The NAG LAN at rAge has always been a rather fun place to hang around in, if only for the hardware nerd in me to look at everything and take down notes compulsively. This year’s LAN was no different, but it was a sign of big changes to come, or that had already happened, in the industry. There was a lot of cool hardware, a lot of interesting builds, and a lot of setups that left you wondering.

Skipping straight to the custom builds, the only one on the floor was this beauty. Completely custom-made from sheets of steel and what looks like aluminium, the multi-layered effect reminds me more of a cake than anything else. The inside of the chassis was also custom, but I couldn’t tell what material it was. Impressive, but I’d like to see this taken a step further with RGB lights.

This… thing, also caught my eye. I’m quite sure that this was a regular case that had perspex windows attached to it, and then was promptly covered in… coloured hot glue? I dig the spiky ends and the contours, but isn’t this thing a pain in the neck to carry?

Vinyl wraps and custom paint jobs were popular at previous LANs, but this year’s was more subdued. Despite the lack of customised cases, the ones that did catch my eye were very well done. Especially the Wolfenstein one, I feel like that should be something fans can buy because it’s done so well. Kudos to the owner of the BB-8 case as well – you picked a well-rounded character to fit a well-rounded case. Be proud of yourselves, NAGlings – you have good taste.

At least two dozen chassis showed up with tempered glass side panels. Corsair’s designs in particular drew my eye and made me anxious at the same time. Like, how do you carry these things without the constant fear that you’ll develop sweaty palms? My heart wouldn’t be able to handle it.

You… I like you. Also, I’m drawn more to In Win’s designs the more I see them. There were a few In Win chassis on the floor, and the company has quite a flair for flashy designs that still remain functional.

I also spotted the only NCase M1 chassis in the whole Ticketpro Dome. NCase has come a long way since the original Kickstarter sent them on to their first 1,000 orders, and the M1 remains extremely exclusive among the PC enthusiast community. This build is extremely neat and clean. Well done.

If there was anything indicating a proper trend, it was laptops with mechanical or otherwise great keyboards, like the MSI GT-80VR above. While a lot of people aren’t gaming on a laptop which serves as their only system, that’s going to change slowly as the performance of these mobile beasts becomes more affordable. I saw three of these kinds of setups at the LAN, and I feel more will be on the way for high-end users tired of lugging around their full ATX cases. A lot of people who brought along laptops tended to have either an external display, or a mechanical keyboard, or both attached. With improving displays and better keyboards, that’s becoming a thing of the past. Pictured above is also Acer’s Predator G9, as well as Lenovo’s Legion Y520.

I spotted a record four Macbook gamers this year. Although two of them were MacBook Pros with dedicated graphics, I can’t fathom how someone is playing games on a 2012 MacBook Pro, let alone a tiny little Macbook. HOW is Counter-Strike even playable on this thing?

Exactly one person showed up with an Alienware Graphics Adapter. I knew these things wouldn’t take off in a big way given their bulk and the ungainly way in which external graphics adapters work, but only finding one at the LAN among 2,500 other computers was quite amusing. This setup, in particular, is pretty frustrating because the connector used to hook up to the adapter is also proprietary. Good job, Dell. You made your own product practically obsolete out of the box.

In terms of rare items, there were a few surprises. This year played host to a single beige chassis, as well as a single Samsung S27A950 monitor. These were all the rage two years ago thanks to their high refresh rates and decent panel quality. I only spotted three clear perspex chassis, which is less than the five I saw last year. I also chalked up one Thermaltake Level 10, one Alienware Aurora, one Alienware X51, and one lone Aerocool Masstige. Relics of a bygone era, folks.

Ending things off, I have a few notes to make about the rest of the hardware on the show. There was almost 100% adoption of Windows 10 across the board. This reflects the numbers on Steam’s stats, but it just puts things into perspective for Microsoft and their recent decisions. Gaming is one of the things that has pushed Windows 10 further than any other specific interest, and this is where Microsoft’s money is being made. If they want to sell games to people, they have a great platform to build off of.

Monitor-wise, there was about two hunrdred or so curved panels on the floor. This is a trend that will continue, I expect, because consumers want to have media experiences that better immerse them, and a large curved panel does that properly. 21:9 panels also fall into that category, and are more commonly curved as well. On the other end of the spectrum, I didn’t see a single Linux machine, not counting Macs. That needs more representation, and I’d really like to see more people picking up something like Ubuntu or Arch for their needs in the future.

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