OCC 2013 Products of the Year

Bosco ccokeman Wesstron - 2013-12-18 18:25:14 in Video Cards, Motherboards, Cases, Memory, Input Devices, Speakers/Headphones, CPU Cooling
Category: Video Cards, Motherboards, Cases, Memory, Input Devices, Speakers/Headphones, CPU Cooling
Reviewed by: Bosco   ccokeman   Wesstron   
Reviewed on: December 30, 2013

OCC 2013 Products of the Year Introduction:

With the New Year just around the corner, we thought it would be a good idea to step back and take a look and some of the products that were reviewed here at OCC in 2013. Our purpose as a community is to help everyone pick the best parts for their budget/needs, put the system together, and make it work to the best of its performance. Mind you, if you hang around Waco for a bit you might end up overclocking your system to oblivion, so watch out! 

We will be taking a look at select categories from this year's hardware releases and picking a winner for each category, with two runners-up that could interest some users for that little special feature they got or because they are on a different price range. We also realize that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so please let us know your thoughts in the comment section and share your opinion with the community!

This year's categories are as follows:

Happy New Year everyone!

OCC 2013 Motherboard of the Year:

Winner: MSI Z87-GD65 GAMING

This year’s winner is MSI's Dragon themed Z87-GD65 GAMING motherboard. MSI put together a solid product that will appeal to gamers and enthusiasts alike, all at a very reasonable MSRP of $189. While having great looks with a black and red color theme, this motherboard is built to meet or exceed the MIL-STD-810G standards, which is reflected in the parts used such as Super Ferrite Chokes that run at up to 35 °C lower temperatures, have a 30% higher current handling capacity, and a 20% improvement in power efficiency; Tantalum filled Hi-C Caps that are up to 93% efficient; and  "Dark Capacitors" that feature Lower ESR and a ten-year lifespan all tied into a PCB with improved temperature and humidity protections. The experience with MSI's Click BIOS was painless and the abundance of fine-tuning settings allowed for great overclocking results of 4.7GHz on the CPU and 2600MHz on the RAM. The OC Genie 4 can be used to automate overclocking if the manual settings seem daunting. Some may argue that it takes all the fun out of it, but setting multiple profiles for different scenarios without much fuss is a great way to enjoy the product, especially for beginners.

The MSI Z87-GD65 GAMING also offers Multi GPU support, Lucid LogiX Virtu support, and a great onboard audio with headphone amplifier and high end audio capacitors. The Z87-GD65 GAMING has the looks and also packs the muscles, and the brain, to be our 2013 pick!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Runners-Up:

ASUS ROG Maximus VI Hero:

The ASUS ROG Maximus VI Hero is geared mostly towards gamers and comes bundled with some cool features such as Sonic Radar that will let you see where sounds are coming from while playing. The build quality follows into the ROG legacy and aims for performance and efficiency by including components such as the Extreme Engine Digi+III 8+2 phase power circuit, 60A rated Black Wing Chokes with gold plated coils, 10K Nichicon GT Black Caps, and NexFet PowerBlock. This board is supposed to attract more citizens to the Republic of Gamers by offering an ROG stamped product at a price tag that will not break the bank.

The Hero will set you back $229, and while bringing a solid product with some great added value to the table, it’s still more expensive than the MSI Z87-GD65 GAMING.

 

ASUS ROG Maximus VI Extreme:

This board is the crème de la crème of the ASUS Z87 ROG product stack and it comes with a price tag to match at $379. ASUS engineered the Maximus VI Extreme to the rigorous standards of the ROG brand-name: Extreme Engine Digi+ III Phase Power Design, NexFET™ Power Block MOSFETs, 60A BlackWing Chokes, and 10K Black Metallic Capacitors. The ASUS ROG Maximus VI Extreme comes bundled with a rich hardware package including an mPCIe Combo II card and the ASUS OC Panel. The software package is also impressive: ASUS Crash Free UEFI BIOS, Daemon Tools, Kaspersky Antivirus, RamDisk, Sonic Radar, AI Suite III, Fan Xpert 2, Mem Tweakit, ROG-based CPU-Z, USB 3.0 Boost, and Game First II.

Unfortunately, this list of great components and features comes at a daunting cost. Knowing that for less than half the price one can buy a very close performing competitor, the ASUS ROG Maximus VI Extreme is a delicious, but very hard pill to swallow.

OCC 2013 Video Card of the Year:

Winner: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti was announced during the NVIDIA press event in Montreal last October as the best card available for PC gaming. The card hit the shelves November 7 and has delivered staggering and consistent performance since. Not a surprising fact considering the pedigree of the GTX 780 Ti; it inherited the GTX 780's raw graphics and the GTX 770's memory speeds. The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti runs cool and quiet while delivering consistent performance right out of the box thanks to the Kepler GK110 and its 2880 CUDA processors running in tandem with 3GB of memory pushing a data rate of 7000MHz; all this under the excellent care of the vapor-chamber cooling solution. The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti achieved some impressive overclocks of 1291MHz core clock speed and a memory speed of 1940MHz.

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti comes at $699, which is still a hit to the wallet, but we need to look at the big picture here. NVIDIA is not just offering a great product, but a whole gaming ecosystem: interaction with NVIDIA SHIELD via GameStream, and GeForce Experience, which brings Game Optimization; ShadowPlay; and soon Twitch live streaming. Also, NVIDIA sweetens the deal with the GeForce GTX Holiday Bundle by offering three AAA titles with the purchase of a GTX 780 Ti, plus $100 off an NVIDIA SHIELD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Runners-Up:

Sapphire R9 280X Toxic:

With the R9 280X Toxic, Sapphire took the Tahiti XT core and worked some magic to deliver a custom card well worth the $349 price tag that performs on par – and sometimes better – than the NVIDIA GTX 770. The card is built with quality in mind with a binned core attached to a 12 layer PCB, Black Diamond double sided chokes, 10 phase VRM, and solid aluminum capacitors. A custom cooling solution is set to keep everything under control heat wise, featuring three fans and a dual fin array cooling solution that includes a pair of 6mm heat pipes, a pair of 8mm heat pipes, and the signature 10mm heat pipe. With such a beefy build, the R9 280X Toxic runs default clock speeds of 1100/1150MHz on the core and 1600MHz on the GDDR5 memory, and delivers great performance with only one issue in regards of power efficiency.

 

MSI GTX 770 N770 TF 2GD5/OC:

MSI brings yet another great product to the masses with the MSI GTX 770 N770 TF 2GD5/OC, which is priced at $409. This supercharged GTX 770 Gaming edition from MSI runs cool and performs great thanks to the Military Class components that meet or exceed MIL-STD-810G standard, the Twin Frozr IV cooling design, and a power design more efficient than the reference card. This card is meant for the gaming crowd and is infused with the G.A.M.E. Spirit, which breaks down to: (G)aming App, (A)dvanced thermal design, (M)ilitary Class components, and (E)xperience. The MSI GTX 770 N770 TF 2GD5/OC delivers good performance and gives access to NVIDIA’s gaming ecosystem, and is also part of the GeForce GTX Holiday Bundle.

OCC 2013 Case of the Year:

Winner: Corsair Carbide Air 540

This innovative computer chassis can be found at the time of writing for $120! Some might argue about the innovative part, but we will stand by it since it’s the first case that brings multi-chamber concept to the masses at an affordable price. Corsair hit the mark with the design, quality, and overall look and feel of this case. The separate compartments allow for a clean looking build, great airflow, and neat cable management. The Corsair Carbide Air 540 has enough room to accommodate E-ATX motherboards and comes equipped with three AF140L fans that are very quiet and able to push a good amount of air. The different cooling setups that can be housed in this case are impressive; up to six 120mm fans or five 140mm fans can be installed simultaneously. If water cooling is your thing, don’t let the air in the Corsair Carbide Air 540 name discourage you, as this case can be fitted with a 240mm or 280mm radiator up top and a 240mm, 280mm, or even 360mm radiator on the front panel.

Case modders are already enjoying this little cube concept from Corsair and the amazing amount of hardware that can be crammed inside while keeping clean looks and great performance. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Runners-Up:

Cooler Master HAF Stacker:

This monster of a case is one of the latest additions to the HAF lineup from Cooler Master. We say monster because this thing is huge right out of the box; and if you want to go really BIG, Cooler Master offers stackable modules to add on the top or the bottom. The end result would be a ginormous case that’s definitely not going to the next LAN party. Basically, the HAF Stacker family consists of three members. First we have the HAF Stacker 935, which comes with two units: the main body that supports E-ATX motherboards and looks like a full tower case, and a stackable module that’s designed to stack either on top or at the bottom of the main body. This module can also be used as a Mini-ITX case, if you don’t mind the lack of a power button and no I/O at the front of the system.

Next we have the Cooler Master HAF Stacker 915F and Cooler Master HAF Stacker 915R. These are Mini-ITX cases that look identical; the only difference being that the 915F has front PSU mounting while the 915R has a rear mounting location. The 915F and 915R make the possibilities to work with this modular case practically endless. They can be stacked on each other and/or on the main unit of the HAF Stacker 935 and then used to house power supplies, radiators, reservoirs, pumps, card-readers, fan controllers, and more. This makes it clear that this is not a case for the average consumer or those of us using a little self-contained water-cooling unit. Cooler Master did not even bother adding stock fans to the HAF Stacker units; the 935 comes with just one 140mm fan while the 915F/R come with a single 120mm fan.

The HAF Stacker will appeal to enthusiasts that think outside the box and want to put together some extreme build without having to bring out the power tools and mod their cases themselves. The multiple stacking configurations and the ability to have multiple systems all-in-one is the selling point of this case. However, modularity comes at a price; the HAF Stacker 935 goes for $170 while the 915F/R modules are $70 each.

 

Cooler Master COSMOS SE:

Cooler Master is a well-respected name when it comes to computer peripherals, especially in the cases department. The brand covers a very wide range of chassis, from the entry level to the enthusiast class. The Cooler Master COSMOS SE belongs to the latter and comes with a price to match at $230, which might be more than what most will allocate to a case on a build budget. Apart from the daunting price, this case is a thing of pure beauty for a classic tower form factor: the top handles give the case a sporty look and provide a convenient way to carry it around, an embossed right side panel providing generous room for cable management, a windowed left side panel to show-off the build, extensive I/O panel, and dust filters strategically positioned. The inside is all black and offers good flexibility for builders; it is able to house motherboards that are  ATX or smaller, has up to 18 mounting spots for SSDs and eight for HDDs, and it can accommodate water cooling radiators on the top or the front.

 

Thermaltake Chaser A41:

This mid-tower chassis from Thermaltake is priced in the $100 range, which is a very delicate position to say the least, since an extra $20 can get you the Corsair Carbide Air 540. At stock configuration it comes equipped with a 120mm intake fan on the front, one 120mm exhaust fan on the back, and one 200mm exhaust fan up top. The Chaser A41 has enough clearance inside to accommodate E-ATX motherboards and a multi-GPU setup. It is also liquid cooling ready with the option to mount a 240mm radiator up top. In terms of looks, it’s all relative, but we're not a big fan of the front panel and the protruding feet. Overall, the Thermaltake Chaser A41 is a decent looking case that provides good airflow and internal working space; although we feel that it’s positioned at a price range with better alternatives.

OCC 2013 PC Memory of the Year:

Winner: Kingston 10th Anniversary HyperX 16GB 2400MHz

This kit was released to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Kingston Memeory HyperX lineup designed for enthusiasts. It ended up being a double celebration, since the Kingston 10th Anniversary HyperX 16GB 2400MHz kit performed great and showed performance that was superior to modules rated at higher speed bins. The modules look the part with the silver color theme and chrome accents, all emblazoned with the the HyperX logo. Being a low profile design, this kit offers a better clearance and a wider compatibility with CPU coolers than most performance modules equipped with taller heatsinks. The only drawback to the cooling solution is that low profile designs will induce higher temps, but overall it was not a problem during testing.

The Kingston 10th Anniversary HyperX 16GB 2400MHz is priced at the $200 range, is XMP profile ready, comes with a lifetime warranty, looks stunning, and has great performance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Runners-Up:

G.Skill TridentX F3-1600C7D-16GTX:

This CAS 7 1600MHz 2x8GB memory kit from G.SKILL looks great and performs just as good. The unique looking TridentX heat sink is very efficient at cooling the modules with minimal air flow, even when pushed at 1.65v. The red top part of the heat sink is removable to allow for an alternative cooling solution, such as an LN2 pot. The G.Skill TridentX F3-1600C7D-16GTX kit performed decent during testing and was able to reach an 18% overclock over stock. It’s not the fastest kit out there, but it will deliver great performance coupled with great looks for a $169 price tag.

 

Patriot Viper 3 Series Black Mamba PC3-19200 16GB:

This memory kit from Patriot literally took a beating during the testing performed during our review and still performed great, and lived to its name and lineage. When running at the stock 2400MHz 10-12-12-30 1.65v speed, it delivered comparable – if not better – performance to other 2400MHz rated memory kits. The Patriot Viper 3 Series Black Mamba PC3-19200 16GB achieved a 2800MHz overclock at 1.8v, although at the price of looser timings and some severe tweaking on the bclock and cache ratio side, which ended up hurting the performance return. These modules are 100% hand tested, come with a lifetime warranty, have efficient heat sinks, are XMP profile ready, and priced in the $200 range.

OCC 2013 CPU Cooler of the Year:

Winner: be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 2

When it comes to investing in CPU cooling, what most people look at is cooling performance. A better way to go would be to find the sweet spot where great performance meets reasonable cost. The be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 2 meets the criteria needed to be considered a heavy hitter in terms of cooling performance, while its $98 price tag will not blow up the budget. This dual tower design cooler is a great looking, all-black themed device that screams quality with its capped heat pipes and top cover plate. The engineering involved in producing the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 2 can be seen in the heat pipe and fin array configuration, but it also translates into impressive numbers in terms of cooling performance. The Dark Rock Pro 2's 220W capacity allowed this cooler to deliver great cooling while keeping a low noise profile, coming close to the performance of some high end self-contained liquid cooling solutions. Installation of the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 2 is straight forward and the clever mounting design allows for great stability. The SilentWings PWM fans are easily clipped to the towers and feature a unique wave pattern contributing in the dead silent operation of the cooler.

The be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 2 is an all-round product that will look great through a case’s window and delivers great cooling performance without breaking the bank too much.

 

 

 

 

 

Runners-Up:

Noctua NHU12S:

Noctua is a major player in the CPU air cooling arena, bringing to the market some of the most recommended products by the enthusiast community.  The Noctua NHU12S did not fall far from that tree and this 45mm single tower cooler performed great for its $69 price tag. On top of the cooling performance, this new product from Noctua has one of the best mounting systems on the market, namely the SecuFirm2. It is also compatible with most memory modules and there was no clearance issue with taller heat sinks simply because there was no overlapping over the slots. The included NF-F12 Focused Flow fan contributed greatly to the performance and low noise profile. Adding a second fan will improve the performance; this will take the NHU12S out of its actual price range, knowing what a Noctua fan costs!

This cooler comes also with no less than a six-year warranty, which makes the Noctua NHU12S a solid choice for those looking for a mid-range cooler.

 

DEEPCOOL Neptwin:

This dual-tower air cooler from DEEPCOOL was a good surprise and we can see it on the parts list for a builder on a budget looking for solid performance. It doesn’t look as good as the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 2, but it managed to deliver good cooling performance while staying relatively quiet during operation. The Neptwin costs $50.99, has excellent heat dissipation under load, and the fans were pretty quiet even when cranked to 100% speed. The styling might not appeal to everyone and there might be clearance issues with taller memory modules, but the DEEPCOOL Neptwin gets the job done nonetheless.

OCC 2013 Input Device of the Year:

Winner: CM Storm QuickFire Stealth Mechanical Keyboard

Mechanical keyboards became very popular in the last few years. They offer a different typing and gaming experience, which can be labeled as in a class of its own compared to rubber dome-based devices. Cooler Master, under its CM Storm brand, offers a wide choice of mechanical keyboards that are very well built and come at irresistible prices. This year’s pick is the CM Storm QuickFire Stealth, which is a stealthy version of the CM Storm QuickFire Rapid. This tenkeyless keyboard has a compact form-factor due to the missing number pad, which makes it very convenient to use when desk real estate is a concern. It is built to the image of the legendary Filco Ninja Majestouch-2 Tenkeyless, considered to be one of the best keyboards available.

However, Cooler Master added its own touch by adding a very clever USB cable routing channel on the back, a removable USB cable, and a smooth coating on the body. Also, included in the box are four red-colored WASD key caps, just in case one might need some extra bearings while playing. These colored keycaps are easily swapped with the included – and very handy – key cap removal tool. The key caps are what give the CM Storm QuickFire Stealth its name; they are printed on the face-side and not on the top like every other keyboard, the end result is a very clean look that will last for a long while. No faded ugly keys here since they never come in contact with finger tips.

The CM Storm QuickFire Stealth Mechanical Keyboard is built to survive a zombie apocalypse; we can vouch for that! It has great looks, small form factor, and it’s a pleasure to type and game on; all at an irresistible price tag of $89.99. I just wish that Cooler Master start selling the key caps as replacement parts. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Runners-Up:

ROCCAT Kone Pure Optical Gaming Mouse:

The Kone Pure is yet another offering from ROCCAT. Looking at the reviews for ROCCAT’s products, there was always some flaw that kept the OCC Gold Award out of reach. However, the ROCCAT Kone Pure Optical Gaming Mouse managed to take that award home. This mouse is comfortable, very well built, and the button layout is well thought out. The highlights of the Kone Pure are the customizable 24-bit coloring, the programmable buttons, and the Easy-Shift[+] function. The functionality is controlled via the bundled software. Overall, the ROCCAT Kone Pure is a great little mouse that suffers only from the slow writes when applying setting from the software.

 

Logitech G510s Gaming Keyboard:

This keyboard is one of Logitech’s latest offerings and it seems to live to the manufacturer's reputation. It is very well built and has quite the feature set that will appeal to gamers looking for a solid yet non-mechanical option. The Logitech G510s is a full keyboard, which means you will not be missing on the number pad. It is also equipped with dedicated media keys with a scroll volume control, an onboard physical switch for toggling the Windows key, 18 macro keys, and a small screen labeled GAMEPANEL LCD. The full RGB backlight is another neat feature that will let you customize your game profiles with colors that are not available on regular LED backlit products. The Logitech G510s Gaming Keyboard is available at the $100+ range, which can be quite the dilemma knowing that Corsair, Cooler Master, and Razer play in the same league and offer some interesting alternatives.

OCC 2013 Products of the Year Conclusion:

As in past years, 2013 was a pleasant ride with all our members and guests - yes, we know you are there so go ahead and register already! And to wrap it up, we hand-picked for you – to the best of our knowledge - this list of products as the best of the 2013 crop. Most of this year's winners are made by reputable manufacturers that have a history of quality, innovation, and performance.

In the motherboards category, we have the Z87-GD65 GAMING; a feature rich, great performing board from MSI. To keep up with today’s demanding PC games, we got the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780Ti; the fastest single GPU available. Considering that first impressions are crucial, you can’t go wrong with the Corsair Carbide Air 540 to house your hardware; beautiful case with some unique features. The Dark Rock Pro 2 from the German manufacturer be quiet! came ahead of the competition and proved to be a great CPU air cooler capable of keeping those temps in check. In the PC memory category, Kingston can celebrate twice since the winner this year is its 10th Anniversary HyperX 16GB 2400MHz memory kit. Finally, interacting with the greatest rig ever would turn into a nightmare without the right peripherals. This year’s pick is the CM Storm QuickFire Stealth Mechanical Keyboard which is compact, discreet, and built to last.

Before we let you loose on the comments section, we want to say that the objective is not really to have a winner, but to put things in perspective. Some of us are limited by cost, some want an extensive list of features, some want the product to outlast them, and some just want it to look gorgeous to their eyes. There is simply no way to have a one-size-fits-all; manufacturers know it very well, and that's why we have so many choices when it comes to computer hardware. So let us know your thoughts! What was your best purchase in 2013? And what would you like to see available in 2014?