TR’s April 2015 peripheral staff picks

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Welcome to the April 2015 edition of TR’s peripheral guide. If you’ve put together a PC using our System Guide, and you’re wondering what keyboard, mouse, or monitor to pair with your shiny new system, this is the place to be.

We’ve had a number of worthy keyboards, mice, and displays pass through our labs since our last update, so it’s time for a refresh. Most notably, the first displays with AMD’s FreeSync technology are finding their way onto store shelves. FreeSync promises a slightly cheaper way to enter the world of variable-refresh-rate displays, assuming your PC has a compatible Radeon graphics card.

Where possible, we’re recommending stuff that we’ve personally reviewed, but the vast world of PC hardware keeps us from touching every single product out there. If there’s a hole in our coverage, we’ll turn to reliable external sources for perspective.

If you like this article, don’t miss the rest of our guide series: our main System Guide, in which we recommend internal components and custom PC builds; our how-to-build-a-PC guide, where we walk readers (and viewers) through the PC assembly process; and our mobile staff picks, where we talk about our favorite notebooks and tablets.

Our guides are sponsored by Newegg, so we’ll be using links to their product pages throughout this article. You can (and should!) support TR by using these links to purchase the products we recommend. If Newegg doesn’t stock an item we want to recommend, we’ll link to other resellers as needed.


Where would we be without displays? Not reading this guide, that’s for sure. In general, a good display should have an IPS panel with accurate color reproduction, wide viewing angles, and a decent complement of inputs. The dreaded TN panel is getting much better, however, and we’ve recently reviewed a couple of premium TN displays that hang right with IPS panels for overall quality.

The most notable development in displays of late is the emergence of variable-refresh-rate (or VRR) technology, which greatly reduces unpleasant graphical artifacts like tearing and lag. VRR tech allows for buttery-smooth animation in cases where fixed-refresh displays can make animation seem choppy.

Unfortunately, there’s no universal standard for VRR displays yet. Nvidia is off in one corner with its proprietary G-Sync tech, while AMD and the VESA standards body are sort of mushed together in another with FreeSync and the Adaptive-Sync standard. What’s worse, G-Sync monitors will only work with some Nvidia GeForce graphics cards right now, and FreeSync only works with compatible AMD Radeon cards. Yeah, it’s a bit of a headache, but the result is so, so worth it.

You might also be thinking about a 4K monitor in the near future. We’re happy to report that some of the issues with 4K monitors seem to be smoothing out a bit. For example, dual-tile displays are now pretty rare. More new 4K monitors seem to be using DisplayPort’s single-stream transport feature, which means that the monitor appears to PC firmware, Windows, and games as a single 3840×2160 display, rather than as a pair of lower-res displays. That avoids a lot of headaches, and it’s a feature worth seeking out.

Variable-refresh-rate displays

Product Type Price
Acer XB280HK 28″ 3840×2160 TN, G-Sync $759.99
Acer XB270HU 27″ 2560×1440 IPS, G-Sync $799.99
Asus ROG Swift PG278Q 27″ 2560×1440 TN, G-Sync $779.99
BenQ XL2730Z 27″ 2560×1440 TN, FreeSync $599.99

G-Sync at 4K: Acer XB280HK

For those who want to live on the bleeding edge of both resolution and VRR tech at once, Acer’s XB280HK is the only way to get there as of this writing. This 28″, 4K display features a TN panel with a 1-ms response time and a maximum refresh rate of 60 Hz. The XB280HK also comes with a fully-adjustable stand and a built-in USB 3.0 hub.

If you’re turned off by the idea of a TN panel in a display this expensive, we’d encourage you to take a second look. We’ve found that premium TN panels are very nearly as good as the average IPS displays these days, so there’s no reason to dismiss the XB280HK based on its panel tech alone. If you’re still not convinced, check out the Acer XB270HU below.

G-Sync and IPS: Acer XB270HU

If the TN panel in the XB280HK above is a deal-breaker, Acer’s XB270HU is a fine alternative. It’s a 27″, 2560×1440 display with an IPS panel. The IPS tech does increase response time to 4 ms, but the XB270HU comes with a fast 144 Hz refresh rate, too.  Like its 4K stablemate, the XB270HU comes tricked-out with a height- and tilt-adjustable stand and a built-in USB 3.0 hub.

An Asus alternative with G-Sync: Asus ROG Swift PG278Q

Should either of the Acer displays we recommend be out of stock, or should you dislike their styling, Asus’ ROG Swift PG278Q is an excellent display in its own right. This G-Sync-equipped screen features a 27″, 2560×1440 TN panel with a 1 ms response time and a 144 Hz maximum refresh rate. It also features a fancy OSD control system and a chiseled, angular exterior that makes a statement on the desk. Its lower resolution versus Acer’s XB280HK may be easier to drive for some systems, too.

The first FreeSync display: BenQ’s XL2730Z 

If you’re a Radeon owner who’s gotten a little green with envy reading about Nvidia’s G-Sync displays, the wait is over. AMD’s FreeSync tech is making its way onto the market. BenQ’s XL2730Z is one of the first such monitors to hit store shelves. In our review, we found that it provides the same buttery-smooth experience as G-Sync displays do.

The XL2730Z uses a 27″ TN panel with a 2560×1440 resolution and a 1-ms response time, which is all well and good. Just be sure to disable the XL2730Z’s “black equalizer” setting, which messes around with the display’s gamma to the detriment of image quality.


Conventional displays

Product Type Price
Acer H236HL bid 23″ 1920×1080 IPS $139.99
Acer K272HUL bmiidp 27″ 2560×1440 AHVA $349.99
Asus PB278Q 27″ 2560×1440 PLS $449.99
Dell P2415Q 24″ 3840×2160 IPS $499.99
Dell P2715Q 27″ 3840×2160 IPS $580.87
Dell UltraSharp U3015 30″ 2560×1600 IPS $1,099.99
Asus PQ321Q 32″ 3840×2160 IGZO $1,454.00

The budget pick: Acer H236HL bid

For those who need only a basic display for web browsing and games, we submit Acer’s H236HL bid, a cheap-but-cheerful display with everything the average person needs and nothing else. This 23″ screen features an IPS panel with a 1920×1080 resolution, plus HDMI, DVI, and VGA inputs, for only $140. You do give up VESA mount compatibility and height adjustments, but it’s hard to complain about those omissions for the price.

A cheap 27″ option: Acer K272HUL bmiidp

We’re fans of cheap, no-name 27″ IPS displays with 2560×1440 resolutions here at TR, but our previous pick is no longer available. Thankfully, there’s an even cheaper option around, and it’s from a recognized manufacturer. Acer’s K272HUL bmiidp doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but it’s got niceties like an on-screen settings display and multiple inputs that the cheap Korean displays usually do without. Still, this Acer lacks height adjustability—it only tilts—but it can be mounted on a VESA-compatible stand or arm if the stock stand isn’t up to muster.

It should be noted that this display uses an AHVA panel from AU Optronics, which TFT Central describes as an “IPS-like” technology, rather than true IPS. Even so, Expert Reviews called the K272HUL bmiidp’s panel “fantastic,” and they found that it reached 99.8% coverage of the sRGB gamut after calibration. At only $350, this display seems like a screaming bargain if you can live with its limitations.

A ritzier 27″: Asus PB278Q

For $100 more than the Acer above, Asus’ PB278Q (not to be confused with the 4K PB287Q) adds some nice features that the cheaper monitor lacks. Asus includes a height-adjustable stand that can switch between landscape and portrait modes, and the PB278Q can also be mounted on a VESA-compatible arm or wall mount.

Like the Acer, this technically isn’t an IPS display. Instead, it’s built with one of Samsung’s PLS panels, another IPS-like technology. For all intents and purposes, though, this is an IPS-equivalent panel. We’ve spent quite a bit of time with the PB278Q, and it has the same rich color reproduction and wide viewing angles as any other IPS-class display. For $449, it’s a premium monitor at a reasonable price.

A pair of 4K options: Dell P2415Q and P2715Q

If you’re ready to make the leap to a 4K display, Dell’s P2415Q and P2715Q seem like good bets to us. Both feature IPS panels, single-tile configurations, and factory calibration that’s supposed to reduce the average delta-E to less than three. They also feature 99% coverage of the sRGB gamut and three-year warranties.

The biggest difference between the two displays is their size: the P2415Q is a 24″ display, while the P2715Q is a 27-incher. As a result, the P2415Q has a higher PPI than the P2715Q. The smaller screen costs less, too.

A professional-grade option: Dell UltraSharp U3014
The UltraSharp U3014 is the latest revision of Dell’s classic 30″ monitor. It features a humongous panel with a 2560×1600 resolution (and thus a taller 16:10 aspect ratio than typical 27″ screens), and it has a plethora of inputs. Dell even built a card reader into this thing. Neither 4K nor G-Sync are part of the program, but you can look forward to stellar image quality without PPI scaling issues to spoil the fun.

Dell’s PremierColor panel (a true 10-bit, AH-IPS affair) can reproduce 100% of the sRGB color space and 99% of the wider Adobe RGB gamut. Dell also claims to factory-calibrate the U3014 to an average delta-E of less than two for color-critical work. The U3014 can even be calibrated in firmware if needed for extra precision.

A 4K 32″ alternative: Asus’ PQ321Q

If you’d like a helping of 4K along with your extra-large display, Asus’ PQ321Q is an intriguing option. Scott describes its unusual IGZO panel as “a thing of beauty, almost certainly the finest display I’ve laid eyes upon.” It’s worth noting that the PQ321Q is a dual-tile 4K display, which can play havoc with BIOS screens and games at times. Asus has a single-tile successor to this monitor in the works. Still, we think the PQ321Q could make a ton of sense for professional content creation work.



We know our keyboards here at TR. Churning out news and reviews requires hours of typing at a stretch, so any flaws or uncomfortable design choices quickly make themselves known under our fingers.

Generally, we prefer keyboards with mechanical key switches, like Cherry’s famous MX clickers. They feel good under all typing conditions, from article composition to heavy gaming, and the wide variety of available switch types makes it possible to get a keyboard with a feel that’s best matched to your preferences. If you’re not familiar with the most common Cherry MX switch types, check out our run-down of the various colors.

We also have a couple of options for those who need an ergonomic keyboard or an all-in-one option for the living room. Read on to find out more.

Product Price
Corsair Gaming K70, K70 RGB $129.99-$169.99
Cooler Master QuickFire series $83.99-$159.99
Rosewill RK-9000V2 $99.99-$119.99
Topre Type Heaven $150.00
Microsoft Sculpt $62.99
Logitech K400 $29.99
Hausbell Mini H7 $35.99

Our favorite Cherry-flavored option: Corsair Gaming K70

Corsair Gaming’s K-series keyboards are long-time favorites of TR staffers. Both Geoff and I use a version of the Editor’s Choice-winning K70 as our daily driver, and we both appreciate the K70’s rock-solid chassis, aluminum top plate, and Cherry MX mechanical switches. This keyboard also features volume and media controls, plus a Windows key lockout and adjustable backlight brightness.

If a single-color backlight is too tame, Corsair also makes an RGB version of the K70, which adds per-key RGB LED backlighting and some fancy animated effects. When we reviewed the K70 RGB, we found the backlight to be a cool feature, but whether it’s worth the $40 premium is ultimately a matter of personal taste.

No-frills solidity: Cooler Master’s QuickFire series

Cooler Master’s QuickFire XT is another rock-solid, Cherry-equipped option. Cooler Master also offers an accessible tenkeyless board with its QuickFire Rapid, which dumps the numpad for a shorter reach to the mouse.

If you want exotic flavors of Cherry MX switches, like MX Greens, the QuickFire XT is one of the few mainstream keyboards to be offered with them, though availability of keyboards based on the Green switches is spotty.

The QuickFire Ultimate is an excellent alternative, too. It features the same Cherry MX switches as its siblings, plus a beefy chassis and full backlighting. We found it worthy of a TR Recommended award in our testing.

Cherry switches and quiet competence: Rosewill RK-9000V2

Rosewill’s RK-9000V2 is another TR Recommended award winner. This keyboard features the same Cherry MX key switches that we know and love in a slightly more bare-bones package than the Corsair Gaming K-series boards. The V2 refresh of the RK-9000 features a strengthened USB port that might solve the durability issues inherent to the original RK-9000’s USB connector. The RK-9000V2 doesn’t have a lot of extras, but we aren’t complaining at this price.

For something different: Topre’s Type Heaven

Next up, there’s the Editor’s Choice-winning Topre Type Heaven, which is outfitted with Topre’s trademark electrostatic capacitive switches. You can read all about this keyboard and its rather unique switch type in our review. It’s not a mechanical keyboard in the strictest sense, but it provides smoother, quieter action than conventional mechanical designs—without the mushiness typical of rubber domes. The one downside of Topre-equipped keyboards is their cost: the Type Heaven sells for $150, despite its minimal feature set.

The ergonomic option: Microsoft Sculpt

For those who want or need an ergonomic keyboard, Scott recommends Microsoft’s Sculpt. This wireless keyboard is designed with Microsoft’s classic ergonomic layout, but unlike the company’s older, rubber-dome-equipped Natural keyboards, the Sculpt uses high-quality scissor switches.

Scott praises the Sculpt’s organic shape and snappy switch feel, and he says the flat keys require less finger movement to actuate than the taller keys on most conventional keyboards. The Sculpt comes with a separate wireless numpad that can be put into position when needed and stowed away when not in use.

For the couch: Logitech K400, Hausbell Mini H7

Full-size mechanical keyboards are great, but they don’t work well in the living room. Lightweight wireless keyboards with integrated trackpads are much better choices. To that end, we recommend Logitech’s K400 and Hausbell’s Mini H7. The K400 is a nearly-full-sized keyboard with a multi-touch trackpad on its right side, while the Mini H7 is sort of like an oversized remote. Pick your poison.


Mice and controllers

Mice are inherently very personal devices. Like the keyboard, the mouse is under your hand for the better part of the day, so it’s important to find one that’s comfortable for your particular hands and fingers. For that reason, we’ll talk about each recommended mouse’s design and features, so that you can pick the one that best suits your needs.

We’ve also included a couple of game controllers in our recommendations, should you need or prefer one for some games.

Product Price
EVGA Torq X5 $49.99
SteelSeries Sensei Raw $50.49
Corsair Gaming M65 RGB $69.99
Logitech G502 Proteus Core $62.99
MadCatz RAT 7 $92.57
MadCatz RAT 9 (wireless) $138.99

Gaming mice
EVGA Torq X5

EVGA is best known for its hopped-up GeForce graphics cards, but the company makes solid gaming peripherals, too. The Torq X5 is a featherweight gaming mouse that we deemed worthy of a TR Recommended award. We especially liked its ambidextrous design, rubberized sides, and wide main buttons. Its light weight is perfect for fast-twitch gameplay. EVGA built the Torq X5 around an optical sensor, which some gamers might prefer to laser-based mice.

SteelSeries Sensei Raw

If the glossy white upper shell of the Torq X5 isn’t your thing, or you prefer a laser mouse, the SteelSeries Sensei Raw is a fine alternative at the same price point. Geoff likes its rubberized upper shell and customizable LED lighting, and its ambidextrous design is great for lefties and righties alike. The Sensei’s laser sensor features the requisite on-the-fly DPI adjustments we expect in gaming mice.

Corsair Gaming M65 RGB

For those looking for a more fully-featured rodent, or for those with wider hands, we suggest Corsair Gaming’s M65 RGB.

This laser mouse features a sniper button under the thumb for extra aiming precision when needed, and it has a tunable weight system that offers a 20.5-gram range of adjustment. Like the K70 RGB keyboard, the M65 RGB features independently-configurable RGB LEDs that can be set to any of 16.8 million colors each. For more information, check out our video review.

Logitech G502 Proteus Core

Love them or hate them, Logitech’s gaming mice are undeniably popular. I use the company’s latest high-end rodent, the G502 Proteus Core, as my daily driver. The G502’s long, contoured shape is great for palm-gripping, and the entire surface of the mouse is coated with a rubberized finish for a sure grip. Like the M65 RGB, the G502 features a sniper button under the thumb for precise aiming. The sensitivity of its optical sensor can also be adjusted with dedicated DPI buttons.

Logitech also includes five 3.6-gram tuning weights that can be added to the G502 to get its feel just right. Last but not least, Logitech includes its trademark dual-mode scroll wheel, which can switch between free-spinning and clicky modes on demand.

MadCatz RAT 7

For those who want to tune every inch of their mouse for maximum comfort, Geoff recommends the Editor’s Choice-worthy MadCatz RAT 7. This mouse bristles with adjustment screws that control its length and width. The pinky and palm rests are modular, too. If that isn’t enough tweakability, the body of the RAT 7 can hold up to five tuning weights. This mouse sees by way of a “twin-eye” laser sensor with adjustable sensitivity, and its twin scroll wheels are useful for making short work of large Excel spreadsheets. MadCatz also makes a wireless version dubbed the RAT 9.

Wireless mice

Most folks consider wired mice to be the best choice for gaming, but we appreciate the virtues of wireless mice, too. If you move your mouse between machines often or need to keep one in your laptop bag, a wireless rodent makes plenty of sense. With that in mind, our wireless recommendations veer more toward the productivity side of the spectrum.

Product Price
Logitech MX Master $99.99
Logitech M510 $31.97
Logitech M525 $32.99

Logitech MX Master

Logitech’s MX-series mice are generally regarded as some of the finest non-gaming mice you can buy. The latest iteration of that formula, the MX Master, appears to continue that trend. The Master’s main scroll wheel can automatically switch between clicky and free-spinning scrolling, and Logitech has added another scroll wheel under the thumb for horizontal movement. The Master can also store pairings with up to three different Bluetooth or Logitech Unifying recievers for those who move among different machines frequently.

Logitech M510 and M525

Just need a basic mouse? Logitech’s M510 and M525 should fit the bill. The M510 is a full-sized, ambidextrous laser mouse, while the M525 is a smaller design with an optical sensor that’s best suited for the laptop bag. Both feature Logitech’s Unifying receiver technology, and they have exceptionally long-lived batteries for worry-free operation on the go. Logitech claims that the M510 should be good for two years between battery changes, while the M525 can go for three.


Product Price
Microsoft Xbox One controller $56.80
Microsoft Xbox 360 controller (wired) $29.00
Microsoft Xbox 360 controller (wireless + receiver) $49.95

Microsoft Xbox 360 and Xbox One controllers

Some games just play better with a controller. For the PC, we think that Microsoft’s Xbox One and Xbox 360 controllers are the best things going. Which controller you buy is ultimately a matter of personal preference and budget, but Microsoft claims the Xbox One controller has 40 improvements versus its predecessor, including a new D-pad and improved triggers with haptic feedback. The Xbox One’s controller is limited to wired operation on the PC for now, though.

If the Xbone controller is too expensive, the Xbox 360 controller is still a fine piece of hardware, and it still has one trump card over the latest and greatest—while wireless support is purporedly coming for the Xbox One controller on the PC, the Xbox 360 controller can be used sans wires today.


Audio, backup solutions, and other useful gadgets

We appreciate high-quality sound at TR, and we have a few speaker and headphone recommendations in mind for listening to music, movies, and podcasts at the PC.

Product Type Price
Cyber Acoustics CA-3602 2.1 speakers $39.99
Creative Inspire T12 2.0 speakers $51.33
Sennheiser HD 558 Headphones $104.95
M-Audio Studiophile AV 30 2.0 studio monitors $84.99
M-Audio Studiophile AV 40 2.0 studio monitors $149.99
Audioengine A2+ 2.0 studio monitors $249.00

At the budget end of the spectrum, Scott recommends Cyber Acoustics’ CA-3602 and Creative’s Inspire T12. These are both stereo speaker setups that provide passable, albeit not exceptional, sound quality. Audiophiles need not apply, but these speakers should be fine for basic listening needs.

The most cost-effective way to get high-quality audio is probably to purchase a pair of good headphones. Geoff uses Sennheiser’s HD 555 cans, which have been discontinued and replaced by the HD 558. The HD 558 is based on a similar design, and judging by user reviews, it delivers an excellent experience for the money. Just be sure to use a decent sound card. (See our System Guide for recommendations on that front.)

Last, but not least, Bruno Ferreira, our resident coder and musician, has some suggestions for stereo studio monitor setups. M-Audio’s Studiophile AV 30s pack a lot of sound quality into a tiny package for only $85, while the Studiophile AV 40s offer bigger drivers and more power at $150. For an even higher-end option, the Audioengine A2+ sells for around $250. No matter which set you go with, these studio monitors should provide terrific audio fidelity for the money.

External storage and backups

We cover internal storage pretty extensively in our System Guide, but backups and external options are the realm of our staff picks. We’ve singled out a few options here, from a cloud backup service to a drive dock and 5.25″ card reader.

Product Type Price
CrashPlan Cloud backup service $4.00-$5.99/month
Thermaltake BlacX 5G 2.5″/3.5″ USB 3.0 drive dock $45.99
Kingston DataTraveler 128GB USB 3.0 thumb drive $49.99
Kingston HyperX DataTraveler 128GB USB 3.0 thumb drive $89.99
Enermax ECR301 5.25″ card reader, USB hub $36.99
Rosewill RDCR-11004 5.25″ card reader, USB hub $23.99

The easiest way to back up your data is probably to use a cloud service. Several of us have signed up with CrashPlan, which lets its customers back up an unlimited amount of data to the cloud for a monthly fee of $4 to $5.99. (The exact price depends on the contract length.)

CrashPlan locks up data using 448-bit encryption, and it offers the option to set a private password that won’t be kept on the company’s servers. The downside of this arrangement, of course, is that losing the password means saying goodbye to your data. The upside is that nobody else, save perhaps for the NSA, should be able to steal your files.

The big caveat with CrashPlan is that its restore speeds may not always be stellar. On multiple occasions, we’ve seen backups transfer at much less than 1MB/s. That may be sufficient for a one-off affair involving small files, but it’s no good for heavy-duty backups.

For local storage, we like Thermaltake’s BlacX 5G USB 3.0 drive dock. Any internal 3.5″ or 2.5″ drive can be inserted in the BlacX and connected to a PC via USB 3.0, which is awesomely convenient. And the BlacX isn’t just handy for backups; it can also help salvage data on hard drives recovered from failing or inoperable PCs.

Need something more portable? USB 3.0 thumb drives have come down in price quite a bit lately. Offerings like Kingston’s DataTraveler 128GB can be purchased for less than $70, and they’re capacious enough to store lots of important files: tax forms, photos, family videos, and so forth. Thanks to their USB 3.0 interfaces, these drives also tend to be much speedier than the sluggish thumb drives of old.

For even more throughput, you can choose a high-performance thumb drive like the HyperX DataTraveler 128GB, which claims speeds of up to 225MB/s for reads and 135MB/s for writes. Practially speaking, the performance is kind of shocking in regular use. It’s like carrying an SSD in your pocket, if you have a USB 3.0 port to take advantage.

Finally, if you’re building a full-sized desktop PC, chances are you’re going to have some unoccupied 5.25″ bays in your enclosure. It may be a good idea to populate one of them with something like Rosewill’s RDCR-11004, which offers card reading capabilities and a six-port USB hub (including two SuperSpeed ports). This may not count as external storage in the strictest sense of the term, but hey, it can’t hurt. The Enermax ECR301 is a good alternative if the Rosewill card reader is out of stock.

Other odds and ends

Product Type Price
Edimax EW-7811Un USB Wi-Fi adapter $9.99
NZXT Sentry 2 Fan controller (touch screen) $29.99
NZXT Sentry Mix 2 Fan controller (mechanical) $37.99

Plenty of folks stick PCI Express Wi-Fi adapters in their PCs. However, few are aware that bite-sized USB dongle adapters also exist—and that they’re tantalizingly inexpensive. Edimax’s EW-7811Un offers 802.11n connectivity for only $10. The small size and lack of external antennae might lead one to think the wireless reception isn’t great, but that doesn’t seem to be so. Out of over 900 Newegg reviewers, 72% awarded the dongle four or five stars, and only 13% gave it one star. Either way, it’s not much of a gamble at $10.

Most of the motherboards we recommend in our System Guides have pretty serviceable fan-control features built in, either in their firmware or in the Windows software that accompanies them. The thing is, motherboards only have a handful of fan headers. For systems with more fans than the motherboard can handle, a discrete fan controller is a wise purchase.

We’ve singled out a couple of recommendations here, both from NZXT. The Sentry 2 is the lower priced of the two; it supports up to five fans at 10W per channel, can monitor internal temperatures, and has a fancy touch screen. The Sentry Mix 2 doesn’t have a touch screen (fan speeds are controlled with mechanical sliders), nor does it sense temperatures, but it supports up to six fans at 30W per channel. Given that most case fans don’t draw anywhere near 10W, we’d probably lean toward the Sentry 2 ourselves.

Comments closed
    • JJAP
    • 4 years ago

    Monitor Suggestions/Alternatives

    TR: Acer H236HL bid 23″ 1920×1080 IPS $140
    My Alternative: ASUS VS239H-P $150
    Reason: For $10 more, you get a VESA mount and ASUS name.

    TR: Acer K272HUL bmiidp 27″ 2560×1440 AHVA $350
    TR: Asus PB278Q 27″ 2560×1440 PLS $450
    My Alternative: BenQ GW2765HT $360
    Reason: Even thought the Acer is simple to find at $300, $360 gets you a BenQ with a fully adjustable/rotate-able stand and vesa mount for $100 less than the Asus. Books are for reading, not propping up monitors! 🙂
    Review: [url<][/url<] 144mhz Suggestions: 24" TN 1080 -> LG 24GM77 $290 This is the latest and the one to beat, improving on the ASUS and BenQ models. If you just want the cheapest in the catgory, AOC can save you $50. 27" TN 1080 -> If you need 27", AOC G2770PQU has the cheapest at $350 27" TN 1440 FreeSync-> Acer XG270HU $500 Everything but IPS. [url<][/url<] 27" IPS 1440 G-Sync-> Acer Predator (XB270hubprz) $740 $240 gets you IPS and G-Sync instead of Freesync. Ouch. Here's hopin' the R9 390X hail-mary works.

    • Sabresiberian
    • 4 years ago

    Even on sites like this, with high quality editors, and readers with a technical knowledge generally a cut above the average, I still see some apparent misunderstandings about display panel technology.

    I suggest this article:

    [url<][/url<] The "tl;dr" version is that AU Optronics' AHVA and Samsung's PLS technologies are comparable to IPS; implying that there is something inherently "not as good as" a "true IPS" panel is misleading.

    • auxy
    • 4 years ago

    … where is the end of the article?

    Doesn’t it seem kind of abrupt to anyone else with no closing statement? (´・ω・`)

    • wiak
    • 4 years ago

    if you have a laptop without gigabit ethernet, this one is perfect

    • cynan
    • 4 years ago

    I don’t know about recommending the Audioengine A2+ for $250. Though they are nice, that’s getting to be a lot to pay for a pair of computer speakers with teeny tiny 2.75″ woofers.

    I would check out Simple Audio Listens, which can be frequently had recently for not much over $150. Woofers are not much larger at 3″, but if you can find them for less money than the A2+s, you are getting more for your money as they include Bluetooth and a decent DSP system that allows you to listen at higher volumes with bass heavy tracks without distorting with the smaller woofers. They also come with a remote and a nifty touchscreen (sort of) controls.

    But to get the best stereo sound for $250, you’re probably best off just going with a pair of sub $100 passive speakers with at least 4″ woofers and spending the rest on a stereo desktop amp.

      • Erebos
      • 4 years ago

      I agree.
      Actually apart from the Sennheiser that are decent, the rest of the speakers are overrated/outdated/overpriced.

      For <$100, I would recommend a pair of active 2.0 Edifier speakers. MDF cabinets beat plastic crap any day.
      For <$150, SMSL SA-60 stereo amp & Scythe Kro Craft 1100 speakers

      • morphine
      • 4 years ago

      The point of using studio monitors is forgoing the amp to begin with.

      I won’t contend the other points as I’m sure the market has shifted somewhat, but recommending amp + speakers over studio monitors for a computer setup, for the average user (and most non-average ones) isn’t the best idea.

      And I say that precisely because I’m doing exactly that, and already tired of it 🙂

        • cynan
        • 4 years ago

        And I am using a 2/2.1 stereo setup with my main computer with a separate amp and wholeheartedly disagree with your opinion 😛

        You don’t need to bother with a rack-sized piece of equipment just to have a separate amp. For example, there are digital and Tripath-based amps that are plenty small enough (and some inexpensive enough) to serve as a reasonable desktop solution.

    • NeelyCam
    • 4 years ago

    [quote<]Logitech's M510 and M525 should fit the bill. The M510 is a full-sized, ambidextrous laser mouse, while the M525 is a smaller design with an optical sensor that's best suited for the laptop bag.[/quote<] I would also personally recommend Logitech Anywhere MX: [url<][/url<] It really works [i<]anywhere[/i<], where the "regular" Logitech mice tend to have problems. I have one for each desktop (3) and one for my laptop.

      • Arbiter Odie
      • 4 years ago

      I would recommend it as well (we have three in the house, and our friends have one also), with one caveat: they develop a double clicking problem. I got mine in 2012ish, and it failed late 2014 by the left mouse button double and triple clicking every few clicks.
      One of the other mice did the same thing.

      But then I took it apart, epoxied the deformed plastic (I’m pretty sure it was designed to fail this way), and it’s back to normal. This goes for both mice.

    • Grape Flavor
    • 4 years ago

    If you’ve got some cash to burn then don’t forget about this one: [url<][/url<]

      • cynan
      • 4 years ago

      That display sure is interesting. Finally a compelling alternative to those 1600p Ultrasharps and similar for the gaming crowd that hopefully won’t end up costing too much more… Maybe I’ll be able to afford one when version 2 is released..

    • travbrad
    • 4 years ago

    I haven’t tried that specific Steelseries mouse, but I recently got a Steelseries Rival to replace my old Logitech MX518 (which finally broke) and have been impressed so far. It’s a really nice mouse for people with large hands especially (most “gaming” mice I looked at were significantly shorter length-wise). The high dpi stuff doesn’t matter at all to me but it’s a nice comfortable mouse with exactly as many buttons as I need.

    It’s pretty much exactly the same price as the Sensei Raw by the way, $50 or so.

    • dashbarron
    • 4 years ago

    Probably inviting the flames, but….

    No offerings of any rubber-domed keyboards? There surely must be something out there you think is decent. Not to mention they can be significantly cheaper. I’ve wanted to try out a mechanical keyboard, but I’ve been hesitant of the cost and lack of features.* I have a hard time buying a keyboard where I can get more useful features on another, albeit with supposed worse typing ability (though without trying one, I’ve yet to know what I’m missing; and I’ve never thought my typing has suffered).

    I have a Logitech G series keyboard, which has an addition of Macro keys, USB, and a LCD display. I find these pretty helpful, especially the LCD, in my day-to-day computing uses and gaming sessions. To me, these have become essential helpers. To head off the replies, when I bring this up, people say that’s useless frill unneeded…which is hard to understand seeing we’re on a site with a significant amount of gamers and hardware enthusiasts.

    There a lot of keyboard, and a lot of crappy ones too. But I was hoping you’d list a few of the other peasant boards 🙂

      • superjawes
      • 4 years ago

      The primary purpose of a keyboard is typing. While those features might be a quality of life improvement, many TR users (especially the gamers) find a greater QoL improvement from the improved switches. Seriously, try a mechanial keyboard and feel the difference.

      Also, on the topic of prices, these peripherals can be items that last a very long time. You don’t really need to spring for a new keyboard, mouse, monitor, and speakers every time you build a new machine. A good item can easily last through multiple hardware upgrade cycles.

        • Ninjitsu
        • 4 years ago

        True, my keyboard is now 17 years old.

      • Redundant
      • 4 years ago

      I opted for the Logitech G910. My first mechanical keyboard (well, since the 80s / 90s). I have had logitech keyboards for probably 10+ years aside from a failed detour occasionally. Coming from the led lighted board (dome), which was great and lasted around 6 years before the space bar began giving out. This lighted, corded board is still sold by Logitech for around $80 or so. Comfortable.

      I am extremely impressed with the G910’s mechanical switches and of course the G software is top notch. Pretty quiet for mechanical switches too. Being able to light groups of keys any color, and light each individual key any color, is something I didn’t think I’d care about; however, it turns out to be a fun and great way to organize the board. Then Logitech’s excellent macro ability is awesome even for productivity software. Some great reviews out there on the board, despite it not being well regarded around here. They did remove the LCD. However, it has a new dock for a Phone to use instead…which from the sound of your post, you would enjoy.

      • slowriot
      • 4 years ago

      TR generally only recommends devices they have reviewed or have personal experience using. If they haven’t been impressed by a rubber dome keyboard they’ve personally used then they’re not going to recommend one.

      So, send Logitech an email saying they should send one of their rubber dome gaming keyboards to TR. 😀 or me 😀 I’ll review it for you.

    • Ninjitsu
    • 4 years ago

    With mice, I’m usually annoyed by the excessively high hump – my hand isn’t big enough* to grasp the mouse properly.

    *Yeah, yeah I know. 😀

      • auxy
      • 4 years ago

      I have this problem too! Hehe. I modified my M95 with a blade to rectify the issue. (*´ω`*)

    • vargis14
    • 4 years ago

    If the Logitec G502 mouse is half as good as the $20 dollar cheaper G402 that has 5 adjustable on the fly DPI settings, Fantastic button placement and superb tracking that destroys my previous $80 Razer Imperator in design and functionality. I would recommend the G402 for anyone that is tough on their mice and have large hands. I have some big mitts and the G402 feels great and tracks great on any surface I have thrown at it except Glass.
    So I am Throwing a Big Rec at the 39.99 Logitec G402 if you want the same performance of the 502 for much less $.

    Also I have to say I am disappointed No 21/9 format monitors are on the list. Sure it is a Odd size but my 34″ LG UM95 3440×1440 99% RGB IPS 8it with 10bit via dithering monitor is a fantastic piece of equipment and is the same height at a 27″ IPS but you get a tons of extra real estate with 440 lines of resolution on either side of a standard 2560×1440 27″ monitor that can handle 2 inputs simultaneously and is about the best monitor made for movie editing and excel work that can be better explained on the LG website. Also doing SBS or 4 corner work with 2 different inputs or via one PC it easily can take the place of 2 24″ or 27″ 1080p monitors. I also believe it has a built in USB switch for using a single keyboard and mouse between 2 separate PC’s. In split screen it is like having 2 1720x 1440 5/4 format monitors which is a nice format that people seem to like to work on.

    Moving along.

    • hansmuff
    • 4 years ago

    The newegg link for the Audioengine A2+ is not working, as in, the newegg site doesn’t find that product via this link.

      • DancinJack
      • 4 years ago

      Works for me.

      [url<][/url<] Maybe they changed it?

    • tsk
    • 4 years ago

    Good TN panels close to IPS?
    I’d have to disagree with that.

      • Meadows
      • 4 years ago

      I’ll trust TR’s opinion over yours.

      • Krogoth
      • 4 years ago

      I don’t understand the whole fuss.

      The TN haters are people who got a bad taste in the month when they used early 2000s-era TNs which were bad. TNs have improved since then and their only apparent weakness versus IPS is viewing angles. It is a moot point unless you intend on using it as a second or third monitor.

        • cynan
        • 4 years ago

        Tell that to the crappy 22″ Dell TNs I’m stuck using at work at the moment.

        No, they’re not state of the art displays, but are only 3 years old and are gawdawful compared to my IPS display at home.

          • Meadows
          • 4 years ago

          And whose fault is that? And does that automatically mean these TNs are as bad?

            • cynan
            • 4 years ago

            [quote<]And whose fault is that? [/quote<] Whose fault is it that I am using cheap displays at work? You seem to think it somehow might be yours by the way your responding to my post. [quote<] And does that automatically mean these TNs are as bad?[/quote<] No. No it does not. Who implied otherwise?

        • Chrispy_
        • 4 years ago

        The very best TN’s (the ones that cost more than the vast majority of IPS panels) are comparable to eIPS.

        The vast majority of modern TN’s are low budget affairs with terrible viewing angles. I don’t care if a professional monitor uses a colorimiter to accurately measure TN’s contrast ratio as 1000:1, because that’s the contrast ratio viewed by a device that is [i<]perfectly[/i<] tangential to the screen. In reality, if you tilted the colorimiter on a [i<]good[/i<] TN panel by ten degrees, you'd find that contrast ratio plummets from 1000:1 to 50:1. On a [i<]bad[/i<] TN panel you'd find that it gives you a readout error, or result of -10:1 at the top of the screen (because the black spot it lighter than the white spot) and a 10:1 ratio at the bottom of the screen. IPS is not the faultless perfect technology IPS zealots claim it to be; Off-angle IPS glow means that in the corners (diagonal to both horzontal and vertical planes) there is a 'glow' from increased light leakage affecting the black point. This also has the affect of reducing the contrast ratio to 50:1 or so, just like on a good TN panel. Whilst both of these 50:1 ratios sound equally bad, the difference is how *much* of the panel still looks good. TN screens only have good contrast and accurate gamma in a narrow band horizonally across the center of the screen when viewed head-on. Anything above or below this band is at the wrong gamma and has reduced contrast. For IPS, the gamma is usually good across the whole panel and the low contrast only affects the corners.

          • Krogoth
          • 4 years ago

          It is a moot point for the masses. There’s a reason why CRTs were phased out in the mainstream market in favor of budget LCD panels (often TN units).

          It is vocal minority of videophiles who the exaggerate the viewing angles and color accuracy issues.

            • nexxcat
            • 4 years ago

            LCDs replaced CRTs because of space. TNs took over because the majority won’t see past prices, and TNs are inexpensive.

            We see this in other areas too; All-Clad may make superiour cookware, but i bet you their share of the non-professional markets is very small, dwarfed by less expensive alternatives that may or may not be as good.

    • aramisathei
    • 4 years ago

    Why isn’t the PS4 Dualshock controller ever recommended?
    It’s comfortable, completely functional with direct or xinput, and has a built-in trackpad while also being fully capable of bluetooth wireless.
    It’s quite nearly the perfect PC controller.
    All it requires over an Xbox controller is the free software InputMapper, which is quality software which is easy to use and doesn’t hijack your computer like Motioninjoy.

      • morphine
      • 4 years ago

      I’d wager because it’s a PITA to get games to use it.

      I know because I have a PS2 Dualshock one that I love, but it’s not something you can ever use directly in a game, especially the ones designed with the XBox controller in mind.

      • auxy
      • 4 years ago

      No official drivers… Σ(´∀`;) It’s sort of…

      • keltor
      • 4 years ago

      It’s pretty much recommended by tons of sites, TR doesn’t like it, oh well.

      The XBone remote also has problems with a LOT of older games, to the point of basically say it doesn’t work with many of them.

    • bean7
    • 4 years ago

    The [b<]Acer K272HUL bmiidp[/b<] has a -$50 promo code on NewEgg until May 1st, making it extra tempting 🙂 at $300. Edit: copied [url=<]link[/url<] from the article.

      • superjawes
      • 4 years ago

      Speaking of this monitor, Jeff says that it cannot be used with VESA mounts, but the Newegg page clearly says that the monitor is compatible at 100 x 100mm. Also the pictures show mounting holes on the rear of the monitor.

      Someone might want to get that looked at.

    • Walkintarget
    • 4 years ago

    My eyes are not what they used to be, so I find myself wearing cheap reading glasses everywhere these days, so 1440p is a no go for me. I’m drawn to the sheer size of the 27″ panels, but at the low resolution of 1080p. You mention 27″ and 1080p, and gamers look at you like you have leprosy these days.

    My short list of acceptable monitors led me to buy the BenQ EW2740L last month ($190 for a refurb=Sweet deal !!), only to have it arrive damaged with a broken screen. So I got my refund and continue to sit here awaiting another refurb to show up. A new panel is $90 more, so I am hoping to just wait it out until another refurb shows up.

    I really want a 27″ VA 1080p panel. Narrowing it down that far eliminates a lot of monitors, and the only competition for the BenQ is the Asus VN279QL.

      • DPete27
      • 4 years ago

      Have you actually used a 27″ 1080p monitor? In terms of pixels per inch:
      27″ 1440p = 109 pixels per inch.
      27″ 1080p = 82 pixels per inch.
      24″ 1080p = 92 pixels per inch.
      15.6″ 1600×900 laptop = 118 pixels per inch.

      For me, 1080p has no place in 27″ monitors. Everything starts looking pixelated at typical viewing distances. (try looking at your big screen TV from 2.5′ away)

      Simply use Windows’ DPI scaler to adjust the size of on-screen objects. (right click on desktop – screen resolution – “make text and other items larger or smaller”)

        • tootercomputer
        • 4 years ago

        Geez, I just got a 27″ ips (AOC) that is 1920 X 1080 and I thought it was pretty hot stuff, especially being ips (my first). But my eyes are not very good, like t he other fellow, I have to wear reading glasses a lot, but I certainly don’t experience everything as looking pixelated on that monitor, not by a long shot. And text looks great on it, I definitely notice a difference, almost to the point of not needing reading glasses.

        Sometimes, I think it’s all relative to our experience base. 1080P looked just so awesome on a big screen tv when it first came out. And still looked good . . . until I saw my first ultra HD at Best Buy. It blew me away, just like 1080P did back in 2006 – 2007.

        • Meadows
        • 4 years ago

        You could’ve briefly suggested DPI scaling without going into a tirade, considering his eyesight.

        Edit: Then again, DPI scaling still doesn’t help much because while everything will look sharper, he won’t see it anyway and if he plays games then he’ll need a more expensive GPU for nothing, too.

          • Chrispy_
          • 4 years ago

          DPI scaling is still a mess, even on Windows 10.

          It’s getting better but there’s just so much out there that doesn’t work properly if it’s not set to 100%

        • dashbarron
        • 4 years ago

        Ditto with Tootercomputer. I got a 27″ 1080 Ultrasharp monitor and I think it’s pretty darn swanky. I’m always afraid to get some bastardized aspect ratio. Plus there wasn’t anything besides 1080 at the time.

      • Walkintarget
      • 4 years ago

      I was able to view the BenQ EW2740L briefly (even with a cracked screen) and found it to be just fine for me. It’s 4″ larger than my current Acer 23″ TN panel, so I knew I had the right size and DPI, I just needed it to not be damaged !

      I ended up buying the Asus VN279QL last night for $250 – a bit more than I wanted to spend, but after splurging on a PCS+ 290X over a 290, why skimp on the display when you don’t skimp on the GPU ?

      Put it this way – even my current 23″ 1080p runs at 1440×900 due to my eyesight. Yea, 27″ at 1080p was a no-brainer. I’m 46, and my vision has been deteriorating since I was 42. Sucks, but we all get older – no way to avoid that.

        • JustAnEngineer
        • 4 years ago

        [url<][/url<] [url<][/url<] My mom's eyesight isn't great anymore, either.

          • Walkintarget
          • 4 years ago

          Thanks for the links, JAE ! Always good to shop around on such an important peripheral. I probably spent 12 hours researching my choice and looked at over 20 different models. Unfortunately, not a single B&M store near me had a 27″ 1080p or 1440p monitor to view.

          My issue was that I was tied to Amazon to buy, having $222 in GCs accumulated for over a year. That $250 price after rebate for the Asus 27″ is actually going to cost me $44 🙂

      • jessterman21
      • 4 years ago

      I recently picked up this 1080p 24″ VA panel for $120 (it’s frequently on sale). Love the contrast ratio 🙂


        • Walkintarget
        • 4 years ago

        Helluva deal there ! I think VA panels get overlooked compare to IPS these days, but once you’ve seen a black screen on a VA panel, as well as no BLB, you may change your mind. A quality VA panel is every bit as good at color than an IPS panel.

        I am size limited due to the hutch that my PC sits in – a 27″ just barely fits, so while a 24″ would be a good bargain, I wanted to give my eyes as much help as they could get and step up to the 27″.

          • cynan
          • 4 years ago

          I doubt most VA panels can reproduce colors as accurately and vibrantly as a half decent IPS. As you say, what they do offer is pretty great contrast and black levels for LCDs. Much better than IPS.

          I just switched my main TV from an IPS model to a newer VA model and these qualities are pretty apparent. I think the better blacks are winning me over vs the slightly inferior color vibrancy.

          A few years ago, I had the opposite experience with my main desktop display, going from a 24″ VA Ultrasharp to a 30″ IPS Ultrasharp.

          IPS panels also generally offer better horizontal viewing angles than VA.. But are still much better than the TNs of yore.

      • Walkintarget
      • 4 years ago

      Received the Asus VN279QL on Saturday – out went the Acer 23″ TN and in went this big Asus 27″. I gotta say, a panel upgrade is never as subtle as a video card upgrade – its immediately noticeable and substantially larger in display area.

      The brightness was waaaay too high – opening Thunderbird caused retina searing whiteness like looking at the sun directly for a second or two. I cranked it down from 100 to 35, and even that is a bit too high for my liking, but my eyes are getting adjusted to it. The only annoyance so far is the buttons to adjust the OSD are on the backside of the panel, so it was darn near impossible to get the correct button press to adjust contrast, brightness, etc. I’m gonna break out the manual tonight and get it more dialed in.

      Played Skyrim for an hour last night, and immediately noticed that Boethia’s ebony armor (armor that emits a poisonous cloud around it) was noticeably darker and more present than on my old TN panel. In true VA panel fashion, the blacks are ink black on this VA. I even noted sweat droplets on the belly of a female Forsworn raider that I had never seen before, so for me a new, bigger panel is already making my games more immersive and impressive.

      I’m running it at native res and found the DPI to be a non-issue. Text is readable, albeit still using my readers. I might be able to read some content without, but I’m used to wearing them now, so no big deal. Sadly, webpages are not at all optimized for all that screen, so I either stare at 3″ white borders or shrink the screen down and have easier access to Winamp aside of the browser. After using my Amazon GCs and rebate, this panel will end up costing me $36. 🙂

    • DragonDaddyBear
    • 4 years ago

    Looking at the ratings of the RAT9 on the Egg and the recent obituary for a RAT7 I’m thinking I won’t be buying one.

    • PrincipalSkinner
    • 4 years ago

    Need a recommendation for a wireless office mouse.
    I got a Logitech Performance MX which is a great mouse if I turn a blind eye on a microswitch problem.

    • tootercomputer
    • 4 years ago

    I’m all for guides like this, and appreciate it, but would be much more appreciative of good solid hardware reviews comparing components across a variety of pertinent metrics.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 4 years ago

    Totally with you guys on the CM QuickFire keyboards. Unfortunately for the readers, the $90 QuickFire XT with MX Browns is out of stock on Newegg. Also out of stock on Amazon.

      • UberGerbil
      • 4 years ago

      I wonder if that means there’s a new model imminent.

    • ozzuneoj
    • 4 years ago

    No gaming oriented displays under $599? I’ve been thinking about a 144hz panel with some form of motion blur reduction without gsync…Trying to keep the price as low as possible. There seem to be a few in the $350 range. Any recommendations TR? Will be running it on a gtx 970.

      • anotherengineer
      • 4 years ago

      Just an fyi motion blur typically works at 120HZ and lower.

      [url<][/url<] [url<][/url<] I think I could live with a little blur and ULMB basically make the backlight strobe at a given frequency. Blur reduced, but bothered eyes and headaches up, at least for me.

      • Disinclined
      • 4 years ago

      This is where I’d like to see current GPUs that best suit the display. I don’t see how you will fully drive one of these 2560×1440 144 hz panels with a 970. Depending on the game you would probably find yourself dropping down to 1080p and disabling many visual effects to get up to 144 fps.

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