce GTX 780 Ti
0 9 18 27 36
fps 34
fps 31
fps 30
fps 30
fps 27
fps 26 Radeon R9 290X
GeForce GTX Titan
GeForce GTX 780 Ti
CRYSIS 3
1,920 x 1,080 Very High detail, 0x AA
2,560 x 1,600 Very High detail, 0x AA
0 20 40 60 80
fps 73
fps 70
fps 66
fps 61
fps 61
fps 58 Radeon R9 290X
GeForce GTX Titan
GeForce GTX 780 Ti
0 12.5 25 37.5 50
fps 42
fps 50
fps 42
fps 41
fps 35
fps 42
fps 37
fps 33 Radeon R9 290X
GeForce GTX Titan
GeForce GTX 780 Ti
5,760 x 1,080 Very High detail, 0x AA
3,840 x 2,160 Very High detail, 0x AA
0 7.5 15 22.5 30
fps 28
fps 28
fps 28
fps 24
fps 25
fps 24 Radeon R9 290X
GeForce GTX Titan
GeForce GTX 780 Ti
0 6 12 18 24
fps 22
fps 21
fps 22
fps 18
fps 18
fps 18 Radeon R9 290X
GeForce GTX Titan
GeForce GTX 780 Ti
W 402
W 352
W 426
W 111
W 108
W 114
Stock speed min Stock speed avg Overclocked avg Overclocked min
CONCLUSI ON
The GTX 780 Ti is the new fastest gaming GPU, and
thecard is an excellent overclocker, while also being
quieter, cooler and less power-hungry than its
immediate competition. However, it still offers poor
value for money. The GTX 780 and R9 290X cost almost
a third of the price but perform closely to (and even
sometimes better than) the GTX 780 Ti. However, value
is of little concern to this cards target audience, and
the figures alone can justify a purchase as the fastest
gaming GPU available we certainly would if we could.
MATTHEW LAMBERT


custom PC
80
OVERALL
SPEED 39 / 40
FEATURES 27 / 30
VALUE 14 / 30
st
ue
t
ld.
22 February 2014
HOW MUCH?
Price 126 inc VAT
Supplier www.ebuyer.com
Manufacturer www.
powercolor.com
IN DETAIL
Graphics processor AMD
Radeon R9 270, 955MHz
Pipeline 1,280 stream
processors, 32 ROPs
Memory 2GB GDDR5,
5.6GHz effective
Bandwidth 179.2GB/sec
Compatibility DirectX 11.2,
OpenGL 4.3, AMD Mantle
Outputs/inputs 1 x DVI-I,
1 x HDMI, 1 x DisplayPort
Power connections 1 x
6-pin, side-mounted
Size 200mm long, dual-slot
o cut a long story short, the PowerColor
Radeon R9 270 OC uses the same GPU as
theRadeon HD 7870, and the R9 270X for that
matter, but it runs at a lower clock speed,
which enables it to be powered with just one 6-pin
PCI-E connection.
Its designed to trade blows with Nvidias GTX 660,
and offer a cost-effective card to gamers using 1080p
screens, while remaining within the same power
envelope as the lowlier HD 7850.
If you need reminding, AMDs 28nm Graphics
CoreNext GPU, first seen in the Radeon HD 7870,
consists of 20 compute units, and therefore 1,280
streamprocessors and 80 texture units. Youll
alsofind 32 ROPs and four 64-bit memory
controllers, which communicate with
2GB of GDDR5 memory.
By default, the GPU clock runs at
925MHz, 125MHz below the R9 270Xs
frequency. This is the only performance
difference between the two GPUs,
though, as the memory frequency is
thesame 1.4GHz (5.6GHz effective).
The Radeon R9 270 graphics cards on the market
tend to ship with factory overclocks, and this
PowerColor card is no exception, increasing the core
boost clock by a measly 30MHz, or 3 per cent, to
955MHz. Our results are based on testing at this
frequency, but at stock speeds, youll only see the
frame rates fall by 1 or 2fps, if anything.
Oddly, PowerColor has opted to omit the second
DVI port found on the reference card. This may help
tolower costs, and is unlikely to affect the target
audience, but it does prevent you from running three
identical monitors without using DisplayPort a
feature thats supported by other R9-series cards.
Taking the card apart reveals a basic but well-
made cooler, with a single S-shaped heatpipe feeding
the aluminium fins, which are cooled by a 90mm fan.
Neither the memory chips nor the power circuitry are
actively cooled, though, and hot air is exhausted into
your case.
PERFORMANCE
The R9 270 OC offers great performance Battlefield 4,
keeping the game not only playable at the demanding
1080p Ultra test, but also 5fps quicker than the GTX
660 in terms of both average and minimum frame
rates. Its 3fps quicker at 2,560 x 1,600 too, although
neither card is playable at this resolution.
In BioShock Infinite, the PowerColor card also
beatthe GTX 660s minimum frame rate by 3fps at
1080p, and by 1fps at the higher
resolution of 2,560 x 1,600
providing a borderline
playable frame rate at the
latter resolution. The R9 270
is around 30 per cent faster
than the HD 7850 in this game
as well.
In Crysis 3, even the 1080p test
isenough to push cards in this
pricebracket close to their limits.
Nevertheless, the R9 270 and GTX 660
T
POWERCOLOR
SUPERPOWER
Solid 1080p
performance;
small; good
cooler
POWER CUT
Small overclock;
only one DVI port
THESE OVERCLOCKS HAD A
SIGNIFICANT IMPACT, WITH THE
MINIMUM FRAME RATE IN CRYSIS 3
INCREASING TO A HEALTHY 32FPS
Ideal for small form factor PCs
and 1080p screens
Radeon R9 270 OC
olor
U as
or that
frequency, but at stock speeds, yo
frame rates fall by 1 or2fp
Oddly, PowerCol
DVI port fo
tol
A single S-shaped heatpipe
feeds the aluminium fins, which
are cooled by a 90mm fan
23 February 2014
GRAPHICS CARD
BATTLEFIELD 4
1,920 x 1,080 Ultra Detail, 4x AA
2,560 x 1,600 Ultra Detail, 4x AA
BIOSHOCK INFINITE
1,920 x 1,080 Ultra Detail with Depth of Field
2,560 x 1,600 Ultra Detail with Depth of Field
0 13 26 39 52
fps 51
fps 51
fps 39
fps 45
fps 42
fps 35 Radeon HD 7850
GeForce GTX 660
PowerColor R9 270 OC
0 8 16 24 32
fps 28
fps 29
fps 22
fps 25
fps 24
fps 19 Radeon HD 7850
GeForce GTX 660
PowerColor R9 270 OC
Idle Load
CRYSIS 3
1,920 x 1,080 Very High detail, 0x AA
2,560 x 1,600 Very High detail, 0x AA
Lower is better
TOTAL SYSTEM POWER DRAW
0 10 20 30 40
fps 34
fps 35
fps 37
fps 27
fps 29
fps 28
fps 32
fps 24 Radeon HD 7850
PowerColor R9 270 OC
GeForce GTX 660
0 6 12 18 24
fps 21
fps 20
fps 16
fps 17
fps 17
fps 14 Radeon HD 7850
GeForce GTX 660
PowerColor R9 270 OC
0 55 110 165 220 275
W 227
W 244
W 270
W 106
W 103
W 107 PowerColor R9 270 OC
GeForce GTX 660
Radeon HD 7850
0
10 20 30 40
39fps
34fps
33fps
28fps GeForce GTX 660
PowerColor R9 270 OC
0
6 12 18 24
23fps
20fps
19fps
16fps GeForce GTX 660
PowerColor R9 270 OC
Stock speed min Stock speed avg Overclocked avg Overclocked min
are closely matched in this test, with the former
having a slightly higher average frame rate and the
latter seizing victory on the all-important minimum
frame rate one by just 1fps. Moving to the higher
resolution of 2,560 x 1,600, both cards can only offer
unplayable frame rates, but again, the R9 270 and GTX
660 were neck and neck.
However, in our total system power draw test, the
PowerColor card consumed more power than both
the GTX 660 and HD 7850, even though all three are
powered by one 6-pin PCI-E connection. Thankfully,
the PowerColor cooler kept the card running cool and
quiet though.
Through overclocking, we were able to reach a GPU
core frequency of 1,080MHz, a 13 per cent increase
over the PowerColor cards stock speed (or 17 per cent over the stock AMD R9 270 speed), and we also
reached a GDDR5 memory frequency of 1.525GHz
(6.1GHz effective).
These overclocks had a significant impact on
performance, with the minimum frame rate in Crysis
3 increasing to a healthy 32fps at 1,920 x 1,080, so its
well worth tweaking this card and seeing what extra
performance you can eke out of it.
CONCLUSI ON
The Radeon R9 270 gives AMD a much more
competitive GPU in the circa-130 budget category,
as well as in this power envelope. In terms of
performance, the R9 270 walks all over the previous
HD 7850 and, at just 126 inc VAT, its also cheaper
and generally quicker than its competition, Nvidias
GeForce GTX 660.
If youre limited by budget, case size or your
number of PCI-E power connections, which could
betrue for many owners of small form factor cases,
HTPCs or bare bone systems, the Radeon R9 270 is
asolid choice.
PowerColors R9 270 OC card is a great deal too,
being the cheapest graphics card weve seen so far
with this particular GPU setup.
Were not sure why itonly has a single DVI
connection, or why the factory overclock is just a
miniscule 30MHz, but the card doesnt have the
processing power for triple-monitor gaming
anyway,and the cooler is very effective for the price.
MATTHEW LAMBERT


custom PC
82
OVERALL
SPEED 30 / 40
FEATURES 23 / 30
VALUE 29 / 30
01
Only a single 6-pin
PCI-E power connector
isrequired to power the card
02
The cooler is quiet
andeffective, although
neither the memory nor
thepower circuitry are
activelycooled
03
Curiously, the
backplateonly has
asingle DVI connection
01
02
03
24 February 2014
HOW MUCH?
Price 520 inc VAT
Supplier TBC
Manufacturer
www.asus.com/uk
IN DETAIL
Graphics processor 2 x
Nvidia GeForce GTX 760,
1,006MHz (boost 1,072MHz)
Pipeline 2 x 1,152 stream
processors, 2 x 32 ROPs
Memory 2 x 2GB GDDR5,
6GHz effective
Bandwidth 2 x 192GB/sec
Compatibility DirectX 11
OpenGL 4.3
Outputs/inputs 2 x DVI-I, 1 x
DVI-D, 1 x mini-DisplayPort
Power connections
2 x 8-pin, top-mounted
Size 280mm long, dual-slot
sus Republic of Gamers MARS dual-GPU
graphics cards are renowned for being
oversized and over the top. The new GTX 760
edition is less extreme (by comparison), as it
retains a regular dual-slot form factor and measures
281mm long barely longer than a GTX 780 Ti card.
The card combines a pair of GTX 760 GPUs on a
single custom PCB, which allows Asus to market it as
having 2,304 stream processors and 4GB of memory.
The base clock of both GPUs has also been nudged
from 980MHz to 1,006MHz, giving them a boost clock
of 1,072MHz. The memory, meanwhile, runs at the
stock GTX 760 frequency of 1.5GHz (6GHz effective).
The design is typical of Asus RoG products, and the
red metal contrasts attractively with the black, soft-
touch plastic. A black metal backplate gives
the card extra stability, while the glowing red
MARS logo on the side will be easily visible
through a case window. Outputs include two
DVI-I ports and a DVI-D connector, all dual-
link, as well as a mini-DisplayPort connector. A single
SLI bridge means the card can be paired with a second
for quad-SLI too, a world first for the GTX 760.
Cooling is achieved by a pair of Direct CU II coolers.
Four heatpipes make direct contact with each GPU,
before looping round into the aluminium heatsinks
above them.
Two 85mm fans (one per heatsink) provide airflow,
but the resulting hot air is dumped into your chassis.
Meanwhile, a metal contact plate draws heat away
from the majority of the memory chips and power
circuitry, as well as the on-board SLI bridge.
The two GK104 GPUs are mounted on the left and
right of the PCB, each surrounded by eight 256MB SK
Hynix memory chips. Between the GPUs sits the PLX
PEX8747, enabling the GPUs to communicate, while a
single connector controls both fans via a circuitboard,
which also powers the MARS logos LEDs.
Asus has paid close attention to power circuitry,
equipping the board with 10+2 Digi+VRM power
phases, which enable precise digital GPU voltage
control via the supplied GPU Tweak software. Along
with the high-quality components, this should help to
keep the MARS GTX 760 stable at high overclocks.
PERFORMANCE
The GTX 760 MARS got off to a strong start in
Battlefield 4, providing a much smoother experience
at 2,560 x 1,600 than the costlier GTX 780 Ti, with a 7fps
higher minimum frame rate. The combined GPUs
effectively enable the card to overcome the slowdowns
that Nvidia cards typically experience in this
benchmark. It was unable to beat the dual-GPU
Radeon HD 7990 in this test, but it trumped the R9
290X. Sadly, this isnt true at the higher resolutions,
where it falls behind the GTX 780 Ti and R9 290X, but
still offers the same performance as the GTX Titan.
It fares well at 2,560 x 1,600 in BioShock Infinite as
well, with frame rates 7 and 18 per cent faster than
theGTX 780 Ti and R9 290X respectively, and never
dipping below 60fps. Sadly, it struggles massively at
the higher resolutions, though, stuttering through the
benchmark with low minimum frame rates. However,
this appears to be a localised issue affecting Nvidia
multi-GPU setups, as weve also observed similar
behaviour with the GTX 690. Crysis 3 performance is
also good, as it dominates the single GPU-cards and is
only marginally behind the HD 7990. Its performance
A
ASUS
SPACESHIP
Good value
against GTX
780 Ti; decent
overclocking;
onlydual-slot
SPACE JUNK
Still very
expensive; can
get noisy; high
power draw
THE GLOWING RED MARS LOGO ON
THE SIDE WILL BE EASILY VISIBLE
THROUGH A CASE WINDOW
Can this custom dual GTX 760 card
trump the GTX 780 Ti?
GeForce GTX 760 MARS
Four heatpipes make
direct contact with each
GPU, before looping into
the aluminium heatsinks
25 February 2014
GRAPHICS CARD
is also on a par with the GTX 780 Ti in this test at very
high resolutions.
Power draw is high, as you would expect from a
dual-GPU card. In fact, it uses even more power than
the HD 7990 under load. The fans can also kick up
some noise, although again, that isnt surprising given
that theyre dealing with two overclocked GPUs in a
confined space.
Through overclocking, we hit a base clock of
1,127MHz on both GPUs, which is a 12 per cent
increase. This took the boost clock to 1,192MHz,
although in reality, it peaked at a mighty 1,254MHz.
Wecould only raise the memory frequency to 6.5GHz
(effective), but the results were still excellent for a dual-
slot, dual-GPU card. Of particular note are the Crysis 3
frame rates, where the overclocked card rockets to
5fps ahead of those of the HD 7990.
CONCLUSI ON
At 2,560 x 1,600, the GTX 760 MARS easily outperforms
the costlier GTX 780 Ti, which is amazing when you
consider that it has fewer stream processors. It has
less of an advantage at ultra high resolutions, though,
where the pair of HD 7970 GPUs on the HD 7990 give it
the advantage.
The HD 7990 also currently costs around 400,
making it the better buy if youre happy to go down a
dual-GPU route. MARS cards are never about value
formoney, though, and as an independent feat of
engineering, giving you a dual-GPU card that you could
effectively use in a mini-ITX machine with a beefy PSU,
its an undeniably impressive achievement. Its
thoroughly well constructed, and its premium
components are evident in its overclocking potential.
MATTHEW LAMBERT
BATTLEFIELD 4
2,560 x 1,600, Ultra Detail, 4x AA
5,760 x 1,080, Ultra Detail, 4x AA
0 16 32 48 64
fps 62
fps 49
fps 54
fps 46
fps 45
fps 53
fps 40
fps 44
fps 33
fps 37 Radeon R9 290X
GeForce GTX 780 Ti
Asus GTX 760 MARS
Radeon HD 7990
0 12 24 36 48
fps 44
fps 30
fps 30
fps 31
fps 36
fps 18
fps 21
fps 25 Radeon R9 290X
GeForce GTX 780 Ti
Asus GTX 760 MARS
Radeon HD 7990
3,840 x 2,160, Ultra Detail, 0x AA
0 13 26 39 52
fps 49
fps 36
fps 37
fps 37
fps 38
fps 21
fps 23
fps 28 Radeon R9 290X
GeForce GTX 780 Ti
Asus GTX 760 MARS
Radeon HD 7990
Lower is better
TOTAL SYSTEM POWER DRAW
Idle Load
0 100 200 300 400 500
W 470
W 478
W 402
W 426
W 127
W 121
W 111
W 114 Radeon R9 290X
GeForce GTX 780 Ti
Asus GTX 760 MARS
Radeon HD 7990
BIOSHOCK INFINITE
2,560 x 1,600, Ultra Detail with Depth of Field
5,760 x 1,080, Ultra Detail with Depth of Field
0 20 40 60 80
fps 73
fps 72
fps 64
fps 56
fps 64
fps 60
fps 56
fps 51 Radeon R9 290X
GeForce GTX 780 Ti
AsusGTX 760 MARS
Radeon HD 7990
0 12 24 36 48
fps 45
fps 38
fps 40
fps 36
fps 36
fps 7
fps 33
fps 29 Radeon R9 290X
GeForce GTX 780 Ti
Asus GTX 760 MARS
Radeon HD 7990
3,840 x 2,160, Ultra Detail with Depth of Field
CRYSIS 3
2,560 x 1,600, Very High detail, 0x AA
5,760 x 1,080 , Very High detail, 0x AA
0 14 28 42 56
fps 49
fps 49
fps 54
fps 42
fps 41
fps 42
fps 41
fps 47
fps 35
fps 33 Radeon R9 290X
GeForce GTX 780 Ti
Asus GTX 760 MARS
Radeon HD 7990
0 8 16 24 32
fps 32
fps 30
fps 28
fps 28
fps 26
fps 24
fps 24
fps 24 Radeon R9 290X
GeForce GTX 780 Ti
Asus GTX 760 MARS
Radeon HD 7990
3,840 x 2,160, Very High detail, 0x AA
Minimum Average
0 9 18 27 36
fps 31
fps 34
fps 30
fps 21
fps 30
fps 26 Radeon R9 290X
GeForce GTX 780 Ti
Asus GTX 760 MARS
0 6 12 18 24
fps 22
fps 22
fps 22
fps 16
fps 18
fps 18 Radeon R9 290X
GeForce GTX 780 Ti
Asus GTX 760 MARS
Stock speed min Stock speed avg Overclocked avg Overclocked min


custom PC
79
OVERALL
SPEED 37 / 40
FEATURES 28 / 30
VALUE 14 / 30
28 February 2014
HOW MUCH?
Price 80 inc VAT
Supplier
www.overclockers.co.uk
Manufacturer
www.nzxt.com
Model number CA-SO530-M1
IN DETAIL
Dimensions (mm) 235 x 507
x 510 (W x D x H)
Material Steel, plastic
Available colours Black
Weight 9.2kg
Front panel Power, reset,
2 x USB 3, stereo, mic
Drive bays 3 x external
5.25in, 6 x internal
3.5in/2.5in, 1 x 2.5in
Form factor(s) E-ATX, ATX,
micro-ATX
Cooling 2 x 120/140mm
front fan mounts (fans not
included), 1 x 120/140mm
rear fan mount (120mm fan
included), 3 x 120mm/2 x
140mm top fan mounts
(1 x 120mm fan included),
2 x bottom 120mm fan
mounts (fans not included),
1 x internal 120mm fan
mount (fan not included)
CPU cooler clearance
160mm
Maximum graphics card
length 310mm (440mm
without top hard disk cage)
Extras Dust filters, ten-way
3-pin fan power board
ZXTs most well-known case
range is undoubtedly the
Phantom series, which
focuses heavily on enthusiast-
orientated features and design.
Meanwhile, its more traditional Source
line of tower cases takes aim at the budget
end of the spectrum, but while the new Source 530
isnt exactly dirt-cheap, it offers similar features to
atypical 120 tower case.
Its only a little smaller than Corsairs 130
Obsidian 750D, which is one of the best cases in its
price range, with plenty of room for hard disks, SSDs,
big coolers and graphics cards, and it isnt adverse to
accommodating water cooling either. The same is
true for the Source 530; as well as supporting E-ATX
motherboards, it can house either six
hard disks or SSDs, along with a
further SSD in a dedicated mount
behind the motherboard tray. Theres
also space for three external 5.25in
drives, so even the most storage-
hungry users wont be left wanting. All
but the dedicated SSD mount are tool-
free as well.
The exterior isnt quite as robust and clean-looking
as the Obsidian 750D, though, with a fair amount of
glossy plastic and a few joins that dont quite meet up
in the way you might expect on a more expensive
case. That said, theres nothing that would lead to
disappointment here unless youre particularly picky
when it comes to aesthetics. The rest of the case is
well made, theres a large angular side window, side-
mounted push-buttons and front-mounted USB 3
ports and mini-jacks. The part-plastic construction
also helps to keep the weight down to a reasonable
9.2kg, with the rest of the case being made of steel.
However, while NZXTs Phantom cases include
excellent fan control options. these are sadly absent
from the Source 530, although theres a ten-way
power board for 3-pin fans behind the motherboard
tray (pictured), which will at least enable you to power
all your case fans from this location, instead of
traipsing cables over the motherboard. The case is
well equipped with dust filters too, with the PSU
mount, bottom fan mount and front fan mounts all
protected against the evil grey stuff.
Theres a plethora of options when it comes to
cooling as well. Out of the box, the case is only
equipped with two 120mm fans one in the rear
120/140mm fan mount and the other in one of three
120mm roof fan mounts, which alternatively support
two 140mm fans. In addition, there are two
120/140mm front fan mounts, two 120mm bottom
fanmounts and a swivelling 120mm fan mount; the
latter can sit between the top bank of hard disk
mounts and your graphics card.
N
NZXT
HEINZ
Many fan mounts;
lots of dust lters;
good value
VALUE BRAND
Average build
quality; no fan
control; no cable-
routing rubber
grommets
THE PART-PLASTIC CONSTRUCTION
HELPS TO KEEP THE WEIGHT DOWN TO
A REASONABLE 9.2KG, WITH THE REST
OF THE CASE BEING MADE OF STEEL
Excellent features and expansion
room for just 80
Source 530
29 February 2014
E-ATX CASE
These fan mounts translate into excellent water-
cooling support too. The roof section can house a
half-height triple 120mm-fan radiator, or a double
140mm-fan radiator, while the front section and
bottom fan mounts both have room for a full-sized
double 120/140mm-fan radiator, although not in both
mounts at the same time, and only if you remove one
or both hard disk storage cages. There are plenty of
ways to hide and route cables too, with ample room
behind the motherboard tray and lots of routing holes
as well. However, unlike the Obsidian 750D, the holes
arent equipped with rubber grommets, which means
the bare holes can look unsightly.
The case is also fairly narrow, meaning that CPU
coolers are limited to 160mm in height. Meanwhile,
graphics cards have up to 310mm of space out of
thebox but removing the top hard disk cage nets
youanother 130mm this is enough for even the
longest graphics cards, and theres essentially no
limit to PSU length either, with over 300mm of
clearance available.
PERFORMANCE
The Source 530 didnt fare too badly in our cooling
tests, despite not including any intake fans as
standard. It managed a CPU delta T of 52C with our
system under full load, which is only 3C warmer
thanthe Obsidian 750D and enough to beat Fractal
Designs Define R4 on its minimum speed and match
NZXTs Phantom 630 on its lowest fan speed.
However, the GPU delta T of 51C was well into the
lower half of the cases weve tested recently, although
it was only 6C warmer than the best-performing
CPU LOAD DELTA T TEMPERATURE
Lower is better
0 15 30 45 60
C 52
C 49
C 48 Corsair Carbide Air 540
Corsair Obsidian 750D
NZXT Source 530
0 15 30 45 60
C 51
C 47
C 47 Corsair Carbide Air 540
Corsair Obsidian 750D
NZXT Source 530
GPU LOAD DELTA T TEMPERATURE


custom PC
82
OVERALL
COOLING 20 / 30
FEATURES 17 / 20
DESIGN 26 / 30
VALUE 19 / 20
SilverStone FT02. Again, the Obsidian 750D bettered it
here, but only by a few degrees, and the Source 530
also matched its sibling, the Phantom 630, on its
lowest fan speed.
The mediocre cooling results are partly due to the
fact that only a fraction of the fan mounts are filled out
of the box, but also because the fans spin fairly slowly
quietly. As such, if quiet operation is a bigger priority to
you than top-notch cooling, its pleasant to sit next to
the Source 530.
CONCLUSION
The Source 530 might not be the best-looking case,
and it wont keep your hardware cooler than a polar
bears toenails either, but it offers remarkable value
for money at 80. For this price, you get huge
expansion room in terms of air and water cooling,
andthe case can easily house an E-ATX motherboard,
plus several graphics cards and hard disks too.
Corsairs Obsidian 750D is ultimately more swoon-
worthy in terms of build quality and features, but it
also costs 50 more. The fact that the Source 530 runs
very quietly and also includes the usual enthusiast
mod cons, except for fan control and cable-routing
grommets, make it a great choice if you need a hefty
case on a budget.
ANTONY LEATHER
01
The roof section can
house a half-height triple
120mm-fan radiator, or a double
140mm-fan radiator
02
Unlike Corsairs Obsidian
750D, the holes arent
equipped with rubber grommets
03
Graphics cards have up
to310mm of space out
of the box, but removing the
tophard disk cage nets you
another 130mm
01
02
03
30 February 2014
HOW MUCH?
Price 70 inc VAT
Supplier www.scan.co.uk
Manufacturer
www.fractal-design.com
IN DETAIL
Dimensions (mm) 210 x 484
x 405 (W x D x H)
Material Steel, plastic
Available colours Black
Weight 9kg
Front panel Power, reset,
2 x USB 3, stereo, mic
Drive bays 2 x external
5.25in drive bays, 6 x internal
3.5in/2.5in drive bays, 2 x
internal 2.5in drive bays
Form factor(s) Micro-ATX,
mini-ITX
Cooling 2 x 120mm front fan
mounts (120mm fan
included), 1 x 120mm rear
fan mount (120mm fan
included), 2 x 140mm or 3 x
120mm roof fan mounts
(140mm fan included), 1 x
120mm lower fan mount
CPU cooler clearance
165mm
Maximum graphics card
length 260mm (400mm
without top hard drive cage)
f youre familiar with Fractal Designs Arc Midi
R2 then youre already familiar with the new
Arc Mini R2 other than a few sensible design
changes, this micro-ATX case is otherwise a
smaller version of the Midi R2. Thats no reason not
tobe excited though; while the understated design
may not quite have the allure of SilverStones
gorgeous Fortress FT03, Fractals micro-ATX chassis
may well become the new best friend of every water
cooler in town.
However, lets start with the outside first. The Arc
Mini R2 is a well-built and sturdy chassis, particularly
for its 70 asking price. The right side panel is bare,
but the left is dominated by a large window. The
windows brown tint might not be to everybodys taste,
but the window certainly improves on the original Arc
Mini, which had just a plain fan mount here.
Meanwhile, the front and roof are dominated by
large rectangular mesh sections, which are backed
by soft dust-filtering material. Both sections are also
easy to remove the front one pops out directly via
push-release clips, while a pair of thumbscrews lets
you pull off the top roof section to
clean it and access the fan mounts on
the core structure below it. A third
filter is located beneath the PSU and
lower 120mm fan mount, but its
difficult to slide back into place
without tilting the case on its side.
The final feature of note on the exterior is the front
I/O panel, which now has an extra USB 3 port over the
original case, as well as a three-speed fan controller,
which can conveniently be used to control all three of
the default fans, albeit on a single channel.
These three Silent Series R2 fans are positioned in
the same way as before, with the top front mount and
rear exhaust mount sporting 120mm models, and the
further back roof mount housing the larger 140mm
fan as an exhaust. Twin exhausts around the CPU are
often effective, while the front fan combined with the
meshed front should ensure that a steady stream of
cool air reaches your graphics hardware.
Accessing the chassis is simple, thanks to the
panel handles and thumbscrews, but its a joy to work
with the Arc Mini R2 in every other way too. The
padded PSU area, large CPU cut-out, reusable
backplate brackets with thumbscrews, as well as the
individually sleeved and colour-matched cables, are
all well implemented and indicative of attention to
detail. Theres ample room for storing cables behind
the motherboard tray, as well as numerous routing
holes with secure rubber grommets that prevent your
case from looking like a spaghetti junction.
The six metal drive trays fit securely into their
housings, yet theyre a cinch to remove. Theyre all
painted in stand-out white, and can each hold a
singledrive, be it a 2.5in or 3.5in model. Theyre also
equipped with silicone mounts to dampen vibrations
from mechanical drives. In addition, a pair of SSD
drive trays are found behind the motherboard.
The top drive cage can also be rotated to improve
airflow from the front fan, or removed altogether to
further improve airflow and make way for graphics
cards longer than 260mm. However, removing a
handful of screws will also let you remove the lower
and optical drive cages to make room for additional
water cooling.
The roof can comfortably house a full-thickness
240mm radiator thanks to the offset mounting holes,
but this can be extended to a 360mm unit without
theoptical drive cage in the way. Likewise, theres
adequate room behind the dual front fan mounts to fit
FRACTAL DESIGN
DESIGN
Plethora of water-
cooling options;
front fan control;
simple to use
RESIGN
Hard to replace
bottom lter;
large for mATX
case; plastic front
radiator mount
WORKING WITH THIS CASE IS A JOY;
ITS WELL BUILT AND OFFERS
AMAZINGFLEXIBILITY WHEN IT COMES
TO COOLING YOUR HARDWARE
A user-friendly micro-ATX chassis
thats awesome for water cooling
Arc Mini R2
31 February 2014
MICRO-ATX CASE
a full-thickness 240mm radiator when you take out
both hard drive cages, although it could do with a
metal mount here, rather than having one integrated
into the plastic front panel. Impressively, this means
the Mini R2 boasts more out-of-the-box water-
cooling support than many ATX cases, including
itsown bigger sibling, the Midi R2, which youd have
tomod to fit a 360mm radiator, for example.
COOLING
With its default cooling setup, the Arc Mini R2s CPU
temperatures are decent. SilverStones tiny Sugo
SG10 trumps it, even at its lowest speed, but this
chassis is very low-volume and features a powerful
Air Penetrator fan just a few millimetres above the
CPU. Weve seen our test CPU reach a delta T of over
60C in previous cases, so by comparison the Arc Mini
R2s best result of 44C is excellent. Despite there
being no noise insulation, the trio of Silent Series R2
fans never become too loud either, even at high speed.
Again, the Arc Mini R2 is a little warmer than the
SilverStone SG10 when it comes to GPU temperature,
but this is largely because the latter case positions the
graphics card so that it essentially has its own supply
of cool air through the side of the case. However, we
lowered the delta T by 2C with no increase in noise
CPU LOAD DELTA T TEMPERATURE
0 13 26 39 52
40C
42C
44C
44C
48C
51C
Fractal Arc Mini R2
(low speed)
Fractal Arc Mini R2
(medium speed)
Fractal Arc Mini R2
(high speed)
Fractal Arc Mini R2 (high
speed; no HDD cage)
SilverStone Sugo
SG10 (low speed)
SilverStone Sugo
SG10 (high speed)
0 14 28 42 56
46C
47C
48C
50C
52C
55C
Fractal Arc Mini R2
(low speed)
Fractal Arc Mini R2
(medium speed)
Fractal Arc Mini R2
(high speed)
Fractal Arc Mini R2 (high
speed; no HDD cage)
SilverStone Sugo
SG10 (low speed)
SilverStone Sugo
SG10 (high speed)
GPU LOAD DELTA T TEMPERATURE
Lower is better
Lower is better


custom PC
90
OVERALL
COOLING 26 / 30
FEATURES 19 / 20
DESIGN 27 / 30
VALUE 18 / 20
just by removing the top hard drive cage; worthwhile
ifyou dont need more than three hard drive bays.
At the 7V and 5V speed settings, the CPU delta T
rose to 48C and 51C respectively; still fine results
given that they correspond with a pleasant reduction
in noise. Meanwhile, the GPU delta T increased by 2C
and then a further 3C. Therefore, while the three
speeds dont offer as much flexibility as a variable-
speed dial, the middle speed setting provides an
excellent compromise between noise and cooling.
CONCLUSION
Theres very little to dislike about the Arc Mini R2,
unless youre particularly appalled by its looks.
Working with this case is a joy; its well built and offers
amazing flexibility when it comes to cooling your
hardware. The options available even exceed the
flexibility of the similarly sized Corsair 350D (see Issue
116, p48), and the Arc Mini R2 also boasts fan control,
while being 25 cheaper too.
However, the Mini R2 is certainly big for a micro-
ATX chassis, which many will consider a turn-off.
SilverStones TJ08-E, which is slightly shorter and
100mm shallower, offers equally good value for
money, and includes an aluminium front panel and
first-class air-cooling performance too. That said,
theMini R2 uses its extra volume efficiently, providing
extra storage options and outstanding water-cooling
support. If youre considering water-cooling a micro-
ATX PC, this case should be your first calling point.
MATTHEW LAMBERT
01
The top drive cage can
be rotated, or removed
altogether, to further improve
airflow or make way for long
graphics cards
02
Theres ample room
to store cables behind
the motherboard tray, and
numerous routing holes with
rubber grommets
03
The roof can comfortably
house a full-thickness
240mm radiator, and this can
be extended to a 360mm unit
without the optical drive cage
TEST KIT
3.4GHz Intel Core i7-875K
CPU, Sapphire Radeon HD
5770 1GB graphics card,
Gigabyte GA-H55M-UD2R
motherboard, 2GB OCZ
1,866MHz DDR3 memory,
Corsair Force GT 60GB
SSD, Gelid Tranquillo CPU
cooler with Noctua
NF-S12B ULN 120mm
fan,Seasonic M12D
SS-850EM PSU.
01
02
03
34 February 2014
GAMING KEYBOARD
HOW MUCH?
Price 100 inc VAT
Supplier
www.overclockers.co.uk
Manufacturer
www.corsair.com
IN DETAIL
Connection Wired, USB
Cable 2m, braided
Material Plastic, aluminium
Switch type Cherry MX Red
(Brown and Blue available)
Backlighting Red, per-key
USB ports 1 x USB 2
Wrist rest Yes, removable
Extras Windows key lock,
media keys, BIOS switch
ike its bigger brother, the K95 (see Issue 123,
p64), the Vengeance K70 is beautifully crafted.
The raised keycaps and brushed aluminium
front plate have a striking appearance, and the
build quality is likewise fantastic the solid plastic body
refuses to bend or flex under pressure. In this regard,
its similar to its predecessor, the K60, but it has been
given some upgrades too.
The neatly braided cable ends in a pair of USB
connectors, with the second one controlling the USB 2
pass-through port at the back. The K70 is rather light
on features compared with other premium keyboards,
but while we can live without audio pass-through ports
and macro keys, the absence of USB 3 does stand out,
especially in a modern 100 keyboard.
Meanwhile, the layout matches that of the K60, so
ergonomically, the K70 excels. Its profile is about as
small as possible given its key set, while the handy
media keys, which include a lovely metal
volume wheel, are easy to reach. Unlike
the K60, which had a hybrid of membrane
and mechanical switches, every main key
is now also backed by a Cherry MX Red
switch. These light, linear switches make
for a keyboard that feels rapid and responsive in
games, and its also pleasant for typing. However,
switch preference is very subjective, so its great that
Corsair also offers the K70 with Browns and Blues.
The keys arent too wobbly, despite being raised a
little above the boards surface, and their smooth
surface is well balanced with their shape, allowing
your fingers to glide around quickly without slipping.
The textured space bar works well too, giving any
resting thumbs a little extra grip, but the replacement
gaming keys (WASD and 1-6) seem unnecessary .
These keys are contoured, textured and bright red to
draw your attention, but since any gamer worth their
salt already has no difficulty locating these keys, they
brought no benefit in games, and their different texture
just made them annoying when typing.
Also bundled in the box is an optional full-length
palm rest. We say palm rest, as it isnt quite deep
enough to support your entire wrist, but nevertheless,
its soft-touch coating is very comfortable. A feature
that were sure will please purists is the n-key rollover,
and despite numerous attempts, we never found any
combination of keys that would cause others not to
register. Another noteworthy feature is the built-in
switch that can change the boards polling rate and,
more usefully, enable its compatibility mode, whereby
it becomes compatible with more troublesome KVM
switches and older motherboard BIOS interfaces.
The K70 also includes per-key backlighting (another
bonus over the unlit K60), which is a deep red in our
black sample but is also available in blue with the silver
K70s. Its implementation is wonderfully simple, as a
dedicated button enables you to record the keys you
want to light up in mere seconds. Next to this button is
a key to turn on the lights and change their brightness,
while further along is the Windows key lock, which has
a subtle indicator for when its active.
CONCLUSI ON
The K70 lacks the features of other boards in its price
range, such as Razers Black Widow Ultimate, but it
still has numerous sensibly implemented features
and isnt overly complicated or accompanied by
bloated software. Simple mechanical keyboards can
certainly be bought for less, if thats what youre after,
but the K70s design, layout, build quality and comfort
put it in a class of its own.
MATTHEW LAMBERT
L
CORSAIR
REVENGE
Fantastic design;
comfortable to
use; choice of
switches
SCAVENGE
No USB 3
pass-through
A DEDICATED BUTTON ENABLES YOU
TO RECORD THE KEYS YOU WANT TO
LIGHT UP IN MERE SECONDS
A beautifully crafted keyboard
thats ideal for FPS gamers
Vengeance K70

86
OVERALL
DESIGN 39 / 40
FEATURES 24 / 35
VALUE 23 / 25
36 February 2014
NAS BOX
HOW MUCH?
Price 289 inc VAT
Supplier www.dabs.com
Manufacturer
www.synology.com
IN DETAIL
Features FTP server,
webserver, photo server,
video server, audio server,
independent download (FTP,
HTTP. FTPS, SFTP, eMule,
NZB news server,
BitTorrent, RSS), iTunes and
UPnP media servers, DLNA,
print server, storage server
for external USB hard disks,
surveillance server, Time
Backup, cloud file syncing,
Wi-Fi dongle support, USB
speaker support, Link
Aggregation support
Dimensions (mm) 103 x 232
x 157 (W x D x H)
Weight 1.65kg
Drive bays 2 x 3.5in / 2.5in
Ports Front: USB 2, Rear:
2 x USB 3, eSATA, 2 x
Gigabit LAN
t 289, Synologys new
high-end DS214+ NAS box
might be more expensive out
of the box than Intels Core i3-based
NUCs, but it also has an operating system and a
wholebunch of handy apps thrown in. The DS214+
sports 1GB of DDR3 memory plus a new 1.33GHz
dual-core Marvell Armada XP MV78230 CPU. It also
has dual LAN ports that support Link Aggregation
(LA); connecting both ports in tandem to an
LA-enabled router or switch can effectively double
theavailable bandwidth.
Synology claims that this offers read and write
speeds of up to 208MB/sec and 153MB/sec
respectively. We werent able to put these figures
to the test with our test gear, but youll
only be able to achieve such speeds if
your whole network is also LA-enabled,
which for home users is unlikely anyway.
Meanwhile, both the 3.5in drive bays
are now tool-free and lockable but are
still open-vented; while the 92mm fan is
exceptionally quiet, hard disks can still be
heard if the NAS is out in the open. The DS214+ also
has a front USB 2 port plus two rear USB 3 ports and
an eSATA port, while external card readers, hard disks,
Wi-Fi dongles and even USB speakers are supported
too, with music being played via the Audio Station app.
The latest DSM 4.3 operating system is pretty much
the same as its predecessors, supporting the usual
BitTorrent-enabled download client as well as video,
audio and photo servers, with the latter supporting
RAW files and even offering in-browser editing. The
Dropbox-like Cloud Station now has faster syncing,
LAN syncing and Selective Sync, though, just like
Dropbox. You can share files and folders with anyone
by creating URL links or even a QR code.
A new app called Time Backup has been introduced
with the DS214+ as well, which creates incremental
snapshots of your storage, making it fairly easy to
backtrack to previous versions. You can read more
about the dozens of apps freely available at
http://tinyurl.com/synologynas
In our file transfer tests (using a standard, non-LA
network), the Synology DS214+ managed read and
write speeds of 107MB/sec and 101MB/sec
respectively when transferring large video files.
Thesedropped to 41MB/sec and 37MB/sec when
transferring smaller files such as photos and
documents, although these results are still among
thefastest speeds weve seen.
CONCLUSI ON
The DS214+ is extremely fast, and Synologys latest
DSM firmware is slick and loaded with features.
However, its high price tag will limit its appeal to those
needing the extra processing power for heavy use, and
those who want to use Link Aggregation via the dual
LAN ports.
For most home networks, we recommend picking
up Synologys much cheaper DS213j instead, which
offers most of the software features, albeit with a
slightly reduced hardware specification.
ANTONY LEATHER
A
SYNOLOGY
30C
Fast; plenty of
features; excellent
cloud le syncing;
fantastic media
servers; quiet
30F
Expensive;
cheaper models
offer most of
the features for
lessmoney
EXTERNAL CARD READERS, HARD
DISKS AND EVEN USB SPEAKERS
ARE SUPPORTED, WITH MUSIC
PLAYED VIA THE AUDIO STATION APP
Super-fast and easy to use,
but it demands a premium
DS214+

83
OVERALL
SPEED 34 / 35
FEATURES 33 / 35
VALUE 16 / 30
38 February 2014
Thorough testing and research is the key to evaluating whether a product
is worth buying, and deciding whether or not theres a better alternative
TESTS: We use the Custom PC Media Benchmarks, Cinebench R11.5 and Total War: Shogun. We also test the resultant power draw of the
test PC with the CPU installed. These tests reveal a broad range of performance characteristics for the CPU, from image editing to gaming
and video encoding to 3D rendering. We run all the tests with the CPU at stock speed and again when overclocked to its highest frequency.
Graphics cards are mainly evaluated on how fast they are for their price. However, we also consider the efficacy
and quietness of the cooler. Every graphics card is tested in the same PC, so all results are directly comparable.
We judge CPUs on whether they offer sufficient speed for the price. Part of a CPUs speed score comes from
how overclockable it is. Every type of CPU is tested in the same PC, so all results are directly comparable.


The graphics card
were reviewing
Thegraphicscard 4.2GHz Intel Core
i5-3570K
AMD FM2 Intel
LGA1150
Nvidia GeForce
GTX 680 2GB
Asus F2A85-M Pro Intel
DZ87KLT-75K
120GB OCZ Vector for
FM2 and LGA1150
250GB Samsung
SSD 840 EVO for
LGA2011
8GB Corsair
2,133MHz DDR3
16GB Corsair Vengeance
Pro Silver 1,600MHz DDR3
Windows 7
64-bit
8GB Corsair Dominator
2,400MHz DDR3
Asus Maximus V
Extreme
Windows 7 64-bit
SP1
Wi d 764 bit
Intel
LGA2011
Asus X79-Deluxe 16GB Corsair Vengeance
Pro 1,866MHz DDR3
AMDFM2
amd fm2
Intel lGa2011
Intel lGa1150
orsairVengeance
HOW WE TEST
39 February 2014
Our benchmark suite
simulates how people
really use PCs, and a
higher score is better.
You can download
the suite from
www.tinyurl.com/
benchies
2.66GHz Intel Core 2
Duo E6750
2GB of Corsair
1,066MHz DDR2
250GB Samsung
SpinPoint P120S
Asus P5K Deluxe
WiFi-AP
TESTS: By using the fast PC detailed on the
left, we can be sure that any limitations are due to
the graphics card on test. We test the three
games (right) at their maxi mum detail settings,
in their highest DirectX mode, at several
resolutions. High-end cards should be able to
sustain playable frame rates at 2,560 x 1,600,
while 1,920 x 1,080 is more important for mid-
range cards; we also now test at 5,760 x 1,080 for
three-screen setups, and 3,840 x 2,160 for 4K
monitors. We also try to overclock every graphics
card we test to assess the performance impact.
Some products are
gloriously over the
top. These items of
excellent overkill
earn our Extreme
Ultra award.
Premium Grade
products are
utterly desirable
wed eat nothing
but beans until we
could afford them.
Products worthy
of the Professional
award make you
and your business
appear even
more awesome.
Approved products
are those that do a
great job for the
money; theyre the
canny purchase for
a great PC.
For those gadgets
and gizmos that
really impress us,
or that we cant live
without, theres the
Custom Kit award.
Motherboards are evaluated on everything from layout and features
to overclockability and value for money. Every motherboard is tested
with the same components, so all results are directly comparable.


o
r
s
TESTS: We use the Custom PC Media Benchmarks and several games, and also test
the speeds of the boards SATA ports. We try to overclock every motherboard we review
by testing for a maximum QPI, base clock or HTT as well as overclocking the CPU to its
maximum air-cooled level. We run our tests at stock speed and with the CPU overclocked.
Intel Core
i7-4770K
Intel Core
i7-4960X
Motherboard
on test
Motherboard
on test
16GB Corsair
Vengeance Pro Silver
1,600MHz DDR3
16GB Corsair Vengeance
Pro 1,866MHz
Motherboard M AMD A10-5800K Motherboard
on test
16GB Corsair
Vengeance Pro
Silver2,133MHz
Nvidia GeForce
GTX 680 2GB*
120GB OCZ Vector Windows 7
64-bit
Windows7
*Please note: We test AMD FM2 motherboards using the on-board graphics, not the Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 2GB 3GB
Intel lGa2011
amd fm2
Intel lGa1150
sairVengeance
40 February 2014
Duchy Originals Organic
Price 4 for six Supplier www.waitrose.com
75%

How the tables have turned for the
often vilified Duchy Originals pie. This
year they sported lovely crumbly pastry with a
smooth buttery flavour and a rich, fruity filling.
A tad more of the filling would have been
preferred, but overall, the pie was deemed
excellent. Only the high price holds it back
from a podium spot.
Asda Extra Special
Price L2 for six - Supplier www.asda.com
44%

While the initial taste of these pies
was pleasant, it then gave way to a
huge boozy hit almost immediately one
taster described eating the pie as being akin
totaking a shot of something cheap from a
seedystudent bar. Add the nondescript pastry,
and its clear these are not the pies youre
looking for.
Harrods Luxury
Almond & Brandy
Price 9.50 for six Supplier www.harrods.com
32%

Marked out by the large H on top of
each pie, Harrods efforts were a
littletoo far from a traditional mince pie for
ourpanel. Almonds are present in the pastry
and the mince, leading to an overpowering
marzipan flavour. The brandy also only makes
an all-too-brief cameo in the aftertaste.
Fortnum & Mason Cranberry
Price 12.95 for six
Supplier www.fortnumandmason.com
38%

These pricey pies are at least huge.
The pastry was powdery, though,
lacking bite and breaking down far tooreadily.
This texture is clearly intentional, but we prefer
a more shortcrust pastry. The filling was good
and fruity, thanks to the extra cranberries, but
you expect better for this money.
LIDL Snowy Lodge
Price 1.49 for 12 Supplier www.lidl.co.uk
22%

Just because something is cheap,
that doesnt mean its good value for
money, and we can now handily explain that
concept through the medium of mince pies.
Yes, these cost only 12p a pie, but the dust-like
pastry, pured filling and bizarre floral flavour
sucked the joy out of the room. Dont ruin
Christmas with these pies.
Greggs
Price 1.50 for six Supplier www.greggs.co.uk
93%

While these low-profile pies arent
much to look at, biting into them is a
joy. Crunchy, shortcrust pastry with a
pleasantly rich, biscuity flavour was fully filled
with sweet, raisiny mincemeat. Deemed a
proper pie by the panel, they have an
advantage from being freshly baked, but
theyre easily available on most high streets.
Marks & Spencer
Handmade
Price 4 for four Supplier www.marksandspencer.com
30%

M&S premium pie proved unusual,
as the pastry was crisp to the point of
being more like biscuit than pastry. The filling
was very sticky and dry, presumably because
the lids didnt fit on the cases properly (all part
of the handmade charm, we suppose),
reminding us of garibaldi biscuits. Bizarre.
MINCE PIE MEGATEST
41 February 2014
42
Mr Kipling with Brandy
Flavour Sauce
Price 1.79 for six Supplier www.sainsburys.co.uk
12%

Some of the choice phrases uttered
about these pies include just plain
wrong, besmirches the world of mince pies
and there is nothing good about this pie. The
brandy-flavour sauce had a weird cheesy
flavour, while the pastry was damp, grey and
soft. Get these out of our sight.
Marks & Spencer
Traditional All Butter
Price 1.79 for six
Supplier www marksandspencer.com
73%

For many years, the M&S All Butter
was the benchmark of quality, but
last year it proved below par. Thankfully, this
year, its back the buttery golden pasty proved
a hit with the judges, although it lost marks for
being a little stingy on the sweet, fruity filling.
Sainsburys SO Organic
Price 2.25 for four Supplier www.sainsburys.co.uk
72%

Sainsburys organic offering blew the
competition away last year, so we
had great expectations this year. They largely
delivered too, with beautifully buttery pastry
and a good citrus and spice-dominated filling.
The catch? There just wasnt enough of the
filling to satisfy, meaning that this year, they fell
short.
Morrisons Signature
Price 2 for six Supplier www.morrisons.co.uk
77%

The Morrisons Signature mince pie is
a good example of how far you can go
if you simply get the basics right. The crumbly,
tasty pastry houses generous quantities of a
pleasantly spicy filling. Wed be happy to serve
this well-balanced and tasty pie at Christmas,
especially for the bargain price of just 33p per
mince pie.
Sainsburys
Taste the Difference
Price 2.50 for six Supplier www.sainsburys.co.uk
83%

These pies certainly look the part.
Generously proportioned, with lovely
golden pastry, we were salivating before we
picked them up. Thankfully, the firm but
crumbly pastry revealed a delightfully sticky,
fruity filling in just the right proportions. This is
the best from the mainstream supermarkets.
Mr Kipling Deep Filled
Price 1.79 for six Supplier www.sainsburys.co.uk
55%

Though Mr Kipling claims to make
exceedingly good cakes, weve never
tasted a exceedingly good Mr Kipling pie. The
filling was exceedingly sweet, to the point of
being off-putting, while the pastry was bland
and absent of any character. At best, average;
at worst, disappointing.
42
Selfridges Nut Topped
Price 6.99 for six Supplier www.selfridges.com
40%

These pies split the panel; some
enjoyed the smooth, almost fig-roll-
style filling, while others disliked the lack of
chunk and chew. They have a bizarre flavour
too cola freeze pops was the closest taste on
which we could agree. Theyre not actively
unpleasant, but theyre hardly classic either.
Tesco Finest
with Courvoisier
Price 2 for six Supplier www.tesco.com
67%

Despite the Courvoisier brand on the
packaging, these pies proved to have
a very well balanced filling, with the brandy
complementing the fruit and spice rather than
overpowering it. Only the pastry lets down
these pies, as it proved powdery and tasteless.
Waitrose All Butter
Price 2.50 for six Supplier www.waitrose.com
62%

These tall, wide-brimmed pies are
larger than most, giving an
undeniable impression of generosity and
luxury. Its frustrating to find that the pastry is
little more than average, and that the filling,
while pleasantly chunky, has a cheap, almost
caustic, brandy tang.
42 February 2014
CUSTOM KIT
Custom Kit
We check out the latest gadgets, gizmos and geek toys
Written by Paul Goodhead
Seen something worthy of
appearing in Custom Kit?
Send suggestions to
paul_goodhead@dennis.co.uk
UNIVERSAL COOLER
GELID ICYPAD UNIVERSAL COOLER
The Gelid IcyPad is designed to cool routers and media streamers, which
might be a niche need, but its a need nonetheless. If youre using
regularly pushing a small, passively cooled media streamer to its
limit, or if all your network kit is hidden in cramped confines
behind the sofa, sometimes an external cooler is just what
you need to prevent your hardware from falling over. For
anyone else, though, if your router or media streamer
needs an external cooling pad under normal conditions,
wed suggest it was either broken or severely flawed in the
first place. Essentially just a passport-sized box containing
an80mm fan, the IcyPads simplicity is reflected in its down-to-
earth price. Annoyingly, however, the cooler emits an audible
high whoosh as it does its business. The noise isnt offensive, but
its clearly perceptible (and therefore distracting) in a quiet room,
even with a router on top of it, muffling the sound.
PG
VANILLA ICE ICE T
Price 10 inc VAT Supplier www.quietpc.com
Manufacturer www.gelidsolutions.com
EARPHONES
CORD CRUNCHER EARPHONES
Weve seen many supposed solutions to the problem of tangled
earphones over the years, but none quite as innovative as that
employed by these Cord Cruncher earphones. The focus of the
system is the rubber sleeve that runs up the bottom third of the
earphone cables. Holding each end of this tubing, and then
stretching it lengthways, gathers up the earphone cable, before
crunching it down when you allow the rubber to return to its natural
size. Its a clever and fun system, but it cant hide the fact that the
earphones themselves are utter pap. We also have reservations
about how well the earphone cables will stand up to being
repeatedly scrunched up again in the long run.
PG
CREDIT CRUNCH CRUNCHY NUT CORNFLAKES
Price 20 inc VAT Supplier www.advancedmp3players.co.uk
Manufacturer www.cordcruncher.com
GEEK CROCKERY
STAR WARS DEATH STAR COOKIE JAR
Given that the fate of both Death Stars built by the Galactic Empire was
tobe blown into a billion tiny pieces, we didnt hold out much hope for the
longevity of the Death Star Cookie Jar. Mercifully, it made it through our
extensive two-week test without exploding once remarkable for a unit
without any defensive ion cannons or tractor beams. Overall, the jar
proved to be well made, with a tight-fitting lid that kept the contents from
going soft, and there arent any exposed exhaust ports either. 35 is the
top end of what wed pay for a novelty cookie jar, but theres no doubting
its geek credentials. Now the dark side really does have cookies.
PG
JAR JAR COOKIE
Price 35 inc VAT Supplier www.firebox.com Manufacturer www.zeonltd.co.uk
46 February 2014
We ask four of the UKs leading PC
system builders to build their idea
of a super-high-end, customised
PC that will drop the jaw of any
PC or modding enthusiast
ts been a while since weve had more than one
Dream PC in our lab at any one time, but were finally
back with quite simply one of the most awesome
line-ups of PCs the world has ever seen. Theres
enough computing power over the next few pages to make most
normal PCs quiver with fear, wallets tremble and eyeballs pop
out of their sockets.
It isnt just about raw power either, although each of the PCs
weve reviewed is a powerhouse in its own right. Anyone can
cram thousands of pounds of hardware into a case. However, it
takes a skilled team to build an overclocked PC that also sports
the latest customisation such as acrylic tubing, laser-cut panels
and modified cooling systems.
Theres plenty of variety too, from custom mini-ITX acrylic
cubes that pack enough grunt to deal with the latest games at
massive resolutions, to quiet water-cooled towers built for 4K
gaming and massive multi-threaded performance. Whether
youprefer a pocket rocket or a tower packed with the fastest
andmost expensive hardware money can currently buy, youll
definitely want to take a look at our four PCs this month.
ANTONY LEATHER

reviewed this month
48
48 Computer Planet VeeR
52 Parvum Systems interview
54 Utopia CRYO-G Renegade
58 Scan 3XS Bear
62 Yoyotech XDNA Aurum 24K
66 Results
DREAM
PCs
47 February 2014
48 February 2014
s the cheapest PC on test by quite a margin,
youd expect Computer Planets VeeR to
feature the least customisation and to look
the most similar to your average high-end
tower PC. However, its actually unique and eye-
catching, mainly thanks to its miniscule size; it
measures just 308mm long, 266mm wide and 300mm
high. Its also made entirely from acrylic, but as soon
as we lifted it out of its box, we knew instantly that it
isnt like any other acrylic case weve used. This is why
its called the VeeR this PC isnt afraid to deviate.
The case itself is made by UK-based Parvum
Systems (see p52). Based in Essex, this very small
team and its CNC machine have been making waves
inthe modding scene with its S1.0 micro-ATX case.
Computer Planet is now using Parvums cases as an
option for its enthusiast PCs, but the case you see here
is a brand-new mini-ITX model that isnt available
separately yet.
The acrylic has been cut to such fine precision that
several of the Custom PC team couldnt stop touching
it. The edges are incredibly straight and smooth far
more accurate than you could ever hope to achieve at
home, while the acrylic itself sports a soft, quality feel
that makes the case feel solid and durable. Theres no
wobble or sway at all, and the case doesnt creek or
flex when you lift it like pretty much
every other acrylic case weve seen.
Much of the case is made up of dual
layers of acrylic, with a clear acrylic
underlayer allowing the light from
the internal white LED strips to
permeate the whole of the exterior,
much like a diffuser.
The case is held together with a
number of hex screws, so getting inside
is a little more involved than accessing
the interior of your average tower. The
side panel sports a large side window,
which shows off the interior as far down
as a lower section plate. This plate hides
cables from view, and allows the tubing to
pass through and be routed to other areas
of the case. Meanwhile, the front section sports
a 120mm fan vent, with a dual 120mm fan vent in the
roof and an 80mm vent at the rear, all made using
slanting cuts in the acrylic.
Once you get over the initial wow-factor, the details
are even more remarkable. A large transparent V logo
at the front and a VeeR name badge, again transparent
on the roof, initially had us stumped how could the
rest of the case be made from solid white acrylic? The
answer is that that Parvums precision CNC machine
was able to cut the logos and their respective holes so
accurately that the clear acrylic logos just slotted into
place. The colour scheme is easily changeable too
the all-white, brightly lit case is customisable in many
colours of acrylic. It isnt quite a one-off scratch-built
case, but its certainly one of the most distinguished
cases weve seen here at Custom PC, and one that will
certainly get you noticed at LAN parties.
At nearly three grand, though, you expect some
decent hardware thrown into the mix as well, and the
VeeR certainly doesnt disappoint here. As there are
currently no mini-ITX LGA2011 motherboards
available, Computer Planet opted for the next best
high-end option Asus Maximus VI Impact Republic
of Gamers motherboard and an Intel Core i7-4770K.
The latter has been overclocked to 4.5GHz. This isnt
quite as far as Utopia managed with its CRYO-G
Renegade, but the VeeR also has far less cooling
SATURN
Fantastic case;
ample storage;
gorgeous interior;
unique
PLUTO
Struggles with
games at super-
high resolutions;
noisy pump
andfans
COMPUTER PLANET VeeR
The ultimate mini Dream PC?
A
HOW MUCH?
Price 2,786 inc VAT
Manufacturer
www.computerplanet.co.uk
IN DETAIL
Case Parvum Systems VeeR
CPU 4.5GHz Intel Core
i7-4770K
Motherboard Asus
Maximus VI Impact
Memory 16GB 2,400MHz
Corsair Vengeance Pro
Graphics Nvidia GeForce
GTX 780 Ti 3GB
Sound On-board
Storage 3TB Seagate
Barracuda, 2 x Corsair
Neutron GTX 240GB in
RAID0
Optical drives None
Cooling EK Supremacy CPU
block, EK 780 Ti GPU block,
EK-DDC pump and
reservoir, EK single 120mm
and double 120mm
radiators, EK RAM
waterblock, XSPC pass-
through fittings, Mayhems
White Ice pastel coolant,
Pexon braided cableset
PSU Corsair AX860W
OS Microsoft Windows 7
64-bit
Warranty Two years collect
and return
49 February 2014
DREAM PCS
power on tap. Plus, when you consider the exponential
voltage increases usually needed get above 4.5GHz
with many Haswell CPUs, we cant really complain.
The VeeR uses 16GB of 2,400MHz Corsair
Vengeance Pro RAM and Computer Planet has even
water-cooled the memory sticks. This is perhaps a
little excessive, but thankfully the EK RAM waterblock
used costs less than most CPU waterblocks, so it
doesnt add much to the total cost of the system, and it
looks great. Despite its size, the VeeR also offers plenty
of gaming grunt, housing a GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB,
which has been water-cooled too.
Theres plenty of storage on offer too, with two
240GB Corsair Neutron GTX SSDs in RAID 0
configuration providing nearly half a terabyte of super-
speedy storage, and this is where the VeeRs copy of
Windows 7 64-bit is installed too. In addition, theres a
3TB Seagate Barracuda hard disk if you need some
extra space. Meanwhile, a 760W Corsair AX760 PSU
powers the system, which should be ample given that
theres only one graphics card in the system.
Interestingly, the VeeR is the only system other than
the Yoyotech Aurum 24K to use rigid acrylic tubing
extensively in its water-cooling system. There isnt
thatmuch of it on show unfortunately, thanks to
Computer Planets great tidying skills, despite the
limited case size. Even so, theres enough on view to
showcase the Mayhems Ice White pastel coolant.
Pushing this coolant around the cooling loop is a single
EK-DDC pump, with a combined EK reservoir
attached directly to it.
Most of the pump is recessed into a large,
illuminated acrylic mid-section, which certainly looks
neat. However, on firing up the system, it proved to
suffer from a whining noise thats possibly due to
pump vibration. We left the system switched on for a
few hours to see if bubbles in the coolant were also an
issue but the noise remained, making the VeeR the
loudest PC on test.
The fans added to the noise too. There are four in
total a single Scythe Gentle Typhoon 120mm fan at
the front cooling a single 120mm-fan EK radiator, two
more in the roof cooling a double 120mm-fan radiator
and the main culprit, as far as noise is concerned, is a
rear Noiseblocker 80mm fan. All the fans spin up to
pretty hefty levels when the system is under load, but
they also shift a staggering amount of air. At least
cooling shouldnt be a problem, although if we owned
the system, wed start by fitting a few fan resistor
cables to reduce noise during gaming sessions.
PERFORMANCE
Thanks to some super-fast memory and the speediest
LGA1155 Haswell CPU currently available, the VeeR
posted the fastest score on test in our single-threaded
image editing benchmark 2,401 points, which is
practically the same as the Utopia CRYO-G
Renegades result. However, while the Core i7-4770K
sports Hyper-Threading, the four extra virtual cores
werent enough for it to keep up with the LGA2011
CPUs in the Scan Bear and Yoyotech Aurum 24K in
highly multi-threaded tests. Its video encoding score
of4,239 was a long way behind the top score of 4,900
form the Aurum 24K in this test. The CRYO-G
Renegades extra clock speed counted here too, as it
came in a couple of hundred points ahead of the VeeR.
Interestingly, the performance numbers levelled
out in our multi-tasking test, in which the VeeR once
50
PARVUMS CNC MACHINE
WAS ABLE TO CUT THE
ACRYLIC LOGOS SO
ACCURATELY THAT THEY
JUST SLOTTED INTO PLACE
01
Rigid acrylic tubing is
used extensively in the
VeeRs water-cooling system
02
A single EK-DDC pump
pushes the white coolant
around the loop, with a combined
EK reservoir attached directly
to it
03
Despite its size, the VeeR
offers plenty of gaming
grunt, housing a water-cooled
GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB
01
02
03
DREAM PCS
50 February 2014

84
custom PC
OVERALL
SPEED 17 / 25
DESIGN 32 / 35
HARDWARE 21 / 25
VALUE 14 / 15
49
again topped the graphs with a score of 2,040. Weve
seen some unusually high numbers from Asus
Maximus VI Impact motherboard elsewhere,
whichistestament to Asus engineering work on its
RoG motherboards.
In any event, the final overall score of 2,893 in our
Media Benchmarks was just a fraction behind PCs
costing several times as much in this test, although
itsalso clear that the LGA2011 machines are better
suited to heavily multi-threaded tasks.
This was particularly apparent in Cinebench, which
prefers fast CPUs and lots of cores, with both the
Aurum 24K and Bear pulling ahead while the CRYO-G
Renegade pipped the VeeR by a few points. There was
over a minutes difference between both LGA1150-
based PCs and those with LGA2011 CPUs in the
Terragen 3 test too another test that benefits from
more cores. In short, while the VeeRs CPU is more
than fast enough for gaming and everyday home PC
use, it isnt as quick as the LGA2011 chips when it
comes to workstation jobs.
Our gaming tests were always going to be a tall
order for the VeeR with just a single GPU in tow, and its
clear that youll need more graphics horsepower to
play the latest demanding games on three screens
orat 4K with all the settings maxed out, although the
780 Ti has proved itself perfectly capable at 2,560 x
1,600, and youll be able to squeeze out some more
performance by dropping the settings a little.
Disabling anti-aliasing in Battlefield 4 at 5,760 x 1,080,
for example, saw the minimum frame rate rise from
astuttering 21fps to a much more fluid 28fps.
Meanwhile, the CPU proved to be the warmest on
test, but the machines CPU delta T of 66C was still
within limits, while the GPU delta T of 21C was also
the highest, but far cooler than you could hope to see
with air cooling. The VeeR also had the lowest power
draw of any system just 111W at idle and only 445W
when gaming on three screens with Prime95 running
in the background.
CONCLUSI ON
The VeeR conjures up a refined and lust-worthy feeling
thats more akin to a Dream PC than your average
high-end mini-ITX PC. The case is beautiful and,
perhaps more than any other PC on test, the VeeR
really holds your gaze and makes you wonder how
certain parts of it were made. You find yourself
wondering how the light passes through a particular
section, or where a piece of tubing goes after it
magically disappears into the floor.
There are a couple of caveats though. While its
cheaper than all the other PCs on test, it also failed
toachieve playable frame rates at our super-high-
resolution tests unless we lowered the eye candy. This
is due to the limitation of the motherboard size, of
course, and this is the price you pay for buying any
smaller system, but it lacks the grunt offered by the
LGA2011 CPUs on test in multi-threaded applications.
Its also the noisiest PC of the bunch. That said, the
hardware choices are sound and, when combined with
a decent fan controller to wind down the fans, and
maybe the pump, it would be a perfect compact
Dream PC for single-screen 2,560 x 1,600 gaming.
ANTONY LEATHER
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54
DREAM PCS
52 February 2014
CPC: How long has Parvum Systems been
making cases?
Parvum: It started from a bedroom in
March 2012. We moved to a warehouse
and started cutting our first case in-house
in February 2013. Weve been making
cases for just over a year now.

CPC: Have you always worked with acrylic


or have you worked with other materials?
Parvum: We actually have a background in
machining wood. Our main line of work
was roughing out panels to be hand-
finished, before eventually being installed
in period houses. The work was much
more 3D-based than our computer cases,
which involve 2D work for the most part.
We did this work as freelance consultants
for a signage company.

CPC: What tools and machines do you use?


Parvum: We use a CNC machine , which
has a 3 x 2m bed, HSD spindle and an
automatic tool changer. We also have an
old fly press to make tight bends on the
aluminium sections of the cases.When
cutting aluminium, we use an oil misting
system, a strip line heater and jigs to bend
the acrylic, plus hand tools such as a tap
and die set, files and clamps.

CPC: What unique features and materials


do your cases offer?
Parvum: Acrylic cases are rare, and most
companies use laser-cut glossy acrylic,
which makes it hard to add details such
ascounter-sunk screw heads. We use
expensive statically discharged German
acrylic with a matt finish. It prevents dust,
and has a strong finish with great scratch-
resistant properties all great for PCs.
All our cases have a great view of the
insides, and their mid-walls means we
can concentrate the airflow and leave
room behind the motherboard for cable
management and the PSU. Our cases are
fullymodular too. Every panel is attached
using joining cubes and bolts, so theyre easy
to modify customers can just replace an
individual section if they damage it.

CPC: Do you do all the design work and


manufacturing yourself?
Parvum: Weve designed every single aspect
of the Parvum cases from initial pencil
sketches to Google SketchUp prototypes and
CAD design work. We have our own CNC
machine too, so everything is done in-house.

CPC: Why have you made small cases so far,


and are there plans to make larger cases?
Parvum: Its easier to work with smaller
cases, and weve done a bunch of work on
them in the past, so we have experience with
them. We very much plan to expand our
range, though, first with mini-ITX cases later
this year, followed by larger cases in a few
months. You can preview these cases if
you check out Project ITX (http://tinyurl.
com/project-itx) and Magnus (http://
tinyurl.com/project-magnus).

CPC: How many people work for Parvum?


Parvum: Currently just two, and were
extremely busy, but were lucky to have a
number of close family members and
friends that chip in and work shifts when
possible, so we can keep up with demand.

CPC: Will the mini-ITX case used by


Computer Planet be available separately?
Parvum: The mini-ITX case used for the
VeeR was built and designed from scratch
exclusively for this PC, but well release
our own cases with similar features.
See www.parvumsystems.com for more
information
PARVUM SYSTEMS INTERVIEW
We catch up with the maker of Computer Planets case Parvum Systems to
see how the Essex-based company designs and makes its acrylic cases
54 February 2014
eve seen PCs from Kilmarnock-based
Utopia Computers before, and they sport
something thats inherently rare yet
absolutely defining, which is an absolutely
stunning paint job for a very reasonable price. In fact,
the finish has been equal to that of any of the Dream
PCs weve seen here at Custom PC, yet it can be added
to a selection of the companys PCs for under 100.
Asyou would expect, Utopias entry to this months
Dream PC test also sports a custom paint job, but its
far more extensive than that of any other PC on test.
The colour on the front section, side panels and
aportion of the roof is also donned by Mazdas RX-8
rotary-engine sports car, and it looks absolutely
stunning on the CRYO-G Renegade too. It has a subtle
metallic finish that gives a real depth to the paint job.
Infact, it takes you a while to gather your senses and
realise theres a Corsair Obsidian 750D under the
paint. This level of external colouring is missing from
Yoyotechs Aurum 24K and, to a lesser extent, Scans
Bear too, yet the CRYO-G Renegade costs over 2,000
less than either PC, retailing for 3,899.
There isnt much else going on outside, though,
except for the inclusion of an NZXT Hue lighting
panel that can illuminate the interior of the
case by mixing red, green and blue LED
strips. However, several passers-by in
ourlab commented that it isnt the most
attractive device ever made.
Theres also abay reservoir in the form
of Alphacools Repack, which sits in the
remaining two 5.25in bays and shows off
the red coolant, while its front fill port
makes the water-cooling loop easy to
maintain compared to the other systems
on test.
Corsairs Obsidian 750D is a logical
choice for a water-cooled case of this size.
It lends itself very well to the paint job and,
while all the water-cooling hardware
inside makes the PC a weighty beast, its
nowhere near as cumbersome as the
gargantuan Obsidian 900D used by
Yoyotech and Scan. Theres little in the way
of customisation inside, except for some
white LED lighting, but the Utopia counters
this one of the most extensive water-cooling systems
on test. The machine features a super-deep Alphacool
NexXxos Monsta dual 120mm-fan radiator, which is
twice as thick as most full-height radiators, mounted
in the front, backed up by an Alphacool UT30 triple
120mm-fan radiator in the roof.
Corsairs AF120 fans kit out the CRYO-G Renegades
radiators, with an additional fan in the rear mount too,
and these are powered by an NZXT Grid fan hub.
Utopia has opted for red tubing too, which certainly
adds some punchy colour to the interior and matches
the red fans, memory and motherboard details,
although it lacks the wow factor offered by the exotic
coolants and clear tubing in the other three PCs.
Utopia is another manufacturer that managed to get
hold of waterblocks for Nvidias latest GPU as well, so
it has included two PNY GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GBs in
the PC, with two Aquacomputer Kryographics full-
cover waterblocks strapped to them.
CRYOSTASIS
Comfortable
frame rates at
4K;fantastic
paint job; good
hardware choices
FROZEN
Lacks pizzazz
inside; RAID
0 not great for
datastorage
UTOPIA CRYO-G Renegade
A racy-looking PC that comfortably handles 4K gaming
W
HOW MUCH?
Price 3,899 inc VAT
Manufacturer www.
utopiacomputers.co.uk
IN DETAIL
Case Corsair Obsidian 750D
CPU 4.6GHz Intel Core
i7-4770K
Motherboard Asus
Maximus VI Formula
Memory 32GB 2,400MHz
Corsair Vengeance Pro
Graphics 2 x PNY Nvidia
GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB
Sound On-board
Storage 2 x 4TB Seagate
Barracuda in RAID 0, 2 x
250GB Samsung EVO in
RAID 0
Optical drive None
Cooling Alphacool NexXxos
XP CPU waterblock, 2 x
Aquacomputer
Kryographics GeForce GTX
780 Ti waterblocks,
Alphacool Repack dual
5.25in bay reservoir,
Alphacool NexXxos Monsta
dual 120mm-fan radiator,
Alphacool UT30 triple
120mm-fan radiator, Laing
D5 Vario pump, Corsair
AF120 fans
PSU Corsair AX860W
OS Microsoft Windows 8.1
64-bit
Warranty Two years collect
and return parts and labour,
ten years labour and
upgrade service
55 February 2014
DREAM PCS
To cool the CPU, Utopia has chosen Alphacools
NexXxos XP waterblock, and the CRYO-G Renegade
isalso the only PC on test to water-cool the
motherboard. Asus Maximus VI Formula includes
G1/4in barbs in an elaborate VRM waterblock, and
Utopia has plumbed this into the cooling loop. While
the other two tower PCs on test use dual pumps, the
CRYO-G Renegade sports a single Laing D5 Vario
pump, which has had its speed controller turned
downa couple of notches to take the edge off any noise
or vibrations.
Utopia hasnt supplied quite as much memory as
Yoyotech, but the CRYO-G Renegade still includes a
rather excessive allocation of 32GB of Corsair
2,400MHz Vengeance Pro red-top RAM. The rest of
thesystem is well balanced, though, and the storage
system sports two enormous 4TB hard disks in a vast
8TB RAID 0 array. There are also two 250GB Samsung
Evo SSDs in RAID 0 for a system drive. The only qualm
we have with this setup is that the hard disk storage
array might be better off in RAID 1, or as single disks,
with RAID 0 doubling the chance of a hard disk failure
losing your data not what you want when youre
storing 8TB of data. Theres also no discrete sound
card, although the Maximus VI Formula does sport
Asus noise-isolated SupremeFX on-board sound.
Meanwhile, the PSU comes in the form of a Corsair
AX860W, which should provide enough power for the
CRYO-G Renegade, even under load. Deciding to buck
the trend of the other tower PCs on test, Utopia has
also opted for an Intel Haswell-based Core i7-4770K,
which has been overclocked to 4.6GHz slightly faster
than the Computer Planet VeeRs CPU. However, its
two powerful graphics cards in SLI should mean that
itcan keep up in games, if not in multi-threaded 2D
tests. The far side of the PC has also seen plenty of
attention, with what must be the result of many hours
of cable tidying; the wires are neatly packed away .
In terms of warranty, Utopia includes a two-year
collect and return service for parts and labour, backed
up by a ten-year free labour service on future repairs
and upgrades. Utopias Transit Armour also gets
some bonus points it has a custom-made shipping
crate in which Utopia ships its PCs, which should
ensure your pride and joy arrives blemish-free.
PERFORMANCE
In our Media Benchmarks, the CRYO-G Renegade
performed well, outstripping the two more expensive
PCs from Scan and Yoyotech in our single-threaded
image editing test and all but matching the Bear in
themulti-tasking test while beating the Aurum 24K.
However, in the video encoding test, the
aforementioned PCs offered a substantial boost, with
their 6-core CPUs adding another 400 points to their
scores. Computer Planet VeeRs high clock speed
helped though; the machines overall score was just
asingle point behind the pricier Aurum 24K.
The higher overclock also enabled it see off the
VeeR in Cinebench too, albeit by a few points, but yet
again, the Scan and Yoyotech systems achieved
substantial leads, with the Bear managing 1,237 in
Cinebench R15 compared to the CRYO-G Renegades
929 a speed boost of over 30 per cent. Our
demanding rendering test, Terragen 3, saw all the
56
THE COLOUR ON THE FRONT
SIDE PANELS AND A PORTION
OF THE ROOF IS ALSO
DONNED BY MAZDAS RX-8
ROTARY-ENGINE SPORTS CAR
01
32GB of Corsair 2,400MHz
Vengeance Pro RAM is
included, and the tops of the
memory modules even colour-
match the rest of the insides
02
An Alphacool NexXxos
Monsta dual 120mm-fan
radiator, which is twice as thick
as most full-height radiators, is
mounted in the front
03
Unlike the other full-
sized PCs on test, the
Utopia machine features an
overclocked Core i7-4770K CPU,
rather than an LGA2011 chip
PLease nole lhal lhe Ulopa
CRYO-G Renegade had an
accident before photography,
and the coolant leaked over the
insides - your system will not
arrive with the same wet look!
01
02
03
DREAM PCS
56 February 2014

85
custom PC
OVERALL
SPEED 21 / 25
DESIGN 29 / 35
HARDWARE 22 / 25
VALUE 13 / 15
55
PCstake over five minutes to complete. The CRYO-G
Renegade managed it in 388 seconds, but the top dog
in this test, Yoyotechs Aurum 24K, took over a minute
less to complete the benchmark.
Moving on to our game tests, with two GeForce GTX
780 Ti 3GBs under its hood, we expected the CRYO-G
Renegade to perform much better than the Computer
Planet VeeR in our super-high-resolution tests.
Pleasingly, it managed a healthy 45fps minimum
frame rate in Crysis 3 spanned across three 1080p
screens nearly double that of the VeeR and also
ahead of the Aurum 24K, which costs more than
double the price.
Ramping up the resolution to 3,840 x 2,160 on our 4K
monitor, the CRYO-G Renegade once again managed
a comfortable frame rate out of the bag, recording a
minimum of 33fps again faster than the two GeForce
GTX Titan 6GBs could manage in the Aurum 24K.
Scans Bear held a healthy lead here, though, being 27
per cent and 15 percent faster than the Utopia PC at
5,760 x 1,080 and 3,840 x 2,160 respectively, all thanks
to its additional GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB.
Battlefield 4 was another tough test on our high-end
display setups, but minimum frame rates of 39fps and
28fps at 5,760 x 1,080 and 3,840 x 2,160 respectively
showed that the CRYO-G Renegade could battle
comfortably against our game benchmarks, and give
the Yoyotech Aurum 24K a bloody nose in the process,
thanks to its faster GPUs. The gaming performance
award unfortunately goes to the Scan Bear, though,
which provides significantly more headroom, albeit for
several grand more.
In our stress test, the CRYO-G Renegade topped
outat 598W, which shows its PSU was a good choice
that wont be too loaded during extensive gaming
sessions. The CRYO-G Renegade also recorded some
of the coolest temperatures on test too, keeping its
Core i7-4770K 7C cooler than the VeeR and matching
the super-low GPU temperatures of the larger tower
systems, with a maximum delta T of just 14C.
CONCLUSI ON
Externally, the CRYO-G Renegade looks racy. At the
risk of sounding a little strange, the paint job just
makes you want to lick it. Dreams of Willy Wonka-
inspired PCs aside, though, its let down by an ugly
lighting controller, and the reservoir would have
benefited from being painted too, although these
arelargely matters of personal taste. However, we
applaud Utopia for going the extra mile with the paint
job its competitors should take note.
Inside, the customisation isnt on a par with the
other systems though. The price tag might suggest
otherwise, but while the hardware and water-cooling
system are top-notch for the most part, wed like to
have seen something a little extra here. Regarding the
hardware, the only qualms are the RAID 0 storage
array and the excessive amount of RAM. Everything
else is a fantastic mix that helped the CRYO-G
Renegade to blast through our benchmarks and
punch well above its weight, even bettering the more
expensive Aurum 24K in our game tests, and proving a
better choice for super-high-resolution gaming than
the VeeR. If youre looking for a high-end, distinctive
gaming PC, but dont have the big bucks demanded for
the Scan 3XS Bear, this PC is well worth considering.
ANTONY LEATHER
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58 February 2014
hen it comes to Dream PCs, Scan has a
reputation for not only producing superb
specimens but also adding the extra wow
factor that warrants the high price tag.
Weve seen exotic paint jobs, exquisite water-cooling
systems and even high-power thermo-electric
coolers in its monstrous Jellyfish Dream PC a few
years ago. Its latest Bear PC costs nearly 1,000 less
than Yoyotechs Aurum 24K (see p62), yet in many
ways Scans offering is more attractive.
Its all housed Corsairs flagship Obsidian 900D
case, but the Bear has plenty of customisation on the
outside as well as the inside. Scan has designed its
own machine-cut front fascia to hide the 900Ds
bland-looking exterior and jazz up the front a little.
Itsalso illuminated, making the PCs exterior look
farmore striking than that of the Aurum 24K.
A few people who saw it sitting in our lab did
question the colour scheme, and some may
find it a little garish, but Scan was keen to
point out that both the design and colour
can be changed. The shade in question
isAston Martin Volcano Orange, with a
metallic finish. This is a matter of taste, of
course, but we though it looked gorgeous,
while also adding plenty of contrast to the
lighting, optical drive slot-loading cut-out
and the rest of the black case.
The paint finds its way onto the 900Ds
lower side panels too, and various internal
bits and bobs are colour-matched as well,
including the Nvidia SLI bridge and
memory heatsinks. Apart from the
lighting and logos, the other main
featureon the front of the case is the
AquaComputer Aquaero 5 XT, which
actively controls all the Bears fans and
both its pumps, making the Bear the
quietest PC on test. The front panel
features a custom cut-out too, so the
controller sits perfectly flush with the rest
of the front of the case.
Heading inside the case, the interior is
certainly very swish indeed, although it
doesnt have quite the same wow factor as
the Aurum 24K. This is mainly because Scan has
opted for standard PVC flexible tubing, whereas
Yoyotech took a gamble and clearly spent a lot more
time heating and bending rigid acrylic tubing. The
latter looks better, and rigid acrylic is also what many
modders are now using in the never-ending quest to
make their PCs look unique. However, theres still
plenty to drool over. The Mayhems coolant is custom-
made to match the other orange details, and its given
a huge centre-stage appearance via two enormous
Phobya Balancer reservoirs.
Unlike Yoyotechs approach, the reservoirs pass
through the custom mid-section plate, hiding the dual
EK-DDC pumps in the lower section, which certainly
keeps the interior looking very clean. The pumps are
mounted on foam, which may not look as neat as
thepumps in some of the other PCs on test, but it
drastically reduces noise and vibration another
reason why the Bear is particularly quiet. Rather than
POLAR
Blisteringly fast;
great hardware
choices; external
and internal
customisation;
cheaper than
competition
TEDDY
Competition has
better internal
looks
SCAN 3XS Bear
A monster that makes mincemeat out of 4K and triple-screen gaming
W
HOW MUCH?
Price 6,999 inc VAT
Manufacturer
www.scan.co.uk
IN DETAIL
Case Corsair Obsidian 900D
CPU 4.6GHz Intel Core
i7-4930K
Motherboard Asus
Rampage IV Extreme
BlackEdition
Memory 16GB 2,400MHz
Corsair Vengeance Gold Pro
Graphics 3 x EVGA Nvidia
GTX 780 Ti 3GB
Sound Creative Sound
Blaster ZX
Storage 2 x 2TB Western
Digital Red, 500GB
Samsung EVO 840
Optical drives Panasonic
UK265 blu-ray
Cooling EK Supremacy CPU
block, EK 780 Ti GPU blocks,
2 x EK DDC pumps, XSPC
triple 120mm-fan radiator,
XSPC quad 120mm-fan
radiator, 2 x Phobya
Balancer reservoir,
Mayhems custom coolant,
AquaComputer Aquaero 5 XT
PSU Corsair RM1000
OS Microsoft Windows 8.1
64-bit
Warranty Three year parts
and labour; one year on site,
two years return to base
59 February 2014
DREAM PCS
opt for a logo-engraved plate, Scan has also gone for a
multi-layer, illuminated panel featuring the PCs name
and a paw print, along with plenty of white LEDs.
Theres a mix of other water-cooling hardware
inside, with an EK Supremacy CPU block and EK 780
TiGPU waterblocks dealing with the three graphics
cards the latter was received from EK just in time to
feature in this test. Meanwhile, Scan has opted for
XSPC radiators, with a triple 120mm-fan model in the
roof and an enormous quad 120mm-fan unit in the
base, pulling air in one side and exhausting it straight
out the other. For fans, Scan has opted for copious
amounts of Corsairs SP120s, all painted to match the
colour scheme.
Interestingly, Scan has also opted for a noticeably
different hardware configuration to that of the Aurum
24K. As the company managed to get hold of the
GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB waterblocks at the last
minute, it has kitted the PC out with three of these
extremely fast graphics cards from EVGA, compared
to the Aurum 24Ks two GeForce GTX Titan 6GB
cards.The cards have been overclocked too, with the
GPUs being boosted to a lofty 1,151MHz, the stream
processors to 2,880MHz and the memory to a 7.7GHz
(effective) frequency.
An Asus Rampage IV Extreme Black Edition sits at
the heart of the Bear a higher-end model than the
Asus X79 Deluxe in the Aurum 24K. However, Scan
hasnt splashed out on the most expensive CPU it
could find, instead settling for the Core i7-4930K. This
CPU might be less swoon-worthy than the Extreme
CPU in the Aurum 24K, but despite the latter retailing
for several hundred pounds more, Scan has used the
motherboards overclocking pedigree to match the
4.6GHz overclock of the Yoyotech system. The Extreme
CPU sports a little more cache but the two chips are
likely to perform similarly, meaning that Scan has
shaved asizeable amount off the system price with
possibly little performance compromise.
The Bear has an equally sensible, but still premium,
allocation of 16GB of 2,400MHz Corsair Dominator
RAM, and offers more storage than the Aurum 24K
too. Scan has opted for a single 500GB Samsung Evo
840, plus two 2TB Western Digital Red hard disks.
These have been set up in a mirrored RAID 1 array, so
while your system will continue to function if one drive
fails, theres only 2TB of extra storage. You can opt for
adifferent configuration on request though.
Meanwhile, the custom front fascias slot-loading
cut-out allows you to use the included Panasonic
UJ265 blu-ray drive, and theres a Creatives Sound
Blaster ZX too, giving you a bonus over on-board
sound.To power the system, Scan has also been
comparatively modest and chosen a 1,000W Corsair
RM1000 PSU again, a big cost saving over the
1,200Wmodel in the Yoyotech machine, but the
PSUshould still be able to handle the PCs power-
hungry components.
The system also sports Windows 8.1 64-bit, and
while this isnt quite as enthusiast-unfriendly as the
original version of Microsofts new OS, and you can
useapps such as Start 8 to fix some of its quirks, Scan
offers Windows 7 as an option too. In terms of
warranty, you get on-site coverage for the first year,
with the second and third years being return to base
but with both parts and labour covered.
60
VARIOUS INTERNAL PARTS
ARE COLOUR-MATCHED TOO,
INCLUDING THE NVIDIA SLI
BRIDGE AND RAM HEATSINKS
01
Rather than a logo-
engraved plate, theres a
multi-layered, illuminated panel
featuring the PCs name and a
paw print
02
With three water-cooled
GeForce GTX 780 Ti
graphics cards inside, this
machine makes mincemeat out
of 4K gaming benchmarks
03
The painted parts are
clad in Aston Martin
Volcano Orange, with a gorgeous
metallic finish
01
02
03
DREAM PCS
60 February 2014

90
custom PC
OVERALL
SPEED 24 / 25
DESIGN 30 / 35
HARDWARE 23 / 25
VALUE 13 / 15
59
PERFORMANCE
We put Scans leviathan to test in our benchmarks,
andwere pleased to see that Scans tweaking saw the
Bears Core i7-4930K manage to keep up with the
Aurum 24K in the Media Benchmarks. It was a little
behind in both the image editing and video encoding
tests, with scores of 2,148 and 4,894 respectively, but
itreturned a great score in the multi-tasking test of
2,021. This was enough to make the Bear the first ever
PC weve reviewed to break the 3,000-point mark out
of the box overall, with a score of 3,021. The six physical
cores offered by its CPU, combined with Hyper-
Threading, saw off any challenge in the video encoding
test by the two Core i7-4770K-based PCs on test too,
both of which were a long way behind.
The Aurum 24K enjoyed small leads in a few other
tests, completing the render test Terragen 3 seven
seconds quicker than the Bear, although the Scan
system was in turn a little faster in Cinebench and
wPrime. The Bear really excelled in our game tests,
though. In our triple-1080p screen setup, it was a
massive 39 per cent faster than the Aurum 24K in
Crysis 3 at 5,760 x 1,080, and 58 per cent faster at the
same resolution in Battlefield 4, with minimum frame
rates of 57fps in each.
Switching to our pixel-packed 4K monitor, the Bear
once again showed that three graphics cards is better
than two, with minimum frame rates that were 23 per
cent and 28 per cent faster in Crysis 3 and Battlefield 4
respectively, with the lowest minimum frame rate
being a comparatively healthy 36fps in Battlefield 4
compared to 26fs for the Aurum 24K. The only test that
preferred the Aurum 24K was Unigine Valley, where
the benchmark score was noticeably higher than that
of the Bear.
When idle, the Bear was the most power-hungry
system on test, drawing 225W similar to the load
power draw of a mid-range LGA1150 system. This rose
to 533W when gaming on a single 1080p monitor and
arather scary 933W when gaming on three screens,
though, showing that the PSU only just handles the
power demands when this PC is running at full pelt.
However, the Bear was still very quiet during these
tests, despite the PSU running nearly flat out. Not
surprisingly, temperatures were warmer than the
Aurum 24K, as it had to deal with one more (very
overclocked) graphics card. However, its load delta Ts
of 62C for the CPU and 15C for the hottest GPU are
well within danger limits, with the GPUs still far cooler
than the temperatures you could ever hope to achieve
with an air cooler.
CONCLUSI ON
The Bear sports a much more balanced hardware
configuration than the Yoyotech Aurum 24K. The
non-Extreme CPU and sensible amount of RAM have
enabled Scan to pitch the Bear at a significantly lower
price than the Aurum 24K. Once you factor in the
discrete sound card, blu-ray player and superior
results in our the game tests, it becomes the dream
PC system of choice.
Plus, while its interior isnt as fancy as the Aurum
24Ks insides, the Bear still features some drool-
worthy customisation. The external modifications and
colour matching look great, and Scan can easily
customise it to suit your tastes, as you would expect at
this price. In an ideal world, wed like to see a merging
of the Yoyotech and Scan PCs, combining the Aurum
24Ks epic internal look with the Bears better-
balanced hardware and external customisation. As it
stands, though, the Bear wins our vote with its great
hardware choices, storming game performance and
great-looking design touches. Plus, its the fastest PC
weve ever tested.
ANTONY LEATHER
IrO@LOcIOLreerCOrOLere.cOr
vvv.LOcIOLreerCOrOLere.cOr
62 February 2014
oyotechs XDNA Aurum 24K isnt just the
most expensive PC on test; its also one of
the costliest PCs weve ever reviewed, so it
rightly sports a monstrous specification, as
well as extensive customisation. It also has one of the
most amazing water-cooling systems weve seen.
If youre wondering about the price tag, then you
clearly didnt pay attention in your GCSE chemistry
lessons. The number 79 is also the atomic number of
gold in the Periodic Table, and the references to gold
dont stop there the PCs name that also features
Aurum Latin for gold, and 24K the number of
carats in pure gold. Thankfully, there will also be
cheaper versions of the Aurum 24K in the range, so if
the 7,979 tag results in your wallet running off down
the street, there might be something with a tamer
price to tempt you.
At first glance, the case hasnt been customised on
the exterior, instead relying on the gargantuan Corsair
Obsidian 900Ds understated yet imposing looks to
carry itself. This is a little disappointing when you
consider the price, especially when Scans Bear
(see p58) includes a custom illuminated
front panel and painted side vents for less
cash. Take a peek through the side panel
window, though, and youll see where the
money has been spent.
Inside, the case looks very different
indeed. Yoyotech has employed the
services of UK modding store www.e22.
biz to kit out the Aurum 24K with some
fantastic eye candy, and its clear that this
iswhere the budget, time and effort have
been focused.
The interior is absolutely stunning.
There are next to no cables visible at all,
and all the original cable-routing holes
havegone. In their place is a huge custom-
made acetal plate, which enables the
motherboard to be recessed, as if it were
apart of the case. All the cables have also
been routed behind it for a super-clean
look. Custom plates have been made for
various other parts of the case too; a
backplate with engraved and hand-painted
manufacturer logos sits next to the motherboard
tray,with another attached to the 5.25in bays.
Theres also a mid-plate that provides the
motherboard area with a neat look that you can see
through the side window. Most of the gold detailing,
including the fan ring shrouds, logos and even the SLI
bridge have been hand-painted in gold too, all to
match the original details on the Asus X79 Deluxe
motherboard. Meanwhile, the section behind the
frontpanel is home to a custom-made drive holder
attached to the front fan mounts, which house the
Aurum 24Ks 512GB Samsung 840 Pro SSD and 2TB
Seagate SSHD hybrid hard disk. It isnt quite as
storage-packed as wed like from a PC at this price,
though, with even the dinky Computer Planet VeeR
(see p48) sporting a 3TB hard disk and an SSD.
The motherboard plays host to a mighty Intel Core
i7-4960X, which has been overclocked to 4.6GHz.
Theres also a mammoth allocation of 64GB of
AU
Fast; fantastic
cooling system
and internal
customisation
PB
No external
customisation;
questionable
hardware choices;
not much storage;
no sound card
YOYOTECH XDNA Aurum 24K
Epic internal eye candy, but some overly lavish hardware choices
Y
HOW MUCH?
Price 7,979.79 inc VAT
Manufacturer
www.yoyotech.co.uk
IN DETAIL
Case Corsair Obsidian 900D
CPU 4.6GHz Intel Core
i7-4960X
Motherboard Asus X79
Deluxe
Memory 64GB 2,133MHz
Corsair Vengeance Gold Pro
Graphics 2 x Asus Nvidia
GeForce GTX Titan 6GB
Sound On-board
Storage 2TB Seagate SSHD
Hybrid Drive, 512GB
Samsung 840 Pro
Optical drives None
Cooling 2 x EK CoolStream
PE 480 quad 120mm-fan
radiators, 2 x EK-D5 Vario
pumps, EK-RES X3 250
reservoir with EK-D5 Dual
TOP, EK Supremacy CPU
waterblock, EK-FC Titan SE
graphics card waterblocks,
EK-CSQ and Bitspower
fittings, E22 acrylic tubing,
Corsair SP 120 fans (7V fan
adaptors)
PSU Corsair AX1200i
Operating system Microsoft
Windows 7 64-bit
Warranty One year parts
and labour (30-day collect
and return, followed by 11
months return to base, plus
two years labour only
63 February 2014
DREAM PCS
2,133MHz Corsair Vengeance Gold Pro RAM much
larger than what youd need for any current game,
photo or video editing software. Only a scant few
computing jobs, such heavy work with virtual
machines, will see you use more than 16GB regularly.
Theres also no discrete sound card or optical drive.
With a whole host of graphics cards having been
released in recent weeks, all our entrants this year
hadissues acquiring waterblocks at such short notice.
For this reason, Yoyotech opted for two Asus Nvidia
GeForce GTX Titan 6GB graphics cards in SLI, which
were the fastest single-GPU models available at the
time. However, the company was keen to stress that
the system would be available with GeForce GTX 780 Ti
3GB options once waterblocks for Nvidias new GPU
were available. Meanwhile, to power all the hardware,
Yoyotech has used a 1,200W Corsair AX1200i PSU,
along with Corsairs pre-braided cable set.
The cooling system is also hefty, with two massive
EK CoolStream PE 480 quad 120mm-fan radiators.
This gives the cooling system plenty of headroom,
evenwith the hardware inside the PC. For this reason,
Yoyotech has opted for Corsair SP120 fans, but tied a
7V resistor cable to each one so they run at whisper-
quiet noise levels.
The huge volume of coolant is handled by two Laing
D5 pumps with an EK-D5 Dual Top, along with a Dual
X-Res Link, which are attached to a single EK X3 250
reservoir. Theyre not the loudest pumps on test, but
Scans are much quieter, as theyre connected to an
Aquaero controller, so they only go up to faster speeds
when under heavy loads. Meanwhile, the choice of
coolant is a custom colour-blend liquid from UK
coolant manufacturer Mayhems, which is mainly
black but with the very fancy and attractive addition of
gold metal flakes.
You can just about see the gold in the coolant
through the side panel, with the LED lights shining on
it. However, Yoyotech says that at the moment the
coolant is a showpiece product, and it doesnt last
more than a few months. Mayhems is working on a
longer-lasting coolant, but until then, the Aurum 24K
will ship with plain black coolant. All the fittings are
made by Bitspower, while an EK Supremacy CPU
waterblock and dual EK Titan SE full-cover GPU
waterblocks deal with the hot spots. However, theres
no VRM water cooling, which you would again expect
on a PC at this price.
However, the jewel in the Aurum 24Ks crown is its
custom-made rigid acrylic tubing, which Computer
Planet has also employed but the Scan Bear sadly
lacks. Another product to come out of the www.e22.
biz lab, the tubing is heated, bent to right angles and
attached to push-fit barbs. The result is a fantastically
clean look. Plus, as theres no chance of chemicals
seeping into the coolant over time, as can happen
withflexible PVC tubing, the coolant should remain
crystal-clear indefinitely. To aid draining of the huge
cooling system, Yoyotech has also installed a ball valve
drain port in the bottom half of the case.
This area of the case is otherwise largely vacant,
apart from the quad 120mm-fan radiator and PSU. In
terms of warranty, the Aurum 24K is covered for three
years, with the first year covering parts and labour. The
64
YOYOTECH HAS EMPLOYED
THE SERVICES OF UK
MODDING STORE WWW.E22.
BIZ TO KIT OUT THE PC WITH
SOME FANTASTIC EYE CANDY
01
The coolant is a custom
colour-blend liquid from
Mayhems, which is mainly
black, but has the very fancy
andattractive addition of gold
metal flakes
02
The cooling system
features two massive
EK CoolStream PE 480 quad
120mm-fan radiators, enabling
Yoyotech to run the fans with 7V
resistors to keep down the noise
03
See all that empty space?
In fact, can you see any
cables at all? This machine
demonstrates some truly expert
cable-tidying skills
01
02
03
DREAM PCS
64 February 2014

80
custom PC
OVERALL
SPEED 20 / 25
DESIGN 30 / 35
HARDWARE 19 / 25
VALUE 11 / 15
63
first 30 days of this year are collect and return, while
the rest of it is return to base. An additional two years
are covered too, but theyre limited to labour only.
PERFORMANCE
The Core i7-4960X sports slightly more Level 3 cache
than the Core i7-4930K in the Scan Bear, but as both
are overclocked to 4.6GHz and the Bear has a more
sensible allocation of 16GB memory, although it runs
at a faster 2,400MHz speed, we expected similar
results in our 2D benchmarks.
The Aurum 24K had the lead in the image editing
and video encoding tests, with scores of 2,174 and
4,900, but the Bear pulled ahead in the multi-tasking
test, which saw it just pip the Aurum 24K overall by less
than 100 points. With an overall score just under 3,000
points, we decided to tweak the CPU a little, and easily
boosted its frequency to 4.7GHz, which enabled it to
breach the 3,000-point barrier, making the Aurum 24K
one of only two systems weve tested to do so.
Scans behind-the-scenes tweaking and faster
memory speed also gave the Bear an advantage in
Cinebench, albeit a small one, with the same true in
wPrime. The Aurum 24K managed a time of 318
seconds in Terragen 3, though, which was actually
slightly faster than the Bears time of 325 seconds.
Nvidias GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB is faster than the
Titan 6GB in most tests, and with three of the former
inthe Bear, compared to two of the latter in the Aurum
24K, itwasnt surprising to see the Bear come out on
top ingaming.
It was a sizeable 39 per cent faster than the Aurum
24K in Crysis 3 at 5,760 x 1,080, and 23 per cent faster
when dealing with our 4K monitor, although the
Yoyotech system only dropped to a still comfortably
smooth minimum of 31fps.
In Battlefield 4, the difference was certainly more
marked. The Bear was a notable 58 per cent faster
than the Aurum 24K at 5,760 x 1,080 and 28 per cent
quicker at 4K, although the Aurum 24K was
interestingly faster in Unigines Valley Benchmark.
Thanks to the hefty water-cooling system, the
Aurum 24Ks temperatures were incredibly low,
though, with the CPU being a whole 18C cooler than
the Bears CPU under load. This is likely due in part to
the Scan having one more graphics card in the cooling
system though. Meanwhile, the hottest GPU delta T
was just 13C when the system was under full load. At
idle, the system drew a paltry 171W, which is low for a
Dream PC. However, this rose to 527W when using a
single 1080p screen, running both Prime95 and
Unigine Valley. Adding two more 1080p screens saw
the power consumption for the system rise to 754W
very high, but still an easy job for the 1,200 W PSU.
CONCLUSI ON
The Aurum 24K is achingly beautiful inside
something that won over many people that saw it in
our lab. Its a stunning PC for Yoyotechs first Dream
PC entry, with most of the Custom PC team preferring
its internal looks over the Scans insides. However, the
lack of external customisation lets it down at this price.
Its certainly minimalist, but from many angles it just
looks like an out-of-the-box case, and for nearly
8,000, youd be within your rights to demand more.
The lack of storage, discrete sound card,
overzealous amount of RAM and choice of graphics
cards are also questionable. While we can forgive the
absence of more up-to-date graphics cards, as many
lacked waterblocks when the Aurum 24K was built, we
cant help thinking that three overclocked GeForce
GTX 780 3GBs would have been a better option anyway.
In addition, the Bear proved to be a match in our 2D
tests despite having a far cheaper CPU. However, as
weve mentioned, Yoyotech is happy to customise the
system and our first changes would be the CPU,
storage and graphics cards. A CPU similar to Scans
choice alone shaving 500 off the system price, with
less RAM and a lower-wattage PSU saving more cash
while having little or no impact on performance.
ANTONY LEATHER
66 February 2014
GIMP IMAGE EDITING
0 500 1,000 1,500 2,000 2,500
Yoyotech
XDNA Aurum
24K
Utopia
CRYO-G
Renegade
Scan 3XS Bear
Computer
Planet VeeR
2,174
2,399
2,148
2,401
OVERALL
0 1,000 2,000 3,000 4,000
Yoyotech
XDNA Aurum
24K
Utopia
CRYO-G
Renegade
Scan 3XS Bear
Computer
Planet VeeR
2,956
2,955
3,021
2,893
TERRAGEN 3
(seconds)
0 100 200 300 400
Yoyotech
XDNA Aurum
24K
Utopia
CRYO-G
Renegade
Scan 3XS Bear
Computer
Planet VeeR
318
388
325
396
MULTI-TASKING
0 500 1,000 1,500 2,000 2,500
Yoyotech
XDNA Aurum
24K
Utopia
CRYO-G
Renegade
Scan 3XS Bear
Computer
Planet VeeR
1,795
2,020
2,021
2,040
CINEBENCH R15
0 300 600 900 1,200 1,500
Yoyotech
XDNA Aurum
24K
Utopia
CRYO-G
Renegade
Scan 3XS Bear
Computer
Planet VeeR
1,232
929
1,237
913
UNIGINE VALLEY
0 2,000 4,000 6,000 8,000
Yoyotech
XDNA Aurum
24K
Utopia
CRYO-G
Renegade
Scan 3XS Bear
Computer
Planet VeeR
6,258
4,155
5,615
2,108
HANDBRAKE H.264 VIDEO ENCODING
0 1,000 2,000 3,000 4,000 5,000
Yoyotech
XDNA Aurum
24K
Utopia
CRYO-G
Renegade
Scan 3XS Bear
Computer
Planet VeeR
4,900
4,445
4,894
4,239
CINEBENCH R11.5
0 3 6 9 12 15
Yoyotech
XDNA Aurum
24K
Utopia
CRYO-G
Renegade
Scan 3XS Bear
Computer
Planet VeeR
13.87
9.89
13.92
9.82
WPRIME 32M
(seconds)
0 1 2 3 4 5 6
Yoyotech
XDNA Aurum
24K
Utopia
CRYO-G
Renegade
Scan 3XS Bear
Computer
Planet VeeR
4.1
5.91
4.08
5.913
67 February 2014
DREAM PCS
CRYSIS 3
5,760 x 1,080, 0x AA, Very high
0 20 40 60 80
Yoyotech
XDNA Aurum
24K
Utopia
CRYO-G
Renegade
Scan 3XS Bear
Computer
Planet VeeR
41fps
45fps
57fps
23fps
48fps
52fps
70fps
28fps
BATTLEFIELD 4
3,840 x 2,160, 0x AA, Ultra detail
0 10 20 30 40 50
Yoyotech
XDNA Aurum
24K
Utopia
CRYO-G
Renegade
Scan 3XS Bear
Computer
Planet VeeR
26fps
28fps
36fps
22fps
36fps
35fps
49fps
34fps
TOTAL SYSTEM POWER CONSUMPTION
Load (5,760 x 1,080)
0 200 400 600 800 1,000
Yoyotech
XDNA Aurum
24K
Utopia
CRYO-G
Renegade
Scan 3XS Bear
Computer
Planet VeeR
754W
598W
933W
445W
BATTLEFIELD 4
5,760 x 1,080, 4x AA, Ultra detail
0 20 40 60 80 100
Yoyotech
XDNA Aurum
24K
Utopia
CRYO-G
Renegade
Scan 3XS Bear
Computer
Planet VeeR
36fps
39fps
57fps
21fps
48fps
49fps
93fps
30fps
TOTAL SYSTEM POWER CONSUMPTION
Load (1080p)
0 100 200 300 400 500 600
Yoyotech
XDNA Aurum
24K
Utopia
CRYO-G
Renegade
Scan 3XS Bear
Computer
Planet VeeR
527W
505W
533W
402W
LOAD GPU DELTA T
0 5 10 15 20 25
Yoyotech
XDNA Aurum
24K
Utopia
CRYO-G
Renegade
Scan 3XS Bear
Computer
Planet VeeR
13C
14C
15C
21C
CRYSIS 3
3,840 x 2,160, 0x AA, Ultra detail
0 10 20 30 40 50
Yoyotech
XDNA Aurum
24K
Utopia
CRYO-G
Renegade
Scan 3XS Bear
Computer
Planet VeeR
31fps
33fps
38fps
19fps
35fps
38fps
47fps
21fps
TOTAL SYSTEM POWER CONSUMPTION
Idle
0 50 100 150 200 250
Yoyotech
XDNA Aurum
24K
Utopia
CRYO-G
Renegade
Scan 3XS Bear
Computer
Planet VeeR
171W
121W
225W
111W
LOAD CPU DELTA T
0 20 40 60 80
Yoyotech
XDNA Aurum
24K
Utopia
CRYO-G
Renegade
Scan 3XS Bear
Computer
Planet VeeR
44C
59C
62C
66C
Minimum Average
Minimum Average
G
raphics cards and processors can
makegames look prettier and run
smoothly, but few PC parts are as
important as thehumble mouse when
itcomes to makingsure you get the best gaming
experience possible. With the right mouse, you can
dispatch enemies with both speed and accuracy;
with the wrong mouse, you can end up with an
uncomfortable hand, not to mention a tendency to
misfire shots and get killed.
Weve rounded up five of the latest gaming mice
todiscover which best for your desk.
Some of these mice have customisable weights,
while others have sniper buttons that can improve
your aim at crucial moments. Plus, theres even one
model that has a separate unit for displaying profile
and sensitivity information. You dont have to break
the bank either, with prices in this Labs starting at a
reasonable 45.
MIKE JENNINGS
GAMING
MICE
69 CM Storm Reaper
70 Corsair Vengeance M65
71 Gamdias Zeus E-Sport
Edition
72 Gigabyte Aivia
Uranium
74 Mionix Naos 8200
68 February 2014
Is your ageing mouse holding you back when playing Battlefield 4,
Team Fortress to or DOTA? Weve lined up five radical rodents that
can transform your gaming experience
69 February 2014
GAMING MICE
M Storms new Reaper mouse is one of the
cheapest on test. Its mostly made from
plastic, but is decorated with a large
aluminium plate that takes up the back half
of the casing, and the exposed scroll wheel is also
metal. Its 145g weight isnt particularly hefty, but the
Reapers 111mm length is the shortest in this Labs
test, and the mouse feels compact.
The aluminium panel isnt just for show either it
can be removed. Its held in place by a screw on the
bottom and, when thats removed, the panel slides
away. It can then be painted, or replaced with a panel
ofyour own design, although its a shame CM Storm
hasnt released any additional plate designs of its own.
Meanwhile, the mouse itself is designed for palm-
grip users, but the mouses conservative shape there
are no hunchbacks or large outcrops on the side of the
unit means its easy to use with a fingertip grip too.
That adds versatility, but the Reapers compact design
means that those with larger hands might feel
cramped when using a palm grip.
Under the hood, the Reaper boasts the same Avago
ADNS-9800 sensor thats also included in the Corsair
and Gamdias models. Its capable of a resolution of up
to 8,200dpi but, as usual, we find that far too sensitive.
The Reaper can be set to four different resolution
levels mid-play, and its default options sit at 800, 2,400,
5,600 and 8,200dpi. We found the first two settings too
sluggish, and the latter two options too twitchy. Theres
also no visual feedback on the mouse about which
option youve chosen; you have to make a choice and
wave the mouse to find out which youve selected.
Those four options are customisable though. The
Xand Y axes can be set separately, and there are
options for adjusting sensitivity, double-click speed
and response time as well. Profiles can be saved with
button assignments and macros, but only three are
available comparatively, the Mionix can save five.
Theres also no option to bind profiles to applications.
Plus, while there are options to turn the LED lighting
on or off, make the lights blink and alter their
sensitivity, you cant change their colour from the
default white, although this isnt a major deal.
Performance during intense gaming was mixed.
Wehad no issues gliding the Reaper around our desk,
thanks to its Teflon underbelly, and the sniper button
and two thumb buttons are all easily accessible and
have a satisfying press mechanism. The two main
finger buttons were also fast and responsive, although
quick clicking made the front of the mouse tilt
forwards a little, as the buttons hang over the front of
the unit. Meanwhile, the aluminium mouse wheel has
a textured surface, but it doesnt offer as firm a grip as
rubber-coated wheels, and its a little trickier to
depress than the wheel on the Mionix.
CONCLUSI ON
The Reaper has a tempting price, but it also has some
niggles. It tilted forwards during intense moments,
andthe aluminium wheel isnt as responsive as the
rubber-coated wheels on other mice. On the plus side,
it offers plenty of customisation options, but the Mionix
Naos 8200 remains the better buy. MJ
HEAVEN
Removable
aluminium plate;
low price; intuitive
side buttons
HELL
No customisation
options; forward-
tilting buttons;
slippery scroll
wheel
CM Storm Reaper
A removable aluminium panel and reasonable core
performance cant mask a number of irritating issues
C
70

scores
77
custom PC
OVERALL
DESIGN 31 / 40
FEATURES 26 / 35
VALUE 20 / 25
HOW MUCH?
Price 53 inc VAT
Manufacturer
www.cmstorm.com
Supplier
www.cclonline.com
70 February 2014
CORSAIR Vengeance M65
A high-quality mouse for surprisingly little cash
HOW MUCH?
Price 45 inc VAT
Manufacturer
www.corsair.com
Supplier
www.pcworld.co.uk
he Vengeance M65 is the successor to
Corsairs M60, which impressed us in
previous reviews. At 45, its the cheapest
mouse on test, but it doesnt look like a
cut-price peripheral. Turn it over and youll find an
aluminium skeleton that extends upwards towards
the main buttons at the front and the curved rear. This
skeleton lends the M65 a pleasing rigidity, even if its
minimum and maximum weights of 120g and 135g
are the lowest in this Labs test.
The good build quality is paired with decent design
too. The comfortable matt plastic is accompanied by
rough sides that help fingers and thumbs to maintain
grip. As with the M60, though, the rear quickly slopes
away this unit is designed for fingertips, not palms.
Just like the M60, the M65 also has three weights; two
at the front and one at the back, so you can adjust the
centre of gravity to your own tastes.
The exterior remains largely unchanged, but
Corsair has fitted a new sensor. Its the Avago ADNS-
9800, which is also included the CM Storm and
Gamdias mice, and it can handle a maximum
resolution of 8,200dpi. Thats more than twice the
resolution of the M60, but that point is moot, as
anything above 4,000dpi is generally far too sensitive
anyway. The M65 sports three different resolution
settings by default 800, 2,400 and 6,000dpi, but these
can all be customised in software. The software tool is
good too, and it supports several profiles.
Theres also a large red sniper button that drops the
sensitivity for moments where extreme accuracy is
needed. Like the older model, though, its tricky to use,
as you have to hold it down an awkward motionthat
compromised our accuracy elsewhere. Meanwhile,
the two thumb buttons on the left-hand edge of the
M65 are narrow, and two buttons on top of the unit
adjust sensitivity, with a three-bar blue LED in the
middle to indicate which option is selected. These
buttons work without issue, but they require a little
pressure before they register any input, and those blue
LEDs cant be customised, although this isnt a big
deal. You can also assign custom resolutions to these
buttons, and the sniper button, using the software.
Elsewhere, though, the M65 impressed. The
buttons are reliable, responsive and light to touch; we
were easily able to swing the mouse around our desk.
The rubberised scroll wheel has plenty of grip too, and
its notches are less pronounced than those on the
Mionix. More of the metal-edged wheel is exposed on
the Corsair too, which makes it a little easier to use.
CONCLUSI ON
Its a close-run competition between the M65 and its
rival from Mionix, with little between the two. The M65
barely slips into second place, though, because of its
awkward sniper button and smaller design, which
means its less comfortable for palm users. If youre a
fingertip user who likes a lighter mouse, though, this is
a great and cheaper alternative choice. MJ
T
VENGEANCE
Good-looking
design; sensitivity
and weight
adjustment;
comfortable for
nger grippers;
great price
FORGIVENESS
Limited prole
options; awkward
sniper button;
mediocre palm-
grip support

85
OVERALL
DESIGN 37 / 40
FEATURES 26 / 35
VALUE 22 / 25
71 February 2014
GAMING MICE
amdias Zeus E-Sport Edition makes a
striking first impression, thanks to a host of
features that arent found anywhere else, as
well as its comparatively high 78 asking
price. Its littered with more buttons than any other
mouse in this Labs test. Three sit above the scroll
wheel, and four more line up along the left-hand edge,
ready for thumbs. Theres also another button towards
the top, to the left of the main buttons. In total, thats
eleven buttons.
By default, two of the three middle buttons adjust
sensitivity, with a light that changes colour depending
on which resolution has been selected, while the third
button opens up a browser to load www.gamdias.
com. Meanwhile, the button to the top-left cycles
through profiles, and the scroll wheels LED changes
colour depending on how youve set it up. Finally, the
thumb buttons are mapped to the browser forward
and back buttons, and volume control adjustment, if
youre using the mouse in Windows.
The software is packed with options too. Six profiles
can be saved, with the ability to set axes-independent
resolutions, clicking and scrolling speeds, different
polling rates and macros. The LED colours can be
changed too, although, as most lights are used as
settings indicators, the full RGB gamut cant be used.
The mouses appearance is a matter of taste. Its
dominated by over-the-top mythical artwork, a
difficult-to-read font and a see-through background.
As with three other mice in this test, the Zeus
sensor can hit a ludicrous 8,200dpi resolution, but its
set to a more sensible 3,200dpi default. Its one of only
two mice with weights too, with five 4.5g units housed
at the back of the mouse. When theyre all packed into
the mouse, the 177g Zeus is the heaviest rodent on
test, but the mouse still feels substantial without
them. As all the weights are installed in the back,
though, theres no way to adjust the centre of gravity
unlike the Corsair Vengeance M65, which has two
weights at the front and one at the back.
The underside also houses three scroll wheels,
which move the Zeus three side panels towards or
away from the body. However, the few millimetres of
movement didnt make a huge difference in our tests;
our thumb and ring fingers were always comfortable
when using the mouse, with only our little finger
feeling cramped with the Zeus at its snuggest settings.
The Zeus proved a mixed bag during the game tests
though. The sheer number of buttons means the two
main buttons are narrower than those of on any other
mouse on test, and the clicking action feels marginally
slower and heavier than most of the other mice in this
Labs test too. The rubberised scroll wheel doesnt
provide a firm enough grip either.
CONCLUSI ON
Extra buttons to switch between profiles and
resolution settings, and to assign to extra in-game
functions, can be very handy indeed, but not at the
expense of the basics. The Gamdias Zeus E-Sport
Edition ends up feeling cramped, and the adjustable
side panels dont make much difference either. The
Mionix Naos 8200 and Corsair Vengeance M65 may
have fewer features in their specs lists, but theyre both
more comfortable to use, and theyre cheaper too. MJ
ZEUS
More buttons
than rivals;
adjustable side
panels; weight
adjustment
HADES
Cramped design;
sluggish clicking
action; some
features make
little difference to
performance
GAMDIAS Zeus E-Sport Edition
Too many gimmicks, and middling
performance
G
72

scores
73
custom PC
OVERALL
DESIGN 27 / 40
FEATURES 28 / 35
VALUE 18 / 25
HOW MUCH?
Price 78 inc VAT
Manufacturer
www.gamdias.com
Supplier
www.novatech.co.uk
72 February 2014
GAMING MICE
74
GIGABYTE Aivia Uranium
The rst mouse weve seen with a USB companion screen
HOW MUCH?
Price 85 inc VAT
Manufacturer
www.gigabyte.com
Supplier
www.lambda-tek.com
he Aivia Uranium is the only mouse weve
seen that includes its own companion
module, and its also the only wireless mouse
in this Labs test. Gigabyte claims that this
setup frees the mouse from cables and allows for easy
adjustment of profiles and settings.
The secondary unit, dubbed the Ghost Macro
Station, is a small plastic box with a 2.5in screen that
connects to your PC via two USB ports.
The panels angle can be adjusted, and it has a built-
in micro-USB cable that connects to the mouse. It
alsohouses all of the memory used for the Uraniums
profiles, as this mouse communicates using a 2.4GHz
wireless connection.
By default, the screen displays the current profile,
dpi levels and report rate. A tap on a button in the
middle of the arched Uranium unit switches profiles,
and another mid-mouse button alters the dpi level.
The unit provides more information than every other
mouse here. Its low-resolution display may look a little
low-rent in a world of smartphones and tablets, but it
certainly does its job. The Ghost Macro Station can
also be used to edit profiles, dpi levels and report rates,
which is easier than alt-Tabbing from a game to load
the software. You access these settings by tilting the
scroll wheel to the right, which effectively prompts it to
function as a D-pad.
Meanwhile, the mouse itself has one of the most
pleasing shapes on test, with a high left edge that
slopes downwards. The palm-grip design fitted our
hands snugly, with high buttons, a soft-touch material
on top thats easy to grip, and a rough finish on the
sides. Its also one of the most minimally designed
mice on test the only LED is a small battery indicator.
With two AA batteries installed, the Uranium weighs
170g, and its one of the tallest and longest mice here,
so the comfortable design is complemented by a
substantial feel. This is also the only mouse on test to
not hit a maximum level of 8,200dpi. That sounds like
adeficiency, but it really isnt a shortcoming; the
6,500dpi maximum of the laser inside the Gigabyte
Aivia Uranium is far more sensitivity than youll need,
and one of the Uraniums default settings is 3,200dpi,
which is ideal.
We found the mouse reliable in gaming, and didnt
notice any wireless lag. There was no friction from the
pads on the bottom of the unit either, and theres a pair
of light, snappy buttons and a reliable scroll wheel.
Our only concerns are the Uraniums peripheral
features: the two customisable buttons on the left-
hand edge are awkward to press, the two thumb
buttons feel weak and the dpi rocker feels unnervingly
wobbly in action.
CONCLUSI ON
The Uranium is a sturdy, attractive mouse with
comfortable, responsive buttons and good action.
Whats more, the Ghost Macro Station makes it easy
toedit settings and profiles without ducking out of
games. The Uranium isnt without issues, though,
andits no more satisfying to use than several cheaper
rodents. Unless youre determined to use the Ghost
Macro Station, we recommend saving some cash and
buying the Mionix or Corsair models instead. MJ
T
URANIUM
Screen makes
settings changes
easier; great build
quality; good core
performance
URINAL
Expensive; a few
imsy buttons;
display overkill
for many

80
OVERALL
DESIGN 34 / 40
FEATURES 29 / 35
VALUE 17 / 25
74 February 2014
GAMING MICE
MIONIX Naos 8200
Ignores gimmicks in favour of comfort and quality
HOW MUCH?
Price 60 inc VAT
Manufacturer
www.mionix.net
Supplier www.dabs.com
he Mionix Naos 3200 has topped the Custom
PC Elite list on and off for several years, so
theNaos 8200 has a lot to live up to. The
newmouse doesnt look notably different
toits predecessor, but there are some big changes
inside. Mionix has locked and loaded a new sensor
intothe 8200; as its name suggests, this is capable of
handling a resolution of 8,200dpi. This is the same
headline figure as three other mice on test, although
even the twitchiest of gamers wont need to head
above 4,000dpi.
By default, 4,000dpi is the Naos 8200s
middle sensitivity setting two other levels
are set at 2,000dpi increments in either
direction. And, if none of these settings
suits, the software enables easy
customisation of each level, alongside
independent adjustment of the X and Y axes.
Physically, the Naos 8200 shares much of its
design with the 3200. Its still clad in soft-touch plastic
thats easy to grip, and its comfortable shape is suited
to both palm and fingertip users, as it has a longer tail
than the Corsair M65. The Mionix weighs just 151g,
which puts its weight in the middle of this group even
with three weights installed, the Corsair is 16g lighter.
There are LEDs in the scroll wheel, logo and
sensitivity indicators, which are green by default .
Customisation is possible in software, though, with
the whole RGB gamut available, alongside different
blinking or glowing patterns.
Meanwhile, the software offers the usual options.
Five profiles can be modified, with settings to adjust
the button mapping, click rate, scroll speed and point
acceleration. Sensor performance, lift distance, LED
colours and macro recording can also be handled
independently in each profile.
Unlike many overburdened fancy gaming mice, the
Naos 8200 has a refreshingly clean design, but its
missing a few features. There are no weights, nor a
sniper button to quickly change the resolution for extra
precision. However, its performance is superb. Cursor
action is unfailingly smooth, and the four Teflon pads
on the underside provide frictionless movement.
Meanwhile, the two thumb buttons remain easily
accessible, and the main buttons are consistently fast
and responsive.
Interestingly, the scroll wheel is sunk into the 8200s
facade, so it doesnt protrude as much as the Corsair
M65s wheel, which can make it trickier to grip at first,
but its rubber finish makes it easy to move. It has more
pronounced notches than the Corsairs wheel too.
CONCLUSI ON
The Mionix Naos 8200 costs 15 more than the Corsair
M65, but the Mionix (just) comes out on top. We love its
smooth, fast and responsive movement, and its body
is well built, attractive, and works equally well for both
fingertip and palm users. When it has thebasics so
well covered, we can ignore the lack of asniper button
and its slightly higher price. MJ
T
HORUS
Great for different
grips; fantastic
core performance;
good software
SETH
No sniper button;
scroll wheel a
little too small;
no weight
adjustment

87
OVERALL
DESIGN 39 / 40
FEATURES 26 / 35
VALUE 22 / 25
ality
es
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pable of
same
t, although
d to head
200s
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tsperformance is superb. Curso
and the four Teflon pads
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BuiII By 0vercIccking ExperIs
76 February 2014
Our choice of the best hardware available
NAME SUPPLIER MANUFACTURER REVIEWED PRICE (inc VAT)
A Xigamtek Midgard II www.overclockers.co.uk www.xigmatek.com Issue 113, p74 60
B Gigabyte GA-F2A85XM-D3H www.amazon.co.uk www.gigabyte.com Issue 115, p90 70
C AMD A10-6800K www.scan.co.uk www.amd.com Issue 120, p20 106
D 8GB Corsair Vengeance 2,133MHz CAS11 www.scan.co.uk www.corsair.com Issue 112, p60 80
E Gelid Tranquillo Rev 2 www.quietpc.com www.gelidsolutions.com Issue 100, p86 26
F XFX Pro Series 550W Core Edition www.novatech.co.uk www.xfxforce.com Issue 122, p50 53
G 500GB Seagate Barracuda ST500DM002 www.scan.co.uk www.seagate.com Issue 104, p72 38
H Lite-On IHAS124-04 www.scan.co.uk www.liteonit.eu Issue 99, p108 13
I Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit www.scan.co.uk www.microsoft.com Issue 75, p46 122
TOTAL SYSTEM PRICE 568
You dont have to spend an huge sum to get a decent PC. Our budget PC
includes a superb AMD Richland APU, with a built-in Radeon HD 8670D
GPU, plus 8GB of 2,133MHz RAM to boost the on-board graphics
B
MOTHERBOARD
F
PSU
G
HARD DISK
D
RAM
H
OPTICAL DRIVE
E
COOLING
I
OPERATING SYSTEM
C
APU
A
77 February 2014
78
NAME SUPPLIER MANUFACTURER REVIEWED PRICE (inc VAT)
A SilverStone Raven RV03 www.scan.co.uk www.silverstonetek.com Issue 103, p70 89
B MSI Z87-G45 Gaming www.scan.co.uk www.msi-computer.com Issue 120, p54 115
C Intel Core i5-4670K www.scan.co.uk www.intel.co.uk Issue 119, p38 179
D
8GB Patriot Black Mamba
2,400MHz PV38G240C0K
www.cclonline.com www.patriotmemory.com Issue 120, p98 91
E Thermalright True Spirit 120M www.novatech.co.uk www.thermalright.com Issue116, p61 27
F
MSI GeForce GTX 760
Twin Frozr OC Gaming 2GB
www.scan.co.uk www.msi.com Issue 121, p52 200
G
Antec HCG-520M
High Current Gamer 520W
www.cclonline.com www.antec.com Issue 122, p43 75
H Seagate Barracuda 2TB ST2000DM001 www.scan.co.uk www.seagate.com Issue 104, p75 63
I Lite-On IHAS124-04 www.scan.co.uk www.liteonit.eu Issue 99, p108 13
J SanDisk Ultra Plus 256GB www.ebuyer.com www.sandiskcom Issue 117, p68 127
K Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit www.scan.co.uk www.microsoft.com Issue 75, p46 122
TOTAL SYSTEM PRICE 1,101
As Core i7 motherboards and high-end graphics cards command a
premium price, here are some components for a Core i5 PC that offer
great performance and wont break the bank
A
G H I J K
PSU HARD DISK OPTICAL DRIVE SOLID STATE DRIVE OPERATING SYSTEM
F
GRAPHICS CARD
B D E
MOTHERBOARD RAM COOLING CPU
C
78 February 2014
Our choice of the best hardware available
NAME SUPPLIER MANUFACTURER REVIEWED PRICE (inc VAT)
A SilverStone Fortress FT02B-W USB 3.0 www.scan.co.uk www.silverstonetek.com Issue 85, p88 185
B Gigabyte GA-Z87-UD3H www.scan.co.uk http://uk.gigabyte.com Issue 120, p52 134
C Intel Core i5-4670K www.scan.co.uk www.intel.co.uk Issue 119, p38 179
D
8GB Patriot Black Mamba 2,400MHz
PV38G240C0K
www.cclonline.com www.patriotmemory.com Issue 120, p98 91
E Corsair H80i www.scan.co.uk www.corsair.com Issue 116, p64 77
F Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 2GB www.scan.co.uk www.nvidia.com Issue 119, p72 240
G XFX Pro Black Edition 750W www.scan.co.uk www.xfxforce.com Issue 122, p60 108
H Seagate Barracuda 2TB ST2000DM001 www.scan.co.uk www.seagate.com Issue 104, p75 63
I Creative Sound Blaster Z www.scan.co.uk www.creative.com Issue 116, p42 73
J Plextor M5 Pro 256GB www.scan.co.uk www.plextor.com Issue 117, p64 176
K Lite-On IHAS124-04 www.scan.co.uk www.liteonit.eu Issue 99, p108 13
L Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit www.scan.co.uk www.microsoft.com Issue 75, p46 122
TOTAL SYSTEM PRICE 1,461
Our choice of the best hardware available
This PC has the potential to be the finest gaming machine you can find as
well as an excellent all-round computer for office work, digital photography,
video production and media playback
G H I L
PSU HARD DISK SOUND CARD SOLID STATE DRIVE OPERATING SYSTEM
F
GRAPHICS CARD
A
B D E
MOTHERBOARD CPU RAM COOLING
C
J
79 February 2014
80
NAME SUPPLIER MANUFACTURER REVIEWED PRICE (inc VAT)
A SilverStone Temjin TJ07B-W www.overclockers.co.uk www.silverstonetek.com Issue 63, p87 260
B Asus Rampage IV Extreme Black Edition www.overclockers.co.uk http://uk.asus.com Issue 124, p42 399
C Intel Core i7-4930K www.overclockers.co.uk www.intel.co.uk Issue 123, p51 426
D
16GB Kingston HyperX Predator 1,866MHz
KHX18C9T2K4/16X
www.dabs.com www.kingston.com Issue 123, p56 143
E
2 x EVGA Superclocked ACX
GeForce GTX 780 3GB
www.scan.co.uk www.evga.com Issue 123, p54 828
F Corsair H100i www.scan.co.uk www.corsair.com Issue 116, p65 89
G Corsair Professional Series AX760i www.ebuyer.com www.corsair.com Issue 122, p53 141
H Samsung SSD 840 EVO 1TB www.overclockers.co.uk www.samsung.com Issue 121, p28 510
I Creative Sound Blaster Z www.scan.co.uk www.creative..com Issue 116, p42 73
J Seagate Barracuda 2TB ST2000DM0001 www.scan.co.uk www.seagate.com Issue 104, p75 63
K Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit www.scan.co.uk www.microsoft.com Issue 75, p46 174
TOTAL SYSTEM PRICE 3,106
What you need for gaming at 3,840 x 2,160. The PC includes LGA2011
parts, not only to give you powerful multi-threaded processing, but also
to give you the option of a third GPU if you want it. Weve included a
Corsair H100i, but the case can house a variety of water-cooling setups too
G H I J K
PSU SOLID STATE DRIVE SOUND CARD HARD DISK OPERATING SYSTEM
A
D
RAM
E F
GRAPHICS CARD COOLING
B
MOTHERBOARD CPU
C
4K GaminG PC
80 February 2014
TYPE GRAPHICS CARD GRAPHICS CARD GRAPHICS CARD 4K GRAPHICS SETUP
NAME
PowerColor
Radeon R9 270 OC
MSI GeForce GTX 760 Twin
Frozr OC Gaming 2GB
Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 2GB
2 x EVGA Superclocked ACX
GeForce GTX 780 3GB
SUPPLIER www.ebuyer.com www.scan.co.uk www.scan.co.uk www.scan.co.uk
MANUFACTURER www.powercolor.com www.msi.com www.nvidia.com www.evga.com
REVIEWED Issue 125, p22 Issue 121, p52 Issue 119, p72 Issue 123, p54
PRICE (inc VAT) 133 200 240 828
Our choice of the best hardware available
lGa1150 components
UPDATED
TYPE CPU MOTHERBOARD COOLER RAM
NAME Intel Core i5-4670K Gigabyte GA-Z87-UD3H
Thermalright True Spirit
120M
8GB Patriot Black Mamba
2,400MHz PV38G240C0K
SUPPLIER www.scan.co.uk www.scan.co.uk www.novatech.co.uk www.cclonline.com
MANUFACTURER www.intel.co.uk http://uk.gigabyte.com www.thermalright.com www.patriotmemory.com
REVIEWED Issue 119, p38 Issue 120, p52 Issue116, p61 Issue 120, p98
PRICE (inc VAT) 179 134 27 91
UPDATED
81 February 2014
TYPE CPU MOTHERBOARD COOLER RAM
NAME Intel Core i7-4930K
Asus Rampage IV Extreme
Black Edition
Corsair H100i
16GB Kingston HyperX
Predator KHX18C9T2K4/16X
SUPPLIER www.overclockers.co.uk www.overclockers.co.uk www.scan.co.uk www.dabs.com
MANUFACTURER www.intel.co.uk http://uk.asus.com www.corsair.com www.kingston.com
REVIEWED Issue 123, p51 Issue 124, p42 Issue 116, p65 Issue 123, p56
PRICE (inc VAT) 426 399 89 143
82
TYPE CPU MOTHERBOARD COOLER RAM
NAME AMD A10-6800K Gigabyte G1 Sniper A88X Gelid Tranquillo Rev 2
8GB Corsair Vengeance
2,133MHz CAS11
SUPPLIER www.scan.co.uk www.dabs.com www.quietpc.com www.scan.co.uk
MANUFACTURER www.amd.com www.gigabyte.com www.gelidsolutions.com www.corsair.com
REVIEWED Issue 120, p20 Issue 124, p40 Issue 100, p86 Issue 112, p60
PRICE (inc VAT) 106 80 26 80
82 February 2014
Our choice of the best hardware available
TYPE BUDGET CASE AIR-COOLING CASE WATER-COOLING CASE
NAME Xigmatek Midgard II SilverStone Raven RV03 SilverStone Temjin TJ07B-W
SUPPLIER www.overclockers.co.uk www.scan.co.uk www.overclockers.co.uk
MANUFACTURER www.xigmatek.com www.silverstonetek.com www.silverstonetek.com
REVIEWED Issue 113, p74 Issue 103, p70 Issue 63, p87
PRICE (inc VAT) 60 89 260
TYPE MINI-ITX CASE
Z87 MINI-ITX
MOTHERBOARD
MICRO-ATX CASE
Z87 MICRO-ATX
MOTHERBOARD
NAME BitFenix Prodigy MSI Z87i Fractal Design Arc Mini R2 Asus Maximus VI Gene
SUPPLIER www.overclockers.co.uk www.scan.co.uk www.scan.co.uk www.overclockers.co.uk
MANUFACTURER www.bitfenix.com www.msi.com www.fractal-design.com http://uk.asus.com
REVIEWED Issue 109, p54 Issue 121 p48 Issue 125, p30 Issue 121, p20
PRICE (inc VAT) 70 99 70 170
mini-ITX and micro-aTX
UPDATED
83 February 2014
84
TYPE HARD DISK SSD NAS BOX
NAME Seagate Barracuda 2TB ST2000DM001 Plextor M5 Pro 256GB Synology DiskStation DS213j
SUPPLIER www.scan.co.uk www.scan.co.uk www.ebuyer.com
MANUFACTURER www.seagate.com www.plextor.com www.synology.com
REVIEWED Issue 104, p75 Issue 117, p64 Issue 119, p50
PRICE (inc VAT) 63 176 163
TYPE BUDGET 550W PSU 520W PSU 760W PSU 1.2kW PSU
NAME
XFX Pro Series 550W Core
Edition
Antec HCG-520M
High Current Gamer 520W
Corsair Professional Series
AX760i
Corsair Professional Series
AX1200i
SUPPLIER www.novatech.co.uk www.cclonline.com www.ebuyer.com www.scan.co.uk
MANUFACTURER www.xfxforce.com www.antec.com www.corsair.com www.corsair.com
REVIEWED Issue 122, p50 Issue 122, p43 Issue 122, p53 Issue 111, p40
PRICE (inc VAT) 53 75 141 250
84 February 2014
Our choice of the best hardware available
UPDATED
TYPE 24IN MONITOR 27IN BUDGET MONITOR 29IN MONITOR 4K MONITOR
NAME Dell U2412M Digimate IPS-2701WPH Dell U2913WM Asus PQ321QE
SUPPLIER www.scan.co.uk www.overclockers.co.uk www.overclockers.co.uk www.scan.co.uk
MANUFACTURER www.dell.com www.digimate.com www.dell.com www.asus.com
REVIEWED Issue 105, p64 Issue 115, p62 Issue 115, p58 Issue123, p27
PRICE (inc VAT) 228 350 380 2,880
TYPE SOUND CARD USB SOUND CARD 2.1 SPEAKERS HEADSET
NAME Creative Sound Blaster Z Asus Xonar Essence One Corsair SP2500 Qpad QH-90
SUPPLIER www.scan.co.uk www.dabs.com www.scan.co.uk www.scan.co.uk
MANUFACTURER www.creative.com www.asus.com www.corsair.com www.qpad.com
REVIEWED Issue 116, p42 Issue 118, p44 Issue118, p75 Issue 118, p69
PRICE (inc VAT) 73 340 176 73
85 February 2014
TYPE KEYBOARD MMO KEYBOARD MOUSE
NAME Corsair Vengeance K70 Corsair Vengeance K95 Mionix Naos 8200
SUPPLIER www.overclockers.co.uk www.cclonline.com www.dabs.com
MANUFACTURER www.corsair.com www.corsair.com www.mionix.net
REVIEWED Issue 125, p34 Issue 123, p64 Issue 125, p74
PRICE (inc VAT) 100 126 60
TYPE DREAM PC MINI-ITX PC GAMING LAPTOP
NAME Scan 3XS Bear Computer Planet VeeR Scan 3XS Graphite LG135
SUPPLIER www.scan.co.uk www.computerplanet.co.uk www.scan.co.uk
MANUFACTURER www.scan.co.uk www.computerplanet.co.uk www.scan.co.uk
REVIEWED Issue 125, p58 Issue 125, p48 Issue 124, p24
PRICE (inc VAT) 6,999 2,786 999
UPDATED
UPDATED
UPDATED
UPDATED
UPDATED
Systems
86 February 2014
Hellraid
Hellraid is a first-person dungeon crawler
created by Techland, the developer of Dead Island.
Its a straightforward action game that pits you
against all manner of fantastical monstrosities,
from skeletons and undead soldiers to fearsome
charging Minotaurs. With optional single-player
and cooperative modes, sprawling skill trees and
randomised spawns of enemies and loot, it has a
ring of Diablo III about it, but with the added bonus
of being right in the thick of the action.
n dungeon crawler
edeveloperofDeadIsland
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88
CYNICAL HIT
World of store craft
90
BATTLEFIELD 4
Flight of the Valkyrie
92
LEGO MARVEL SUPER HEROES
Blockbusters
93
BATMAN: ARKHAM ORIGINS
Seasons beatings
94
CALL OF DUTY: GHOSTS
Life of Riley
96
XCOM: ENEMY WITHIN
Melded
98
THE ENGINE ROOM
The Phoenix rises
88
87 February 2014
T
his year I was lucky enough to go to BlizzCon in the USAs
real-life Los Santos. As with all conventions, whats usually
reported is news. The actual lifeblood, though, is the
enthusiasm generated by thousands of people so devoted
to a fandom that theyre willing to fly across the world to take it to the
next level some in costumes that turn magically infused demonic
shoulderpads into a serious health and safety matter. To step into one
is to be part of this whirl of excitement that isnt actually about the new
expansion, but its community.
For me though, it felt like an end of an era;
apersonal one, at least a moment where
vaguedissatisfaction crystallised into what I was
missing; the dream. World of Warcraft wasnt my
first MMO. I played a few MUDs. Heck, I played
Meridian 59. I feel the most for WoW though; its
easily the game with which I clocked up the most
time. Nothing since has hit the mark for more
than a month, and I dont think thats personal weariness so much
asthe magic of the genre just no longer existing now. Games with it
can still retain it, but new ones have just missed the boat.
What made the originals so powerful was that they seemed
impossible. Multiplayer games were special. Massively multiplayer
ones? Sorcery! However, that faded as the Internet became faster
andmore reliable. Likewise, epic worlds went from staggeringly
impressive to merely expensive. Now, Minecraft has proved that they
donteven have to be that, although they usually are.
The spectacle was a good disguise in most cases. The core games
werent that involving they were, after all, designed primarily around
the limits of dial-up modems and servers built from yogurt pots
almost 15 years ago. Moreover, they were able to sell the dream of
stepping into a whole new world. The catch was that people are
The MMO dream is over, says Richard
Cobbett, but there will still be new ideas
and dreams to follow
generally too crap to play together nicely, and games are still too
primitive to allow anything but rule-based responses, so these new
worlds ended up being about restrictions rather than freedom.
Also, it quickly turned out that our brains cant suddenly scale up
from small groups of people to the entire Internet. Were not wired to
appreciate that on anything more than a technical level. You could
compare it to the way we live in a world where most of us can
theoretically a go anywhere and do anything, but most of us still sit on
asofa and watch hours of TV on a rainy night,
complaining about being bored.
Its no real wonder that the current trend
isfirmly focused on the small-scale instead
a five-man Dota 2 team for instance, or a
Minecraft server shared among friends. We
can handle those games, and they can handle
us. One day, the dream of something bigger
may come to pass the Snow Crash
Metaverse being the usual cultural touch-point but even then, for
how long? Nothing breeds contempt like familiarity.
Still, Ive had many years of fun pursuing that familiarity, and even
ifthe chase ultimately has led down a creative dead end, every year
brings 365 new chances to wake up and be inspired by something else.
The MMO trick may be mostly played out for now, but there are always
new tricks and dreams to follow. Pardon me, though, if I feel a little sad
that this one didnt work out as Id hoped.
END OF THE
MMO ERA
THE CORE GAMES
WERE DESIGNED
PRIMARILY AROUND
THE LIMITS OF
DIAL-UPMODEMS
GAMING
88 February 2014
Richard Cobbett is a journalist and professional cynic, wishing
everything was as easy to solve as an adventure game puzzle.
@richardcobbett
CYnical hit
THE KNOWLEDGE
Price 44.99 inc VAT
Developer DICE
Publisher EA
Website
www.battlefield4.com
ike many of the increasingly regular
franchise updates we witness every
November (see also Call of Duty: Ghosts
andBatman: Arkham Origins), Battlefield 4 is
on precarious ground regarding the justification for
its existence. Battlefield 3 was released only two
years ago, and its received a significant
number of updates in that time. In many
ways, Battlefield 4 is merely a more
substantial update to Battlefield 3, leaving
the formula largely unchanged and
therefore demonstrating similar
strengths and weaknesses.
None of these comments make
Battlefield 4 a bad game, but its been
difficult to get genuinely excited
about it. As it turns out, however,
Battlefield 4 does have a few of
pleasant surprises up its khaki
sleeves, as well as a couple of
issues that prevent it from
achieving greatness.
The first surprise came in the
form of the single-player game
which, while not exactly amazing, is
certainly better than we expected.
The campaign follows a team of
marines codenamed Tombstone, which
is assigned to the aircraft carrier USS
Valkyrie. However, the carrier ends up being
targeted by a Chinese admiral planning a coup dtat.
At least, were fairly sure thats the plot. It isnt
particularly well explained, relying on casual
exchanges of exposition that are easily missed.
Ultimately, though, its an excuse for a series of
escalating conflicts in which your team plays a
crucial role, and it features all the ludicrous set-
pieces and angry soldiers you would expect from
a modern military FPS. Yet importantly, unlike
Call of Duty: Ghosts, it doesnt commit the
cardinal sin of forgetting its a game.
For the most part, the missions take
place in wide open spaces, with plenty of
opportunity to forge your own paths
and flank the enemy from multiple
angles. You also get the hotly touted
destruction mechanic, which enables
you to level entire buildings with
explosives. This also means that no
cover is entirely safe for either you or the
enemy, so its vital to stay mobile and
think on your feet.
The campaign only has seven missions,
which makes it seem short, but each
mission is fairly lengthy and contains
multiple objectives. Each locale differs
wildly from the others, and there are a
couple of conceptually brilliant missions.
L
FERTILE FIELD
Looks incredible;
multiplayer
strong as ever;
Obliteration mode
is fantastic
FALLOW FIELD
Inconsistent
single-player
game; bugs;
expensive
Treading water
90 February 2014
BATTLEFIELD 4
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disappointing conclusion, the multiplayer
mode is consistently exhilarating, although
not an awful lot has changed. The bulk of
themultiplayer game still lies in the Rush
(assault and defend a sequence of bases)
and Conquest (capture and hold) modes,
both of which are as good as ever. But theres
a significant new mode, Obliteration, and its
quite special.
Obliteration goes like this: a bomb is
placed somewhere around the centre of the
map, and both teams must try to get it to the
opposing forces base, using it to destroy one
of three key objectives. If one team manages
to destroy all three objectives, they win.
Essentially, youre playing a game of rugby,
but with guns, grenades, tanks, helicopters,
jets and the occasional cruise missile.
What results is the Battlefield franchises
most frantic, unpredictable and entertaining
mode yet, where the bomb will regularly hop
between the hands of both teams like the
hottest of potatoes, and individual squads
will make frantic bombing runs for the
enemy objectives. You could
use one member to carry the
bomb, while another drives a
vehicle amid intense enemy
fire; yet another provides
support from a hovering
helicopter. Its also perfect for
newcomers. If you can pick up
a bomb and run in a straight
REVIEW
The first involves you travelling by boat from
one aircraft carrier to another thats been
bombed by the Chinese. You have to fight
onto the deck while it sinks and breaks apart,
steal a Chinese gunboat and then make your
way back to the Valkyrie to fight off a second
attack by the Chinese.
Its absolutely fantastic, and the following
mission, which sees you assaulting
Shanghai during a typhoon, is almost as
good. Of course, the visuals possible from
DICEs stunning Frostbite 3 technology
undoubtedly helps, but so does the
unmatched sound design. Bullets whistle
and snap past your ear with such a
convincing noise that they make you duck
your head, while the bass-heavy explosions
quake through your entire body. Sound
volume and doppler effects are also
convincingly simulated to take distance into
account. When all of this comes together, it
makes for a truly remarkable experience.
Unfortunately, the single-player falls
apart towards the end, increasingly
relegating the player to being merely a
witness to events, despite the fact that youre
supposedly leading the squad. Characters
who are amusing and sympathetic in the
beginning become grim-faced and angry
towards the end, with an abrupt ending
involving a pointless binary choice.
While the single-player game briefly
manages brilliance before tumbling to a
line, you can be helpful to your team.
Meanwhile, the maps are all designed to
cater for all game modes, and each is
beautifully designed, from the village-
strewn hills of the Golmud Railway island ,
tothe archipelagos of Paracel Storm, to the
towering skyscrapers of Siege of Shanghai.
There are two problems with the
multiplayer though. The first is that its still
an agonisingly slow grind to unlock new
weapons and equipment when theres
absolutely no need for it. The game already
costs players a frightening 45, so why
reserve so many of the toys for only the most
dedicated players? The second issue is that
all the grinding in the world wont help you,
because theres currently a bug that results
in most players losing all their unlocks the
moment they quit the game. The game is
stillperfectly playable with the standard
loadouts, of course, and this bug will
probably befixed with a patch, but its a
disappointing state of affairs when you
consider the price.
Battlefield 4 is a confident step
forwards, but its a step rather
than a stride, inching ahead in the
frontline in the war with Call of
Duty. It remains visually stunning,
mechanically thrilling and
innovatively lacking. But hey,
twoout of three isnt bad.
RICK LANE
75
OVERALL

91 February 2014
THE KNOWLEDGE
Price 24.99 inc VAT
Developer Travellers Tales
Publisher Warner Bros
Website http://marvel
superheroes.lego.com
ego Marvel Super Heroes retains all the
charm, humour and variety of the previous
Lego games, and throws in a massive open
world brimming with content to explore. It
alsocontains just about every Marvel character
evercreated, from legends such as Spider-Man and
Wolverine, to ones youve probably never heard of,
such as Beetle and Whiplash.
The story sees all the Marvel heroes banding
together to stop Doctor Doom from assembling his
delightfully named Doom Ray of Doom. Unfortunately,
hes hired every villain in New York to stand in the way,
resulting in a clash of titanic proportions.
The 15-level campaign involves battling through
classic Marvel locations, from Iron Mans Stark
Tower to Doctor Dooms European castle.
Each level involves brawling with the villains
blocky minions, and solving simple but
numerous puzzles. Characters are
divided into certain groups, each fit for
solving a type of puzzle, so Spider-
Man can pull switches from a
distance with his web-slinging ability,
and the Human Torch can burn holes
through certain doors and objects to create paths.
The combat is simplistic and the puzzles are easy
tosolve, but LMSH stays interesting by ensuring the
puzzles are regular and varied, and that the combat
has sufficient punch. Whacking someone with
Captain Americas shield results in a
satisfying pwang! noise, while big
characters such as the Hulk scatter
crowds of enemies like a bowling ball
through skittles. Travellers Tales
trademark humour is also on full
form,with a mixture of the developers
traditional slapstick comedy combined
with a voice-acting script thats brimming with snappy
one-liners and knowingly bad puns. Ill spangle the
stars out of you! remarks Captain America at one
point. Dreadful yet brilliant.
In addition to the meaty main missions, LMSH
allows you to freely explore an impressively sized
segment of New York.
The open world isnt used to its full potential, being
almost completely separate from the main missions,
but it contains plenty of little distractions, such as side
missions andcooperative races. Its most engaging
aspects, however, are the puzzles that unlock
additional characters, which require particular
characters to solve. Its also enjoyable to explore,
especially using Iron Mans jet engines or Spider-
Mans web-slinging ability.
Lego Marvel Super Heroes isnt
perfect. Like previous Lego games, its too
obsessed with hints, the controls are a
little wobbly and a few of the jokes fall flat,
but it counters these complaints with the
breadth of its content and its endearing,
amusing take on the Marvel franchise.
RICK LANE
L
LEGO MARVEL
SUPER HEROES
SPIDER-MAN
Charming;
witty; varied;
compelling
DOCTOR
OCTOPUS
Some mechanics
overly simplistic;
lingering
problems from
previous games
Heroic
90
OVERALL

92 February 2014
February 2014 93
THE KNOWLEDGE
Price 39.99 inc VAT
Publisher Warner Bros
Developer WB Games
Montreal
Website www.batman
arkhamorigins.com
ocksteadys Batman games are arguably the
two best superhero games ever, but Arkham
Origins wasnt made by Rocksteady, and it
shows. Built to plug the gap between Arkham
City and whatever new game Rocksteady is making,
Arkham Origins still features the rhythm-action
brawling, stealth sections and generally awesome
sense of being Batman that made first two games so
compelling, but it falls short in several other areas.
Set on a dark and stormy Christmas Eve several
years before Asylum, a hit is put out on Batman by
B-list villain Black Mask, resulting in six more B-list
villains (plus Killer Croc and Bane) prowling the
streets of Gotham, seeking to assassinate the Dark
Knight. In order to protect the citizens of Gotham,
Batman decides to hunt the hunters, flying around the
city like an angry Santa, searching for Black Mask.
The story doesnt make much sense. Batmans
motivation for stopping Black Mask is protecting
Gothams citizens, but theyre all safely in
bed due to the heavy snowstorm anyway.
Its also fragmented, cobbling together
bits of classic Batman stories rather than
offering original ideas, and consequently,
it fails to make the most of the eight
assassins, who are relegated to boss
fights or side missions. It picks up pace at
the halfway mark when a couple of notable Batman
villains make typically dramatic entrances, but then
itflounders with an abrupt, tangential conclusion.
Meanwhile, the open world is similar to that of
Arkham City, but its been extended southwards
across a tediously long bridge to include New
Gotham. However, the city doesnt seem to be any
bigger or more varied. Side missions range from
thedull collecting Data Packets to defeat Enigma
(baby Riddler), to more intriguing crime-scene
investigations, which are unfortunately all solved
using the same process and soon become
monotonous. Theres also a fair amount of bugs
roaming the city, including one incredible Godzilla-
sized cockroach where we saw an entire city block
suddenly turn to quicksand and suck Batman into
theabyss beyond the level-box.
Despite its many flaws, Arkham Origins is
anenjoyable game. The mix of brawling, sneaking,
platforming and puzzling remains
engaging, and the new gadgets,
combatmoves and stealth takedowns
complement this gameplay. But its 40
price is astonishingly expensive for
whats essentially a downgrade. This
Christmas, let Batman sleep in.
RICK LANE
R
ADAM WEST
Retains the core
mechanics that
made previous
games such fun
VAL KILMER
Inconsistent story;
fewer interesting
side missions;
recycled
content;bugs
The Dark Knight stumbles

60
OVERALL
REVIEWS
BATMAN: ARKHAM ORIGINS
REVIEW
THE KNOWLEDGE
Price 39.99 inc VAT
Publisher Activision
Developer Infinity Ward
Website www.callofduty.
com/ghosts
ue to the new consoles, Call of Duty: Ghosts
isthe first game of the series since 2007 to
receive a major graphical update. Sadly,
though, while the visuals are spectacular,
therest of the game is trapped in the past.
The campaign is a near-future, location-hopping
rollercoaster that sees the eponymous Special Forces
team, the Ghosts, attempting to save a destitute USA
from the evil South American Federation. This gap-
year of death involves the Ghosts fighting in gloriously
rendered locales, from the depths of a crystalline
ocean to a gleaming space-station orbiting Earth,
with trips to the jungle, the snowy Andes and post-
apocalypse Los Angeles along the way.
Its delightful to observe, which is just as well,
sincetheres an awful lot of observation involved:
explosions, buildings falling over and characters
youre supposed to care about for some reason dying.
Its certainly spectacular, but despite all the flair and
bombast, the game itself is desperately boring.
Ghosts lies somewhere between stern teacher and
Gulag commandant in terms of bossing
you about, either failing you or killing you
for stepping even slightly out of line from
its scripted sequences.
When it finally gives you something to
shoot, its a case of standing behind
cover, popping your enemies heads as
quickly as possible, then moving on to
the next glorified cut-scene. Its more overprescribed
than a hypochondriac pharmacist.
This would be less of a problem if the story was
interesting, but its the weakest Call of Duty story yet,
with jingoistic factions that are indistinguishable in
terms of both militaries and politics, and protagonists
that are about as compelling as a smiley face painted
on a wall. Put it this way Ghosts features a dog called
Riley, and hes the games most interesting character.
Multiplayer fares better, with a wide array of game
modes, including two new options. Squads enables
you to take characters that have levelled up in
standard multiplayer games, and lead them in
competitive matches against other players squads.
Extinction, meanwhile, takes the Zombie-survival
mode of Black Ops and swaps out the zombies for
insectoid aliens. Its all solidly built, but compared
withthe epic scope of multiplayer games such as
Battlefield and Planetside, Ghosts cramped maps
and small player numbers feel behind the times.
In fact, thats the problem with Ghosts. The formula
has hardly evolved in seven years, and
with brilliant single-player FPS games
such as Far Cry 3 already available, and
the wonderful-looking Titanfall on the
horizon, for all its graphical punch and
dazzling scripted sequences, Ghosts
feels decidedly lacklustre.
RICK LANE
D
GHOSTBUSTERS
Gorgeous visuals;
varied multiplayer
experience;
explosions!
GHOSTBUSTED
Weak single-
player campaign;
multiplayer
lacks scope of
Battleeld and
Planetside
Call an exorcist
50
OVERALL

94 February 2014
CALL OF DUTY: GHOSTS
REVIEW
THE KNOWLEDGE
Price 19.99 inc VAT
Developer Firaxis
Publisher 2K Games
Website www.xcom.com/
enemywithin
COM: Enemy Within takes
the vanilla base-building,
alien-obliterating, tech-
stealing experience of last years
Enemy Unknown, and adds a roster of new
features, resulting in a completely refreshed game.
You still play the same campaign as before, but
now,alongside the ability to customise your soldiers
weapons, armour and identities, you can also tinker
with their bodies. By using a new resource called
MELD, which is collected during missions, you can
infuse your Snipers with the ability to turn invisible,
and adjust their eyesight so it confers additional
accuracy at higher altitudes. Alternatively, you might
simply chop off all your soldiers limbs and install
their torso in a big stompy mech-suit, replete with
arm-mounted flamethrower and sofa-sized mini-
gun. Grisly? Possibly. Awesomely effective? Definitely.
These new abilities have considerable tactical
implications, as they level the playing field against the
aliens considerably. Your soldiers are far tougher and
more capable than before, so rather than holding out
against the aliens as best you can, Enemy Within is
more about building the ultimate anti-alien SWAT
team and taking the fight back to the extraterrestrial
menace. The flipside is that while you may find
yourself losing fewer men than before, that loss is
more deeply felt, due to the investment youve made
into particular soldiers.
Furthermore, while your teams abilities have
beenenhanced, so have the risks they take. MELD
canisters are usually located in the far corners of
maps, and are timed to self-destruct, so collecting
that precious resource often requires sending out
troops on isolated, exposed runs. Meanwhile, the
aliens have new allies, most notably their human
sympathisers EXALT; terrorists who hobble your
efforts by draining money from your accounts.
Fighting them requires sending lone soldiers
ondangerous covert missions, before
following up with a team to extract them.
EXALT is similarly equipped to XCOM,
and with greater numbers, which makes
extractions extremely perilous.
Enemy Withins early and mid-game
sections are spent experimenting with
your new toys and then battling EXALT.
However, the endgame has hardly changed, and this
was also arguably Enemy Unknowns weak point,
particularly in the final mission. In addition, while
thenew equipment is welcome, finding the money
toproduce it may require a real-life accountant. The
complex, resource-hungry endeavour of setting up
your satellite networks hasnt been made any less
difficult, and there arent many new
sources of income. It isnt impossible,
butit requires careful planning.
Still, for the most part, Enemy Within
breathes new life into XCOM correctly,
making it again one of the most absorbing
and entertaining games of the year.
RICK LANE
X
XCOM: ENEMY WITHIN
ROSWELL
Host of new
features
completely
revitalise
thegame
UNWELL
Base
management
very complicated;
endgame still
anticlimactic
Augmented
90
OVERALL

96 February 2014
Rick Lane
f youre unfamiliar with Wolfire
games, seek out Receiver. Created
for last years seven-day FPS
challenge (http://7dfps.com),
Receiver took traditional shooter
mechanics, but went down to the smallest
details. So, before you could fire your Colt
1911 pistol, you had to load individual rounds
into a magazine, load the magazine, cock
theweapon and aim. What resulted was a
small, but wonderfully tense, procedurally
generated FPS, in which success required
far more skill and dexterity than pointing
your mouse at someones head and clicking.
Now imagine that innovative attention to
detail applied to a vast open-ended fighting
game, featuring anthropomorphic animals,
created with a bespoke engine by just two
people, and youll have an idea of Wolfires
ambition. The game is called Overgrowth,
and its engine, named Phoenix, is perhaps
the only engine in existence built entirely
around the concept of melee combat.
I wanted to have really precise control
over what I was doing, because I find that
games created with certain engines tend to
have a certain look and feel to them, says
David Rosen, CEO and lead programmer,
designer and animator of Wolfire Games.
Idont believe in the idea of a generic engine.
Engines are usually specifically designed for
one kind of thing.
In order to create the game according
tohis vision, Rosen decided to build his
engine from scratch. The process involved
the engine room
designing custom tools to automate the
development process where possible, which
was handy given Wolfires tiny core team.
Inthe game, if you load a character model,
itwill automatically create all the different
levels of detail for it using simplification
algorithms. Initially, we also created an
animation editor that would automatically
skin the character around the skeleton.
The same approach is used to create
Overgrowths large levels. You may already
know how procedural generation works to
create landscapes, but Wolfire uses its
algorithms to create levels with a unique
flavour. We wanted to try adding landscapes
you dont normally see. For example, there
will be the caldera of an extinct volcano, or
sweeping fields of dead grass, Rosen
explains. A lot of those terrains are pretty
easy to create because theyre mostly
procedural you run a kind of erosion
programme, and then we procedurally place
rocks and grass; you get a really detailed
looking terrain without having to hand-
populate every square foot.
Wolfire also uses an alternative method
ofprocedural generation, which fills the
landscape with far more assets (trees, rocks,
lakes and so on), than are required, and then
randomly deletes the majority of them (90
per cent according to Rosen), resulting in a
natural-looking landscape with a touch of
handcrafting. Its a good hybrid of control
and randomness, he states.
Of course, Overgrowths environments are
merely the arena. The meat is in the combat
system, designed to require constant input
and attention from the player over and above
reliance on QuickTime events or the rhythm-
action in games such as Batman: Arkham
Origins. Creating such a combat system is no
mean feat, as it requires complex, detailed
animations, pinpoint-coded physics and
collision detection, and all manner of other
fiddly bits that are easy to get wrong. It would
be a challenge for a large studio, so how does
Wolfire manage it with just two people and no
access to motion-capture software?
I actually key-frame it all by hand, then on
top of that, I add all these procedural effects,
98 February 2014
Rick Lane investigates
indie developer Wolre
Games continuing
effort to build an engine
gearedentirely towards
melee combat
Phoenix
The game features realistic liquid
dynamics, so blood moves and drops
authentically. Rosen intends for the AI to
recognise blood drops, affecting stealth
Each of Overgrowths levels is 1km, and the final game
will tie these levels into a sequential campaign
Overgrowths environments range from familiar woods
and deserts to these Giants Causeway-esque pillars
ANALYSIS
99 February 2014
Rosen says. A lot of the animation is done
procedurally. I can make a fighting stance
[for the character] and then procedurally
animate their feet for when theyre moving.
So the fighting stance might only be one key-
frame, but you still get all that movement.
The procedural aspects of the
animationare accomplished with heavy
implementation of physics. The technology
that drives the flowing cloth physics, as
youmight see in Assassins Creed or on
Batmans cape, are applied to Overgrowths
character bodies. In this way, parts of the
character, such as the limbs, can be
controlled by physics, while others, such
asthe head, can be animated.
There isnt really a binary line between
when physics are in control and when
animation is in control, Rosen says. When
the character is in ragdoll mode it can still be
driven by the animation system; its just that
the core of the character isnt controlled by
the game logic anymore. But [the engine]
will still run animations, so the character will
try to protect their head, and flail around if
theyre falling really far.
Put another way, if a character turns
around suddenly, their arms will swing
loosely, powered by the momentum of the
torso. This has a significant impact on
combat. Sweeping out the legs from under
acharacter, for example, will prompt the
physics engine to take over the legs, causing
the character to collapse, and leaving them
vulnerable to attack.
Alongside the hand-to-hand combat,
Rosen recently added weapons such as
spears, which required a variety of updates
to the engine, including support for two-
handed grips, new animations and various
tweaks to the physics model to ensure the
spears would convincingly stick in character
bodies, becoming part of the model, which
the physics engine then influenced as a
whole. The addition of weapons also
dramatically affects combat beyond raising
the animation count. An unarmed character
has little chance of success against one with
a spear or a sword. Rosen has coded a
stealth system to counter this issue.
You get to control how an engagement
starts, Rosen states. The AI will do raycasts
to see if they can see you, and you can sneak
up on guys, kill them and move their bodies
around. There are a lot of features I havent
added yet. For example, I have to make them
able to see bloodstains, giving you a trade-off
if you use your knife to kill someone.
The other notable fact about Overgrowth is
simply how long its been in development. Its
been five years now, and the process is still
far from over. All the core features Rosen
wants in the game are present, but he still
needs to put them together to form a
campaign, which he reckons will take
another year. A vibrant modding community
with access to Phoenixs own development
tools means theres plenty of content
available for Alpha purchasers, but the
longdevelopment cycle means graphics
technology is constantly accelerating away
from where Overgrowth currently stands.
This doesnt concern Rosen, however, as
he believes that indie development is about
separating yourself from the mainstream
rather than attempting to keep up with it. So
while Unreal and CryEngine are focused on
visual features such as lighting and so on,
Rosen is more interested in liquid dynamics,
combat mechanics and blending procedural
physics with rendered animation.
Working on different technology is
important, he concludes. If youre writing
your own technology and working on the
same tech that the AAA guys are doing, then
really, theres no point.
THE COMBAT SYSTEM
IS DESIGNED TO
REQUIRE CONSTANT
INPUT AND ATTENTION
Stealth is largely sight-based, and the open levels mean players can always choose how to initiate conflict
Overgrowths physics engine is tweaked so that impact
reactions are exaggerated. A strong kick will send
opponents flying
Each weapon requires its own animations, which are
then melded with the games procedural physics engine
to create fluid animations
100 February 2014
Rick Lane enters the indie corner for a second time, to go four more rounds
with little games punching far above their weight
n the surface, Limit Theory is a space sim like many others,
with beautiful interstellar vistas, a complex trading system
and fast, twitch-based combat. However, it differentiates itself
from the crowd with its ultimate goal; to procedurally generate
everything. Stars, planets, asteroids, ships, stations and even
the most basic features such as textures, will be handled by
carefully coded algorithms. Every universe you create in Limit
Theory is intended to be infinite and unique.
Perhaps even more exciting is what Limit Theory intends to
do with those universes. Parnell is coding a complex AI system
to ensure theyre dynamic, bustling places.
Factions will rise and fall across the galaxy, and youll cross
paths with NPCs who will help to complete your missions, or
helpyou to build your own trade empire using the games fully
simulated economy. The game is also designed to keep track of
the people and places with which you interact, so if you meet a
mercenary you particularly like, youll be able to call them up to
lend a helping hand.
Such grandiose claims have been made before, but with a
successful Kickstarter campaign under its belt, and multiple
extensive gameplay videos already demonstrating the games
procedural tech, Limit Theory is looking like the real deal.
dding to the burgeoning survival genre, The Forest casts
you as a lone survivor of a plane crash, lost in a woodland
far from civilisation. You chop down trees, build a shelter,
search for food and adapt to the hostile environment. However,
a couple of factors set it apart from other survival games.
The first is its technological prowess and attention to detail.
Despite being developed by a small team, it looks as if Crytek
made it. The Forest is crammed with lush vegetation dappled
with sunlight from the beautiful-looking lighting engine.
Moreover, detailed animations and interaction systems mean
that when you chop down a tree, you really do hack at its base
with your axe, and watch as it topples with an almighty crash.
The second is the emphasis on horror. The Forest follows
thestandard build during the day, defend yourself at night
structure of Minecraft. Yet you dont defend yourself against
zombies, skeletons and spiders, but a tribe of genetically
divergent humans who arent unlike yourself. The Forests
tension comes not just from trying to survive, but also from the
price of humanity as you put your survival above that of others.
This is, of course, a massively ambitious project for such a
small team, but if the developers pull it off, it will be one of the
most intriguing releases of next year.
Website http://ltheory.com Developer Josh Parnell
Release 2014
Website http://survivetheforest.com Developer SKS Games
Release 2014
GAMES
101 February 2014
espite its brilliant Chronicles of
Riddick games, Starbreezes remake
of the classic strategy masterpiece
Syndicate was one of the most
disappointing games of 2012.
However, every cloud has a silver
lining,and the outpouring of love for the
original Syndicate, which followed the
remakes failure, has partly resulted in the
existence of Satellite Reign, a cyberpunk
strategy game made by the creator of
Syndicate Wars.
Its unashamedly a spiritual successor
to Syndicate, with both the original writer
and composer on the team at 5 Lives
Studios. However, Satellite Reign isnt a
slave to the past either, making use of
modern tech wherever possible in true cyberpunk spirit.
Aside from boasting a pretty, neon-drenched 3D engine, the city
in which Satellite Reign is set is designed to be as dynamic and
emergent as possible.
According to the games creators, the
player will have complete freedom over
how to use their secretive organisation to
overthrow the citys existing corporate
government. You wont be expected to
simply follow the story from mission to
mission; instead, youll be exploring the
city freely, bribing scientists to research
technology for you, or kidnapping doctors
to incorporate that tech into your soldiers
bodies. The city will react to your play style,
so if youre the type who prefers a violent
solution to a problem, this will probably
result in an increased police presence.
With almost double the funding goal
raised during the games Kickstarter
campaign, Satellite Reign seems well
prepared to accomplish the task it has set itself. Riffing on one of
the most fondly remembered games of all time is bound to ruffle a
few feathers, so lets hope the developers dont compromise their
own vision for the sake of appeasing contradictory demands.
aron Fosters Routine is an immersive first-person survival
horror game set on board a seemingly abandoned space
station; of course, this means that its only abandoned by anything
that might be nice to you.
As game names go, Routine is rather ironic, as your experience
of playing it will be anything but predictable. Routines space
station has no designated method of progression. The entire
station is open to explore from the outset, and its up to the player
tofigure out precisely whats gone wrong and how to solve it.
Meanwhile, the game will adapt to the players approach, with
multiple endings that will be determined by their actions.
Also, death is permanent, so being killed in Routine will send
you back to the start. The idea is that this will encourage players to
experiment with different approaches, and also make the stations
dangers and threats feel more real. Furthermore, Routine is being
developed with Oculus Rift support, just in case you want to terrify
yourself in three dimensions.
Joking aside, Routine is one of the most novel indie projects
currently in development, and were very keen to see how its
uniquely open-ended approach to survival horror pans out.
Website http://satellitereign.com Developer 5 Lives Studios Release 2014
Website http://routinegame.comDeveloper Lunar Software Release 2014
102 February 2014
Matthew Lambert delves deep into DICEs latest shooter
to nd what hardware you need to run it optimally
ith Battlefield 4 now consuming the
free time of thousands of gamers
worldwide, we wanted to see just
what demands the game makes from the
current crop of graphics hardware. As such, we
grabbed the latest cards and set about eroding
the F11 key on our keyboard by benchmarking
them at a range of settings.
The game is the first to make use of the latest
iteration of DICEs graphics engine, Frostbite 3,
which has been given refinements across the
board. The improved tessellation and higher-
resolution textures mean that Battlefield 4 is a
step up in visual fidelity compared to its
predecessor. Character models in particular
are noticeably more detailed, which goes hand
in hand with improvements to skin shaders and
facial animation.
The enhanced weather systems of Frostbite
3 also mean that everything from the clouds in
the sky to the water and trees on the ground
move consistently with the forces of nature, and
the Destruction 4 feature means that walls,
vehicles and sometimes entire buildings are
also more destructible than in previous games.
Rendering chaotic battles convincingly will
therefore require more intensive and
demanding processing related to physics and
particle effects. Environments are visibly more
vast than before too, which results in potentially
huge draw distances. Along with tweaked
lighting effects and other enhancements, this
means that the GPUs will have plenty of work.
ANALYSIS
103 February 2014
104
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M
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D
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We tested all the cards at 1080p and 2,560 x
1,600 using the games four graphical presets,
and shared the most significant results. We also
tested the more powerful cards using three
1080p screens in AMD Eyefinity and Nvidia
Surround (5,760 x 1,080), and at 4K (3,840 x
2,160). Finally, we also tested the impact of CPU
and memory configurations.
Our benchmarks uses the on-rails section
at the start of the games sixth level, Tashgar.
Its a fast-moving vehicle section in a large
outdoor environment with a long draw distance,
and there are numerous lighting effects,
detailed shadows and textures, plus effects
such as fire and smoke. Therefore, although its
no 64-player war zone, its a demanding task
for any graphics card. The test is also reliable
and repeatable, plus you can run it on your own
system simply start a 60-second FRAPS
recording the moment the first subtitle appears
in the level.
PERFORMANCE
Pricing for the cards weve tested starts at
around 130, and pleasingly, even the lowliest
hardware can output playable frame rates with
the Ultra preset at 1080p. That said, wed still
recommend turning the settings down a little
with a GTX 660 or R9 270, as their comparatively
low minimum frame rates arent well suited
tofrantic multiplayer gaming, which can be
more demanding.
The 2,560 x 1,600 test is far more strenuous.
The GTX 770 and R9 280X remain technically
playable at this resolution at the Ultra settings,
but its really only the high-end cards (costing
at least 300) that can maintain a smooth pace.
As such, youll need to invest in multiple GPUs
if you want to use this resolution with all the eye
candy turned on and still hit 60fps.
However, dropping to the High preset sees a
dramatic improvement; at this setting,
everything but the GTX 660 remains playable.
By and large, AMDs cards have an advantage
over similarly priced Nvidia models in this
game. A good example is the 150 R9 270X,
which trades blows with the 180 GTX 760 at the
Ultra settings.
104 February 2014
The AMD advantage is also apparent among
pricier cards. The R9 290, for example,
consistently had a lead over the GTX 780, despite
costing 50 less. Meanwhile, the super-
expensive GTX 780 Ti and GTX Titan cards
struggle to justify their prices, as they frequently
lose out to the R9 290X (and sometimes even
the R9 290) on minimum frame rates at the Ultra
and High presets. These Nvidia cards are better
placed in terms of average frame rates, and gain
the lead at lower detail presets though.
Both the R9 290X and R9 290 were designed
for very high-resolution gaming, and our 5,760
x 1,080 and 4K tests demonstrate their abilities
well, as these cards offer consistently smoother
experiences than Nvidias top-end hardware.
The R9 290X is also the only single GPU card to
achieve playable frame rates in every test, but
if youre keen to play BF4 at these resolutions,
youll ideally need two GPUs to ensure the game
doesnt slow down in the middle of serious
multiplayer action.
At 4K, we chose to disable anti-aliasing in the
Ultra test, as its already an incredibly
demanding test, and the image is already sharp
enough not to need it. At other resolutions,
moving from Ultra to High (which includes a
drop from 4x AA to 0x AA) frequently resulted in
a performance boost of more than 40 per cent.
However, at 4K, the difference is always much
lower often 5 per cent or less. This reveals the
high demands of anti-aliasing (MSAA in these
tests) in this game, so if you want to preserve
your frame rates while boosting detail, its best
to leave it disabled.
MULTI -GPU SCALING
To get an idea of how multi-GPU setups will
scale in Battlefield 4, we can compare the R9
280X and HD 7990, as the latter uses two of the
Tahiti GPUs that the former uses, and runs
them at the same clock speeds. The results are
pretty impressive, as in the 1080p and 2,560 x
1,600 Ultra tests, the HD 7990 is 91 and 96 per
cent quicker than the R9 280Xs minimum
frame rates respectively. Scaling isnt as
effective when using less demanding presets,
but youre unlikely to be interested in multi-GPU
configurations unless youre also keen to max
out the visual settings. The HD 7990s excellent
performance, especially across three screens
and at 4K (where it has huge leads on everything
else), makes it one of the best high-end options
for Battlefield 4, given that it costs less than the
R9 290X now.
The GTX 690 and GTX 680 are suitable
comparisons on Nvidias side, although the
latter has a slightly higher core clock speed.
The GTX 690s scaling is also at its best when
using the more demanding presets, although
its never quite able to scale as effectively as the
HD 7990. Still, it hovers at around 75-85 per cent
quicker than the GTX 680, which is by no means
bad. However, it fares poorly in the very high-
resolution tests it stutters at 5,760 x 1,080,
causing it to drop its minimum frame rate to
18fps. Meanwhile, we couldnt even successfully
test the GTX 690 at 4K, despite using the very
latest drivers, as it would constantly freeze and
0 25 50 75 100
0 25 50 75 100
1,920 x 1,080, 4x AA, Ultra
fps 101
fps 91
fps 71
fps 75
fps 67
fps 71
fps 86
fps 74
fps 59
fps 56
fps 55
fps 52 GTX Titan
R9 290
GTX 780 Ti
R9 290X (Uber)
GTX 690
HD 7990
fps 65
fps 54
fps 54
fps 51
fps 47
fps 42
fps 49
fps 45
fps 42
fps 40
fps 37
fps 36 R9 270X
GTX 670
GTX 680
GTX 770
R9 280X
GTX 780
fps 43
fps 38
fps 34
fps 35
fps 31
fps 28 GTX 660
R9 270
GTX 760
2,560 x 1,600, 0x AA, High
fps 91
fps 80
fps 68
fps 64
fps 70
fps 64
fps 75
fps 61
fps 55
fps 52
fps 46
fps 43 GTX Titan
GTX 780 Ti
R9 290
R9 290X (Uber)
GTX 690
HD 7990
Minimum Average
fps 52
fps 57
fps 50
fps 45
fps 40
fps 41
fps 42
fps 40
fps 37
fps 34
fps 33
fps 31 GTX 670
R9 270X
GTX 680
GTX 770
GTX 780
R9 280X
fps 36
fps 39
fps 30
fps 30
fps 29
fps 23 GTX 660
GTX 760
R9 270
GRAPHICS CARDS
2,560
G
R9 29
104 February 2014
2
ANALYSIS
105 February 2014
cause our system to crash. Hopefully, future
driver optimisations will address these issues,
as the results for the HD 7990 indicate that
Battlefield 4 is able to take advantage of multi-
GPU setups effectively.
CPU AND RAM PERFORMANCE
Overclocking our Core i5-3570K made no
difference to results. Equally, even when we
disabled one or two of the CPUs four cores, the
results remained the same, although we
witnessed some instability when running with
just two cores. Heavily populated multiplayer
maps are likely to be more CPU-limited, but the
engine itself appears to be less so.
We saw slight bumps in frame rates when
using faster memory, but only when the GPU
bottleneck was so far removed that you wouldnt
notice it anyway. An R9 290X at 2,560 x 1,600 with
the Ultra preset saw no change in its results
between memory running at 1,333MHz and
2,400MHz. However, with the same card at
1080p using the Low settings, we saw the
minimum frame rate climb from 134fps
(1,333MHz) to 137fps (2,400MHz).
As with overclocking your processor, then,
increasing your memory frequency is unlikely
to make or break your experience with
Battlefield 4. However, our test rig uses an Ivy
Bridge CPU, and its possible that Haswell (or
other platforms) will benefit more from
increased memory speed (as recent blog
entries on Corsairs website suggest), and that
youll see greater gains from increased RAM
frequency and CPU clock speed in multiplayer
matches where the CPU plays a bigger part.
CONCLUSI ON
Owners of AMD hardware are likely to see more
bang for their buck than Nvidia users in BF4,
with the red team perhaps benefiting from its
close relationship with DICE and having its
hardware in all the next-gen consoles. A quad-
core CPU is recommended, and running your
memory as fast as possible could also help you
to claim a few extra frame rates at low settings.
Nevertheless, a GPU upgrade should be your
first port of call if you want more performance,
as the Frostbite 3 engine is heavily GPU-limited
and scales very well across the current range
of decent discrete graphics cards.
0 35 70 105 140
0 16 32 48 64
2,560 x 1,600, 4x AA, Ultra
fps 62
fps 55
fps 45
fps 42
fps 46
fps 43
fps 53
fps 41
fps 37
fps 34
fps 33
fps 31 GTX Titan
GTX 780 Ti
R9 290
R9 290X (Uber)
GTX 690
HD 7990
fps 39
fps 33
fps 32
fps 30
fps 28
fps 26
fps 29
fps 27
fps 25
fps 23
fps 22
fps 20 GTX 760
GTX 670
GTX 680
GTX 770
R9 280X
GTX 780
fps 25
fps 23
fps 20
fps 20
fps 18
fps 16 GTX 660
R9 270
R9 270X
Minimum Average
3,840 x 2,160 0x AA, Ultra
0 13 26 39 52
fps 49
fps 37
fps 34
fps 37
fps 34
fps 30
fps 38
fps 38
fps 28
fps 26
fps 23
fps 21
fps 20
fps 24 GTX 780
GTX 780
GTX Titan
GTX 780 Ti
R9 290
R9 290X
(Uber)
HD 7990
5,760 x 1,080, 4x AA, High
0 12 24 36 48
fps 44
fps 31
fps 29
fps 30
fps 28
fps 34
fps 26
fps 36
fps 25
fps 23
fps 21
fps 19
fps 18
fps 18 GTX 780
GTX 690
GTX Titan
GTX 780 Ti
R9 290
R9 290X (Uber)
HD 7990
5,760 x 1,080, 0x AA, High
17.5 0 35 52.5 70
fps 67
fps 53
fps 46
fps 43
fps 46
fps 43
fps 38
fps 52
fps 38
fps 36
fps 33
fps 28
fps 26
fps 24 GTX 780
GTX Titan
GTX 780 Ti
R9 290
R9 290X (Uber)
GTX 690
HD 7990
5,760 x 1,080, 0x AA, Medium
0 25 50 75 100
fps 90
fps 72
fps 64
fps 64
fps 58
fps 59
fps 52
fps 72
fps 58
fps 51
fps 50
fps 47
fps 46
fps 42 GTX 780
R9 290
GTX Titan
R9 290X (Uber)
GTX 780 Ti
GTX 690
HD 7990
3,840 x 2,160, 0x AA, High
0 13 26 39 52
fps 50
fps 38
fps 36
fps 38
fps 35
fps 31
fps 38
fps 29
fps 28
fps 24
fps 23
fps 21 GTX 780
GTX Titan
GTX 780 Ti
R9 290
R9 290X (Uber)
HD 7990
3,840 x 2,160, 0x AA, Medium
0 18 36 54 72
fps 68
fps 54
fps 53
fps 50
fps 48
fps 42
fps 60
fps 47
fps 47
fps 44
fps 43
fps 36 GTX 780
GTX Titan
R9 290
GTX 780 Ti
R9 290X
(Uber)
HD 7990
2,560 x 1,600, 0x AA, Medium
fps 124
fps 109
fps 96
fps 95
fps 88
fps 88
fps 108
fps 97
fps 85
fps 85
fps 80
fps 78 R9 290
GTX Titan
R9 290X (Uber)
GTX 780 Ti
GTX 690
HD 7990
fps 79
fps 72
fps 68
fps 63
fps 57
fps 56
fps 71
fps 65
fps 61
fps 56
fps 50
fps 50 R9 270X
GTX 670
GTX 680
GTX 770
R9 280X
GTX 780
fps 52
fps 51
fps 41
fps 47
fps 44
fps 36 GTX 660
R9 270
GTX 760
CPU
MEMORY
R9 290X 2,560 x 1,600, 4x AA, Ultra
0 12 24 36 48
fps 45
fps 45
fps 45
fps 45
fps 37
fps 37
fps 37
fps 37 Core i5-3570K
(two Cores)
Core i5-3570K
(three Cores)
Core i5-3570K
(stock)
Core i5-3570K
(4.2GHz)
R9 290X 1,920 x 1,080, 0x AA, Low
0 40 80 120 160
8GB 1,333MHz
8GB 1,600MHz
8GB 1,866MHz
8GB 2,133MHz
8GB 2,400MHz
R9 290X 2,560 x 1,600, 4x AA, Ultra
0 12 24 36 48
fps 45
fps 45
fps 45
fps 45
fps 45
fps 37
fps 37
fps 37
fps 37
fps 37 8GB 1,333MHz
8GB 1,600MHz
8GB 1,866MHz
8GB 2,133MHz
8GB 2,400MHz
fps 159
fps 159
fps 156
fps 157
fps 153
fps 137
fps 137
fps 135
fps 137
fps 134
106 February 2014
Jim Killock
o great fanfare, Google and Microsoft
recently announced restrictions on
search results from 100,000 child
abuse search terms, and producing
warning notices when certain terms are
used. The implementation seems to be quite
broad, with some searches prompting the
search engine to encourage you to seek help.
The measures resulted in headline news on
the TV and in the papers the day it was
announced. David Cameron clearly regarded
it as a major triumph, citing recent cases of
child abuse, saying that the government had
learned that paedophiles were finding
images through ordinary search methods.
This may have some effect on the margins
paedophiles might be encouraged to seek
help, but they will also have been reminded
that search terms can be noticed and
recorded by search engines. So far, nobody
has provided firm numbers showing how
many searches for paedophilic images are
actually made.
The best we have is Cameron telling
Womans Hour that youve got people who
are dabbling in this, experimenting in this,
and who are using the open Internet and they
wont get search returns, so it stops their
revolting journey, as it were. Secondly, there
isevidence that paedophiles have used the
open Internet to search for terms and to
getresults.
This is unfortunately just assertion. No
research has been cited showing that Google
is a common method for finding child abuse
material. In fact, plenty of people seem to
think its quite low on the list of problems to
solve. Jim Gamble, former head of the Child
Exploitation and Online Protection Centre
(CEOP) commented on ITVs website that the
way to deter offenders from raping, abusing,
photographing, sharing or seeking out
images of child abuse is to line child abusers
up, in the dock of a court room. One of the
main problems is that people can see that is
not happening.
This is where the government must pause,
look at themselves in the moral mirror they
hold up to others so often, and ask whether
they are doing enough, he added. And before
ministers hide behind the wall of recession
and austerity consider this: Less than 1.5
million a year would pay for 12 regional
childprotection experts, supported by 12
training coordinators.
Other insiders have made similar points. A
police officer specialising in child abuse told
Custom PCs sister title PC Pro: I simply do
not see people using Google etc to search for
child abuse. Its too risky for them.
The source also added that we need more
staff. We have a nine-month backlog thats
not fair to victims.
Blocking child abuse searches
Restricting paedophilia search results on Google and Bing might grab some
headlines, but it wont really solve any problems, argues Jim Killock
T
107 February 2014
JIM
KILLOCK

is executive director of
campaign organisation
The Open Rights Group
(www.openrightsgroup.org)
@jimkillock
web or dark net. Thus the deep web has
now become a focus of media attention.
David Cameron told Newsnight that
theres been a lot in the news recently about
the techniques, ability and brilliance of the
people involved in the intelligence
community, in GCHQ and the NSA in
America. That expertise is going to be
brought to bear, to go after these revolting
people sharing these images on the dark net,
and making them available more widely.
Ithink Cameron is deliberately missing the
point, which is that there are significant
opportunities to investigate these crimes,
especially the sharing of images, which often
seems to be relatively detectable.
However, Cameron has a lot to gain by
associating mass surveillance and breaking
encryption with paedophiles. The more we
associate the removal of personal security
and autonomy with tackling outrageous
crimes, the easier it is for the security
services to act in a lawless fashion, and place
us in danger of common criminality.
Tor the software behind the dark web
is also the tool of choice for Iranian and
Chinese citizens who wish to evade
censorship. Its increasingly used by people in
democracies who are worried by government
The detailed statistics from the
Solicitor General, Oliver Heald,
show that the number of child
sexual abuse cases being referred
to the Crown Prosecution Service by
police forces across England and
Wales has fallen by 28 per cent from
a peak of 13,018 in 2010-11 to 9,381
in 2012-13. This is the lowest level
for more than five years, and comes
over a period when the number of
such cases reported to the police
has risen steadily to a record high of
18,915 in 2012-13.
Meanwhile, an anonymous insider told the
Open Rights Group on our blog that when
CEOP sends an intelligence package to the
local police force for the area where a
potential offender lives, there is no obligation
for the police to follow it up, and often CEOP
dont hear what, if anything, happened. The
new NCA (National Crime Agency) should
use its directive powers to ensure that there
isa positive decision and feedback.
Whats surprising, however, is
thatthese failures are so clearly
government responsibilities, yet
nopromises of action on the
fundamentals have been made. In
fact, it looks as though Cameron has
created a smokescreen around the
basic failures of his administration
concerning the investigation and
prosecutionof sexual abuse, while making
himself look very concerned, by forcing
companies to act on a problem that many
people in law enforcement arent convinced
is of major importance.
Even if this diversion isnt deliberate,
failingto act on government failures while
concentrating fire on search companies risks
looking irresponsible and even manipulative.
In any case, many people have pointed out
that most paedophile material on the Internet
is circulated via peer-to-peer networks,
either using BitTorrent, or services such as
Gnutella. Sometimes its also sold on
websites, including some that are
deliberately made hard to pin to a physical
location using an anonymous hidden service
that are sometimes referred to as the deep
monitoring. We cant expect Tor to
go away, and if it did, something
similar would be written.
There are known ways to try to
find the identities of people using
Tor. Sometimes, people are
careless, forgetting there are many
ways to identify someone on the
Internet, including cookies, browser
plug-ins and scripting, or using
peer-to-peer services that arent
routing traffic through Tor. Other
techniques for finding Tor users
may pose risks to democracy
activists, however.
We have to separate the existence of a
technology from the purposes for which
some people use it. With Tor, we have another
potential scapegoat that politicians can use
to blame for the evils that people perpetrate,
while avoiding more mundane political
responsibilities, such as funding the police
and social services.
Still, the main failure is at a political level.
Politicians are, of course, going to
try to take easy options that create
headlines to convince people theyre
dealing with crimes that make many
people extremely worried.
Why, though, are the opposition
parties reluctant to challenge what
is being said?
To be fair, the media did pick up on the
remarks made by Jim Gamble and others,
and did its best to show that not everyone
thinks search ban tactics are going to be
helpful. When the media considers the
darkweb, however, the media seems less
inclined to analyse, perhaps because theres
a fascination with the idea of a secret and
seedy underworld.
OPINION
NOBODY HAS PROVIDED FIRM
NUMBERS SHOWING HOW MANY
SEARCHES FOR PAEDOPHILIC
IMAGES ARE ACTUALLY MADE
Tor the software behind the dark
web is also the tool of choice for
Iranian and Chinese citizens who
wish to evade censorship
108 February 2014
I
ts all too easy to dream about the custom-
made water-cooling loops, laser-cut cases
and multiple graphics cards in our Dream PC
Labs this month, but plenty of affordable PC
upgrades fit snuggly in a stocking.
Take these Phobya LEDs (1.48-2.23,
www.scan.co.uk), which
can be used to illuminate
your favourite components
or add an ethereal glow to
your PCs interior. Each
pack has two lights, and
theyre available in green,
blue, red and white, so
theres sure to be a colour to match your PC.
Theyre small enough to fit into the nookiest
ofcrannies, and they connect with 4-pin Molex
plugs; there are usually a few of these going
spare inside your average PC.
They arent the only bargain options for
lighting your PC though.
Modders will appreciate
Xebecs light strips (10,
www.scan.co.uk). These
flexible strips are dotted
with 15 LEDs, and are
perfect for lining an
enclosure, and they look
Stocking fillers
These presents will put smiles on faces without
emptying your bank account
I
t can be difficult to find presents when
youre a gamer or PC enthusiast, or if
youre buying for one. More often than
not, they already have the latest kit and,
with high-end gear costing hundreds of
pounds, its often hardly budget-friendly
either. TheCustom PCChristmas wish list
is the perfect solution, as its stacked full of
products to suit every taste and budget.
Whether youre after cut-price PC
mods, the latest board games or
merchandise from your favourite
franchises, weve got you covered.
Weveeven rounded up some of the
worlds mostextravagantgeek-related
gifts too our address is at the front of the
magazine, okay?
w
p
e
Struggling for ideas on your Christmas list, or dont know what to buy
for some of your similarly minded friends? Have no fear: our guide has gifts to
please every geeky pocket, from PC mods and components to board games,
merchandise, gadgets and toys
Custom PC

S
CHRISTMAS WISH LIST
109 February 2014
especially good if your PCs case has a
window. Like the Phobya lights, theyre
available in green, blue, red and white, and
theyre waterproof too.
Weve been recommending the Zalman
FanMate 2 (3, www.quietpc.com) for
years, but its still a perfect stocking filler. Its
a variable resistor inside a small black box,
and it can be used to reduce the speed
and therefore the noise from a troublesome
PC fan. It also has an adhesive strip, so it can
be stuck anywhere on the inside or outside of
your case.
The Aerocool F6XT (15, www.
overclockers.co.uk) is a little more expensive,
but its an effective and good-looking option
for fan management. Up to six case fans can
be individually set to three different speeds,
and its LEDs can be set to two different
colours. Fans connect using Molex plugs,
andthe unit fits inside a 5.25in bay.
It isnt Christmas without a house full of
sweet treats, so why not invest in these
Dinosaur cookie cutters (7, www.red5.
co.uk)? Four different dinosaurs are
available including a stegosaurus, t-rex, a
brontosaurus (pretend its a diplodocus if you
feel your inner pedant bubbling over) and a
triceratops. The kits include parts that slot
together to create 3D treats, a cut above your
standard biscuits.
Other stocking fillers are just as much
fun.Take this DIY Synth Kit (15, www.
technologywillsaveus.org), which is perfect
for prog rock fans, or anyone whos keen on
building parts using breadboards and
jumpers. This kit includes an integrated
circuit, jumper wires, a breadboard and a
speaker; www.technologywillsaveus.org
sells other kits too a basic Arduino will set
you back 26, and there are kits to make DIY
speakers, handheld games consoles and
solar-powered plant monitoring machines.
Fans of fantasy mega-hit
Game of Thrones will want to get
their hands on the 2014
Calendar (9, http://
store.hbouk.com). Its
packed with high-quality
images of your favourite
characters and, at less
than 10, theres no iron
price to pay. Its a great
gift, even if your friends
abit of a Lannister.
A
high-quality keyboard is vital, and the
award-winning Corsair Vengeance K70
(100, www.overclockers.co.uk) is the perfect
gift for agamer whose desk needs an
upgrade. Its amechanical marvel that strikes
a great balance between price and
performance, thanks to superb build quality
and great typing action.
That isnt the only present thats great
forPC enthusiasts. The NZXT Sentry LXE
(48, www.scan.co.uk) is a fan controller
taken to the next level. The Sentry is a
5.27intouch-screen that sits on your desk to
provide five-channel fan control, temperature
information, alarms and, of course, the time
and date.
Amazons Kindles are great Christmas
choices for avid readers too. The standard
Kindle (69, www.amazon.co.uk) has a great
e-ink screen that you can still read in direct
sunlight, while the Kindle Paperwhite (109,
www.amazon.co.uk) has a high-contrast
screen that further replicates the white
colour of paper, again with an e-ink
display, while offering a subtle
backlight for reading in low-light
conditions.
Many PC games are best played with a
controller, and Microsofts Xbox 360 pad is one
If you need to entertain guests on
Christmas day, try The Resistance (17,
www.365games.co.uk). Its a stunning card
game of social deduction, in which up to
ten people play government agents and
spies. While carrying out missions or
sabotaging the enemy, you have to figure
out who is on which team.
If thats too friendly for your tastes, try Cards
Against Humanity (20, www.
wonderlandgifts.co.uk). Its a
party game for horrible people in
which you answer tricky questions
with the most despicable
answers possible. The retail
version uses high-quality cards,
but the game is available under a
Creative Commons licence, so
you can print your own copy too.
Main presents
These gifts will put a smile on the face of any
gamer or PC enthusiast, while putting you in
their good books for months to come
110
110 February 2014
of the best. If you dont want a standard pad,
though, shell out on an Evil Controller ($70,
www.evilcontrollers.com). These stunning
peripherals are sold in over 100 modded and
themed designs, and its controller
creator allows for true
personalisation. The firm also
now sells PS4 and Xbox One
pads that start at $90 (56).
Some of this years best
games could take pride of place
beneath the Christmas tree
alongside a new pad too.
Stunning FPS BioShock Infinite,
online shooter Battlefield 4 and
high-seas adventure Assassins
Creed IV: Black Flag all cost
between 20 and 35 from www.
amazon.co.uk. Or, if you want to
buy your gaming friends some
merchandise rather than a game, you could
get some Portal bookends (22, www.
forbiddenplanet.co.uk), which feature the
games familiar stick figure diving between
orange and blue portals. Meanwhile, the lush
Art of Blizzard Entertainment book (44,
www.forbiddenplanet.co.uk), is an epic
hardback filled with stunning concept art.
Meanwhile, you wont feel the cold with a
pair of hairy Hobbit slippers (20, www.
firebox.com). And, if youre a Game of Thrones
fan who fancies adding a little Targaryen class
to your home, try the Game of Thrones
replica dragon eggs (65, http://store.
hbouk.com), which are housed in a stunning
display case given enough fire, they might
even hatch!
If you or your pal might like to create your
own legend, rather than buying something
from an existing franchise, try these
personalised superhero action figures
(80,www.firebox.com). You choose a body
(available examples include Captain America,
Catwoman, Thor and Wonder Woman), send
aphoto and 3D printing is then used to create
your bespoke superhero.
Android: Netrunner (27, www.365games.
co.uk) is a sci-fi card game for two
players that pits huge
corporations against subversive
lone operatives; the former tries
to advance its evil, capitalist
agenda, and the lattertry to hack
these mightycompanies.
Meanwhile, Eclipse (50,
www.play.com) is equally
impressive. Its a deep, involving
sci-fi game in which you explore
space, develop worlds and battle
enemies, using a modular
board that dramatically
changes the game.
Eclipse can take
quite a long time to play,
though, so the iKettle (100,
www.firebox.com) is the ideal
partner. Its a simple,
ingenious concept a kettle
controlled from your
g g y
smartphone. Its one-touch operation means
that it can be boiled from anywhere in the
house and, once its boiled, anoption is
available to maintain the waters temperature.
It supports four temperatures, and has an
alarm that can wake you and ask if youd like
the kettle boiled.
Finally, theres plenty of ideas for big kids.
Doctor Who fans will want to grab the Sonic
Screwdriver universal remote control (60,
www.forbiddenplanet.co.uk), which will be
perfect for turning off the Queens speech and
putting on the Doctor instead. And we cant
ignore Lego when stunning sets have been
released this year: the Back to the Future
Delorean (35, www.argos.co.uk)
includes a flux capacitor, two
licence plates and Marty McFly
and Doc Brown figures.
Also, the Unexpected
Gathering set (55, www.
iwantoneofthose.com) is a
superb recreation of Bilbos
hobbit-hole that has six figures
Special presents
If you have a generous family, a lottery win
or cash to burn on a special person,
check out these elite present ideas
I
f the gamer in your life is still using a rickety
old chair, try the Gioteck RC-5 (143, www.
argos.co.uk), which is designed for gaming. It
features rumble motors and stereo speakers,
so youll feel and hear every moment of action.
Plus, as well as being comfortable, it folds up
for transportation perfect for LAN parties or
visiting friends.
We know this is a PC magazine, but keen
gamers will have noticed a couple of small
releases this year those pesky consoles.
Buying one of these all-seeing entertainment
CHRISTMAS WISH LIST
111 February 2014
hubs can transform your living room: Sonys
PS4 (349, www.amazon.co.uk) is available in
bundles that include exclusive games such as
Killzone: Shadow Fall.
Likewise, Nintendos 3DS XL
(140, www.amazon.co.uk) is a
fantastic portable gaming
device with decent controls
the new Zelda game, A
Link Between Worlds, and
the brilliant turn-based
strategy game, Fire
Emblem: Awakening, will
offer plenty of gaming
entertainment on the
move, or in bed for that
matter. Just be warned
that youll need to buy a
charger as well, as there
isnt one in the box.
Back to the PC goodies, one of our favourite
cases is the BitFenix Prodigy (70, www.
overclockers.co.uk). Its designed for mini-
ITX motherboards, but dont let that fool you:
this compact chassis still has enough room
for huge graphics cards, beefy PSUs and
high-end storage setups. Its
also available in a range of
colours, and its one of the
best-looking enclosures
around. Then theres the top
graphics card right now;
Nvidias GeForce GTX 780
Ti (560, www.scan.co.uk)
has enough grunt to play
games on 4K screens and
across multiple monitors.
If the PC gamer in your
life already has a high-
end graphics card and
you really want to spoil them
this Christmas then a new monitor can
make a huge difference. The ViewSonic
VP2770-LED (468, www.ebuyer.co.uk) is
afantastic 27in IPS panel with a 2,560 x 1,440
resolution that makes games look
punchy and crisp. Or, if that
huge resolution just isnt
bigenough, try the Asus
PQ321QE (2,880, www.scan.
co.uk). Its one of the first 4K
screens to market, and its
mighty 3,840 x 2,160
resolution makes the latest
games look breathtaking.
Tablets are also huge right
now, and two products are
ahead of the rest. If youre
after a small, affordable
device, Googles fantastic new
Nexus 7 (199, http://play.
google.com/store) offers a stunning 1,920 x
1,080 IPS screen, good speakers, the latest
version of Android and enough power to make
games fly. If youre after a bigger tablet, the
iPad Air (399, www.apple.com/uk) is the
best bet thanks to its gorgeous design,
fantastic display and broad app selection.
Our final two presents are reserved for
those with Branson-style bank accounts.
Ifyoure into racing games, check out the
FMCGInternational full-size F1 simulator
(90,000, www.costco.co.uk). Its the closest
most of us will get to beating Sebastian Vettel,
with three screens, a PC powered by a trio of
high-end graphics cards and 5.1 surround
speakers. Its encased in a stunning F1-style
chassis, which is made from carbon fibre,
magnesium alloy and composite materials.
Our final choice is the wallet-busting
Emperor 200 gaming chair ($49,000,
www.mwelab.com thats around 30,253
inUK money). It looks like it should be on the
International Space Station and is described
by its manufacturers as a luxury piece of art.
Its easy to see why: it has three 27in screens,
atouch-screen control centre powered by
Android and an electric-powered seat made
from Italian leather. It even features light
therapy and air filtration systems. The 5.1
sound system is from Bose, the and the whole
lot weighs a cool 224kg.
3DS XL
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112 February 2014
HTTP://FORUMS.BIT-TECH.NET
competition
for the win!
O
ur big-hearted pals at Mad Catz have
verykindly offered up a top-end Strike 7
keyboard, complete with a touch-screen, for
one lucky Custom PC reader. The Venom
touch-screen clips into the top of the main
keyboard, sporting a trio of buttons on the
right to switch between three profiles, while
its left edge houses volume controls. It also
displays a dozen icons that open a selection of
different apps from a TeamSpeak client and
notepad to a clock, PC application launcher
and more.
Meanwhile, the keyboard comes in
modular chunks that you can choose to attach
how you please, using braided black and red
cables used to hook up the sections. Its
covered with exposed metal and hexagonal
patterns, and it feels strong too, as each
section is reinforced with metal. The
keyboards versatility also extends to the
software. There are 24 programmable
buttons that can be used across three
profiles,and each macro supports delayed
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givencustomised icons on the touch-screen.
To be in with a chance of winning this
premium keyboard, answer this question.
WIN! A Mad Catz Strike 7 keyboard
WORTH 230
Q
Email your answer to
competition@custompcmag.org.uk,
with Mad Catz Competition 125 in the Subject line.
Closing date 16 January, 2013.
See www.dennis.co.uk/comp/terms for the full competition rules.
Which key combination takes you straight to the
Task Manager in Windows 7?
a) Ctrl-Alt-Del b) Windows key-Tab c) Ctrl-Shift-Esc
WINNERS!
The winner of the Razer League of Legends mouse was Simon Wallis, who correctly answered that MOBA stands for
multiplayer online battle arena. 0ongratulations, 5imon! - The winner oI the Be 0uiet! bundle was John McCormick, who
correctly stated that TDP stands for thermal design power. Enjoy your new hardware, John!
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CPC: What specs did you choose, and why?
Hans: This beast of a machine needed to
perform tasks such as heavy SQL database
planning, but it also needed to handle serious
gaming. Also, one of the main criteria was
that it was quiet. I choose a wide variety of
water-cooling equipment to suit these needs;
lots of fans would have to spin very slowly, and
I needed a fairly powerful controller to adjust
the fan speeds according to the temperatures
of the loops.
CPC: What other mods have you built?
Hans: I've built quite a few, but the most
popular were my PC-Beto build and Project
M8, which has also been featured in Custom
PC (see Issue 115, p106). PC-Beto was my
first serious case mod, and I learned a great
deal about water cooling and modding in
general from building it. The next one, Project
M8, was my first experience with CaseLabs
cases. I used a 3D printer for it and made
custom wire holders for every single wire in
the build. I try not to repeat myself where
possible though; I prefer to differentiate my
new work from previous builds, and other
people's builds. This is one of the main
reasons why there are some large differences
in the style and materials used in my builds.
114 February 2014
CPC: What was the original
inspiration for Project N.V.?
Hans: I was actually looking at taking
a break from modding, but was
approached by someone who wanted a PC
that was a little out of the ordinary. He asked
me if Icould build him one that would fit into
an office environment, but still look like
nothing else. He'd already chosen a
CaseLabs TH10 case, which is an absolute
monster, so I knew I'd have plenty of space.
Ialso knew that I would have to put some
serious water-cooling into the case to fill it.
Luckily, Bitspower, EK and Corsair helped
bysponsoring some parts for the build, so
Icould put even more hardware into it.
CPC: Where does the name come from?
Hans: The name comes from the component
list. It was going to be a huge build, and I
wanted people to be envious of the hardware
and custom work inside it, so the project
name became N.V.
Your chance to get involved in Custom PC
meet thy
maker
Name Hans Peder Sahl
Age 25
Occupation Writing a bachelor project,
in cooperation with SteelSeries
Location Odense, Denmark
Main uses for PC Gaming, video and
image editing, movies, music
Likes Being with friends and family,
diving and mountain biking
Dislikes: Doing the dishes
Determined to make
a monstrous PC that
would be the envy of
any office, Hans Peder
Sahl filled this CaseLabs
TH10 case with some
serious custom water-
cooling hardware
115 February 2014
CPC: What materials did you use, and how
did you get the custom parts fabricated?
Hans: I started out wanting to use POM
(polyoxymethylene , or acetal) for the build, as
I knew that was very durable. However, I also
used POM in my previous build, so I wanted to
try something new. I've always appreciated
amazing work with clear acrylic, so I thought
I'd give that a try.
I was also intrigued by the idea of having
atransparent reservoir, which would be
completely clear except for the fluid. This led
to the idea of making a reservoir where you
116
ENTER YOUR OWN PC AT HTTP://FORUMS.BIT-TECH.NET
FULL SYSTEM SPECS
CPU Intel Core i7-3930K
GPU 3 x EVGA GeForce GTX 680 FTW
Storage 2 x 256GB Samsung 840 SSDs in RAID 0, 2 x Western
Digital Red 2TB in RAID 0
Memory 64GB 1,866MHz Corsair Dominator GT
Motherboard ASRock Extreme11
PSU Corsair AX1200i
Case CaseLabs TH10
Extras Asus Xonar Phoebus sound card, LG blu-ray drive
Cooling 3 x XSPX RC 480 radiators, 4 x Aqua Computer D5
pumps with USB and Aquabus interface, Aqua Computer
D5 pump adaptors, custom reservoir, 20 x Corsair fans,
EK Supreme CPU waterblock, 3 x EKWB EK-FC680 GPU
waterblocks, MIPS AE11 waterblock, 2 x EKWB EK-RAM
Dominator X4 Nickel CSQ, E22 straight acrylic tubing,
Bitspower Matt Black fittings
Monitoring 2 x AquaComputer Aquaero 5 XT, 3 x
AquaComputer Power Adjust USB Ultra, 2 x AquaComputer
flow sensors
CPC: What difficulties did you come across,
and how did you solve them?
Hans: The biggest difficulty was probably just
working with the sheer amount of hardware.
The amount of cabling that had to be routed,
and tubing that had to be mounted, was
ludicrous. This was one of the reasons why
Isimplified the water cooling on the
motherboard. Normally, you see people
connecting the different blocks with fittings
ortubing, but instead, I decided to think about
how to connect all the components on the
motherboard with hardly any tubing.
could see both fluids intersect, which later on
became a huge chunk of work.
I knew that the small CNC machine I had
available couldn't cut the parts, so I talked to
Nate George from www.e22.biz about cutting
the designs in his workshop, and luckily he
agreed to try it out. So, after countless nights
drawing the designs, I mailed them to him,
and hoped they would turn out well. Of
course, the parts were fantastic. With much
patience, I then put all the O-rings in place,
and got the rest of the equipment mounted.
CPC: What tools and machinery did you use?
Hans: Nate George did most of the machine
work, so most of my time was spent using
SEE
THE FULL
N.V project log at
http://tinyurl.com/
ProjectNV
116 February 2014
CAD programs to draw up the design files. To
get the precise measurements, I had to go
over the components with a calliper around
30times!
I knew that the slightest offset could create
a leak in the water-cooling system, so all the
parts had to fit tightly together. Working with
the acrylic parts I received from Nate was also
quite a nerve-wracking process. I knew that
acrylic isn't as durable asPOM, so I had to be
careful not to break anything.
CPC: What interest has Project N.V.
attracted so far?
Hans: I decided to make a video of me filling
up the loops in the build, which seems to have
become quite popular on YouTube it's
currently had around 75,000 views. This was
my first serious video of a finished mod, but
itdefinitely won't be the last. I also created
apage on Facebook, which seems to be a
must-have for every modder today, as it
makes it very easy to share progress and
thoughts. You can find this page via my
website at www.hps.dk
CPC: How long did it take you to complete
Project N.V.?
Hans: I started in late January 2013 right after
my exams, and finished the build in late July,
so it was a much quicker process than my
previous two projects, which both took almost
two years to complete.
Still, I hope to be able to complete the next
build a little faster; over half a year is still a
long time to take on a project.
CPC: What have you learned from the build
process?
Hans: I've learned a lot about custom-
making parts with acrylic. Designing the
water-channel plates to function as well
asmaking them look good was a huge
challenge, and I spent a huge amount of
timein my 3D program playing around with
different designs and setups.
However, coming up with ideas for the
different parts, and making them unique, was
probably the most fun aspect of the project.
You always learn about how your mind thinks
BEAWINNER!
To enter your machine for possible inclusion in Readers
Drives, your mod needs to be fully working and, ideally,
finished based in the UK. Simply log on to www.bit-tech.net and head over to the forums. Once
youre there, post a write-up of your mod, along with some pics, in the Project Logs forum. Make
sure you read the relevant rules and advice sticky threads before you post. The best entrant each
month will be featured here, where well print your photos of your project and also interview you
about the build process. Fame isnt the only prize; youll also get your hands on a fabulous
selection of prizes see the opposite page for details.
and works when forcing it to work overtime,
and this was particularly true when I was
getting that last sketch done, and playing with
different render materials to see which colour
would fit the best.
CPC: Are you happy with the end result, and
is there anything you'd do differently if you
built it again?
Hans: I'm quite happy with the result,
although the case is a tad too big for my liking.
When looking into the case, I still feel it looks
alittle empty, but any hardware would look
tiny when put into this monster case it's
simply like putting a mini-ITX motherboard
into a Corsair 900D case. If I was doing it
again, I might make a better system for the
cables, but I'm generally satisfied with
everything in it. The cooling works perfectly,
there are no leaks and the hardware will be
able to handle anything for a long time.
HTTP://FORUMS.BIT-TECH.NET
The Phobya modding kit is designed with the modder in mind, offering
great value for money and quality products. The kit includes Nano-G
12 Silent Waterproof 1,500rpm multi-option fans, which use
an innovative fan-blade design. As standard, the
fans include braided black cables to keep
your case looking as neat as possible. The
fans are also supplied with a special cable
that lets you run the fan at 5V rather than
12V, reducing the noise emitted in order to
help you to build a silent system.
The kit also includes the
60cmPhobya 3-pin Molex to
4x 3-pin Molex Y-cable. This pre-
braided extension cable gives you extra routeing options in your case,
and it also enables you to run up to four fans from one compatible
motherboard header. Meanwhile, the Phobya SATA 3 cables included
in the kit offer the same great quality braiding as the
rest of the Phobya range, while also
securing your connection with latched
connectors. As well as this, the kit
includes the Phobya SlimGuide
Controller, which gives you the
option to vary the speed of other
fans in your case, while the Phobya
TwinLEDs let you shine a light on
your mods.
Weve teamed up with some of the worlds leading PC manufacturers and retailers to offer this great
range of prizes to each lucky Readers Drives winner. If your creation is featured in the magazine then
youll walk away with all of the prizes listed on this page, so get in your entries!
CORSAIR GRAPHITE SERIES 230T CASE
AND RM 550W MODULAR POWER SUPPLY
Total value 150 inc VAT Manufacturer www.corsair.com
Corsair believes that a great PC starts with a great case. The
Corsair Graphite Series 230T is a compact expression of
this core philosophy. With stylish looks and a choice
of three different colours, it packs in a remarkable
number of features to provide builders with tonnes
of room for expansion and amazing cooling
potential. Like all Corsair cases, its built using the
finest materials and finished to the highest
standards, so it will withstand several years of
upgrades. Plus, to make sure it stand outs from the
crowd, the 230T features Corsairs new Air Series
LED high-airflow fans, providing distinctive lighting
with low-noise, high-airflow cooling.
Just as a quality case is essential to building a
quality PC, a high-performance, a high-quality power
supply is also a vital ingredient. The all new RM series
has been built from the ground-up to deliver
unmatched reliability alongside 80Plus Gold efficiency,
and all with the absolute minimum of noise. It uses
specially optimised quality parts to reduce sound at the
component level, and it's completely silent below 40 per cent load, thanks to its Zero RPM
fan mode. Its also fully modular, allowing for the maximum amount of flexibility during
installation. With a Corsair Graphite 230T case and an RM 550W Modular power supply at
the heart of your build, youll have the foundations for a truly awesome gaming machine.

PHOBYA MODDING KIT
Value 50 inc VAT Manufacturer www.phobya.com, www.aqua-tuning.co.uk
117 February 2014
MAYHEMS COOLANT
AND DYES
Value 50 inc VAT
Manufacturer www.mayhems.co.uk
Cooling performance is only one part of the equation
when it comes to kitting out your rig with custom
water-cooling gear. The other major bonus is that all
those tubes and gleaming fittings just make your PC
look damn sexy, and they look even better when they're
pumped full of fancy coloured coolant. As such, we're
particularly pleased to have the folks at Mayhems now
on board with Readers' Drives; they're currently
offering two 1-litre bottles of Mayhems' Pastel Ice
White coolant, along with a selection of five dyes, so
you can choose the colour that best complements your
PC. Check out the blue coolant in our own mini PC mod
on the cover of Issue 109 for an example of what's
possible with some Mayhems coloured coolant.
e. The
of
118 February 2014
CONSIDER USING PRIMER
If you intend to keep the coating afterwards then youll
need to use PlastiDips primer as well. This provides a
better surface to which the paint can adhere, resulting
in a better finish. However, it cant be pulled off like the
PlastiDip coating itself. Head to the next guide (p120) to
find out how to apply it.
USE A SPRAY-CAN TRIGGER
PlastiDip cans use identical collars and nozzles to
normal spray cans. As such, standard spray triggers
can be used to make spraying a little easier. Its well
worth investing in one if you plan to spray a large case.
applY PlastiDip
to Your case
CHOOSE YOUR COLOURS
PlastiDip is available in a variety of different colours,
but all of them end up with a matt finish by default. If
you want a glossy finish, youll need to apply one of
PlastiDips gloss coats, which you apply over the first
coat to give a lacquered finish.
SELECT THE RIGHT PAINTS
Youll need two cans of colour coat to cover an average
PC tower three if you also intend to coat the insides.
For temporary finishes, you just need the colour coat,
which is available in standard colours or extra-vivid
Blaze colours. PlastiDip also sells a spray called
Metalizer, which adds a silver or gold metal flake effect.
n a room full of nondescript black
boxes, even adding lights and
water cooling isnt always enough
to make your PC stand out from
the crowd. Painting your case is one of the
best ways to add a truly customised finish to
your PC, and it can make an otherwise bland
case look fantastic too. Its also a great way to
breathe new life into an old, tired case that
otherwise looks a little the worse for wear
painting it can dispose of scratches and dents
too, and even add pizzazz to plastic-laden
cases. In this guide, well show you how to do
itusing PlastiDip (available from www.
plastidip.co.uk).
This brand of spray paint can be applied just
like regular paint using a spray can. However,
the plastic-based paint adheres to nearly any
surface with little need for sanding and
priming. Amazingly, it just peels off, so if you
just want a flashy paint job for a weekend LAN
party, you can simply pull it off when you get
home, and it wont leave any trace behind. For
this reason, its also massively popular with
car enthusiasts looking for a temporary, but
outlandish, colour coat.
By comparison, spraying your case with
standard spray paint is quite an involved
process, requiring sanding, cleaning, priming,
more sanding and then dealing with poor
finishes and lacquer. If the end result isnt
upto scratch, removing the paint can be
nightmarish, as spraying over it is rarely an
option. PlastiDip gives you an easy route
around these problems. Lets show you how
its done.
Want to give your PC a new look for a LAN party?
Antony Leather shows you how to use PlastiDip
HTTP://FORUMS.BIT-TECH.NET
119 February 2014
CLEAN THE CASE
Clean the case using soapy water to remove any dust or grime that could cause the
paint to lift or form bubbles. In general, you dont need to worry about sanding any
scrapes or scratches before applying PlastiDip.
PEEL OFF POORLY FINISHED SECTI ONS
If the paint has run, or if youve otherwise messed up the paint job, simply peel off the
PlastiDip coating and start again. This is much easier than repairing spray point jobs,
which would need white spirit and create lots of mess.
APPLY MAIN COAT
PlastiDip is applied similarly to normal spray paint, although we find that its better to
spray PlastiDip a little more generously. However, the paint still has a tendency to run,
so be sure not to apply too much, and leave each coat to dry. You shouldnt need more
than two or three coats in total.
MASK UP
If you need to mask up areas to create patterns, you can apply edging tape and
masking tape in the usual way. However, as PlastiDip forms a strong elastic coating,
you cant allow it to dry before you remove the masking. Youll also need to mask any
power and reset buttons, and remove any fittings that you dont want painted.
ALLOW TO DRY
PlastiDip emits less in the way of fumes and takes less time to dry than standard
spray paint. However, its best to leave it to dry for a few hours before reassembling
your PC, in order to prevent the finish from being dented or scratched.
REMOVE MASKING
Youll need to remove any masking on flat areas before the paint dries. Otherwise,
when you remove it, the PlastiDip coating can tear, taking unmasked areas with it. For
this reason, its best to apply more liberal coatings in these areas so that you can apply
two coats quickly, then remove the masking.
120 February 2014
DE-RI VET CASE
With some cases, you might get away with simply
spraying through each side-panel space, but youll
always get better results if you completely dismantle
the case instead. Youll need to drill out the rivets and
use a rivet gun later to reassemble it. See Issue 110,
p114 for a full guide to de-riveting and dismantling
your case.
INSPECT FOR EASIER SPRAYING
We can easily access all the insides of our cube case
due to its design, so we didnt really need to de-rivet
the entire case. Instead, we only removed the drive
mounts and de-riveted the top 5.25in bay, which would
otherwise obstruct the spray can.
PlastiDip sprays
www.plastidip.co.uk
Foam brushes
www.plastidip.co.uk
Masking tape
Most hardware stores
Scalpel
Most hardware stores
Rivets and rivet gun
Most hardware stores
applY PlastiDip
primer & effects
DISMANTLE CASE
Before you spray the inside of your case, remove any
screw-fitted hard disk cages, fans and filters. These are
easier to spray separately, and youll achieve a much
better finish as a result.
REMOVE BUTTONS AND PORTS
Thankfully, many cases allow you to remove buttons
and ports from your case these days, but if not, youll
need to mask them with masking tape. This will make
your life much easier when it comes to finishing off the
details of your case.
lastiDip isnt just available in a
range of colours; you can add
gloss and metallic finishes too.
Inthe previous guide (see p118),
we applied a single paint job to a practically
unprepared case. This method is great for
quickly and easily getting a temporary finish
thats simple to remove. In this guide, though,
we look at applying a permanent finish, as well
as coating the inside of your case.
Not only will this make your cases insides
look great, but PlastiDip is also similar to a
rubber coating, so it has sound-absorbing
properties. Our method involves dismantling
the case and drilling out the rivets that hold
the panels together. This allows you to spray
each section separately for a better finish. To
apply a permanent coat, well use PlastiDips
primer as well as its Metalizer and Glossifier
coats to create a metallic, glossy finish.
You dont have to use a standard PlastiDip colour. Antony Leather shows
you how to apply PlastiDip Primer, Blaze colours, Metalizer and Glossifier
P
HTTP://FORUMS.BIT-TECH.NET
121 February 2014
CLEAN CASE
Whenever youre spraying a case, its essential to clean all the surfaces. This can
remove grime and dirt that can cause the paint to lift. Even if your case is fresh out of
the box, it can still have some residue left over from the manufacturing process that
can affect the paints ability to adhere.
APPLY BLAZE COAT
Now go ahead and apply the colour coat. Weve opted for PlastiDips Blaze purple.
Build it up in three or four layers, or until you cant see the white undercoat any more.
Leave each coat to dry before you apply the next. If any of the coat gets damaged or
doesnt look perfect, you may well be able to peel it off and start again.
ALLOW PRIMER TO DRY
PlastiDip primer isnt like your average spray paint primer. While brushing it onto
your surface results in a fairly thick coat, it levels out to a smooth, glossy finish. It
looks like it will take ages to dry but in fact it only takes about half an hour. Wait for it to
dry before applying the undercoat.
APPLY PRIMER
The primer is applied using foam brushes (available from www.plastidip.co.uk) and
gives PlastiDip paint better adhesion. For this reason, it will be harder to peel off
afterwards, but the finish will last much longer. Go ahead and apply the primer to all
the sections youll be painting, using a foam brush.
APPLY METALI ZER
The Metalizer spray applies a translucent coat filled with microscopic metal flakes.
The more you apply, the greater the effect, but remember that the gloss coat will
enhance it further, and applying too much can make the finish look garish. A couple of
coats is enough, especially on darker colours, and it will dry within 20 minutes.
APPLY UNDERCOAT
If your case is black, apply a white undercoat of PlastiDip in order to make a light top
colour look more vibrant. This is especially the case if, as we did, you use a bright
Blaze colour. Apply the PlastiDip using a spray-can trigger, and apply thin coats until
the black main coat is covered.
122
HTTP://FORUMS.BIT-TECH.NET
122 February 2014
APPLY GLOSSIFIER
The Glossifier works in the same way as lacquer, and its made specially to work with
PlastiDip, creating a shiny, glossy coat over the matte finish of stock PlastiDip paint. It
also provides a hard layer to protect the colour coat. Apply it fairly liberally in several
coats, allowing each to dry thoroughly in between each coat.
RE-RI VET CASE
The rivet gun pulls on the thin tail end to compress the head and then clips it off. You
need to use the correct rivet-gun head size for your rivets most guns include a
selection of popular size heads. Go ahead and re-rivet the case, holding each section
together tightly.
ALLOW TO DRY
The Glossifier will need 24 hours to dry properly, and its essential to leave the
sections to dry for this time before you reassemble the case. Scratching or denting
the finish will be very easy when youre riveting and screwing the case back together.
REASSEMBLE CASE
The final task is to reassemble all the other fittings you removed from the case, such
as hard disk mounts, fans, filters and grilles. Take care with this, especially if the paint
has only recently dried, as even fully hardened paint can be susceptible to scratching.

TEST-FI T RI VETS
Re-riveting your case is very easy you just need the correct size of rivets. Theyre
sized by their heads, which are inserted into the holes in the case and squeezed
together using a rivet gun. Measure the hole sizes to ascertain what size of rivets you
need, and then double check by passing the rivet head into the hole.
CUT OUT BUTTONS AND HOLE SECTI ONS
Use a scalpel to trim round smaller sections, such as buttons and ports that you
werent able to remove. The scalpel will provide a clean cut, and eliminate the risk of
the paint tearing if you peel it off.
11
13
15
12
14
16
124 February 2014
amount of ports Intel can cram onto them.
Finally,I see that lots of people wish to
doaway with optical discs, but with the
welcome inclusion of a SATA port and
matching power port on the Haswell NUC,
Iwant to watch blu-rays andimport newly
purchased CDs on a regular basis. Have you
come across any cases that offer the ability
to hook up a slimline optical drive? Ive only
found ones that offer space for a 2.5in SSD
and I really dont want to have an external
USB blu-ray drive!
Chris Jones
Ben replies: Ill take each of your points in
turn. Firstly, be careful with the PCI-E SSD.
Im not familiar with the SanDisk drive you
mention, but I do know that, while PCI-E
and mSATA connections look the same,
Letters
Send your feedback and correspondence to
letters@custompcmag.org.uk
they have different pin-outs theres no
guarantee the drive would work. I suspect
the drive you found is an mSATA SSD thats
been mislabelled by a retailer, but Im
happy to be proved wrong.
Secondly, in theory, I love the potential
ofThunderbolt for all the reasons you
mention above, and its clearly a winner
inApple circles. Its only problem is that
hardly anything in the enthusiast PC world
uses it at the moment, which is why we
rarely note when its been excluded.
Finally, in terms of storage, if youre not
going to go down the NAS route (and you
know Im going to say this, but you really
should get a NAS!), then your only other
storage options are to get a case with room
for a 2.5in SSD, or to use an external USB
hard drive. I dont know of a NUC case with
room for a slimline optical drive Im afraid
those drives are wider than most NUC
cases. Given that youre not adverse to a
machine thats large enough to house an
optical drive, though, and considering your
other needs, Id build a small mini-ITX
machine, rather than a NUC, which will
give you the flexibility you need.
4K OMISSI ONS
I just read the 4K investigation article in your
December issue, and was flabbergasted by
the omissions. 4K has been available for
over a year in the USA, and I daresay in the
UK too. When I heard about it I was sceptical
and ignored it. After a year or so I checked it
out again: just go to Amazon and search for
Seiki 4K. I did that, read the reviews and
promptly jumped on the bandwagon. Im a
developer, so I dont play games at all, but I
daresay the TV can be used thusly if desired.
Just read the reviews; you could also try
Tiger Direct and Beach Camera.
NI P AND NUC
Your article in Issue 124 about
Intelsvarious NUCs has left me
drooling about the possibilities of
acompletely silent HTPC, but I wondered
ifyou could mull over the following:
The largest of the mSATA drives reviewed
was a 256GB drive; not bad, of course, but I
tend to need more for everything I store. I
certainly dont want to use the half-height
PCI-E slot for wireless, so I started looking
around the Web. I soon found a SanDisk
64GB half-height PCI-ESSD. Can you think
of any reasons why I shouldnt do this, or
why it wouldnt work? Before you go down
the NAS route, I neither have one nor the
intention to get one.
I also started thinking about a comment
you made: Last years NUC boards suffered
from odd connection options. I really cant
understand why, in general, Custom PC
seems so unenthusiastic about
Thunderbolt. The idea of having multi-
channel audio, HD video and data all going
down one stupidly fast connection seems
like a no-brainer to me. I can see so many
positives to the technology: daisy-chaining
devices means fewer connectors needed on
each device, so they can either be smaller
orinclude more of other connector types.
Also, you could use the monitor as an easily
reachable USB hub without yet another
cable dangling down the back of the desk.
Plus, of course, the transfer speeds alone
are enough of a reason to use it alone.
Yet I feel that Thunderbolt is almost a
swear word in our beloved magazine
motherboards that you review seldom
feature it, plus it seems like you never really
delve into its possibilities, such as external
PCI-E housings. NUCs would be perfect
forThunderbolt, as theres a limit to the
In Issue 123, we
forgot to give
creditto Joshua
Willingham, who
took the great
photos of Drew
Bierleins TARDIS PC in
Readers Drives, on p114.
CreDit where
it

s Due
PCI-E and mSATA connectors look the same, but they
have different pin-outs
125 February 2014
FEEDBACK
Im astounded by the quality. I upgraded
from an Apple 30in Cinema display, and this
essentially doubles the desktop real estate.
Furthermore, costs were minimal $700 for
the TV and $120 for a Radeon 7790 card, so
forget those silly prices.
Of course, there are a few minus points.
As its a TV, there are some problems with
desktop resizing when waking from Sleep
mode.You need to mask HDMI pin 19, and
the TV likes to switch off a few hours after its
been turned on too.
Oh, and UHD is only available at 30Hz.
Despite these issues, I think its as good as
the Asus display mentioned in the article
characters would be smaller (I have the 39in
model), but I expect that isnt too much of a
problem for gaming.
The article also totally misses the real
value of 4K and 8K displays. It isnt to provide
better viewing from a distance, but quite the
opposite. Imagine being up close to an 8K
60in TV it would fill almost all your field
ofview, and that alone provides realism.
However, there is a problem with being up
close to a flat display: eye distortion at the
extremities, hence the upcoming
development of curved TVs.
In conclusion, your article shortchanged
your readers; 4K is available now and
incredibly cheaply too.
Bik Toor
Antony replies: We were surprised to
readabout a 4K TV being available so
cheaply in the USA unfortunately, that
model doesnt appear to be available here
(we focused on UK prices and availability in
the article). We were mainly concerned
with 4K PC monitors and gaming too, and
at the moment, there is only a handful of
retailers selling very limited quantities of
especially as Nvidias Surround technology
and AMDs EyeFinity predate 4K screens by
several years.
Theres also the issue that most PC
graphics cards are currently only able to
output 4K resolution via several HDMI
ports as many lack more than one, the
only option is to use a DisplayPort
connector, which most 4K TVs currently
lack. Also, as our tests showed, you not
only have to consider the cost of the screen,
but also the cost of the PC to run the
games, and this is likely to add around
850on top of the screen price. Any less,
and the latest games such as Crysis 3 and
Battlefield 4 simply wouldnt be playable.
So, for the moment, in the UK at least, 4K
PC gaming remains very expensive.
monitors, which all retail for 3,000 or
more. As for 4K TV screens, we dont really
consider these to be usable as PC monitors
at least not the 50in models that are
available over here at the moment.
A 30in screen is just about okay to have
on your desk a few feet in front of
you, but even then, you have to move
your head around a lot it would be
even worse with a 50in screen
people arent just gaming on them
but using their PCs for all manner of
tasks too, some of which would be
very difficult on such a large display
sitting so close to you.
This is why many gamers have
chosen to opt for triple 24in displays
rather than a single 30in monitor,

sqltomato Does the NUC board
D54250WYB (p54) support 16 or
32GB of RAM?
Ben: It supports 16GB of RAM in total.
Due to some miscommunication about
whether the maximum amount of
RAM it supported was per slot, or the
total amount, we mistakenly stated
that it supported 32GB.

EmptyGuid Loved @
CustomPCMag this month.
Great mini computer feature, really
enjoyed HobbyTech from @ghalfacree
too. And the GG button!

yorkshire_chris Which RAM do
you recommend for the Asus
Maximus VI Impact?
Ben: Id get the 8GB 2,400MHz Patriot
Viper Black Mamba kit.

DisturbedLilBoy Hi guys, I would
just like your thoughts on PCI-E
SSDs. I might be building a new system
soon, and I want to know if theyre
worth it.
Ben: Given that the main maker of
PCI-E SSDs was OCZ, which has just
filed for bankruptcy (see p16), Id avoid
them. We havent reviewed a PCI-E
SSD for a while, but unless youre
running an enterprise-level server
with huge data throughput, youll find
that 6Gbps SATA is fast enough.

thebiganz Just popped in the
door. You little beauty! Meant that
literally. NUC revolution!
Follow us on Twitter at @custompcmag
126 February 2014
Join our folding team and help medical research
WHAT IS FOLDING?
Folding@home uses the spare processing cycles from your PCs CPU and graphics cards for medical research. You can download
the client from http://folding.stanford.edu and our teams ID is 35947. Once you pass a significant milestone, youll get your name
in the mag. You can also discuss folding with us and other readers on the www.bit-tech.net forums.
CPC: So who is Nelio?
Nelio: My name is Neil and Im an
infrastructure analyst at an international
oiland gas company.
CPC: Why did you start folding?
Nelio: I discovered it through Custom PC
in2007, and I thought it would be great to
helpwith medical research. I began folding
several months after my grandfather was
diagnosed with Alzheimers. I actually still
have my first folding rig kicking around. Its an
AMD Athlon X2 4200+ overclocked to 2.64GHz
with 4GB of DDR RAM and a 512MB GeForce
9600 GSO. I was lucky to get 1,000ppd
consistently from it!
CPC: What excites you most about folding?
Nelio: Initially, it was knowing it could benefit
people in the future, but then a need to score
more points than anyone else got to me.
CPC: How many PCs do you have folding?
Nelio: I currently have 11 machines active.
Ihad around 17 over the summer, but some
of the old servers were generating far too
much heat and had to be shut down. The vast
majority of the machines are either Dell or
HP workstations, all with at least 72GB of
RAM, and a variety of configurations using
dual-core, quad-core, 6-core and 8-core
Xeons. All the PCs are in my office, which is
fortunate when it comes to my electricity bill,
although some of the guys at work dont fully

We catch up with folder of the month: Nelio
understand or appreciate why I get annoyed
when they turn off my workstations!
CPC: Whats your best piece of folding kit?
Nelio: I have a couple of HP Z820
workstations with 128GB of RAM, 256GB
SSDs and dual E5-2687W 3.1GHz CPUs,
giving me 32 folding cores per box. Their
output is around 130,000ppd on average.
Most of the workstations have a Quadro 4000,
5000 or 6000 graphics card too, but Im not
keen to have these folding alongside the
CPUs because of heat worries; dual Xeons
are really hot with OEM cooling.
CPC: Do you intend to keep up your ppd?
Nelio: Id like to consistently post a ppd of one
million, perhaps using next years new tech.
CPC: Any tips for fellow team members?
Nelio: Keep plugging away. It takes a while
before you start generating serious points.
Theres also loads of great info on the www.
bit-tech.net forums, as well as other sources
on the Internet, to help you tweak and get the
best from your kit. Its quite impressive how
much some people know about it.
CPC: Whats your best folding experience?
Nelio: Watching my ppd increase with new
CPU architectures and hitting big milestones.
Ive recently broken the 250 million barrier,
which is incredible; I remember the first
million taking ages. Watching your name
Team rank 4 World rank 173
Score 257,939,904 Work units 50,598
Daily points average 511,824
TOP FOLDERS
This months shout-outs go to Roveel, Dr.G,
Slavcho and Wallace. If you fold under either
of these names, email folding@
custompcmag.org.uk
climb the CPC leaderboard is good too;
Ispecifically remember smiling when I
overtook Mr Gorbold!
CPC: How has folding changed since we last
interviewed you?
Nelio: Its great to work with the new clients,
especially over a network, as I use multiple
clients from one location. The process of
setting them up has improved significantly
compared to the old command-line days too.
HTTP://FORUMS.BIT-TECH.NET
127 February 2014
MILESTONES THIS MONTH
Username Points
milestone
Username Points
milestone
Username Points
milestone
Username Points
milestone
KJGouldstone 800000
Allan_Smith 900000
AlSomething 1000000
daveppeters 1000000
Dr.G 1000000
gKitchen 1000000
ittoms 1000000
SMauri 1000000
Trevrev 1000000
davmonk 2000000
SourDipRaita 2000000
ChunkyBrother 3000000
Roveel 4000000
David_Murphy 6000000
Froskoy 6000000
paul_warden 6000000
biffa72 9000000
Sparkymatt 9000000
Looney 10000000
Texasshuffle 10000000
Tattysnuc 20000000
JEE6 30000000
THE NEXT OVERTAKE
Catflaps 20000
jmd85 20000
SpannerN5 20000
Dinwiddie 30000
Fleeticus 30000
atpark 40000
Grimm808 40000
markf0wle 50000
blotty 60000
Mansel 60000
Sir.
Brandonolot
60000
stubbler 60000
DecadanX 70000
rob_woolcott 70000
Urumiko 70000
coffinwarmer 80000
HeaverNothing 80000
Padsta 90000
Navy-Blue 100000
SashaNein 100000
daza17 200000
kinoblemeister 200000
The_FFrey 200000
Liam266 300000
MaverickOne 300000
Filce 600000
ligmon 600000
ashchap 800000
World
rank
Team name Points Daily points
average
Time until
overtake
7
Custom PC &
bit-tech
8,295,962,170 7,005,186 0
8 Hardware.no 5,727,997,305 12,463,579 1.3 years
THE NEXT OVERTAKE
128
MILESTONES THIS
MONTH CONT.
Username Points
milestone
TOP 20 OVERALL
Rank Username Points Work units
1 DocJonz 773,244 484,367,228
2 Scorpuk 629,779 180,163,014
3 coolamasta 620,446 373,738,198
4 Nelio 501,915 254,299,189
5 piers_newbold 434,748 109,504,574
6 JEE6 369,047 35,291,940
7 StreetSam 329,918 179,494,456
8 johnim 299,540 92,910,917
9 Ben_Lamb 250,354 139,015,087
10 Wallace 201,319 164,633,949
11 Slavcho 144,768 48,452,166
12 Lordsoth 132,604 122,009,539
13 Assassin8or 115,638 28,864,349
14 Roveel 112,899 4,661,109
15 Dr.G 102,149 1,937,755
16 LordBadger 90,987 68,247,757
17 KevinWright 85,450 39,721,037
18 BennieboyUK 85,313 90,081,224
19 fir3x 85,301 98,646,311
20 biffa72 81,307 9,071,250
TOP 20 PRODUCERS
Rank Username Daily points average Overall score
1 DocJonz 484,367,228 157,476
2 Dave_Goodchild 442,238,537 113,980
3 coolamasta 373,738,198 149,176
4 Nelio 254,299,189 50,378
5 phoenicis 248,730,741 95,518
6 zz9pzza 211,014,628 15,794
7 Scorpuk 180,163,014 7,823
8 StreetSam 179,494,456 78,612
9 Wallace 164,633,949 6,015
10 Christopher_N._Lewis 152,197,972 35,787
11 Ben_Lamb 139,015,087 2,539
12 Lizard 131,878,662 60,132
13 Lordsoth 122,009,539 78,314
14 piers_newbold 109,504,574 25,679
15 CustomBitChimps 103,528,316 47,990
16 fir3x 98,646,311 16,310
17 The_M2B 94,346,365 46,080
18 johnim 92,910,917 71,721
19 BennieboyUK 90,081,224 5,689
20 PC_Rich 80,549,068 58,639
On sale 16 January, 2014
*Please note that these articles are subject to product delays,
kit not turning up on time, and the few days needed to recover
from our Christmas dinner.
Make your
own reservoir
If a pre-made reservoir isnt quite
custom enough for your system,
why not make your own? Antony
Leather shows you how its done.
Graphics cards
The sudden rush of new GPU
launches has shaken up the market,
with prices dropping like flies. Now
that the dust has settled, we assess
the current line-up of GPUs.
The demise of Games
for Windows Live
What happened to Microsofts
Games for Windows Live
scheme? Rick Lane speaks to
several game developers to find out.
Coming next month in
PS3/LanDi 50000000
PC_Rich 80000000
BennieboyUK 90000000
johnim 90000000
piers_newbold 100000000
128 February 2014
Raspberry Pi
BitCoin mining
Gareth Halfacree checks out
theGertDuino add-on for the
Raspberry Pi, and investigates
itspotential for BitCoin mining.
M
,
w
ss
129 February 2014
Cyrix
Ben Hardwidge recalls
the third company in the
late-1990s three-party
processor race
ou could think of Cyrix as the
processor equivalent of the Liberal
Democrats in the 1990s the
smaller player in a three-party
system. I worked in a computer shop in the
late 1990s, and the Cyrix 6x86 was our best-
selling CPU. Those sales werent replicated
everywhere, of course; we mainly specialised
in selling cheap gear. However, the CPU shelf
in our storeroom contained a mix of AMD K6
chips, Intel Pentium II slot CPUs and Cyrix
6x86 and MII chips. It was the latter that
enabled us to offer a sub-500 PC in the shop
window an awfully underpowered PC that
many people lapped up.
Cyrix was the third party in the x86 desktop
processor battle, with its processors built by
IBM and SGS-Thompson. Like AMD, it had
made its business making clones of Intel x86
CPUs in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and it
then had to distinguish itself in the Pentium
era. AMD had the K6; Cyrix had the 5x86, and
laterthe 6x86.
Interestingly, Cyrix also offered a range of
CPU upgrade systems, whereby you could
replace an ageing 386 CPU with a chip that
supposedly had 486-level performance
without replacing your whole motherboard.
Your new PC wasnt really a 486 though; it
justhad a faster clock speed, more cache
anda few tweaks. This system did effectively
enable you to upgrade without replacing your
motherboard though. This was a big deal in
the days before standard AT cases had really
taken off, when a motherboard replacement
basically meant a whole PC replacement,
including the case.
The key phrase above is 486-level
performance, as comparative performance
became a major part of Cyrixs future
marketing strategy. In later years, Cyrix
would claim that its 6x86 processors could
offer the same performance as a
comparative Intel CPU, but with a lower
clockspeed. This resulted in the PR rating.
For example, Cyrix had a PR233 processor,
which customers would assume ran at the
same 233MHz speed as a 233MHz Pentium
MMX chip. It didnt though it had a 2.5x
multiplier and a 75MHz bus speed, resulting
in a 187.5MHz clock speed.
There were pros and cons to this approach,
naturally. The 75MHz bus speed was faster
than the 66MHz bus used by the Pentium
MMX chips at the time, potentially giving it an
advantage. If you were only using your PC for
web browsing, email and word processing,
its fair to say that you probably wouldnt
notice the difference between the Cyrix chip
and the equivalent Intel CPU too.
However, there was a big flaw in Cyrixs
architecture, and that was its floating point
unit, which was awful in comparison to
Inteland AMDs FPUs. Cyrixs website
acknowledged the comparatively lacklustre
performance of its FPU, but also claimed that
hardly any software uses it anyway. Confident
about Cyrixs claim, I bought a 6x86 PR200,
and soon learned that the
floating point was going to be
fundamentally important to
the future of the PC.
The poor floating point
performance manifested
itself in two ways. Firstly, the
CPU struggled with software
MIDI synthesis, which isnt a
big deal now, but was important for me at the
time. Secondly, and more importantly, it
couldnt cope with games, even with a 3dfx
Voodoo card installed ever since Quake, 3D
games had started making extensive use of
floating point calculations. I remember
waiting painfully for my Cyrix machine to
stutter along in Half-Life and Battlezone
sometimes I just had to sit and wait while the
CPU slowly drew the geometry on the screen.
Cyrix was later bought by VIA, which went
on to produce the C3 and the x86 CPUs used
in VIAs EPIA platforms.
Y
IT COULDNT COPE WITH GAMES,
EVEN WITH A VOODOO CARD
EVER SINCE QUAKE, 3D GAMES
HAD MADE EXTENSIVE USE OF
FPU CALCULATIONS
Photo credit: Appaloosa
Photo credit:
Konstantin Lanzet
a
lthough theres no denying that 2013 has been a fantastic
year for gaming hardware, with the re-emergence of virtual
reality in the Oculus Rift and Omni, Nvidia G-Sync killing
tearing and stuttering, and the eye-popping gorgeousness of 4K
monitors, in many ways I think its been one of the worst years for
games ever. This isnt just because weve been swamped with
uninspired sequels such as Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty, which fail
to move gaming forwards in any meaningful way, but because of the
prevalence of free-to-play games.
On paper, free-to-play games sound great.
Surely nothing can be better than gameplay
that doesnt cost you any money? But while
these games are free to play in theory, they
end up costing you something infinitely more
precious time. Im not arguing against
spending time playing games, that would
bepretty hypocritical of me, given that Ive
probably played PC games at least 15 hours a week for over 30 years.
However, I do have a problem with time spent on the experience of
free-to-play games, which are designed to make you play for as long
as possible in an attempt you sell you shortcuts that increase the
rate at which your in-game character acquires experience, gold,
mushrooms or whatever. However, the nature of this long-haul
design means that, even if you succumb to temptation and buy some
shortcuts for real money, the fundamental gameplay experience is
the same youre still doing the same job again and again.
One of the most commercially successful free-to-play game at
the moment is World of Tanks, a game that pits you and umpteen
other players against each other in random battles. Ive previously
waxed lyrical about World of Tanks, but it also suffers from the free-
to-play models problems. The honey trap of WoT is that youre
always being tempted to upgrade your tank for something better
James Gorbold reveals why grinding should
be banned from the gamers lexicon
james GorBolD
with the promise that said next tank will be more fun to play.
However, the game is engineered so that whichever tank you own,
theres always something better just round the corner be it a more
expensive tank or one from the latest nation to be added via a patch.
Whether you play in a Tier 1 tank or a Tier 10 tank, the fundamental
game experience is the same a grind to unlock a better tank.
Grinding is the key word, and its probably the most important
aspect that links all free-to-play games. Take War Thunder, for
example, which undoubtedly does a better job of hiding the grind
than WoT, but its core gaming experience
remains the same however much you play it.
What galls me the most about grinding is
that it means theres precious little chance of
you learning or taking anything away from a
free-to-play game. Theres no storytelling,
characters, progression or, most importantly,
sense of achievement. Im not talking about
in-game achievements here either, but a real feeling of personal
achievement whether its solving a particularly difficult puzzle, or
saving a character or world that the game developer has been clever
enough to make you genuinely care about.
Having dedicated far too many hours to free-to-play games over
the past few years, Ive had enough and decided to make a stand. If
developers want my money, they need to make games fun again
grinding and the endless chase of a goal that, by design, is out of
your reach isnt good game design but lazy, exploitative economics.
James Gorbold fell in love with the original IBM PC in the early
1980s, and has been building, tweaking and overclocking PCs ever
since. He has written an article in almost every issue of Custom
PC and now helps Scan Computers to develop new systems.
Theres no storytelling,
characters, progression
or, most importantly,
sense of achievement
THE PROBLEM
WITH FREE-
TO-PLAY
130 February 2014