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Best Intel Z390 Motherboards- from Budget-Friendly to Great Overclocker

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MSI MEG Z390 Godlike

With the advent of the 10th generation Intel processors, you might ask why people would still want to buy a Z390 motherboard given the new CPUs. Well, that is because Intel i9-9900Ks are sold at a cheaper price now making them more appealing for people that want to play games at higher frame rates.

In today’s article, I will recommend some of the best Intel Z390 motherboards from budget-friendly to great overclockers.

The Platform

The Z390 line of motherboards is a series of boards that allow you to overclock Intel’s 9th Generation CPUs. This includes the i5-9600K, i7-9700K, and the i9-9900K and all of its overclockable variants.

The Z-series motherboards provide overclocking capabilities, as well as features that are normally not found in the B or H-series boards.

That being said, while there are plenty of Z390 boards out there, some of them are just so bad that you should avoid them like the plague.

You might also be asking why you should go for the more expensive Z390 motherboards as opposed to the slightly cheaper Z370 variant. Well, the biggest difference between the two is that the Z390 boards come with both WiFi AC support, as well as USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports which provide more data throughput than your standard USB 3.0.

Anyway, without any further delay, here are the best Intel Z390 motherboards:

Best Intel Z390 Motherboards

1.Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Pro

Price: $189

Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Pro

Gigabyte offers some of the best Z390 motherboards on the market and the Aorus Pro is a testament to that. Priced at under $200, this is definitely one of the boards you should be looking at, especially if you are looking to overclock your 9th generation Intel processors.

It has a bevy of ports at the back with the option to utilize some USB 3.0 headers on the front of your PC case.

The reason why I recommend this for people who are looking to overclocking their CPUs is that this thing has some pretty competitive VRMs. Not only that but they do not run as hot as the others which means that there is a lot of overclocking headroom to be had here.

Although the BIOS interface needs some work, once you’ve studied it, it actually provides all of the right options- you just have to know where to look. If Gigabyte had put some time and effort into streamlining the process, it would have been better.

You have a couple of M.2 slots that allow you to insert high-speed SSDs so if you want fast performance across the board, this is the one to get.

2.Asus ROG Maximus XI Hero WiFi

Price: $440

Asus ROG Maximus XI Hero WiFi

The ‘Hero’ line of motherboards from Asus is considered to be a midrange board but I am actually blown away by the capabilities of the Asus ROG Maximus XI Hero WiFi.

As you can tell by the name, this comes with WiFi modules that allow you to connect to your home network wirelessly so you do not have to buy a separate card for that.

The aesthetics of this thing is nothing short of awesome. There are some RGB lighting zones located on the VRM area, as well as the chipset area on the lower right corner.

Aside from a lot of USB ports located at the back, you do have the option to use the front-panel headers on the board itself for your chassis as well.

A lot of enthusiasts use this board to overclock their Intel i9 SKUs to great effect and I am pretty sure that you are going to get considerably better results as well.

Although it is a bit expensive, especially considering that there are already Z490 motherboards populating the market, the Asus ROG Maximus XI Hero WiFi certainly deserves your attention for what it can offer.

3.MSI MEG Z390 Godlike

Price: $600

MSI MEG Z390 Godlike

I normally do not want to recommend high-end boards simply because not a lot of people can afford them, but if you want one of the best, you simply have to spend a lot of money on it.

The MSI MEG Z390 Godlike is probably the motherboard to get if you want to get the most out of your overclockable Intel chip. Its BIOS interface is one of the easiest to use and its overclocking performance is unparalleled.

But, you might be thinking why this board is so expensive. Well, there are a couple of reasons why.

First is the components that are used. When you glance at this product, you will know that it is made of high-quality materials to ensure longevity and amazing performance.

Second, it has plenty of USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports that you can use so if you want the best data throughput out there, this is the thing to get.

As is customary for high-end motherboards, this thing is also equipped with the latest Killer 1550 WiFi module which provides excellent wireless connectivity at all times.

Seriously, this thing is aesthetically pleasing that I am sure some people are willing to spend some extra cash just to get their hands on this beauty.

I do have to point out that while there is a lot to love about the Z390 Godlike, it doesn’t have inherent 10GBps ethernet and its storage performance, while admirable, is a cut below the rest.

4.AsRock Z390 Phantom Gaming ITX

Price: $190

AsRock Z390 Phantom Gaming ITX

While most people like standard ATX motherboards for the features and build quality, there are some people that value compact form factor more than anything else.

If you are part of the demographic and you want an ITX motherboard that can handle even the power-hungry i9-9900K, the AsRock Z390 Phantom Gaming ITX is one of the best out there.

It has a rather simple aesthetic but it can actually be a good thing. There are some lights at the bottom which you can adjust by using the company’s RGB software.

The board has competitive VRMs which means that you can overclock your processor nicely and it is one of the only boards that have a Thunderbolt 3 port.

Now, if you’ve just received this board, I highly recommend that you update its BIOS to the latest version. That is because of the DIMM overvoltage which could prove to be dangerous to your RAM kits.

You see, there was a firmware bug that misreports the voltage that your RAM sticks get from the board and you know that overvoltage will result in the loss of the chip of the product itself.

Subsequent BIOS updates have remedied this issue so if you are looking to get this one, do not forget to do this single step.

Even though this board has a Thunderbolt 3 port, its maximum throughput is only capped at 20GBps which is effectively half of the speed of the said port. This is a hardware thing and, sadly, it cannot be fixed with a BIOS update.

Still, an ITX motherboard with a TB3 port is almost unheard of so if you want a compact Z390 motherboard with all of the goodies, the Asrock Z390 Phantom Gaming ITX is the one that you’re looking for.

5.Gigabyte Z390 Designare

Price: $270

Gigabyte Z390 Designare

A board that is designed for content creators, the Gigabyte Z390 Designare is actually a pretty good all-around motherboard as well.

By nature, you can overclock with this thing since this is a Z-series motherboard but when compared to its competitors, it is a middling performer at best.

The reason why I recommend this one is that while this is not a great motherboard for overclocking, it still has some nifty features that people would love.

First, it’s got a wealth of ports located on the headers on the board itself, as well as the back IO panel.

Second, it has Bluetooth 5 and Intel Thunderbolt 3 port and what’s more, the latter provides its maximum throughput so there are no compromises there.

Although the board looks tame when it is not powered on, there are still some RGB lighting zones located at strategic positions on the board itself so it would still look quite nice when everything is set up.

One of its hallmark features is its ability to turn the third x16 slot into PCH or CPU lanes depending on your preference. This is not something that you can find on other boards on the market.

Its audio solution is also one of the best among the Z390 series boards so if you are an audiophile and you have a pretty good pair of headphones, the Gigabyte Z390 Designare is a pretty good and compelling motherboard for you.

6.Asus ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming

Price: $260

Asus ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming

Most ITX motherboards usually are not good to look at as some companies are trying to get the board to be as small as can be. Well, the last board on this list has no compromises, especially for an ITX board.

The Asus ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming is yet another amazing ITX motherboard on this list. Despite its small form factor, its competitive VRM solution allows you to overclock your 9th generation Intel chip to a stable 5GHz or more. Plus, you can also overclock your RAM sticks as well without any issues.

It comes with dual m.2 slots for high-speed storage and it has some addressable RGB headers if you wish to use the company’s Aura Sync program to control your fans and whatnot.

I am surprised that this thing comes with the ALC1220A audio codec for amazing audio performance no matter if you are using your favorite headphones or PC Speakers.

It is also quite nice that its PCIe x16 slot can bring out the best in your graphics card, so if you plan on playing those triple-A titles, you can do so without any issues.

The only issue here is the price but if you are looking for another compelling ITX board, the Asus ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming is definitely worth considering.

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Amazon Luna- Everything You Need to Know About Amazon’s Cloud Gaming Service

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Amazon Luna

It seems that cloud gaming is the future as a lot of companies are pooling their resources just to make things happen.

Amazon Luna is Amazon’s foray into cloud gaming and it is going to be available soon. Read further to find out more information about this new experience.

Channel-based Platform

Amazon Luna Platform

Google has paved the way for cloud gaming to come to the fore with the release of the Stadia not too long ago. Although it was mired with a lot of different issues, it seems that the company has found a way to make things work.

Amazon also wants in on the action and although there are some similarities with Luna and Stadia, there are also some stark differences as well.

Before I begin, I just want to explain the concept of cloud gaming. Basically, instead of downloading games to your gaming PC or whatever platform you choose to install them, you will just stream those games using data centers that are scattered all over the world.

It should go without saying that you need to have a fast internet connection to make this happen and so that you will not experience high latency (which was a huge problem when Stadia launched).

That being said, the premise of Google Stadia is that you need to either purchase an individual game so that you can play it at any time (forever) or you could subscribe to the monthly plan and play the games that are on offer every month (and continue to play them so long as you’re subscribed).

With Amazon Luna, you will be presented with different channels that you can subscribe to. Each of these channels has different games on offer which makes this quite appealing for game developers to show their mettle.

Right now, the platform is still in beta and there are only two channels available at the moment- Amazon’s own Luna Plus and the Ubisoft Channel. The latter will have 50 games that you can play right away and more Ubisoft games will be added in the future.

Keep in mind that this channel-based system makes it so that developers can price their services accordingly. It remains to be seen how much Ubisoft will charge individual users, so stay tuned for that.

1080p and 4K Gaming

Just like Google Stadia, Amazon Luna will support both 1080p and 4K resolutions. Of course, the latter would be more taxing and you will need a fast internet connection to be able to enjoy high-fidelity gaming. I suggest that you get a WiFi 6 router and a compatible device to make the most out of your experience.

Cross-Platform Support

Amazon Luna Cross-Platform

Unlike Stadia, Amazon Luna is more flexible in that it supports a lot of different devices. Not only can you play on your PC, but you can also choose to play it using your iOS devices, Android phones, and you can even utilize the company’s own FireTV devices as well.

Now, there has been this entire debacle about Apple’s 30% cut on every app in its App store but the good news is that Amazon can circumvent that.

You see, when you are going to play on your iOS devices, the application will actually be a PWA or a Progressive Web App. Basically, the game that you want to play will run in a contained web browser instead of it being an actual application that you install in your device. This bypasses the whole 30% cut issue which is a good thing.

NVIDIA Hardware Use

According to a recent Steam survey, the vast majority of PC users are all using NVIDIA graphics cards. This is a good thing for Amazon Luna because it means that it can support a lot more people.

That is because the company’s cloud gaming service will use NVIDIA GPUs instead of AMD cards (which Stadia uses for graphics processing).

Supposing that Amazon Luna will be more popular than any other cloud gaming service out there, NVIDIA will enjoy huge profits as a result.

Can Be Streamed to Popular Sites

Amazon Luna Controller

Twitch is arguably the most popular streaming platform today and Amazon is looking to forge a partnership with the said service to allow you to stream your games to the popular website.

The said platform is widely used as a means of generating revenue- something that is quite popular today due to the recent pandemic.

This move also makes it appealing as well as more and more content creators can use Amazon Luna to reach a broader audience.

New Controller with Alexa Support

Amazon Luna Controller 2

Just like Google Stadia, Amazon Luna also requires you to get a special controller. The good thing is that the control will have a microphone so that you can use Alexa for specific voice commands.

What’s interesting about the Luna’s controller is that it is completely connected to the Cloud, which means that you do not have to pair it with the specific device you are going to use to play games online.

According to Amazon’s website, it should have a grippy texture and will feature low-friction thumbsticks that provide maximum performance across the board. By using the controller’s microphone, you can actually tell Alexa to fire up the specific game that you want to play, so long as it is inside the channel that you’ve subscribed to.

Conclusion

Amazon Luna is quite enticing, at least, on paper. It is shaping up to be a better cloud gaming service compared to its competitors but the service is still in beta, so there are more things that need ironing out before its official release.

Right now, there are only two channels that are available and Ubisoft hasn’t imposed its pricing yet. The Amazon Luna channel is priced at $6.99

If you are interested in getting in on the action, you can be an early beta tester by subscribing to the service.

Amazon Luna will be out sometime in October.

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Acer Nitro XV340CK Review- A Greatly Competitive Ultrawide Gaming Monitor Under $500

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Acer Nitro XV340CK Review

Ultrawide monitors used to be a niche display in that the only people who work on productivity tasks and creative workloads usually buy them.

Fortunately, the display technology has evolved and gamers, too, can enjoy a much wider screen.

Today, I am going to review the Acer Nitro XV340CK which is a 34-inch ultrawide gaming monitor that is priced competitively. 

Design

Even though this is marketed as a gaming monitor, the Acer Nitro XV340CK actually doesn’t look like it. It looks simple and I love the aesthetics, especially if you want to place this in your office.

The only thing that might make you think that this is a gaming display is that red accent that you can find on the base of the monitor but that’s about it.

Anyway, let’s start with the stand. Aside from the aforementioned red accent, the stand provides good ergonomics.

It gives you the ability to swivel the monitor a complete 360 degrees, you can tilt it to 35 degrees back and you can adjust the height up to 5.9 inches. Because this is an ultrawide monitor, you cannot put this thing in portrait mode.

I love the fact that this monitor has slim bezels. At only 0.4 inches, you can place another monitor right beside it and it wouldn’t really take a lot of screen real estate at all.

The overall build quality is good. Despite the fact that it doesn’t feel premium, at least when compared to the best gaming monitors out there, it still feels sturdy nevertheless.

For the ports, you get two Displayport 1.4 ports, two HDMI 2.0 ports, and two USB 3.0 ports. Due to the wealth of ports on offer, you can use this for your PC or your game console.

The only thing that might be cumbersome for some users is that the OSD controls are situated at the back of the monitor- particularly on the bottom right side. The buttons are also a bit smaller than usual, so you may have a hard time pressing the right ones.

Display

Acer Nitro XV340CK Review 2020

The Acer Nitro XV340CK has a 34-inch IPS display with a resolution of 3440 x 1440 and an aspect ratio of 21:9. It is the same as other ultrawide gaming monitors that you can find on the market so there is no problem with that.

You do have the option to enable the picture-in-picture mode so that you can divide the display in two if you wish to fire up two different programs at the same time. This is why it is not only a handy gaming monitor, but it can also be used for office work as well.

Its contrast and brightness leave much to be desired. With a native contrast ratio of 1048:1 and peak SDR brightness of only 247 nits, it is not the best display when it comes to these things.

However, its redeeming quality is that its colors are accurate. After calibration, I got 95% sRGB, 82% AdobeRGB, and 81% DCI-P3. It is relatively color accurate and it would have been nice for creative workloads, but its peak brightness just falls short of making it an ideal display for such use-cases.

It is also worth noting that if you are in a well-lit room that the brightness could be a huge issue. The good thing is that the display’s matte finish can help reduce glare significantly, though you will still find that it is not bright enough in some situations.

I am surprised by the fact that there is literally no color bleed on the Acer Nitro XV340CK. This is unheard of, especially since ultrawide monitors are notorious for this.

Performance

Sure, its peak brightness and contrast could have improved, but gamers are not especially focused on those things. If anything, it is the performance of the display that usually takes the cake and I am happy to report that you won’t be disappointed with the Nitro XV340CK.

Normally, with IPS panels, they tend to not have a good response time, but that is actually not the case here. At just 5.3ms, it is definitely one of the best out there even when compared to other, more premium models.

How about input lag? This is a speed monitor and as expected, input lag is minimal. At just 4.2ms, I am really blown away by the performance of this thing. Every keypress on your gaming keyboard will register almost immediately and that is really great from a competitive standpoint.

It is also worth noting that its 144Hz refresh rate is ideal, especially since most gamers are clamoring for high refresh rate displays anyway.

This is a FreeSync gaming monitor and you can enable this variable refresh rate feature in both AMD and Nvidia graphics cards.

To get a hold of the said features, it is important for you to know that you should use the DisplayPort cable that is included in the box. There is also an included HDMI cable if you want to use this display for your Xbox or Playstation consoles.

Acer Nitro XV340CK

Verdict

With all of those things being said, if I were to ask you how much this thing costs, what will be your guess? If you’ve guessed around $700, you’re wrong.

The Acer Nitro XV340CK is priced at just $450! At that price, you are getting a relatively color-accurate monitor, a really fast display with minimal input lag, and a vast number of ports that you can use for your PC or game consoles.

Sure, its contrast and peak brightness could have been improved, but if you are talking about raw gaming performance, the Acer Nitro XV340CK blows other ultrawide gaming monitors out of the way.

Just make sure that you have a nice gaming PC for this thing to work nicely. Other than that, I highly recommend the Acer Nitro XV340CK for its price and performance.

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HyperX Cloud Stinger S- A Comfortable 7.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset

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HyperX Cloud Stinger S Review

As an audiophile, I’ve always loved HyperX’s gaming audio solution. They are inexpensive and for the price, you are actually getting sound quality that you normally would only hear from expensive products.

In today’s article, I am going to review the HyperX Cloud Stinger S. This is a budget offering that aims to improve upon the original Cloud Stinger with the inclusion of a 7.1 surround sound option.

Do I recommend this headset? Find out later on in the article.

Design

The HyperX Cloud Stinger S is actually quite similar to the original version. It has the same pleather ear cups that envelope your ears quite nicely and the clamping force of the headset itself is actually quite okay.

I’ve been receiving reports that there are some people that have problems with the tightness or, shall I say, how loose this thing can be. But that will probably be a result of the size of your head and not the actual product itself. For me, the fit was okay, but your mileage may vary.

Although this thing is predominantly made in plastic, the overall build quality is good, though I would advise you not to throw this headset when you lose a round in a MOBA game or first-person shooter.

There is a microphone on this headset and just like the original, it is not removable. It would have been nice if you could remove it when you are not using it because even if you fold the microphone (which also acts as a way of muting it), you will still see it which can be annoying at times.

This thing is quite simple and all you have for the controls is the volume slider that is located on the right ear cup. 

While other HyperX gaming headsets come with a carrying pouch, I am sad to say that the HyperX Cloud Stinger S doesn’t have one.

All you get in the box aside from the headset is a USB dongle that is attached to a relatively long cable and some documentation. And, since you use this thing completely wired, it can also be used in your Playstation or other game consoles as well.

The 3.5mm analog cable should be inserted in the USB dongle if you wish to use its 7.1 surround sound implementation, but if you are just going to watch movies or play non-competitive games, I suggest that you do not use it.

Audio Quality

HyperX Cloud Stinger S Review 2020

There are two modes that you can utilize if you are going to use the HyperX Cloud Stinger S. You can use its 3.5mm headphone jack and enjoy stereo sound or you could insert that into the included USB dongle and use the 7.1 surround sound feature.

Keep in mind that if you are going to use the 7.1 output that it is only supported on the PC since you will need the NGENUITY software to enable it.

That being said, the HyperX Cloud Stinger S’ sound signature leans more toward being bright and with a little emphasis on the bass. This seems to be the preference of the majority of gamers since lower frequencies can make those in-game sounds pop-out more.

I also love the mid frequencies as it is quite balanced as well. I’ve had no problems listening to in-game dialog and when I am using the microphone, it just works really well.

Although the high frequencies are okay, I would say that it is the weakest of the bunch, though not so much as to diminish the overall sound quality. You will still hear the sibilance of the cymbals and lead guitars, but it is not as pronounced as the lower and mid frequencies.

As for the 7.1 surround sound, you should enable it in the companion software and it is only available when you are on the PC.

Anyway, its surround sound is okay but I say this because it is a budget gaming headset. If you compare it to the more premium ones, this is subpar at best. Still, you could enable it in your favorite games but I will advise against it if you are just listening to music or watching movies.

Despite a relatively good clamping force, the HyperX Cloud Stinger S doesn’t do so well in terms of sound isolation. People around me can still hear what I was listening to, so this might not be ideal if you are playing at night and there are people sleeping.

Microphone Quality

HyperX Cloud Stinger S

There is usually this notion that budget headsets have horrible microphones but not the HyperX Cloud Stinger S. In fact, I would go on to say that it has one of the better ones on the market.

Instead of sounding tinny, the microphone quality of the Cloud Stinger S is full-bodied and my teammates can hear every word I said without any problems.

The volume of the microphone is also quite good as well. Normally, with budget offerings, you tend to sound a bit ‘too far’ but that is not the case here.

Overall, I am quite pleased with the microphone. The only thing that I do not like is that the flippable microphone may impede your vision sometimes, but I think that you can adjust to this.

Verdict

For a budget headset, the HyperX Cloud Stinger S is definitely one of the better sounding ones. I also love the fact that the microphone’s quality is top-notch and it can even go head-to-head against its more premium counterparts.

I am just a bit disappointed that you do not get a carrying pouch with this one because other HyperX gaming headsets have them. But, this is a minor inconvenience.

I did not feel the need to talk about the NGENUITY software mainly because it is pretty barebones and all you can do with it is to enable the 7.1 surround sound, adjust the volume and microphone, and that’s about it. There is no equalizer present which is quite odd.

Still, for what it is giving you, the HyperX Cloud Stinger S is highly recommended. This thing costs $60.

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Best Intel Z390 Motherboards- from Budget-Friendly to Great Overclocker

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MSI MEG Z390 Godlike

With the advent of the 10th generation Intel processors, you might ask why people would still want to buy a Z390 motherboard given the new CPUs. Well, that is because Intel i9-9900Ks are sold at a cheaper price now making them more appealing for people that want to play games at higher frame rates.

In today’s article, I will recommend some of the best Intel Z390 motherboards from budget-friendly to great overclockers.

The Platform

The Z390 line of motherboards is a series of boards that allow you to overclock Intel’s 9th Generation CPUs. This includes the i5-9600K, i7-9700K, and the i9-9900K and all of its overclockable variants.

The Z-series motherboards provide overclocking capabilities, as well as features that are normally not found in the B or H-series boards.

That being said, while there are plenty of Z390 boards out there, some of them are just so bad that you should avoid them like the plague.

You might also be asking why you should go for the more expensive Z390 motherboards as opposed to the slightly cheaper Z370 variant. Well, the biggest difference between the two is that the Z390 boards come with both WiFi AC support, as well as USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports which provide more data throughput than your standard USB 3.0.

Anyway, without any further delay, here are the best Intel Z390 motherboards:

Best Intel Z390 Motherboards

1.Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Pro

Price: $189

Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Pro

Gigabyte offers some of the best Z390 motherboards on the market and the Aorus Pro is a testament to that. Priced at under $200, this is definitely one of the boards you should be looking at, especially if you are looking to overclock your 9th generation Intel processors.

It has a bevy of ports at the back with the option to utilize some USB 3.0 headers on the front of your PC case.

The reason why I recommend this for people who are looking to overclocking their CPUs is that this thing has some pretty competitive VRMs. Not only that but they do not run as hot as the others which means that there is a lot of overclocking headroom to be had here.

Although the BIOS interface needs some work, once you’ve studied it, it actually provides all of the right options- you just have to know where to look. If Gigabyte had put some time and effort into streamlining the process, it would have been better.

You have a couple of M.2 slots that allow you to insert high-speed SSDs so if you want fast performance across the board, this is the one to get.

2.Asus ROG Maximus XI Hero WiFi

Price: $440

Asus ROG Maximus XI Hero WiFi

The ‘Hero’ line of motherboards from Asus is considered to be a midrange board but I am actually blown away by the capabilities of the Asus ROG Maximus XI Hero WiFi.

As you can tell by the name, this comes with WiFi modules that allow you to connect to your home network wirelessly so you do not have to buy a separate card for that.

The aesthetics of this thing is nothing short of awesome. There are some RGB lighting zones located on the VRM area, as well as the chipset area on the lower right corner.

Aside from a lot of USB ports located at the back, you do have the option to use the front-panel headers on the board itself for your chassis as well.

A lot of enthusiasts use this board to overclock their Intel i9 SKUs to great effect and I am pretty sure that you are going to get considerably better results as well.

Although it is a bit expensive, especially considering that there are already Z490 motherboards populating the market, the Asus ROG Maximus XI Hero WiFi certainly deserves your attention for what it can offer.

3.MSI MEG Z390 Godlike

Price: $600

MSI MEG Z390 Godlike

I normally do not want to recommend high-end boards simply because not a lot of people can afford them, but if you want one of the best, you simply have to spend a lot of money on it.

The MSI MEG Z390 Godlike is probably the motherboard to get if you want to get the most out of your overclockable Intel chip. Its BIOS interface is one of the easiest to use and its overclocking performance is unparalleled.

But, you might be thinking why this board is so expensive. Well, there are a couple of reasons why.

First is the components that are used. When you glance at this product, you will know that it is made of high-quality materials to ensure longevity and amazing performance.

Second, it has plenty of USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports that you can use so if you want the best data throughput out there, this is the thing to get.

As is customary for high-end motherboards, this thing is also equipped with the latest Killer 1550 WiFi module which provides excellent wireless connectivity at all times.

Seriously, this thing is aesthetically pleasing that I am sure some people are willing to spend some extra cash just to get their hands on this beauty.

I do have to point out that while there is a lot to love about the Z390 Godlike, it doesn’t have inherent 10GBps ethernet and its storage performance, while admirable, is a cut below the rest.

4.AsRock Z390 Phantom Gaming ITX

Price: $190

AsRock Z390 Phantom Gaming ITX

While most people like standard ATX motherboards for the features and build quality, there are some people that value compact form factor more than anything else.

If you are part of the demographic and you want an ITX motherboard that can handle even the power-hungry i9-9900K, the AsRock Z390 Phantom Gaming ITX is one of the best out there.

It has a rather simple aesthetic but it can actually be a good thing. There are some lights at the bottom which you can adjust by using the company’s RGB software.

The board has competitive VRMs which means that you can overclock your processor nicely and it is one of the only boards that have a Thunderbolt 3 port.

Now, if you’ve just received this board, I highly recommend that you update its BIOS to the latest version. That is because of the DIMM overvoltage which could prove to be dangerous to your RAM kits.

You see, there was a firmware bug that misreports the voltage that your RAM sticks get from the board and you know that overvoltage will result in the loss of the chip of the product itself.

Subsequent BIOS updates have remedied this issue so if you are looking to get this one, do not forget to do this single step.

Even though this board has a Thunderbolt 3 port, its maximum throughput is only capped at 20GBps which is effectively half of the speed of the said port. This is a hardware thing and, sadly, it cannot be fixed with a BIOS update.

Still, an ITX motherboard with a TB3 port is almost unheard of so if you want a compact Z390 motherboard with all of the goodies, the Asrock Z390 Phantom Gaming ITX is the one that you’re looking for.

5.Gigabyte Z390 Designare

Price: $270

Gigabyte Z390 Designare

A board that is designed for content creators, the Gigabyte Z390 Designare is actually a pretty good all-around motherboard as well.

By nature, you can overclock with this thing since this is a Z-series motherboard but when compared to its competitors, it is a middling performer at best.

The reason why I recommend this one is that while this is not a great motherboard for overclocking, it still has some nifty features that people would love.

First, it’s got a wealth of ports located on the headers on the board itself, as well as the back IO panel.

Second, it has Bluetooth 5 and Intel Thunderbolt 3 port and what’s more, the latter provides its maximum throughput so there are no compromises there.

Although the board looks tame when it is not powered on, there are still some RGB lighting zones located at strategic positions on the board itself so it would still look quite nice when everything is set up.

One of its hallmark features is its ability to turn the third x16 slot into PCH or CPU lanes depending on your preference. This is not something that you can find on other boards on the market.

Its audio solution is also one of the best among the Z390 series boards so if you are an audiophile and you have a pretty good pair of headphones, the Gigabyte Z390 Designare is a pretty good and compelling motherboard for you.

6.Asus ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming

Price: $260

Asus ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming

Most ITX motherboards usually are not good to look at as some companies are trying to get the board to be as small as can be. Well, the last board on this list has no compromises, especially for an ITX board.

The Asus ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming is yet another amazing ITX motherboard on this list. Despite its small form factor, its competitive VRM solution allows you to overclock your 9th generation Intel chip to a stable 5GHz or more. Plus, you can also overclock your RAM sticks as well without any issues.

It comes with dual m.2 slots for high-speed storage and it has some addressable RGB headers if you wish to use the company’s Aura Sync program to control your fans and whatnot.

I am surprised that this thing comes with the ALC1220A audio codec for amazing audio performance no matter if you are using your favorite headphones or PC Speakers.

It is also quite nice that its PCIe x16 slot can bring out the best in your graphics card, so if you plan on playing those triple-A titles, you can do so without any issues.

The only issue here is the price but if you are looking for another compelling ITX board, the Asus ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming is definitely worth considering.

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Gaming

Amazon Luna- Everything You Need to Know About Amazon’s Cloud Gaming Service

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Amazon Luna

It seems that cloud gaming is the future as a lot of companies are pooling their resources just to make things happen.

Amazon Luna is Amazon’s foray into cloud gaming and it is going to be available soon. Read further to find out more information about this new experience.

Channel-based Platform

Amazon Luna Platform

Google has paved the way for cloud gaming to come to the fore with the release of the Stadia not too long ago. Although it was mired with a lot of different issues, it seems that the company has found a way to make things work.

Amazon also wants in on the action and although there are some similarities with Luna and Stadia, there are also some stark differences as well.

Before I begin, I just want to explain the concept of cloud gaming. Basically, instead of downloading games to your gaming PC or whatever platform you choose to install them, you will just stream those games using data centers that are scattered all over the world.

It should go without saying that you need to have a fast internet connection to make this happen and so that you will not experience high latency (which was a huge problem when Stadia launched).

That being said, the premise of Google Stadia is that you need to either purchase an individual game so that you can play it at any time (forever) or you could subscribe to the monthly plan and play the games that are on offer every month (and continue to play them so long as you’re subscribed).

With Amazon Luna, you will be presented with different channels that you can subscribe to. Each of these channels has different games on offer which makes this quite appealing for game developers to show their mettle.

Right now, the platform is still in beta and there are only two channels available at the moment- Amazon’s own Luna Plus and the Ubisoft Channel. The latter will have 50 games that you can play right away and more Ubisoft games will be added in the future.

Keep in mind that this channel-based system makes it so that developers can price their services accordingly. It remains to be seen how much Ubisoft will charge individual users, so stay tuned for that.

1080p and 4K Gaming

Just like Google Stadia, Amazon Luna will support both 1080p and 4K resolutions. Of course, the latter would be more taxing and you will need a fast internet connection to be able to enjoy high-fidelity gaming. I suggest that you get a WiFi 6 router and a compatible device to make the most out of your experience.

Cross-Platform Support

Amazon Luna Cross-Platform

Unlike Stadia, Amazon Luna is more flexible in that it supports a lot of different devices. Not only can you play on your PC, but you can also choose to play it using your iOS devices, Android phones, and you can even utilize the company’s own FireTV devices as well.

Now, there has been this entire debacle about Apple’s 30% cut on every app in its App store but the good news is that Amazon can circumvent that.

You see, when you are going to play on your iOS devices, the application will actually be a PWA or a Progressive Web App. Basically, the game that you want to play will run in a contained web browser instead of it being an actual application that you install in your device. This bypasses the whole 30% cut issue which is a good thing.

NVIDIA Hardware Use

According to a recent Steam survey, the vast majority of PC users are all using NVIDIA graphics cards. This is a good thing for Amazon Luna because it means that it can support a lot more people.

That is because the company’s cloud gaming service will use NVIDIA GPUs instead of AMD cards (which Stadia uses for graphics processing).

Supposing that Amazon Luna will be more popular than any other cloud gaming service out there, NVIDIA will enjoy huge profits as a result.

Can Be Streamed to Popular Sites

Amazon Luna Controller

Twitch is arguably the most popular streaming platform today and Amazon is looking to forge a partnership with the said service to allow you to stream your games to the popular website.

The said platform is widely used as a means of generating revenue- something that is quite popular today due to the recent pandemic.

This move also makes it appealing as well as more and more content creators can use Amazon Luna to reach a broader audience.

New Controller with Alexa Support

Amazon Luna Controller 2

Just like Google Stadia, Amazon Luna also requires you to get a special controller. The good thing is that the control will have a microphone so that you can use Alexa for specific voice commands.

What’s interesting about the Luna’s controller is that it is completely connected to the Cloud, which means that you do not have to pair it with the specific device you are going to use to play games online.

According to Amazon’s website, it should have a grippy texture and will feature low-friction thumbsticks that provide maximum performance across the board. By using the controller’s microphone, you can actually tell Alexa to fire up the specific game that you want to play, so long as it is inside the channel that you’ve subscribed to.

Conclusion

Amazon Luna is quite enticing, at least, on paper. It is shaping up to be a better cloud gaming service compared to its competitors but the service is still in beta, so there are more things that need ironing out before its official release.

Right now, there are only two channels that are available and Ubisoft hasn’t imposed its pricing yet. The Amazon Luna channel is priced at $6.99

If you are interested in getting in on the action, you can be an early beta tester by subscribing to the service.

Amazon Luna will be out sometime in October.

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Acer Nitro XV340CK Review- A Greatly Competitive Ultrawide Gaming Monitor Under $500

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Acer Nitro XV340CK Review

Ultrawide monitors used to be a niche display in that the only people who work on productivity tasks and creative workloads usually buy them.

Fortunately, the display technology has evolved and gamers, too, can enjoy a much wider screen.

Today, I am going to review the Acer Nitro XV340CK which is a 34-inch ultrawide gaming monitor that is priced competitively. 

Design

Even though this is marketed as a gaming monitor, the Acer Nitro XV340CK actually doesn’t look like it. It looks simple and I love the aesthetics, especially if you want to place this in your office.

The only thing that might make you think that this is a gaming display is that red accent that you can find on the base of the monitor but that’s about it.

Anyway, let’s start with the stand. Aside from the aforementioned red accent, the stand provides good ergonomics.

It gives you the ability to swivel the monitor a complete 360 degrees, you can tilt it to 35 degrees back and you can adjust the height up to 5.9 inches. Because this is an ultrawide monitor, you cannot put this thing in portrait mode.

I love the fact that this monitor has slim bezels. At only 0.4 inches, you can place another monitor right beside it and it wouldn’t really take a lot of screen real estate at all.

The overall build quality is good. Despite the fact that it doesn’t feel premium, at least when compared to the best gaming monitors out there, it still feels sturdy nevertheless.

For the ports, you get two Displayport 1.4 ports, two HDMI 2.0 ports, and two USB 3.0 ports. Due to the wealth of ports on offer, you can use this for your PC or your game console.

The only thing that might be cumbersome for some users is that the OSD controls are situated at the back of the monitor- particularly on the bottom right side. The buttons are also a bit smaller than usual, so you may have a hard time pressing the right ones.

Display

Acer Nitro XV340CK Review 2020

The Acer Nitro XV340CK has a 34-inch IPS display with a resolution of 3440 x 1440 and an aspect ratio of 21:9. It is the same as other ultrawide gaming monitors that you can find on the market so there is no problem with that.

You do have the option to enable the picture-in-picture mode so that you can divide the display in two if you wish to fire up two different programs at the same time. This is why it is not only a handy gaming monitor, but it can also be used for office work as well.

Its contrast and brightness leave much to be desired. With a native contrast ratio of 1048:1 and peak SDR brightness of only 247 nits, it is not the best display when it comes to these things.

However, its redeeming quality is that its colors are accurate. After calibration, I got 95% sRGB, 82% AdobeRGB, and 81% DCI-P3. It is relatively color accurate and it would have been nice for creative workloads, but its peak brightness just falls short of making it an ideal display for such use-cases.

It is also worth noting that if you are in a well-lit room that the brightness could be a huge issue. The good thing is that the display’s matte finish can help reduce glare significantly, though you will still find that it is not bright enough in some situations.

I am surprised by the fact that there is literally no color bleed on the Acer Nitro XV340CK. This is unheard of, especially since ultrawide monitors are notorious for this.

Performance

Sure, its peak brightness and contrast could have improved, but gamers are not especially focused on those things. If anything, it is the performance of the display that usually takes the cake and I am happy to report that you won’t be disappointed with the Nitro XV340CK.

Normally, with IPS panels, they tend to not have a good response time, but that is actually not the case here. At just 5.3ms, it is definitely one of the best out there even when compared to other, more premium models.

How about input lag? This is a speed monitor and as expected, input lag is minimal. At just 4.2ms, I am really blown away by the performance of this thing. Every keypress on your gaming keyboard will register almost immediately and that is really great from a competitive standpoint.

It is also worth noting that its 144Hz refresh rate is ideal, especially since most gamers are clamoring for high refresh rate displays anyway.

This is a FreeSync gaming monitor and you can enable this variable refresh rate feature in both AMD and Nvidia graphics cards.

To get a hold of the said features, it is important for you to know that you should use the DisplayPort cable that is included in the box. There is also an included HDMI cable if you want to use this display for your Xbox or Playstation consoles.

Acer Nitro XV340CK

Verdict

With all of those things being said, if I were to ask you how much this thing costs, what will be your guess? If you’ve guessed around $700, you’re wrong.

The Acer Nitro XV340CK is priced at just $450! At that price, you are getting a relatively color-accurate monitor, a really fast display with minimal input lag, and a vast number of ports that you can use for your PC or game consoles.

Sure, its contrast and peak brightness could have been improved, but if you are talking about raw gaming performance, the Acer Nitro XV340CK blows other ultrawide gaming monitors out of the way.

Just make sure that you have a nice gaming PC for this thing to work nicely. Other than that, I highly recommend the Acer Nitro XV340CK for its price and performance.

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HyperX Cloud Stinger S- A Comfortable 7.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset

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HyperX Cloud Stinger S Review

As an audiophile, I’ve always loved HyperX’s gaming audio solution. They are inexpensive and for the price, you are actually getting sound quality that you normally would only hear from expensive products.

In today’s article, I am going to review the HyperX Cloud Stinger S. This is a budget offering that aims to improve upon the original Cloud Stinger with the inclusion of a 7.1 surround sound option.

Do I recommend this headset? Find out later on in the article.

Design

The HyperX Cloud Stinger S is actually quite similar to the original version. It has the same pleather ear cups that envelope your ears quite nicely and the clamping force of the headset itself is actually quite okay.

I’ve been receiving reports that there are some people that have problems with the tightness or, shall I say, how loose this thing can be. But that will probably be a result of the size of your head and not the actual product itself. For me, the fit was okay, but your mileage may vary.

Although this thing is predominantly made in plastic, the overall build quality is good, though I would advise you not to throw this headset when you lose a round in a MOBA game or first-person shooter.

There is a microphone on this headset and just like the original, it is not removable. It would have been nice if you could remove it when you are not using it because even if you fold the microphone (which also acts as a way of muting it), you will still see it which can be annoying at times.

This thing is quite simple and all you have for the controls is the volume slider that is located on the right ear cup. 

While other HyperX gaming headsets come with a carrying pouch, I am sad to say that the HyperX Cloud Stinger S doesn’t have one.

All you get in the box aside from the headset is a USB dongle that is attached to a relatively long cable and some documentation. And, since you use this thing completely wired, it can also be used in your Playstation or other game consoles as well.

The 3.5mm analog cable should be inserted in the USB dongle if you wish to use its 7.1 surround sound implementation, but if you are just going to watch movies or play non-competitive games, I suggest that you do not use it.

Audio Quality

HyperX Cloud Stinger S Review 2020

There are two modes that you can utilize if you are going to use the HyperX Cloud Stinger S. You can use its 3.5mm headphone jack and enjoy stereo sound or you could insert that into the included USB dongle and use the 7.1 surround sound feature.

Keep in mind that if you are going to use the 7.1 output that it is only supported on the PC since you will need the NGENUITY software to enable it.

That being said, the HyperX Cloud Stinger S’ sound signature leans more toward being bright and with a little emphasis on the bass. This seems to be the preference of the majority of gamers since lower frequencies can make those in-game sounds pop-out more.

I also love the mid frequencies as it is quite balanced as well. I’ve had no problems listening to in-game dialog and when I am using the microphone, it just works really well.

Although the high frequencies are okay, I would say that it is the weakest of the bunch, though not so much as to diminish the overall sound quality. You will still hear the sibilance of the cymbals and lead guitars, but it is not as pronounced as the lower and mid frequencies.

As for the 7.1 surround sound, you should enable it in the companion software and it is only available when you are on the PC.

Anyway, its surround sound is okay but I say this because it is a budget gaming headset. If you compare it to the more premium ones, this is subpar at best. Still, you could enable it in your favorite games but I will advise against it if you are just listening to music or watching movies.

Despite a relatively good clamping force, the HyperX Cloud Stinger S doesn’t do so well in terms of sound isolation. People around me can still hear what I was listening to, so this might not be ideal if you are playing at night and there are people sleeping.

Microphone Quality

HyperX Cloud Stinger S

There is usually this notion that budget headsets have horrible microphones but not the HyperX Cloud Stinger S. In fact, I would go on to say that it has one of the better ones on the market.

Instead of sounding tinny, the microphone quality of the Cloud Stinger S is full-bodied and my teammates can hear every word I said without any problems.

The volume of the microphone is also quite good as well. Normally, with budget offerings, you tend to sound a bit ‘too far’ but that is not the case here.

Overall, I am quite pleased with the microphone. The only thing that I do not like is that the flippable microphone may impede your vision sometimes, but I think that you can adjust to this.

Verdict

For a budget headset, the HyperX Cloud Stinger S is definitely one of the better sounding ones. I also love the fact that the microphone’s quality is top-notch and it can even go head-to-head against its more premium counterparts.

I am just a bit disappointed that you do not get a carrying pouch with this one because other HyperX gaming headsets have them. But, this is a minor inconvenience.

I did not feel the need to talk about the NGENUITY software mainly because it is pretty barebones and all you can do with it is to enable the 7.1 surround sound, adjust the volume and microphone, and that’s about it. There is no equalizer present which is quite odd.

Still, for what it is giving you, the HyperX Cloud Stinger S is highly recommended. This thing costs $60.

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