Category Archives: Computer Hardware Peripherals

Raidmax Cobra Power 500 Watt PSU Review

Raidmax Cobra Power 500 Watt PSU Review

The Raidmax Cobra RX-500AF-B 500 Watt power supply is a decent enough power supply for computer builders and does have a bronze 80 plus certification.

Ease of Use, Performance:  4/5
Look & Feel:  3/5
Features:  3/5
How much I enjoy:  3/5

Recommendation:  3/5

Raidmax Cobra PSU

Raidmax has been known for years as an affordable computer case company but has not garnered a great reputation for their power supplies. While the power supply industry has its share of good, bad and average they fall somewhere toward the bottom end according to some reviews.

I have also seen reviews that are more positive and if not outright glowing of the affordable power supplies from Raidmax that are manufactured by the Taiwan based Andyson International. Andyson has been known for subpar power supplies but things have been looking up for the past few years with better reviews both professional and by customers.

I received the 500 watt Raidmax Cobra RX-500AF-B power supply which I feel is a good choice as a basic power supply for a medium gaming system or a home computer. The Raidmax Cobra 500 watt PSU has enough wattage to run a good medium gaming computer or a home computer for entertainment and general computing.

whats in the box

After a few snapshots and peaking inside the Raidmax Cobra 500 PSU I installed it in my gaming system to check out the power supply in a decent rig. My gaming system has an Asus Sabertooth 990fx motherboard, an AMD Athlon II X3 440 processor that is overclocked to 3.25 GHz.

I am also running a Sapphire HD 7950 graphics card and a couple of optical drives along with a hard drive and the systems solid state drive. This system requires about 400 watts of power according to a power supply calculator and I have had no problems running this system.

I have been doing some regular computing and web surfing using this system as well as my gaming which does tax my system a bit because it is both overclocked a little and has a decent graphics card. When calculating power supplies I like to keep a little overhead and only use a power supply that has at least 50 watts extra.

Cobra PSU Power Cables

The Raidmax Cobra PSU has a typical frame with a green colored fan and green logos for an stylish looking power supply when installing. The connectors have heat shrink for protection but the Molex connectors do not have those squeeze tabs to aid in removing them.

There is the 24 pin power cable and CPU power cable as well as two PCI-E power cables and three combined Molex/SATA cables with on having a floppy connector. One of the cables has two Molex connectors, a floppy drive connector and a single SATA connector while the other two have one Molex and two SATA connectors.

There are enough connectors to make a decent system and the two PCIe connectors allow you to install two graphics cards as long as they are not top of the line ones. The 500 watt power supply can run two graphics cards in SLI or Crossfire but this depends on your system.

Inside the Cobra PSU

Looking inside the Raidmax PSU there is a decent sized capacitor for input filter and protection circuits including Over Voltage, Under Voltage, Over Power and short circuit protection. The PSU has decent enough heat sinks but larger ones would be better and the solder on all of the board both back and front looks well done.

Overall the build quality looks to be good but not great as you would expect for a power supply that costs $60 which is an affordable price. I really would not consider buying any power supply at any lower price as a lower price would mean skimping on something in quality or protection.

The Raidmax Cobra 500 watt power supply may not be a top of the line power supply but would be fine for a general home computer or for a mid-range gaming system. While Raidmax power supplies may not be highly recommended for high end systems they are affordable.

Raidmax PSU Installed

If you’re looking for an affordable power supply the Raidmax Cobra Power line works well and I highly recommend the RX-500AF-B for mid-range computers.

Cobra RX-500AF-B @ Raidmax

Cobra RX-500AF-B @ Newegg

Pros
Affordable Power Supply
Quiet Fan

Cons
Standard Quality
Lacks higher end protection

Raidmax Horus PC Case Review

Raidmax Horus PC Case Review

The Raidmax Horus PC Case is a great affordable case with enough features to warrant a higher price but the Horus has plenty including room for long graphics cards and space for water cooling.

Ease of Use, Performance:  4/5
Look & Feel:  4/5
Features:  5/5
How much I enjoy:  4/5

Recommendation:  4/5

Raidmax Horus

The Raidmax Horus is an affordable computer case that has plenty of features including water cooling space and room for long graphics cards up to 390mm. The Raidmax Horus can hold 3 5.25 inch optical drives and 3 hard drives or solid state drives along with six cooling fans.

The top of the Raidmax Horus has room for two 120mm fans or a 120mm by 240mm water cooling radiator or a single 140mm fan for maximum cooling. The rear of the case can fit a 120mm fan or a radiator for water cooling like those all in one water cooling solutions that are self-contained.

The Raidmax Horus costs about $50 which is the low end of the computer case scale and still be good enough to recommend, anything lower in price is simply a metal and plastic box. The Raidmax Horus has plenty of features to justify a higher price including the water cooling and regular air cooling fan space to customize your cooling.

Whats in the Box

The Raidmax Horus has room for a combination of 3 5.25 inch optical drives under the front cover and behind the grill another 3 hard drives or solid state drives. You can use the blank 5.25 inch spaces to mount more hard drives using an adapter but this case does not come with any.

The Horus PC Case has one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 connections along with the audio stereo and microphone jacks on the front panel. The USB 3.0 has the now common USB 3.0 header to connect directly to your motherboard while the front panel audio and USB 2.0 has the usual motherboard header connections.

The Front Panel connections have a unique feature that doesn’t cost much for the company but is very nice for the user in rubber dust covers. Raidmax may not go for huge features that cost a lot but in a business where a reputation means everything a few features that stand out can make the difference.

Front Panel Open

The case has the usual motherboard standout screw posts inside and an ATX or Micro ATX motherboard will fit easily with room to work. The case is laid out well inside with a bottom mounted PSU with plenty of room from front to back to fit graphics cards up to 390mm.

I installed an Asus Sabertooth 990FX with a Sapphire Radeon HD 7950 graphics card and have had no problems running the gaming rig easily. I did have a bit of an issue with my current choice for CPU cooling in the Noctua NH-D14 which is just a bit too tall for the Raidmax case.

I installed the AMD stock cooler that came with my current processor and it is doing its job well and does give me enough cooling to run my AMD Athlon II X3 440 at a slight overclock. The Asus AI Suite II is overclocking my system a bit and it runs just fine for gaming and has plenty of cooling but I did add a couple of fans.

System Installed Noctua Cooler Doesn't Fit

I am using some extras fans in front and on top along with the included 120mm fan that was in the rear of the Horus computer case. The single fan is just not enough to cool but I think it is nice not to include more so you can choose the fans your system needs.

The smoked side panel has a spot for another fan so you can add plenty of fans for cooling but the case only comes with the one fan. I have had no problems with heat in the Raidmax Horus even with the stock AMD cooler on my CPU but you are probably going to want at least one additional fan with this case.

Temperatures have been just fine and never reaching higher than is comfortable for my system components while noise has also been good enough. The Raidmax 120mm fan that comes with the system is a bit noisy so I did replace it for a quieter one which is nice since the case sits next to my desk.

System Installed

The Raidmax case works just fine and while I did have to use some extra fans the case does come at a cost that allows a bit of leeway for buying additional components. The Raidmax Horus is a great case and well worth the price with plenty of features I have found in more expensive cases.

The Horus does come with some Velcro straps along with a few zip ties which just adds to my assertion that it’s the little things that matter more. I highly recommend the Raidmax Horus for an affordable case that has the features needed for system builders that will work for both gaming and regular computers.

Horus @ Raidmax

Horus @ Newegg

Pros
Affordable gaming computer case
Room for long graphics cards
Space for water coolers

Cons
Included Fan is a bit noisy

RAVPower WiFi Disk Review

RAVPower WiFi Disk Review

The RAVPower WiFi Disk or Wireless Filehub Media Drive is a device that does several things for mobile devices like tablets and smartphones including transfers of files and charging.

Ease of Use, Performance:  4/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features:  5/5
How much I enjoy:  5/5

Recommendation:  5/5 Stars

RAVPower WiFi Disk

The RAVPower WiFi Disk is a handy little device no larger than a 2.5 inch hard drive that powers smartphones or tablets as well as transfers data wirelessly. You can not only transfer files between devices and computers but also use the WiFi Disk as a hotspot and a network file server.

The RAVPower WiFi Disk charges mobile devices with its internal 3000 mAh battery and allows you to save or copy files from an SD or Mini SD Card in the SC Card slot. The RAVPower WiFi Disk has a power button and reset button along with indicators and a USB connection to connect a hard drive to it.

Indicators & SD Card Slot

The WiFi Disk comes with a USB to micro USB cable and an instruction book that will come in handy for connecting and setting up your network and WiFi connection. You charge devices just by plugging them into the USB connection while you can charge the WiFi Disk using the micro USB connection.

Using the device as a hotspot for other devices like a phone or tablet to connect to the internet is easy and does not take long to set up. You can use the WiFi Disk easily to transfer data to and from an SD card or from a connected hard drive that plugs into the USB connection.

RAVPower Power Connection & Button

The WiFi Disk is compatible with both android and iOS devices so you can use it to easily transfer from a MAC PC or Apple tablets and Windows or Android devices. To use an Android or Apple device like smartphones you need to use an app which is available from iTunes or Google Play.

The AirStor app I have been using with my Nexus 7 works very well and I have had no problems moving files and images from my tablets and smartphone to my computers. I can easily use an SD card and takes pictures with my DSLR camera and then right on the spot upload them to my tablet using the WiFi Disk.

AirStor App

Other uses like streaming videos works most of the time but for longer videos you may not want to go wireless as there is just too much data in large video files. I tried watching a full length movie and a few times during playback it would skip but for shorter videos it works just fine.

Transferring files and streaming as well as using the disk for a hotspot to connect multiple devices all worked just fine and I had no problems with the WiFi Disk other than what to try next. To connect the WiFi Disk to an internet network you simply pair your device whether it’s a smartphone or tablet to it and use the app to connect the WiFi disk to the network.

WiFi Disk from PC

You then have free reign to connect the tablet or smartphone to the internet or use the WiFi Disk as a storage or transfer device between your devices. Being able to connect a hard drive to the WiFi Disk while also charging it makes a great time saver as I could easily see working on files and wanting to keep the disk topped off.

I had no problems using the WiFi Disk and can easily recommend it as a way to connect devices wirelessly and transfer files as well as charge them. I highly recommend the RAVPower WiFi Disk as a great portable charger and network adapter to transfer files and connect to the internet.

WiFi Disk @ RAVPower

WiFi Disk @ Amazon

Pros
Coonects up to five devices
Charges using 300 mAh battery
Wireless mobile storage
WiFi WLAN Hotspot
NAS File Server

Cons
Needs Apps to transfer files

Mpow Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker BTS02 Review

Mpow Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker BTS02 Review

Not to be confused with MiPOW the Mpow BTS02 is a Bluetooth speaker that also has a microphone with audio connection that sounds pretty good.

Ease of Use, Performance:  3/5
Look & Feel:  4/5
Features:  3/5
How much I enjoy:  3/5

Recommendation:  3/5 Stars

Mpow SB02 Bluetooth Speaker

The Mpow Wireless Bluetooth Speaker model BTS02 is a great sounding Bluetooth speaker for mobile devices including smartphones and tablets. The BTS02 connects using Bluetooth wireless or the rear 3.5mm audio connection and has an internal lithium battery that lasts 8 hours according to the company.

Charging is done through the rear USB Micro-B connection so any device like a PC or smartphone charger with a USB connection can charge the speaker. According to the directions you cannot charge the speaker during use which I found kind of strange but I had no problems with it plugged in while listening to my favorite tunes.

I just think that it will not charge while playing as it probably uses as much power as it does to charge so you probably should not expect to use it and charge it at the same time. The BTS02 speaker charged just fine with a variety of connections including a couple of portable smartphone chargers as well as my desktop computers and a wall adapter.

whats in the box

The Mpow Bluetooth Speaker sounds good and connects wirelessly to your device but also has a rear 3.5 mm audio input for an additional way to connect to handheld devices. The front of the speaker has media controls for volume and play/pause as well as answering calls with the built in microphone.

Oddly the power button is on the bottom of the speaker while the two sides have LED lighting to indicate power, pairing and low battery. The speaker also has a voice notification for power on and off, pairing and paired so you can hear the various functions instead of having to see the LED lighting.

Call quality using the microphone was decent and for a device at this price I would have to say it’s pretty good for the price of about $35. It works just fine and you can understand the person on the other end of the line easily without much interference or any problems.

Power Button & Connectons

The packaging the BTS02 came in is rather void of company information which I also found kind of odd as I had to dig on the internet to find the company website. This was also mentioned in a couple of Amazon reviews when customers had problems and could not find out where to go for customer service.

The Mpow website is actually at xmpow.com and has contact information if anyone is interested in finding out more about the company. The Mpow Bluetooth Wireless speaker works well and is a handy Bluetooth connected speaker that uses the latest version of Bluetooth for the best low power connection to your mobile devices.

While the sound quality is not the best at higher volumes the Mpow Bluetooth speaker does sound good and works well enough as a low cost speaker and microphone. I can recommend the Mpow Wireless Speaker as a lower cost alternative to those expensive speakers with more functions than you need.

BTS02 @ xmpow.com

BTS02 @ Amazon

Pros
Low cost Bluetooth 4.0 speaker
Microphone sounds good
Easily connects to any Bluetooth devices

Cons
Sound quality at higher volume is not the best

Epson XP-410 Small-in-One Printer Review

Epson XP-410 Small-in-One Printer Review

The Epson XP-410 Small-in-One Printer is a great scanner and printer that has plenty of features including wireless and direct from memory card printing.

Ease of Use, Performance:  4/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features:  5/5
How much I enjoy:  4/5

Recommendation:  4.5/5 Stars

Epson XP-410 Small-in-One Printer

The Epson Expression Home XP-410 Small-in-One printer has plenty of features including wireless printing and printing directly from an SD or MS Duo memory card. You can also print from a remote location from a tablet, smartphone or an Apple device using cloud printing and apps.

The Epson XP-410 is a scanner and printer that uses four ink cartridges for clear and vibrant images that look pretty good and has simple scan functions. The XP-410 uses a top bed scanner but has no multi sheet feed for single page scanning of documents directly to a print or to send to a computer.

You can send images and emails to the printer from a computer connected directly to the printer or using the built in Wi-Fi over a wireless network connection. You can also remotely send email and images to the printer using apps from tablets, smartphones and other computers.

Whats in the Box

The Epson XP-410 starts as a wireless network printer but also allows connectivity directly to your computer for a bit faster printing. I found that connecting directly to my main computer but also having the ability to connect with other computers and devices wirelessly and remotely worked well.

I had no problems connecting to the XP-410 with my desktop computer and a wireless connection which brought the printer into my network and useable from any computer over my network worked well. The printer has a decent sized driver package at about 102 MB but this is much less than my previous HP printer which was about double the size.

I have had problems with HP drivers and compatibility with Windows 7 with my older printer so moving up to a wireless printer with so many features is great. The Epson XP-410 has the 2.5 inch screen for checking images and as a menu but you can also print directly from an SD card without having to use a computer at all.

Scanner Bed

You can also print from handheld devices like tablets and smartphones with Android based or iTunes based apps that allow even remote printing. You can send a picture or email from your smartphone or tablet back home and have it print out and ready for you by the time you get back to your home or office.

Of course you would need to make sure it is preloaded with your choice of paper before you leave so a little planning is necessary. The printer does an excellent job with simple tasks like printing out numerous pages like my tax return which took about 7 minutes for 24 pages.

Color photos will take longer and of course will vary widely according to detail and colors used but I found printing nice full 8.5 by 11 images took about 10 to 13 minutes while 8 by 10 took a little less. Regular 4 by 6 prints took as little as 2 to 3 minutes which is about the standard for these types of multifunction printers.

Loading Ink Cartridges

Quality is not nearly as good as my dedicated photo printer and others I have had in the past but for the price the Epson XP-410 does hold its own. I found colors looked good and even large black photos like fireworks had a good depth to them while bright colors like flowers looked vibrant enough.

When comparing printed color images from an HP color printer the colors are a bit washed and not as vibrant but for the price of the XP-410 it is not bad. The XP-410 costs about $90 or less with ink running about $10 to $13 for standard cartridges and a few dollars more for the large capacity ones.

I found a couple reviews that talked about the number of pages you could print from an ink cartridge and the Epson does have a smaller yield to their cartridges. They are a bit more expensive when compared to other brands and the pages you can print per cartridge which would put this printer at a disadvantage if used often.

xp-410 & test images

I was very happy with the scanner and having the ability to scan and print or print directly from an SD card when I want which can come in handy at times. I had no problems at all when using the XP-410 and could really see the handy connectivity options like printing from a tablet while surfing the net or printing emails from a tablet.

The higher cost per page would only factor in if this was a large output printer but for regular home or home office use this makes an excellent printer. I highly recommend the Epson XP-410 for a great home and home office printer that has plenty of great features.

Epson XP-410 Website

Epson XP-410 @ Amazon

Pros
Inexpensive w/ lots of features
Four ink cartridges reduces waste
On screen image allows print from camera or memory card
Easy software installation

Cons
A Bit slower at printing color images
Ink is a bit expensive

 

SteelSeries Siberia Elite Headset

SteelSeries Siberia Elite Headset

The SteelSeries Siberia Elite is a top of the line headset with a USB sound card or stereo connection but sound quality is where the Siberia Elite excels.

Ease of Use, Performance:  5/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features:  5/5
How much I enjoy:  5/5

Recommendation:  5/5 Stars

Steelseries Siberia Elite

The SteelSeries Siberia Elite headset is a softly padded headset that can be used with any of three connections for a versatile headset that includes 7.1 Dolby surround sound. The SteelSeries Siberia Elite can use the included sound card to create Dolby 7.1 surround sound but the headset also sounds fantastic other software for surround.

Bass is deep and rich while midtones and highs are clear with stereo or full 7.1 surround sound that is available using the SteelSeries sound card. The stereo headset uses a direct stereo connection at the headset connection so you can plug the headset directly into a stereo device or connection.

The SteelSeries Siberia Elite has three connection options with a two end stereo and microphone connection, a one end stereo often found on smartphones and the sound card with the USB connection. The Siberia Elite also comes with an extension cable that connects to the headset cable that has the unique connection that the smaller adapters connect to.

Whats in the Box

The headset connects directly to devices using either the stereo or stereo and microphone connections or the USB sound card for a very versatile headset for mobile devices and computers. The sound card is both MAC and Windows compatible and turns the stereo sound coming from a computer into Dolby 7.1 surround sound using delays to parts of the sound.

These delays create a simulated surround sound that sounds great and can really help in gaming and general entertainment enjoyment. The Siberia Elite sounds great whether you’re playing simple music using the stereo connection or you’re listening to a movie using Dolby 7.1 surround sound.

I also tested out the headset using a separate surround sound program from Razer and it also sounded great with very realistic surround sound. Besides the connection choices you also have LED lighting on both headsets that are controllable from the SteelSeries Engine that you install on your computer.

Siberia Elite Connections

The SteelSeries Engine 3 allows you to control the headset and other SteelSeries peripherals that use the software with lighting, equalizer, noise reduction and Dolby controls. The Engine 3 also updates the firmware onboard the headset for future updates and controls other SteelSeries peripheral features.

The microphone for the headset pulls out as well as has a white LED to show it is muted for easy use while the sound quality and background noise reduction is great. The microphone sounded very good when on the receiving end of a phone call or gaming using two computers and I had no problems using the microphone of the Siberia Elite.

The Siberia Elite is a nice looking headset with great sound quality but it is also very comfortable with very soft leather padded earpieces. I had no problems or discomfort from wearing the Siberia Elite for hours on end gaming and watching movies as the headset and top band help to alleviate any discomfort.

Siberia Elite Headset by Steelseries

The top band rests comfortably on your head while the steel band above it keeps the earpieces snuggly on your ears but not too tight. I had no problems whatsoever with the Siberia Elite and really enjoyed listening to the wide variety of music and entertainment I put through the headset.

I continue to visit sites and try to find the most current testing and audio files that put headsets and speakers to the test. I found a nice site called Audiocheck.net that has plenty of test files that really puts audio equipment through their paces.

The SteelSeries Siberia Elite really sounds great from the lowest sounds like whispers to the hitch pitched tones that shatter glass. Bass is also great and sounds fantastic with plenty of ear pounding lows that sound great in movies and gaming.

Siberia Elite w/ LED Lighting

I highly recommend the SteelSeries Siberia Elite as a high end headset that is very versatile and has excellent sound for both stereo and surround sound.

SteelSeries Siberia Elite

Siberia Elite @ Amazon

Pros
USB, stereo and stereo with microphone connections
Soft comfortable leather ear pieces
Excellent sound quality
Fantastic Dolby 7.1 Surround Sound

Cons
None

Velodyne vFree Bluetooth Headset

Velodyne vFree Bluetooth Headset

The Velodyne vFree is a high quality headset with Bluetooth connectivity and clear sound but the bass is where these great headphones shine.

Ease of Use, Performance:  5/5
Look & Feel:  4/5
Features:  4/5
How much I enjoy:  4/5

Recommendation:  4/5 Stars

Velodyne vFree Headset

The Velodyne vFree headset is a Bluetooth connected stereo headset that sounds fantastic with deep bass and clear sound in a comfortable on ear package. The Velodyne vFree uses Bluetooth connectivity to transmit the clear sounding audio from your computer, phone, mp3 player or other Bluetooth capable device.

The vFree headset has a convenient folding design for easy carry with both ear pieces having a hinge that pulls out and folds. The vFree from Velodyne comes with the headset, a cloth carry bag, a USB charging cable and a stereo audio cable along with an instruction card.

The vFree has buttons on the right ear piece for power and pairing, fast forward and rewind, play and pause, and to answer and hang up when connected to a smartphone. These control buttons are part of the vFree design and are shaped to match the unique style of the headset.

Velodyne vFree Headset

The volume buttons are on the side of the right ear piece along with the pairing indicator LED and the microphone hole of the right head piece. The left ear piece has the power indicator, stereo connection and the micro-B USB connection for charging the vFree headset.

The headset takes about an hour to an hour and half to charge fully while it can last about nine to ten hours of continued use listening to your favorite tunes or movies. The headset will go to sleep after a few minutes to preserve battery life and will automatically connect after you have successfully set it up with a Bluetooth device.

Pairing was easy using both computers and handheld devices like my Samsung Stellar smartphone and a couple tablets with the headset pairing automatically. Range is pretty good with the Bluetooth range stated as 30 feet but real world situations are different with better range generally.

vFree Folding Headset

I had no problems listening to music while being a few rooms away which is pretty good given my homes old plaster and lathe walls. I can listen to music easily in my garage from the small PC in my kitchen and hear clear sound from about thirty feet away through my back wall and garage wall.

I had no problems using the headset other than a few times connecting the headset to my PC because of the Bluetooth software on the computer. I have had no problems connecting and using the vFree headset connected to my tablets and the headset pairs easily with handheld devices.

Audio is excellent with clear mid tones and lows while bass is deep and pounding for some great sound whether I was using a tablet or a computer. I also tried using a virtual surround sound with the vFree headset and was very impressed with the clear and very realistic 7.1 surround.

vFree Ready for Travel

Razer has created a free 7.1 virtual surround sound program that works on Windows 7 and 8 computers that creates surround sound using delays in the various parts of the sound. These delays give the impression of surround easily and very well which makes a huge difference in enjoyment.

Gaming is excellent and the headset is comfortable enough to wear for hours at a time without problems due to the light weight and soft ear pieces. I had no problem gaming for several hours wearing the Velodyne vFree headset and could really enjoy my favorite first person shooter Battlefield 4.

Surround sound in gaming and especially first person shooters means you get a slight advantage by being able to identify where people are at more accurately. Identifying where people are or where they are shooting from means a better awareness of their location.

I also checked out full surround sound movies like Avatar and really enjoyed listening to the full sound field available using the surround sound. The vFree headset worked perfectly for all the uses I tried including making some phone calls but environmental noise does slip in a bit.

The microphone is a simple hole on the right ear piece so you can get a little extra noise form your surrounding when using the microphone but it was not that bad. Voice came over clear even if you do hear a little extra noise from the same room and the microphone does work well for both gaming communication and for use as a smartphone headset and microphone.

I highly recommend the Velodyne vFree as a fantastic Bluetooth headset that is not only comfortable but sounds fantastic for both stereo audio and surround sound. The only disadvantage I found with the vFree headset is the cost at about $175 currently at Amazon.

vFree @ Velodyne

Velodyne vFree @ Amazon

Pros
Fantastic sounding headset
Clear highs and mid tones, deep bass
comfortable and light weight

Cons
Cost is a bit high

Lowepro Urban Reporter 250 Messenger Bag Review

Lowepro Urban Reporter 250 Messenger Bag Review

The Lowepro Urban Reporter 250 is a medium sized messenger bag designed for both smaller laptops and DSLR cameras with accessories and more.

Ease of Use, Performance:  4/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features:  4/5
How much I enjoy:  5/5

Recommendation:  5/5 Stars

Lowepro Urban Reporter 250 Messenger Bag

The Lowepro Urban Reporter series of messenger bags is a set of camera bags designed around photographers needs to carry both camera gear and other essentials. The Urban Reporter line of bags come in three sizes with each more roomier but essentially the same.

The Urban Reporter 250 can fit a 13 inch laptop and is 16.3 inches wide, 6.9 inches deep and 11.2 inches high with a removable inner case. The inner removable case has a top flap and is padded with movable Velcro dividers but does not have a carry handle.

The messenger bag without the padded case would be great for text books or as a day bag with enough room for a change of clothes. The padded case can hold a DSLR camera with a regular or long lens and a flash with a couple extra lenses with plenty of room for gear.

Urban Reporter Removable Case

While not a large bag the case does have room for plenty but I also found out the narrow width of the messenger bag does cramp my DSLR when I have a battery grip attached. My Canon DSLR has a battery grip that increases the cameras height by a couple inches which does make it too wide to fit in the Lowepro Urban Reporter while attached.

While using the messenger bag it was easy enough to remove the grip when storing the camera and the case had plenty of room for the camera body and the grip with a lens and more. I fit the camera with lens, two lenses and a large flash along with the battery grip in the case while reviewing the bag easily.

The Urban Reporter 250 has a carry strap with a removable pad but the main flap has two snap closures that are a bit of a surprise in this age of quick release buckles. The flap closes just fine and the snaps do keep it secure while the angled edge where the flap connects to the body keeps gear inside the bag.

Urban Reporter Interior

The side pockets have a snap closure while each side pocket also has a mesh divider for keeping things secure inside like water bottles when you want to use the pocket open to hold something tall. The front zippered pocket has a smaller zippered pocket on the front flap and another on the back with two pockets without a zipper and a business card pocket.

Inside the main compartment the tablet or laptop pocket is padded and has a soft velour like material to prevent scratches and keep your laptop in great condition. The carry handle that is on the top of the bag is adjustable which is a nice feature that Lowepro includes on several of their bags.

The Lowepro Urban Reporter 250 is a great camera bag with the one exception that it is not wide enough for a camera with a battery grip in place. The Urban Reporters width is only 6.9 inches but with the padding this equates to about four inches which is the width of the dividers.

Urban Reporter Messenger Bag on Luggage

The dividers inside the case are four inches wide while DSLR cameras are usually about this width when measured from top to bottom without a grip. This is not much of a problem and only requires removing a grip if you commonly use one to fit the DSLR in the bag easily.

The materials and stitching are all high quality and the bag does come with a unique feature in a loop made from the back pocket that fits over a handle for roll around luggage. This loop is created from the rear pocket that has a zipper on the bottom instead of the top to create either a pocket or a loop to hold the bag on a roll around.

I have been using the Urban Reporter for a few weeks for meetings where I have been taking pictures as well as carrying a couple tablets and other gear. The Urban Reporter makes a great laptop bag for smaller laptops as well as a general messenger bag to carry stuff to meetings and other events.

Urban Reporter w/ Gear

The bag looks to be a good one for a wide variety of uses as well as tough enough to withstand years of use so I highly doubt this will be needing any repairs anytime soon. The Lowepro Urban Reporter 250 is a tough and good looking messenger bag designed with the photographer in mind.

I highly recommend the Lower Urban Reporter as a durable and versatile messenger bag in three sizes to fit your needs both in photography and gear.

Urban Reporter @ Lowepro

Urban Reporter @ Amazon

Pros
Removable inner case, adjustable carry handle
Padded laptop/tablet compartment
Plenty of room for gear

Cons
No rain cover
Not wide enough for DSLR w/ Battery grip installed

Raidmax Vampire Black PC Case Review

Raidmax Vampire Black PC Case Review

The Raidmax Vampire PC case is a top of the line PC case with plenty of high end features at a great price for computer enthusiasts who need a case with all the extras including room for server motherboards.

Ease of Use, Performance:  4/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features:  4/5
How much I enjoy:  4/5

Recommendation:  4/5 Stars

Raidmax Vampire PC Case

The Raidmax Vampire is a top of the line PC case with plenty of features for gamers and computer enthusiasts who need the most from their PC case. The Raidmax Vampire has five front 3.5 inch drive bays, 7 internal 3.5 or 2.5 inch hard drive slots and a hotswap 2.5 inch drive bay for starters.

The Vampire can fit Micro-ATX, ATX, SSI CEB, SSI EEB, Mini ATX and Flex ATX motherboards with up to ten slots in the rear for expansion cards. The case has 2 USB 2.0 and 2 USB 3.0 connections on the front panel along with the stereo audio and microphone connections.

Front and side panel controls include fan speed and the usual power and reset buttons but the power and reset are a bit close to the other front panel connections. The entire PC case is covered with Black rubberized paint for the Vampire Black covering a solid plastic and metal case.

Whats in the Box

The build is a quality design from quality materials and looking at the basic design and assembly you can see the quality both inside and out. The PC case has a roomy interior for a wide variety of motherboards with plenty of room for both the assembly and working on the interior from time to time.

The bottom mounted power supply space has four rubber feet that the power supply rests on while being screwed to the body of the PC case. Below the power supply is a removable fan filter for easy cleaning while the rubber feet prevent vibrations from the power supply being transferred to the case.

The large knurled screws for side and top panels means no tools to open up the PC case and to get at important components while the main area has plenty of room to work in. The large area of the main section allows a nice neat system after installation and enough room to work comfortably when installing your motherboard and components.

Front Panel Controls & Connections

The Raidmax Vampire can also fit server based motherboards like SSI CEB and EEB or Server System Infrastructure Compact Electronics Bay and Enterprise Electronics Bay motherboards. These motherboards have single or dual processors for servers and business computers and need extra cooling from either more fans or liquid cooling.

These types of computers need better cooling and the Vampire delivers easily with a standard front fan pulling cool air into the case with the 200 mm front fan. The rear fan removes the hot air but the fan speed control can work with any three fans in the PC case from the three fan connections.

The top of the case can fit a 240/280 mm radiator for liquid cooling, two 120/140 mm fans or one 200 mm fan for added cooling of your system. You can add plenty of fans to keep a gaming, enthusiast or even server system cool and looking good with the LED fan lighting.

Side HDD Dock

The controls are easy to understand and use with push button on off and a slide low to high control to start and stop or increase air flow. Being able to stop fans may not be a needed feature and one that I just cannot see why is included but another puzzler is the noisy rear fan.

When you turn the fan up to max speed it is than any other fan in the case and noticeable over sound from a movie or TV show playing in the same room. You could replace the fan with a quieter one but for the $130 price tag you would expect a little of that cost to be a good fan system.

A simple swap out with a fan made a world of difference in noise but for the price I should get decent quiet fans in the case when I buy it. Other features in the Raidmax Vampire are not a problem for me but I do not have a larger motherboard or a server motherboard.

Rear of Vampire PC Case

I did not have a problem with room or with routing of cables and found the rubber covered grommet holes really helpful to both route cables and hide unused ones. The power cable leading to the top edge of the motherboard for the auxiliary power was not a problem for my setup but I could see having a rear hole leading to this area helpful for some systems.

Cooling is not an issue and after testing both idle and high usage for CPU and GPU I found more than acceptable temperatures for system components. The temperatures never got above 34 degrees Celsius for my CPU and above 35 degrees Celsius for my GPU during full load testing.

The fans offer enough airflow for cooling at a customizable rate but the Vampire does allow for even more cooling by adding fans on the top, side or even a liquid cooling system. The side panel does have a spot for two fans but the square holes would make for a potential crack situation which I am surprised to see on a plastic panel.

System Installed

Plastic should always have round holes as anything else with angles would have more of a potential to crack when you have holes with sharp angles like a square hole does. The square holes in the case side panel window for a fan mount would tend to crack at this point and is a surprise to see on any case side panel.

I had no problems with the Raidmax Vampire other than the noisy fan and simply replaced that with a quieter one that works just fine. The Raidmax does have the size to fit a wide variety of motherboards and is a great PC case with only a few minor problems and is a high recommendation for a great computer case.

I highly recommend the Raidmax Vampire and really like the size and roomy interior while the variety of motherboard that can fit make it a unique case.

Behind Motherboard

Raidmax Vampire Website

Raidmax Vampire White @ Newegg Business

Pros
Full tower case can hold gaming and server motherboards
Hotswap 2.5 inch hard drive bay
Grommet protected access for cables

Cons
Noisy rear fan
Access for motherboard auxiliary power cable would be nice

Joby GPod Mini Magnetic Tripod and MPod Mini Stand

Joby GPod Mini Magnetic Tripod and MPod Mini Stand

The Joby GPod Mini and MPod Mini are both great small device stands with a screw on or elastic holder for devices like point and shoot cameras and smartphones.

Ease of Use, Performance:  5/5
Look & Feel:  4/5
Features:  4/5
How much I enjoy:  5/5

Recommendation:  4.5/5 Stars

Joby MPod & GPod Mini

The MPod Mini Stand is a handy tripod with an elastic clamp for holding smartphones or media players while the GPod Mini Magnetic tripod holds tight to surfaces using its magnetic feet. The GPod Mini Magnetic is a point and shoot or action camera stand that has magnetic feet and flexible legs for a handy small tripod.

Digital cameras come in all sizes with those smaller point and shoot cameras handy for quick photos at great quality with a smaller sized camera but tripods are more for bigger cameras. Joby is the creator of the Gorilla Pod with its unique flexible leg section being a trademark of the line of tripods and stands that can both grip and change the shape of your tripod.

The Joby GPod Mini Magnetic is a small compact tripod for point and shoot digital cameras that feature magnetic feet strong enough to support those lightweight cameras. The GPod Mini Magnetic is about 3.5 inches tall but can be used as short as about 2 inches not including your camera.

MPod Tripod & GPod Mini

The Mini Magnetic has magnetic tipped feet with the flexible legs familiar to Gorilla tripods as well as the 1/4 inch mount for a unique tripod that is perfect for smaller devices. The Mini Magnetic can support up to 11.2 ounces and can be used with anything that has the 1/4 inch screw mount like my Canon PowerShot camera.

The Mini Magnetic has the three rubber tipped feet for normal use and the feet can be wrapped around smaller objects like a fence post or handrail but is also handy on metal objects like playground equipment. The small size means you can easily fit the mini Magnetic in your pocket or smaller carry cases for your digital camera and easily attaches using the 1/4 inch screw on post.

The GPod Mini Magnetic costs about $15 which is a great price for the handy tripod which is made from quality metal, plastic and rubberized materials. The leg sections are a cup and ball design that fit snuggly into each other and I have not had any sections pull out in all my uses of Gorilla Pod tripods.

GPod Mini Magnetic

The tripods feature the leg sections that have made adjustable tripods a unique part of outdoor and indoor photography where you can use existing structures to hang your camera easily. I found the park a perfect example where you can use a fence post, fence section or playground equipment to munt your camera using the GPod Mini Magnetic feet to capture that full family moment.

The MPod Mini Stand is another great tripod in the smaller size at about 4.5 inches tall and can hold smart phones and media players that are up to 3.2 inches. The clamp device for the MPod Mini can hold devices up to .45 inches thick which works for a wide variety of phones even with cases.

MPod Mini Stand

The MPod Mini held my smartphone easily even with a plastic rubberized case but my Sandisk Fuze with a case was just a bit too wide for the clamp. I simply removed the case and the Fuze fit just fine in the MPod Mini for handy desk or table access of the media player.

The MPod Mini Stand works well and is a great way to keep your smartphone handy on your desk or table and you can use the stand for digital photography using a smartphone. The MPod Mini also costs about $15 and is available at a variety of online sites as well as select brick and mortar stores.

MPod Mini Magnetic Hanging Around Joby

Both the MPod Mini and the GPod Mini make great ways to keep your devices at the ready for quick shots or just hanging around. I highly recommend both the JOBY MPod Mini and GPod Mini Magnetic for great flexible stands for cameras and smartphones that work extremely well.

MPod Mini @ JOBY

GPod Mini Magnetic @ JOBY

Pros
Handy and convenient stands for devices
Flexible legs for variety of uses
Both tripods are made from quality materials

Cons
Only for smaller devices