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O11 Air Mini: Hands-on with Lian Li’s new airflow-focused case

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O11 Air Mini: Hands-on with Lian Li’s new airflow-focused case

The O11D Mini may have flashier looks, but the new O11 Air Mini offers more value.

Alaina dives into a detailed comparison of Lian Li’s new O11 Air Mini and its popular O11 Dynamic Mini. Spoilers: It’s not just an O11D Mini with perforated side panels.

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You’ve probably already seen a Lian Li O11 case before. Visit any forum where people show off builds, and the O11 Dynamic comes up time and time again. But the Dynamic isn’t the only O11 line that Lian Li produces. It also has the O11 Air, which focuses more on airflow.

The company is now launching a Mini version of the Air, one that sports some key differences from its O11D Mini cousin. And those features may be enough to lure away builders from the O11D Mini that launched late last year—after some hands-on time with the case, I think this may be the one I’d recommend of the two.

Looking for a direct comparison with the O11D Mini? Check out our side-by-side breakdown of each case’s specs.

Design

Compared to the original O11 Air, the Air Mini has much more of the appearance (and feel) of the O11 Dynamic line. In fact, it resembles the O11D Mini enough that the two often have been compared in the lead up to the Air Mini’s launch.

But while the two look similar, the Air Mini comes with more mesh and cooling as the default default. It has just one tempered glass panel—all the other panels are metal with perforated (“mesh”) segments—and includes three PWM fans. (You get two 140mm at the front, and one 120mm at the rear.) And importantly, this new case is also shorter, fatter, and a bit larger.

Because of its different shape, the O11 Air Mini accommodates larger motherboards and power supplies in its dual-chamber layout. The primary section on the left side of the case can fit EATX mobos up to 280mm in width, while the narrower section on the right side of the case takes ATX power supplies up to 200mm in length. That latter detail makes building in the Air Mini cheaper: You’re not forced to pay a premium for more expensive SFX or SFX-L power supplies.

o11 air mini next to o11d mini on a table with PSU/storage chamber showing Willis Lai / IDG

The O11 Air Mini (right) is compatible with ATX power supplies.

But since the O11 Air Mini doesn’t run as deep as its O11D counterpart, it has only one location where you can install up to three 120mm fans—and it doesn’t support 360mm radiators at all. Instead, you get an additional mounting spot for fans (up to 140mm) and a radiator (up to 280mm) at the front, which also can be easily removed.

That fourth spot allows more flexibility for component positioning within the case, as the O11 Air adapts a useful feature from the O11 Dynamic line—modularity. This case can be configured in a “7-slot mode” to fit EATX or ATX motherboards or in a “5-slot mode” to give micro-ATX and mini-ITX motherboards more room at the top of the case. It’s even compatible with the O11D Mini’s vertical GPU mounting bracket accessory, as well as a new top-mounted radiator bracket accessory that enables installation of a 280mm rad in 7-slot mode.

Of course, with that flexibility comes a wealth of details to track for component clearances. But since the Air Mini has only two configuration “modes” compared to the Dynamic Mini’s three, it’s not quite as dizzying.

Building experience

Like the O11D Mini, the O11 Air Mini has a straightforward easiness that minimizes frustration during most build projects. But because it has more mounting spots for fans and radiators, the O11 Air Mini would be my pick of the two O11 Minis for newer or pragmatic builders. For example, if you end up buying an AIO CPU cooler with shorter tubes than expected, you have more alternative locations for installation. No need to think deep on how to work around that unexpected issue.

Small touches on the Air Mini also push it ahead of the O11D Mini, like the finger grip along the back edge of the right-side panel. It makes sliding the panel from the case even simpler.

o11 air mini and o11d mini side by side, front view Willis Lai / IDG

For most DIYers, having the O11 Air Mini’s mesh front and greater number of fan/radiator mounting spots will simplify how you maintain optimal system temps in your build.

Only two small changes would make this case more ideal. First, Lian Li could have extended its depth to match the O11D Mini—which frankly isn’t that much deeper—to fit 360mm radiators. Or at the very least, the O11 Air Mini could be made deep enough to fit three 120mm fans at the bottom. I also would prefer to still have removable dust filters paired with the metal mesh panels, since they can be rinsed under a sink without worry about scuffs or rusting. The only removable dust filter on the O11 Air Mini is on the underside of the case.

Pricing and final thoughts

The O11 Air comes in two colors, with the black version priced at $110 USD and the white variant coming in at $120. MSRP is $10 less outside the US. You can find this case along with the vertical mounting bracket ($50 with a PCIe 3.0 cable, $80 with a PCIe 4.0 cable) and the radiator bracket accessory ($9) on Newegg. Orders placed now will ship later in the month.

With a lower starting price than the O11D Mini and three included fans, the O11 Air Mini will offer greater value and a better balance between thermal performance and aesthetics for most PC builders. You still have a tempered glass panel to show off tidy cable management and RGB accessories (heck, the light’s still going to come through the front mesh panel anyway), but you’ll have to worry a lot less about whether or not your system is optimally configured to get enough air to your components. It’s hard to argue for the O11D Mini unless you’re set on an elaborate, gorgeous build.

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Leaked Alder Lake prices strike at Ryzen’s CPU dominance

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Leaked Alder Lake prices strike at Ryzen’s CPU dominance

Here’s what leaked retailer pricing tells us about the performance of Intel’s upcoming Alder Lake S CPUs.

6core vs 8core cpus

Intel / AMD / janniwet / Shutterstock

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Intel’s 12th-gen Alder Lake processors aren’t upon us yet, but another price leak indicates they might indeed compete with AMD’s best CPUs, unlike current top-end Core offerings.

The latest oopsie comes from retail IT vendor Provantage, which puts the top-end Core i9-12900K at $605. The IT vendor also lists the Core i7-12700K at $420, as well as a Core i5-12600K for $283.

After news reports of the part numbers and prices surfaced, Provantage removed the listings. The latest leak follows reports two weeks ago—supposedly from European retailers—that placed the Core i9-12900K at $705, the Core i7-12700K at $495, and the Core i5-12600 at $343.

Before you jump to any conclusions, we want to point out that as reliable as a leaked retail price might seem, they can very unreliable too. Often times stores prep for impending launches by using placeholder prices and specs. Those listings are then updated when the stores receive the final information.

The leaked info itself from Provantage would indicate it’s not quite baked yet. For example, we know the top-end Alder Lake S chip will feature 8 performance cores and 8 efficient cores (Intel’s Alder Lake chips feature a radical new mixture of big and little cores), yet the listing at Provantage lists the top-end chip as an 8-core design. 

alder lake provantage Provantage via Hothardware.com

Hothardware.com snapped this image of Intel’s 12th gen Alder Lake CPUs at retailer Provantage. that has since been removed.

Still, both combined retail leaks reinforce what we’ve already come to conclude so far: Intel’s 12th-gen Alder Lake S will at least suit up with the intent to take on AMD’s 16-core Ryzen 9 5950X.

That’s a marked change from the $550 8-core 11th gen Rocket Lake CPU, which lost badly to AMD’s $550 12-core Ryzen 9 5900X chip. With the 11th-gen desktop chips, Intel didn’t even try to field a CPU against AMD’s $750 Ryzen 9 5950X.

With its increased core efficiency, newer manufacturing process, and physically more cores than previous Intel consumer desktop CPUs, it’s entirely possible Intel’s 12th Core i9 will actually end up being somewhere between $604 and $705 when it comes out.

intel alder lake performance core benchmark Intel

Intel is touting a marked increase in core efficiency with its 12th gen Alder Lake CPUs.

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One of founding fathers of hardcore tech reporting, Gordon has been covering PCs and components since 1998.

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The best Windows backup software

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The best Windows backup software

Updated

The best programs for keeping your data and Windows safely backed up.

Rob Schultz/IDG

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Table of Contents

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We need backup software for our PCs because our storage drives won’t last forever. Backup software ensures we’re covered when the day comes that our primary drive up and dies.

It would be nice if Microsoft itself provided Windows users with something like Apple’s Time Machine: an effective, set-it-and-forget-it, total system recovery and backup solution that requires little interaction or thought on the user’s part. 

Instead, Microsoft delivers a mishmash of restore points, recovery discs, file backup, and even the un-retired System Backup (Windows 7), which was probably originally put out to pasture for its propensity to choke on dissimilar hardware. Online backup services are another option, but desktop clients tend to offer far more flexibility. 

Plenty of vendors have stepped in with worthy alternatives, and while none are quite as slick or transparent as Time Machine, some come darn close—and many are free. Read on for our top picks. 

Updated on 9/15/21 to include our review of the newest version of Aomei Backupper 6. It remains our favorite free backup software for Windows because it provides a near-total backup solution, with a generous number of features. As a paid program, however, there are better options. Read more about it below. And scroll to the bottom of this article to see links to all our backup software reviews.

Best overall backup software

There’s a reason True Image is renowned in the world of backup software. It’s capable, flexible, and rock-solid reliable. Indeed, it’s easily the most comprehensive data safety package on the planet.

Besides offering unparalleled backup functionality that’s both robust and easy to navigate, True Image integrates security apps as well, which protect against malware, malicious websites, and other threats using real-time monitoring. Read our full review.

Best free backup software

Among the free programs we tested, Backupper Standard wins primarily because it has the most features, including imaging, file backup, disk cloning, and plain file syncing, plus multiple scheduling options (see our full review). This was the case with Backupper 4, and the latest version has only added more options, making it a surprisingly well-rounded free offering. We hit a few performance snags with less-conventional system setups, but for the average user, it should perform as expected.

What to look for in backup software

As with most things—don’t over-buy. Features you don’t need add complexity and may slow down your system. Additionally, if you intend to back up to a newly purchased external hard drive, check out the software that ships with it. Seagate, WD, and others provide backup utilities that are adequate for the average user.

File backup: If you want to back up only your data (operating systems and programs can be reinstalled, though it’s mildly time- and effort-consuming), a program that backs up just the files you select is a major time-saver. Some programs automatically select the appropriate files if you use the Windows library folders (Documents, Photos, Videos, etc.).

Image backup/Imaging: Images are byte-for-byte snapshots of your entire hard drive (normally without the empty sectors) or partition, and can be used to restore both the operating system and data. Imaging is the most convenient to restore in case of a system crash, and also ensures you don’t miss anything important.

Boot media:  Should your system crash completely, you need an alternate way to boot and run the recovery software. Any backup program should be able to create a bootable optical disc or USB thumb drive. Some will also create a restore partition on your hard drive, which can be used instead if the hard drive is still operational.

Scheduling: If you’re going to back up effectively, you need to do it on a regular basis. Any backup program worth its salt allows you to schedule backups.

Versioning: If you’re overwriting previous files, that’s not backup, it’s one-way syncing or mirroring. Any backup program you use should allow you to retain several previous backups, or with file backup, previous versions of the file. The better software will retain and cull older backups according to criteria you establish.

Optical support: Every backup program supports hard drives, but as obsolescent as they may seem, DVDs and Blu-Ray discs are great archive media. If you’re worried about optical media’s reliability, M-Disc claims its discs are reliable for a thousand years, claims that are backed up by Department of Defense testing.

Online support: An offsite copy of your data is a hedge against physical disasters such as flood, fire, and power surges. Online storage services are a great way to maintain an offsite copy of your data. Backup to Dropbox and the like is a nice feature to have.

FTP and SMB/AFP: Backing up to other computers or NAS boxes on your network or in remote locations (say, your parent’s house) is another way of physically safeguarding your data with an offsite, or at least physically discrete copy. FTP can be used for offsite, while SMB (Windows and most OS’s) and AFP (Apple) are good for other PCs or NAS on your local network.

Real time: Real-time backup means that files are backed up whenever they change, usually upon creation or save. It’s also called mirroring and is handy for keeping an immediately available copy of rapidly changing data sets. For less volatile data sets, the payoff doesn’t compensate for the drain on system resources. Instead, scheduling should be used.

Continuous backup: In this case, ‘continuous’ simply means backing up on a tight schedule, generally every 5 to 15 minutes, instead of every day or weekly. Use continuous backup for rapidly changing data sets where transfer rates are too slow, or computing power is too precious for real-time backup.

Performance: Most backups proceed in the background or during dead time, so performance isn’t a huge issue in the consumer space. However, if you’re backing up multiple machines or to multiple destinations, or dealing with very large data sets, speed is a consideration.

How we test

We run each program through the various types of backups it’s capable of. This is largely to test reliability and hardware compatibility, but we time two: an approximately 115GB system image (two partitions), and a roughly 50GB image created from a set of smaller files and folders. We then mount the images and test their integrity via the program’s restore functions. We also test the USB boot drives created by the programs.

All of our reviews

If you’d like to learn more about our top picks as well as other options, you can find links below to all of our backup software reviews. We’ll keep evaluating new programs and re-evaluating existing software on a regular basis, so be sure to check back for our current impressions.

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.

Jon is a Juilliard-trained musician, former x86/6800 programmer, and long-time (late 70s) computer enthusiast living in the San Francisco bay area. [email protected]

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Razer just made gamer thimbles

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Razer just made gamer thimbles

Or maybe they’re yoga pants for your thumbs?

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Razer has never been afraid to take a shot on products that seem unusual at first glance. Witness its RGB-infused N95 mask, the now-defunct Razer Game Store with its own zVault currency, or the first-gen Firefly mousepad, which has evolved into something special but originally prompted us to review it against a ripped-up piece of cardboard. The company’s latest offering might just take the cake though. This week, Razer introduced gamer thimbles.

Yes, thimbles. You know, like the Monopoly piece (or the sewing accessory for more worldly folks out there). Seriously.

Well, not quite. If you simply can’t abide sweaty palms and greasy fingerprints interfering with your marathon mobile Fortnite sessions, the new Razer gaming finger sleeve may be up your alley. “Slip on and never slip up with Razer Gaming Finger Sleeve that will seal your mobile victory,” Razer’s site breathlessly boasts.  “Woven with high-sensitivity silver fiber for enhanced aim and control, our breathable sleeves keep your fingers deadly cool in the heat of battle, so you’ll always have a grip on the game.”

Razer says the 0.8mm-thick sleeves are sweat absorbent, and that they’re made from nylon and spandex. So maybe they’re more like gamer yoga pants? But you know, for your fingers?

Either way it’s ludicrous. And unlike most of Razer’s gear, the gamer thimbles understandably (yet sadly) lack RGB lighting. But if you want to wear your dedication to the Cult of Razer on your slee…thumb, or maybe just look snazzier when you’re passing Go and collecting $200, you can pick up a pair of Razer gaming finger sleeves on the company’s website for $10. The truly dedicated can double down to look especially gamer:

razer gamer thimbles 2 Razer

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