SteelSeries Siberia 350: Should I buy these gaming headphones

SteelSeries made a name for itself in gaming audio with its its Siberia headphones, and the Siberia 350 was one of the more premium models. Now, the company has moved onto the Arctis line of headphones, with a new design. 

What does that mean for the Siberia headphones? It means they got cheaper and will almost definitely see even better discounts on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The Siberia 350 gaming headset is now priced at $89 (about £68), putting it in the realm of more affordable gaming headsets. Don’t think its age and lower price makes this a shabby headset though, as there’s plenty to love. The Siberia 350’s specs and features makes more than a match for recent wired gaming headsets.

What you get

The headset itself features large ear cups with memory foam padding for a comfortable over-ear fit. Inside are large 50mm neodymium drivers offering a powerful sound experience. The frequency response is a bit more limited than some premium headphones, but 20Hz-28kHz should satisfy for most gaming audio.

The SteelSeries Siberia 350 headset uses a five-foot USB cable to connect, so it will work with PCs and PS4, but unfortunately not Xbox One or Nintendo Switch. 

When connected with PCs, that USB connection also powers full RGB lighting on each ear cup, and enables DTS Heaphone X virtual 7.1-channel surround sound. Both features are available through SteelSeries’ software. 

You’ll find the Siberia 350 headset’s microphone is on a flexible arm that can hide away inside the headset itself. There’s also a mute switch for the microphone on the back of one ear cup.

This headset uses a comfortable suspension design keeps the pressure across the top of your head spread out evenly. This suspension system also automatically adjusts the headphones for the best fit.

The value proposition

Based on those specs and design, the question of whether its worth it is fairly straightforward to answer. At it’s reduced price, the Siberia 350 headset makes for a well justified purchase.

The frequency response is good for the price, the virtual surround offering usually comes with a higher price as does RGB lighting, and the design doesn’t leave much to be desired. It’s light, durable, and comfortable.

Gamers seeking more flexibility to use their headphones in more scenarios than just PC and PS4 could benefit from something like the more affordable HyperX Cloud Stinger headset, or could go for the similarly priced Logitech G Pro (good for bigger ears) or newer SteelSeries Arctis 3 Bluetooth or Arctis 5.

There are trade-offs though. None of these other headphones are hands down better, which makes the Siberia 350’s value proposition that much better. As long as the features fit your needs and the design is one you like, they’re easily worth buying.

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Avira Antivirus Pro 2019 review: Solid performance, better prices

Avira Antivirus Pro is back with an updated version for 2019 that promises to take up a smaller chunk of your hard drive, as well as improve overall PC performance with fewer virus defintion files (VDFs) plugging up memory. The interface hasn’t really changed, however, and it’s still largely a no-nonsense suite with few extras.

Antivirus Pro is well priced at $36 for a single device for new users—the standard price is about $48. For five devices you’ll pay $57 (for new users), with $72 being the standard price. That’s okay, but you can get far more value with premium suites like McAfee and Norton that charge around $100 to cover 10 devices. 

If extras are what you’re looking for in a premium A/V suite then Avira’s all-inclusive Avira Prime subscription is the product you’re looking for. It includes Antivirus Pro, identity protection, a system optimizer, third-party software updates, a password manager, and a VPN. 

That’s a lot of goodies that also significantly increases the price. Avira Prime charges $130 for an unlimited number of devices. In this case, “unlimited” means 25 devices per household, but that’s still more than double what Avira’s competitors are offering, albeit at a higher cost.

Note: This review is part of our best antivirus roundup. Go there for details about competing products and how we tested them.

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Avira’s product dashboard.

As for the core product, Antivirus Pro 2019, not a whole lot has changed. You start with a dashboard that shows all the Avira components installed on your system. There’s an option to install other pieces that are part of the Avira Prime suite, but in this case we want to open up Antivirus Pro.

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Avira Antivirus Pro 2019.

Once we arrive in the A/V program itself, we’re greeted with the current status of our machine at the top with the standard green motif for safe and red for problems. On the left rail are five menu options: Status (the default landing area), Scan, Modules, Quarantine, and Activity.

Status shows the active protection features in Antivirus Pro and what their states are. There’s also a Run a quick scan button that takes up a big chunk of the window, as well as a message informing you when the last scan was. Overall, this area is the same as it was last year. Visually the graphics are a little different, the color shades are deeper, and the scan button is now green instead of white.

Roccat Taito Control: should I buy this gaming mouse pad?

If you really sit back and think about it, the best mouse pads really haven’t changed all that much in the last decade. Sure, new materials have cropped up, and some even have some slick RGB lighting, but the core concept remains the same. Get a block of low-friction fabric that’ll last a while, put a nice design on it and call it a day. 

While they might not be super exciting anymore, mouse pads like the Roccat Taito Control are definitely worth your attention. Because, at just $14.49 (£16.97, AU$19.95), you’re getting a fantastic, long-lasting mouse pad that will see you through all the best PC games and more.

The Roccat Taito Control is definitely a pretty simple piece of kit. You’re not going to find any RGB lighting or wireless charging, but this mouse pad does what it sets out to do and does it well. Really, we couldn’t ask for more from a mouse pad that’s as affordable as the Roccat Taito Control. And, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday right around the corner, what more could you ask for?

The mouse pad

Measuring in at 15.75 x 13.78 x 0.14 inches (400 x 350 x 3.5mm), the Roccat Taito Control is the perfect size no matter what your desktop setup is like. The main body of the mouse pad is black, as you may expect, but it’s bordered by this aesthetically pleasing teal border that will really make it stick out — especially if you have other Roccat peripherals.

What really sticks out to us about this mouse pad is the fact that you don’t need to worry about it sliding around all willy-nilly. It has this fantastic rubber grip on the bottom that makes it impossible to slide around your desk — unless you want to slide it. No more readjusting in the middle of an amped-up Battlefield V match.

You might find yourself disappointed with the lack of flashy lighting or unique features, but the Roccat Taito control is all about awesome performance at a bargain price.

The cost

Perhaps the most compelling element to the Roccat Taito Control is just how inexpensive it is. Most of the best gaming mouse pads, like the $39 (£32, AU$89) Roccat Hiro+ or the $35 (£32, AU$48) MSI Thunderstorm, make the $14.49 (£16.97, AU$19.95) Taito Control a downright bargain. 

You’re getting a pretty huge mouse pad for half the price of some of the competition. And, with Black Friday gaming deals underway, we’re pretty sure that this mouse pad will be even more compelling. You might even be able to pick this thing up for less than 10 bucks. 

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MSI Z370-A Pro: should I buy this motherboard?

When you sit down and decide that it’s time to build the best gaming pc you can muster, you should think about the best motherboards first — because the board you pick will inform the rest of the PC components you’ll buy. And, if you’re planning an Intel build, you might want to consider the MSI Z370-A Pro. 

Not only does this motherboard feature all kinds of high-end features, with support for CrossfireX multi-GPU setups, but it has some mining features – if cryptocurrency is a thing you’re still into in late 2018.

And, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday around the corner, there’s never really been a better time to get out there looking for the best cheap motherboards you can find. This is especially true if you can manage to find a $119 (£89, AU$159) MSI Z370-A Pro. And, we’re here to tell you that you totally can.

The motherboard

MSI’s Pro series of motherboards is aimed primarily at professionals and creatives that aren’t ready to step up to a high-end desktop (HEDT) platform. As such, you can expect high-end performance without any unnecessary frills. You’ll get compatibility with speedy NVMe SSDs, multi-GPU support and all the features that Coffee Lake processors have to offer. But, you won’t find a ton of gaming-centric stuff, like RGB lighting or special gaming modes. 

However, because it’s not an expensive board, especially when compared to some other Z370 parts, gamers might be interested in the MSI Z370-A Pro if they’re in it for performance more than aesthetics. 

MSI has also made a big deal about the Z370-A Pro’s cryptocurrency mining potential, with an optimized power design and a ton of fan headers to keep all of those hot GPUs nice and cool.

The cost

At just $119 (£89, AU$159), the MSI Z370-A Pro is actually a pretty great deal for a moderately high-end motherboard. You’re getting all the necessary features of the flagship platform at a budget price. All you have to do is look at some competing Z370 boards, like the $130 (£179, AU$298) Gigabyte Z370 Aorus Gaming or the $164 (£150, AU$235) Asus Prime Z370-A, and you’ll see what we’re talking about.

And, with the myriad Black Friday PC component deals, we expect the MSI Z370-A Pro is going to be even more affordable very soon.  You should be able to build a great workstation or gaming PC on a budget, though if you’re going to pick up one of the latest Coffee Lake Refresh processors, you’ll have to update the BIOS — which might require you to have access to an 8th-generation Intel processor.

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RHA TrueConnect review

Bluetooth earbuds have come a long way in a short time. RHA has been biding its time to launch a truly wireless pair and it seems the wait has paid off and you’ll find out in our TrueConnect review.

Before we start, let’s quickly define what we mean about truly wireless earbuds. Of course, wireless headphones have been around for a long time, but earbuds that have no wires at all – not even connected to each other – are known as truly wireless earbuds.

RHA has made plenty of wireless pairs, but we’re talking about ones like the MA390 and MA650 which are known as ‘neckbuds’ due to the way the connecting wire runs between each earbud around your neck.

Price

So far the wireless earbuds we’ve reviewed average at about £200/$200 with some stretching to £300/$300.

However, the RHA TrueConnect are priced at just £149/4169. That matches the Jabra Elite 65t as the cheapest pair we’ve tested. You can buy them from RHA or Amazon.

Check out our chart of the best wireless earbuds.

Design & Build

A lower price than rivals would normally mean a dip in build quality but that’s not the case here. With RHA we’ve come to expect a high standard and the TrueConnect meet this level for sure.

Although the earbuds themselves are constructed from plastic, they don’t feel cheap. Instead, they look and feel suitably premium with a nice matt finish. Choosing plastic over metal helps keep them lighter and at just 13g for both, they’re very light.

RHA TrueConnect design

This in turn aids comfort since there’s nothing worse than heavy earbuds putting strain on your ear canals. The TrueConnect are supplied with an almost overwhelming amount of tips to choose from.

There are medium silicone tips already on them in the box then a further six sets in small, medium and large. That’s not all as you also get Comply Foam tips in the three sizes too. They’re all stored on a neat aluminium sheet.

With that amount of choice, you’re bound to find the right fit and then there are spares if necessary. We recommend using the Comply Foam tips as they provide the most comfortable fit and comprehensive seal.

Moving onto the charging case and this is the best one we’ve seen yet. It’s stylish and has a stainless steel metal frame. The inner part flips out so you can slot the headphone in and there’s a USB-C port rather than older Micro-USB for charging the case itself. A set of three LEDs on the side indicate the battery level.

It’s nice to see IPX5 sweat and splash resistance on a pair cheaper than rivals.

RHA TrueConnect charging case

The last thing to mention on design is that both earbuds have a button on the outside for control. You have to push inwards which on other pairs has been awkward and painful but it’s not so bad here, largely as the buttons don’t require too much force.

You’ll need to spend some time learning the controls, though, as each earbud does different things. We double tapped the right bud expecting to skip a track but the volume went up instead. So while the right controls volume, the left handles skipping forwards and backwards.

Sound Quality & Features

Although the TrueConnect don’t offer any kind of noise cancelling, the seal – particularly with the Comply Foam tips – is excellent so you get excellent acoustic noise isolation. The world around you is shut out nicely and the headphones don’t leak sound.

The TrueConnect earbuds use Bluetooth 5.0 which is the latest version. This coupled with the stem design is aimed to minimise connectivity issues. Having two wireless devices on either side of your head makes things tricky in this respect. Wireless earbuds often suffer from dropouts but we’ve not found any problems which is a big plus point.

Like the Sony WF-1000X, the earbuds contain 6mm drivers with a frequency range of 20Hz-20kHz. There might not be support for aptX or AAC but if this means nothing to you then you’re unlikely to notice the difference.

Even to our trained ears, the TrueConnect earbuds sound nothing short of stunning despite this shortfall.

RHA TrueConnect Sound Quality

We think RHA has chosen a nice frequency response that will suit a wide range of listening situations and tastes. What’s immediately clear, even without running the headphones in, is that there is bags of detail.

We listened to all kinds of music and all elements across the mid- and high-range are reproduced with precision and attention. What’s most impressive is the bass, which is extremely powerful yet doesn’t overpower the overall sound. It’s warm and rich, giving a subwoofer quality which is very rear for in-ear headphones with small drivers.

Battery life is solid as the TrueConnect buds can last up to five hours on a single charge. The case can then charge them a total of four times giving you a whopping 25 hours before you need to replenish the case.

Once popped in, the charging case will charge the earbuds to 50 percent in a sprightly 15 minutes.

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Western Digital transforms mere NAND into virtual RAM

Western Digital has unveiled a new product, the Ultrastar ME200, which is being presented as a Memory Extension drive. For once, it is the software, rather than the hardware, that holds the key to the product’s unique selling point.

The ME drive is essentially a repackaged Ultrastar SN200 that uses 15nm MLC NAND with an endurance of 17 drive writes per day (DWPD). Available in 1TB, 2TB and 4TB capacities, it comes as a plug-in card or a 2.5-inch form factor like a traditional SSD.

At its core is a software stack that implements a memory management unit (MMU) which maps the drive into the server memory pool including more than 20 algorithms to “intelligently manage data flow” between DRAM and NVMe SSD to maintain, in Western Digital’s own words, “near-DRAM performance”.

Supplementing DRAM, not supplanting it

Benchmarks carried out by the company showed that a server would lose only 15% memcached performance by swapping a server with 768GB RAM for one with 96GB RAM and an Ultrastar storage solution; an 8:1 memory to ME drive ratio is recommended although application architects may prefer to experiment first.

The Ultrastar Memory Drive will be recognised as system memory at system BIOS and OS levels and will be transparently available on demand. Not surprisingly, you won’t be able to use it as part traditional SSD, part memory and the drive does not support persistent data retention or hot pluggable functionality.

It will be interesting to see whether others (Seagate notably) jump on the software+hardware bandwagon instead of adopting cutting edge technology like Intel Xpoint to close the gap between traditional storage tiers.

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Intel will launch 5G modem next year

Intel has revealed it is bringing forward the launch of its 5G modem.

The hardware giant has announced the XMM 8160 5G multimode modem, which will be ready six months earlier than initially thought, as it faces increased competition to be the power behind the next-generation networks.

The modem will allow manufacturers of PCs, smartphones and tablets to get their devices ready for 5G ahead of the expected 2020 worldwide launch. Intel says it will support download speeds of up to 6GBps – enough to download a full HD movie in the blink of an eye.

The modem will also be backwards compatible with LTE and earlier generations of mobile connectivity such as 4G, 3G and 2G, meaning new devices won’t need multiple chipsets taking up battery power and space.

Intel 5G modem

Intel says that the new release will also support millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrum and frequencies between 600MHz and 6GHz to support carriers worldwide, with Intel already signed up to work with Nokia and Ericsson for their 5G deployment.

“Intel’s new XMM 8160 5G modem provides the ideal solution to support large volumes for scaling across multiple device categories to coincide with broad 5G deployments,” said Dr. Cormac Conroy, Intel corporate vice president and general manager of the Communication and Devices Group. “We are seeing great demand for the advanced feature set of the XMM 8160, such that we made a strategic decision to pull in the launch of this modem by half a year to deliver a leading 5G solution.”

Intel is now hoping the initial wave of devices with the XMM 8160 modem will appear in the first half of 2020, around the generally anticipated expectation, but sooner than some predictions. 

The news comes shortly after Qualcomm revealed it had started sending out 5G-ready modems to its smartphone manufacturer partners. The company’s X50 modem will be included within its next Snapdragon chip, despite Qualcomm not expecting 5G-ready smartpones to be launched until next year.

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