Hannspree Micro PC review: a fantastic contraption

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Today we’re taking a look at something rather special – Hannspree’s Micro PC. This tiny HDMI stick packs an Intel Atom quad-core processor, 32GB of flash storage, WiFi, Bluetooth, and even USB and micro SD ports… not bad for a 38 gram dongle. What makes the Micro PC truly crazy though, is its operating system: not Android, not some weird version of Linux, but a full version of Windows 8.1. Let’s see what it’s capable of.

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Tesoro Excalibur Spectrum review: a true RGB mechanical keyboard for cheap

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Tesoro have been on a tear recently, rapidly improving their mechanical keyboards with the latest technologies while maintaining a competitive price point. We first looked at the Excalibur, their no-nonsense gaming keyboard with a traditional design and static one-colour backlighting. They then followed that up with the Excalibur RGB, which allowed you to choose from a range of colours for the backlight. Now we’ve reached the ultimate form with the Excalibur Spectrum, which allows you to choose each key’s backlight colour individually to make the keyboard of your dreams.

I’m excited to see how the Excalibur performs and how much of a difference the new backlighting system makes, so let’s move right into this review!

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4TB Seagate 3.5″ NAS hard drive review: exactly what you’d expect

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NAS. It stands for network attached storage, and it means a hard drive in a box with a tiny low-power PC, connected to your home network. It’s possible to pick up a NAS box with its own hard drives built in, but it’s often cheaper to pick up the box and add your own drives separately – either using what you have spare or getting something new. That brings us to today’s review item – the Seagate 4TB NAS hard drive. Seagate brag that this is the only 4TB drive optimised for NAS use: loads of storage, minimal noise, vibration resistant and designed for 24×7 use. Ebuyer were kind enough to send a unit our way, so let’s get to testing!

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Gigabyte P34W v3 review: a brilliantly compact top-end gaming laptop

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Today we’re looking at the P34W v3, the latest compact gaming laptop from Taiwanese manufacturers Gigabyte. The P34W v3 is powered by some of the latest and greatest components, including a fourth-generation Intel Core i7 processor and a Nvidia GTX 970 graphics card. Somehow, this is packed into a 1.8 kilogram design that measures just 21.9 millimetres thick. That should allow for impressive gaming performance in a tiny package, but how is it balanced by design, cooling and battery life? Let’s take a look.

Specifications

Here are the specifications of our review unit. Various storage options are available, including an SSD of up to 512GB and a mechanical hard drive of up to 2TB.

14-inch 1920 x 1080p LCD 120GB SSD + 1TB HDD
Mobile Intel HM87 Express 2x 1.5W speaker (Dolby Digital Plus)
Intel Core i7-4720HQ 2.6GHz ~ 3.6GHz
Haswell 22 nm, 47W TDP
4x USB 3.0, HDMI, VGA, SD card,
LAN, 3.5mm combo, DC-in
Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M 3GB Touchpad w/ multi-touch + 2 buttons
8GB 1600MHz DDR3 RAM 340 x 239 x 21.9mm, 1.8kg
Gigabit ethernet, WiFi n, BT 4.0 61.25 Whr Li-polymer battery
Windows 8.1 Pro Backlit keyboard

Design

The Gigabyte P34W is a sensibly constructed laptop, with understated visuals but an attractively slim design with rounded corners throughout. Closed, it’ll fit inside even the smallest messenger bags with ease, not taking up much more space than the average full-size tablet. Its dark grey matte chassis lacks ornamentation; there are no brash LEDs like you’ll find on the average Alienware laptop. The lack of flair makes it look fairly anonymous, with little to catch the eye on first glance.

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Open up the laptop, and you’ll see the standard arrangement: 14-inch 1080p display flanked by a host of stickers and the manufacturer’s logo, with a webcam and proximity sensor tucked above. A pair of solid-feeling hinges connect the display to the main chassis, next to the laptop’s small stereo speakers and the brushed metal power button.

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There’s little to complain about with the keyboard, with a standard layout that uses a Function layer to include media controls, navigation keys and a numberpad. Key travel is limited, but full-size keys and handy white backlighting make this a reasonable choice for extended typing or gaming sessions. The outlined WASD keys in previous Gigabyte laptops have been replaced by more subtle bolded legends, which is an improvement in my eyes.

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The trackpad is wide if not exceptionally tall, with the two buttons implemented as a single bar along the bottom. The standard edge and multiple finger gestures are present and correct too, making it quite straightforward to navigate through the Windows 8.1 OS.

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The P34W is replete with ports on its left and right sides. On the left we have a Kensington lock, an ethernet port, a VGA port, two USB 3.0 ports and a 3.5mm combined headphone / microphone port. On the right, we’ve got the power input, HDMI, an SD card slot and two further USB 3.0 ports. It’s a very good selection for a laptop of this size, and befits its status as a gaming machine.

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The bottom is, of course, replete with grilles, stickers and other laptop-y things. There’s a panel to let you access the machine’s RAM.

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Testing

In order to give the Gigabyte P34W v3 a fair shout, we used it over a period of three weeks. During that time, we played games like Heroes of the Storm, Battlefield: Hardline, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Civilization V. We also did some work, which involved a lot of writing (including this review), light Photoshop loads and (probably too much) time surfing Reddit for cat pictures. Finally, we concluded our testing with a round of benchmarks, in order to get a quantitative measure of the laptop’s performance.

Gaming

The 1080p resolution is a wise choice for gaming, as it ensures that the latest titles can run at the screen’s native resolution. The Nvidia GTX 970 GPU also lets less graphically intense titles be rendered at 4K, then downscaled to 1080p to produce a better-looking result than rendering at 1080p would.

The only noticeable disadvantage to gaming on the P34W v3 is the amount of noise that is produced by the system’s fans. While the ‘supra-cool’ cooling system does well to keep the laptop cool and performance up, it also produces a heck of a lot of noise. You may consider using headphones for intense workloads, and think twice about gaming in a quiet area like a library.

Work

The P34W is a strong candidate for getting work done. The backlit keyboard is a little shallow, but remains pretty easy to use. Combined with the solid trackpad, there’s little to slow you down here.

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As you’d expect from a gaming PC, performance is excellent. Whether you’re rendering an animation, performing complicated operations in Photoshop or compiling a program, you’ll certainly benefit from the gaming-grade components within. The hard drive arrangement here works well, with a solid-state drive for rapid access to your critical programs, and a mechanical drive for media storage.

The display is also up to par, with good viewing angles and decent colour reproduction. The 1080p resolution works well in Windows 8.1, as it can be used at 100% scaling and therefore avoids some of the issues associated with more dense displays.

Benchmarks

3DMark

3DMark is a popular cross-platform test of graphics and physics, in a manner that approximates a typical game at four different challenge levels. Ice Storm is designed for mobiles, Cloud Gate is for decent notebooks, Sky Diver is for gaming laptops and Fire Strike is for gaming desktops.

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3DMark Ice Storm Cloud Gate Sky Diver Fire Strike
P505 (980) 109181 19869 15577 6755
P34W v3 119513 19695 17830 6674
X7 v2 (SLI) 126314 17026 16348 4783
P35W v2 110792 16097 14297 4286
X3 Plus 89813 16474 14548 4193
X7 (SLI) 116534 17586 4171
P34G v2 54862 13102 11269 3735
P505 (970) 74417 8411 9174 3409
P25W 44699 9896 3228
P35K 86517 13154 2675
P27K 58487 12372 2557
U2442 42430 4463 1147
ZBOX EI730 78178 8709 5275 1138
Aspire S7 34113 3928 548
Aspire V5 32841 3633 474

The Gigabyte P34W v3 proves its gaming acumen immediately, with its current-gen GTX 970 processor providing some of the highest scores we’ve ever seen from a laptop in 3DMark. The P505’s GTX 980 proves its only better in the most challenging Fire Strike test, and the P34W v3 even scores more highly in the second-hardest Sky Diver test. Clearly the dual-pipe cooling solution is working well here, keeping temperatures down and performance up.

Cinebench

Cinebench is a nice cross-platform benchmark that stresses the CPU and GPU. All results are shown using the discrete graphics processor, if available.

cinebench

 

Cinebench R15 OpenGL (fps) CPU (cb)
P505 (970) 132.23 705
X7 v2 (SLI) 123.18 609
X3 Plus 118.56 630
P35W v2 103.04 603
P505 (980) 100.28 652
P34W v3 99.27 622
P34G v2 91.1 532
X7 (SLI) 88.42 641
P35K 82.34 636
P27K 82.24 560
P25W 58.18 330
EI730 51.57 451

The P505 has varying results in the Cinebench test, with the more powerful processors of some of its peers giving it an edge. Still, its result remains within 10% of the highest CPU result.

GeekBench

GeekBench is another cross-platform benchmark that examines memory and processor performance. As usual, I’m using version 3 of the benchmark.

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GeekBench 3.1.3 Single-core Multi-core
X3 Plus 3287 12631
P505 (970) 3173 12581
P35W v2 3186 12262
X7 3196 12044
P35K 3233 11993
X7 v2 3240 11784
P34W v3 2942 11773
P505 (980) 2973 11703
P34G v2 2838 10241
P27K 2820 10212
EI730 2875 9108
P25W 1693 6170

The P34W v3 again slips in a benchmark, a result of a slightly slower processor than most of the recent competitors. This intimates we can expect correspondingly worse performance than these laptops in CPU-bound games like Battlefield 4. Still, we remain within that 10% margin.

CrystalDiskMark

CrystalDiskMark is a benchmark that examines disk read and write performance of the solid state drive within the P34W v3.

cdm3read

 

CDM3 Read   Seq 512K 4K 4K QD32
X7 v2 SSD x3 1331 917.7 32.21 434.5
X7 SSD x2 998.6 674.7 28.97 417.1
P35W v2 SSD x2 988.8 674.9 29.26 502.5
P505 SSD PCI-e 950.1 622.4 27.77 327.7
P35K SSD x2 926.8 679.6 24.55 494.6
Aspire S7 SSD x2 793.1 333 22.3 193.3
P34W v3  SSD 515.7 403.1 33.21 389.6
P34G v2 SSD 511.2 370.8 29.97 315.1
P25W SSD 505.7 371.6 30.34 312.2
P27K SSD 474.5 353.8 21.37 312.3
U2442 SSD 468 339 21.72 282.6
Aspire V5 Mech 107.2 35.65 0.417 1.003

cdm3write

CDM3 Write   Seq 512K 4K 4K QD32
X7 v2 SSD x3 941.7 847.2 81.21 398.7
P505 PCI-e 761.2 605.2 68.13 197.6
X7 SSD x2 631.6 627.3 62.59 375
P35W v2 SSD x2 627.8 630.1 64.07 481.9
P35K SSD x2 624.2 574.1 56.59 473.7
Aspire S7 SSD x2 509.8 229.2 70.39 61.71
P34W v3 SSD 325.8 322.8 75.33 262.3
P25W SSD 320.3 322.7 66.48 279.7
P34G v2 SSD 320.2 321 65.3 294.1
P27K SSD 317 320.7 40.1 262
U2442 SSD 177.9 178.2 46.07 150.2
Aspire V5 Mech 106.7 50.47 0.973 1.147

The Gigabyte P34W v3 has only a single SSD connected via SATA, so naturally we see worse results than dual or triple SSD configurations (and PCI-e cards). Still, we get better performance numbers than any other single drive, which shows the continuous progress SSD manufacturers have made over the past few years.

Bioshock Infinite

Bioshock Infinite is a relatively new addition to our range of benchmarks. I’m running it on the ‘high’ preset at 1080p resolution; the benchmark itself is run from the ‘binaries’ folder of the game’s files if you’d like to compare your current setup.

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Bioshock Infinite Average fps GPU CPU
Gigabyte P34W v3 114 fps GTX 970 i7-4720
XMG P505 (970) 114 fps GTX 970 i7-4870
XMG P505 (980) 83 fps GTX 980 i7-4710
Aorus X3 Plus 85 fps GTX 860 i7-4860

The P34W v3 makes short of the Unreal Engine title, with an average of 114 fps at the ‘high’ setting. That’s the joint-highest result we’ve seen so far, and clearly demonstrates the laptop’s ability to tackle year-old games with ease.

Company of Heroes 2

Our final benchmark is Company of Heroes 2, an excellent strategy game centred around the Eastern Front of WW2. The game includes a robust worst-case benchmark, so if the game is playable here then you’d expect much better results in actual singleplayer or multiplayer. A large update was recently released, but tests on my main gaming PC don’t seem to indicate any changes in benchmark performance. The test settings are 1080p resolution with no unit occlusion, v-sync or anti-aliasing, then medium for the other options.

coh2

 

CoH 2 Average fps GPU CPU
XMG P505 (970) 68 GTX 970 i7-4870
XMG P505 (980) 62 GTX 980 i7-4710
Gigabyte P34W v3 48 GTX 970 i7-4720
Aorus X3 Plus 47 GTX 860 i7-4860
Gigabyte P34G v2 42 GTX 860 i7-4700
Gigabyte P35W v2 40 GTX 870 i7-4710
Aorus X7 v2 37 GTX 860 SLI i7-4860
Gigabyte P25W 27 GTX 770 i7-4700
Gigabyte P35K 24 GTX 765 i7-4700
Gigabyte P27K 23 GTX 765 i7-4700
Aorus X7 20 GTX 765 SLI i7-4700

Here the P34W v3 does as well as expected, coming in ahead of all laptops with previous generation GPUs, but behind both configurations of the P505 (which have a better CPU and better GPU, respectively). It’s a strong result given how tough this benchmark is, and speaks to the Gigabyte P34W v3’s ability to handle current-gen games at high settings and the laptop’s native 1080p resolution.

Total War: Rome 2

Total War: Rome 2 comes with a nice in-game benchmark, and offers a reasonable challenge to modern gaming laptops thanks to its large number of on-screen units and a good range of detail settings. We’re running on the Ultra preset at 1080p resolution.

rome2

 

Rome 2 Average FPS GPU CPU
Gigabyte P34W v3 54.7 GTX 970 i7-4720
Gaming Desktop 115.9 GTX 980 i7-2600k

Rome 2 is a new addition to our benchmarking suite, so we only have one other result, from a desktop running a GTX 980 and a top-end i7 processor. That desktop scored 115.9 fps. In comparison, the Gigabyte P34W v3 scored a reasonable 54.7 fps. It’s again a promising sign for the laptop, although without real context for the moment.

Conclusion

The Gigabyte P34W is a premium gaming laptop with performance to match. Its 21mm frame fits easily into the smallest messenger bags and won’t weigh you down, making it an ideal travel companion. Its five hours of battery life is reasonable for a gaming machine, although it’s only half that of the latest non-gaming laptops. You may find the P34W’s design a little lacklustre given its high price point; although it is slim, the overall design hasn’t changed in years and the P34W doesn’t stand out in a sea of black Windows laptops. Overall though, if you’re looking for both power and portability, the P34W v3 is one of the finest choices available.

Pros

  • Incredibly compact design given its gaming prowess
  • Great-looking display at a well-chosen 1080p resolution
  • Keyboard and trackpad are reliable and well-implemented

Cons

  • Battery life is limited, particularly while gaming
  • Modest design doesn’t match its premium price point
  • Very loud fans under intense gaming workloads

Score

  • 8 / 10

Review: Marvel: Contest Of Champions

For some time now, Injustice: Gods Among Us has reigned as the chief collaborative superhero game for app players. Using a range of DC Comics heroes and villains in a card collecting/brawler system, the game makes for a great experience for those who simply enjoy seeing all of their comic heroes in one place. There are certain ordinary pitfalls, such as somewhat-clunky fighting mechanics and repetitive gameplay, but the number of characters, achievements, and upgrades all keep things interesting for quite some time.

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BenQ BL3201PT review: a premium 32-inch 4K monitor with all the trimmings

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The BL3201PT is a beast of a monitor: 4K resolution, 32 inch diagonal and more ports and features than you can shake a stick at. Last year we loved its 1440p predecessor, the BL3200PT, so surely a 4K version is going to be even better? Let’s find out!

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Element Gaming triple desk mount review: Cerberus would be proud

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Multiple monitors is the dream of any computer nerd worth her salt. You can play games at ridiculously wide resolutions, you can gain an impressive amount of screen real estate, and it makes your desk look like a NASA control centre. You could have your monitors just sitting next to each other on a desk, but the next level is to pick up a mount so that your monitors sit next to other in the air. It gives you more desk space, more options for adjustability and of course it looks way cooler too.

This desk mount from Element Gaming promises to raise three monitors, each up to 28 inches, without demanding to be clamped onto your desk. Ebuyer were nice enough to send one over, so we’ll see how well it achieves that goal.

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Samsung T1 portable SSD review: the best things come in small packages

pressToday we’re looking at the Samsung T1, a business-class SSD designed for portability. The T1 brings SSD speeds to a form factor somewhere between a USB flash drive and a full-size SSD, with USB 3.0 allowing that speed advantage to actually be realised. Let’s take a look at how it performs.

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Zotac GTX 980 AMP! Extreme Edition review: brainless beauty

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Today I’m testing Zotac’s Nvidia GTX 980 Amp! Extreme Edition, one of the most powerful graphics cards on the market right now. Zotac have a strong history of producing excellent aftermarket graphics cards, so I’m excited to see what this card is capable of. Let’s get started!

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