Tag Archives: Pc Gaming

Das Keyboard’s Division Zero Is Gaming Gear that Makes Work Fun Too

Das Keyboard’s Division Zero Is Gaming Gear that Makes Work Fun Too

PC gaming gear can be fun, and even help you be more productive, but it’s rare to find ones designed to be customizable and high-performance for gaming but equally useful when it’s time to get things done. Das Keyboard’s new gaming line, Division Zero, manages both, with some caveats.

The Lineup

Division Zero is Das Keyboard’s first foray into gaming peripherals, a market already saturated by big names and popular brands. That doesn’t mean they didn’t bring solid gear to the table, but it does mean you have to weigh it against some well-known competition. Here’s the lineup:

  • The X40 Pro gaming keyboard ($149) is a low-rise, metal mechanical keyboard fitted with custom “Alpha-Zulu” switches. It features changeable aluminum top plates to customize the look of the keyboard, and red LED backlighting behind the keys turns itself off when idle. There’s a spare USB 2.0 port, and audio passthrough so you can plug in a microphone and headphones—which means you also have analog audio cables to plug into your PC, but you don’t have to use them.
  • The M50 Pro gaming mouse ($79) features an ambidextrous design, a 6400 DPI laser sensor, on the fly DPI control settings, and nine programmable macro buttons. It also features on-board memory to remember those macros and your per-application (or per-game) profiles, and a tilt-scroll wheel with multiple degrees of motion side-to-side.
  • The 47W Surface is Das’s flexible mousepad, designed for use with the M50, comes in three flavors, the Flex ($19), Control ($19), and Speed ($29). Das sent us the Control version, and it works beautifully with other mice as well as the M50. It’s a textured mousepad, thinner than a sheet of paper but even more flexible, and features a grippy underside that makes sure it won’t move, no matter how hard you move your mouse.

All in all, their prices are on par with other PC gaming peripherals: Pricey. If you’re rocking the keyboard and mouse that came with your PC, these aren’t for you. However, if you love features like programmable macro buttons, LED backlighting, customizable profiles, and sharp, enthusiast-focused design, then it’s nothing you’re not used to. If you’re a mechanical keyboard enthusiast, well. You’re definitely used to playing this much for a keyboard.

Where They Excel

After using all three, it’s safe to say they shine both for gaming and for getting work done, which is exactly how I prefer my peripherals. I want them to pull double duty on my desk, and for the amount of money you’d spend, you probably would too. They’re not perfect though, and have some glaring drawbacks that should make you think before pulling out your wallet. Let’s break them down into three big categories: build quality, customization, and usability, with special attention to those fancy custom switches.

Build Quality

Das Keyboard’s Division Zero Is Gaming Gear that Makes Work Fun Too
A mess of cables, but all braided, fabric-wrapped, and with their own velcro for easy management.

Both the X40 and the M50 are sturdy and feel like you could put them through a long gaming session or an arduous workday. That’s exactly what I did, since my work and gaming are in the same physical place. I wound up using the X40 and the M50 for work all day writing, and I would swap them over to my gaming PC for a few hours of blissful, cathartic destruction, puzzle solving, and exploration. The X40′s aluminum build and heavy body served it a little better than the M50′s mostly plastic (but still heavy) build. The braided cloth cables on both are great for keeping dust away and avoiding tangles, and the cords are nice and long with velcro wraps to keep the slack managed.

http://lifehacker.com/the-logitech-m…

The M50 is a quality ambidextrous gaming mouse, which is nice to see. I found the scroll wheel really stiff and tough use (especially compared to the Logitech MX Master I use for work and the Logitech Proteus Core I use for gaming) but it loosened up over time (or maybe I just got used to it.) The 47W is grippy and won’t move or slide around even a smooth desk surface (like mine), and is large and nicely sized.

Customization and Key Macros

If you’re going to spend this much on gear, you may as well get the most possible use out of their customization features. The programmable macro keys work with third-party tools like AutoHotkey, which we’ve shown you how to use with your gaming gear, by the way, just as well as Das Keyboard’s own software.

http://lifehacker.com/why-i-started-…

In Windows, all you need to do is press Fn + F12 to enable macro recording. Making the special buttons on the X40 and the M50 do whatever you want them to do, whether it’s an Excel macro or a spell rotation, is easy. If you prefer to use AutoHotKey or another utility, it’s just as simple—just tap the button you’d like to assign the action to, program it, and away you go. You can easily turn the five programmable keys on the left side of the X40 into web browsing actions or music controls (technically there are function keys for that, although I miss the Das Keyboard 4′s hardware audio controls and volume knob) and then switch them out for weapon loadouts in your favorite shooter or attack rotations in an MMO.

The other big customization feature on the X40 is one that’ll cost you money: aluminum top panels for your keyboard. Das sent us two to switch out with the default aluminum silver: the “Defamer” in mustard, and the “Stryker” in red. Both have subtly different designs, and there’s also a Defamer in silver and a Stryker in olive green if you prefer those colors. Each additional panel will set you back $39, which is a lot, but if a fresh top panel will give you that fresh-keyboard-feeling without actually buying a new keyboard, we say go for it and swap them out when the mood strikes.

Usability

Das Keyboard’s Division Zero Is Gaming Gear that Makes Work Fun Too
Each keyboard proudly displays the switch you chose. Linear is off-white, tactile is green.

Speaking of the keys on the X40, we discuss those new Alpha-Zulu mechanical switches that Das is so proud of. The switches come in “linear” and “tactile,” both offering the same 1.7mm travel distance and 45g actuation force, but the difference is how the two feel. The linear switches aren’t tactile or clicky, and the tactile ones still aren’t clicky, but they do require a little extra force to engage the key halfway through the travel distance. What that all means for you is that the “tactile” ones are for gamers used to half-pressing their keys and then engaging them fully at just the right time, while the linear ones are for people who hold those keys down and rely on long-presses. I tested the linear switches.

The switches are great, but they’re not perfect. They’re quiet but satisfying, and give you the depth and key traversal you want from a mechanical, but without the audible “clack-clack” that often comes with. However, if you’re a Cherry MX lover and you love that audible click, you’ll miss it. If you use the linear model and miss feeling the actuation point, you’ll miss that too.

http://lifehacker.com/how-to-choose-…

When I switched between the X40 and my trusty Corsair K70 with Cherry MX Red keys, I definitely missed the sound, but after even a few days I was more than used to the quieter profile. (Which was especially nice, since the linear switches are similar to the MX Red.) They won’t drive you or anyone else nearby nuts while you work, and they’re still fun to play on.

Where They Fall Short

Das Keyboard’s Division Zero Is Gaming Gear that Makes Work Fun Too
Even in low light, the keyboard is somewhat weak, but the mouse pulses brightly.

Division Zero line has its strengths, but it also has weaknesses. We wouldn’t be writing about it if we thought it sucked, but there are some things you should pay attention to if you’re thinking about buying.

  • The LED backlighting is weak, and not just brightness-wise. The mouse’s LED is bright and strong, but the keyboard’s LED backlighting is dimmer and nothing to write home about. It’s decent, but it’s all red, and in an age of RGB keyboards, it’s a bit of a bummer that you can’t customize the colors (especially at this price.) Plus, it’s not per-key backlighting, so keep that in mind. That all said, it looks nice behind the aluminum backplates, but consider that you can get more customization, colors, and brighter LEDs for less.
  • The price. Das’ Division Zero line is new, and as with all PC peripherals, they’re more expensive today than they’ll ever be. The X40 is $149, the M50 is $79, and the custom faceplates are $39 each. That’s a lot of money, especially considering most of the keyboards the X40 is competing with, like the Razer Deathstalker, the Rosewill RK-9000, and some other entry level mechanicals are all closer to $99. Similar mice to the M50, like the Logitech Proteus Core and the Razer Deathadder, are both slightly cheaper, closer to $70. It’s a tough sell, but expect to see prices come down as Amazon and other retailers get their hands on these and start competing for business.
  • The keyboard’s single USB 2.0 port and extra cables. This is a bit of a nitpick for me, but since I generally don’t use audio passthrough on a keyboard, the analog audio cables on the X40 were just wasted space, velcroed together on top of my desk. It’s a nice feature to have, but I just don’t know many people buying a keyboard wishing they could plug their headset into it. I would have much rather had a second USB port right next to it, get hardware audio and volume controls, or have that port be USB 3.0 instead of 2.0.

These drawbacks may be dealbreakers for some of you—especially the price. If you don’t mind splurging, or you’ll use yours for gaming and for work, then they may be a good buy, especially when compared to its more popular—and in some cases more affordable—competition.

The Bottom Line: Pricey, but Sturdy, Sharp, and Fun to Use

Das Keyboard’s Division Zero Is Gaming Gear that Makes Work Fun Too
The “Defamer” keyboard cover, which includes the wrench required to swap top plates.

So that leaves us with the big question: Should you buy these? Well, we can definitely recommend the 47W mousepad and the X40 keyboard. The M50 is a little trickier to tell you to buy.

The mousepad is huge and grippy, and will probably stay on my desk long after the M50 makes its exit in favor of the less-ambidextrous but smoother-to-use Proteus Core, which is still my favorite mouse for gaming right now, and I’ll probably continue to use my MX Master for work. In short, the M50 is great, and great for lefties or people who just prefer an ambidextrous mouse, but it’s stiff, a little heavy, and while it glides across your desk easily enough and has all the right DPI settings, I still felt myself missing the button layout of the Proteus Core, and if I had to run out and choose one from a store shelf, the Proteus Core is cheaper.

Getting back to the 47W control surface though: You’ll have to choose the surface you think is best for you. I liked the Control surface a lot, and the price there is about right for a “gaming” mousepad, if that’s what you want. If you don’t though, well, it’s an easy one to skip.

The X40 is a bigger deal though. I liked it, enough to push over my Corsair K70 sometimes. I like the idea of the changeable top plates, but I’m also a sucker for customization like that. Little ways to make something you own feel brand new are a great way to spend a little where you could have spent a lot. However, the X40 is definitely missing things I miss from other keyboards. And like the others here, it’s pricey. Even so, it’s fun to use, great to type on and play on, and it’s the first keyboard in a while that I enjoyed writing on as much as I enjoyed gaming on. If you can try it before you buy, definitely do, and make your own decision, but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

I Bought An Expensive-Ass PC Gaming Monitor And It’s Really Good

I Bought An Expensive-Ass PC Gaming Monitor And It’s Really Good

Look, sometimes you spend $709 on a gaming monitor and wind up really happy with your purchase. I’m not saying it happens every time, but it happened this time.

After months of hemming, hawing, and talking myself out of it, last week I went ahead and dropped a bunch of bucks on a newfangled G-Sync monitor. This was a luxury purchase, and in many ways a ridiculous one: The monitor I bought cost twice as much as my PC’s graphics card, which itself cost as much as a PS4 or Xbox One. Whatever, though. Thirty minutes after I plugged the thing in, it was already clear: This shit was worth it.

As a single upgrade, this monitor has had a bigger and more immediate impact than upgrading to a 4GB graphics card; more than moving my Windows installation and games to a solid-state hard drive; certainly more than upgrading to Windows 10 or overclocking my GPU and CPU.

G-Sync is a proprietary monitor technology that the graphics-card manufacturer Nvidia introduced a couple of years ago. The idea sounded good: A chip that’s built into a monitor allows the monitor to talk directly with your PC’s graphics card and change its refresh rate on the fly, smoothly matching whatever is being output by the card.

If you’ve seen all the talk about frame-rate and 60fps over the last couple of years, that’s all tied to refresh rate, too. The higher (and more stable) the frame-rate on a game, the smoother it looks. The closer the game’s frame-rate is to the screen’s refresh rate, the less chance of tearing or hitching.

I Bought An Expensive-Ass PC Gaming Monitor And It’s Really Good

Historically, PC gamers have been stuck with two options for syncing frames with their monitor refresh-rates: They can use vertical sync (Vsync), which artificially locks a game’s frame-rate to a target number, or they can simply run the game with an unlocked frame-rate. Both options have downsides, and both options can leave you feeling like you’re not getting the most out of your expensive graphics card. Everything I’d heard about G-Sync suggested that this technology is a for-real, actual, bona-fide way to sync your PC and your screen, and that it makes games run noticeably more smoothly.

Last week I decided, fuck it, I’m going for it. Here’s the monitor I bought. It’s a 27-inch, 2560×1440 Acer with a 144Hz refresh rate and built-in G-Sync support. There are plenty of other G-Sync monitors out there; this one had some good reviews, so I decided to go with it. I got mine from Amazon for a little below list price, but lots of stores carry them.

Thoughts informing my decision:

  1. It seems like a safe bet to get a 1440p monitor, given that it’s become a more reasonable resolution for stable PC gaming. 4K resolution just doesn’t seem practical or even necessary for a monitor-sized screen.
  2. 144Hz is more than double the 60Hz refresh rate of the other screens in my apartment, but I’ve seen enough PC gamers swear by higher frame-rates that I wanted to see what the deal was.
  3. Between the resolution and refresh rate, this monitor seems like it’ll be future-resistant, at least for a few years. For better or for worse, I’ve already committed to Nvidia’s whole deal by buying my latest graphics card from them, so I don’t really see myself switching to AMD anytime soon.
  4. It’s getting dark at like 4PM in Portland this time of year, and buying myself something cool will make me temporarily forget about that and feel happy.

Downsides:

  1. It only has a single DisplayPort input, so I won’t be able to have it double as an aux monitor for my game consoles without buying an expensive adapter and manually swapping inputs. Apparently this is always true for this kind of G-Sync monitor, and it’s a bummer.
  2. It costs $709, which is an insane amount of money to spend on a gaming peripheral, and enough to buy a whole lot of donuts and pastrami sandwiches.
  3. I don’t really care for some of the ways Nvidia does business. (More on that in a bit.)

The pros outweighed the cons, so I ordered the thing. A few days later, it arrived. I plugged it in, and yow. It is a damn good monitor.

I Bought An Expensive-Ass PC Gaming Monitor And It’s Really Good

It’s tricky to write about this kind of technology, because I can’t just show it to you. You’ll have to take my word for it. So: G-Sync works as advertised, and it’s noticeably changed how I experience PC games. I no longer sweat frame-rate fluctuations at all—I just turn on a game, turn off Vsync, and let it run. I have a GTX 970 graphics card, which can run most games at at least 1080p and get them north of 60fps. Since my monitor now goes all the way up to 144Hz, it has plenty of headroom to let games exist in the 60-80fps range, and thanks to G-Sync, it runs all of those frame-rates smoothly, with no tearing.

(Some purists may need their games to run at 144fps—I’m not there yet. I can usually detect when a game drops below 60fps, but in the midst of gameplay, I can’t really tell the difference between, say, 78fps and 94fps. When I run a game at a locked 144fps I can detect that it’s unusually smooth, but anything north of 60 is fine by me.)

I wasn’t aware of just how thoroughly screen-sync issues had invaded my PC gaming consciousness until I no longer had to deal with them. Time was, I’d start playing a new PC game with one eye on the FPS counter in the corner of the screen. If I saw a hitch or a slow point, both eyes would dart to the edge of the screen, like I was trying to catch the performance dip in the act. “Oh, nicked down to 54fps that time,” I’d think. “That’s not good.” Eventually I would have to turn off the FPS counter just so I would stop fixating on it and enjoy the game.

Now, every game just runs. GTA V is capable of maintaining 70-90fps on near-ultra settings in 1440p, and you should see it. It looks perfect. Even in the rare event that the frame-rate dips below 60fps, I barely notice, because there’s no hitching or stutter. Other games look just as good: Shadow of Mordor, Mad Max, The Witcher 3, Black Ops III, and on, and on. Dying Light looks bananas. Fallout 4 and Just Cause 3 have some real problems running at a consistent frame-rate, but even those games’ dips aren’t a big deal with G-Sync running.

The monitor can be a little funky sometimes: Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, for instance, drops its FPS to zero every time I leave a menu, though it returns to 60+ a few moments after that. Divinity: Original Sin will sometimes start freezing and unfreezing periodically, though that problem is addressed by restarting the game and I actually can’t say whether it’s G-Sync related or not. Regardless, a few hiccups don’t do much to mar the overall experience for me. It’s PC gaming, after all. There’ll always be some funkiness.

There are a few other things I don’t like about the monitor, however, chiefly the fact that it’s required me to make a substantial financial commitment to Nvidia’s hardware ecosystem. Ugh. Just typing the phrase “hardware ecosystem” makes me feel compromised. It’s one thing to take the initial step of buying an Nvidia or AMD graphics card. That’s a first step, and you can always change your mind next time around and go the other way. Buying a second piece of hardware is a much more substantial investment; it effectively removes any chance that I’ll switch to AMD for the duration of this monitor’s lifespan.

I Bought An Expensive-Ass PC Gaming Monitor And It’s Really Good

The technology is so good that I wish all monitors had it and that it could work with any graphics card. So, it’s too bad that G-Sync is proprietary to Nvidia and requires such a financial commitment to get it. AMD has a competing technology called FreeSync, which sounds like it works similarly, in that it requires a monitor to be equipped with the technology before your AMD card can work with it. There are some technical differences in how the two operate, but a primary difference is that Nvidia has controlled who can and can’t have a G-Sync module for use in their monitors, while AMD has made FreeSync freely available to any company that might want to support it.

AMD’s more open approach is doubtless fueled in part by the fact that they’re the less popular brand and need to cut into Nvidia’s lead, but the dichotomy between the two still reinforces my distaste for the way Nvidia operates. Nvidia is all about injecting their proprietary tech anywhere they can, meaning that most big-budget games ship with GameWorks features that can (and often do) hobble performance on non-Nvidia GPUs. I get how competitive the PC gaming market is, and I don’t entirely begrudge Nvidia their attempts to succeed and make money, but as we’ve seen over the last couple of years, that kind of cutthroat maneuvering hurts games as often as it helps them and causes headaches for gamers who don’t get in line.

It feels like it’ll only be a matter of time before all gaming-oriented monitors and TVs can do something similar to G-Sync. I may dislike that I’m forced to pick a brand and stick with it for the foreseeable future, but for the time being, I’m ultimately fine throwing in with Nvidia. I trust that they’re not going anywhere and that their cards will generally do a good job of running the games I want to play. It’ll do for now.

I understand that this article might get some of you considering spending too much money on a piece of hardware that you really don’t need. I sympathize! Most PC gamers have that one piece of equipment that they don’t own, but that they’d like to own. Your PC can always be a little bit better, after all; it’s both the blessing and the curse of PC gaming. You could always have that slightly faster CPU or that slightly improved graphics card; that clackier keyboard, or that mouse with all the buttons.

All of us have that one thing—the next thing—that we’re considering getting. Sometimes that next thing is more trouble than it’s worth; sometimes, that next thing is a disappointment. But sometimes, you spend a bunch of money on a thing and it winds up being totally worth it. Hooray, a new piece of technology does exactly what it promised it would.

To contact the author of this post, write to kirk@kotaku.com.

How to Build a Powerhouse Steam Machine for Hundreds of Dollars Less

It’s been a long time coming, but the first Steam Machines are finally here: compact computers that give you the quality of PC gaming with the living room convenience of consoles. Too bad most of them cost an arm and a leg. Here’s how to build your own for less.

Building your own Steam Machine isn’t just cheaper; it’s more customizable and upgradeable, too. Any PC can technically work as a Steam Machine, but we’ve put together our very own parts list designed for the living room: high-quality PC gaming in a compact case, a little bigger than an Xbox or PlayStation.

http://lifehacker.com/5840963/the-be…

The Parts

How to Build a Powerhouse Steam Machine for Hundreds of Dollars Less

After lots of research and testing, here’s what we recommend for the ultimate DIY Steam Machine:

  • The Processor (CPU): Intel Core i5-4460, $189: Skylake may be out, but this entry-level Haswlel i5 should provide all the processing power you need for modern games, and matches with a cheaper motherboard and RAM to bring down the cost of your machine. This processor comes with a cooler that should work just fine, though if you have extra money to spend, this $42 Noctua cooler will be cooler and quieter.
  • The Motherboard: ASRock B85M-ITX, $64 after rebate: ASRock continues to make good budget motherboards, and since we’re going compact with this build, their entry-level Mini-ITX board is a great choice at a good price. Note that it doesn’t have Wi-Fi built in, so if you don’t have ethernet access in your living room, you’ll need either a USB adapter or a Wi-Fi capable motherboard.
  • The Memory (RAM): Corsair Vengeance LP 8GB DDR3, $38: 8GB of RAM should be a decent amount for any present and future gaming.
  • The Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB 7200RPM HDD, $52: You probably won’t need 1 terabyte of space for just your games, but it doesn’t get much cheaper if you go down in space. An SSD won’t improve the performance of your games, but it will decrease loading times significantly, so if you have a bit of extra cash, an SSD like the Crucial BX100 ($179) is a great alternative.
  • The Video Card (GPU): EVGA NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 4GB with ACX 2.0, $329: The graphics card is arguably the most important part of any gaming build, and we deliberated long and hard before settling on the GTX 970. Despite some marketing controversy, it’s still one of the best bang-for-your-buck cards you can get if you want to play games on high or ultra settings. Plus, it has a lower power consumption than its competitors, which is imperative in a small build like this. It’s also remarkably quiet.
  • The Case: Silverstone RAVEN RVZ01B, $84: This is the really unique part of this build. The Silverstone RAVEN series aims to have a more console-like look, feel, and size. It’s a bit bigger than an Xbox One, but fits perfectly in an entertainment center if you lay it horizontally. Alternatively, you can stand it up vertically next to your TV stand. In fact, a lot of for-sale Steam Machines are using this exact case, so it’s perfect for your DIY version.
  • The Power Supply (PSU): Silverstone SX500-LG, $99: Power supplies are tough for a compact gaming build like this, but the Silverstone SX500 fits the bill. It’s about as powerful as you can get in such a small form factor, and while it’s a tight squeeze, it fits into our compact case and can power all the above components beautifully.
  • The Operating System: Windows 10 Home 64-bit, $99: You could install SteamOS for free on this machine, but you’d only have about 1/4th as many games to choose from, so we’re sticking with Windows for this build. Once you install Steam and set it to launch Big Picture automatically, you’ll barely even notice Windows is there, and you’ll have over 11,000 games to choose from.
  • The Gamepad: Wired Xbox 360 Controller, $32: You have your pick of many gamepads, but we like the Xbox 360 controller. It’s cheap, comfortable, and works out of the box with most modern games. If you want to spend a little more, you can upgrade to the wireless 360 controller with a USB adapter, the Xbox One controller, or even the (somewhat controversial) Steam controller for the full Steam Machine experience.
  • HDMI cable: you’ll need one. It doesn’t need to be expensive. This one ($5.49) will work fine.

Final cost: $993
Buy this build from PCPartPicker

You could build a comparable gaming PC for less money, but our goal here was to do something compact and living room-friendly, which ups the price a little bit. It’s still hundreds cheaper than comparable Steam Machines, though, like the Origin Omega (which would cost $1368 with similar hardware) or the Digital Storm Eclipse costs (which would cost $1363). If you want something cheaper and don’t mind a larger tower, you can just build a normal PC instead.

We went with Haswell on this build to keep the cost down, and because our original test build was put together before Skylake was released (and we didn’t want to recommend a machine we hadn’t built). If you must have the latest and greatest, you can upgrade this build to Skylake for about $41 more: we recommend the Intel i5-6400, the ASRock H170M-ITX/DL, and this set of Corsair DDR4 RAM. You won’t see a huge increase in gaming performance, but you’ll be on the latest and greatest platform for future upgrades.

Alternatively, if you want to save money on our build, you can downgrade the i5 to a Haswell i3, but as games become more CPU-heavy and more optimized for multi-core processors, the i3 won’t keep up quite as well as the i5.

You can also save some money by downgrading the video card to the AMD R9 380. It’s $100 cheaper than the GTX 970 we recommend, but it will decrease performance significantly. You’ll still get a decent 1080p experience, but some games you’ll have to run on low or medium settings, or live with sub-60fps framerates. In addition, it’ll become obsolete faster than the GTX 970 will. It’s up to you if you want to make that tradeoff. (We didn’t.)

http://lifehacker.com/5985304/get-th…

How to Build This Steam Machine

How to Build a Powerhouse Steam Machine for Hundreds of Dollars Less

This guide assumes you’re familiar with the basics of computer building, but if you aren’t, you can check out our complete guide to building a PC for more. That said, the compact case introduces some interesting quirks to the build process, so we’ll re-outline the basic steps here. Check out the video above to see the whole build step-by-step, too, and when in doubt, check the instruction manuals that come with your case and motherboard for more details.

http://lifehacker.com/5828747/how-to…

Here’s the basic step-by-step:

  1. Start by opening the case. Unscrew the two screws on the back of the side panel and slide the side panel off. Unwrap the front panel cables and put them to the side for now.
  2. Next, unscrew and remove the video card bracket. There are six screws here, so be sure to get them all. We’ll need this later, so set it aside as well. You should find a box of screws and other accessories under the bracket, which you’ll need for the rest of the build.
  3. First, install the power supply. Unscrew the power supply bracket—there are four screws—and carefully pull it out. Slide the power supply into the bracket, fan side down, and screw it in. Plug in the case’s power cable, and if the power supply has a power switch, flip it to the on position.
  4. If you have a traditional hard drive, slide it into the bay on top of the power supply bracket and screw it in.
  5. When you’re done, put the power supply bracket back in place and screw it in. A magnetic screwdriver is very helpful here, since you can’t really reach down to grab fallen screws.
  6. Next, grab your motherboard and put it on top of the box it came in for a nice static-free workspace. Release the CPU lever and open the bracket. Drop in your CPU, making sure the gold arrow matches up with the arrow on the bracket, and pull down the lever to lock it into place.
  7. Grab your RAM sticks and undo the latches on the motherboard’s RAM slots. Make sure the notches line up, and press your RAM into place. You should hear the latches on the side click closed.
  8. Because this case is cramped, now is a good time to plug in a few cables. Grab the 24-pin and 4-pin cables that came with your power supply, and plug them into the motherboard. (Don’t plug them into the power supply just yet.)
  9. Grab the I/O shield from your motherboard box and snap it into your case. Lower the motherboard into the case, making sure all its ports line up with the I/O shield, and screw it in.
  10. Once the motherboard is secured, you can start plugging in the the front panel cables, including USB 3.0, front audio, and the power and reset buttons. Refer to your motherboard’s manual for more information on where each of these go.
  11. When you’re done with that, it’s a good time to install the CPU cooler. Place it on top of your CPU and press the plastic pins down into the motherboard until they click into place. Plug the fan’s cable in to the CPU FAN header on your motherboard, which should be right next to the CPU.
  12. Now, grab your motherboard’s 24-pin and 4-pin cables—the ones you plugged in earlier—and plug the other ends into the power supply. It’s a tight fit, but you should be able to do it with a bit of wiggling. You can also install the PSU end of your PCI power cable now (the one with the blue tip).
  13. Now the fun part: installing the video card. This case uses a sideways GPU adapter to fit big, powerful video cards into a small case. Unscrew the PCI bracket from the mount, plug the little PCI express extender into your video card, and lower the GPU into the bracket. Make sure it’s firmly in place, then screw the GPU in to stabilize it.
  14. Plug in the PCI power cables, and lower the GPU bracket into its bay. The sideways adapter should press firmly into the PCI slot on the motherboard. Once everything’s in place, screw the bracket into the case. (Remember, there are six screws in total here—don’t forget any!)
  15. Your cables will likely be all over the place at this point, so try to tuck them in the spaces around the power supply to get them out of the way of your components and fans.
  16. If you’re using an SSD instead of a traditional hard drive, you can now install it in the two and a half inch drive bays on the graphics card bracket.
  17. Plug the SATA power cables into your hard drive or SSD, then plug the other end into the power supply. Do the same with the SATA data cable—one side in your hard drive, and the other end into the SATA 3 ZERO port on your motherboard.
  18. Your case should have come with a three-pin Y adapter for your fans. Plug that into the SYS FAN header on your motherboard, and plug the two case fans into that adapter. When you’re done, close up your case, screw in the side panel, and attach the magnetic fan filters to the outside of the case.

That’s it! The case can lay horizontally in your entertainment center, like a DVD player, or stand vertically next to it like an Xbox. The case comes with little rubber feet you can install on the bottom to stabilize it, as well as some magnetic dust filters you should stick next to the fans. You can even install a vertical or sideways version of the RAVEN logo.

When you’re done, plug your Steam machine into your TV with the HDMI cable, plug it into the wall with your power supply’s included power cable, and press the power button. If you did everything right, it should start up and you should see the POST screen.

If it doesn’t turn on, you’ll need to open it back up and do some troubleshooting. You can find some troubleshooting tips at the end of our general computer building guide here.

How to Set Up Windows, Steam, and Your Games

How to Build a Powerhouse Steam Machine for Hundreds of Dollars Less

The hard part’s over. Setting up the software on this system is remarkably easy, but before you install Windows, you’ll want to make a few tweaks to the BIOS first:

  1. Boot up the computer and press the DEL key to enter BIOS setup.
  2. First, head to OC Tweaker > Load XMP Setting > XMP 1.3 Profile 1. This ensures your RAM is running at the correct speed.
  3. Next, go to H/W Monitor > Chassis Fan 1 Setting and choose Performance or Full Speed. This ensures that the fan is running high enough to keep your computer cool. I found that even Full Speed was pretty quiet but your preferences may vary, so try it on both settings to see what works for your ears.

When that’s done, you’re ready to install Windows:

  1. On your normal PC (not your Steam machine), head to this page and download the 64-bit version of the Media Creation Tool. Launch it when it finishes downloading.
  2. Select the “Create installation media for another PC” option and click Next.
  3. Choose your language and edition of Windows. (If you used the copy we recommended, it’ll be the Home edition. Otherwise, check your box or the email you got when you bought Windows 10.)
  4. Choose what kind of media you want to create. We recommend using a USB flash drive.
  5. The Media Creation Tool will download and burn the installation files for you. When it’s done, eject your flash drive, plug it into your Steam Machine, and start it up.
  6. Boot from your flash drive by pressing F12 as the computer turns on. Then, choose your flash drive from the list that appears.
  7. You should be greeted with the Windows 10 installer. Follow the initial prompts and, when given the option, choose “Custom: Install Windows Only”.
  8. Select the hard drive you want to install Windows 10 on. Chances are, you only have one hard drive installed, so click on that one.
  9. Click the “Format” button. (If the Format button is grayed out, click “Delete”, then click “New”.) Press Next to install Windows on that drive.
  10. Allow the installation wizard to guide you through the rest of the process.

Your computer will reboot a few times, but when it finishes, you should be able to log into the Windows desktop. You’re almost there! Now you just need to install your motherboard drivers, graphics card drivers, and Steam. This is easy:

  1. Head to ASRock’s web site and download the INF Driver and Rapid Storage Technology driver.
  2. Double-click both ZIP files and extract them to your desktop. Run the INF driver installer first, reboot if necessary, then run the Rapid Storage Technology driver.
  3. Next, go to NVIDIA’s web site and download the drivers for your graphics card (if you swapped out our recommended card for an AMD card, you’ll want to get the drivers from AMD, obviously). Double-click the installer to install those drivers.
  4. Lastly, download and install the Steam client from Steam’s web site.
  5. Once installed, launch Steam and log in. Head to Steam > Settings > Interface. Check the “Start Steam in Big Picture Mode” box.

http://lifehacker.com/how-to-roll-yo…

When you’re done, reboot your computer. If all went well, it should boot straight into Steam Big Picture mode, so you can disconnect your mouse and keyboard and start playing your games straight away. You can even use your controller with games that don’t support it, and stream games from your other computers.

What Spintires Is And Why It’s One Of The Top-Selling Games On Steam

What Spintires Is And Why It's One Of The Top-Selling Games On Steam

Something curious happened over the weekend: a game called ‘Spintires‘ rose through the Steam charts, eventually becoming the top-selling game on Steam for a few days. Right now, as of this writing, it’s number two. One thing lots people, myself included, couldn’t help but asking was: why?

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