August 26, 2014

Review: 808 Audio Hex XL

The Hex XL is the newest and largest speaker in 808 Audio’s lineup of Bluetooth speakers. 808 Audio is a new brand from Voxx International which also manufactures products under the brands of RCA and Audiovox. They promise studio quality sound from their products, but so do a lot of other companies that claim to have studio quality sound when in fact offer muddy mid tones and over emphasized bass.

The Hex XL comes in a clear box with a cardboard slip cover on the bottom. Included with the speaker is a short 3.5mm male to male connector for those devices that don’t have Bluetooth, a micro USB cable for charging, as well as a USB wall wart to charge the speaker. The charger isn’t the highest quality or the nicest looking but it does it’s job and shouldn't make a difference as long as it charges the speaker. The first issue that came to my attention after taking it out of the box was the paint that stuck to the silicone pads that cushion the speaker from the box. There were hints of the red paint stuck to the pads, as well as a slightly lighter shade of red on the points that it made contact with on the speaker. This may be a concern in the future as the paint may degrade faster from the normal wear and tear of a portable speaker, but I haven’t been able to remove any more of the paint so it may just be a reaction between the paint and the pads.

Our speaker came in a bright red colour but is also available in grey and black if you prefer something less flashy. The speaker colours are quite nice and tasteful though. On the front of the speaker you find the two 35mm drivers as well as the 808 logo and a blue indicator LED. On the bottom you find 4 rubber feet as well as a 45mm down-firing subwoofer. On the left is the power, volume up/down, the Bluetooth pairing button and on the right are the play/pause buttons, and next/previous track buttons.

On the back is where you will wind the 3.5mm input as well as the micro USB connector for charging and the charge indicator LED. The Hex XL also come with an indent on the back that can act as a handle as well as a strap on the top for easy carrying. Both the indent and the strap making carrying the speaker around quite easy and comfortable. Unfortunately, the strap is made of a cheap looking faux leather material.

When turning on the speaker, you are greeted with a short chime as well as a different chime when you put it into pairing mode and also when it has successfully connected to the Bluetooth device. There is also a chime when you turn off the speaker. Although some people may find it annoying, I actually find it quite satisfying as it lets me know when the speaker has successfully connected instead of going through my phone and figuring out if it’s connected or not. The only problem I have is that when the speaker reaches the maximum volume, it stops playing music for around 3 seconds and beeps before resuming playback to indicate that it has reached maximum volume. The same pause and beep occur when you reach the minimum volume.

As for audio quality, I am blown away by the performance of this $99 speaker. The 35mm drivers provide crisp highs as well as present mids. Thanks to the down firing subwoofer, the two front facing speakers can provide cleaner sound as they only have to handle a smaller frequency range. The down firing subwoofer adds the punch and provides clean and not overpowering bass. The bass blends in with the rest of the sounds and is not overpowering. The design of the speaker angles the speakers at a slight upwards angle which helps direct the sound upwards towards the listener as the speaker will most likely be placed on a lower surface such as a table or a picnic basket. Inevitably, like every other wireless Bluetooth speaker, the audio quality does suffer at it’s maximum volume. Rest assured, the speaker is loud enough to be used at a community slo-pitch game or at a barbecue with friends without having to crank it up so much the audio starts to degrade. 808 Audio claims the speaker will provide up to 10 hours of playback at normal listening levels and I got around 12 hours from using it so battery life shouldn't be an issue. The fact that the speaker uses micro USB to charge means that a regular phone charger can give it a boost if needed.

For $99 the Hex XL is an absolute steal and the sound quality comes close to much more expensive Bose Soundlink and surpasses that of more expensive solutions such as the JBL Charge and the Beats Pill. With the paint issue aside, the Hex XL is an exceptional speaker and does live up to their promise to studio quality sound. Although not recommended for studio monitoring, the Hex XL is a fantastic portable speaker for the beach, picnic, or camping trip (at sites that allow the use of radios) and is definitely something to take a look at if you’re looking to buy a Bluetooth speaker. You can pick one up for yourself on the 808 Audio website.

August 19, 2014

Review: Noctua Industrial PPC

Released along side with Noctua’s Redux line up of fans which were focused towards offering value, the Industrial PPC lineup is more focused about even better durability and reliability in harsh environments. The Industrial PPC fans only come in two sizes, 120mm and 140mm variants. There are a total of 8 different configurations that offer different features such as 3-pin and PWM variants, the choice of 2000 RPM and 3000 RPM fans, as well as different certifications of waterproof and dust proofing. Yes, the Industrial PPC lineup offers IEC 60529 standard certifications. Like the Redux line, the Industrial PPC fans also deviate from Noctua’s normal brown and beige colour scheme and instead have a black and brown colour scheme. Unfortunately the Industrial lineup does not offer round frame 140mm fans with a 120mm mount.

In the box, you will not find the regular accessories like the rubber fan grommets and lower noise adapters. This is something that I would expect from Noctua’s lower cost fans, but at $30 a fan, I would at least expect accessories from the regular line. The Industrial PPC lineup of fans are based off the latest generation of Noctua fans so they take advantage of the new AAO or Advanced Acoustic Optimization frame as well as SSO2 bearings with metal shells. They also come with the brown silicone corners to help with vibration isolation. The fans also have a new three phase motor which makes the Industrial PPC fans even more efficient that their normal counterparts.

The construction of the fans have been changed from PBT to a polyamide material that Noctua has not released information about. The polyamide material should help with the dust wand water that the new fans are certified to protect against. They fans offer a IP52 certification or a IP67 certification. IP stands for Ingress Protection or in simpler terms, how well the products are protected from impacts, dust, and liquids. The IP52 certification means there is limited protection from dust and water. This means that dust can enter the fans but will not lower the performance of the fan and that the fan is protected against dripping water such as rain for ten minutes at a 15 degree angle. IP67 on the other hand means that the fan is completely sealed or “dust tight” and doesn’t allow dust to enter the fan at all and the fan can be submerged in one meter of water for up to 30 minutes and still work fine. Upon submerging the IP67 certified fans in water, I noticed that they automatically stop spinning and start pulsing. This may be a self protection feature implemented by Noctua to prevent further damage to the fans from running them with more resistance. Like all Noctua fans, these come with the standard 6 year warranty.

The fans are identical to their standard counterparts so performance was the same when they were mounted on a NH-U14s and a NH-U12s getting 56 degrees C on the NH-U14s and 60 degrees C on the NH-U12s

As for fan noise, the increase in RPM does increase the noise significantly. The sound test were performed with the microphone placed 2 cm away from the side of the fan's frame.

The Industrial PPC fans are not for people who want a quiet fan, or people who are in the market for a 2000-3000RPM fan. Instead, these fans are for people who have computers that can’t fail or are in places where they can not be check on often or are not easily accessible. These fans are great for computers that may be in a workshop, being used for a cnc where airborne sawdust is a large issue for computer fans, or a Bitcoin miner in an attic. The dust protection is fantastic and its great to see a company create a fan designed for harsh environments in mind. Although the dust protection is fantastic, I see very little use for the water protection as water and computers do not go together (unless you’re watercooling but normal fans work for that). With Industrial PPC fans, you will no longer have to worry about buying new fans if you happen to accidentally drop your computer in your bath tub. With the jokes aside, the Noctua Industrial PPC fans are a must buy for people who have to constantly replace their fans due to dust or debris entering and damaging the fans. They are also suited for users who want the performance and silence of a Noctua fan, but want it in black. Overall the Industrial PPC lineup of fans are extremely well suited for what their name says, Industrial use.

August 16, 2014

Samsung Goes Metal with the Galaxy Alpha

Samsung’s long-rumoured metal phone has finally been announced! Just recently, the Korean tech giant has showed off its brand new Galaxy Alpha. It features a metal-constructed body, which “shows off a new design approach for the company”.

The Alpha is Samsung's first major metal phone. Previous Galaxy phones and tablets were all encased in a plastic body with plastic-metal accents.

Samsung has not announced any prices for the phone, nor where it will be sold. However in the United Kingdom, it will go on sale in early September of this year.

The Basics:
The Galaxy Alpha offers a 4.7-inch Super AMOLED display at a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels. This comes to a total of 317 ppi, which is significantly below than the S5’s 441 ppi. In comparison, the Retina Display on the iPhone 5S comes in at 326 ppi.

The phone weighs 115 grams and it is 132mm long and 66mm wide and only 6.7mm thick. Both smaller and lighter than the Galaxy S5.

The rear camera can shoot 4K video and has a 12-megapixel sensor. Also, the phone is not water resistant. Both are a step down from the bigger S5.

The Design:
The obvious focus of the Galaxy Alpha is design, design, design. The phone has a metal frame with chamfered edges and flat sides, with precision drilled speaker grilles at the bottom. This doesn’t sound familiar, does it?

The dimpled back panel is still expected to be made of the soft plastic found on the Galaxy S5. Yes, the cover and the battery is still removable.

The Alpha will ship with Android 4.4.4 KitKat, with TouchWiz of course. It will also incorporate Samsung’s fingerprint sensor that is also found on the S5. The heart-rate sensor is also included on the back and can be used with the S Health app.

Overall, the Galaxy Alpha did not meet all expectations. It is basically a better-looking, downgraded version of the S5. Those hoping to get a beast of a phone will have to look else where in the meantime. Still, it is nice to see Samsung moving away from their all plastic phones and maybe more powerful metal phones from Samsung are not too far away.

Source: Samsung

August 13, 2014

GIVEAWAY: Back-To-School with MIONIX

[blank]'s Universe and MIONIX wants to level up your gaming set up with this back-to-school giveaway. You can win the MIONIX Avior 7000 Optical Gaming Mouse or the MIONIX Nash 20 Gaming Headset. Both of these products have received our Editor's Choice and will be a great addition to nearly any setup. Head over to THIS LINK or down below and enter now! There are plenty of opportunities to earn entries but one entry is all it takes to win one of these great gaming peripherals.

Big thanks to MIONIX for the opportunity to share these great pieces of hardware!

Remember, hard work is important but always have time to play!

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August 3, 2014

Review: Noctua Redux Line

Noctua is a renowned manufacturer of high-performance, silence optimized PC fans. Many PC enthusiasts choose Noctua fans for their performance, as well as their top notch build quality and reliability. They are easily identified by their cream and brown colour scheme, and their hefty price tag, but those are the two major complaints from consumers. Noctua has introduced the Redux line of fans to address both of these problems. Gone is the cream and brown colour scheme and instead you find a two-tone grey colour scheme. I personally liked the cream and brown colour but many others enjoy a stealthier black fan. The Redux line is Noctua’s lower cost tier of fans that are focused towards users who are on a smaller budget but still want the performance and silence from Noctua fans. They have done this by using technology from their previous generation of fans as well as omitting certain accessories from the package.

The Redux fans come in four different sizes, from 80mm all the way up to 140mm. What is disappointing is that all the fans are air flow optimized and there are no pressure optimized fans in the Redux line up, meaning that using a Redux fan on a liquid cooler may decrease performance. The fans also come in a variety configurations with different fan speeds and the choice of PWM or 3-pin models. There are a total of 11 different fans in the Redux line.

Inside the package you find the fan itself and four fan mounting screws. With the Redux line, you sacrifice the silicone fan mounts and the low-noise adapters with the price cut, but not to worry, those accessories can now be purchased separately. The brown rubber corners normally found on the newer Noctua fans are also missing, but those were not existent on the previous generation fans the Redux line is based off.

Since the Redux line of fans are based off older models, they use the same technology as well. Instead of using SSO2 bearings like the newer fans, they use SSO bearings instead which means that the magnet isn’t placed as close to the rotor axis for a more stable spin and better reliability. The frame also lacks the AAO or Advanced Acoustic Optimizations which are the small dimple things on the frame to help break up airflow. The Redux fans still have the same six year warranty so there are no worries that the less expensive fans will break faster.

Seeing that these fans are very similar to the previous generation of fans, their performance should be similar as well. The smaller fans are great as the noise they emit, compared to other fans of their size is significantly lower. The larger ones on the other hand are slightly louder, but still quieter than their competition. 

NOTE: Since these are air flow optimized fans used in non-restrictive environments such as the exhaust of a case, they were not tested on a heatsink.

Overall, the Redux line is fantastic for computer builders who want silent performance, but don’t have the money for the standard Noctua fans. The Redux line offers incredible value for its performance, and its great to know that Noctua listens to their customers and adapts their product lineups. The Redux line upholds Noctua’s standards and the only downside is the lack of accessories, that as mentioned earlier, allowing for the drop in price. I would highly recommend these fans for people looking to build a budget silent computer, or people who are looking for an upgrade from their stock case fans.