Wireless devices have been around for a while. I know a lot of people with wireless keyboards and mice, plus I have seen wireless on headsets before, especially using Bluetooth. However they all had one thing in common with me, I hated them! Blue tooth was spotty at best for me and usually was not working right half the time. Wireless keyboards and mice were great, until the battery died in the middle of a very big, hard and meaningful battle. I am not sure how they managed it but this happened every time. Then add too this the fact that a lot of early wireless devices did not always reconnect as they should if the batteries ran dry during use. It is pretty easy to see why I would be bias against wireless devices.
So when we got the Vengeance 2000 Wireless headset from Corsair I have to admit my opinion was forming before I opened the box. I read the box specs, claims of working up to 40’ away and with a battery life of 10 hours were a challenge for me to dis-prove. I mean seriously everyone makes wild claims with their wireless and then fail to hit the mark unless you baby the device.
So I opened the box and began my quest to knock this headset around. The headset itself looks very similar to the Vengeance 1500, our Golden Mic 2012 winner. It has the same aluminum body and brushed finish, the same design for the mic boom, uses the same size drivers. Okay wait a second this looks to be pretty much identical to the 1500 and a call to Corsair did confirm that the 50mm drivers used in the 2000 and the 1500 are the same. They also use the same memory foam system in the headband and ear covers. Now there are a lot of tweaks to the design used by the 2000 but owes a lot of it’s looks and style to the 1500.
Since this is a wireless device it still needs a connection to the PC and that is provided by a USB dongle which sends the signal to the headset. Along with the dongle is a USB extension with stand so you can make sure the wireless transmitter is in an area to give the best signal to the headset. You can also see with the headset we get a manual, warranty card and a USB powered charge cable for the headset.
On the left cuff you will notice the chrome area. This is the power button for the unit. Corsair made sure to require an extended depress of about 5 seconds for the power to cycle. This means it is hard to accidently turn the headset off during an intense game session. Directly below the power button is a blue light that will flash when the power is on. Below that is a chrome scroll bar that is the volume control for the headset.
Let’s take on the first claim before we dive into an overall review, the 10 hour batter life. First let me say bravo for making this headset able to work as wired or wireless as far as the battery is concerned. The headset will emit a small beep into your sound when the batter begins to run low and the beep will come more often as the battery gets closer to running out. This aspect of it worked well as I was given about 15 minutes warning before the headset would not work under battery power any more. This is plenty of warning and all you need do is connect a small USB cable to keep on playing.
As for the length of batter life, I charged the headset to full power and began a marathon gaming session. I made sure the headset always had something going, even playing music into the headset when I was away from game, I wanted to see how the battery life held up. I started getting my beeps at 9 hours 38 minutes, that is really close to the 10 hours Corsair promised. When you realize that I pushed this headset way harder than most would push then the 10 hour battery life is a real possibility, Corsair has lived up to claim one.
Claim two is that this unit can transmit up to 40’. Okay maybe in an open field with no power lines and such right. So I setup the system and fired up some music and started walking around my house. Now in fairness my house has an open floor plan so your mileage may vary but I was pretty surprised when I managed to walk into my son’s room at the end of the hall and still has sound. At this point however I had noticed a few cutouts so I walked back up to where the sound was clean and measure the distance. The distance in a straight line was 37 feet, that was through two full walls and across the kitchen. I was even able to go outside on the deck and listen to music with these and had no issues. It seems these headsets hit claim two.
Now I started with the claims because in my experience these are where most wireless devices fail, they never seem able to live up to the claims made. However Corsair has delivered right on the claims made with the wireless capabilities of the Vengeance 2000 as well as the battery life. Now how do they sound?
As we have talked about before we test headsets using a variety of music, movies and games to get a feel for the sound. I have listened to a lot of headsets of late so I guess I am kind of burnt out. However when I put on the Corsair headset and fired up “The Race is On” by Sawyer Brown, the song had been playing only about 30 seconds when I said, in a very loud voice according to my wife, “HOLY CRAP”! (This quote was cleaned up for our younger audience>) The reason for this exclamation was the sound was incredible.
Now understand that was at default software settings and I had not listened to these yet at all. This was a RAW listening with no tweaking and I was already impressed with the sound. The tweaking for the sound is done within their software. The EQ is actually pretty simple and you have a solid choice of pre-sets to choose from. Your also have the option to enable virtual 7.1 sound. This works really well and goes a long way to enhancing the sound experience.
I moved through my music and I found each one actually seemed to sound better than the last. When I hit my Iron Man test scene for movie sound testing I could almost feel the concussion wave of the explosions, the base was so solid. In gaming this kept getting better. The 7.1 sound emulation allowed me to identify sound locations and the game itself came alive.
This immersion was further enhanced by the closure that you get when you wear these. I actually have a hard time hearing people around me and had to turn the volume up to about 90% before my wife could hear the music outside the headsets, even when very close to me. Of course at that volume I was risking my hearing so she is happy with the fact she does not hear my games or voice comms when I am on line with my friends.
The microphone appears to be the same one as used on the 1500 but it does not quite deliver the same clear recording sound that the 1500 was able to deliver. This could be a limitation of the wireless system or could be a software tweak but in the end I feel the 1500 does a better job with voice recording and transmission that the 2000. Now let’s be clear the mic on the 2000 is really good, but it did not quite equal the 1500 which is still the best headset mic we have tested.
With a long battery life, Corsair must be expecting people to wear this headset for a long time. Comfort was the one area in the Vengeance 1500 we felt fell short. Well it seems someone at Corsair got the message because the comfort level in the Vengeance 2000 is spot on. These use the same memory foam system as the 1500 and the same microfiber weave to cover it. However along the way this design has been tweaked, the foam feels a little thinner in both the ear cuffs and head band. Now you would think thinner would be worse but the opposite is true, these feel more comfortable on the ears.
Another tweak that seems to have been done is the clamping force that we found in the 1500 has been reduced in the 2000. Now looking at the two headsets it appears to me this was because of a design change. The 2000 has the ear cuffs centered on the end of the arms, in the case of the 1500 the ear cuffs are actually centered about 1.75” up from the arm ends. This means the pressure exerted by the arms is higher on the 1500. This shows a lot in long term wear. I have to take off the 1500 after an hour or two of play. I have actually done all day play sessions in the 2000 with no issues. Now in fairness the 1500 band breaks in after long term use and the pressure reduces but even that break-in does not reach the level of comfort the 2000 delivers.
There is one factor that needs to be discussed about this headset an intangible that does not normally come up and that is the effect the wireless has on the experience. I had been using the 2000 for about 4 days when I needed to go back to my old headset to do some work. When I did I immediately felt like I was tied down. The wire connection was noticeable to me, despite having a very long cable that had never been an issue before. I have to admit this has really surprised me.
Now I did find two areas I wish Corsair would change and the notes on this has been passed to Corsair. First I do not like the fact that there is no on screen or audio indicator that the headset is turned on or turned off. I think a simple indicator that would allow easy recognition without holding the headset so you can see the side would be a nice touch. I have also requested they redesign the plug for the USB power to a simple round plug. The reason for this is the USB style plug they have on the headset side is sometimes not the most natural thing to plug in. When you are in the middle of a match and want to quickly add power before continuing this can be a bit frustrating.
In the end however these are minor nitpicks on a product that is outstanding. Corsair has done the wireless headset right and delivered a solid product with amazing sound, a good mic and lived up to the claims they set for battery life and range. This is not a budget headset by any means with the current price on Newegg at $109.00 this headset is a STEAL for the serious gamer. I cannot begin to find the words of the freedom you feel when your headset is no longer tethered. I have been able to enjoy game time with my friends, even while doing laundry, cooking dinner or cleaning house. I can also do these activities while listen to my music and not interrupt the family while they might be watching a movie.
I guess the best way to tell you how I feel about this headset is that it is still on my desk and is NOT leaving it until it breaks. When that happens I will beg Corsair for another one.
Segment as aired live 25 August 2012
When the GTX 670 was released we were impressed, the card was very fast and offered a great feature set. In fact the only downside we found was the cost. It was just hard to justify our listeners dropping $400 plus for a video card that, while awesome, was mostly wasted on the typical gamer setup of a 1080 resolution monitor. We said then we were waiting excitedly for the 660Ti and here it is.
The card we have for testing is the Super Clocked editions from EVGA. What they have done is up the base clock speed from the stock configuration of 915MHz to 980 MHz. In essence they have taken the boost speed that Kepler offers at stock and made it the stock speed. They have also upped the boost speed from 980 MHZ to 1059 MHz. This means that the card we are testing comes with a nice overclock out of the gate.
Now if you looked at the above speeds and think something sounds familiar, you are right. The 660Ti is essentially the same chip we saw on the 670 card. In fact it is identical except for a single aspect, the memory bandwidth has been reduced from 256 bit memory bus to a 192 bit bus. At higher resolutions with features turned up this could result in a slow down but at 1080 resolutions the impact should be minimal.
The package from EVGA is what we have come to expect from the premier video card party for nVidia. The two power adapters and DVI converter are individually wrapped. The card itself is based off a reference design with some EVGA tweaking down under the hood. You get a quick install guide, information on a 3 year warranty as well as some stickers, a nice case badge and even a poster to hang on the wall of your geek room. What is not shown here is that with this card’s launch various etailers will also be giving a free copy of Borderlands 2 with each card purchased. This is sweet because we are not talking a second tier or older game but one of the most anticipated games of this year.
An examination of the card itself may look familiar if you have seen a GTX 670. It should, for all practical purposes the cards design is identical. The PCB is a shorter board with the fan section of the heatsink actually off the end of the PCB. For power it uses dual PCIe power connections, but do not be fooled, this card sips juice.
For testing purposes I put the card into my main gaming rig and tested it against a GTX 670 and an AMD 7950. Wait a second, this card costs $300 and you are testing against a 7950? That’s right, in our briefing nVidia claimed it ran with the 7950 despite being put in the cost bracket of the 7870, well let’s see if they told us the truth. For purposes of our testing I used the rig listed below.
- Intel i7 3820 (stock)
- Sapphire Pure Black X79N
- Kingston HyperX 1600 RAM
- Kingston HyperX 3K 240 Gig SSD
- Thermaltake Level 10 GT Case
- Thermaltake Toughpower 850
While many reviews of this card will show you a bunch of benchmark scores, we look at video cards a bit differently on our show. We do run a number of benchmarks but these are for comparison purposes and we do not give you the actual scores. The reason we do this is the benchmark system as it exists today does little to tell you about the real world performance you will get with the cards. For this we use the benchmarks as a reference and then use subjective, actual game play, testing to reach our conclusions. This combination of information allows us to give you a simple to understand evaluation of the cards.
Let’s begin by looking at something that caught my eye right away when looking at the cards stats. This card seems to be, for all practical purposes identical to a GTX 670 so I began my comparison there. I wanted to start with something that was measurable and so I began my testing using the 3DMark11 test suite. For this comparison I used the default Extreme settings. We did not look at lower settings because lets be real anyone dropping $300 on a video card is NOT going to want to game at lower than 1080 resolutions. When the test numbers came back we found that the GTX 660Ti was only 5.5% overall behind the GTX 670. Now think about that for a moment, the GTX 670 costs $400 and the GTX 660Ti is coming it at round $300, so 25% less cost but only 5.5% performance lose? WOW! Now in fairness the model we are testing is not a stock 660Ti but the cost difference for the SC model from EVGA is only $10 more.
Benchmarks however are next to meaningless to me, let’s look at gaming performance. Now I could take the time to list all the games we spent time looking at but the list would be pretty long. Let’s say it is safe to say I looked at MMOs, RPGs, FPS and RTS gaming. Of all the titles I looked at, most of them can hold 60 FPS like a rock when vsync is enabled. What that means is when I run the games at 1080 with the highest detail levels the games allow and vsync enabled (this usually locks in at 60 for most monitors) the game will run right at the 60 frame limit with only minor drops ever during game play when using a GTX 670. Well the 600Ti delivered an identical showing. Skyrim, World of Tanks and many others all pegged the limit and ran like as smooth as butter. In fact in NO game tested did I see any performance or experience drop when switching from the 670 to the 660Ti.
After all the testing was done it was clear the 660Ti is the 670 with just a lower memory bandwidth and this has no effect on game play, worth mentioning, at 1080 resolutions. What about the claim that the 660Ti could run with the 7950? All of our testing backed this up. The 7950 is a very capable card but at no point could it pull a lead over the 660Ti, again costing less money.
Now I wanted to see how this scaled so I put the card on an i5 3450 at stock speeds as well as a Phenom II 965 at stock speeds and the card continued to deliver an outstanding gaming experience. This card is a true gem and continues to put nVidia in the strange place of finding it’s main competition is itself. With the majority of gamers playing at 1080 resolutions or lower it is really hard to justify spending $400 for a GTX 670. It is a great card and gives a gamer a ton of headroom to make sure his games today and tomorrow will run well, but for most of us $400 is a tough pill to swallow. Along comes the 660Ti which is pretty much identical on every way. Even going so far as being truly identical in gaming experience at 1080 resolutions, and suddenly the choice of getting a 670 is a little harder to make.
With the Kepler release nVidia has truly raised the bar. The 680 delivered an amazing card at it’s price point when you considered not just the performance but the low power usage and great feature set. Then the 670 came along and the performance lose was TINY yet it dropped the price $100 and kept that same great feature set and high level of performance. Now we have the 660Ti and the trend continues. This card drops $100 off the price but takes a minor performance hit and considering the target audience no performance hit at all over the 670.
With an amazing feature set, nVidia putting more emphasis on gaming and gaming support, a reasonable price, great game for free AND great performance this card is a no brainer for the mainstream gamer wanting the best bang for their buck at the upper end card. Sure you can go higher but if you live in the real world and use a single gaming display at 1080 this is the top of the line and buying higher nets you nothing of value but less money for buying games.
As for the specific model provided to us by EVGA? The EVGA GTX 660Ti SC is an awesome card for the money. Only $10 more than the stock speed cards this gives you a nice little performance boost. You also get EVGA quality and a great 3 year warranty as well as the best video card tweaking software on the market Precision X. If you want to take your gaming to the next level then this is card for you!
Show segment as aired live 18 August 2012
In May of 2010 I took my first look at a self contained liquid cooling system and declared then that they would soon be replacing the traditional air coolers for the DIY crowd. Since then we have seen a steady growth of sales in this market and also a steady growth of companies entering this market. Today most major CPU cooler makers have now brought a model to the market and even Intel and AMD have jumped on the bandwagon, both have branded their own models. So it only made sense that Thermaltake would also jump on the bandwagon.
In the world of these self contained systems there is essentially three levels, the basic model, a double width radiator model and the 240mm single width radiator model. The reason for these basic models can be found in design limitation put on these by the current case designs and the fact that everyone is using the same actual cooler manufacturers. You see these companies are not actually making these coolers they are buying them made for them from one of two companies, Asetek or Coolit. Thermaltake decided that for it’s LCS system it was going to work with Asetek to bring us their Water 2.0 lineup.
At CES, Doug and I got to see the two basic models, the Pro and the Performer. The Performer is the lowest cost model and uses what appears to be the traditional Asetek design with the slim radiator and the Pro is looks like the base design with the double width radiator. I commented that it was cool to see Thermaltake using the base Asetek designs that work so well. Ramsom however was quick to inform me that these we not the base designed, Thermaltake had worked with Asetek to have these tweaked so they had better performance.
Well we could not let a claim like that go without verifying it for our listeners so for the purposes of this review I put the Pro and the Performer in a head to head comparison with Antec’s H2O 620 and 920, both Asetek designed coolers.
- Intel i7 3820 @ 4.0 GHz
- Sapphire Pure Black X79N
- Kingston HyperX 1600 RAM
- Kingston HyperX 3K 240 Gig SSD
- Thermaltake Level 10 GT Case
- Thermaltake Toughpower 850
- Sapphire HD 7950
Since this is a CPU test we did our temperature testing on the CPU after running Prime 95 for 30 minutes. The case fans were all set for low in every test and the room temperature was controlled at 75F. Many places spend time looking at the idle temps cooler deliver, these are meaningless as all but complete junk should be able to keep a system cool at idle, we are looking for how these coolers perform under load and so put on some load to see what we got. For temperature readings I used the Core Temp program. For sound testing I used my own hearing as well as a sound meter app on my Droid X2 with the phone position right in front of my face at the position I sit at when using the computer.
Now you might have noticed that above I have given a lot more testing info than we normally give. The reason is I have had many question what we use for testing methods in some of the reviews we have done so this time I wanted to show our methodology.
Looking first at the Performer model we see the basic Asetek design but out of the box there is a twist, the cooler comes with two fans for a push pull design instead of the single fan everyone else uses. Now people get caught up in fans by how much air they move, as we discussed last week. In the case of a cooler like this the second fan is not about the air volume but rather the air pressure., The second fan basically helps to overcome the resistance the radiator has to airflow. True this increases the air volume that moves but the key here is the pressure it creates to overcome the resistance.
The kits has a splitter for the PWM fans to allow both of them to be connected to the CPU fan header. First let me say thank you to Thermaltake for doing this. A lot of the Thermaltake coolers I have seen of late have those in the case speed controllers that I loathe. The simple splitter to the header approach is something I have been begging them to do with their traditional designs, nice to see it finally appearing. I also like this better than the design on the 620 (the cooler we are comparing to) which has the fan connecting to the pump and being controlled not by the CPU temp but rather the fluid temps within the cooler.
This is not the only tweak however we see in this model. The Antec cooler had a small annoyance with it in that it would occasionally give off a gurgling sound. This was not really a problem, it was just the system working some air out of the lines. It was not all the time and would disappear after a little bit. Thermaltake however wanted it gone so they worked with Asetek and found that simple increase in the pump speed, about 8% was enough to remove this issue. I can say that in all my testing I never once heard a gurgle from the Water 2.0 systems were I did in the Antec models. The added benefit of this tweak is the fluid is moving a little quicker within the loop and we see a small drop in load temps because of it.
The result of these tweaks was clear once we put down the numbers from testing. The Water 2.0 Performer delivered temps about 4C lower than the 620 every time. Now this might not seem like a large drop but considering these are both at the same price point any drop is a great thing. Under load neither system was audible to my ear when ramping up in a quiet room and my sound meter showed only a 1 decibel difference at my normal seated position with the second fan on the Pro adding a little noise.
Next we come to the Pro, which is using the double width radiator design that we also see in the 920 from Antec. The same two fans are included with this model and again include a splitter for use on the CPU header. This time the only tweak that seems to exist is the extra speed in the pump.
The results of our test runs show the Water 2.0 Pro out performing the 920 by 1.5C on average. This is a much tighter comparison that the Performer but then we are using the same number of fans and this time the only tweak for Thermaltake to show is the pump. The sound dynamic of of the Pro was right in line with that of the 920 with no difference found. Again however we are talking about a cooler within the same price point, so even that small difference in temperature performance is worth noting.
Something else I observed during testing of these two models is the fact the fan speed ramped quicker than the Antec models. What I mean is as the CPU heated up the fans on the Water 2.0 responded faster in increasing speed and as it cooled they slowed quicker. The reason for this is the fact the fan speeds are based on the temp of the CPU and not the liquid in the cooler. You see as the CPU heats up in the Thermaltake design the fans respond to the CPU temp. However the liquid in the system does not heat up as fast, there is a lag as it were. This is simple physics, go to a pond after a cold winter and one week of hot summer, the water temp just does not move as fast as everything around it. I really like this design better than basing the temp off the fluid system.
Finally we come to the Extreme, this model makes use of a single width radiator that is 240mm long. Again we see our two fans however this time Thermaltake has returned to the traditional method of allowing the cooler itself to control the fan speeds. However this time it makes sense since the pump also attaches to a USB header and allows you control of the pump and fan through software. This model is really a hardware enthusiast model and this extra control is something that segment wants.
This is the first 240mm solution I have seen from an Asetek design, the only other 240mm cooler we have seen is based off a design by Coolit so the direct comparison for me does not work as well. As with the other two models this design has the increase in pump speed and delivered a solid performance. When compared to the Corsair H100, the other 240 cooler we have seen it performed in pretty much a dead tie. Bother coolers offered excellent results and either would make an enthusiast happy.
Both however offer different feature sets so the key is to find the feature set you want. The H100 has direct connect support for up to 4 fans, the Water 2.0 Extreme has only for two. The H100 has a hardware speed setting that is limited to three choices and must be done in the case. The Water 2.0 uses a software solution that can be changed via software at any time and offers presets as well as the ability to create a custom ramping of the performance. The key is to decide which feature set is what you want.
In comparison of these three models again each other I got pretty much what we and Thermaltake expected. The Extreme was best in cooling with numbers around 5C lower than the Performer. The Pro delivered better numbers as well but only about 1.5C on average lower than that of the Performer. Now the good news is that even the Performer was able to keep the CPU cool, under the torture testing we did the highest CPU temp recorded for the Pro was 70C. This is actually a very safe temp for the chip being overclocked and under a pressure testing.
Of the three models the one that impressed me the most I have to say is the Performer. While the other models are great I am just a fan of finding bang for the buck. The double width radiator does a solid job of cooling no doubt and if you are going to push your overclock a bit is a worthy buy however for the price difference I think the Performer is just a better deal for most of us. If you are uber overclocker then the Extreme is for you but again for the majority of us that level of cooling is not needed.
With the Water 2.0 lineup Thermaltake has entered the world of the self contained liquid coolers very strong this round. While they were there before with their Bigwater system it never took off. It is good to see a more budget minded and easier to install offering from them. The Water 2.0 system brings the excellent Asetek design that others are using but tweaks it in a way that puts it a step above others using the same design. The Water 2.0 is a great cooling system and offers three levels for the level of cooling you will need. For me however the big winner here is the Water 2.0 Pro, with a solid entry price point and an extra fan for a push pull configuration out of the box this is a deal that is hard to beat.
Review segment as aired live 11 August 2012
The term NOOB is one every game is aware of, it is used in a manner to insult another. It refers to someone that is displaying a lack of skill or experience in a particular game or event. It however is also considering a term that is insulting and is used in a manner meant to be insulting most of the time. It is not limited to just games, I have seen the term used in many “enthusiast” tech forums when someone posts something someone lese disagrees with.
The use of this term to insult or demean a person in my opinion not just bad form, it is actually a dumb way to deal with things. You see we need to realize that our hobby cannot thrive and grown without the influx of new people. The new gamer or new hardware enthusiast brings fresh blood and many times fresh ideas to our hobby, this is important for it’s growth. because without that fresh blood our hobby with grow stagnant and eventually die off.
Instead of insulting and belittle these people would should be embracing them. We should reach out a helping hand and offer to show them some of what we have learned from our experiences. It is when we share the passion we have for our hobby that new people will begin to develop that same passion and becoming a thriving and productive member of our community.
So the next time you are playing a game and you see a new player fumbling their way along, send them a private message, ask if they could use to some help. Invite them to talk to people in your gaming group, include them in your game sessions and help them find the passion you have for the game. As tech enthusiasts we need to do something similar. When a new guy asks for first time build advice we should not bomb them with a simple laundry list of parts and tell him these are his best choices. We need to take the time to talk to him about what he is hoping to accomplish. What he wants to do with the PC. Once we have this we can share our build experiences and tricks, help him make the first build something he has a lot of fun out.
At some point we have all been NOOBs and wish someone had taken the time to help us along. Lets make sure we help our hobby and ourselves by helping others find the passion for our hobby that we all share and do it without calling each other names.