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Review: NZXT Doko

by Ryan Martin on 9 March 2015, 17:00

Tags: NZXT

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qacpj3

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Performance

There are a variety of use-cases we envision for the Doko, as previously mentioned, and our testing revealed that performance varies and there are a number of caveats and constraints to particular scenarios. We will explore each of the three primary scenarios in turn - everyday PC usage, gaming and media consumption.

The first noticeable limitation to everyday PC usage is that the Doko has no ability to handle multiple screens; it displays only the primary display with no method of navigating to additional screens. Multi-screen issues aside the Doko works just fine for tasks like word processing, emails and web browsing since these are not latency sensitive. Desktop-class productivity applications, which can't be used on mobile devices, work fine although there is mouse lag from time to time which can be frustrating, resulting in misclicks and overshoot.

The Doko's companion software cannot display Windows UAC (User Account Control) pop-ups making it difficult to use the Doko if you intend to install software or games that require UAC approval. A quick fix is to turn off UAC but TeamViewer is capable of displaying UAC alerts so there is, presumably, a software fix for this issue that NZXT could implement.

Gaming

Using the Doko for gaming is what we see as its main selling point since everyday PC usage tasks can be undertaken on mobile devices and desktop productivity applications seem redundant in the living-room environment. Yet the experience with gaming needs much improvement since the frame-rate is hardly smooth at 30FPS, the audiovisual stream has notable latency, and input suffers from lag and stuttering.

We examined this issue particularly closely because it made all types of games difficult to play, from turn-based strategy games like Civilization to FPS games like Battlefield 4. Moving the mouse around delivered mostly consistent feedback but would be punctuated with interruptions once or twice a minute resulting in the mouse jumping around the screen instead of moving in a consistent path. The input lag and mouse teleportation occurred on the host system too suggesting it is a communication issue between the Doko and the PC, while the same issue didn't occur if we used the input devices on the host system while the Doko was running.

A further blemish on the gaming performance is notable image compression which detracts significantly from in-game visual quality. The two images below show the same menu scene from the city-building game Banished, first using the Doko and then on the host system, and there is clear quality loss around menu text and on the game's various textures. We feel that the Doko should have the ability to increase, and decrease, the quality of the stream. In typical gaming scenarios we found the host PC to be sending only 30 to 70Mbps of data. If the Doko is Gigabit-enabled it should be possible to send more data to deliver a clearer image, one would think.

Click to enlarge

 

For game controller support the NZXT Doko requires the user to launch their Steam, Origin or uPlay client in adminstrator mode, resulting in a UAC popup to be negotiated. This solution, we are told, is a quirk of the USBoIP implementation NZXT deploy and it is fairly simple to enact since most users will have their games in a client such as Steam. We'd like to see NZXT provide documentation about this quirk in the box since Doko users will want to jump right into their games libraries without troubleshooting.

Standalone games outside a client will require gamers to find the game executable and set it to launch in adminstrator mode. This less-elegant solution is often a problematic one since running a game executable in administrator mode can interfere with DRM launchers. A case in point is SecuROM which is used in standalone versions of Grand Theft Auto IV, Far Cry 2 and other titles, launching the executable in administrator mode prevents the game from launching at all. This issue is less of a concern since the majority of modern PC games are delivered through a client, standalone games are largely reserved for older titles.

Media consumption

For users who keep their music and film libraries on their desktop PC the Doko seems like a novel way to access that content. We found that media playback is least affected by all the previously aforementioned foibles since the audiovisual stream arrives simultaneously so any lag between the host system is almost irrelevant. Furthermore, the majority of films and TV shows are natively played back at 30 FPS so the 1080p30 hardware limit is a non-issue.

There are, however, notable issues with the audio stream. The previous mouse stuttering issues we've mentioned occur at the same time as audio stuttering. In terms of movie watching or music listening such stuttering is highly degrading to the user experience. We feel that these problems are down to the single-core 800MHz processor not having enough horsepower to deliver seamless audio and visual playback with stutter-free interaction.

A further note on the audio is that, like the visual stream, it undergoes compression as it traverses the network. The end result is that the audio is notably lower quality and the audio seems downmixed to stereo mode meaning surround-sound movies lose much of their immersion. The Doko makes use of HDMI which can, theoretically, provide up to eight channels of uncompressed audio playback.