Cases and Coolers
We visited a number of the world's leading case and cooling manufacturers during our time at CES 2018, including Corsair, Thermaltake, SilverStone, In-Win, and be quiet!. Definitely check out our extensive coverage of the latest from Corsair, Thermaltake, SilverStone, and In-Win in our comprehensive YouTube booth tours. The biggest trends are of course RGB and tempered glass, and our favorite showcase for this trend was the gorgeous Thermaltake View 71 Snow Edition shown here. But we also saw most of these manufacturers incorporating USB 3.1 Type-C Gen 2 ports on their high-end cases, which we know a lot of our readers have been interested in. There wasn't a lot of news in the cooler world, although Corsair has finally refreshed its top-selling Hydro lineup, starting with the very high-end (the 280mm H115i Pro at $140 and 360mm H150i Pro at the $170 pricepoint). The biggest improvement to performance that these coolers bring is a move to a much better fan: two 1200RPM 140mm fans on the H115i and three 1600RPM 120mm fans on the H150i, both using magnetic levitation bearings. These are radically quieter than the silly 2400RPM fans Corsair had been using for far too long on its H100i v2, and we hope that it will soon update that model as well, which is in fact the best-selling liquid cooler ever released.
As for Germany-based be quiet!, we just snapped a few photos, and spent most of our time talking to its representatives about its approach to development. be quiet! focuses on the very high end of the market, and makes sure that it only releases products when they are truly ready. It doesn't have a deep catalog of models, but it does have a lot right at the top, and joining its cases this year is the Dark Base 700. It has a tempered glass panel on one side, sound-absorbing padding on the other, plus front-mounted RGB strips, an RGB controller, and dual 140mm fans along with a PWM controller. It also has that coveted USB 3.1 Gen 2 port up top. Note that at $180, this case isn't going for top value, but it is well-crafted and offers a conservative aesthetic that many sophisticated enthusiasts will appreciate.
Air cooling isn't an area that gets a lot of love at CES, as it's perhaps a bit too old-fashioned for the tech-focused audience, but be quiet! did take the opportunity to show off a prototype of its new Dark Rock Pro 4 cooler, which looks like it's poised to challenge the likes of the Noctua NH-D15 for air cooler supremacy. It uses a 120mm front fan and 135 mid-mounted fan, both using 6-pole motors, wave-contoured fins, and FDB bearings, and it will be arriving in Q2'18 around the $90 pricepoint.
Back to liquid coolers for a moment - it seems like Germany-based Alphacool might be looking to grab a bigger share of the U.S. market, as it's opening an RMA center here, and preparing to release its new Eisbaer LT cooler in June 2018, with U.S. consumers directly in its crosshairs. The updated aesthetics and improved performance should make it very popular, given how well current Eisbaer models perform.
The biggest news in PSUs is that they're continuing to get smaller and more efficient. Corsair showed off its new $450 AX1600i, which is so good it exceeds all existing efficiency classifications. It uses gallium nitride transistors to achieve a staggering 96% peak efficiency, well above the 94% mandated by the Titanium classification. And at just 200mm long, it will fit in all standard ATX cases.
Mini-ITX pioneer SilverStone of course got in on the miniaturization action, but took it in an entirely different direction than Corsair. Its awesome fanless Nightjar NJ450 and NJ600 units, using the SFX-L and ATX formats, respectively, both offer Titanium-rated efficiency in a completely fanless design. Note that the NJ450 uses a daring totally-enclosed design with heatsinks attached to most exterior surfaces. SilverStone assures us that this design in fact performs better than a fully-vented enclosure!
Small Form Factor PCs
There's good news and bad news in the SFF arena. On a positive note, there are definitely some great strides being made in the ITX market, and one of the most prolific innovators is Zotac, which has an amazing lineup of ultra-small gaming and professional PCs, many of which you can see in our YouTube video shot at their booth. But the news isn't as good for do-it-yourself builders, as it looks like the fledgling micro-STX gaming format is not going to take off after all. First shown at Computex 2017, it again appeared at the SilverStone booth. This time around, the star was an ultra-small, conservatively-styled VT03 chassis, sporting an MXM-format GTX 1070. Alas, this product simply will not be coming to market.
Intended to be an extension of the smaller STX format, micro-STX was poised to allow the use of GPUs on mobile PCI Express Modules (MXM) originally designed for laptops. SilverStone had hinted at problems sourcing these cards, and we asked Nvidia spokeperson Vijay Sharma a very direct question on the future of the format. The issue for Nvidia is that today's gaming laptops manufacturers are striving to create ever-thinner designs, and a GPU on a card simply can't provide the low z-height required to achieve ultra-slim proportions. From Nvidia's point of view, MXM is an obsolete format, and that's why it's pulling the plug despite the interest of both SilverStone and Intel (which manufacturered the prototype motherboard shown above) in using it in desktops. This could also end up being a problem for Zotac, which has made extensive use of these cards in its barebones systems. Fans of ultra-compact PCs who want to get their gaming fix will need to rely on Intel's Vega-powered Hades Canyon NUC, detailed on the previous page.
There's actually a lot of news in the peripherals world, so much so that we put together an entire article about it. If this is a topic you're interested in, definitely check out our full write-up!
We've got news here too - check out our companion article on the Future of Display Tech to learn more!
All right, that's all we have in the way of PC news coming out of CES 2018. As always, we'll be updating our DIY PC Buyer's Guides, updated monthly, with the very best new components as they roll out throughout the year!