How to pick the best PC power supply

Power supplies are a frequently misunderstood—and overlooked—PC component. Many users choose a power supply based on total wattage alone, assuming that higher is always synonymous with better.  Others pay no attention to their PSU selection at all, and settle for whatever abomination arrived with their machine. But considering how important a good power supply is to a system’s stability and long-term reliability, it’s a shame that PSUs get so little attention in comparison to sexier components like graphics cards and SSDs.

It doesn’t help that the power-supply market is awash with products from unscrupulous manufacturers that use substandard components and overstate the hardware’s capabilities. Indeed, the abundance of PSU-related misinformation and deception in the marketplace would be comical if it weren’t so harmful to consumers. But finding a solid, efficient power supply is possible if you arm yourself with the right knowledge. We can help.

Choosing a power supply


Devote as much thought to your power supply as you do your PC’s processor.

There is no single, universal rule for selecting a high-quality power supply. Nevertheless, various indicators provide circumstantial evidence of PSU quality, and some guidelines are generally helpful.

First, always buy a power supply from a reputable manufacturer, and look for reviews of it before you buy. Avoid cheap, generic power supplies, which tend to be substandard. Look for reputable brands that offer solid warranties and support. Corsair, Seasonic, and Antec are three manufacturers with reputations for producing high-quality power supplies, though even they may offer a few duds among all the studs. Do your homework!

Larger, heavier units are preferable to puny, lightweight models. Higher-quality power supplies almost always use bigger and better capacitors, chokes, and other internal components, and they come outfitted with larger heatsinks for superior heat dissipation—all of which translates into more weight. Larger cooling fans, which typically move more air while making less noise than smaller fans, are another plus.

SILVERSTONE
A 6+2 pin connector.

Of course, you should also check the PSU’s connectors to confirm the unit is compatible with your particular system. The term 20+4 pin refers to a connector that can function as either a 20-pin connector or a 24-pin connector. In the 6+2 pin connector shown at right, you can snap two of the pins in the connector on or off to suit your needs.

The vast majority of consumer PCs use standard ATX power supplies. Smaller units and units specially designed for enterprise and server applications are also available; but for common desktop systems, ATX power supplies are it.

When searching for a power supply, keep your eyes on three crucial features: power output, rails, and efficiency. Other specifications and features are important, too, but these three directly affect the PSU’s performance.

All about output

Manufacturers usually list their power supplies’ output in watts. A higher-watt PSU can supply more power. Desktop power supplies have a power output rating of from 200 watts to 1800 watts (for ultra-high-end, enthusiast-class products). Wattage ratings higher than that would exceed the capabilities of a typical 15-ampere electrical outlet. The important number here is the one for sustained or continuous power, not the one for peak power. Most power supplies can operate at peak power for only brief periods.

Ideally your unit will delivers plenty of power to your components and offers some extra headroom in case you want to attach additional components later. Most power supplies hit their peak efficiency levels with loads in the range of 40 to 80 percent. Building to about 50 to 60 percent of a PSU’s capacity is advisable to achieve maximum efficiency and yet leave room for future expansion.


A glimpse inside a PSU.

For example, if the maximum power or combined TDP (total design power) of your system’s present components is 300 watts, a 600-watt PSU would be a good fit. In a high-end system loaded with components that may peak collectively at 700 watts, a 1200-watt PSU would work well. You can get by with lower-capacity units if you don’t think you’ll ever need to expand your system, but if you can afford it, choosing a higher-capacity PSU is a better bet.

Outervision and Thermaltake’s handy-dandy PSU wattage calculator invites you to input your build components in exacting detail—right down to CPU overclocking voltages and specific water-cooling components—and then spits out a ballpark power-supply wattage for your system.

On the subject of wattage, one common power-supply myth holds that higher-wattage power supplies necessarily consume more power. Untrue. All else being equal, a 500-watt power supply won’t consume any less power than a 1000-watt unit. That’s because a system’s components—not its PSU—dictate its power consumption. If you have 300 watts’ worth of components in a system, the system will consume 300 watts under load, regardless of whether the system is outfitted with a 500-watt power supply or a 1000-watt one. Again, a PSU’s wattage rating indicates the maximum amount of power the unit can provide to your system’s components, not how much power it consumes from the outlet.

An efficient PSU is a better PSU

A power supply’s efficiency rating is important because higher-efficiency units tend to have better components, waste less power, and generate less heat—all of which contribute to less fan noise. A power supply with an efficiency rating of 80 percent provides 80 percent of its rated wattage as power to your system, while losing the other 20 percent as heat.


Five of 80 Plus’s certification levels.

Look for units with “80 Plus” certification. Though the certification process isn’t especially stringent, 80 Plus-certified units are confirmed to be at least 80 percent efficient; and 80 Plus has tiers for even more-efficient units, including 80 Plus Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Titaniumcertifications. Power supplies in the higher certification tiers tend to command very high prices, however. Average users with average needs should probably stick to the simple 80 Plus or the 80 Plus Bronze level unless they find a particularly juicy deal on a Silver or Gold PSU.

Corsair provides a thorough overview of power supply efficiency and of the 80 Plus program, if you’d like to learn more.

The great rail debate

In addition to identifying output power, manufacturers will specify the number of +12V rails their PSUs contain. A “single-rail” power supply has a single, high-power +12V rail for feeding power to hungry system components. A “multi-rail” unit divides its output between two or more +12V rails.

In a single-rail design, all of the power from the supply will be available to any component connected to the unit, regardless of the connector or cable used. In the event of a failure, however, a single-rail power supply has the potential to shoot much more current into your components.

Meanwhile, the main disadvantage of a multi-rail PSU is that it can’t share power among the different rails. For example, if you connect 25 amps’ worth of components to a +12V rail with a 20-amp maximum rating, the mismatch will trigger an overcurrent protection (OCP) mechanism and shut down, even though other rails my be available with plenty of power to spare. Consequently, with a multi-rail PSU you must pay attention to which components you’ve plugged in to which rail, a mild nuisance that you don’t have to worry about with a single-rail power supply.

On the other hand, that disadvantage becomes a major advantage if you ever encounter a catastrophic failure. The OCP mechanisms in a multi-rail power supply monitor each rail and will shut the whole unit down if they detect an overload on any of the rails. The OCP on single-rail units kicks in only at much higher amperages, which could lead to a major melt-down if a serious overload occurs.

So which is better type of power supply is better—single-rail or multi-rail? Neither, usually. From a performance standpoint, both work equally well; and in general both are very safe to use. If you’re building an especially powerful system, though, multi-rail OCP provides an extra layer of safety in case something short-circuits, lessening the odds of frying your costly components during a computing catastrophe.

Cabling: Piecemeal or whole hog?

CORSAIR
Corsair’s HX850 is a partially modular power supply…

Another consideration is cabling. Power supplies are available with hard-wired cabling, with partially modular cabling, or with fully modular cabling. In modular power supplies, you can add or remove cabling from the PSU as needed to avoid case clutter.

Technically, a power supply with hard-wired cabling is optimal because it requires no additional connections between the unit’s internal PCB and the connector that will ultimately be plugged into one of your components. One end of the cable is soldered into the PSU’s PCB and the other end terminates in a standard connector, with no breaks in the line. Whenever you introduce an additional connection between the PSU and your components—as happens with modular power supplies—you add more resistance and another potential point of failure into the line; and any increase in resistance translates into lost efficiency.

CORSAIR
…whereas the AX860i is fully modular.

That said, the additional resistance is normally minimal and not a cause for concern for most users. Meanwhile, modular cabling greatly simplifies keeping the interior of your case nice and clean—just don’t connect any superfluous cables to keep the clutter down. Most people prefer modular PSUs, though they cost a bit more than nonmodular models.

Corsair Vengeance M65

Perhaps more than any other genre, first-person shooters (FPS) reward accuracy and swiftly punish imprecision. Even gamers blessed with the most cat-like of reflexes know that you can only go so far without the right weaponry in your arsenal. Enter the Corsair Vengeance M65 ($69.99 list), an updated version of the excellent Corsair Vengeance M60  that retains the former’s wicked design while upping the laser sensitivity to 8,200dpi. With a dedicated sniper button that instantly lowers the DPI on the fly and on-board profile storage, it”s a great choice for first person enthusiasts and our newest Editors” Choice for gaming mice.

378121-corsair-vengeance-m65

Design and Features

A contoured aluminum unibody forms the core of the M65″s design. Three plastic pieces partially cover it in a way that allows its metallic frame to be slightly visible through an opening in the rear. This creates a futuristic look that nonetheless maintains an elegant simplicity that stands in contrast to the LED-covered surface seen on other mice like the Roccat Kone XTD£49.99 at Amazon. The M65″s surface is constructed from a soft-touch plastic that doesn”t attract any noticeable oil buildup after prolonged use. The pinky rest and thumb cradles, meanwhile, have a more coarse texture to provide a better grip.

Five smooth plastic glide pads on the bottom effectively minimize drag during movement, making the M65 a smooth operator with or without a mouse pad. Like many gaming mice, the M65 also sports three removable weights in its underside, so users can fine-tune its mass online casino to match their preference. Since it”s not ambidextrously designed, lefties get no love from the M65. Left-handed gamers should check out the Roccat Lua Tri-Button Gaming Mouse£24.99 at PC World. The M65 is available in black, green, and the arctic white of our review unit.

Nestled between the M65″s left- and right- click buttons is a solid metal, rubberized tracking wheel. With its beefy size and a blue LED light glowing beneath it, the track wheel nicely combines comfort and style. Two additional buttons beneath the track wheel, meanwhile, allow for on-the-fly DPI adjustment. A dedicated sniper button housed in the thumb cradle instantly lowers the M65″s DPI to yield maximum accuracy for long-range weapons. Above the sniper button, a pair of buttons above on the crest of the thumb cradle come pre-configured as “forward” and “back” buttons.

The M65 is a wired mouse that connects via a tangle-free braided USB 3.0 chord. It doesn”t offer a wireless option. However, since wired mice offer a higher level of accuracy than their wireless counterparts by providing a direct, interference-free connection to your PC, this isn”t really a puzzling omission in a genre where precision reigns supreme. Moreover, its wired connection eliminates concerns over batteries and dongles, so gamers can focus entirely on more immediate concerns like blasting away foes. Corsair covers the M65 with a two-year warranty.

Performance
Armed with a laser sensor with a maximum DPI of 8,200, the M65 can be tuned to a level of hyper-sensitivity equal to that of the Roccat Kone XTD (8,200dpi). Moreover, our testing confirmed its advertised polling rate of 1,000Hz. Combine this lag-free responsiveness with a highly precise laser sensor, and you”ve got a solid mouse for even the most competitive of gamers.

The M65″s internal memory allows gamers to store multiple profiles onboard, though they”ll first need to download the free control panel software from Corsair”s website. Although the M65 works with both Windows and Mac systems, the control panel software is Windows-only (Windows XP / Vista / 7 / 8).

The dedicated sniper button is the only embellishment that distinguishes the M65 from a standard mouse. While this highlights the fact that the M65″s functionality is nowhere near as acute as its precision, it”s entirely consistent with its first-person shooter leanings. Were this an MMO mouse, the dearth of programmable buttons would be an entirely different story. Still, it”s possible to pack loads of functionality into a mouse without cramming buttons all over the surface, as we saw with the Kone XTD”s innovative EasyShift[ ] feature.

I took the M65 out for a spin with a few sessions of Team Fortress 2. Although I”m still terrible at first-person shooters, the M65 quickly proved its worth. Its laser sensor yielded smooth movement on high DPI settings without exhibiting any lag. Moreover, it felt comfortable in my hand on and off the gaming grid thanks to its soft-touch texture surface and heightened profile, which I generally prefer over mice with lower profiles like the Razer Taipan$49.79 at Amazon.  

The Corsair Vengeance M65 is a great mouse for first-person-shooter enthusiasts looking to step their game up on the gaming grid thanks to its highly accurate tracking, dedicated sniper button, and overall killer design. By improving the already excellent Vengeance M60, it”s a shoo-in as our Editors” Choice for gaming mice geared toward first-person-shooter games.

MSI Z87 MPower Max Review

Introduction

Are you looking to build a tricked-out, overclocked system based on an Intel 4th-Generation Core processor? Do you like your motherboard loaded with features (some of which you may never use), and for it to come equipped with all the cables and brackets you’re likely to need included in the box? Do you not want to pay a lot for this muffler—er, motherboard?

MSI MPower Max Box Shot

If you answered “yes” to those questions, MSI’s MPower Max board should be on your short list. This full-size ATX board is loaded with features that should please overclockers and system tweakers, including onboard buttons for overclocking and booting directly into the BIOS, and a second, spare BIOS, so you don’t have to worry about a bad update bringing down your system.

The MPower Max also has one of the most impressive and practical collections of accessories we’ve seen to date bundled in a motherboard box, including seven SATA cables, two expansion-card-slot plates for adding ports to your rig, and a removable wireless module and antennas that add Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and Intel’s WiDi wireless display technology.

The MPower Max is built around the Z87 chipset (much more on that in a moment) and supports Intel’s Socket 1150. Socket 1150, for those unfamiliar with it, is the new CPU interface mandated by Intel’s 4th-Generation Core i processors, which rolled out in early June. You may have heard these chips referred to by the name “Haswell,” Intel’s code-name for them during their development. (See our review of the first of these chips, the Intel Core i7-4770K.) Anytime a new socket emerges, the major motherboard players fire up the production lines, and whole new families of boards spring up to support the new processors.

MSI Z87 MPower Max Angle View

In MSI’s case, the initial releases comprised a mix of boards built around the Z87, H87, and B85 chipsets, with the full-featured Z87 boards being the flagship models. Within the Z87 mix, MSI rolled out several mainstream-focused boards, as well as premium MPower and XPower boards and a couple of snazzy, dragon-themed Z87 Gaming boards. (You can check out the whole line of MSI U.S. board products here.) The MPower Max we’re looking at here may not be MSI’s top of the line, but it’s an impressive board for upper-end upgraders nonetheless.

Of course, all these features don’t come cheap. When we wrote this, the MPower Max sold for about $260. Still, it’s all relative, Other Z87 boards we’ve looked at, with arguably lesser feature sets and more limitations, such as Intel’s DZ87KLT-75K and Asus’ Z87-Deluxe, sell for about the same price or more.

That makes MSI’s MPower Max an excellent choice for high-end enthusiasts who want a kitchen-sink list of features, a comprehensive set of accessories, and a battery of overclocking tools, as well as decent value despite the enthusiast positioning. Few builders or upgraders will need or use everything this board has to offer, but it’s nice to know the features are there, especially when you don’t have to pay extra for them relative to the competition.

The Z87 Chipset: The Basics

Before we delve deeper into the MPower Max’s feature set, it’s worth taking some time to run through the new features that Intel has brought to the motherboard game with its latest 8 Series chipsets, which complement the new LGA 1150 socket for 4th-Generation Core (“Haswell”) processors. The Z87 chipset on this board is the most feature-rich of Intel’s new chipset lineup, which also includes the H87 and H81 chipsets for consumer-grade boards, and the Q87, Q85, and B85 for business-oriented ones.

MSI Z87 MPower Max Straight-ON View

If you’re a serious overclocker, the Z87 is definitely the chipset you’ll want out of these six, given that it has full overclocking support for K-series CPUs like the Core i7-4770K. (The “K” in Intel’s chip nomenclature indicates a chip that’s unlocked for easier overclocking.) The Z87 chipset can also handle multiple-card graphics setups (in either Nvidia GeForce SLI or AMD Radeon CrossFire arrangements), although if you install more than one graphics card, none of them will be able to operate at full x16 bandwidth. You’ll be able to run one card at x16, two cards at x8, or one card at x8 and two cards at x4.

Now, that said, you should know that this is a limitation of the Z87 chipset, not the Mpower Max motherboard alone. So hunting for relief from this among other Z87 boards won’t gain you much. Builders and upgraders looking to run more than two graphics cards without dropping their precious purchases down to x4 speed will want to opt instead for a pricier Sandy Bridge-E motherboard (based on the Intel X79 chipset) and processor. This combination will deliver more PCI Express lanes. It’ll also take a big bite out of your budget, as these Socket 2011-based motherboards and (especially) their accompanying processors remain the priciest consumer options on the Intel side of the fence. (See our review roundup of three Sandy Bridge Extreme/X79 LGA 2011 boards.) That said, if you’re planning on running a dual-card system, a Z87 board should suffice, seeing as the PCI Express lanes are of the PCIe 3.0 variety, which can handle nearly twice the bandwidth of older PCIe 2.0 slots.

As you would expect, the Z87 chipset supports established Intel features like Rapid Storage Technology (RAID), as well as its Smart Response Technology (SRT), more commonly referred to as “SSD caching.” The latter feature lets you pair a small, inexpensive “caching” solid-state drive (SSD) with a spacious hard drive. Under SRT, your most commonly used programs and files will get stored dynamically on the SSD’s faster-access memory. The result: You’ll get quick boot and load times for common programs thanks to the SSD cache, paired with lots of storage space for large files on your secondary (presumably platter-based) hard drive.

Now, those features are nice, but they aren’t new with this chipset. What is new, though, is Z87’s potential support for more high-speed storage, both internal and external. Intel’s previous-generation chipsets (the Intel 7 Series) had a native maximum of just two SATA 3 (6Gbps) ports and four USB 3.0 ports. (That said, more could be added to a motherboard at a board maker’s discretion via adding additional controllers.) The 8 Series chipsets will allow for up to six native USB 3.0 ports and six SATA 3 ports. The chart below (from Intel) outlines the potential maximums and other highlights of the 8 Series…

Intel 8 Series Chipset Chart

Some of these features are more useful real-world than others. Those looking to build multiple-drive RAID arrays built around SSDs, for redundancy or maximum speed, will appreciate the extra high-speed SATA ports. And while many USB devices (such as printers) don’t benefit from the extra speed of USB 3.0, fast external drives that support the spec will certainly get a rocket-grade boost from the speedier USB ports. (Plus, the more USB 3.0 ports the better, we say, because when you do want to connect up a fast drive, it’s a pain fishing around for one of the few blue ports on an older system.) We will welcome the day when all of the USB ports on a board are of the USB 3.0 variety. On this board, at least all of the SATA ports are of the faster SATA 3 (6Gbps) variety—no hunting required there.

There is one bit of bad news with Intel’s 8 Series chipsets, though. If you still have a legacy PCI sound card or other device you’re attached to, you’ll have to give it up with your new Haswell-based system. Intel has finally pulled out the plug completely on old-school PCI slots; the company already had done so in some versions of the 7 Series chipsets in the past. So it’s adios, old friend—whether it’s an old Creative Sound Blaster PCI sound card or a beloved PCI video-capture board.

Other Features & Conclusion

The first thing we noticed when we unpacked the Z87 MPower Max was just how heavy the box is. That’s due in part to MSI’s continued use of “Military Class” components and a special “OC PCB,” which MSI says contains 50 percent more layers than a typical board. The company says the higher-quality components mean better stability, humidity, and protection against temperature swings, as well as better overclocking. Given that these components are tested for MIL-STD-801G compliance, the “Military Class” durability claim isn’t mere marketing. That said, adherence to a spec is one thing; real-world, long-term effect is another entirely. Those features are hard to verify without a large electronics lab worth of equipment and a serious amount of time. What we can say with certainty, though, is that this board seems very well-built and solid, not just heavy.

The other reason that the box feels hefty is that MSI ships the Z87 MPower with more accessories than just about any motherboard we’ve ever seen. For example, a cardboard tray inside the box comes stuffed with enough SATA cables to trick out every SATA port on the board, save one.

MSI MPower Max Accessory Bundle

The well-stuffed box of the MPower Max, minus the board. You won’t go wanting for much, accessory-wise.

You also get two brackets that slide into your chassis’ PCI Express expansion-slot openings. One adds a pair of USB 3.0 ports via an onboard header; the other adds a pair of eSATA ports and an external Molex power connector. The former is especially appreciated; the MPower Max has two onboard USB 3.0 headers (feeding out to four USB 3.0 ports), but most cases have cabling for just one pair of USB 3.0 ports to the front panel. You also get also a pair of antennas for the Wi-Fi module, which plugs into the back plate if you wish to use it, and a flexible SLI connector for pairing two graphics cards.

That’s not all. In the box, we also found a small bag with short cables that connect to pins on the board, allowing you to connect the board up to a multimeter for measuring current and voltage. If you’re a learned overclocker looking to spend days trying to eke the absolute best performance out of your CPU, this might well be a handy feature. For most users, though, the controls and measurements available in the BIOS will be sufficient, not to mention much more convenient.

MSI Z87 MPower Max Second Angle View

Conclusion

With a kitchen-sink list of features, understated good looks, and loads of overclocker-friendly buttons, knobs, and BIOS settings, MSI’s Z87 MPower Max is the best enthusiast board we’ve examined to date for Intel’s latest processors.

Granted, some of the features, such as the onboard voltage and current measurements, are useful only for a small subset of users. But support for 64GB of RAM will be appreciated by some, especially since the board comes with free RAM disk software. The plethora of in-box accessories is also very nice, especially if you’re a novice builder and don’t have a collection of cables, brackets, and connectors in a box somewhere left over from past builds.

For some, this board will be more than a bit of overkill. But with competing Asus and Intel boards we’re also in the process of reviewing priced about the same or even a bit more, while lacking some of the Z87 MPower Max’s niceties, this board should definitely be on your short list—if you can afford it.

 

The 10 Best Keyboards

Maybe your old keyboard has typed its last letter. Maybe you’ve become frustrated by a subpar model slowing you down during work. Perhaps your gaming ambitions have left you dissatisfied with the mediocre keyboard that came with your desktop PC. Whatever the reason, anyone can benefit from a better keyboard. Upgrading the one you have may not seem like an important thing to do, but you would be surprised what a difference a well-made model can make in terms of comfort, efficiency, and overall satisfaction. After all, is there any part of your computer more hands-on than your keyboard? For these reasons, and more, it pays to know what makes a one a good fit.

Keyboards come in a variety of categories, from no-nonsense machines built for typing efficiency to sculpted ergonomic designs that cradle your hands and relieve stress on the joints. When shopping for keyboard, here are a few specific features to know.

Connectivity Options
The simplest way to connect a keyboard to your PC is through a wired USB connection. Keyboards are usually plug-and-play devices, with no additional software to install (with the exception of some gaming models), meaning that plugging in the keyboard is all the setup you’ll need. Unlike wireless keyboards, a wired model will draw its power from the USB, so there are no batteries to worry about. Wired connections are also preferred for gaming use, as they are free from the lag and interference issues that wireless alternatives are prone to.

Logitech K480

If you want more freedom and less cable clutter on your desk, however, it’s hard to beat a wireless keyboard. Instead of a wired connection, wireless keyboards transmit data to your PC through one of two primary means: an RF connection to a USB receiver, or via Bluetooth. Both have their pros and cons, but if you want to reduce the number of cables on your desk and gain the flexibility to use your keyboard at a distance—whether it be on your lap or across the room—wireless is the way to go.

Most wireless keyboards connect to a PC via the same 2.4 GHz wireless frequencies used for cordless phones and Wi-Fi Internet. A small, dime-size USB dongle—small enough to plug in and forget about—provides the link to your PC. Companies use proprietary connections like these because they allow for optimal battery life. These USB dongles also provide connectivity to more than one device, meaning that you can use the single adapter for your wireless keyboard—or keyboards, if you have one at work and one at home—as well as one or more computer mice, assuming that all are the same brand.

Bluetooth options are regaining popularity of late, largely because they don’t monopolize a USB port, they offer compatibility with other devices, like tablets and smartphones, and because the stable, easy-to-manage Bluetooth connections are ideal for use with more mobile devices, like tablet PCs. In regular use, a Bluetooth connection gives you roughly 30 feet of wireless range, but may not match the battery life offered by devices with an USB dongle. New innovations, including hand-proximity sensors tied to power and connection management, improve the battery life over older Bluetooth devices, which maintained an always-on link, draining battery quickly.

Key Switches
One aspect of keyboard design that you’ll see mentioned in reviews—but that most people don’t give a second thought—is the type of switches used for individual keys. You may not care about the specific mechanisms that reside beneath the keys, but you will certainly feel the difference. The three primary types of switches are silicone dome, scissor switches, and mechanical switches.

Corsair K95 RGB

Budget keyboards, such as those that come bundled with a new desktop PC, generally use silicone-dome switches, which use two dimpled layers of silicone membrane, forming a grid of rubber bubbles or domes as the switch for each key. The springiness of the silicone rubber makes for a soft, mushy feel as you press each key. The switch type also requires you to bottom out with each keystroke, pressing the key to the bottom of the key well to type a letter. And because repeated flexing of the rubber membrane causes it to break down, silicone dome switches lose their springiness and responsiveness over time.

Some newer keyboards mimic the low-profile, chiclet-style keyboards found on laptops and ultrabooks. While a few of these use plain silicone dome switches, many use a scissor switch, which adds a mechanical stabilizer to each key for a uniform feel, and an attached plunger under each keycap allows for shorter key travel. As a result, scissor-switch keyboards have a shallow typing feel, but are generally more durable than rubber dome switches alone.

Ask any keyboard enthusiast, however, and you won’t hear praise for domes or scissors—instead, they’ll be singing the praises of mechanical switches. These keyboards are a bit more intricate, with a spring loaded sliding keypost under every key. There are several variations available, each tweaked to provide a slightly different feel or sound, but generally, mechanical switches provide better tactile feedback and have more of the “clickety-clack” sound that many associate with typing. The sturdy switch mechanisms and long-lasting springs are significantly longer lasting, and more easily reparable. These switches also register each keystroke with a much shorter amount of travel, making them ideal for touch typists.

Not all keyboards are created equal. In fact, not all keyboards are even laid out the same beyond the standard QWERTY keys. Roughly half of the keyboards available offer a 10-key numeric pad, even though it’s an ideal tool for anyone who frequently needs to tally numbers or enter data into a spreadsheet. Smaller distinctions include placement of arrow keys, and functions like Page Up and Down, Home and End buttons. Several newer models also feature keys dedicated to Windows 8 functions, such as the Charms Bar. Additionally, most current keyboards have basic media features such as playback controls and volume up and down.

Ergonomics
In order to stave off carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive stress injury, many keyboards are available with designs that put your hands into a neutral position as you type. The result is not only greater comfort, but reduced stress to the joints and tendons, ultimately helping you to avoid painful inflammation and expensive surgery. Ergonomic features can range from the simple—like padded wrist rests—to the elaborate, with keyboards that curve and slope.

Standard vs. Gaming
While all keyboards offer the necessary keys for typing, sometimes typing isn’t your main concern. Gaming keyboards are designed for competitive use, equipped for maximum specialization and control, optimized for specific styles of game play, and built to exacting standards of responsiveness and durability. They also appeal to the gamer aesthetic, with designs that impress and intimidate with pulsing backlight, dramatic color schemes, and brutal functionality.

Corsair K95 RGB

Premium gaming models almost exclusively use high-grade mechanical key switches, sculpted keycaps, and offer numerous customizable features, like programmable macro commands, and function-specific details, like textured WASD keys or swappable keycaps. There are others with customizable backlight that let you tweak the color and intensity to make finding certain keys faster and to personalize the look of your keyboard. Anti-ghosting is an essential feature, allowing multiple keystrokes to be registered simultaneously—something standard keyboards can’t do. Other extras include pass-through USB ports or audio connections on the keyboard, which simplifies the process of connecting peripherals to a desktop PC that may not be easily accessed.

Finally, gaming keyboards are often outfitted with software and extra keys for Macro commands, letting you pre-arrange complex strings of commands and activate them with a single press of a button. The number of macro commands that you can save, and the ease with which they can be created, will vary from one model to the next, but it’s a valuable tool. These aren’t the sorts of bells and whistles everyone will use from day to day, but for players that invest time and money into gaming, gaming keyboards offer a competitive edge.

There are certainly a lot of choices out there, so start your search with our roundup below of the best keyboards available. If you’re a gamer, then our favorites forgaming keyboards is also a must-read. In the market for a mouse as well? Then check out our top picks.

World’s First 8TB Hard Disk Drive Officially Launched

World’s First 8TB Hard Disk Drive Officially Launched
A Seagate Hard DriveSeagate

The world’s first 8TB hard drive has been manufactured by Seagate, and the company has already started its shipping to select customers across the world as part of a trial initiative. The 8TB hard drive has been designed for ‘extremely large’ data storage requirements of enterprises.

Apart from enterprises, home PC users can also make use of Seagate’s 8TB hard-drive. The device is also suitable for those with a penchant for multimedia content that generally require comparatively larger storage areas.

With a 8TB storage area, the Seagate hard drive is designed to offer mammoth data storage, and the company states that the gadget is also aimed at reducing the overall consumer operational cost.

“As our world becomes more mobile, the number of devices we use to create and consume data is driving an explosive growth in unstructured data. This places increased pressure on cloud builders to look for innovative ways to build cost-effective, high capacity storage for both private and cloud-based data centers,” said Scott Horn, Seagate vice president of marketing, in a news release.

“Seagate is poised to address this challenge by offering the world’s first 8TB HDD, a ground-breaking new solution for meeting the increased capacities needed to support the demand for high capacity storage in a world bursting with digital creation, consumption and long-term storage,” he added.

The 8TB hard disk drive incorporates a form factor measuring 3.5in, which makes the device easily carryable.

Seagate’s latest device stands apart from competition, such as Western Digital’s 6TB hard drive (called the Ultrastar He6) that uses Helium to provide increased data storage area.

Western Digital’s 6TB hard drives, having a form factor of 3.5in, are claimed to be 50% more capable, by virtue of incorporating Helium, in terms of data storage and data transfer.

Also, these devices are claimed to be 38% lighter than conventional 4TB drives, and consume 23% less power.

However, Seagate’s latest 8TB hard-disk drives do not incorporate Helium. The exact technical aspects of the device are yet to be made public by Seagate officials. These details are expected to be released very shortly.

Seagate’s ‘Shingled Magnetic Recording’

Seagate has developed a new technology called ‘Shingled Magnetic Recording‘ (SMR) with which the company’s recent hard disk drives have seen upgrades to suit higher data storage requirements.

In fact, Seagate recently made public its intention to develop and supply 20TB hard disk drives, under its SMR technology.

So, we expect the SMR aspect to have gone into making the world’s first 8TB hard disk drive.

Other aspects of Seagate’s 8TB hard disk drive, such as the technical specifications, data transfer rate, and pricing are yet to be made official by the company at this juncture.

The 8TB hard drive incorporates the SATA 6Gb/s interface standard that is said to be cost effective, and is also known to provide effective external system integration.

SilverStone Kublai Series KL06 Review

Introduction

Small form factor (SFF) cases have been around for a long time, but they haven’t always been as popular as they are now. Like anything else that has to do with technology in the 21st century, the road always seems to lead to smaller and smaller products. Sure, some computer DIY hounds still build PCs in gargantuan enclosures like Thermaltake’s Urban T81, just as there’s a market for gas-guzzling trucks with extended cabs. However, having a home-brewed PC with grunt no longer requires finding a home for a massive case.

SilverStone Kublai KL06

Here’s an example. You could slap anIntel Core i7-5960X Extreme Edition£798.98 at Novatech Direct Ltd. (the top-end “Haswell-E”) processor onto an ASRock Fatal1ty X99M Killer/3.1 Micro-ATX motherboard, and fill it with 32GB of DDR3-3000 RAM. Then, you might install a 2TB Samsung SSD 850 Pro$419.99 at Amazon solid state drive (SSD) flanked by an 8TB HGST Ultrastar hard drive, and round things out with a pair of Nvidia GeForce Titan X or AMD Radeon R9 Fury X graphics cards.

Such a drool-worthy configuration capable of 4K-resolution gaming could fit into an SFF case like SilverStone’s Kublai K06, and there’d still be room for more hardware. Want to liquid-cool the CPU? Go right ahead. Fancy more SSDs? The K06 will hold up to eight of them. Looking to feed this bad boy a high-end power supply to support those video cards? Yep, it’ll hold one.

Not all SFF cases are so accommodating—not nearly. Apparently there’s a learning curve for case makers, as compromises and oversize cases are endemic of this market shift towards smaller footprints. We’ve seen cases that take up more space than the Kublai K06 inexplicably limit support to Mini-ITX motherboards, while others have put tight restrictions on component selection. We saw the latter scenario play out with Cougar’s QBX, a Mini-ITX enclosure that got the size of the case right for such a build, but had some truly quirky power-supply requirements.

SilverStone Kublai KL06

SilverStone avoids these pitfalls with the Kublai KL06. Now, it’s not overly small, as SFF cases go; measuring 15.9×8.3×14.8 inches (HWD) and rectangular in shape, it’s not much smaller than a typical mid-tower case. As such, it’s big enough to support a Micro-ATX motherboard, and so it does, which, as we’ve pointed out, isn’t always a given.

That’s not to say the Kublai KL06 is completely without compromise. If you own several 3.5-inch hard drives, only one will fit in this case. Not without purpose, SilverStone is essentially testing the market to see what kind of interest exists for cases that predominately favor 2.5-inch SSDs and laptop-style 2.5-inch hard drives. To that end, the KL06 accepts up to eight such drives spread out among three different locations.

Other amenities that sometimes get slashed in SFF territory are present and accounted for. Things like flexible cable-routing options, tool-less drive installation, sound-dampening material, a painted exterior, and even a removable motherboard tray are part of the package.

There’s really not much to complain about here, and that happily includes the price. With an MSRP of $70, the Kublai KL06 could be, potentially, the least-expensive part of a high-end build like the one we outlined above. And if you’re aiming in the other direction, the KL06 makes it possible to build a system that’s as small as it is affordable.