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MARK H.

MARK H.

Joined on 06/04/05

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Product Reviews
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  • 31
Most Favorable Review

Tight case, but a real space-saver in server racks

iStarUSA D-213-MATX Black Aluminum / Steel 2U Rackmount microATX Server Chassis
iStarUSA D-213-MATX Black Aluminum / Steel 2U Rackmount microATX Server Chassis

Pros: Many reviewers identified the lack of space in this case. Agreed, but this makes for a very compact and space-saving case in a server rack, which uses only 2U of space. The case is solidly built, has a modern look, comes with sufficient mounting materials. If you want to house a small-business, medium-sized server (for example, LAMP & OwnCloud) without too much processing requirements, this is the case for you.

Cons: The tight interior is definitely a con, but this is known and therefore does not warrant knocking off an egg. A 9.5" micro-ATX just barely fits, and 3.5 " hard disks would extend over the top of the motherboard edge, partially covering some connectors (SATA, power). Also, cable routing is a nightmare, and a modular PSU is recommended. Airflow is not optimal. Space for two 80mm fans is provided, and two fans should be used to move enough air. Slimline fans, if possible. The PSU draws air through the top cover, which means (1) that the top cover must have enough clearance and (2) the PSU fan does not contribute to the air flow inside the case. Moreover, if a HDD is mounted in the 5.25" bay, it receives no airflow. Air flow is probably the single biggest challenge with this case. Clearly, a half-height graphics card is needed (or even better, a graphics card built into the motherboard). Two minor improvements suggested: Provide mounting holes for 2.5" SSD, and use less bright LEDs.

Overall Review: To help the decision whether this case is useful in a specific case, let me try to review what fits inside the case. As mentioned, the ideal motherboard would be a micro-ATX with built-in VGA. There are two 3.5" internal bays that could hold 2 disks each, if the lower disk would not collide with the motherboard space. SSDs are not a problem -- a whole stack of SSDs fit nicely. In addition, there is a two-position 5.25" bay, which can hold one HDD and one external optical drive. Therefore, we can accommodate: * Three, 3.5" HDDs and one 5.25" optical drive (DVD or so), drive underneath the optical drive receives no airflow * Two, 3.5" HDDs and one 5.25" optical drive, both HDDs receive airflow from the front 80mm fans, and space underneath the optical drive can be used to stow away extra power cables * Four, 3.5" HDDs, no optical drive (and cooling becomes a challenge!) * Perhaps six, 2.5" HDDs (SSDs) with optical drive, lower 5.25" bay not used (best thermal solution) As for extension slots, 4 slots are available, out of them probably 3 usable (depends on motherboard). Any extension card needs to be half height.

Most Critical Review

Unstable -- tends to crash

Banana Pi Bpi001 Dual-Core CPU 1G-RAM 1G-Ethernet Single Board Computer - Fully Compatible With Raspberry Pi
Banana Pi Bpi001 Dual-Core CPU 1G-RAM 1G-Ethernet Single Board Computer - Fully Compatible With Raspberry Pi

Pros: These small single-board computers are amazing, especially when we consider that the computing power of this Banana Pi (dual core, 1 GB RAM) was standard for laptops 5-10 years ago. Computing power is good, thanks to RAM and the dual-core CPU. Graphics performance is good, x window is very usable (e.g., with xfce or lubuntu). The Banana Pi comes with several nice extras, such as gigabit ehternet, reset and power button, built-in infrared, and even a SATA connector. On the Banana Pi website, a number of different operating system images can be downloaded, including Bananian (a Debian derivative), lubuntu (yes, the full version!), and Android. Good for any form of development system.

Cons: Cons? Crashes, crashes, crashes. I am running this board side-by-side with a Raspberry Pi for a simple control job. No fancy GUI, no high CPU or GPU load. No overclocking. I get kernel panics every few hours with the "official" Bananian O/S. With lubuntu, it seems to be even worse.The RPi runs the same application without a hitch. What is wrong? Is this a poor kernel build? Poor quality control? Kernel panics should not happen in any well-designed system with healthy hardware. This unstable behavior is not acceptable.

Overall Review: Judging by the other reviews, there seem to exist well-performing BPIs out there, and it is just possible that I drew a lemon. If not, I can only conclude that the O/S was sloppily built. Either way, this is sad, because the performance of this great little computer is otherwise quite amazing. Would I buy it again? Considering that the RPi catches up in performance, probably not.

Very comfortable wire-free substitute for headset/headphone

TREBLAB X2 - Revolutionary Bluetooth Earbuds with Beryllium Speakers, True 3D Sound Quality, Best Truly Wireless Earphones Noise Cancelling Sports Ear Buds Blue Tooth Headphones Phone Calls Microphone
TREBLAB X2 - Revolutionary Bluetooth Earbuds with Beryllium Speakers, True 3D Sound Quality, Best Truly Wireless Earphones Noise Cancelling Sports Ear Buds Blue Tooth Headphones Phone Calls Microphone

Pros: The biggest pro is the wireless nature of these earbuds. Place them in your ear, turn them on, done. If you are using a larger over-the-ear headset, the improvement of comfort will be even more as these don't press against your head. The sound quality is decent (see cons, though). Compared with a USB headset from a major manufacturer that I used before, the sound of these earbuds is dramatically better. In contrast to that USB headset, these earbuds to not mute at near-silence to suppress digital switching noise. Considering the earbud's size, this is a respectable achievement. Another pro: The earbud set comes with a good selection of different size silicone and foam eartips. It is very likely that pretty much anybody finds a size that fits. Additional silicone fins are provided (three sizes), and these provide in-ear stability. Note: Select and adjust them carefully for maximum comfort. The silicone eartips (and even more so the somewhat less-comfortable foam eartips) do a good job in dampening environmental noise. The complex dance with the four control buttons (see cons) is supported by clear voice prompts. The voice prompts inform about, for example "earbuds on" or "connected". This is easier than studying LEDs. Bluetooth pairing is quite easy with the voice prompts as well. A rather interesting feature is the battery-powered base station: The earbuds last several hours without recharge (I don't know the exact duration, because I never tried more than 4 hours). To recharge, they need to be connected to the base station. The base station itself can be powered via USB, but it also has its own battery and thus extends the time these can be used without charging power. This could be interesting if the earbuds are used with cell phones or tablets. Noteworthy: This set comes with a real, printed user manual -- not to be taken for granted nowadays, but certainly helpful in setting them up and learning the controls. In fact, I should also mention the very neat box in which the set is delivered. This adds to the impression of a good-quality product.

Cons: Sound quality: While the sound is decent (see above), it is not spectacular. Low frequencies are OK at best, and the treble range has fairly poor definition. In comparison to what? Fair question. If you compare these to a $400 set of high-end audiophile headphones, well, poor definition. Compared to run-of-the-mill gaming headsets, however, these earbuds easily keep up. Obviously, compression artefacts introduced via the USB-Bluetooth route are present and audible -- but not dramatic, unless you attempt to use them listen to Mahler's eight Symphony (tip: don't). Control buttons: The earbuds feature an impressive number of functions from the usual multimedia volume track functions over Bluetooth pairing to answering phone calls. These functions are compressed into four buttons (thus the above-mentioned "dance" with short- and long-presses). If it wasn't for the voice prompts, this would be horrible. It still needs some getting used to and the decent user manual to learn at least the most important functions. Size: Being wireless (with Bluetooth transmitter/receiver AND a battery in each of them), they are larger than in-ear wired headphones. Not a surprise, though. These are NOT in-ear headphones for sports activities.

Overall Review: One reviewer mentioned their size as major disadvantage (including the poor usability as sports headphones). True. However, as with every item, you need to ask what you plan to use them for. As a replacement for a wired headset, including a phone headset, the earbuds are comfortable, and their wireless nature allows you to even walk around the room unimpeded. As a replacement for sports earbuds they would not serve well. I actually believe that the manufacturer should be careful with this claim (and in this respect agree with the previous reviewer). Linux users: These work out of the box. They simply show up as a new multimedia device. Note that your PC needs to have Bluetooth on board. If not, you need a separate Bluetooth dongle.

Excellent image quality for a surprisingly low price

QNIX QX2710 LED Evolution II 27" QHD Samsung PLS Matte Panel PC Monitor
QNIX QX2710 LED Evolution II 27" QHD Samsung PLS Matte Panel PC Monitor

Pros: This monitor has a brilliant, superbly clear image quality. Considering that most monitors of similar resolution (2560x1440) are between at least 1.5x to 2x as expensive, the price-performance ratio is excellent. Moreover, the specific monitor I received showed no dead pixels. In addition to the supplied monitor stand (see cons), it has VESA screw holes in the back. Power consumption is modest. The external power brick is listed as 12V at 5A, which means that the monitor consumes less than 60W.

Cons: First and probably most importantly, this monitor has only one input -- dual (!) DVI. No VGA, no HDMI. This is not truly a con, because the manufacturer clearly informs about this fact. The dual-DVI cable (supplied with the monitor) must be used, because most regular DVI cables are single-DVI and do not work. Older graphics cards may not support this monitor, but once again, the manufacturer points this out very clearly. The monitor stand is flimsy at best. It consists of a plastic column that is somewhat attached to the underside of the monitor, and the footplate is mostly plastic, too. It allows neither height nor angle adjustment. This is a true con that normally would warrant taking one egg off, but I balance this against the brilliant image quality and thus maintain my 5-egg rating. Built-in speakers are tinny and generally unsatisfactory, but with this con this monitor joins hundreds of other monitors -- there is just not enough space inside to use higher quality speakers. If you want decent sound quality, have an external amplifier and set of speakers. No OSD. In fact, no adjustment of image quality of any form. The only adjustment is brightness and volume. Again, not sufficient to dock an egg, because most cards allow color, contrast, and gamma adjustment, and most often those presets ("text", "games", "video processing" etc) are gimmicks anyway. As it is, the image needs no adjustment.

Overall Review: I am using the VESA-compatible stand from an older monitor to have height and angle adjustment. If you have a VESA arm or mount, all the better. The screw holes are not very deep and may require extra short screws. Quite funny, the monitor came with an instruction manual entirely in Chinese. However, this monitor is so simple (connect power brick, connect DVI cable, connect analog (3.5mm stereo) audio cable if desired, turn on, enjoy) that an instruction manual is entirely unnecessary. I got it on sale for below $200, this is very hard to beat, and my only regret is that I only bought one of them.

Reasonably good motherboard, but HiFi? Not by a far shot.

BIOSTAR TA970 Plus AM3+ AMD 970 / SB950 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Motherboards - AMD
BIOSTAR TA970 Plus AM3+ AMD 970 / SB950 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Motherboards - AMD

Pros: A decent mid-level board with a number of good features, such as a clean layout of the connectors, a front-panel USB-3 header, and two full PCI-E x16 slots. Useful connectors include infrared and a serial port. The board appears robust and solidly built. A particular plus is the connector that allows to mount a mSATA SSD directly on-board, very attractive to save space and cables. All functions, including the hardware sensors, worked out of the box with a recent GNU/Linux distribution.

Cons: Hi-Fi? Hi-Fi what? Sure, the MOSFET heatsink is designed as a cute piano keyboard, but this, and the abundant HiFi labels are all there is about high-quality audio. First, the chipset is no different from many other boards. Second, the trick seems to mute audio when the sound level drops below a certain threshold to hide the hissing and crackling of the switching transients. Third, the alleged audio ground, is that the same that connects with one mounting post and creates a connection to regular ground via the case chassis? Seriously, the switching transients from the power supply kick through into the audio system with merciless intensity. The hissing, chirping and whining is hard to ignore even in mid-volume passages of music. In soft passages, the music tends to drop out, because the sound threshold function kicks in -- very annoying. What is the point of allegedly using hifi-resistors and capacitors (please define what those are!) if the signals are not clean to begin with? Supposedly, the board comes with some software for audio control. For Linux users, this is useless -- as usual. Even with Windows, it would be a stretch to imagine that the software can correct the hardware flaws in the audio subsystem. Based on the description, the audio support software is nothing more than a gimmick. Don't get misled -- this board is as far removed from Hi-Fi audio as a 1930's vacuum tube radio. One egg off for that.

Overall Review: If you are using this as a moderately-priced board for a general-purpose PC, it will serve its purpose. If you look at playing music or need high-quality sound, either look elsewhere or buy a good sound card and disable the on-board sound subsystem. Lastly, the description of the board states for the onboard graphic: "Supported only by CPU with integrated graphic" -- this is not correct. This board does not have any on-board graphics and requires a separate graphics card.

One of the best low-cost cases I have seen

DEEPCOOL TESSERACT SW Mid Tower Computer Case with Side Window and 2 Blue LED Fans SGCC+PLASTIC+RUBBER COATING
DEEPCOOL TESSERACT SW Mid Tower Computer Case with Side Window and 2 Blue LED Fans SGCC+PLASTIC+RUBBER COATING

Pros: Although the manufacturer cut some corners (see cons below), this is a surprisingly well-designed case. I got it on sale for 25 bucks, but Newegg seems to offer it at this price more often now. First of all, the case looks good, not at all cheap. I have the blue variant, and the blue-black case makes even the blue LED fans attractive, although I usually hate LED fans. The side window ... encourages some clean cable routing. Fortunately, there are numerous loops and eyes, and ample space behind the motherboard to hide most of the cables -- very easy to make a build look very tidy. And... there are no sharp edges where one could get cut. This case could easily qualify as high air-flow case with plenty of mesh all around. The two fans are relatively quiet and don't push a whole lot of air. Two top fans can be added if more air flow is needed, and they would also accommodate a 120cm or 240cm radiator (yes, openings for water tubes are provided). The acrylic side window also has provisions for two more fans. A protective mesh under the top fan grilles can be removed to increase convective air flow (see other thoughts). This case provides cooling options from low power and quiet to performance (and loud) -- but for the latter, additional fans are needed. The top bays accommodate either three 5 1/4 drives or two plus one 3 1/2 drive (e.g., a memory card reader). Up to four 3.5" hard drives plus three 2.5" hard drives (SSD) can be mounted in the bays near the front intake fan -- more than enough. The tool-less design works, but leaves a bit of slack. Sufficient hardware is provided, numerous extra screws, a few cable ties.

Cons: Of course, the manufacturer cut some corners. When open, the case is a bit soft and can twist a bit. The covers for the watercooling tubes tend to break off and fall out easily. The top optical drive bay is tight, and its front cover does not come off without destructive force. Better not count on having four optical drive bays. The acrylic side window somehow appears cheap, in contrast to the rest of the case. Maybe this is caused by the laser-cut fan openings. Also, threads (e.g., for the side panels) tend to wear out and strip. None of this is unexpected for a low-cost case, and none of this, in my opinion, warrants taking off an egg.

Overall Review: I used three of them to replace old cases with poor air flow, in which more modern systems started to choke on their waste heat. With the Tesseract, these problems vanished -- PWM-controlled CPU & GPU fans run slow because of the good air flow (thanks to the meshing). And boy do these computers look better now! In a more extreme case, I built a watercooled fanless system around one of these cases. To improve convective flow, I removed the side window and replaced it by a plastic mesh; warm air escapes nicely through the top openings. Recommendable? For a budget build, sure. If you get it on sale, definitely.

seller reviews
  • 2

Very responsive

Shipped promptly and satisfactorily. I had an inquiry re tracking number, and the seller responded promptly. Recommended.

On-time
Delivery
Product
Accuracy
Customer Service
Satisfactory

HDMI/mini HDMI display cable

Took a few days for the item to arrive, but this was already indicated in the item description (ships from Asia, after all). Other than that. smooth delivery of the items as ordered.

On-time
Delivery
Product
Accuracy
Customer Service
Satisfactory