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The Best Intel Z490 Motherboards to Help Unleash Your Comet Lake Processor’s Full Potential

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Everyone knows that whenever Intel releases a new processor that you will need a new motherboard for that. And, that is true for the new comet lake or 10th generation Intel processors.

If you are looking for the right one, read this article to find out the best Intel Z490 motherboards that will help unleash your comet lake processor’s full potential.

Keep in mind that not all Intel processors are overclockable. Only the Intel i5-10600K, Intel i7-10700K, and the Intel i9-10900K can be overclocked so you will need a fitting board that can handle the said CPUs.

What’s New?

You might be wondering what new features the Z490 motherboards have in store for you. Well, to be honest, not a lot, but this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t buy them.

The LGA-1200 chipset adds support for WiFi 6 and 2.5Gbps Ethernet connections, so mostly all of the notable features are in the networking front.

You could say that without the said additions that the Z490 boards are quite similar to the Z390 motherboards that were released a few years ago.

Still, getting a comet lake processor is quite enticing because it is now packed with more cores and threads, which means even more ample gaming performance than previous generations.

Best Intel Z490 Motherboards

1.MSI MEG Z490 Godlike

Price: $700

MSI MEG Z490 Godlike

If money is not an issue at all and you want to get what I would consider to be the best Z490 motherboard on the market, then the MSI MEG Z490 Godlike is for you.

It has an EATX form factor which means that you need a relatively large PC case in order to fit this behemoth.

What makes this quite appealing for regular consumers and hardcore overclockers alike is that it not only supports memory speeds of up to DDR4-5000, but it can also unlock the comet lake processors’ full potential as well.

Its BIOS is one of the simplest to navigate and there are also advanced options for people that truly want to tinker with all of the settings.

There are plenty of M.2 slots for your fast SSDs and it has WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 support via a detachable antenna.

If you are a fan of RGB lighting, this board comes with all of the necessary ports to plug in as many of those things as possible.

Really, the only issue here is that it is priced way higher than others, but again, if money is not an issue, then this warrants a purchase.

2.Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Ultra

Price: $290

Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Ultra

Not a lot of people can afford a motherboard with a hefty price tag. Fortunately, there are competitive mid-range models that you can choose from- one of which is the Gigabyte Aorus Ultra.

This unit is a tier below the higher-priced ‘Master’ model, but people will find its feature set to be more than sufficient enough for most use-cases.

It’s got plenty of USB ports on its I/O panel and you get WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 support as well.

You also get plenty of M.2 slots with included heatsinks so that you do not have to buy them separately. The heatsinks can help cool down those fast drives without any issues.l

Its aesthetic is pretty simple but I think that most people will really love the design. It does have some RGB implementations, though it is quite subtle when you compare it to others.

Overclockers will love the fact that this thing comes with POST codes that will help you know exactly what the issue is whenever you want to overclock the RAM or the CPU.

I am pretty impressed with the things that Gigabyte has crammed into a mid-range board. My only gripe with this otherwise stellar product is that its BIOS needs more simplicity as there are some redundant or even questionable options that are in there.

But other than that, the Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Ultra is a pretty competitive motherboard that is priced just right.

3.Asus ROG Maximus XII Extreme

Price: $750

Asus ROG Maximus XII Extreme

An article that talks about the ‘best’ products out there will not be complete without a mention of Asus. The company prides itself on creating some stellar products, including smartphones, routers, etc.

That being said, the Asus ROG Maximus XII Extreme is quite an expensive motherboard, but that is actually warranted given its specs.

It’s got two PCI-E x16 sockets, reinforced DIMM slots, a whopping 8 SATA ports, four M.2 slots, eight USB 3.2 ports, and two USB Type-C ports- one of which is a USB 3.2 Gen2x2 port which provides unparalleled transfer speeds.

Aside from that, you get plenty of fan headers and connectors so you can equip this thing with the best CPU coolers to help tame Intel’s 10th generation chips.

It’s got 16-phase power delivery and pretty good VRMs that ensures your system will get good and clean power during its operation. Plus, the heatsinks themselves have full RGB lighting support to make your rig look even cooler.

It is also worth noting that you also get the ESS ES9023P DAC along with the SupremeFX S1220 chipset to provide you with amazing audio quality, especially if you are going to insert your favorite gaming headsets.

You might wonder why this doesn’t sit at the top spot of this list and that is because I’ve run into some issues where its benchmark results are slightly lower than what MSI has to offer.

But, the Asus ROG Maximus XII Extreme is a full-featured motherboard with all of the bells and whistles that you could ask for from a company.

4.MSI Z490-A Pro

Price: $160

MSI Z490-A Pro

If all you want is an inexpensive motherboard that can still overclock a comet lake chip, then the MSI Z490-A Pro is an enticing choice.

Although this thing can be considered a ‘budget’ board, it is definitely not a cheap one as it comes loaded with features that people will surely love.

Aside from the fact that you can overclock your Intel CPU with this thing, it also comes with Realtek’s 2.5Gb LAN implementation which is quite unheard of in the realm of budget products.

It is also worth mentioning that this board also has a steady 12-phase power delivery which, to the uninitiated, means that it can provide a steady amount of power during its operation- whether you overclock your chip or not.

I also love the fact that it has a pretty considerable audio solution in the form of the Realtek ALC1200 audio codec. Although it is not as good as the more premium boards out there, it is definitely respectable enough for most users.

Aside from the things that were mentioned, you also get two PCIe 3.0 x 4 M.2 slots, a USB 3.2 Gen-2 Type-C port, five USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A ports, and an additional two USB 2.0 ports for your chosen peripherals.

The downside here is that its design is what you would expect in an inexpensive product- tame and subtle.

But, if looks are not an issue and you just want a competitive motherboard that is priced just right, the MSI Z490-A Pro is a worthy purchase.

5.Gigabyte Z490I Aorus Ultra

Price: $224

Gigabyte Z490I Aorus Ultra

People that want to create a relatively compact system would have to buy an ITX motherboard. That being said, one of the best out there is the Gigabyte Z490I Aorus Ultra.

Before I begin, when you are buying the Aorus Ultra, make sure that you look for the ‘I’ the product name. Otherwise, you would be getting the standard ATX variant that was mentioned earlier in the article.

Anyway, this thing has an 8-phase VRM design with 90-amp Smart power stages. This is a bit technical to explain, but in simpler terms, you can do a slight overclock on your chosen chip without running into any issues. You might not be getting astronomical numbers here, but at least the option is available if you want to eke out more performance from your Intel CPU.

The design is rather simple with mostly a black aesthetic with some metallic gray accents scattered throughout the motherboard.

Despite this board having an ITX form factor, it does come with two M.2 slots- one of which has a thermal guard to help it keep cool during normal operation.

It should also go without mentioning that this IXTX motherboard also comes with Intel’s 2.5GbE LAN solution as well, so for people that are not okay with a Realtek LAN implementation, this is the board to get.

6.ASRock Z490 Phantom Gaming-ITX

Price: $270

ASRock Z490 Phantom Gaming-ITX

You normally wouldn’t get so much performance of your CPU when you are going to get an ITX motherboard, but the last entry on this list will prove to you otherwise.

The ASRock Z490 Phantom Gaming-ITX, as the name suggests, is an ITX motherboard that is unlike any other.

I normally wouldn’t expect specific features for overclocking on a relatively small board, but this thing actually comes with some nifty additions.

Aside from the fact that it has an 8+2 power delivery system, you also get a clear CMOS button on the back I/O. This is great if you are running into any problems overclocking your CPU and you want the board to go back to its default settings.

In terms of networking, you’ve got two options here. First are the Realtek 2.5GbE LAN and the Intel AX201 WiFi 6 module. Both are great additions to any system.

At the back I/O panel, you get a plethora of USB ports plus a USB-C port that also acts as a Thunderbolt 3.0 port as well. The said port can be used to plug in a display of your choosing, which is really nice.

This motherboard looks a bit nicer than the Gigabyte board mentioned above, so if you want a flashier setup, this might be more appealing.

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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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The Best Intel Z490 Motherboards to Help Unleash Your Comet Lake Processor’s Full Potential

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Asus ROG Maximus XII Extreme

Everyone knows that whenever Intel releases a new processor that you will need a new motherboard for that. And, that is true for the new comet lake or 10th generation Intel processors.

If you are looking for the right one, read this article to find out the best Intel Z490 motherboards that will help unleash your comet lake processor’s full potential.

Keep in mind that not all Intel processors are overclockable. Only the Intel i5-10600K, Intel i7-10700K, and the Intel i9-10900K can be overclocked so you will need a fitting board that can handle the said CPUs.

What’s New?

You might be wondering what new features the Z490 motherboards have in store for you. Well, to be honest, not a lot, but this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t buy them.

The LGA-1200 chipset adds support for WiFi 6 and 2.5Gbps Ethernet connections, so mostly all of the notable features are in the networking front.

You could say that without the said additions that the Z490 boards are quite similar to the Z390 motherboards that were released a few years ago.

Still, getting a comet lake processor is quite enticing because it is now packed with more cores and threads, which means even more ample gaming performance than previous generations.

Best Intel Z490 Motherboards

1.MSI MEG Z490 Godlike

Price: $700

MSI MEG Z490 Godlike

If money is not an issue at all and you want to get what I would consider to be the best Z490 motherboard on the market, then the MSI MEG Z490 Godlike is for you.

It has an EATX form factor which means that you need a relatively large PC case in order to fit this behemoth.

What makes this quite appealing for regular consumers and hardcore overclockers alike is that it not only supports memory speeds of up to DDR4-5000, but it can also unlock the comet lake processors’ full potential as well.

Its BIOS is one of the simplest to navigate and there are also advanced options for people that truly want to tinker with all of the settings.

There are plenty of M.2 slots for your fast SSDs and it has WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 support via a detachable antenna.

If you are a fan of RGB lighting, this board comes with all of the necessary ports to plug in as many of those things as possible.

Really, the only issue here is that it is priced way higher than others, but again, if money is not an issue, then this warrants a purchase.

2.Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Ultra

Price: $290

Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Ultra

Not a lot of people can afford a motherboard with a hefty price tag. Fortunately, there are competitive mid-range models that you can choose from- one of which is the Gigabyte Aorus Ultra.

This unit is a tier below the higher-priced ‘Master’ model, but people will find its feature set to be more than sufficient enough for most use-cases.

It’s got plenty of USB ports on its I/O panel and you get WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 support as well.

You also get plenty of M.2 slots with included heatsinks so that you do not have to buy them separately. The heatsinks can help cool down those fast drives without any issues.l

Its aesthetic is pretty simple but I think that most people will really love the design. It does have some RGB implementations, though it is quite subtle when you compare it to others.

Overclockers will love the fact that this thing comes with POST codes that will help you know exactly what the issue is whenever you want to overclock the RAM or the CPU.

I am pretty impressed with the things that Gigabyte has crammed into a mid-range board. My only gripe with this otherwise stellar product is that its BIOS needs more simplicity as there are some redundant or even questionable options that are in there.

But other than that, the Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Ultra is a pretty competitive motherboard that is priced just right.

3.Asus ROG Maximus XII Extreme

Price: $750

Asus ROG Maximus XII Extreme

An article that talks about the ‘best’ products out there will not be complete without a mention of Asus. The company prides itself on creating some stellar products, including smartphones, routers, etc.

That being said, the Asus ROG Maximus XII Extreme is quite an expensive motherboard, but that is actually warranted given its specs.

It’s got two PCI-E x16 sockets, reinforced DIMM slots, a whopping 8 SATA ports, four M.2 slots, eight USB 3.2 ports, and two USB Type-C ports- one of which is a USB 3.2 Gen2x2 port which provides unparalleled transfer speeds.

Aside from that, you get plenty of fan headers and connectors so you can equip this thing with the best CPU coolers to help tame Intel’s 10th generation chips.

It’s got 16-phase power delivery and pretty good VRMs that ensures your system will get good and clean power during its operation. Plus, the heatsinks themselves have full RGB lighting support to make your rig look even cooler.

It is also worth noting that you also get the ESS ES9023P DAC along with the SupremeFX S1220 chipset to provide you with amazing audio quality, especially if you are going to insert your favorite gaming headsets.

You might wonder why this doesn’t sit at the top spot of this list and that is because I’ve run into some issues where its benchmark results are slightly lower than what MSI has to offer.

But, the Asus ROG Maximus XII Extreme is a full-featured motherboard with all of the bells and whistles that you could ask for from a company.

4.MSI Z490-A Pro

Price: $160

MSI Z490-A Pro

If all you want is an inexpensive motherboard that can still overclock a comet lake chip, then the MSI Z490-A Pro is an enticing choice.

Although this thing can be considered a ‘budget’ board, it is definitely not a cheap one as it comes loaded with features that people will surely love.

Aside from the fact that you can overclock your Intel CPU with this thing, it also comes with Realtek’s 2.5Gb LAN implementation which is quite unheard of in the realm of budget products.

It is also worth mentioning that this board also has a steady 12-phase power delivery which, to the uninitiated, means that it can provide a steady amount of power during its operation- whether you overclock your chip or not.

I also love the fact that it has a pretty considerable audio solution in the form of the Realtek ALC1200 audio codec. Although it is not as good as the more premium boards out there, it is definitely respectable enough for most users.

Aside from the things that were mentioned, you also get two PCIe 3.0 x 4 M.2 slots, a USB 3.2 Gen-2 Type-C port, five USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A ports, and an additional two USB 2.0 ports for your chosen peripherals.

The downside here is that its design is what you would expect in an inexpensive product- tame and subtle.

But, if looks are not an issue and you just want a competitive motherboard that is priced just right, the MSI Z490-A Pro is a worthy purchase.

5.Gigabyte Z490I Aorus Ultra

Price: $224

Gigabyte Z490I Aorus Ultra

People that want to create a relatively compact system would have to buy an ITX motherboard. That being said, one of the best out there is the Gigabyte Z490I Aorus Ultra.

Before I begin, when you are buying the Aorus Ultra, make sure that you look for the ‘I’ the product name. Otherwise, you would be getting the standard ATX variant that was mentioned earlier in the article.

Anyway, this thing has an 8-phase VRM design with 90-amp Smart power stages. This is a bit technical to explain, but in simpler terms, you can do a slight overclock on your chosen chip without running into any issues. You might not be getting astronomical numbers here, but at least the option is available if you want to eke out more performance from your Intel CPU.

The design is rather simple with mostly a black aesthetic with some metallic gray accents scattered throughout the motherboard.

Despite this board having an ITX form factor, it does come with two M.2 slots- one of which has a thermal guard to help it keep cool during normal operation.

It should also go without mentioning that this IXTX motherboard also comes with Intel’s 2.5GbE LAN solution as well, so for people that are not okay with a Realtek LAN implementation, this is the board to get.

6.ASRock Z490 Phantom Gaming-ITX

Price: $270

ASRock Z490 Phantom Gaming-ITX

You normally wouldn’t get so much performance of your CPU when you are going to get an ITX motherboard, but the last entry on this list will prove to you otherwise.

The ASRock Z490 Phantom Gaming-ITX, as the name suggests, is an ITX motherboard that is unlike any other.

I normally wouldn’t expect specific features for overclocking on a relatively small board, but this thing actually comes with some nifty additions.

Aside from the fact that it has an 8+2 power delivery system, you also get a clear CMOS button on the back I/O. This is great if you are running into any problems overclocking your CPU and you want the board to go back to its default settings.

In terms of networking, you’ve got two options here. First are the Realtek 2.5GbE LAN and the Intel AX201 WiFi 6 module. Both are great additions to any system.

At the back I/O panel, you get a plethora of USB ports plus a USB-C port that also acts as a Thunderbolt 3.0 port as well. The said port can be used to plug in a display of your choosing, which is really nice.

This motherboard looks a bit nicer than the Gigabyte board mentioned above, so if you want a flashier setup, this might be more appealing.

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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