We’re deploying the patent-pending PCGamesN Kit Filter to ensure you don’t miss out on any PC gear to pass across our test bench each month. Super-exciting halo products from the big manufacturers are only one part of the rich tapestry of PC gaming hardware; there are also myriad awesome/intriguing/downright-weird bits of kit that we just have to talk about…
Catch all our finest technological roundups with the PCGamesN Hardware Guides.
February wasn’t quite so busy in terms of big PC gear reviews, though we did get our first taste of a 200-series ROG motherboard in slimline mini-ITX trim, as well as the best Viewsonic gaming monitor I think I’ve ever tested. We also got to play with Intel’s first mainstream SSD using the NVMe PCIe interface. It’s not as blazingly quick as the Samsung drivers, though nor is it anywhere near as pricey.
Then, at the start of March, Nvidia dropped the new ‘fastest graphics card in the world’ and AMD unleased a whole new PC platform – which I’m still benchmarking the life out of.
But there are a few more new products that might not have gotten the coverage – good or bad – that they deserve, and we’d like to draw your attention to as well.
Click on the jump links below to get to the reviews of your choice.
Switch: MX RGB Speed | Anti-ghosting: N-key | Controls – Fully discrete
I am a massive fan of Corsair keyboards. I’ve been recommending them as the makers of the best gaming keyboards since I arrived in PCGN Towers. And yet… I almost can’t bring myself to type this… and yet I don’t particularly like the K95 RGB Platinum.
The K95 Platinum is Corsair’s love letter to gaming keyboards. It should be the pinnacle of all things Corsair. It should have distilled all that is good in their range into one halo product, and then made it all even better.
But what we’ve got is a chunkier-feeling version of the old-school K95 design with a new metallic volume wheel, a wrist-rest you could bludgeon someone to death with and more RGB LEDs than you’ve had disappointing Ubisoft PC ports. Sorry, I’ll get off their back, Wildlands is a good PC port. Rubbish game, but a good PC port.
It’s probably just that it all feels rather unnecessary. The RGB element is the most obvious, with a gaudy LED strip across the top of the classic brushed aluminum base along with illuminated logo. The strip though isn’t particularly consistent with its lighting. I’ve got it set with a simple white background and across its length it colour shifts between white, pink and blue. I’ve had further colour shifts in the key-based LEDs too when I’ve had a second RGB effect (Knight Rider-style sweeping line) eventually rendering a few of the previously white LEDs an off-yellow colour.
I’ve also been continually frustrated by the Platinum’s feet too. They’re still angled to fold out sideways so they don’t fold back underneath if you slide the board backwards and forwards, but unlike the latest K70 boards they do now fold back if you shift laterally at all.
These are relatively minor niggles, and if it wasn’t meant to be a premium product I’d maybe be more forgiving. As it is though the design frustrations and flaky RGB LED colouring makes it feel a little lacking. It’s still got all the excellent functionality of the standard K95, macro’d up to the hilt, but I’m not convinced it really meets my personal Platinum standard.
Mechanism: Rocking/recline | Material: PU faux leather | Pillow: Neck and lumbar
It’s cheaper being vegan, by nearly £200 over here in the land of milk and Brexit. If you go for the PU faux leather version of Noblechairs’ EPIC Series gaming chair, and don’t fancy parking your padded posterior down on some shiny bits of dead cow, you can save a huge amount of cash. I mean, you’re still paying out the price of a quality graphics card so you can sit at home pretending you’re a pro-gamer, but the savings are there. Bit of pro consumer advice for you there.
I don’t, however, think the Noblechairs EPIC quite lives up to its capslocked billing. As I may have intimated $340 (£310) is a lot of cash to spend on somewhere to stick your bottom during a long gaming session, even if it does look like it’s been ripped out of an actual Noble sports car and mounted on its own wheels. The card, not your…
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a comfortable chair, but again I just don’t totally believe in the ‘premium quality’ messaging this chair is trying to put out. It’s relatively straight-forward enough to put together out of the massive, heavy box it arrives in, but it feels like there is a lot of plastic on display. The cover on the connections between the back and the base are kind of flappy, but my biggest issue are the paddles which control the rocking and height adjustment. It’s likely down to the ham-fisted way I go about assembling things but the too-soft plastic inside one of the paddles got so chewed up the twisting action controlling the rocking mechanism quickly became impossible to activate.
But the bonus plushy cushions to support your neck or lower lumbar make are a welcome addition and make a big difference to the long-term comfort of the chair. The base also feels very solid and is wide enough – and the armrests movable enough – to even cope with my grossly oversized behind. It is a good chair but, like the K95 Platinum, it’s the little niggles which would have me questioning whether it was really worth spending such a large sum of cash on it.
Height: 11.43cm – 44.45cm | Desk space: 75.57cm x 91.44cm | Tiers: 2
We spend too much of our lives sat down. So, instead of spending over three-hundred clams on a comfy chair to facilitate spending more time on your gluteus maximus, why not drop $395 (£365) on a desktop accessory which will encourage your onto your feet a little more?
The Varidesk ProPlus 36 is an adjustable sitting/standing desk with an entirely pleasing action to its transformation and enough extra height to deal with all but the most lofty of gamers. It’s also got enough space on its top tier to allow for either one big screen or a couple of smaller ones (or monitor and laptop) side-by-side. We’ve got a 30-inch 4K screen perched atop ours with space to spare.
The second tier is for your keyboard and mouse and this is where things get a little trickier. Your keyboard will be fine – there’s ample room for a bulky gaming board – but the limited space for your mouse will likely be more of an issue for us gamers whether we’re stood up or not. The surface was also a little tricksy for the first optical mouse I used on it and there’s barely room for a mouse mat.
I did though like the fact there is zero DIY misery in putting the Varidesk together. The box arrived in such a flat-packed form I was dreading the build process. My chubby face was split with a beaming grin on realising it arrived pre-assembled and ready to go. I’ve lost quite enough blood and fingerprints to PC and accessory building in my professional and personal life, so that’s very appreciated.
Obviously the price is pretty damned prohibitive, and there are cheaper ways to ensure you don’t get deep-vein thrombosis, but the build quality is exceptional and it’s the speediest I think I’ve ever gotten any piece of furniture out from its boxed form to a functional state.
Sensor: Optical | Max DPI: 16,000 | Buttons: 7 | Weight: 105g
The DeathAdder has been Razer’s go-to optical gaming mouse, and member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, since 2006 and has appeared in various shapes and guises since then. The latest, the DeathAdder Elite, was released late last year and sports what Razer claims is the most accurate optical sensor on the planet.
Where the Pixart 3360/3366 sensor taps out at an impressively high 12,000 DPI, the Razer 5G Optical Sensor goes all the way up to 16,000 DPI. Admittedly, you’re going to need a 200-inch screen with a resolution that would make Dell’s 8K monitor blush to take advantage of the top-end of the DeathAdder Elite’s sensitivity, but you do get solid 1:1 tracking all the way along.
The Elite retains the classic DeathAdder design, with the left and right mouse buttons flared at the tips, and it feels as comfortable as ever. Like the other ‘Elite’ updates to Razer’s mice they’ve put it on a diet to give it that tournament/eSports aesthetic. Where the DeathAdder has normally been a 133g rodent Razer have shaved nearly 30g off that overall weight. That helps make it feel zippy across the desktop and with that super-accurate sensor it maintains tracking and responsiveness while you’re throwing it around too.
The DeathAdder Elite then is a great little gaming mouse and a serious wired rival to Logitech’s G900 Chaos Spectrum king.
Sensor: Optical | Max DPI: 6,000 | Buttons: 6 | Weight: 85g
At the other end of the market to Razer’s DeathAdder Elite is Corsair’s Harpoon RGB, a budget mouse that still aims to please the gaming crowd. It’s even lighter than the eSports-targeting DeathAdder Elite and yet still has RGB LEDs, because… y’know… Corsair.
The basic design of the mouse itself is well… basic, yet uses similar design beats to Corsair’s fatter M65 and my favourite two Razer mice – the Mamba and DeathAdder. But, at least to my hands, the design isn’t anywhere near so comfortable to hold. The third finger on my right hand struggles to find a decent resting spot thanks to my claw-grip. If I switch to a palm-grip it feels less awkward, so I’d recommend at least trying to get your paws on the design if you’re interested but are predominantly used to clawing your mouse.
Inside the Harpoon is a Pixart 3320 optical sensor, capable of delivering up to 6,000 DPI. The optical tracking gives you 1:1 translation of motion, with zero hardware acceleration in action (which you’ll still find on laser mice), and that means it’s still a very precise mouse. It also glides happily across your surface, though you will likely need a mat to give you the most accurate response.
Thanks to the components in play, if the ergonomic design was more suited to my particular grip I’d probably be hailing this as my favourite budget gaming mouse. But that resolutely right-handed layout seems to favour the palm-grip too heavily for me to feel that comfortable over a long gaming session or a working day.
Reviews roundup:all our in-depth tech talk
- Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti review
“The GTX 1080 Ti is like a giant silicon middle-finger to anyone who dropped the cash on a Titan X.”
- Zotac VR GO review
“For all the VR GO’s marketing material of folk doing backflips VR freedom sadly isn’t really tether-free.”
- AOC AGON AG352QCX review
“If I’d spent anywhere near £600 on this monitor I think I’d probably be a bit disappointed with my purchase.”
- Asus ROG Strix Z270i Gaming review
“A mighty fine, no-compromise 200-series board, perfect for the micro gaming rig you’ve always wanted.”
- Viewsonic XG2703 review
“The sweet spot for imagery, clarity and gaming performance is the 1440p level and the Viewsonic XG2703 is one of the best you can pick up today.”
- Intel SSD 600p 512GB review
“Marking Intel’s assault on the mainstream storage market with the first genuinely affordable PCIe-based NVMe drive.”
January was a packed month for new PC products, setting out 2017’s stall nicely with a host of brand new processors, motherboards, streamers and new monitor technology too. The launch ofIntel’s new Kaby Lake platformwas arguably the biggest event, but equally the first Quantum Dot gaming monitor and Nvidia-updated Shield streaming device made it a happy new year indeed.
Click on the jump links below to get to the reviews of your choice.
Switch – Cherry MX RGB | Anti-ghosting – N-key | Controls – Integrated
The ROG Claymore is probably exactly what you’d expect from Asus’ Republic of Gamers stable of products. It’s solidly built, technically proficient, feature-rich, LED strewn and oh so expensive.
As is de rigueur for gaming gear now the Claymore is RGB’d up to the hilt, but it’s also capable of linking up with all your other ROG products (motherboard, GPU, mouse) so you can synchronise all their multi-hued LEDs too. Y’know, for when all the important stuff in your life is taken care of and you can devote a healthy chunk of time to the ultra-extraneous.
Making the most of that ROG link though are the software connections which will plumb the board into your motherboard. This allows you to instigate one touch overclocking, booting or even clearing the CMOS when everything’s gone pear-shaped, and all accessed via the keyboard itself.
The real big thing for the Claymore though is its detachable numpad, that’s what Asus are shouting about in terms of its ‘world’s first’ status. You can switch from full-size to svelte tournament-ready gaming board by simply unhooking the extra key block. It hooks together using the board’s rigid metal frame, with the data connection springloaded to make contact. Interestingly Asus have also designed the Claymore so you can have the numpad on either side of main board.
Because it’s been created to be easy to slot in and remove, however, the fit is off puttingly wobbly. It doesn’t affect the actual connection at all, but the somewhat loose fit doesn’t really make it like $250 worth of keyboard when 20% of it is flapping about.
It’s also a bit of a shame that the only discrete controls are on the numpad – one solid analogue volume wheel. That’s great, but the rest of the controls are integrated, requiring the familiar, unwelcome Fn key digital gymnastics. And if you go for the Core edition (cheaper, but eschews the numpad) you don’t get any discrete controls at all.
Detachable numpad and ROG sync aside the Claymore is otherwise a pretty standard mechanical switch board, rocking the ubiquitous Cherry MX RGB switches. It’s responsive, robust and as relatively understated as an RGB keyboard can be, but that price is astoundingly high. You would have to be a very loyal, engaged ROG customer indeed to want to spend this much cash on a motherboard-compatible keyboard. Everyone else is going to be better served from picking up a cheaper, but eqally robust Corsair board.
Output: 150W | Drivers: 5 | Subwoofer: Yes | Hi Res Audio: Up to 24-bit 96kHz
Thankfully Creative have seen the light and are now calling the Katana a gaming soundbar rather than continuing to go with the under monitor audio system phrase it was trying to coin at the IFA show in Berlin last year. And it’s very much deserving of the name because the Sound BlasterX Katana makes for an excellent soundbar indeed.
It’s made up of a single, 24-inch long, audio blade to sit beneath your monitor/TV and a passive subwoofer to be hidden elsewhere. In total there are five discrete drivers: a pair of 2.5-inch mid-range drivers angling upwards, two 1.3-inch tweeters pointing out into the room and a single 5.25-inch driver in the subwoofer giving you the heavy bass response. There are three separate amps driving them, delivering impressively balanced, detailed audio whether you’re gaming, listening to high-definition music or watching a movie.
It’s a seriously versatile bit of kit too, allowing for optical digital inputs as well as standard 3.5mm auxiliary, Bluetooth or USB connections. It’s that last USB link which provides both the virtual 7.1 surround for gaming (it can essentially operate as a USB soundcard) and access to 24-bit 96kHz high-res audio playback.
Then there are the lights. Underneath the front of the Katana is a row of RGB LEDs offering some impressive street-racer-a-like downlighting. You can even select different profiles for the lighting too, from rainbow strobing to a Knight Rider sweep. And I can’t help but find it utterly charming. Normally I’d have such in-your-face LEDs turned off immediately, especially to avoid any under-screen distractions for the eyes, but I’ve left them going. I don’t even really know why, though they are kinda soothing, especially in a darkened home theatre environment…
The rest of the Katana design is equally impressive too. It’s solidly built and the upfiring mid-tone drivers give a much broader soundscape than I would’ve expected. At $300 it is on the upper end of the soundbar price spectrum, but considering the aural power and detail the Katana offers, as well as the overall versatility on display, all makes it well worth a listen.
Connection – Wired | Programmable buttons – Six | Weight – 205g
Aww bless. Look, it wants to be an Xbox Elite gamepad. How sweet, how ambitious. I know there are some DualShock devotees out there who would beg to differ (I might concede your point on the analogue sticks) but I’m of the opinion the Xbox Elite is the finest PC gaming joypad money can buy. So anything that tries to imitate it is going to have a real struggle on its hands.
But the Speedlink Quinox actually does surprisingly well as a customisable gamepad. It’s the added four paddle switches on the underside of the Quinox which makes me think of the Elite, they’re all configurable to be used aping any other button on the pad, as are the two extra shoulder buttons either side of the detachable USB cable. Though those are rather awkward to access so I’m not sure if I’d ever really use those in-game.
Through a simple on-board programming feature (navigated via the OLED display on the front) you can also configure the extra buttons as individual macros, allowing you to perform multi-press actions using a single press. The Quinox will hold two profiles each for different button configurations and two for macro setups. The customisation doesn’t stop there, you can also adjust the sensitivity of the analogue sticks on the fly via the two jog switches on the front.
The Quinox then is a surprisingly feature-rich joypad, but it’s always going to struggle up against the might of Microsoft’s peripherals. The extra configurability is laudable, but you can see the quality of manufacturing falls short of the Xbox pads. There are some sharp edges on my review sample which makes switching over to even just the cheaper standard Xbox One controller feel like slipping into a comfy old chair, one that’s been molded to your buttocks over many a year. Though if you’re looking for a multi-button, configurable controller, but can’t stretch to the expensive Elite, the Quinox is still a decent wired gamepad.
Type – Membrane | Switch – Logitech Mem-Dome | Anti-ghosting – 13-key
Going from the high-priced lunacy of the ROG Claymore to the Logitech G213 Prodigy is like going from the ridiculous to the… well, not sublime, but pretty damned good. The Prodigy range is Logitech’s attack on the more budget end of the gaming peripheral market. They’ve also created the G403 Prodigy wireless mouse, a quality little rodent sharing much of its internal make up with the awesome G900 Chaos Spectrum.
The G213 keyboard has been designed to be simple, but to still tick all the boxes a PC gamer on a bit of a budget might be after. I say ‘a bit of a budget’ because at $70 the Prodigy is still not a cheap gaming board. But it’s solid, responsive and looks good, in a stripped back kinda way.
What it isn’t though is a mechanical switch board. Down at this end of the market you’ll struggle to find a full-scale keyboard with the clacky mechanical switches I’ve grown to love, but that doesn’t mean you’re not going to get a host of gaming features. The Logitech Mech-Dome switches have been designed to offer a similar feel to their Romer G mechanical variants thanks to their extended travel and rapid actuation. And they’re really good to use too; they feel a touch more dead than their Romer G counterparts and more spongy than you’d experience from a Cherry MX, but are a million times (approx.) better than a standard membrane switch.
I’m also a big fan of keyboards, pricey or bargainous, which offer discrete controls for your media. We may be gamers but we still listen to Tidal and Spotify, right? And sometimes you’ve just gotta skip that errant Babymetal track that’s somehow found its way into your playlist as quickly as possible and a discrete skip button is a lot quicker to jab at.
There may be a little too much flex if you press down on the middle back of F keys, and it’s still maybe a little too pricey for a membrane gaming board, but the G213 is a great option for those not willing to spend hundreds on a pricier keyboard or for who simply can’t stand mechanical switches.
Connection – Wired | Cable – 5m active extension | Hub – 4-port USB 3.0
I think I can feel my already-considerable-waistline expanding as I sit here, pinned to my sofa by the Couchmaster Cycon. This is a gaming peripheral designed for those to whom movement is a waste of energy if it’s not from the wrist down. It’s a sofa desktop designed to allow you to use a keyboard and mouse from the comfort of your couch without having to balance them precariously on a knee or – hiss – use a joypad.
I’ll admit though I did wait for my wife to go to bed before putting the Cycon together. I didn’t feel that even in the ten-year length of our relationship I wanted her to see me like that, not quite fitting into the Couchmaster. I’m a rather tubby bitch so the padded cushions had to be spread a little further than normal to accommodate my girth.
But enough about me and my own chubby insecurities. The Couchmaster Cycon’s main feature is the plastic tray which stretches across the cushions (which have a rough underside to stop from slipping off the sofa) and can hide away the unsightly cables from your keyboard and mouse combo inside. It acts as a 4-port USB 3.0 hub and connects via an active (to stop any lag creeping in) 5m cable to the machine you have plumbed into your TV.
Obviously the Couchmaster is a rather niche product, one whose only real purpose is for gamers with large TVs and a living room PC / streaming box that absolutely have to use a mouse and keyboard. And in that regard it works admirably. I maybe wasn’t expecting to have to do so much screwdriving and messing with sticky-back velcro, but it gets your cables out of the way and ensures you have as robust a connection to your PC as possible from a sofa. But you’ve certainly got to pay for the privilege, and pay big essentially just for a hollow plastic tray, a USB hub and some cushions.
And then you’ve still got to explain to your friends/significant others what exactly that weird looking thing stuffed down behind your sofa is. There’s nothing in the instruction pamphlet about how to do that…
- Intel Core i7 7700K review
“Not a worthy CPU upgrade; only really of any interest if you’re dead set on buying a brand new, pre-built i7 rig.”
- Intel Core i5 7600K review
“If you were looking to build an affordable, but high-end, gaming PC right now, you’d want to be sticking a Core i5 7600K inside it.”
- Intel Core i3 7350K review
“Not the great budget gaming CPU many of us were hoping for.”
- MSI Z270 Gaming M5 review
“A quality board for your new rig whether you’re going for a new Kaby Lake CPU or sticking with Skylake.”
- Asus TUF Z270 Mark 1 review
“A rigid, well-built Z270 board with a warranty to match.”
- Gigabyte Z270X-Ultra Gaming review
“High power draw and temperatures from the stock Core i7 would stop me using the Ultra Gaming as the base for a high-spec PC.”
- DinoPC Primal GT4 Stealth review
“With a couple of spec tweaks – which ought to keep it below a grand – it could be genuinely great.”
- Samsung C24FG70 review
“The 24-inch Quantum Dot Samsung is a bright, slick, detailed screen, with only a few slight niggles surrounding the curve and the low-rent resolution.”
- Nvidia Shield (2017) review
“Nvidia might well have just killed the living room gaming PC. If not then they’ve certainly taken to it with a bat, leaving it looking like Walking Dead Glenn.”