Apple Mac Studio Review: Evaluating Value And Performance Vs PC Alternatives

While it's only been about six months since Apple introduced the M1 Pro and M1 Max SoCs that would power the 16-inch and 14-inch MacBook Pro, the architecture within those chips can trace its roots back another full year to the dawn of Apple Silicon in the Mac mini's M1 processor. This is when Cupertino left Intel behind, and its x86 processors, to roll its own Mac-focused chips based on its legacy of high-performance mobile SoCs found in the company's iPhone and iPad line-ups. By and large, it delivered outstanding performance in both single-threaded and multi-threaded workloads, especially when...

Falcon Northwest Tiki 2022 Review: Tiny Gaming PC That Slays

Back in the mid-90s, I recall sitting around with friends at the school lunch table poring over glossy magazines like PC Gamer and the long-defunct PC Accelerator, as well as the immense, phone-book-like Computer Shopper. Sure, you had your Dells, and your Compaqs, and your smaller vendors too, like ZEOS, Quantex, ALR, and the fledgling Alienware. Yet among PC gamers in the 1990s, none of those names held quite the same prestige as Falcon Northwest. Whether it was the high specs of the machines, sleek designs, or their unique, classy advertising, Falcon Northwest established itself as the Bugatti...

Intel NUC 12 Extreme Dragon Canyon Mini PC Review: A Fire-Breathing Little Beast

When Intel introduced its first NUC systems featuring its Compute Element, it said the modular design would decrease the time to market for newer, more powerful small form factor systems. That certainly appears to be the case. Hot on the heels of our NUC 11 Extreme review from a few months back, we have the latest NUC 12 Extreme. At first glance, the NUC 11 and NUC 12 Extreme are nearly indistinguishable from each other. However, this latest little beast – code named Dragon Canyon – is packing a 65W Alder Lake-based 12th Gen Core processor, which should boost performance up quite a...

Intel NUC 11 Extreme SFF PC Review: Unleashing Beast Canyon

We’re long-time proponents of big, bold and bodacious desktop systems around here. We’ve been evaluating the latest and greatest PC hardware for over two decades after all, and many of us have ben PC enthusiasts even longer than that. As much as we dig fully-loaded, high-end desktops though, there’s just something awesome about a powerful small form factor system like the Intel NUC 11 Extreme we’ll be showing you today, codenamed “Beast Canyon”. Intel’s latest enthusiast-class NUC takes all of the goodness of the NUC 9 Extreme—like the modular design...

Mac mini 2020 Review: Apple M1 Silicon Performance Deep Dive

When Apple announced its new Mac lineup -- consisting of a MacBook Air, MacBook Pro 13, and Mac mini -- with its new M1 processor, the company was met with a mixture of enthusiasm and skepticism. Apple's performance claims were incredible. For instance, the company said that its new Apple Silicon offers upwards of 3.4 times the performance as the last-generation Mac mini with a quad-core Intel Core i3 processor. That's the sort of thing that could make a Mac lover's eyes pop. However, proclaiming things like "more than three times the performance," without substantiating those claims, will...

Maingear Turbo Review: A Jaw-Dropping Mini-ITX Gaming PC

Full disclosure, I've never been much of a mini-ITX form factor kind of guy. I mean I get the allure of a space-efficient PC design that can more easily integrate in to an office or home environment, but there are almost always caveats. Typically the trade-offs are either sacrificing performance and features, or you end up having to tolerate the noise of a small and overwhelmed cooling solution. And so when I considered the Maingear Turbo for evaluation here, at first I wasn't all that enthused. However, it seems the folks at Maingear, a highly respected custom performance PC builder out of New...

Intel NUC10i7FNH Review: Powerful, Palm-Sized 6-Core Mini PC

Intel has been steadily updating, upgrading, and augmenting its line-up of small form factor NUC systems for many years now. Initially, most of the systems had a similar design language, but over time, Intel has expanded its offerings to address the needs of many more customers and potential use cases. Recently, we took a look at the beefy, high-performance “Ghost Canyon” NUC 9 Extreme and a couple of years back got the chance to play with its spiritual predecessor, the Kaby Lake-G-based “Hades Canyon” with AMD Radeon Vega graphics. The tiny machine we’ll be covering...

Intel NUC 9 Extreme Ghost Canyon Review: Pint-Sized Powerhouse

We got our first taste of Intel's new NUC 9 Extreme, codenamed Ghost Canyon, back at CES 2020 earlier this year. Like previous Intel NUCs, the NUC 9 is a small form factor system that will be sold in a variety of flavors. The NUC 9 extreme will be offered in barebones configurations, where customers must purchase memory, storage, and an OS on their own, or as fully configured systems, with a mix of CPU options. This time around, though, Intel is leveraging its innovative Compute Element to enable future CPU and IO upgrades, and is also empowering ecosystem partners to offer customized versions...

Dell OptiPlex 7070 Ultra Review: The New Disappearing Desktop PC

Dell's new OptiPlex 7070 Ultra desktop PC features a new innovative design approach that's sleeker and more useful than traditional small form factor machines, when integrating them with standard displays. Small form factor PCs, like the Intel NUC, Gigabyte BRIX and ZOTAC ZBOX, tend to include VESA mounts for easy attachment to the back of your monitor for a cleaner, all-in-one PC-like appearance while using a standard monitor. The flaw in that methodology is not all monitors have VESA mounting holes on the back and the ones that do tend to either have basic stands that have minimal adjustments...

How To Overclock Raspberry Pi 4 Over 2GHz For A Tasty Speed Bump

The Raspberry Pi 4 is one of the cheapest single-board computers around, and thanks to its substantial performance boost over its predecessors, it also represents a good bang for the buck if you're interested in learning Linux, or just want to kick back and play some of your favorite retro games in Lakka. The good news is, the latest version of the Raspberry Pi Foundation's Linux distribution, Raspbian Buster, comes with a new firmware revision for the tiny system which removes the previously imposed 2 GHz clock speed limit and loosens restrictions on voltage boosts, so of course we had to...

Raspberry Pi 4 With Lakka May Be The Best Retro Game Console Yet

Back in June, the Raspberry Pi Foundation announced their newest single-board computer, the Raspberry Pi 4. This tiny PC packs a quad-core Cortex A72 SoC from Broadcom and up to 4 GB of DDR4 memory at a very attractive price. While aimed at emerging markets for folks new to computers, the Pi really caught on with retro gamers and "makers" in general from the start. The latest Pi has a whole lot more computing horsepower than the last iteration, but software support hadn't quite caught up—until just now. The LibRetro team released Lakka version 2.3 with a ton of new features, a retro gaming...

Intel Bean Canyon NUC Review: 8th Gen CPU With Iris Plus Graphics

Intel has embraced small form factor systems for many years. Whether it be high-end mini-PCs like the Hades Canyon NUC, complete with discrete graphics for gamers, or ultra-tiny devices like the Compute Card, Intel has consistently pushed small form factor markets forward, for just about as long as ‘performance per watt’ has been a thing. The Hades Canyon NUC and Compute Card target some rather niche markets, however. For more mainstream, everyday computing applications, Intel’s standard 4"x4” NUC (Next Unit of Computing) systems are much more apropos, and the Intel NUC8i7BEH...

Intel Hades Canyon NUC8i7HVK Review: Pint-Sized Gaming Powerhouse

The Intel NUC8i7HVK, codenamed Hades Canyon, is an interesting product for a number of reasons. First, because it’s the most powerful NUC released to date and packs more I/O and connectivity than any of Intel’s previous mini-machines. It also has user-configurable lighting and activity LEDs and an aggressive design-language that looks great, in our opinion. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Intel NUC8i7HVK, however, is that it’s powered by an Intel 8th Generation Core processor with integrated Radeon RX Vega M graphics. More specifically, the NUC8i7HVK is packing a...

MINIX NEO Z83-4 Fanless Mini PC Review: Affordable, Dead-Silent Media Streaming

We dig burly, decked-out gaming PCs stuffed with powerful hardware as much as the next guy around here. Sleek, ultra small form factor systems like the MINIX Neo Z83-4 we’ll be showing you here today, however, also have a certain appeal. Powerful gaming PCs are awesome for their intended purpose, but try sticking one in a typical home theater setup and things can so sideways. Not only will it usually look out of place, but there are power, heat, and noise considerations to worry about.  Conversely, a miniscule machine like the MINIX Neo Z83-4 is so quiet and requires such a small amount of...

Origin PC Chronos Review: A Powerful Small Form Factor Desktop PC For 4K Gaming

It used to be that large physical dimensions were a telltale sign of a Herculean gaming PC. Looming desktop towers with wild looking exteriors indicated the presence of serious hardware inside. Cracking one open might reveal multiple graphics cards and fancy liquid cooling setups, both almost considered prerequisites in order to crank up the eye candy in demanding games and to play at high resolutions. But somewhere along the way, things began to change. While some of the most powerful gaming systems still reside inside gargantuan full tower enclosures, a growing number of decked out desktops have...

Gigabyte BRIX Gaming UHD Review With Teardown And Rebuild Action

The Gigabyte BRIX Gaming UHD is an exciting small form factor PC prospect. It packs a surprising amount of muscle into a tiny frame. This little flyweight may not sound too beastly with its GeForce GTX 950, but Gigabyte reckons it is more than capable of streaming 4K UHD media and taking a few swings at 1080p gaming with good image quality. Its 4.3-inch square footprint should help it blend into many entertainment centers or find a home on a dorm room desk for work, play, business or pleasure. Most ultra small form-factor computers, by comparison, rely on integrated graphics to due to thermal constraints....

Intel Compute Stick Core m3 Review: Skylake On A Thumbstick

Intel's first generation Compute Stick turned quite a few heads, including ours, as it was a remarkable thing to consider that a fully functioning PC could be crammed onto a device roughly the size of a bloated USB flash drive. It wasn't especially powerful—Intel pairing an Atom processor based on its Bay Trail-T platform with just 2GB of single-channel RAM and 32GB of onboard storage—but for $149 with Windows pre-installed (or $99 with Ubuntu) it was an intriguing device that could turn any HDMI-equipped display into a full-fledged PC. Knowing that it was on to something, Intel updated its Compute...

Gigabyte Brix S GB-BSi5HT-6200 Ultra Compact SFF PC Review

As longtime enthusiasts, we tend to get most excited for the latest, big, bad, benchmark-busting specimens of PC hardware to hit the lab. However, there’s something about ultra-small form factor devices that’s intriguing as well. The focus on power efficiency and performance-per-watt from virtually all semi-conductor manufacturers over the last few years has enabled some pretty impressive hardware in fairly tiny form factors, and it’s now possible to have a fully-functional – and rather quick – desktop PC that literally fits in the palm of your hand.Take the Gigabyte Brix S (model number BSi5HT-6200)...

Alienware Alpha R2 Review: Big Screen Gaming In A Little Package

As much as we like piecing together formidable desktop systems crammed full of high end hardware, the future of PC gaming for many mainstream users may lie in more compact setups. Certainly there's been a push to get PC players out of a dank basement and into the living room with Steam Machines and similar console-sized PCs. However, Dell's Alienware division is hoping to take things to the next level with its pint sized Alpha R2 system, an ultra small form factor (SFF) gaming desktop. We have to use the world "desktop" carefully here because the Alpha R2, like its predecessor, is more of a "shelf-top"...

Gigabyte, Intel And Corsair Enthusiast PC Components Summit Highlights

Gigabyte, Corsair and Intel held a press event in California on June 30th to show off some of their new hardware. Though Intel just talked broadly about its thoughts on the PC gaming market (it's growing, and they are committed to it, basically), Gigabyte and Corsair both demo'd high-end gear it first unveiled at Computex. We were on-hand to check everything out, and have the details lined up for you here. First up, we have some video of many of the products... IntelIntel didn't have anything new to show, but wanted to reiterate its commitment to the PC gaming and high-end desktop spaces, as evidenced...

AMD FNATIC eSports SFF Gaming PC Hands On

PC enthusiasts and hardcore gamers are passionate about their hardware. We all lust after expensive, high-performance CPUs, GPUs, monstrous RAM kits, and ultra-fast solid state storage devices. But for many of us, top of the line PC components may be overkill, and in some situations, a more mainstream rig will do just fine. That’s the crux of the message AMD has been trying to get across for quite some time with its mainstream APU line-up. Sure, you could build a high-performance rig with a top of the line processor and beefy discrete GPU, but why spend the money if you don’t have to? To that end,...

Intel Skull Canyon NUC6i7KYK Mini PC Review: Palm-Sized And Powerful

Intel's successful line of NUC (Next Unit of Computing) mini PCs have done well for the company, for various use cases where an ultra-small form factor computer might come in handy. In areas where a PC either needs to stay out of sight, blend in with its surroundings or squeeze in places where other, larger computers just couldn't go, a NUC can make a lot of sense. Tiny boxes like the Intel NUC5i5RYK can pack a fair amount of CPU horsepower in their petite, silver 4.5-inch frames, but some users still want more juice and beefier graphics for heavier gaming and content creation workloads.Fortunately,...

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