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ZALMAN CNPS9900MAX-B 135mm Long life bearing CPU Cooler Blue LED
  • Owned For: more than 1 year

4 out of 5 eggs Refined HSF, Not Best Solution For Haswell 09/06/2014

This review is from: ZALMAN CNPS9900MAX-B 135mm Long life bearing CPU Cooler Blue LED

Pros: High-quality manufacture
Huge ball-bearing fan
Beautiful to behold
Tall enough to clear most RAM
Quiet at idle and light-medium loads
Excellent cooling of i7 4770k at stock (35-50 C) and mild overclock (up to 60C at 4.1 Ghz), even when at full load
Fits in Antec Solo-II midtower case
Fair value at late 2014 prices (about $20-30 below orig MSRP)
Reasonably quiet, even when fan is fully engaged

Cons: Doesn't perform as well as many competitors (Noctua, Prolimatech, Thermalright)
Non-replaceable fan
Expensive at MSRP
Difficult/tricky installation on GA-Z87X-UD4H mobo
Unacceptable CPU temp for 24/7 use at full load with i7 4770k at 4.3 Ghz (90C constant)
Fan must run full speed to support overclocking above 3.8 Ghz in my build

Other Thoughts: I bought this HSF because past experiences with the Zalman CNPS line. I've run past-generation AMD and Intel CPUs in gaming rigs and full-time Folding@Home rigs at acceptable temps, even when moderately overclocked. Although these coolers have irreplaceable fans, I've never had one fail, even after 3-5 years of constant use. I've also never had a CPU die due to cooling failure. And Zalman coolers have a "wow" factor ... they're beautiful.

I have two GNPS9900Max-B units, which I've used in two identical configurations over the past year and a half (proc/mobo/case listed above). No issues with either HSF/fan. Very happy overall.

Installation was difficult on my mobo, and required some dexterity. Install guide was not very helpful.

At 4.3Ghz and under full load, my Haswell CPU hits 90C on the nose. This is not beyond Intel's max temp, but it is much too high for my taste. I might be able to decrease the temp a few degrees by lowering voltage or using a case with more ventilation (Antec Solo-II is a midtower with two intake fans and one exhaust), but my case temps are pretty low.

My research indicates Ivy Bridge and Sandy bridge CPUs overclock well and achieve better temps than Haswell with the same HSF/Fan. Even through Haswells at lower power draws, the heat-spreader/plates are not soldered to the CPUs as with previous generations (thermal paste is substituted instead). As a result, Haswells run hotter than Ivys or Sandys at lower power. My guess is that if I delidded my Haswells and replaced the thermal compound, I could drop 10C at max load. However, I have no wish to void my warranty over a couple hundred Mhz.

Bottom line? The CNPS9900Max-B is an excellent cooling solution for Sandy and Ivy processors in all conditions. For Haswell, however, be prepared to accept lower clock speeds. If you are intent on achieving moderate-to-high overclocks on Haswell, you may be better off with a different solution.

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NVIDIA SHIELD Portable
  • Owned For: 1 month to 1 year

4 out of 5 eggs I Love This Thing 12/12/2013

This review is from: NVIDIA SHIELD Portable

Pros: Excellent build quality
Good screen
Comfortable and familiar controls
Runs Android w/update and no bloatware
Some Shield-optimized games are fantastic
Control mapping utility makes phone games more fun
Streams PC games at high framerates
Works hand-in-glove with Steam's console mode.
Surprisingly good battery life, especially in PC streaming mode
Works when plugged in.
Has microSD slot that for up to 32GB extra storage.
Flawlessly runs emulators for popular, but discontinued consoles
Tegra 4 chip is a responsive and graphically impressive
Can be plugged into TV for "console mode"
No other product does what Shield does out of box.

Cons: Screen only 720p and a tad small
Limited selection of high-quality Shield optimized Android games
Not all phone games work well with control mapping software
PC streaming requires Kepler-based video card
PC streaming requires fast router (dual band AC or N)
Accessories are expensive and inflate cost ($40 carry case, $20 for non-ugly "shield badge" for lid)
Price is a bit steep compared to competing handhelds
16GB internal memory is too small.

Other Thoughts: Reviews are quick to point out that Shield is not for everyone. They are correct. It is a niche product for people who already have a fast PC, have or plan to buy a Kepler-based Nvidia graphics card, and have or plan to buy a wireless AC or N router with dual-channel capability.

Fortunately, I already had all of these things (and a bazillion Steam games), so buying Shield was a no-brainer, even at near MSRP. I considered other, cheaper, more popular handhelds, but it was really no contest once realized I could play my old ROMs in emulation, run virtually any Android application without issue, play dozens of PC games at desirable frame rates from my couch, and destroy entire weekends playing Asphalt 8 (seriously, a game that I think is OK on tablets, but ascends to dizzying heights when played on Shield.)

My only complaints about this device can be addressed in future versions. It could use a larger, higher-resolution screen, and at least 32 GB of internal storage. Of course, the next Tegra version won't hurt, either.

IMHO, the Shield is worth the money for the Android game/app/emulation capabilties alone. The ability to stream Steam games is a huge bonus, that I use more than I thought I would. The build quality is impressive, and the controls are very sturdy. Everything folds up nicely into a clamshell.

Shield isn't for everyone. But if it's for you, it's REALLY for you.

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Corsair Gaming Audio Series SP2500 
 High-power 2.1 PC Speaker System
  • Owned For: 1 month to 1 year

4 out of 5 eggs Great for gaming, good for music 12/11/2013

This review is from: Corsair Gaming Audio Series SP2500 High-power 2.1 PC Speaker System

Pros: Good value under if obtained for $225 or less.
Clear highs
Strong, if somewhat muddy bass.
Capable of high volume without much distortion
Handy volume/setting pod
Easy setup

Cons: Not as good with music reproduction as some reviews would claim (i.e. not "audiophile").

Other Thoughts: I've had the SP 2000 for a month, and I really like it. It replaces another 2.1 setup, a Boston Acoustics system purchased retail for $100 in 2001.

I chose this system primarily as a gaming and music system in my office. I have absolutely no complaints with its gaming capabilities. Paired with a good gaming soundcard (I use ASUS Xonar STX and Xonar DGX), it produces clear, positional sound for when I tire of headphones.

It does not shine as brightly for audio reproduction, however. This is a point worth emphasizing as a counterpoint to some of the glowing reviews in various tech publications. This is a good audio system, but not a substitute for even a good mid-range receiver/tower setup. It is merely very nice 2.1 audio kit worth every penny of its (relatively) modest price, particularly if you are a gamer first and a music fan second. Although the subwoofer is twice the physical size of my BA’s, and the BA’s satellites lack the tweeters included here (satellites are otherwise same size), it’s actually difficult for me to decide which sounds better when listening A/B. The decade old, inexpensive Boston Acoustic is much warmer and sweeter, while the Corsair is more accurate, but less engaging (like a really nice boom box).

What’s wrong for music? As far as I can tell, is the plastic housing surrounding the satellites. At high volumes, it reverberates with a "plasticky" thumpiness/buzziness that will instantly remind you that this is indeed a 2.1 setup with limits (especially if you fell in love with the clarity and depth provided the small woofer/tweeter setup at lower volumes.) The satellites would likely benefit from more solid housings, and being placed on a solid wood desk.

Bottom line: Despite my criticisms, is a great setup if you are on a budget. The SP 2000 will blow away almost anything at a big box retailer’s computer audio section. But they will leave you wanting more if you really want a tool for appreciating music. They’re probably worth the risk of ordering. Just know that, depending on your ear, you might end up returning them for a set of speakers you can get lost in.

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Mark B.'s Profile

Display Name: Mark B.

Date Joined: 11/29/04

  • Reviews: 24
  • Helpfulness: 11
  • First Review: 04/04/08
  • Last Review: 09/06/14
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