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 – CORSAIR HS70 WIRELESS GAMING HEADSET

The Corsair HS70 is a wireless headset which features virtual 7.1 surround sound using 50mm drivers in a closed back design. The headset connects to your PC using an included USB dongle and utilises a 2.4GHz low latency wireless connection.

Additional features of the headset include on ear controls, a detachable microphone and an advertised battery life of 16 hours (although my experience was closer to 12 hours), all of which makes the HS70 a very alluring offer at a retail, price of approximately $100.

The headset is extremely comfortable and the build quality is good. Sound quality is also exceptionally good for a wireless headset, and this is from someone who normally avoids wireless headsets and uses professional grade wired studio headphones that cost about 6 times more than the HS70. The microphone quality is also good and delivers crisp and clear quality sound.

In closing, the Corsair HS70 is a great wireless headset at a great price.

REVIEW – CORSAIR HS70 WIRELESS GAMING HEADSET

GETTING STARTED IN 3D PRINTING

Over the last few years various 3D printers have entered the market at significantly lower price points than ever seen before, making 3D printing more accessible to a much larger group of people. One of the companies producing these lower cost 3D printers is Wanhao and I have been using one of their printers, the Wanhao Duplicator i3 Mini, over the last two months.

The Duplicator i3 Mini is a compact PLA optimized 3D printer, weighing just 7kg, with a print volume of 120mmx135mmx100mm. The i3 Mini is extremely easy to get up and running and setup, it comes completely assembled and all the user needs to do to start printing is plug it in and manually level its print bed which takes a few minutes following the included instructions.

The printer ships with an included 1GB SD card with various printable models preloaded on it, so the user can simply insert the SD card and print as soon as the printer is setup. Below are a few photos of one of these models, a little dragon.

The little dragon was printed using CCTree 1.75mm PLA filament.

I use Cura for 3D print slicing, which is the process of converting 3D models into 3D printable formats. Configuring your slicing application correctly for your 3D printer is extremely important and getting this wrong will result in failed prints. Configuring your slicing application involves setting values inside the slicing application that relates to the characteristics of your 3D Printer, for example print volume, nozzle size, filament diameter, print speed and so on. The values for these settings can be found in the printers’ documentation or by simply googling the printer in question and the splicing application that needs to be configured.

Here are some lessons I have learnt so far in 3D printing which might help anyone new to the process:

– Make sure filament diameter is configured correctly, getting this wrong will result in prints failing rather spectacularly.

– Infill is important, but far less is required than most people think, reducing the infill percentage of a print not only reduces the amount of filament used, but also drastically reduces print times.

– When orientating a model for printing in a splicing application, experiment with different orientations and support configurations, sometimes much better results can be achieved with a few minor changes.

– 3D printing is a slow process and takes much longer than most people think.

– Don’t be scared of getting things wrong and having prints fail, it is inevitable and great learnings can be gained from failures.

I will be posting more in the future about my experiences and learnings in 3D printing, but for now I will leave you with a few photos of something else I printed, a USB\SD card holder, which came out great.

GETTING STARTED IN 3D PRINTING

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

TIME FOR AN UPGRADE

About a month ago I upgraded from my old Faithful 3770k, running on the Z77 MSI MPower motherboard with 32GB DDR3 1866Mhz ram to the following:

  • Intel i9 9900k
  • MSI MEG Z390 GODLIKE
  • 32GB HyperX 3466Mhz DDR4 RAM
  • Samsung Evo 970 500GB NVME
  • Intel Optane for my Primary Spinning Disk (a Seagate Barracuda 4TB)
  • Corsair Obsidian 750D
  • Corsair H150i All-In-One Water-Cooling Loop
  • Corsair RM1000x PSU

I have 13.5 TB of storage in total of which 500GB is NVME and 1TB is SSD.

The below CrystalDiskMark results show the difference Intel Optane makes, both benchmarks were run on Seagate Barracuda 4TB Drives, one with Optane enabled and one without:

Without Optane:

Seagate

With Optane:

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The difference in performance between the two drives is actually astounding.

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I am still running my GTX 1080 for the time being, however I did upgrade my Primary monitor to the Dell S2716DG, a 1440p 144Hz G-Sync monitor.

This was really a worthwhile upgrade and the new PC is performing great.

Here are some photos of my new setup:

TIME FOR AN UPGRADE