By Edward “Computer Ed Crisler
When it comes to building a gaming computer a lot of people are turned off by it due to the cost. They think they need to spend a lot of money to enjoy the PC gaming experience. I wanted to prove them wrong and so last week I set about to build a low cost gaming rig. Since I love building in SFF I did this using the Node 304 case and a Gigabyte F2A85XN motherboard. To ensure the best results I opted for the high end of the APU lineup and used an A10 6800K to which I paired 8 gig of Kingston DDR3 2133 RAM. I topped off the build with a Samsung 120 gig base 840 SSD and ended up with a smoking quick little computer.
For testing I made a few presumptions. After all this was a budget build so that meant little money. I presumed I had thrown all my money into the computer so I started firing up F2P games. I chose Neverwinter, Star Wars, DC Universe, League of Legends and then added a beta FPS game I love, Loadout.
My goal in this testing was to explore the play experience. While I did use benchmarks during the testing they where for base data, not the end data results like so many sites use. Benchmarks are all well and good but actually using the computer is all that matters at the end of the day and I was striving for a smooth playback with decent graphics. I am a bit pickier than most so I figure my judgement on this will give more casual gamers great results.
I kept my testing realistic and started at the high end, 1080 resolutions with the games set to medium detail level within game sliders being used. I made use of the default settings to keep this simply. The experience was really solid with all of the game delivering good playback. I did see some stutter in super congested areas within the MMO’s but during the combat or in areas where there was risk of combat the playback was very smooth. League of Legends and Loadout where nice and smooth the whole time and gave good playback.
Next I dropped to 720 resolution and cranked the detail to high, this to me seemed a more realistic setting for this type of setup. At these settings the games had outstanding play with only the barest noticeable stutter in super congested common areas in the MMOs, nothing however to really harm the play experience.
With a total cost for the build of under $600 I think I achieved what I set out to do. A term used a lot today is a Steam Box and this build qualifies. It was super compact and could fit on an entertainment center easily, making use of the TV as a monitor. The use of 720 resolution might be snubbed by many enthusiasts but it does give a solid gaming experience.
Now I could have stopped here and been happy with the results but I wanted to see if there was more. The 6800K is a fully unlocked APU so it can be overclocked. Pushing the system to 4.6GHz with the iGPU at 1 GHz I got a nice boost in my frame rates but the overall experience stayed about the same. However I was curious at how much kick this little brute had, so this started me thinking. The scenario is that you have built this $600 PC and have been gaming on it a bit but you realize you have been bitten by the PC gaming bug and want more. You want 1080 gaming with high detail and you want some of the more advanced games.
Since there is a PCIe slot on the board we are using we do have the option of putting in a high end video card. However I am always hearing people in enthusiast forums talking about how a high end card on an APU is a waste, it will bottleneck the card. Well that is our first test, will it bottleneck the card?
To test this fully I decided to go way over the top. I put a 7970 GHz edition with 6 gigs of memory on this APU based system. Now this is a lot more GPU than this type of build will likely ever get but I wanted to see if the APU was bottlenecking the high end discrete GPU. To do this I needed a baseline and so I used a Haswell i7 4770K clocked at 4.3GHz with 16 gig of Kingston DDR3 1600 memory and the same video card and drivers.
For testing I used 3DMark Firestorm and was watching the GPU score, if the APU was bottleneck the GPU this score would reflect it. This test is pushing 1080 resolutions so I felt it was a perfect pairing of test and GPU to see if the APU was bottlenecking.
Now the scores that rely on the CPU went to the Haswell as expected. However my first surprise came when I saw the overall 3DMark. The Haswell, in overall score was only 12% faster. I ran these tests three times to verify. 12% overall is NOT a huge difference, especially when we are talking about a 236% price difference for the chips.
As if the overall scores where not surprise enough the graphic scores where nearly flabbergasting, the APU stayed within 0.8%, that’s right less than a single point of percentage. In fact in one of three tests it outscored the Haswell by 0.1%. This is pretty clear that from a raw power point of view at 1080 the APU is NOT bottlenecking a high end video card. If my testing was not enough for you how about AnandTech? In an article they posted on 1440 gaming they found that for the majority of games the A10 APU was the best buy for single video card game play at 1440. They did this BTW on a 5800K so they used a slowed base speed APU at stock speeds vs my overclock.
What about actual game play though? Well with the bottleneck issue proven to be a myth I dropped down a little in video card, I wanted a more reasonable build price. With 7950 cards now being seen near $225 that seemed a good point and still gives a higher end card. Next I started firing up some games, this time though I did some stuff with a bit more kick. I used a modded Skyrim, Crysis 3, Far Cry 3, Borderlands 2, Bioshock Infinite, Civ V and our choices from the F2P crowd as well.
Now again the actual game play was our goal and in all but Crysis 3 I was able to run at High default settings and get great game play at 1080. For Crysis 3 I did step back down to medium but even in medium Crysis 3 looks AMAZING! Now in fairness the game ran good at high but the playback was better at medium and so that was what I would suggest. In all the other games on high the playback was smooth and nice, enjoyable game play with no noticeable stuttering.
The results are actually pretty amazing. With a system costing less than $825 I was able to achieve the same gaming experience are systems costing hundreds of dollars more. What is especially cool is that I could build the system at a lower cost, have fun with it and then just put in a video card to kick it over the top. None of the parts I bought where replaced to do this, just a GPU added.
This testing proves to me that the AMD APUs are a lot more than just a budget based chip. Sure they can build a budget system and in my opinion if you are building a system that is using the integrate GPU the APU is the ONLY way worth going. However they are not done there, this budget build can give a solid platform to take your gaming experience to the next level. The high end enthusiast might look at other options for their build, but for the majority of users, the APU is the place to start.
BTW if you want see more than a discussion on this, head over to the LANOC event on September 7th. I will be there along with a slightly modified APU build as discussed here. Come join us and see it in action.
A special thank you to all the companies that provided the parts used in this article.
Show Segment Aired Weekend of August 24th
By Edward “Computer Ed” Crisler
This time around as we have done our gaming peripheral shootout, we wanted to look at a bit more budget oriented products. With this in mind we asked for membrane based keyboards and mice plus headsets that where solid values. For this Steelseries sent us the 3H Headset to review. Priced at around $30 the 3H is a small budget oriented headset that is designed to deliver “Pro Gaming” sound according to the folks at Steelseries.
This is a very no frills package with no drivers needed for the analog headset and no fancy lights or bling. The headset itself is an on ear design, meaning the padding for the cups rests on your ear, and folds up to be very compact. The result is a headset that is much smaller that what we have reviewed in the past.
The microphone uses Steelseries patented method of retracting it back into the headset itself and this helps with making the overall headset very small. The design is very light weight and the headband is very comfortable.
I have to tell you I was not happy when I started to use these, the reason why is the on the ear design is just not comfortable for me. The headset felt very small on my head and that tied to the light weight design made me feel constantly as if I was about to break it. However when I let people with smaller heads make use of it they did not have the same issues I had. This is a purely subjective feel.
When I got past how these felt on my head I was blown away by the sound. These little headphone produce sound quality that is very close to their big brother, the Siberia. Despite a smaller driver the sound is big, deep and rich. In fact I would go so far to say that in their price point there is no headset I have heard that sound better. The mic was of solid quality, matching the clarity of the Siberia headset as well.
This will seem a quick and simple review to many but this is a quick and simple headset. This would be awesome for traveling or if you have a smaller head or even for a child. The sound output is outstanding.
- Value Priced
- Great Sound
- Very Compact for Traveling
- On the Ear Design
- Small Cups
Thank you to the folks at Steelseries for providing us the 3H Headset for review.
Segment aired the weekend of July 13th, 2013
By Edward “Computer Ed” Crisler
When you go buy a gaming mouse today it is pretty much the norm to see something with a sculpted design. Curves and small platforms along the sides, all supposedly designed to make your hand sit more comfortably on the mouse. So when Steelseries first introduced the Sensei as their premier mouse it was kind of an odd duck, with it’s simple design. After using it however I quickly became sold. So now, a year and a half later I have been given a chance to look at the Sensei RAW, a toned down version of the original.
The RAW comes in two versions, a rubberized coating and a glossy back coating. We had the option of which we wanted to see and I chose the rubberized. I like the rubberized components and their feel, they are not slick to hold and they tend to be very durable.
The Sensei design is one of the few, truly, ambidextrous mice out there today. What I mean is the design is balanced. What you see on the right is mirrored on the left, this allows the mouse to be used with either hand and have the same feel and button options. As a right handed mouser this does not really translate as a big deal to me but the left handed people I had test it fell in love as soon as they started using it. The mousing world is very targeted at right hander mouse use so this design allows for everyone to enjoy using this mouse.
While the RAW brings the design of the Sensei to a more budget audience it does lose some of the bling features. Gone is the nifty LCD back screen, multiple color setup and the internal ARM processor. The RAW also does not have the DPI doubling feature of the original Sensei, in fact looking at the setup software the choices for control are reduced from the original quite a bit. This however is not in my eyes a detriment, the simple functionality is something I enjoy. Instead of the many settings you had with the original, the RAW is very basic, you have the same button options but mouse control is only adjustable for CPI, polling rate and the White LED on the mouse can be adjusted for level and pulse.
From just an outward appearance the RAW is identical to the original Sensei and is also identical in fit of the hand. The size is a nice balance between big enough for large hands but not to big or small hands. This design was truly designed with Goldilocks in mind, it is just right. The mouse has two buttons on each side, a mirror of each other. This offers a good range of easy to reach buttons. For me personally, my old man hands lack the dexterity of youth so I find myself hitting the left buttons by accident all the time. It only took me about 10 seconds to disable them in the driver software.
The white illumination I spoke of is in the mouse and the Steelseries logo. It is not overwhelming on high and can be set for various pulse levels. When used with the Apex RAW keyboard they set looks perfectly matched.
While the RAW might not have the features of the original Sensei it does have amazing tracking. I was able to get good mouse tracking on a number of surfaces and during all my testing never once noticed I had switched from the original Sensei to the RAW.
Priced at $60 the RAW is in a fast growing and incredibly competitive group of gaming mice. The RAW has a great feel and the performance is spot on. While it lacks the bells and whistles of it’s big brother it kept the spirit of the original. The Sensei Raw should be on anyone’s short list of a good valued gaming mouse.
During the show I commented that the RAW did not come with a braided cable, I was wrong. Not sure what I was thinking but yes the cable is braided.
- Ambidextrous design
- Rubberized covering is a comfortable gripping surface
- Not overwhelming with features and buttons
- Great tracking
- Braided cable
Thank you to the folks at Steelseries for providing us the Sensei Raw for review.
Segment aired the weekend of July 6th, 2013
By Edward “Computer Ed” Crisler
When we decided to do a second peripheral shootout we made a point of contacting the companies that took part in our first such comparison. Of our original three, only Steelseries stepped up to answer the challenge. For this round they brought their Apex Raw Gaming Keyboard.
As with the other keyboards in this shootout, the Raw is of membrane design. This helps to reduce the price of the keyboard, the Raw is coming in at about $70 on Amazon. The membrane system of the Raw is rated to 5 million key strokes and comes with a one year warranty.
The Raw manages to fit 17 macro keys (34 potential with profile switching) into a regular sized keyboard. I like this as the constant effort to add more Macro keys seems to make the keyboards larger and larger and sometimes harder to find your way back to the home keys without looking. To accomplish this they have a single row of 5 keys along the left side and then 12 keys, raised across the top above the function keys. This position will be awkward for rapid macro needs during the heat of an intense play session. However for those emote nuts out there this setup gives some easy to access option.
The keyboard does not sport any extra USB ports of sound jacks and the media keys are special functions keys embedded within the existing keyboard. To make the keyboard stay standard sized and add macros to the left, Steelseries resized the space bar. At first I was concerned this shorter space bar would represent an issue but it does not. I checked on existing keyboards with the longer space bar and all my space bar presses where always near the center. My making the space bar shorter on the Apex family they can keep a smaller keyboard size and have the macro keys. The extra depth of the space bar means that the center hits are actually more accurate on the bar, all in all it was hard to tell there was any difference during daily use.
The Raw is backlit with just a white light and has various levels of intensity for you to choose from. I found however that in full light conditions the backlighting is a bit dim and so just left the lighting on high. The white lighting made the keyboard easy to see in lo light options and the lighting in general is well done and evenly applies.
The key throws, distance they travel when pressed, are very tight, among the tightest of any keyboard I have used. This means the keyboard is very responsive to typing. The membrane used is all but silent when typing but has a mushy feel when compared to any mechanical keyboard. While this is true of all membrane keyboards the Raw seems to have an even mushier feel than most. The result is a strange feel even moving from another membrane keyboard. The good news is within an hour or so you get used to it and the keyboard is very responsive.
As for the actual construction the Apex raw is the heaviest non mechanical keyboard I have ever used. In fact just by heft and feel you would think it was mechanical. The keyboard has forgone the normal popout feet for the increasing of the keyboard tilt, and instead gone with an interesting design. The padded feet at the back of the keyboard can be swapped out for a thicker model to increase the angle. This method works very well and has the advantages that the legs on the back will not be broken off.
Once you get past the strange feel the Raw is an outstanding keyboard that has proven a joy to use. The silent operation is the single quietest keyboard I have every used and the even backlighting make it an excellent choice for those late night gaming sessions.
- heavy construction
- silent operation
- even backlighting
- lots of macro keys without being overly large
- no braided cable
- mushy feel during early use
Thank you to the folks at Steelseries for providing us the Apex Raw for review.
Segment aired the weekend of June 27th, 2013
By Edward “Computer Ed” Crisler
Well with the mouse and keyboard reviews complete we turn our attention to the headset we where supplied to show the new G series gaming peripherals from Logitech. For our shootout Logitech sent us the G230 headset, the budget model of their G lineup.
The G230 is an analog headset, differing from the USB headsets we have looked at from other companies for our peripheral shootout. However when teamed up with the G510S keyboard you get the best of both worlds as you can use the build in sound of the keyboard to provide a USB solution and still use an analog headset. This leaves the impression that this headset and keyboard were designed to work together and they do very well.
The G230 has a very basic plastic construction with a single band clamp design and a swing down bar microphone. The sound is provided by 40mm drivers is a well designed over the ear cup.
The cups and headband are padded using a sports cloth material. These did a surprisingly good job of blocking outside noise during use, better than any other cloth cup padding I have used yet. The design also breathed well, allowing for extended use with no discomfort. A really neat feature is the fact the padding on the cups can be easily removed and washed. A much more useful feature than it sounds, especially with summer upon us.
These are a very light weight headset and this means they sit very conformably on your head however on first impression they are so light they felt flimsy. However do not let that first impression fool you. The G230 comes with the same 3 year warranty that is on the rest of the G lineup and the headphone build quality so far looks like it will hold up well.
A few other features are the inline volume control and mic mute as well as the ability for the headphone cups to turn allowing a flatter profile for travel. The cord is nice and long with a fine cloth braiding for protection. You will be making use of it’s Velcro tie as I found the cord to be a bit long for all but the most extreme uses.
For sound testing I put the G230 through my typical setup of music using Unskinny Bop, Races is On and Get to the Point and then fired up some Ironman for my movie viewing pleasures before moving on to gaming. Because this is an analog headset there is no driver and this means limited tweaking ability for the sound. For this reason Logitech chose to make this headset with a very neutral profile.
What this means is while there is no one sound area where this headset excels at, it does deliver very even sound across the board. This is not really a bad thing as my listening experiences where good in everything. For me the sound was a little flat, I like my driving bass, but for general use the sound was clear and well defined. The microphone as similarly middle of the road. It delivers very good sound and voices comms where clear and easy to hear. In our recording testing the sound was good but pretty much middle of the road when compared to other headset we tested.
Priced at $50 currently on Newegg, this headset is setting solidly in the middle of every aspect. The price is a middle of the road price that offers good value and the headsets offer performance that are equal or above others at the same price point.
- Good value
- comfortable fit
- great warranty
- washable ear cup padding
- clean middle dynamics on sound
While I might not have given the G230 a glowing review that does not mean these are not a solid headset option. For their price point they are an excellent value and a 3 year warranty makes these a great buy for someone looking for a good headset with a reasonable price.
Thank you to the folks at Logitech for providing us the G230 for review.
Show segment from show airing the weekend of June 15th, 2013
By Edward “Computer Ed” Crisler
Logitech mice have been a standard for a number of years however their gaming mice, while well respected have seem to only do middle of road in the market place. With the recent revamp of their gaming series Logitech has introduced an entire mouse lineup, ranging from the $40 G100S to the $100 G700S.
When we got the keyboards and headset from Logitech for review the one thing missing was a mouse. Numerous emails to them got limited response so, since I wanted to do a complete peripheral set I purchased a new mouse myself. I wanted to keep the cost within the same grouping as the other peripherals so I chose the G400S. It has a suggested list price of $60 but I was able to find it at Best Buy for $40.
The G400S is a refresh of the G400 model that Logitech already had on the market. The changes include a new look as well as a change in the materials on the outside of the mouse. The surface has a very nice soft feel to it and does not hold any kind of fingerprints. The top has a textured patter but a smooth feel to it. The sides have a softer surface but an almost slick to feel to them.
When I started using the G400S I felt like my grip on the sides on the mouse was slipping. This had the interesting effect however of changing my grip and actually giving me a little more precision in my control. After a day of the use the mouse no longer felt slick in my grip and was very comfortable.
With many modern games heading in the direction of a “click fest” play style, Logitech has made an effort to ensure their mouse can stand up. They have used high quality mechanical switches for the mouse buttons with an estimated life of around 20 million clicks. This means a year for a hard core Diablo III player They have also put on polytetrafluoroethylene glide pads that are rated by Logitech to 250 km of usage, that’s a lot of mousing. All of this points to a very durable design and Logitech backs that up with a 3 year warranty.
The button layout is simple, you have the two primary buttons along with a sensitivity up and down by the scroll wheel. A third button on the top puts the mouse back to it’s default settings no matter what setting you are currently at. The up for the sensitivity is placed at the front of the scroll wheel and the down at the back.
The 400S has a sculpted shape that fits a right hand perfectly, sorry for all you lefties. This design puts no buttons on the right side and only two on the left side. These are well placed and I had no trouble accessing either.
This is a very basic gaming mouse but I think it fills it’s roll well. The sensitivity can be adjusted via the software from 200 to 4000 DPI. This is a large range and I put in 4 different presets using the profile software, which is super simple to use. This ranges means it is easy for anyone to find a DPI setting that is best for them. This level of DPI fine tuning also makes this a great mouse for anyone doing precision work on their PC. The optics on this mouse are outstanding, I tested on numerous surfaces and the mouse tracked perfectly no matter the surface I tried.
With a reasonable price, amazing warranty and build that is geared toward durability the G400S is an incredible value in a gaming mouse. While it lacks the million buttons so many gaming mouse try to throw at you today, for some of us, this simple button setup is perfect. This is a solid gaming mouse and worth consideration in your peripheral purchasing.
- Good price point
- Durable design
- Nice finish
- Great tracking
- 3 year warranty
- Right handed specific design
- Buttons might be short in number for some
Next week I close out our look at the Logitech Gaming peripheral set for our shootout with the G230 headset.
Show segment from show airing the weekend of June 8th, 2013
By Edward “Computer Ed” Crisler
Logitech is a company that needs no introduction to computer users. Founded in 1981 Logitech has been on the leaders of computing peripherals, known mostly for their mice and keyboards. Most people have heard of Logitech in the realm of simple keyboards and mice for general computer use, however Logitech has also had a strong presence in the world of computer gaming. This year Logitech revamped their gaming lineup and sent us a peripheral set for our shootout, so lets begin with their keyboard the G510S.
The 510S is a membrane style keyboard designed with gamers in mind. While we here at Computer Ed radio have become big fans of mechanical keyboards I have to say that the membranes in the 510S surprised me with their firm response and feel while typing. This is a larger keyboard with a full 18 macro keys off to the left side of the keyboard. The design has a very sturdy feel to it, it does not feel light and flimsy like so many membrane boards.
The arrow keys and the W/A/S/D keys are colored a light gray compared to the rest of the black keycaps. This is designed to give a visual queue to make it easier to find these keys. As I said along the left side we see 18 macro keys. Rather than just slamming 18 keys together Logitech was very thoughtful in their design and broke the key placement up into 3 groups of 6 each 3 keys wide and 2 deep. I have used a number of keyboards over the years with a lot of macro keys and I can say this layout has proven the easiest to to use of all of them.
Along the top to the macro keys are three profile keys that allow you to reset the profiles to various needs, this gives you then the option of as many as 54 macro settings. Next to the profile keys is a quick macro record key to allow you to record a macro on the fly. Over a little more to center we have a slider that enables or disables the Windows key on the keyboard. This is a useful features, one I wish all keyboards had.
Still coming across the top we come to what looks like a headphone and mic mute set. Well that is exactly what they are. At the top of the keyboard, above these keys you will find a headphone and mic jack. These analog jacks are not extensions that plug into your sound card. Logitech has put a USB sound system into the keyboard that becomes active when your headphone is plugged in. This is a really cool feature as it allows you the flexibility of a USB headset while still making use of your analog set.
I tested this sound setup using the headset Logitech sent for testing along with a couple of Plantronics and the Dragon Signature headphone we look at last year. The sound was solid with good range and clarity. The software for the keyboard gave no way to adjust the sound but the base profile was a good balanced approach that delivered a good gaming experience.
I am going to skip the middle for a moment and jump to the left side of the keyboard where we have brightness controls for the keyboards back lighting as well as the multimedia keys. For volume control Logitech went with a scroll bar and I am really glad they did. This is just a better volume control solution than a knob or buttons when put on a keyboard. Back to the brightness control, the 510S comes with 16 million options for a single backlight color. The color and brightness can be controlled through the software and the brightness adjusted from this button. The 510S delivers on it’s color with a lot of variations being possible, however I felt the color options left a dim appearance with the backlighting. The light was even and consistent but just a bit dim even at the brightest levels. In the end I found the white to give the best backlight option.
At the center of the top is the feature that Logitech gaming keyboards are known for, their LCD screen. In the 510S this is a mono colored screen with the content being colored based on your choice of keyboard color. The screen is 160×48 pixels, with the button on the left being used to switch between display programs and the 4 buttons under being used by these programs if supported. The concept is that this screen can be used to display real time info ranging from a clock, to CPU usage, CPU temps, in game info and more. One of the games I am playing right now, Neverwinter has this support, the screen displays your characters experience points and hit points. I also found an app uthat allowed me to monitor my CPU temp. While this sounds really cool in the end I was kind of disappointed. It is a neat feature but when you are gaming taking the time to look down at your keyboard makes no sense. Especially when the info is displayed on screen already. As for the CPU temp that sounds great but a good system build will give enough headroom that active monitoring like this is not needed during gaming. Again the concept is neat but the implementation failed to impress me.
Priced at $120 the G510S seems to me a mixed bag of a product. The keyboard has a great feel for a membrane keyboard and the silent operation compared to mechanical could be a real boon to late night gamers. The macro keys are well thought out in design but result in an overly large keyboard. There is a definite curve to getting used to it when you are used to a simpler design, your left hand can get lost looking for the end of the keyboard. The headset feature is a great and innovative idea that worked well. The LCD display is a good idea but just not living up to it’s potential. Overall construction is outstanding and backed by a 3 year warranty, that is very telling of how confident Logitech is in the durability of this keyboard. Overall I enjoyed using this keyboard and would suggest it to anyone looking for the features it has, however the price point makes it hard to make a general recommendation for this keyboard.
- 3 year warranty
- solid feel and construction
- good response on keys
- built in independent sound option
- excellent macro key layout
- Price seems high
- large size
- LCD feature not well implemented.
Next week we continue our look at the new Logitech gaming series with the G400S Gaming Mouse and the week after we dive into the G230 headset.
Thank you to the folks at Logitech for providing us the G510S for review.
Show segment from show airing the weekend of June 1st, 2013
By Doug “Doug Dot Com” Berner
Out of the box the first thing to catch my eye was aggressive angular styling. This coupled with a red and black color scheme makes it very eye catching. We have seen aggressive angular styling in the past and it has not always been comfortable in the hand. The Gila however manages to pull off that great angular look without feeling uncomfortable in the hand. This thing turned out to be surprisingly comfortable to myself and anyone else that I had try it out.
The finish on the Gila is a flat black with a very pebbly textured rubber on each side, the result being that the Gila does a great job of not showing finger prints and smudges and also offers a very positive grip in any condition.
More and more we are seeing gaming mice debut with more and more buttons and the Gila is no exception. Besides the three primary buttons the Gila sports a total of eight additional buttons that can be assigned to various tasks. Unlike many other gaming mice they do not clump them all in one spot. Instead the Gila does a great job of placing them in groups of two around various locations that are all pretty easy to reach even with my large and clumsy fingers. From the pictures you can see they have placed them on the front left and right shoulders, in the middle just behind the DPI select button and at the top of the thumb rest. Speaking of DPI, the Gila lets you switch between 5 different setting unlike many other mice of the same or greater cost which limit you to 2 or 3.
As with the keyboard, the software to set the Gila up in very easy to use and understand without having to resort to reading a page of instructions and watching two YouTube videos to make any sense of it.
The Gila offers not only infinite light colors but breaks the lighting up into three groups. Front lights which illuminate the area in front of the mouse, center for the scroll wheel and GX logo and tail lights that follow the contours of the rear of the Gila. Using the setup software each group can be set to its own color and behavior. So each can be the same or different shades of color and can be on, off or pulse. Additionally there is a row of five tiny lights on the left side top which tell you what DPI setting you currently are set to.
Like the keyboard we looked at last week the Gila also sports a braid reinforced cable protecting the wires inside from most normal stress it is likely to encounter. Another benefit I have found in braded cables especial with mice is that they tend to move and slide around on the desk easier than rubber cables which tend to get stuck and hang up on obstacles in my work environment.
Another trend we have seen in recent years for gaming mice is adjustable weight. This is a feature that many of us have come to expect since it adds to the custom feel of a mouse and enhances the experience. Again the Gila does not disappoint in this department. A compartment located in the rear of the Gila will hold up to six weights allowing you to adjust its overall weight from a svelte 140 grams to a portly 172 grams making the Gila at maximum weight the heaviest mouse in our stable by far.
With two months of daily use in gaming and production the Gila has performed flawlessly. I have seen no wear or scratches on the finish, and I have tried it on various moussing surfaces from a cheap mouse pad to denim fabric and vinyl. In every case the Gila tracked perfectly without one twitch or hiccup.
Price on the Gila is about what you would expect in a mouse of this quality, at $70.00 it in fact comes in cheaper than many of its competitors that offer fewer features.
I find it hard to find any real fault in the Genius Gila Gaming mouse. If I had to pick one thing I would change it would be that rather than have the GX logo lit at the rear, I would like to see the scorpion logo lit. The scorpion does make an appearance on the Gila, but it is very subdued unlike the one we saw in holo foil on the keyboard.
All in all if you are looking for a good gaming or all around mouse and if you enjoy aggressive styling and comfort at an affordable price I suggest you add the Gila to your short list of mice to get your hand around and consider for your purchase.
- Adjustable weight can set from feather light to very heavy.
- Multiple light groups separately adjustable gives a huge range of customization.
- Aggressive style but still comfortable in most hands.
- Lots of buttons placed in well thought out locations like on the raised shoulders.
- None of note, but I would like to see the scorpion logo lit up.
Genius is not a brand that Ed or I had heard of until we were given the chance to looks at these peripherals but judging by what we have seen thus far I expect we will be hearing lots about them in the future.
Check back next week as we will be taking a look at the third and final item in the GX gaming lineup from Genius, the Cavimanus headset.
Thank you to the folks at Genius for sending us the GX Gila for review.
Show segment from show airing the weekend of May 18th, 2013
By Doug “Doug Dot Com” Berner
Last year Ed and I took the time to go through a few keyboards, mice and headsets, we needed with a Gaming Peripheral Shootout. While we were grateful to the three companies that took part the truth is we wanted to do more. Well this year we have Steelseries returning but they are joined by Genius and Logitech for our second shootout round, first in our sites, Genius and the Imperator Pro keyboard.
Lets start with the unboxing experience: Well it came in a box that was attractive, informative and protective. What else could you want in a box, or a significant other for that matter? Seriously you all know how I feel about unboxing stuff by now so you were not expecting a full page of glowing words about how much of a joy it was to see the quality of the plastic bags used. I see it as the equivalent of talking about how comfy the airbag cloth is in a car. It works and that is what matters.
On first examination I was impressed with an overall styling that was aggressive but no so aggressive that it looked alien. A nice textured and rather flat finish did not show finger smudges as I pawed looking for faults in the finish. It boasts reinforced cord with two USB plugs indicating that the two USB ports on the upper edge are powered and not passive, which is a plus if you are trying to charge things like your phone with them. A bank of 6 macro keys are located on the left side and there 3 mode buttons which let you quickly switch between pre-defined customized setups and there is a light dimmer button also at the top allowing you to adjust the brightness to any of 4 levels plus a pulse on/off mode. Also a full set of multi-media keys let you adjust volume and playback on the fly.
Immediately after booting up with the GX-Imperator installed I went to the GX gaming website and downloaded the latest and greatest software, installed it and got down to business.
The setup software is easy to understand and use and even a beginner should have no trouble with setup on this keyboard.
Immediately I noticed the keys display a unique font that makes it stand out in a crowd. This adds a nice flare to the appearance that heretofore I have only found in more expensive keyboards.
Another thing I like is that the Imperator’s software allows infinite color choices so matching to you other peripherals is no problem. On the down side the overall lighting is lacking in couple of ways. Even on the brightest setting the best that can be said for it is that it is subdued. Depending on the color you choose it may be bright enough for your needs. For example I found that the lighter blue shades showed up much better than full reds. I have noted in other reviews that I work in a room with both artificial and natural sunlight and being a stickler for a lighted keyboard, I am often more sensitive about this than other reviews. It all depends on your personal preference but since you can dim this keyboard I would rather have seen them go for an overly bright approach that I could then dim down to what works for me.
Also the lighting on the number keys is uneven which results in the symbols at the tops of the keys are only half lit. Well that’s not totally accurate, if you look straight down on the keys they are fully lit but when you put the Imperator out in front of you in a typing position the top half of each symbol is dark. While this does not affect performance it is a tad annoying.
As for performance the Imperator is a membrane keyboard so it does not feel quite like the mechanical that I am used to, but this is not a bad thing. Mechanical keyboards are not for everyone, they are normally heavier, louder and more expensive than membrane keyboards and as such the world needs both if we are all to be happy. The imperator is very firm and responsive and has a comfort level that is among the best I have experienced. Being a membrane design also means that it is very quiet, a handy thing if you are in a room where other people don’t want to listen to your typing or gaming sounding like Woody Woodpecker had one to many Red Bulls. Thus far I have worked and gamed on the Imperator for nearly 2 months without a problem. It easily fills both roles because the easy to set and use macro and mode switches mean I can switch back and forth between looks and tasks with simple a push of a button.
All in all the Imperator Pro performed as well any keyboard I have had the opportunity to test over the last several years.
Aside from the lighting issue I mentioned above, I would recommend the Imperator to anyone looking for a reasonably priced great performing keyboard for gaming and or production.
Oh and did I mention that all of the GX line rocks this cool scorpion logo? Well it does and let’s face it you just can’t put a price on cool. Seriously it is a cool logo and on the Imperator it makes an appearance on both the space bar and in holo-foil form on the wrist wrest.
When you consider that this can be bought on-line for $70 you have a great combination of quality, performance and affordability. If you do not want the inifitie lighting color options or the USB hub then you can get the none Pro model for $50. Whether you are in the market for yourself or a gamer in the family I recommend add the GX-Imperator keyboard by Genius to your list if keyboards to choose from.
- Quiet, but you expect that from a membrane keyboard.
- Six macro keys, which is plenty considering 80% of users never any.
- Infinite adjustable colored backlighting.
- Lockable windows key.
- Powered USB pass-through instead of passive means you can charge and operate a larger range of items.
- Custom font lettering is a nice touch.
- Uneven backlighting when not viewed from straight down.
- Backlighting needs to be brighter even on light blue which seems to show the best it is among the dimmer lighting systems we have seen.
In the coming weeks I will also be sharing my experience with the GX-GILA gaming mouse and the GX- Cavimanus . So stay tuned to learn more about this complete set that the good folks at Genius were kind enough to send to us for review.
Thank you to the folks at Genius for sending us the GX Imperator Pro for review.
Show segment from show airing the weekend of May 11th, 2013
With our case, PSU and motherboard firmly behind us we turn our attention now to the CPU and RAM for our build. These are actually some of the easiest choices of our build ad in the case of the CPU, the choice is made for us when we choose the motherboard, well at least for the brand.
With the choice of a Z77 based motherboard we are looking at using an Intel for the CPU. We could go down the food chain and pick an i3 or jump to the top and grab an i7 but extremes are something we have sought to avoid and I feel so should you. Extremes in computer hardware carry little in the way of true benefit. The lowest extreme means that you have fewer cores for any multi-threaded work you might be doing and the highest extreme is great performance but no true benefit for 99% of consumers when taking the cost vs. experience into account.
From the i5 processors we get a solid quad core CPU and at a reasonable price point. The question now is which one?
If you look back a bit there is an article I did that explored the i5 processor lineup when we are looking at real world gaming experience and performance. In this article I noted that from top to bottom of the i5 lineup there is only about an average performance boost of 4.7%. Now let me be clear in the world of PC gaming a difference of 5% means ZIP when it comes to your gaming experience.
With this information in hand it should be clear that at stock speeds there is no real advantage at buying at the top of the i5 rack over the bottom. However as some will note, we picked a Z77 motherboard for our build and this gives overclocking options. With this motherboard surely the i5 3570K is the better choice, right?
Well when you consider that we had a professional overclocking , Shannon Robb, explain to use that anything over about 4 GHz is not going to be worth the effort in a single GPU gaming setup. There is really no reason to seek a high end overclocking chip for this build, since gaming is our goal and an ITX build will only be a single card. (Okay technically you can extreme this and get a dual chip card but again that is the extreme)
This information BTW is further muddled with the fact that in our own testing, pushing a CPU to 4.1 GHz only gave us a bump of 6.1% above the low end stock i5. Again 6% is not anything amazing when it comes to the gaming experience. Pushing much past 4.1 we see the increase in performance vs. clock speed begin to fall off, as Shannon said we would.
What this tells me is the upper extreme is not going to offer enough to justify an extra
This chip is near the bottom of the i5 lineup in price. At stock speeds it delivers a great gaming experience and despite being a locked chip, our Z77 board can eek a little more kick out of her, we were able to to push up to 3.9 GHz. Now true this is not going to give us a huge boost but it puts us past the high end of the i5 lineup at stock and puts us very close to a moderate overclock of that higher end i5.
With the CPU choice made we turn our attention toward the RAM. ITX motherboards have a premium on space so gone are the 4 stick options we have with a typical socket 1155 motherboard. With our limit at 2 sticks the amount of memory we choose is also limited. While the system can go up to 16 gig using a 2×8 configuration, none of our testing showed a performance boost over 8 gigs in any games or in day to day use.
Since we are pretty sure we want 8 gig for the RAM, what about the speed. I mean logic would dictate that faster RAM would make a faster system. In our testing the folks at Kingston sent us a set of their HyperX BEAST memory. The particular model they sent is us a 16 gig (2×8) kit with speeds as high as 2133. We also have some Kingston HyperX ram with speeds of 2400.
For our testing I used the RAM at all the speed options I was given by the XMS settings on the motherboard, as well default of no setting which is 1333 on our board of choice. The BEAST had 1600 and 2133 for it’s two XMS settings but we also tested the 2400 speed vs 1600 using an 8 gig kit. The result was not what we expected. It seems that while there is a boost in benchmarking the memory, in the actually gaming the speed difference did not make all that much difference.
Checking with some other people I found that the general consensus is that with the Intel platform anything past 1600 seems to have little real benefit to the user. Our own testing bore this out. With a price premium of roughly $20 for the higher speed RAM at an 8 gig configuration and no real performance boost I think we will suggest that the good 8 gig (2×4) kit of DDR3 1600 is the best choice for our build. As for which specifically, well Kingston has a number of great choices in the HyperX lineup at all roughly the same price point right now on Newegg. I would say find the color that best fits your build style and enjoy. We have never been disappointed with buy ANY Kingston RAM.
So there we have it, we will be using an i5 3450 and Kingston HyperX DDR3 1600 RAM for our build and suggest you do the same.
Thank you to the folks at Intel for the processors they have provided as well as Kingston for our RAM selection.
Show segments from show airing the weekend of April 6th, 2013