Zotac Magnus EK71080 Mini PC Review: A Powerful Little Black Box

Zotac is renowned for making powerful mini PCs. Zotac also makes the world’s smallest Nvidia Geforce GTX 1080 graphics card. Combine those two things and you’ve got one heck of a powerful small black box.

There are several ways to make a very small gaming PC. One way is to make a gaming laptop without the built-in keyboard or display. That’s essentially how the first Zotac machine I played with back in 2016 was designed. Another approach is to engineer a case that fits full-sized components in as small a space as possible, like Digital Storm’s Bolt line.

Zotac’s Magnus EK71080 does a little bit of both. From the laptop we’ve got SODIMM memory, designed to be small and lay flat. It’s got slots for both an M.2 laptop-style SSD and a normal 2.5 inch SSD or HHD. It’s even got a slot for Intel Optane memory, which can provide significant speed boosts loading games and applications from a slower, higher capacity standard hard drive. It’s powered by the Intel Core i7-7700HQ quad-core 2.8 GHz processor, a processor that’s seen a lot in high-end gaming laptops.

And then it’s got this:

At just 8.3 inches long, the Zotac Geforce GTX 1080 Mini is the smallest Nvidia’s 1080 gets without switching to the smaller, laptop-centric MXM profile. With performance on par or slightly higher than the Founder’s Edition GTX 1080, it’s the best possible graphics card for a very tiny PC. It’s 4K ready. It’s VR ready. And since it’s a desktop card, it’s got enough ports (three DisplayPort and one HDMI) to run four displays at once.

All of this inside a box that’s nine inches wide, eight inches deep and five inches tall. Not bad.

Magnus EK71080 Specs:

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-7700HQ (quad-core 2.8 GHz, up to 3.8 GHz)
  • Memory Slots: 2 x DDR4-2400/2133 SODIMM Slots (up to 32GB)
  • Graphics: ZOTAC GeForce GTX 1080 Mini 8GB GDDR5X 256-bit
  • Storage: M.21 x M.2 NVMe PCIE x4 / SATA SSD slot (22/42,22/60,22/80), 1 x 2.5-inch SATA 6.0 Gbps HDD/SSD bay, Intel Optane Memory Slot
  • Ports: 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 1 x USB 3.1, 4 x USB 3.0
  • Network: Dual Gigabit LAN, 802.11ac/b/g/n Wifi
  • Dimensions: 225mm x 203mm x 128mm (8.86in x 7.99in x 5.04in)
  • Price: $1,500 without memory/storage/OS

Some Assembly Required

While there are models of the EK71080 that come with memory and storage pre-installed, the unit I am reviewing here came barebones. That means no memory, no hard drive and no operating system. So I opened it up and took a peek inside.

Turning the EK71080 upside-down and removing four speed screws reveals all the internals anyone needs to worry about. Clearly labeled areas show exactly where memory, an M.2 drive, an Intel Optane stick and a 2.5 inch SATA drive should go.

For memory I chose a pair of 8GB HyperX Impact DDR4 2133 SODIMMchips. The system can accept faster speeds and up to 32GB of memory, but it’s a good starting place.

For storage, the obvious choice would be a nice-sized M.2 SSD drive. Would be a shame to leave a system with an M.2 slot without an M.2 drive, after all. Intel’s 760p series is relatively affordable in all sizes, from the $70 128GB version on up to the $200 512GB beast seen here.

Note that the Intel SSD is perched on top of a much larger, much slower 2TB Seagate Barracuda laptop hard drive. I could combine the two, putting boot files and other programs I need to access quickly on the M.2, using the 2TB drive as storage. But this system also has an Intel Optane slot.

This little 32GB Optane memory module is the really cool. My 2TB Seagate drive is not a fast drive. After remembering to install the Optane disk management software (yes, there is software to install), my slow-ass drive sped up considerably. Games that took over ten seconds to load started up almost immediately. My browser opened more quickly. Windows loaded faster.

Optane has some very specific hardware requirements (not the least of which is an Optane memory slot), so it’s not for everyone. But on a system like this one, that’s built to use it? Its a great way to have a lot of storage without slowing things down.

There is no reason to have an Optane drive and an Intel SSD installed at the same time, but it made for a nice picture. 

What I Did With It

Once the EK71080 was complete, I played quite a few games on it, including a few I cannot mention I am playing yet. It’s basically taken over gaming duties for my normal gaming desktop during the review process, because the silly little thing is more powerful than my normal gaming desktop. That’s kind of sad.

What’s Great About It

Performance: There is no game out there that will give the EK71080 any trouble at 1080p, and few that give it pause at 2160p. Rise of the Tomb Raider, my current “ow it hurts” game, hovered around 60 frames per second at tweaked “very high” settings at 2160p, so it’s a brave little toaster. 4K gaming is certainly doable, though some of the more demanding games out there will need the bells and whistles dialed back.

A VR Monster: The EK71080 is a perfect virtual reality box. Small and portable, yet powerful enough to do anything asked of it by the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift with nary a stutter. It makes me want to grab an extension cord and take it out into the driveway so I can finally do VR without breaking half of my office.

The Size, Obviously: There is so much stuff on my computer desk. When I initially agreed to look at the EK71080, I was looking to approach it from the point of view of someone looking for a living room PC. I’m sure it would be great for that as well, but damn if it isn’t nice to have a PC the size of half a shoebox on a desk covered with toys, tablets, gadgets, video lights, coffee cups, scented wax burners and various gadgets and gizmos.

What’s Not So Great

Not All That Upgradable: While one can fiddle about with hard drives and memory configurations quite a bit, there’s not much else you can change in the EK71080. If it had just one tiny PCIe slot available, it would be perfect for my purposes (I use an internal video capture card). Considering most people looking for a very small form factor PC take such things into account, this might not be a negative for most. This is just me after looking up the cost of an external PCIe enclosure (several hundred dollars at best).

A Little Bit Loud: When not involved in vigorous gaming, the EK71080 is actually pretty quiet. I have a desk fan that’s louder than it on its lowest setting. Things only get loud when the fans of the 1080 Mini kick into overdrive—Rise of the Tomb Raider did it, as did my 3DMark torture test (to see if the computer explodes—it did not). Something to keep in mind if you’re looking for an unobtrusive gaming system.

Final Thoughts

The Zotac Magnus EK71080 is a small black box that does everything I need and want it to do. Looking at it then looking at my gaudy pink tower PC with its missing drive bay covers and dust-choked acrylic side panel, I can’t help but feel like I’ve made bad choices.

It’s Hard To Go Back To Sub-60 FPS Gaming

On today’s Kotaku Splitscreen, we’re talking about noir games, how to get your husband into The Witcher 3, PC vs. consoles, and much much more.

First, Kirk and I jump into news on Mafia 3‘s developer laying people off, Kentucky’s governor blaming video games for shootings, and the System Shock reboot facing development troubles. Then we answer some listener questions (23:01) on console vs. PC gaming and getting your non-gaming spouse into The Witcher 3. We finish things off (48:05) by chatting about games we’re playing: Assassin’s Creed Origins and A Case of Distrust.

Also, we tease a little something that you should be very, very excited for.

Get the MP3 right here.

And here’s a brief excerpt about why I’m finding it hard to go back to consoles:

Jason: Here’s my position. I have now officially been a PC gamer, or more accurately, I’ve had a hardcore super-high-end gaming PC since the beginning of January. First of all, I love it to death. Second of all, the biggest difference for me has been the framerate of games. I knew this was going to happen, because framerate is the one thing I’ve noticed most over the years—when a game is chugging on consoles, I can always tell. It was tough to play Bloodborne for that very reason.

So jumping into something like Rise of the Tomb Raider, which I just started playing, and Assassin’s Creed Origins, which I just started replaying on PC, these games running at 60 frames-per-second makes such a huge difference. It makes the game feel so much smoother, and so much better than playing it at 30 frames per second or below on a console on your TV.

That to me makes the biggest difference. I’m not playing at 4K, I’m playing on a 1440p monitor. Man, I have to get used to all the jargon.

That framerate thing makes such a big difference that it’s making me want to play mostly on PC when I have the option. But the flip side is, sitting on a couch is more comfortable than sitting at my desk. For me, framerate has been winning out—I have a decent gaming chair, so I’ve been sitting back and playing on my DualShock 4 and I’m just having a blast, cause it’s running at 60 fps. I could not imagine now going back to consoles and playing that game at 30 fps.

Raspberry Pi 3 review: Still the ultimate hobbyist computer?

Raspberry Pi 3 review
Our Rating
Price when reviewed
30
inc VAT

The latest version of the budget maker board builds on the success of its predecessors

Pros
Drains less power than the Pi 2
Wide choice of operating systems
Cons
Wi-Fi isn’t very quick

Update: The Raspberry Pi 3 is an excellent hobbyist’s mini PC, but since this review was first written a new, faster, better-equipped version has emerged.

The Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+  has faster 802.11ac Wi-Fi where the original Pi 3 Model B has 802.11n. It has faster wired networking, with 300Mbits/sec Ethernet. And the processor is a tad nippier as well.

The practical differences aren’t huge, though, so if you can find the Model B at a discount the Model B is still worth picking up. If not, it makes more sense to opt for a Model B+ instead.

Our original Raspberry Pi 3 review continues below:

Raspberry Pi 3 review: In full

It may have sold more than eight million of its Pi mini-computers, but the Raspberry Pi Foundation wasn’t resting on its laurels when it came up with its latest flagship model. The Pi 3 (or, to use its full name, the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B) can claim an impressive list of features of features and upgrades from the Pi 2, including a speed boost (the Foundation claims a 50% increase) as well as built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capability. The inclusion of Wi-Fi is particularly handy, as it means you’ll no longer need to take up one of your precious USB ports with a Wi-Fi adapter.

There have also been some changes to the physical layout of the Pi 3’s motherboard, although it remains physically the same size as the Pi 2. The power and activity lights have migrated from the top left to the bottom left of the board, which may be a problem depending on your case’s design. The RUN (reset) header is now on the other side of the GPIO pins.

One change we approve of is that the microSD card slot has switched from a spring-loaded model to a simpler friction slot. This is one less thing to go wrong: we’ve had a spring-loaded slot break on a Pi 2 and had to hold the microSD card in with electrical tape.

READ NEXT: Best mini PCs

The more straightforward friction slot means that the tape stays in the drawer. Otherwise, it’s business as usual, with four USB ports and Ethernet on the rear, plus HDMI and a 3.5mm audio and composite video port. The all-important 40 general-purpose input/output pins are present for hobbyist use, as are the interfaces for the optional camera and LCD display modules.

Image of Raspberry Pi 3 Model B Quad Core CPU 1.2 GHz 1 GB RAM Motherboard

Raspberry Pi 3 Model B Quad Core CPU 1.2 GHz 1 GB RAM Motherboard

£27.98Buy now

The easiest way to install an operating system on the Raspberry Pi is to download the NOOBS installer from raspberrypi.org and copy it to a microSD card, which should be 8GB minimum, and ideally rated at Class 10, the fastest you can get. When you boot up the Pi, you’ll get a choice of operating systems to install, from the easy-to-use Linux distro Raspbian to the OpenELEC media centre to the twilight zone of RISC OS. While Raspbian will be the default OS of choice for many, having the option of so many operating systems through NOOBS is brilliant.

Raspberry Pi 3 review: Wi-Fi

In the office, we initially had some trouble with the Raspberry Pi 3’s Wi-Fi; it was fussy about connecting to a number of routers, and when it finally managed to connect, we only achieved a throughput of around 1Mbit/sec. However, we had no such trouble testing with identical networking equipment at home.

We, therefore, suspect that the office environment was just too noisy for the Pi 3 to cope, owing to the dozens of routers and Wi-Fi-enabled computers in the vicinity. When testing the Pi 3’s Wi-Fi throughput at home, we were pleasantly surprised by its range, especially considering the Pi 3 has such a tiny Wi-Fi antenna. At 10m distance from the router and through a couple of walls, the Pi 3 managed to transfer data at 12Mbits/sec, compared to 26Mbits/sec for an 802.11n laptop. Transfer rates weren’t much quicker when we were right next to the router, however; here we saw a maximum of 19Mbits/sec, compared to over 80Mbits/sec from our laptop.

This means the Pi 3’s Wi-Fi isn’t quick enough to max out the average fibre broadband connection, but it’s certainly fine for web browsing, downloading software packages and audio and video streaming.

Raspberry Pi 3 review: Performance

The Pi 2 was equipped with a quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 chip, but on the Pi 3 it’s a faster Cortex-A53. This makes no difference to boot times, which is around 35 seconds for both systems but LibreOffice ran perceptibly smoother, especially when manipulating vector images in Draw and zooming in and out. YouTube videos were still jerky, but we managed to play 1080p video smoothly using the command-line OMXPlayer.

It’s also a lot faster than the (even smaller) Raspberry Pi Zero W. Running the Sysbench test to verify prime numbers up to 10,000, the Pi 3 completed the task in 182.49 seconds, while the Pi Zero W took 530.27 seconds. As the Pi 3 has a quad-core CPU, it can also improve its completion time to 45.86 seconds by running four threads.

Raspberry Pi 3 review

The video core has had a bump from 250MHz to 400MHz, so we thought we’d get Quake 3 running on the Pi 3 using Raspbian’s guide. Using the game’s built-in benchmark, saw 64.3fps on the Pi 3 at 1,024 x 768 resolution. This is the same frame rate as the Raspberry Pi 2, so the 50MHz increase in the graphics clock speed doesn’t seem to make a difference in this title.

The Pi 3’s processor throttled back to 600MHz when the system was at idle, while according to the CPU clock speed command we ran, the Pi 2’s processor always ran at 900MHz. This made a considerable difference to power consumption: the Pi 2 drew 3.2W at idle and 3.8W under load, while the Pi 3 drew 2.5W and 3.8W. This is a 22% power saving at idle, which is not to be sniffed at. Despite the lower power drain, the Pi 3 was also able to power up and access a 3TB external laptop hard disk, something the Pi 2 couldn’t manage.

Avantree TC418 Bluetooth transmitter review: Play your legacy audio gear through any Bluetooth speaker

avantree tc418 bluetooth transmitter

Streaming to a Bluetooth speaker or headphones from a phone, mobile device or Bluetooth-enabled TV can be super convenient. But some of us have a cornucopia of legacy audio gear that we’d like to stream from as well. No one wants to toss a beloved turntable, stereo receiver, CD player, AM/FM radio, or the like just because it was manufactured before the age of Bluetooth.

Enter Avantree with its TS418 Bluetooth dual-transmitter. The TC418 not only offers both analog and light-pipe digital inputs, it will also stream audio from just about any device (computer, phone, etc.) that supports USB audio.

Video gear is another story because of latency issues. More on that later.

Features and specs

The TS418 is a Bluetooth 4.2, dual-transmitter device featuring the low-latency version of Qualcomm’s aptX audio transmission codec. Regular aptX, FastStream, and SBC are also supported (aptX HD, however, is not supported). “Dual” means it can stream to two pairs of Bluetooth headsets or speakers simultaneously. That can be handy under a number of circumstances, including two-room setups.

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Avantree

As I said up top, what sets the TC418 apart from many transmitters is the variety of supported connection types. It’s powered via its micro-USB port and functions as a USB audio interface, handily allowing you to transmit sound from your computer and anything else that supports standard US-class audio. The legacy support kicks in with a 3.5mm stereo input that accepts both line-level and microphone-level input, as well as a S/PDIF optical port. This means you can use the output from just about any piece of stereo equipment, no matter the vintage.

Avantree thoughtfully includes all the cables you might need: a 3.5-mm-to-3.5mm male-to-male stereo cable, a stereo RCA-to-3.5mm female cable that converts the first able, as well as an optical S/PDIF light pipe. There’s also a micro-USB to Type A USB cable for the computer connection and power.

There’s no LED readout on the TC418, but there is a connection indicator light for each of the two channels, and pairing the unit is super easy. Simply press the A (channel one) or B (channel two) button, and then the pair button on the Bluetooth receiver you want to use. The process took about five seconds each time with all five of the speakers and headphones I tested the TC418 with.

Performance

I live in a tough environment for wireless, the chicken-wire-over-lath that forms the base for drywall and plaster does a good impression of a Faraday cage. The TS418 is rated a Class 1 transmitter, which means you should be able to stream up to around 30 meters under ideal conditions (i.e., line of sight). I didn’t fare that well; 30 feet was more like it in my apartment, and it reached around 60 feet in the IDG offices.

Avantree TC418 inputs

Avantree

The TC418 has an analog stereo audio input, an optical digital input, and can also take in digital audio via USB.

The “low latency” in the aptX codec’s spec means that the time it takes for audio to travel from the TS418 to the receiving devices is made as short as possible–that’s approximately 40 milliseconds, compared to 70- to 110ms with regular aptX and other protocols. With 40ms of lag, the delay between what happens on screen and the sound being reproduced on your Bluetooth speakers is what I’d describe as livable. Unlike one claim I saw on Qualcomm’s site, it is noticeable, and some with find it irritating.

What’s more, you won’t get that 40ms performance from just any Bluetooth speaker, headset, or other client device: The receiving device must alsosupport low-latency aptX for the whole deal to work, and that’s not particularly common at the moment.

There is a way, however, to basically eliminate latency issues depending on what you’re streaming the video from: If you’re playing movies from a computer, simply play the movie using VLC or Media Player Classic Home Cinema and use that softwares’ synchronization/time-shift functions to add a negative delay as shown below. There might also be system-level software solutions I’m not currently aware of.

mpc hc

IDG

Many computer movie players allow you to time-shift audio to compensate for Bluetooth-induced latency. Some TVs and disc players might as well. Check your equipment if you’re not comfortable with the 40ms of lag that even low-latency aptX suffers.

Some TVs and other devices support audio time-shift as well, though most also transmit Bluetooth, obviating the need for an external transmitter. If you’re using a time-shift remedy, then aptX low latency shouldn’t make much of a difference and you can factor it out of your buying decision.

Strong value

The TC418 is affordable, easy to use, and small enough to tuck out of the way. To boot, it streamed perfectly for me within about a 45-foot unobstructed radius. If you want to stream Bluetooth from your legacy audio equipment, it’s just the ticket.

It can work for video soundtracks as well, depending on how sensitive you are to latency. That’s not a knock on the TS418, which has as low latency as any Bluetooth device I’ve used; it’s just the nature of the technology.

AMD unveils its second-generation Ryzen CPUs

AMD

With last year’s Ryzen processors, AMD made a grand re-entry into the world of high-performance desktop computing. Now its improving on those designs with its second-generation Ryzen chips, which are a bit faster and more efficient. And, due to fan demand, AMD is also throwing in free “Wraith” coolers with every CPU. The big takeaway this year: AMD is in an even better place to compete with Intel.

The highest end Ryzen model is the eight-core Ryzen 7 2700X, which replaces the 1800X and 1700X from last year (honestly they weren’t thatdifferent). With a base clock of 3.7GHz, and a boost speed of 4.3Ghz, it’s faster than the 1800X, which ran between 3.6Ghz and 4Ghz. The new chip is also a much better deal at $329, compared with the $399 and $499 launch prices of the 1700X and 1800X. In comparison, Intel’s six-core i7-8700K sells for around $350.

At the more affordable end, there’s the six-core Ryzen 5 2600, which will go for $199. It’s clocked between 3.4Ghz and 3.9GHz, and it should be a solid competitor to Intel’s similarly priced Core i5-8500. The new chips are built on AMD’s 12 nanometer Zen+ architecture, so you can think of them as a slight upgrade over last year’s models. Its true platform followup, Zen 2, is expected to debut next year.

MODEL CORES THREADS CLOCK SPEED MAX BOOST/ BASE (GHZ) SMART PREFETCH CACHE TDP COOLER SEP (USD)
Ryzen™ 7 2700X 8 16 4.3/3.7 20MB 105W Wraith Prism (LED) $329
Ryzen™ 7 2700 8 16 4.1/3.2 20MB 65W Wraith Spire (LED) $299
Ryzen™ 5 2600X 6 12 4.2/3.6 19MB 95W Wraith Spire $229
Ryzen™ 5 2600 6 12 3.9/3.4 19MB 65W Wraith Stealth $199

AMD is keeping full details about the new Zen chips under wraps until their April 19th launch. But it did reveal a few tidbits: They’ll run on its new X470 AM4 chipset, and they’ll support its StoreMI technology, which can speed up disk performance by linking together SSDs, traditional hard disks and RAM.

The ethically murky marriage of technology and beauty

AdChoices

The last time I bought foundation, I couldn’t decide if I was a “Fair” or a “Light.” Confusing names aside, shades of cosmetics are particularly tricky for me — a relatively pale Asian woman with yellow undertones in my skin. Colors designed for Asian complexions tend to be a bit dark or dull for my liking, while those for white skin look unnatural on me.

I’m already luckier than many people whose complexions fall on the darker range of the spectrum: Finding an accurate shade may be a challenge, but I can almost always get an option that’s close enough. For others who are more tan, though, that’s not always possible.

The latest spate of beauty tech seems intent on changing all that. Companies are using tech to provide highly customized products like makeup, corrective skin care and shampoos that are tailored to your exact needs. But while on the surface these appear to be well-meaning efforts to promote diversity and inclusivity, the industry needs to carefully examine every step as it moves forward or risk exacerbating problems around perceived ideals in beauty.

Lancome launched its Le Teint Particulier custom liquid foundation in 2016 at select Nordstrom stores. It uses a skin scanner to detect your complexion at various points on your face with the help of an onsite consultant and creates a formula that’s best suited for you. The company says it can detect more than 72,000 skin tones and mix your foundation on the spot. Oprah magazine’s Manouska Jeantus even said it “answered all our prayers for a foundation that works for dark skin tones.”

Meanwhile, businesses like Curology, Insitu and Skinceuticals have sprung up in the last few years or so, offering personalized skin care with the help of tech. Curology and Insitu learn about your skin from your pictures and answers to online questionnaires, while Skinceuticals’ Custom DOSE(Diagnostic Optimization Serum Expertise) will use in-person evaluations when the service launches this summer.

The idea is that the traditional way of classifying your skin as oily, dry or combination is no longer enough — you should be able to get products based on exactly how dry, supple and pigmented your skin is. That’s good news for people who don’t fit neatly into a category and want to treat their faces with a precise combination of moisturizers and active ingredients. And it’s not just about your complexion. Benefit Cosmetics, which launched an AR brow try-on app earlier this year, said: “All brows are unique, so we built an AR solution that is customizable for any person.”

But while these products seem to promise greater inclusivity for more diverse skin types, they also come at a cost. Literally. Lancome’s Le Teint Particulier will set you back $88 per 1-ounce bottle (price includes the consultation, although refills also cost $88), while the brand’s other foundation lines like Teint Idole and Teint Miracle, which have more-limited shades, cost $47 for the same amount.

Meanwhile, systems like Custom DOSE and Schwarzkopf’s smart salon, which scans your hair to better understand its moisture and color profile for a more accurate treatment, aren’t available everywhere. When Skinceuticals launches DOSE, it will start with specific dermatology and plastic-surgery clinics, while Schwarzkopf’s service will hit select partner salons first. It’s not clear where these are located yet — whether they’re in primarily affluent neighborhoods and major cities — but typically plastic surgeons don’t see very diverse clientele. Reports from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons show that almost 70 percent of all patients who underwent cosmetic procedures in the US were Caucasian, while Hispanic, African-American and Asian-American people made up 11, 9 and 7 percent, respectively.

That goes against the very notion of inclusivity. Higher prices and limited availability impede access to these products, so, many people still will not be able to enjoy the benefits. Those aren’t the only factors, of course, and things like income inequality and expensive materials aren’t necessarily the beauty industry’s problem or something companies can control. But they do have a say over other parts of the challenge.

“As more and more companies are using technology to develop customized cosmetics, they need to pay attention to issues of accessibility not only from the standpoint of price and availability but from a marketing standpoint as well,” said Tiffany Gill, associate professor of history and Africana studies at University of Delaware.

Logitech G613 review: A lag-free, responsive wireless mechanical gaming keyboard

TA-ratings-89If you’ve followed us here at Techaeris for any length of time, you know a few of us are avid gamers and love our mechanical keyboards. There are definitely plenty of choices out there, most of the wired variety. One thing you don’t want to be experiencing while gaming is latency and that’s why gamers usually choose wired peripherals like keyboards, mice, and controllers. Wireless controllers have been around for years on consoles and reliable wireless peripherals have also been making their way to PC gaming. Our Logitech G613 review takes a look at a wireless mechanical gaming keyboard with Romer-G key switches which connects to your computer via Bluetooth or the LIGHTSPEED USB dongle. Read on to find out if it can meet the demands of low latency keystrokes for gaming. NOTE: If you’re looking for a wireless gaming mouse, we’ve also posted our review of the Logitech G603 LIGHTSPEED Wireless Gaming Mouse.

SPECIFICATIONS

The Logitech G613 Wireless Mechanical Gaming Keyboard has the following features and specifications:

 Romer-G Key Switches
  • Durability: 70 million keypresses
  • Actuation distance: 0.06 in (1.5 mm)
  • Actuation force: 1.6 oz (45 g)
  • Total travel distance: 0.13 in (3.2 mm)
  • Battery Life: 18 months
  • System Requirements
    • LIGHTSPEED
      • Windows® 7 or later
      • Mac OS® X 10.10 or later
      • Chrome OS™
      • Android™ 3.2 or later
      • USB port
    • Bluetooth
      • Bluetooth-enabled device with Windows® 8 or later
      • Mac OS X 10.12 or later
      • Chrome OS
      • Android 5.0 or later
  • Dimensions (HxWxD): 18.8 x 8.5 x 1.3″ (478 x 216 x 33 mm)
  • Weight: 3.1 lb (1410 g) keyboard only; with 2 AA batteries: 3.2 lb (1460 g)

WHAT’S IN THE BOX

  • G613 wireless mechanical keyboard
  • LIGHTSPEED USB receiver
  • Phone stand
  • Extender USB cable
  • 2 AA Batteries
  • User documentation
  • 2-year limited hardware warranty
Logitech-G613-review-07

What’s in the box…

DESIGN

Generally speaking, desktop keyboards have very similar layouts. The Logitech G613 isn’t much different and boasts the usually 6-row layout with the four arrow keys set below the Ins/Del key grouping with a full-sized number pad off to the left. Where it does differ from some other keyboards is the addition of six programmable macro keys on the far left labelled G1 through G6. The Caps Lock indicator light sits above the F11 key while the battery indicator sits above the F12 key. Interestingly enough, there is no Num Lock or Scroll Lock light anywhere on the keyboard which is a pretty big omission — especially in the case of the Num Lock indicator.

Logitech-G613-review-02

There are six “G” keys which can be customized with macros or other shortcuts.

Above the Print Screen/Scroll Lock/Pause keys are three low profile round buttons. The first is a game mode switch while the other two are wireless and Bluetooth buttons which can be pressed to toggle wireless or Bluetooth modes. Above the number pad are four low profile media keys with an equally low profile mute button and elongated volume control button. I’m not sure if it’s the lower profile of these buttons, but while nice to have, they do feel a bit on the cheap side but it could just be the finish style on them.

Logitech-G613-review-01

The game mode switch, wireless, BT, and media control buttons.

Even though the keyboard weighs just over three pounds, it does have a lighter weight feeling construction than other mechanical keyboards that I’ve recently reviewed. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but it looks pretty much like a standard keyboard with a few extra buttons and nothing really design wise to set itself apart. The main frame of the keyboard is a dark gray with black keys and a molded black wrist rest at the bottom. Unfortunately, the wrist rest isn’t removable so if you’re one who prefers a keyboard without, you’ll be stuck with it in this case. The Logitech G logo is printed above the macro keys on the left side in silver. Located on the right edge near the top is an on/off switch for further battery conservation with G613 printed in silver to the left of it.

Logitech-G613-review-03

Conserve battery life with the on/off switch.

Flip the keyboard over and you’ll find the usual adjustable feet which provide two height levels of use and the battery compartment for the two AA batteries required to power the keyboard.

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Adjustable feet for two height modes.

While most mechanical gaming keyboards scream gaming, the Logitech G613 is more your average looking keyboard. Interestingly enough, however, Logitech also includes a simple, but very useful, smartphone stand with the keyboard. The base is molded black plastic with a dark grey u-shaped ledge with the Logitech G logo printed on the middle. Like the keyboard, it’s pretty simple in design but works rather well. More on this in a moment…

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Wait… a phone stand?

EASE OF USE

The Logitech G613 Wireless Mechanical Gaming Keyboard can be used in two ways: over wireless USB or via Bluetooth. On the wireless USB side, Logitech uses a “pro-grade wireless” technology they developed called LIGHTSPEED, which we’ll talk about more in the Performance section. To the end user, it’s no different setting up than any other wireless keyboard. Simply plug in the wireless USB dongle, turn the keyboard on, and you’re good to go. Alternately, you can connect to your computer or other Bluetooth-enabled devices by pressing the Bluetooth button on the keyboard and pairing it with your smartphone or another device. You may have been wondering why Logitech included a smartphone stand with the keyboard, but after pairing the keyboard to the Google Pixel 2 XL, I can see why. It was actually pretty cool to be able to switch effortlessly back and forth between typing on the computer and the phone with a press of a button.

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The phone stand worked great with the Pixel 2 XL in a case and made it easy to type with the keyboard on it via Bluetooth.

SOFTWARE

Of course, you can use the keyboard as is but Logitech also has the Logitech Gaming Software (LGS) which allows you to assign macros or other functions to the six programmable macro keys. Programming the six macro keys is pretty easy, simply select the macro key and then enter in your keystroke(s), text block, mouse function, shortcut, hotkey, function, or even Ventrilo command. While it’s somewhat straightforward, the process could be a bit clearer, especially for those inexperienced with creating macros and the like.

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Logitech Gaming Software Macros screen.

You can also easily set per game gaming profiles and lockout specific keys from interfering with your gameplay, such as the Windows key. In fact, if you wanted to, you can lock out every key except the ones you need to play that specific game.

A fun feature of LGS allows you to track keystrokes and display them as one of two heat maps: a Key Press Heat Map and a Key Duration Heat Map. Both allow you to toggle a weighted center as well, so you can see where your keypress tendencies lie during gameplay or even just typing in general. The Key Press Heat Map also shows your KPM score, as well as the number of times you hit each colour code keys, while the Key Duration Heat Map also shows the total amount of time you spent pressing a particular colour of key on average.

Nintendo wants startups to pitch new Switch concepts

AOL

If you thought Nintendo opening the Switch to new indie games every quarter was a big shift for the company, wait ’til you hear that it’s getting into startups. The venerable video game corporation has partnered with Scrum Ventures to find companies tinkering with new ways to play with or use Nintendo’s flagship console.

Scrum will consider ideas for new Switch tools from startups, teams in larger companies or university researchers, Bloomberg reported. Then the early-stage venture capital firm will workshop concepts with teams before they pitch them to Nintendo this fall. Scrum will consider hardware and software ideas (not games), which in itself is a new frontier for a game company that has always relied on trusted, established suppliers. When considering ideas, Scrum will evaluate:

  • How advanced the technology is
  • How creatively the technology adds to the Nintendo Switch platform
  • The goal is to develop technology collaborations that surprise and delight users

But the Switch has heralded an era of experimentation. The well-received Labo kits set to debut next week are a good example, blending DIY cardboard controllers with the console’s sensor-packed Joy-Cons and tablet-like central screen unit. Whatever Scrum finds will likely be a surprising use of the Switch’s existing hardware and tech, but it’s just as shocking to see the famously protective and secretive Nintendo open its doors to third parties, large and small.

Update 4/12/18 4:05PM ET: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Scrum Ventures will only seek hardware concepts. It is seeking both hardware and software concepts, but not video game pitches.

Anti-drone tech protected a weekend of NASCAR racing

Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Anti-drone technology isn’t just being used at airports or sensitive politicaland military locations. Law enforcement just relied on DroneShield’s systems, including its anti-drone gun, to protect against UAVs during a NASCAR race series at the Texas Motor Speedway between April 5th and April 8th. The tech helped police watch out for drones, disable them and (if all else failed) knock them out of the air. There weren’t any known incidents, but it’s notable that the technology was involved in the first place — it was the first time American law enforcers used all three of DroneShield’s products.

The company is also keen to tout that it’s the “sole provider” of counter-drone hardware for NASCAR.

This isn’t the first time the company’s tech has been used at a sporting event. It played a role at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. However, it could set a precedent. The US government treats NASCAR races as high-security events, and it won’t be surprising if anti-drone systems become a staple at any large event where drones pose enough of a risk that organizers don’t want to depend on geofencing to keep people safe.

Sega Japan teases a mini Genesis coming later in 2018

MegaDrive Mini

Along with the rereleases of Shenmue I & II, Sega also showed off its own attempt at retro console loaded with classic games. While knockoff Genesis systems have been easy to find, the success of Nintendo’s miniaturized NES and SNES may have pushed Sega to get serious about nostalgia. MegaDrive Mini is apparently just a tentative name, but it’s also timed to arrive for the system’s 30th anniversary. So far Sega’s social media and PR for Europe and Japan are quiet on the subject, but if we find out any more details we’ll let you know.