Panasonic KX-HN6002EW

Rather like Samsung’s successful SmartThings home monitoring kit, Panasonic has launched its own system that puts the emphasis on security and in this starter pack – priced at £250 (around $305, AU$405) – it concentrates on surveillance. Another difference is that it uses DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecoms) to communicate between the hub unit and the two bundled cameras, making it virtually hack-proof and giving it a much wider range (up to 300m), which better suits commercial premises.

With two wireless IP55-spec waterproof cameras included, you can keep tabs on the perimeter or interior of your property, with alerts being sent to your smartphone, or indeed, your DECT landline if you wish. 

Once you have your cameras set up – and this is surprisingly easy thanks to the ‘push-pairing’ procedure – you might be tempted to add Panasonic’s window lock and water leak sensors, but for now, we’ll concentrate on what’s in the box.

Design and installation

Unlike most of the CCTV cameras we’ve tested, like the Nest Cam Outdoor to give an example, Panasonic’s wireless cameras require a communication hub unit. This square plastic device looks rather smart mounted on the wall, where it can be wired to your Wi-Fi router and the mains. 

The hub connects via Wi-Fi to your phone, but to the two cameras by the more energy-efficient and secure DECT protocol. The cameras have a smooth plastic waterproof design, and can be mounted on their metal pivoting brackets for wall or ceiling mounting, inside or outdoors. Their dangling power cables are fixed and quite long, so they should reach back inside the property before connecting to their respective power adapters, which are not weather-resistant.

After we had chosen suitable locations for the cameras and screwed them in place, the rest of the installation process took just a few minutes thanks to the helpful companion app. Panasonic’s Home Network app is a free download to your iOS or Android device, and it walks you through the connection of the hub to your home network. The cameras are even quicker to connect thanks to the aforementioned push-pairing nature of the DECT communication system. In short, it’s slightly simpler to install than Samsung’s SmartThings setup.

Spec Sheet

Here are the full specs of the Panasonic KX-HN6002EW:

Type: IP camera

Location: Indoor/outdoor  

Mounting: Wall/ceiling brackets included  

Connectivity: Wi-Fi and DECT

Resolution: VGA (640 x 480)

Night Vision: IR LED 

Motion sensor: Yes

Audio: Two-way sound

Battery: No

Local video storage: microSD (4GB included)

App support: Android/iOS 

Subscription: Free 

Size/Weight: 75 x 175 x 75mm (W x H x D); 305g 


Each identical camera is equipped with IR motion sensors that can detect movement up to 12 metres away in the dark. You can choose between VGA image quality and even lower resolution, but we wouldn’t recommend compromising the very limited picture quality even further. These cameras also offer two-way sound.

The hub unit’s microSD card slot is crucial because it allows you to store up to 32GB of video locally, so you don’t need to sign up to any expensive cloud storage subscriptions as with Nest and the like. A 4GB microSD card is supposedly bundled with the pack, although there wasn’t one in our review sample, sadly.

Using the app, you can choose to record seconds or minutes of video whenever the motion sensors are triggered and/or set off the hub alarm. Yes, the hub on the wall also acts as a flashing, bleeping burglar alarm.


The cameras worked successfully in sensing motion and capturing video of ourselves pretending to burgle our own office, both in daylight and in the dark. However, the big downfall here is the picture quality. In an era of 4K resolution, VGA just doesn’t cut it anymore. The image quality is too low to identify faces or car registration plates, and in low light there’s a further drop in quality. The 0.3-megapixel sensor that Panasonic is using here simply isn’t good enough. 

It’s a similar story with the audio. The microphone and speaker can just about get the message across, but you can expect to sound like a Dalek (mind you, that might have its advantages when trying to scare intruders).

The motion detection worked every time, recording video clips on the microSD card and sending alerts to our iPhone. However, there’s quite a delay, which meant that on some of the recorded video clips, the pretend burglar had already dashed past, and didn’t appear on film at all.

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Fitbit Alta and Alta HR review

The Fitbit Alta is a stylish, slim wristband that will appeal to people who prefer their tracker to be discreet but fashionable. A new Alta HR model has just been released that add a heart-rate monitor and much-improved sleep-monitoring features. Fitbit claims that it’s the world’s slimmest tracker with a heart monitor.

Either Alta is similar to the Fitbit Flex 2 but with a much more informative display, and more functions.

Also see: Best Fitness Tracker Deals

The Fitbit Alta and Alta HR join the other Fitbit activity trackers: the Fitbit One and Fitbit Zip clip-on trackers, and fellow wristbands Fitbit Flex 2, Charge 2, Blaze, and Surge. Read our Which Fitbit Is Best? feature for a full comparison of each tracker, and our round-up of the Best Activity Trackers.

Fitbit Alta and Alta HR review: price

The Fitbit Alta costs £99.99 / US$129.95 / €149.95 from the Fitbit Store. View today’s best prices on Amazon.

Alta HR starts at £129.99 (pre-order now available) and will also be on sale online and in stores (from March 13), including major retailers such as Amazon, Argos, Currys PC World, Shop Direct, John Lewis and Debenhams. A Special Edition Alta HR costs £149.99. This is available in soft pink Classic band with 22k rose gold plated tracker and black Classic band with matte gunmetal tracker.

You may find the Alta cheaper at other online retailers; check our live price check at the foot of this review. It comes with the Classic wristband, but you can accessorise either Alta or Alta HR with a stainless steel Metal Bracelet (£69.99) or Leather band (£39.99).

There’s even a couple of limited edition designer versions for Alta and HR: the oddly named Public School Type III Paracord, a black, braided “military-style” bracelet that retails for £149/$175/€169.95 ; and the frankly odd and pricey Public School Axis Accessory Band (£259.99/$295/€295.95, and that doesn’t include the tracker itself!) that turns the Alta into a standard but rather postmodern watch.

You can also buy alternative Classic Bands for £19.99 each.

Fitbit Alta review: design style

The Alta/Alta HR is one of Fitbit’s slimmest wristband activity trackers: just 15mm in width. The new Flex 2 is even slimmer, at 11mm, but lacks the Alta’s larger and more informative display; see our Fitbit Flex 2 review.

Like the Fitbit Flex 2, Charge 2 and Blaze you can remove the Alta tracker itself from the strap, which means you can switch to new straps when you like. This means you don’t have to replace the whole tracker if you damage the band.

Fitbit Alta clasp

Fitbit Alta clasp

Above: the Alta’s firm clasp. Below: the Alta HR’s much sturdier watch-like buckle, which we think is worth the extra money all on its own.

Fitbit Alta HR

Fitbit Alta HR

The wristband of the Alta has a two-button clasp rather than the watch-like buckle of the Alta HR. The clasp seemed secure to us in testing, but earlier Fitbits had been accused of slipping off the wrist too easily. We much prefer the Alta HR’s watch buckle, as there’s virtually no chance that this could slip off the wrist like the Alta’s clasp band.

We think either Alta will appeal to women particularly, as it is not bulky, is lightweight and looks stylish. According to Fitbit 80 percent of Alta owners are women, but the company expects the Alta HR to shift to a more unisex ownership. That’s not to say the Alta is “girly” at all (or men can’t be stylish!), although it may take a man of immense self confidence to pull off wearing the Blush Pink Leather model.

Fitbit Alta colours

Fitbit Alta colours

Fitbit Alta review: wristband colours

The Classic Fitbit Alta is available in four different colour bands: Black, Blue, Plum, and Teal; pictured above.

The Alta HR comes in either Black, Blue Grey, Fuchsia or Coral, plus Special Edition colours Pink and Gunmetal; pictured below.

Fitbit Alta HR colours

Fitbit Alta HR colours

You must choose which size band you need. There is only one size Alta or Alta HR but three different size wristbands: Small, Large and X Large.

Fitbit has a handy (wristy?) size guide to help you choose the right size band.

The Leather Band is available in Graphite or Blush Pink colours.

Fitbit has announced Alta Gold and designer wristbands from Tory Burch and the quirky Public School models mentioned earlier.

If you prefer alternatives to the wristband you might want to consider the Flex 2’s Bangle and Pendant accessories rather than the Alta.

Fitbit Alta design

Fitbit Alta HR bands

Fitbit Alta HR bands

Fitbit Alta Public School bracelet and band

Above: the Public School Paracord and Axis Accessory Band; neither comes with the actual tracker, which must be bought separately (with Classic band).

Fitbit Alta and Alta HR review: features

Using its MEMS 3-axis accelerometer both the Fitbit Alta and Alta HR measure motion patterns to determine your calories burned, distance traveled, active minutes, and steps taken.

Like the Fitbit Flex 2 the Alta/HR (despite its name) lacks the altimeter found in the Charge, HR, Blaze and Surge. This means it won’t measure stairs or height to push you to take the hills rather than the flat. In many ways the Alta is a smarter Flex 2. If running up lots of stairs and measuring this activity is important to you you should consider one of the other Fitbits; see the Fitbit Comparison Chart here.

The Alta doesn’t check our heart rate but the Alta HR does – using the same PurePulse technology as the Charge 2, Fitbit Blaze or Fitbit Surge trackers. Measuring heart rate is important for gym goers, and indeed anyone interested in losing weight. The heart-rate tracking Fitbits use three heart-rate zones to help you optimize your workout by targeting different training intensities.

If you can live without this level of fitness data the Alta is fine, but the extra heart-rate monitor will appeal to even the moderate exerciser; you don’t need to be a fitness fanatic to get the benefits of a heart tracker.

Fitbbit Sleep Stages

Fitbbit Sleep Stages


The Alta and Alta HR also measure and monitor your sleep. Inactivity is as important to your health as activity, and making sure you get a good night’s sleep should be one of your fitness priorities.

The Alta will record your sleep patterns, noting when you are restless, average to-sleep times, and length of sleep. The Alta HR goes further, using its accelerometer data and heart rate variability (the changes in time between beats), plus Fitbit algorithms to more accurately estimate how long you spend in Light, Deep and REM sleep stages, as well as time awake, each night.

Fitbit Alta display

Fitbit Alta display

Alarms & Notifications

The Alta and HR’s vibration motor means you can set “silent” alarms to wake you up, and also notify you when you someone calls your phone or sends you a text. Calendar notifications are another handy feature.

You can set up the Alta/HR to display text messages right there on your wrist, so you don’t have to reach in your pocket or bag for your phone.

Caller ID will let you know who’s calling if the person phoning is in your phone’s contacts.

Fitbit Alta exercise

Fitbit Alta exercise

Exercise features

The Alta and Alta HR (like the Charge 2, Blaze and Surge) feature SmartTrack multi-sport exercise monitoring to easily record workouts and see real-time exercise stats and summaries.

The tracker knows when you’re cycling, running, hiking or playing sports including football, tennis and basketball. They will also recognise aerobic workouts such as Zumba, cardio-kickboxing and dance workouts. They will record the exercise in the Fitbit app along with an exercise summary.

Fitbit Reminder to Move

Fitbit Reminder to Move

Another brilliant feature that the Alta and HR boast is Reminders To Move, exercise prompts that buzz you into getting off your backside after sitting too long at your desk, for instance.

This encourages you to meet a mini-step goal of 250 steps each hour (approximately 2-3 minutes of walking). These prompts can be personalised to your schedule; for example they can be put on “Do Not Disturb” during long meetings or appointments.

This is especially important in light of recent medical research that suggests that desk-bound office work is actually worse for your health than smoking! Experts – led by Prof Ulf Ekelund from the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences and Cambridge University – found that the risk of dying (within two years of its study on over a million people) was 9.9 percent for those who sat for eight or more hours a day and engaged in low activity. This compares with with a lower 6.8 percent risk for those who sat for less than four hours a day and were active for at least one hour a day.

The team found that this increased risk of death associated with sitting for eight hours a day was eliminated for people who did a minimum of one hour of physical activity a day.

Fitbit Alta display options

Fitbit Alta display options

Fitbit Alta and Alta HR review: more style

You tap the Alta’s display to access stats, the time and notifications on the 128-x-36–pixel, 1.4-inch OLED display. You can set different clock displays and also choose whether you want to read the displays in a vertical or horizontal format.

Fitbit Alta charger

Fitbit Alta and Alta HR review: battery life

The Alta should keep running for up to five days between charges, depending on how many times you access the display, set the alarm, or receive texts and calls during the day. The Alta HR, despite its additional heart-rate monitor, can keep going for up to seven days.

Yet again the proprietary charger is different from every other Fitbit tracker. Its clamp mechanism is neat, but you might want to keep a spare charger (£13.99) away from home, at the office for instance. It’s every Fitbit wearer’s nightmare when the battery gives up while you’re still on the move.

Fitbit Alta review - vertical

Fitbit Alta review - vertical

Fitbit Alta and Alta HR review: water resistant

Fitbit doesn’t recommend you wear the Alta or Alta HR when swimming or even in the shower, although it will probably survive an accidental dunking or even joining you in the shower. It’s fine in the rain, and sweaty exercise situations. For more information read our Is Fitbit Waterproof feature and check out the best swimming fitness tracker round up for devices that are waterproof and have special swimming functions.

if you want a swim-tracking, waterproof Fitbit the Flex 2 is the one for you.

Fitbit app

Fitbit app

Fitbit Alta and Alta HR review: apps, challenges and rewards

The easy-to-use Fitbit app (iOS, Android and Windows Phone) offers wonderful graphs and charts for all the activity and sleep data, and there’s a desktop dashboard for even more detail.

One of the best things about Fitbit is the social Friends leaderboard where you can compete with friends and colleagues to see who manages the most steps each week. You can also challenge each other in various daily or weekly goals, as well as Cheer and Taunt or send messages via the app.

As you progress you’ll win badges to mark major distance milestones and other achievements. See New Fitbit trackers rumours and release date.

Fitbit Alta review

Fitbit Alta review

Fitbit Charge review     Fitbit One review     Fitbit Zip review     Fitbit Flex 2 review     Fitbit Charge 2 review    Fitbit Blaze Review     Fitbit Surge review

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HP Spectre x360 15 (2017): This 15-inch convertible packs in premium features

Not everyone needs a quad-core processor and a dedicated graphics chip in a 15-inch laptop, much less a thin-and-light one. At least, that’s the wager HP made last year with its Spectre x360 15. The company packaged a dual-core CPU with integrated graphics and full-HD screen in an aluminum body, kept the weight at four pounds, and charged just $1,150.

The resulting 2-in-1 laptop offered the right mix of portability, performance, and value. If you only needed to check email, watch YouTube videos, color-correct the odd photo here and there, and edit documents—and you prefer not to lug around a tank—you had an affordable option. It looked great, too.

For 2017, HP has upped its ante and gone all-in on the value front: A Core i7 processor, 4K UHD touchscreen, discrete graphics, and larger 79 watt-hour battery are now standard features in the Spectre x360 15. And while the price has gone up, it’s not by as much as you might think. 

Shiny new parts

The Spectre x360 15 now starts at $1,280 for a 3840×2160 touchscreen, Core i7-7500U processor, 8GB DDR4 RAM, 256GB M.2 PCIe-NVMe SSD, Nvidia GeForce 940MX graphics, and 79.2 watt-hour battery. For comparison’s sake, the 2016 Spectre x360 15’s base model featured a 1920×1080 touchscreen, Core i5-6200U processor, 8GB of DDR3 RAM, 256 M.2 SSD, and 63 watt-hour battery for $1,150. Our review model is the $1,500 mid-tier version, which comes with a 512GB M.2 PCIe-NVMe SSD and 16GB DDR4 RAM.

The most dazzling piece of new hardware is the 15.6-inch IPS 4K UHD touchscreen. Colors look rich and bright, and details are beautifully crisp. The latter is most apparent when sifting through digital photos—it’s a welcome touch of luxury when editing a snapshot.

HP Spectre x360 15 2017 Picture closeup Alaina Yee

Paired with the display is a larger battery, which compensates nicely for the more power-hungry screen. (Skip down to the performance section for full details.) In fact, battery life isn’t negatively affected at all by the higher-resolution panel—it’s actually slightly better this year.

The Core i7 processor and the discrete graphics are more modest upgrades, but they do afford some small performance boosts. As you’ll see when we go over performance, it’s not enough to shock anyone, but it’s certainly nice to have at the ready.

The actual cost

Not all of HP’s makeover is as delightful as the hardware upgrades. The facelift on the chassis is a mixed bag: While its footprint has shrunk, this laptop has also fattened up.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition, Unboxed

At an event during the Games Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang introduced the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, the company’s new flagship consumer graphics card. This role might be well-deserved: The new graphics card offers the same number of shader units and a slightly higher clock frequency compared to the Nvidia Titan X (Pascal).

At $700, the price also turned out to be at the flagship level, but it’s perhaps not such a high tag when you compare it to the Nvidia Titan X (Pascal)’s $1,200. It also beats the prices of some of Nvidia’s partners’ versions of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 (without Ti). Speaking of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080: It should become a whole lot less expensive at the end of the week, once the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti goes on sale. The same will happen with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 980.

Launching products piece by piece has become an indispensable part of Nvidia’s product launch strategy. Looking back, all this started years ago, with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 680. In the meantime, AMD’s jumped on the train as well. For this particular launch, even the press coverage adheres to this strategy. Consequently, we are allowed to show only unboxing pictures today; we can’t publish any benchmarks or measurement results.

So how far can we take unboxing? We’ve truly taken everything out of the box, all the way to the last screw. We also share some of the things that occurred to us as we were doing so. We of course adhered to Nvidia’s NDA, but we did gain some interesting insights that we can share.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti

Before we get to them, we start by reporting the new graphics card’s known performance specs. We’re comparing them to the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080, the Nvidia Titan X (Pascal), and the Nvidia Quadro P6000:

GeForce GTX 1080
Founders Edition
GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
Founders Edition
Titan X
Quadro P6000
GPU GP104 GP102 GP102 GP102
Transistors App. 7.2 Billion App. 12 Billion App. 12 Billion App. 12 Billion
Shader Units 2560 3584 3584 3850
Base Clock Frequency 1607 MHz 1480 MHz 1417 MHz 1506 MHz
Maximum Clock Frequency 1785 MHz 1582 MHz 1531 MHz 1645 MHz
TMUs/ROPs 160/64 224/88 224/96 240/96
Pixel Fill Rate 114.2 MPix/s 140.8 MPix/s 147.0 MPix/s 144.6 MPix/s
Texel Fill Rate 285.6 MTex/s 358. MTex/s 342.9 MTex/s 361.4 MTex/s
GDDR5X Memory Size 8192 MB 11,264 MB
12,228 MB 24,576 MB
Memory Clock Frequency 5000 MHz 5500 MHz 5000 MHz 4512 Mhz
Memory Interface 256 Bit 352 Bit 384 Bit 384 Bit
Memory Bandwidth 320 MB/s 484 MB/s 480 MB/s 433.2 MB/s
Power Consumption (TDP) 180 Watt 250 Watt 250 Watt 250 Watt

Unboxing: The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti

During its presentation, Nvidia announced that the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti’s cooler has been modified compared to its predecessor. Looking at the card from the outside, this isn’t apparent. We might well have more to say about this when we continue with our unboxing efforts, though. For now, we stick with just looking at the card. It looks identical, with the sole exception being the different name. The combination of materials, namely cast aluminum and plastic, is also identical, as is the commanding presence of its 62mm radial cooler.

The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti’s dimensions are identical to those of the Titan X (Pascal). The distance from the end of the slot cover to the end of the cooler comes in at 26.9cm. The card stands 10.5cm tall, measured from the top of the motherboard slot to the top of the cooler. With a depth of 3.5cm, the card fits the familiar dual-slot design to a “T”. We weighed the card and found that it actually increased just a little to 1,039g.

The top of the card looks just as familiar as its front, with the usual lit green logo and one eight-pin and one six-pin power connector. The bottom is even less interesting, which is to say that there’s really nothing to say about its plain cover.

The end of the card has the usual air vent that should allow some of the hot air to escape the card. The board’s design makes it likely that not a whole lot of air will be blown out this way into the PC’s case, though. However, we can’t talk about any measurement results at this time due to the NDA.

Nvidia skipped the DVI connector this time around to allow for increased airflow out of the card’s slot cover. Three DisplayPort connectors and one HDMI connector are all that’s available on the card’s slot cover; the rest of it is taken up by the vent grille.

Unboxing: Cooler

We’ve gone ahead and taken the card apart. We had to dig deep in our tool box, because Nvidia used primarily thin 0.5mm screws, which fit into the mating threads of special piggyback screws that sit below the backplate. These uncommon M2.5 hex bolts also attach the card’s cover to its board.

The first change with the 1080 Ti became apparent immediately: Nvidia connected the PWM controller on the back of the board with one of the halves of the backplate using a thick thermal fleece, which is a material we haven’t seen used very often. This setup is meant to increase heat removal. It would have been even more effective if Nvidia had cut a hole into the plastic sheet covering the backplate in this area.

The exposed back of the board reveals two areas on the left that are labeled THERMAL PAD 1 and THERMAL PAD 2. However, these do not actually have any thermal pads on them. We don’t know if Nvidia’s engineers decided that these were unnecessary, or if Nvidia’s accountants decided that they were too expensive, because we can’t present any measurements yet.

The cooler’s massive bottom plate carries the usual thermal pads for the voltage converters and memory modules, as well as several of the thermal fleece strips that we mentioned above. The latter connect additional active elements, such as VR chips, MOSFETs, and diodes, to the bottom plate of the cooler. These are the only changes to the cooling solution that we could discern.

Similar to its previous Founders Edition (FE) graphics cards, Nvidia used a vapor chamber that’s fit into the cooler’s bottom as its main GPU cooler. It’s attached to the board with four spring bolts. Everything else is cooled by connecting to the cooler’s bottom as described above.

Unboxing: Board Design

We took a look at the board and Nvidia’s advertised improvements, as well. The first thing to virtually jump out at even the most casual observer is the fact that Nvidia gave the card a full complement of voltage regulators. Nvidia’s Titan X (Pascal) had the same layout but didn’t have all of the spaces actually occupied. Nvidia has used this same board design since the Quadro P6000. That card’s eight-pin power connectors are pointed toward the back, and the eight empty connections for this setup are in plain view, as well.

It’s the opposite for the memory modules. Compared to the Nvidia Titan X (Pascal), one memory module’s missing. Only a total of 11 of Micron’s new MT58K256M321 GDDR5X memory modules are to be found. They offer up to 11 GB/s, which is meant to compensate for the memory interface’s missing 32 bits with a higher clock frequency of 5,500MHz (effective).

It’s a bit surprising that Nvidia didn’t use Micron’s MT58K256M321, which has an even higher clock frequency. The reason might well be that this could have caused thermal problems, since the higher-speed memory operates at 1.35V, but both types of memory are allowed to operate only to a maximum temperature of 95°C.

Nvidia plays it safe with the voltage converters. It’s been using the uP9511 for a good long while now. This makes sense, because this PWM controller setup allows for the concurrent operation of seven phases, as opposed to just 6(+2) phases. Also, as usual, the same ones are used for all seven of the GPU’s phases, and they can all be found on the back of the board.

The voltage converters’ design is interesting in that it’s quite simple: One simple buck converter, the LM53603, is responsible for the high side, and two (instead of one) Fairchild D424 n-channel MOSFETs operate on the low side. This setup spreads out the hotspots a bit, because the waste heat is spread across twice the surface area.

For coils, Nvidia went with simple encapsulated ferrite chokes, which are at about the same quality level as Foxconn’s magic coils. They can be installed by machines and aren’t push-through. From a thermal point of view, the back of the board’s a good place for these coils, even though it’s puzzling that Nvidia doesn’t cool them, but instead cools only the capacitors that are right next to them.

The memory gets two phases, which are run in parallel by a single uP1685. The high side uses the FD424 mentioned above, whereas the low side sports two dual n-channel Logic Level PowerTrench E6930 MOSFETs in a parallel configuration, which is quite an unusual sight. The coils are smaller due to the two phases being simpler.

Summary and Teaser

So, what’s the verdict on the redesigned cooler? We can’t talk about actual performance numbers yet, but it’s safe to say that it should more aptly be called a cooling reconceptualization. Switching out active components and using additional thermal pads to get rid of waste heat are the readily apparent updates. The cooler itself should be identical from a performance standpoint.

At this point, we have to leave all of the new Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti’s performance results for a later date. No matter how much we’d like to tell you right now, an NDA’s an NDA. But at least now you have the first piece of the larger story.

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Raidmax Alpha Mid-Tower ATX RGB Case Review

The Alpha from Raidmax adds remote RGB control to low-cost gaming. Does it also perform like a gaming case?

MORE: Best PC Builds

MORE: How To Build A PC

With a black steel case that weighs barely more than 12 pounds, there’s no denying that Raidmax focuses its Alpha case line on budget gaming. Even with an RGB controller, it comes in at a scant $70 web price (and estimated $80 MSRP for local dealers). Buyers this interested in saving cost will likely be pleased to see that the panels fit nicely, the finish looks good, and the plastic side window is fairly flat and extremely shiny. It’s also devoid of any frivolous design gimmicks, except of course for the LED lighting that many buyers prefer. And even that feature can be turned off without opening the case.

Ports and buttons are placed on the right and left edges, smoothing the front panel design and providing easy access for those who prefer to have their computer sit on the desk to the left of their monitor. This preference is most common with right-handed users who want extra desktop real estate on the side where their mouse sits.

The rear panel is flat, with the card bracket protruding out of it, because it’s cheaper to make a case this way than to add a separate stamping for inset card slots. Inset fan mounts and an offset grill are designed to reduce noise that might otherwise occur if the fan blades were too close to the grill: this becomes more important for users who flip the exhaust fan over to use as an intake, which is often done to accommodate cool air intake when installing a single-fan radiator on the back panel.

The motherboard tray has a large access hole to ease CPU cooler support plate access, and is offset 0.7” from the side panel for easier cable routing. Cable space is deepened to 1.1” in front of the motherboard, but that inset limits motherboards to a maximum 10.3” depth.

The deeper cable space at the front of the case also holds two 2.5” trays, which are modular and can be repositioned atop the case’s power supply shroud.

Two 3.5” trays beneath the power supply shroud use silicon-damped pins to isolate 3.5” drive vibration, and are also drilled for screw-in installation of 2.5” drives.

Removing the 3.5” drive cage, which is screwed to both the bottom panel and power supply shroud, allows user to install extra-long power supplies. The power supply’s air inlet filter is also accessed from the bottom, and is held in place with flat tabs.

The front panel supports up to two 140mm or three 120mm fans, along with radiators up to 15.2” long, within a 2.4” gap in the top of the power supply shroud. Space in front of the fan mounts is filled with an RGB LED strip, and the traditional fan grill is filled with a plastic light diffuser. Air is drawn from a large gap at the bottom of the front panel cover, and motherboard-zone dust filtration is limited to only the top panel.

Under a magnetic filter sheet, the top panel also supports two 140mm or three 120mm fans, but its 1.2” of space above the motherboard is too narrow for most motherboard and radiator combinations. From this angle we can also see the top of the power supply shroud, with its two alternative 2.5” tray mounting locations and 2.4” front-panel radiator gap.

MORE: Best Cases

MORE: All Case Content

MORE: In Pictures: 40 Unusual Computer Case Mods

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This smartphone holder can be fitted on any bike, motorcycle or scooter with a handlebar of 1.1″. No tools are required with just a screw on the flipper and it’s designed with a one-button released function. It’s suitable for any smartphone of up to 5.7″. For extra security the clamp automatically adjusts to grip the device that holds in place firmly thanks to a strong adjustable non-slip clamp with silicone band straps. Get the Mpow Universal Bike Mount Holder for just £8.29.

Save 71% and get the Rampow MFI Lightning Cable for £6.29.

Charge and sync your Apple devices with this Rampow MFI (Made For iPhone) Lightning Cable. It’s compatible with all 8 Pin Apple devices including the iPhone 5, 5C, 6, and later, but also iPod Nano 7, iPad mini 2, mini 3, mini 4, iPad Air, iPad Pro and later. The nylon cable provides additional protection against bent damage and the USB and Lightning casings are protected by an aluminium shell.

46% off the Mpow Smart Fitness tracker

The Mpow Smart Fitness tracker can track your daily activities and monitor the quality of your sleep. It counts steps, calories burned as well as distances. It has a built-in screen and connects to the smartphone via Bluetooth to display caller ID and messages. It can also display messages from Facebook, Titter, Whatsapp, and more. The Mpow Smart Fitness Bracelet can also track sleep and wake you up with silent alarms. Get it today for just £21.69 with free delivery in the UK.

Get the Veho M7 Bluetooth speaker for £69.99

With its retro design, the Veho M7 is a Bluetooth speaker to stream music from your smartphone or your computer. The dual acoustic drivers are coupled with two 10W speakers and the rechargeable battery delivers 10 hours of music. The Veho M7 is IPX4 rated meaning that it’s protected against dust and water. It also features a USB port to serve as a powerbank to charge your smartphone. Get the Veho M7 Wireless Speaker for £69.99 on eBay.

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AMD Ryzen 7 1800X review

Although AMD never stopped selling processors for desktop PCs, it has felt an awful lot like it did for the last few years. Intel has so dominated the market at all levels, from budget machines right up to the most expensive enthusiast rigs, that there was really no point in choosing a PC with an AMD processor. We won’t go into it here, but you can read more about AMD’s history.

But with the launch of Ryzen, that has all changed. We’re reviewing the range-topping 1800X here, but there are two other Ryzen 7 chips on sale now, and two Ryzen 5 chips which are launching in a couple of months. See also: Ryzen release date, price and specifications

AMD Ryzen 7 1800X review: Price

Here’s how the range looks at the moment, but AMD will add more models over time. You can buy the three Ryzen 7 chips from Overclockers UK. Most come with one of AMD’s three new CPU coolers, but not the top two models. It’s assumed you will have your own already, or want to use a high-end liquid-cooling system. It’s worth noting, too, that AM3 and FM2+ “clip style” coolers are compatible with Socket AM4.

Product Line


Cores / Threads

Base Clock (GHz)

Boost Clock (GHz)

TDP (Watts)

Included Cooler


Ryzen 7


8 / 16





£499 / $499

Ryzen 7


8 / 16





£399 / $399

Ryzen 7


8 / 16




Wraith Spire

£329 / $329

Ryzen 5


6 / 12




Wraith Spire


Ryzen 5


4 / 8




Wraith Spire


Note: These chips are not APUs like AMD’s other A-series CPUs. This means that they do not have built-in graphics chips.

AMD Ryzen 7 1800X review: Features and design

Four years ago AMD realised it needed to completely redesign its CPU in order to compete with Intel, and began developing what we now know as the ‘Zen’ architecture.

The Ryzen 7 1800X is the current flagship consumer CPU based on Zen, and is an eight-core processor that runs at 3.6GHz (up to 4.1GHz with a suitable cooler – more on this later).

AMD has gone down the same route as Intel and now uses Simultaneous MultiThreading (SMT) rather than the Clustered MultiThreading (CMT) that its older processors used.

We’re not going to go into the deep technical details here because what really matters is whether the Ryzen 1800X is good value, and whether you should buy one.

But before we do that, we need to explain a few other things about the new features AMD has put into Ryzen.

AMD Ryzen 7 1800X review: Socket AM4

First, Ryzen is not going to fit into any existing AMD motherboard. That’s hardly surprising, given that this is truly a “clean-sheet” design. So you’ll need a new motherboard which has an AM4 socket with 1331 pins.

AMD says you’ll be able to upgrade processors with an AM4 socket until 2020, barring any technology advances which require a physical change to the pinouts, such as PCI Express 4 or DDR5 RAM.

Ryzen is more of a system-on-a-chip (SoC) like smartphone processors, which means the actual chipset on an AM4 motherboard is relatively basic.

There are eight to choose between, but the most common are likely to be the B350 and X370. The former is the more mainstream offering which allows overclocking, while the latter is aimed at enthusiasts who want the maximum number of features on their board.

These new boards, such as the Asus Crosshair VI Hero X370 that we used for testing the 1800X, have the latest features such as PCIe gen 3, an M.2 slot for the latest NVMe SSDs, USB 3.1 gen 2 ports and support for DDR4 RAM.

AMD Ryzen 7 review

AMD Ryzen 7 review

Ryzen CPUs have a total of 24 PCIe lanes. This isn’t as many as Intel’s top chipsets offer, but it’s enough. 16 lanes are dedicated to the graphics card, and the rest are for the motherboard maker to use for I/O and things such as NVMe SSDs.

If you do go for an X370 motherboard and want to run dual graphics cards, note that each will have to use 8 PCIe lanes.

Similarly, if you must use multiple NVMe drives simultaneously, you may be better off with Intel’s Broadwell-E and the X99 chipset. But you’d better have deep pockets, as such as setup does not come cheap.

This, ultimately, is where Ryzen delivers its knock-out blow: for the vast majority of PC enthusiasts, the Ryzen 7 chips offer plenty of performance, along with great efficiency, at a much lower price.

AMD Ryzen 7 1800X review: SenseMI

One of Ryzen’s really clever features is a grid of super-accurate sensors across the silicon which act much like the telemetry on an F1 car. They feed back power and temperature data so that the chip can adjust its speed based on conditions.

SenseMI is the name for a group of five technologies which AMD says ultimately give Ryzen the edge.

Precision Boost: Using the sensors, the chip can finely adjust its speed on the fly in 25MHz increments. It will increase or decrease speed based on temperature, load and current.

Pure Power: Similar to the boosting, the same sensors are used to adjust the CPU’s power consumption for a given task. Since each chip is very slightly different from every other at the silion level, the data from the sensors means each chip can optimise its power usage individually.

Extended Frequency Range (XFR): Only Ryzen chips with model numbers ending in ‘X’ support XFR. This is basically automatic overclocking and allows the chip to boost beyond the usual top frequency if the data from the sensors show that there is ‘headroom’ to run faster. Essentially, if you have a good cooling system which keeps temperatures down, you’ll see an extra 100MHz, so 4.1GHz instead of 4GHz with a Ryzen 1800X.

Neural Net Prediction: This is an artificial intelligence neural network that learns to predict what an application will do based on past runs, and queues up instructions so they can be executed quicker.

Smart Prefetch: Pretty much the same as neural net prediction, but for data rather than CPU instructions. Sophisticated learning algorithms track software behaviour to anticipate what data will be needed, and load it into the Ryzen’s caches so it’s ready when called for.

AMD Ryzen 7 1800X review: Performance

But enough about features and technology. The bottom line is: how fast does it go?

The short answer is fast, and certainly in line with AMD’s claims. Intel hasn’t released an eight-core Kaby Lake processor yet, which is why the main comparison is with the Core i7-6900K. The i7-7700K is the top Kaby Lake chip right now, and that’s a quad-core, eight-thread chip. It’s also the same price as the Ryzen 7 1700, which has the full complement of eight cores, 16 threads.

The 1800X isn’t always faster than the i7-6900K, so in pure performance terms, AMD hasn’t conclusively stolen the crown from Intel. But if you look not at absolute speed, but bang-per-buck, you’re getting what amounts to basically the same performance in most scenarios for half the cash.

This fact will undoubtedly force Intel to make big price cuts to its six- and eight-core CPUs, and we’re already hearing rumours that it has already done so. We’ll have to wait a bit until we see retailers passing on the savings, though.

Single-core performance isn’t where Ryzen’s strength lies: it’s roughly on a par with Intel Haswell chips, but as soon as you use an application or game which can use Ryzen’s large number of cores, it accelerates away from any same-price chip from Intel (and matches those costing a lot more). You can see this illustrated in the Geekbench results below – an overclocked Core i5-7600K is faster than a stock Ryzen 1800X in the single-core test, but the Ryzen kills it in multi-core. Also, note the massive lead that Ryzen holds in the Cinebench rendering test.

The graphs below show how the Ryzen 1800X stacks up against the most recent Kaby Lake PC we’ve reviewed, the Overclockers UK Titan Bayonet. This uses an i5-7600K overclocked to 4.7GHz on air and a GTX 1070. Overall, it’s a similar price (around £1600) to our Ryzen test rig, hence the comparison. Note that our rig had a GTX 1080, but the results below focus on CPU, not GPU performance, of course.

Our colleagues at our sister title PC World benchmarked two Ryzen chips against Intel’s top chips (the systems here are fitted with 32GB of RAM and GTX 1080 graphics cards – read more and see more test results here).

Most of the results above are self-explanatory, and are what we would expect. However, in many games right now it seems that you will get better performance if you have a high-end Intel chip. AMD says this is down to the fact that games are currently optimised for Intel processors, but developers are working to optimise for Ryzen as quickly as they can to take full advantage of the extra cores and threads on offer. 

But, you have to bear in mind that the Ashes of the Singularity test was run at 1080p at low quality settings in order to look at CPU performance and take the GPU out of the equation. In the real world, you’re not going to do that, and the Tomb Raider results – at Ultimate quality – show that all you’ll get very similar results regardless of which of these four CPUs you have.


In theory you should be able to get even more performance for free by overclocking a Ryzen chip. This is something AMD has been keen to point out at every opportunity: all Ryzen chips are unlocked and, when paired with the right motherboard, can be overclocked at will.

There’s even a new tool, Ryzen Master, which you can download and use to set up four different overclocking profiles. Of course, you’ll have to agree to the big disclaimer that you’ll void your warranty if you do overclock as there is potential to damage the chip and other hardware if you don’t know what you’re doing (or if you push frequencies or voltages too high).

We couldn’t do much with our air-cooled system, being supplied with a Noctua NH-U12S by AMD for testing. Still, we did see XFR in action on occasion, with the frequency jumping to 4.1GHz in CPU-Z while temperatures were low enough.

However, the chip was reluctant to go much beyond this and we suspect you’ll need a liquid cooling system to get the most from Ryzen. It runs fairly hot even when idling, sitting around 60 degrees C with the Noctua, and an additional 120mm fan extracting hot air from the case.

Intel chips – in PCs we’ve reviewed recently – appear to be more accommodating to overclocking on air cooling.

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