REVIEW – Phanteks Halos Digital RGB Frame

The Phanteks Halos Digital RGB Frame is an ingenious solution for adding RGB to any non-RGB fans. This is especially useful if you have existing high-performance fans and do not want to pay a very expensive fee just to replace them with an RGB equivalent.

The Halos is available for 120mm and 140mm fans and we will be looking at the 120mm model here.

It is worth noting that the Halos can be used with fans of any colour, the colours do however show best on lighter colour fans.

The Halos frames have the required connections to be daisy chained and multiple Halos frames can thus be powered and controlled with a single controller connection. The Halos Digital requires a 3-pin digital RGB connection to be connected to your system and it is worth noting that certain motherboards do have onboard digital RGB controllers, as is the case with my motherboard the MSI MEG Z390 Godlike which has two digital RGB connectors JRGBRAINBOW1 and JRGBRAINBOW2,  the HALOS does however not come with the required cable to use this kind of connections and this must be ordered separately. Alternatively, a Phanteks Digital RGB controller can be used in the event your motherboard lacks digital RGB functionality.

The Halos is compatible with both Asus Aura and MSI Mystic Light for RGB Synchronization across your entire system.  In my case, I use MSI Mystic Light and it works perfectly.

I used the Halos Frames on the Corsair ML120 fans on my Corsair H150i All-in-One Watercooler and the end result looked great, the fans blend in very nicely with the Corsair LL140 RGB fans I use for case cooling.

Here is a before photo:

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And here is a photo with the Halos installed:

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Phanteks Halos Digital RGB Frame is a relatively inexpensive way of adding great looking RGB effect to non-RGB fans, it is a great product and comes recommended if you are looking to add a bit of colour to your system without breaking the bank.

REVIEW – Phanteks Halos Digital RGB Frame

REVIEW – CORSAIR K70 MK2 MECHANICAL GAMING KEYBOARD

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The K70 MK2 is a mechanical gaming keyboard available with Cherry MX speed, brown, red, blue and silent switches. The one reviewed here is the blue switch configuration as I prefer a clicky tactile keyboard.

The keyboard comes with a detachable wrist rest which is very comfortable.

Some additional features of the K70 MK2 is an aluminium frame, fully configurable RGB, dedicated media and volume controls, additional key caps for FPS and MOBA games (which are colored and textured differently from the normal key caps), USB pass-through and 100% anti-ghosting full key roll-over.

Due to the aluminium frame the keyboard is very rigid and volume roller is one of the most useful features I have ever used on a keyboard.

The Corsair K70 has a reputation as one of the best keyboards available and it is well deserved, it is the best keyboard I have ever used.

REVIEW – CORSAIR K70 MK2 MECHANICAL GAMING KEYBOARD

REVIEW – RAZER KIYO WEBCAM

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The Razer Kiyo is a USB webcam that retails for around $100. It is capable of 720p video at 60fps and 1080p at 30fps.

The main differentiating feature of the Razer Kiyo compared to other webcams is that the Kiyo has an integrated LED light ring (with adjustable brightness) and this makes a huge difference to the image quality captured by the webcam.

As with most Razer products it is configured and controlled with Razer Synapse, where things like brightness, contrast, saturation, white balance and auto\manual focus can be configured.

The Razer Kiyo has a strong streaming focus and is fully compatible with Open Broadcast Software (OBS) and Xsplit.

The Kiyo does however have two shortcomings, firstly the auto focus is not well implemented, and continuously refocuses for even the slightest movement, resulting in the auto focus being pretty much unusable. The second shortcoming is that the built-in microphone is not great, this is however a very common problem with webcams.

Even with these shortfalls the Razer Kiyo is a compact and convenient solution compared to alternative camera\lighting solutions. It is a good all in one solution as long as you use manual focus and an external microphone.

REVIEW – RAZER KIYO WEBCAM

REVIEW – X-RITE COLORMUNKI SMILE

The ColorMunki Smile is a basic monitor calibration tool that works with both LCD and LED monitors. Most monitors do not show colors accurately with their out of the box settings and this tool is used to configure monitors so that the colors shown on the display is as accurate as possible.

This is very important for people who work professionally with photos and video, such as professional photographers and video editors, as they need know exactly what the content they are working on looks like.

My interest in the ColorMunki Smile is for a slightly different reason, I use two 27-inch Dell monitors on my computer, the S2716DG and the SE2717H, and as they are positioned right next to each other the difference in their color calibration was very apparent and abrasive to look at.

Using the ColorMunki Smile is very simple, you plug the device’s cable into a USB port and then start the included software that guides you through the configuration process. The device has sensors on its one side that need to be placed in an area in the center of the screen (as indicated by the ColorMunki Software) and the USB cable is long enough and equipped with a counter weight, so it can easily be hung over the top of the screen and positioned correctly. The software will then start the calibration process that takes several minutes to complete and when done a reference image will be shown comparing the before and after results. This comparison showed me that one of my monitors leaned more into the yellow spectrum while the other leaned into the blue spectrum. This process completely rectified the color discrepancy between my monitors.

At the time of this post the ColorMunki Smile costs $85(USD), making it one of the least expensive monitor calibration tools. It is however a very basic and entry level solution that is most probably not appropriate for professionals who are extremely dependent on their monitors being perfectly calibrated, but for everyone else it greatly improves the color accuracy for most monitors compared to their default configuration.

REVIEW – X-RITE COLORMUNKI SMILE

REVIEW – AMAZON FIRE 10 HD (7TH GENERATION)

The Fire 10 HD is a tablet computer developed by Android. The one we are looking at today is the most recent iteration of this tablet, the 7th generation which was released in 2017.

The Fire 10 HD is a 10.1-inch tablet with a screen to body ration of approximately 71%. The screen is a 1920 x 1200 IPS LCD panel with a 16:10 screen ration and a screen density of 224 ppi. The screen is by far the best part of this tablet, it is bright, crisp and has a very large viewing angle.

 The Fire 10 HD has a Quad-core processor consisting of two 1.8GHz Cortex-A72 cores and two 1.4 GHz Cortex-A53 cores, making the tablet feel snappy and responsive. For a GPU the tablet uses the PowerVR G6250. The Fire 10 has 2 GB of RAM and comes in two variations for storage 32 and 64 GB but both can accept SD cards of up to 256GB.

The tablet has a VGA front-facing camera and a 2MP rear-facing camera which is capable of 720p video recording. The cameras are definitely the weak point of this tablet and to be frank they terrible to the point of being unusable. However, I have never actually used the camera functionality on any tablet I have owned so this does not really bother me.

The Fire 10 has a 3.5 mm stereo jack and the integrated dual stereo speakers implement Dolby Atmos Audio and they sound great, you can comfortably watch a movie without using headphones.

From a connectivity perspective the Fire 10 has dual-band Wi-Fi and built-in Bluetooth. The tablet has a micro USB connector used for charging the battery and data transfer.

The battery is advertised to last up to 10 hours and after 4 months of daily use I typically get 7-8 hours of usage between charges.

The tablet comes in three color options, red, blue and black and weighs in at around 500 grams.

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A customized version of Android, called Fire OS, is used by Amazon on the Fire product range. This means that the default App store for the device is the Amazon App Store, however the Google Play Store can be easily installed to get access to the entire Android app library.

This device is great for content consumption, and this is predominantly what I use it for. From Amazon Prime video, to Kindle Books and Comic books, to Audible Audio Books, to Magazines, to Podcasts this tablet does an exceptional job at offering a convenient way to get access to a vast variety of content.

Since acquiring this tablet, I read significantly more comic books and magazines as I can easily and relatively inexpensively get access to them.

Now given all this, the real surprise of the Fire 10 HD is the price, coming in at $150(USD) if you opt for the Special Offer option, which means ads will be displayed on the lock screen of the device, or alternatively $15(USD) more to remove the ads. And given that the cheapest variation of the latest iPad is over $300 at present, this tablet offers exceptional value.

From a content consumption perspective, the Fire 10 HD is faultless. With access to the entire Amazon library of content, the selection is endless. So, if you are looking for a cheaper alternative to the iPad with a well-established ecosystem, or you are just looking for a convenient way to read your electronic books, comics and magazine the Amazon Fire 10 HD is a perfect choice.

REVIEW – AMAZON FIRE 10 HD (7TH GENERATION)

REVIEW – ADATA SD600 EXTERNAL SSD (256GB)

I recently found myself in the market for a high-capacity high-speed external storage solution and after shopping around I decided to pick up the ADATA SD600 External Solid State Drive as it provided 256GB of storage at a very reasonable price of just under $75 (USD).

The SD600 is a USB 3.1 compatible device, advertising read speeds of up to 440MB/s, very fast compared to more traditional external USB hard drives.

The SD600 utilizes 3D NAND technology, thus offering better performance compared to Solid State Drives that does not.

Below is a performance comparison, using Crystal Disk Mark, of the ADATA SD600, a Samsung EVO 850 500GB internal SSD running on SATA III and a SanDisk Ultra Flair 16GB USB 3.0 Thumb Drive:

ADATA

ADATA SD600 Results

 

Samsung evo 850 Crystal Disk

Samsung EVO 850 Results (SATA III)

 

USB3 Crystal Disk

SanDisk Ultra Flair 16GB USB 3.0 Thumb Drive Results

As can be seen the ADATA SD600 performs much better than the USB 3.0 thumb drive, but does not quite match the results of the Samsung drive running on SATA III. However, for an external storage solution these results are great.

From a size perspective the SD600 is much smaller than a traditional 2.5-inch external Hard Drive and the image below shows the size compared to two USB thumb drives.

ADATA Size

The SD600, however slightly larger than the thumb drives, is really compact and is definitely small enough to be comfortably carried around in your pocket. It is also very durably built and offers a very convenient solution for portable storage.  Thus far, after over a months’ worth of usage the SD600 has given me no problems and serves its purpose exceptionally well. So, if you are in the market for an external storage solution the SD600 offers a great solution at a very reasonable price.

REVIEW – ADATA SD600 EXTERNAL SSD (256GB)

A Look At The Leap Motion

The leap motion is a USB connected input device like no other. It allows user input through hand motion and gestures without any physical contact between the users’ hands and the device.

The Leap motion consists of a small flat device which is placed on the desk in front of your screen and to use it you simply hold and move your hands over it. The Leap motion contains Infra-Red Cameras and LEDs to track the position of hands as well as hand gestures.

It is a very interesting experience especially when combined with VR (I will cover this in a post at a later time).

The device can track both the user’s hands simultaneously, which results in a great and seamless experience. The included tech demos are also very impressive.

Here is a video showing the device in action:

The Leap motion is a bit of a novelty device and it’s won’t be replacing your mouse and keyboard any time soon. Also note that the sensing area in which your hands need to be isn’t that big, which is a bit restricting, however it does provide a great tool for experimentation with alternative ways of computer interaction.

I have some big plans for the device with my DIY VR headset version 2 in the future.

It is also worth mentioning that the Leap Motion prices have dropped since launch and I managed to pick one up from amazon for just over $60 when I was in the US last year.

A Look At The Leap Motion