hardware

Razer Blackwidow Chroma V2 Yellow Review: More Gaming, Less Typing

With the debut of Razer’s new linear yellow keyboard switches, one of the gaming-est keyboards going gets a lot gamier. It’s a board for playing, not so much for typing. Advertisement Razer’s Blackwidow line has been carving out spots in best mechanical gaming keyboard lists for years now. And why not? It’s got a striking look, it’s all sorts of programmable, it’s got USB and audio pass-through and some of the finest RGB lighting in the business, if you’re into that sort of thing. Introduced in January of this year, the Blackwidow Chroma V2 is all of that with a free wrist rest and a move from the horrible proprietary Razer font (an upside-down L is not an R) to something nice and legible. The other big change that came with the Blackwidow V2 is the introduction of a third color of Razer key switch. They’ve had the clicky greens and the tactile oranges (Tactile Oranges is the name of my REM cover band). Now we have the linear yellow switches, smooth keys with short actuation points. GIF Here’s Razer’s clicky green switch. Comparable to Cherry MX blue switches, when the key is pressed the slider encounters brief resistance before…

artisans

Swapping Keycaps Is The Key To Having A Pretty Keyboard

A kit-built sandwich keyboard with purple aluminum top plays the perfect host to GMK’s Skeletor set. Between my keyboard-centric posts here on Kotaku and my Twitter feed, I’ve been posting a lot of pictures of very pretty keyboards lately, which leads to people asking me where they can buy those keyboards. For the most part, you can’t. You have to build them. Advertisement I’m not saying you need to buy a kit and learn to solder, though those are excellent things to do. What I am saying is that recieving your keyboard from Amazon or MechanicalKeyboards.com or someone on Reddit’s MechMarket is just the beginning. Take my Saber 68, for example. It started off as a barebones board I grabbed from a seller on Reddit. Just a case, a PCB, some MOD-M switches and that was it. While searching for a nice set of keycaps for a completely different keyboard, I picked up an EnjoyPBT Valentine set. The set ended up not quite going with the keyboard I bought it for (you’ll see that one in a bit), but being a full set with tons of READ FULL STORY AT KOTAKU!

Trackballs Still Deserve Our Love

Why waste energy moving a mouse around when you can control everything by placing your hand atop a large glowing sphere like some sort of techno wizard? The world needs more trackballs. Advertisement In these days of super-precise optical and laser mice measuring their sensitivity in the tens of thousands of dots per inch, the trackball might seem like an oddball choice for a computer navigation tool, but this wasn’t always the case. When I first started getting into computers the mouse was a device that used a physical ball, and the trackball was the same concept flipped on its head. The ball rolls about in a socket while sensors detect its movement, translating it to movement of your mouse pointer or shotgun. In those days there were just as many trackballs on computer store shelves as there were mice. These days the options are much more limited. You’ve got your old staples like Logitech and Kensington, along with smaller operations like Clearly Superior Technologies, the California-based maker of the L-Trac Glow I’m using here. It’s a fancy little number with a large LED-lit ball, three buttons, a scroll wheel and ports to plug in two additional buttons. I’ll be…

amd

AMD Radeon RX 570 And RX 580 Review: A Little Extra Power Goes A Long Way

While enthusiasts eagerly await to coming of the next-generation of high-end Radeon cards, AMD shores up its starting lineup with the RX 500 series, featuring small but significant improvements over last year’s RX 470 and RX 480 graphics cards. Advertisement 2016 was a busy year for the video card business, with both major players introducing their new architecture to the gaming public. While Nvidia attempted to hit every corner of the market with its broad-ranging line of Pascal-based cards, AMD attempted to gain ground by focusing on the lower end of the spectrum with its first generation of Polaris-based cards. At the top of the line was the AMD Radeon RX 480, a card aimed at delivering VR-ready performance at around $200. Below that was the RX 470, a solid 1080p performer priced below $200. Both were and remain solid cards, but low supply and high demand saw many buyers paying a premium price for what should have been an excellent value. Advertisement Now we have the Radeon RX 500 line, AKA not the powerful cards featuring AMD’s new Vega architecture everyone was hoping for. READ FULL STORY AT KOTAKU!

hardware

Snacking Near Your Keyboard: A Guide Of What (Not) To Do

No keyboards were harmed in the shooting of this photo The other day, our intrepid snack and gaming hardware reporter Mike Fahey picked up KFC for lunch. He brought it home and returned to his office, where, at the most recent count, he keeps 11 mechanical keyboards. Collecting them is his new hobby. And he’s taking it very seriously. He refused to eat anything anywhere near his precious keyboard menagerie. He compared it to “storing newborn babies under the booths of Dennys.” Advertisement I, Cecilia, told him that’s not relatable. “99% of gamers are more likely to keep a box of Cheez-Its by their computers than a bag of moist towelettes,” I responded. As someone who once received a Geek Squad PC diagnostic report calling my keyboard “malodorous,” I am a firm believer in snacking while PC gaming. Sure, I have some regrets. But my desk would feel naked without at least one type of snack or drink on it. Anyway, what am I supposed to do between Overwatch matches? Fahey and I disagree about whether it is a cardinal sin to snack near your gaming rig. So we have some pretty, READ FULL STORY AT KOTAKU!

alloy fps

HyperX Alloy FPS Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Review: A Happy Minimum

This is the HyperX Alloy FPS, a mechanical gaming keyboard. It consists of a steel frame, a printed circuit board, a plastic base, 104 Cherry MX Brown switches with red LEDs and the corresponding keycaps. It doesn’t do a lot, but it does what it’s made to do very well. Advertisement The HyperX Alloy FPS mechanical gaming keyboard from Kingston is a pretty basic board. It doesn’t feature a row of programmable macro keys. It doesn’t sport headphone jacks for audio pass-through. It does feature an additional USB port, but that’s dedicated to charging devices like cell phones and won’t actually connect your mouse to your PC. It does feature a handful of fancy lighting effects, but those effects are limited to several brightness settings of red. It has a special gaming mode, but that’s mainly to disable the Windows key so the menu doesn’t accidentally pop up in the middle of your Overwatch match. What the HyperX Alloy FPS does have is a super-slim profile for easy travel (there’s a padded pouch included in the box). It has a detachable braided cable, which is something mechanical keyboard READ FULL STORY AT KOTAKU!

Battery

Switch Charging Case Could Fix One Of The System's Glaring Design Missteps

InDemand Design’s SwitchCharge gives Nintendo’s new console a stronger stand,onboard cartridge storage and promises up to an additional 12 hours of portable battery life, but the coolest thing it does is move the Switch’s charging port from the bottom to the side. Advertisement Playing the Switch in tabletop mode without third-party enhancements can be a bit of a pain. The flimsy tablet kickstand only offers one angle of view, and unless you get creative with props or buy a plastic stand, you can’t really plug in a USB charger. It’s a small problem now, that’ll get bigger once the Switch gets some streaming video services. The SwitchCharge, currently enjoying a successful IndieGoGo campaign and due to ship out in August, solves the bottom charging problem handily. Inside the lower portion of the case is a plug, much like the one inside the Nintendo Switch dock. That plug gives the Switch access to the case’s 12,000 mAh battery, also allowing the tablet portion to be played and charged through the USB port on the side of the SwitchCharge unit. Just a simple pass-through, but it makes a world of READ FULL STORY AT KOTAKU!

1500x

AMD Ryzen 5 1600X & 1500X CPU Review: A Fantastic Alternative To Intel

After years of anticipating their release, it’s hard for me to believe that AMD’s Zen-based Ryzen CPUs only arrived a month ago. Frankly, I’ve never seen so much drama unfold so quickly in the tech community — what an exciting time to be a PC enthusiast! Advertisement As we begin to recover from the roller coaster ride that was Ryzen 7, we now have Ryzen 5 to address. Getting the ball rolling, AMD has announced four models in its more affordable series, including a pair of six-core CPUs as well as two quad-core models. The 1600X is configured similarly to the Core i7-6800K and stands as the flagship of AMD’s Ryzen 5 family, boasting six cores and 12 threads with a base clock frequency of 3.6GHz and a boost speed of up to 4GHz. Like all Ryzen CPUs, the 1600X is unlocked, but we wouldn’t necessarily expect to squeeze much more out of the stock settings given what we’ve seen from Ryzen 7. AMD says the 1600X will be almost 70% faster than the Core i5-7600K when measuring multi-threaded performance in Cinebench, though that isn’t a huge surprise READ FULL STORY AT KOTAKU!

fnatic

Fnatic Gear Rush Silent Review: The Softer Side Of Pro Gaming Keyboards

Between the quiet keys and modest decoration, it’s hard to tell the Rush G1 Silent is the product of one the world’s biggest esports organizations. Perhaps we can fix that. Advertisement Rather than license the brand name to a third party, Fnatic created Fnatic Gear back in 2015 in order to make its own gaming hardware. Since then they’ve done a couple of mice, a lovely headset, mousepads and even an entire gaming PC. One of the more popular Fnatic Gear offerings is this Rush pro gaming keyboard, a 104-key mechanical typing interface that hits all the basic notes and offers a couple of cool additional features aimed at the gaming crowd. With a relatively basic layout and red backlit keys, it doesn’t scream “Fnatic.” It politely mentions it via the logo in the top right and another on the F12 key. Up until now the, Rush buyers have had three different Cherry MX keyboard switches to choose from: clicky blue, tactile brown or linear red. The Rush Silent adds a fourth option in the Cherry MX red silent switches, also known as Cherry MX pink. These switches READ FULL STORY AT KOTAKU!

accessories

Hardware Maker Mad Catz Dies

Following a lengthy struggle with financial insolvency, gaming peripheral maker Mad Catz has formally ceased all operation. The company’s directors and officers have all resigned, and its assets will be liquidated. The company that spent nearly three decades pumping out PC and console gaming gear is no more. Advertisement According to an official announcement released today, yesterday Mad Catz made a voluntary assignment in bankruptcy, which in Canada means the company assigned all of its property to a trustee, in this case PricewaterhouseCoopers, which would oversee the liquidation of company assets in order to pay off debt. Along with the Canadian filing, the San Diego-based company also filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy in the U.S., which grants protection in order to facilitate the smooth liquidation of assets. Mad Catz has been in money trouble for several years, with steadily declining revenues documented in the company’s financial reports. Last year the company laid off nearly 40 percent of its workforce, following a major investment in developing peripherals for Harmonix’s Rock Band 4. In January, shortly after announcing a new line of Tekken 7 arcade sticks, the company received listing deficiency notice from READ FULL STORY AT KOTAKU!

hardware

Unicomp Ultra Classic Keyboard Review: The Good Old Keys

In 1984 IBM introduced the legendary Model M, a beast of a mechanical keyboard that utilized a unique buckling spring key switch to make sweet love to the user’s fingers, along with a lot of noise. Unicomp’s Ultra Classic is the Model M’s direct descendant, and it’s almost as good as the original. Advertisement If you’ve worked in an office environment prior to the turn of the millennium, there’s a good chance you’e run into one of IBM’s finest keyboard creations. One of the earliest Model M keyboards. Back in the day, this was the keyboard you wanted in your cubicle. The Model M was built tough. Its particularly loud keys demanded respect, and the tactile feedback (and pushback) made frequent typing much less of a chore. Advertisement The feel and sound of the keyboard is largely thanks to the buckling spring key switches. Most key switches in use today are self-contained units consisting of an enclosed mechanism and some sort of stem. The buckling spring model is a hole in the keyboard with a spring inside of it. Pressing a key buckles READ FULL STORY AT KOTAKU!

discussion

Show Us Your Keyboard

I swear the color scheme is just a coincidence. While all of us at Kotaku are big fans of typing, a handful of us have started taking our love of keyboards to the next level. There’s nothing like a good mechanical keyboard, especially when you take extra steps to make it your very own. I’ll show you what I’m typing on if you show me yours. Advertisement I’ve been covering keyboards for Kotaku for years now, but it’s only recently that I’ve been introduced to the wonderful world of customization. I blame Chris Person, who was parading a sexy set of pastel keycaps around the office when I was visiting our New York headquarters earlier this year. Between that, with Gita Jackson’s recent acquisition of a lovely pink Filco keyboard (which is perpetually out of stock) and a visit to Reddit’s Mechanical Keyboard community, I was hooked. Acting on a suggestion from some folks on the Reddit board, I pulled the trigger on a Unicomp Ultra Classic, the spiritual successor to IBM’s famed Model M keyboard. Like the original Model M, the Ultra Classic utilizes a unique READ FULL STORY AT KOTAKU!

game pad

Hyperkin X91 Retro Controller Review: Past Imperfect

Over the past three decades console game controllers have evolved from utilitarian rectangles to sleek works of ergonomic engineering art. Hyperkin’s retro-styled X91 wired controller for Xbox One and PC is what would have happened if that evolution had taken a less comfortable turn. What It Is The X91 marries the wide, short and shallow form factor of classics like Nintendo’s Super Nintendo game pad with modern advances like analog sticks, duel shoulder buttons, exceedingly bright LEDs and grips. Imagine someone took an Xbox One controller, affixed a wire and then smushed it between their hands as if it were clay. Advertisement Then stop imagining it, because I have a picture. It’s a cool concept, and one that might work fine for someone with small-ish hands. I do not have smallish hands. I have badly-drawn cartoon hands. Advertisement Despite its low profile, Hyperkin has outfitted the X91 with all of the same bits you get on a standard Xbox One controller. Shoulder buttons, triggers, analog sticks, buttons, a directional pad and a stylized X in a circle—if you are looking READ FULL STORY AT KOTAKU!

1080 ti

Nvidia Geforce GTX 1080 Ti Review: Comfortably 4K

Last year Nvidia launched its Pascal gaming line with the GTX 1080, bringing capable 4K PC gaming to the masses. The new Geforce GTX 1080 Ti upgrades that “capable” to “comfortable.” Advertisement The original GTX 1080 is an excellent graphics card that hits at least 30 frames per second on most contemporary PC games, especially when some of the more extraneous settings are dialed back. Thing is, I am not a big fan of dialing back. I like to install a game, set everything to “ultra” or its equivalent, and then never go into the graphics settings menu again. I know there are settings that I wouldn’t even notice were sub-optimal with these aging eyes, but I can still read a slide, dammit. Don’t touch my thermostat, kids. Advertisement If I can’t play at 30 frames-per-second or higher on ultra, I dial things back to 2K or 1920 x 1080. I’ve been doing a lot less dialing back since I installed the Geforce GTX 1080 Ti. What It Is The GTX 780 begat the 780 Ti, the GTX 980 begat the 980 Ti, and READ FULL STORY AT KOTAKU!