AKKO 3087SP Ocean Star Tenkeyless Keyboard

Yep, another mechanical keyboard. At this point you are probably thinking this guy has a problem. And you’d probably be right. 

I love a good mechanical keyboard and the AKKO 3087SP Ocean Star is no exception.

You probably have not heard of AKKO and that really is not a surprise. AKKO is the brand name of the parent company of the more well known Ducky here in North America. In fact when it comes down to it they are exactly the same keyboards just with different names and packaging. 

I stumbled on this keyboard during a sale on Newegg Canada. What first drew me towards the keyboard was the price. Well actually the good price was on another keyboard but you can customise the design to what you want and I ended up with a keyboard that cost $102. I’m not upset by this as the quality is here.

The AKKO shipped in a bubble-wrapped envelope and then in AKKO branded box with an exact representation of the keyboard on the packaging. Inside it’s pretty standard. Though as with my Tesoro keyboard of the past the keyboard was covered in a plastic protector and then some thin foam wrapping. AKKO is apparently serious about their gear getting to you in one piece. That’s nice to see.

There are some accessories included with the keyboard including a manual completely in Chinese. Other accessories include a USB-C to standard USB cable, a key puller, and a set of extra key-caps in white or blue to add a bit more customisation to the keyboard. This is really nice to see. 

Unlike my recently reviewed G.Skill KM360, the 3087’s included USB cable works great. The key puller included is a higher quality wire style puller rather than the cheaper all plastic ones. 

Alright, let us proceed to the main event. The AKKO 3087 itself. In a lot of ways the quality is very similar to the KB Paradise V80 that I have reviewed previously. The 3087’s blue frame is really nice looking and refreshing compared to the regularly seen black or white frames. 

The bottom of the frame is the nicest equipped I have seen in a while. It has dual position riser feet which makes it nice for those that like different angles of typing. Regardless of what is being used they all have rubber feet. This is often overlooked especially on the riser feet on a lot of other mechanical keyboards. I have mine set to the highest position since the case is relatively thick (though relatively standard compared to many mechanical keyboards). 

The USB cable also has channelling along the forward end that can go either to the right or left or straight out of the centre.

The key-caps are nice and thick double-shot PBT and have a nice slight texture to them similar to KB Paradise V80. They are a real pleasure on which to type. Something different about this keyboard is the lettering and characters are silk screened to the front of the key instead of the top. I have never had a keyboard where you couldn’t easily see the character of the keys you were typing. It turns out that this is no problem when typing normally as I am touch typist anyways. Though it can through me off when typing long passwords. Thank goodness for password managers… 

If one is not comfortable with these caps though, thanks to the standard CherryMX Red switches underneath they can be easily swapped out for something more traditional. As for those CherryMX Reds they feel like red switches. I am not a huge fan of linear switches and this keyboard does not change my mind. In fact I am so used to the tactile feel of brown style switches that I find I am not pushing down far enough on the reds sometimes to actually get them to actuate. The browns give you that small feedback that I tend to be able to type faster on those switches. Also reds, to me at least, have a slightly higher resistance to them that I don’t really appreciate. 

Physically the keyboard is built like a tank. I can’t flex the board. Period. It’s incredibly strong. One downside to it however is there no back-lighting which I have come to almost be essential in my less than well lit room. 

I typed this review on the AKKO 3087 and it has been as much of a pleasure as it could be with red switches for me. If I was to order this keyboard again I would go with the brown switch option which is available. 

Now let’s talk about support. It sounds like if there is an issue with your 3087 it’s a mixed bag on what kind of support you will get. I actually understand this. This is a Chinese market QWERTY keyboard that for some reason is listed on Newegg Canada. You can navigate their website a bit with some trickery but if you see yourself needing support I would go with the identical Ducky 3087 Ocean Star though it is $50 CAD more than the AKKO model. Honestly, the only thing you really have to worry about on this keyboard is the key switch and since they are genuine CherryMX switches, you won’t need to worry about problems until long after the expiry of your warranty.

There are two things that would make this keyboard perfect for me. Brown switches, which are available. And a white back-light even if it didn’t shine through the key-caps themselves. That is also available but only on the black version of the keyboard. Such a shame.

I highly recommend this keyboard though some may scoff at the price. I think the AKKO 3087SP Ocean Star is a great value especially compared to the Ducky model. 

G.Skill KM360 Tenkeyless Gaming Keyboard

As many of you know as readers of reviews on this website and listeners of the RBG Technobabble Podcast (shameless plug), I am a mechanical keyboard fanatic. Specifically mechanical keyboards that are more compact than full size like 90%, 80% and 60% keyboards. Well I have a stack of keyboards to review and I decided to start with this one as its my latest acquisition. Continue reading “G.Skill KM360 Tenkeyless Gaming Keyboard”

Asus VivoBook E203N

In the never-ending saga to find the best in value in technology I pounced on something I could not resist. I have a terrible weakness for cheap laptops. Typically, I purchase a new laptop every other year and my old laptop becomes my dad’s new laptop. Almost every purchase is made during the Boxing Week sale at the end of the year. That is how I have ended up with several years of HP laptops, and a Lenovo all with AMD APUs.

Of course there were some available with Intel CPUs but as an AMD guy I went out of my way to get a laptop with an AMD CPU which was harder than you may imagine.

The last laptop I purchased was a Lenovo that I have been pretty happy with though it came with a defective power supply. Buying a new power supply fixed it and I moved on. What I have really not been liking is the size and weight of the laptop. It’s a full size 15.6” laptop, relatively thin for it’s size but still very heavy.

Something smaller was needed. Much smaller.

Enter the Asus VivoBook E203N. Price point was a major reason for this particular purchase. At $279.99 right now on Amazon I had to pick one up.

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Asus VivoBook E203N

  • CPU
    • Intel Celeron N3350 1.1GHz (Boost to 2.4GHz) TDP 6W
  • Memory
    • 4GB DDR3L 1600MHz
  • Storage
    • 32GB eMMC SSD
    • Included 32GB Micro-SD Card
  • Screen
    • 6” LED Backlit 1366×768 TN Panel
  • Graphics
    • Intel HD Graphics 500
  • Connectivity
    • 11ac Wi-Fi
    • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Battery
    • 38 Wh

So this CPU is very similar to the N3050 we have in our Intel NUC in the studio we use for skype and initially that did concern me but it looks like the extra year and a half being baked the new late 2016 N3350 is a much better performer. I won’t lie though. Watching Youtube and then open a few more tabs of Opera. This is a no go as it pegs the CPU to 100%. This has forced me to find another browser and so I did something I haven’t done in years. Use a Microsoft browser. Briefly, Microsoft Edge doesn’t completely suck. On top of that you can multi-task as the CPU sits around 25 to 40% playing back a 1080p60 video on Youtube.

On the memory front, I have seen cheaper netbooks (as that’s really what this is) running 2GB but I can’t see Windows 10 running on it in any kind of efficient fashion. This VivoBook has 4GB and it appears to be more than enough especially when there isn’t going to be a bunch of multi-tasking going on during use.

Storage is the real issue on this netbook. 32GB is not enough to do major Windows updates. This was a huge complaint and Asus, after their initial launch of the E203N, responded by providing a 32GB micro SD card allowing you to update. This is good because almost as soon as I started the thing up it wanted to update to the latest 1803 Windows version.

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Obviously with this little amount of storage you aren’t going to be lugging around a giant library of Steam games. That said you won’t really be playing much on this laptop. You do get a steady framerate in Minecraft (even though I really don’t play that it’s still worth noting that). Older titles like Half Life and things of that era play well on the laptop. Rocket League at 720p sees pretty poor performance with about an average of about 12 to 15 frames per second.  So playable but not really enjoyable. No matter the case the integrated Intel graphics are not impressive to behold.

As for connectivity this little netbook has a lot. We’ve got two USB 3.1 ports, one USB-C and an HDMI out. For networking we have 802.11ac wireless and Bluetooth 4.1. I had no performance issues streaming from YouTube over the 2.4 and 5GHz bands  of my wifi.

Aesthetically the netbook is really nice. Its blue on all surfaces and the bottom is black.

There are no user accessible parts on this guy which is no real surprise. I am also happy with how sturdy the frame is on this. The is a minute amount of bending when typing on the keyboard and it feels solid overall. The plastic is equivalent to most other laptops in the sub $600 range. It’s also less than an inch thick and just over 11 inches wide.

Speakers are impressive for such a cheap device. Certainly, they feel a bit tinny but nearly so as my cheap Lenovo from a few years back. Besides, who doesn’t have a decent pair of headphones?

The E203N has incredible battery life. This thing can stream YouTube for almost ten hours on a single charge. Not bad at all considering my Lenovo can only make it three hours.

The screen is fine for being a TN panel. It’s not bright enough for outside though so this is a room to room champion.

The BIOS is a treat as well. There really isn’t any reason to go in there on this kind of computer but it’s still a custom ASUS bios with their familiar interface that you can find on their more expensive motherboards and computers. I like to see that as almost any other laptop I have bought in the last ten years has that ancient blue and white text interface.

Overall this is an incredible value for the price. I would like to see Asus ditch the 32GB + 32GB sd card setup for a straight 64GB SSD but at least they do send you a 32GB sd card now. I have been very impressed by this and I am more than happy to bring it in the truck with me now, even if it can’t play DVDs. For a passively cooled netbook I can’t honestly think of anything more I would want.

Meet Zero Point Module.

Meet my new gaming system, Zero Point Module (ZPM – THAT’s “ZED” PEE EM SILLY AMERICANS). Yes, I am a mad man. Not only did I build a system I certainly did not actually need, I built a, DUN DUN DUN, Intel system!

Go ahead and faint. I’ll wait.

Welcome back. The theory was always to have two systems but my other system, CAPSUPREME was re-purposed into our studio editing system and Farpoint was re-purposed into a media centre for my room. So I was left with Tantalus. Which wasn’t so bad really until lately I had been having some real problems with Windows erroring out on things and my rx480s (of which I truly love) started to really give me a hassle when installing new drivers in a crossfire configuration.

So I said to myself, “Self, if you get a good tax return you shall build a new mini-ITX system for less than $1200 and you will base it on the recently announced Ryzen 2000 series APU’s.” Naturally I agreed with myself because myself and I are reasonable people and went ahead with the plan.

Then Dan said, “Well if you’re building a system I’m going to build a system later this year to blow it outta the water. And It’s going to be AMD.”

I said, “That’s just silly. You’re the Intel guy. Are you saying I am going to have to go Intel just so our systems can fight each other to the death later this year?”

Dan said, “Yep! WAHAHAHA!”

parts

Deflated I started playing around with PC Partpicker to decide on parts. To keep this build on budget and to have money to buy parts to repair Tantalus I had to scavenge some parts from my bin. This is what I came up with:

  • CPU and Cooler
    • Intel i3-8350k
    • Corsair H115i RGB v2
  • Motherboard
    • Asus ROG Strix Z370-I Mini-ITX
  • Memory
    • G.Skill Trident Z RGB DDR4 3000MHz 2x8GB (Scavenged from Tantalus)
  • Storage
    • Samsung 850 EVO 250GB (Scavenged from bin)
    • Samsung 1TB 2.5″ 5400RPM (Scavenged from bin)
  • GPU
    • Asus Radeon RX480 8GB Reference (Scavenged from Tantalus)
  • Case
    • Phanteks Enthoo EVOLV ITX
  • Power Supply
    • Seasonic 520W M12II Bronze Fully Modular
  • Several Sanpellegrino Aranciata bubblies (no they are not a sponsor, they’re just tasty)

So all the parts I had to buy came in roughly around $850 bucks. If I had to buy all the parts for the build it would have cost somewhere around $1600 to $1800 CAD. Thankfully that other $1000 is used in the repair of Tantalus.

The hardest part of the build was installing the water cooler. I originally planned to remove the included 200mm front fan and install the cooler there but it would not fit. So I had to install it up top. This is ok but in the case of this particular 280 rad from Corsair it fits with a only millimetre to spare. This also blocked off the exhaust for a standard depth fan and I had to order a thin profile 140mm Cryorig fan later (so you won’t see it in the pictures, sorry). If I were to build this again I would go for a 240 rad but I am happy still.

completed

One thing also to note, There is only one chassis fan header on this motherboard. The other two headers are dedicated to the cpu fan and the water pump. Technically you can use all three with fans but just a note to you thats all. Any bigger a water pump and it would not have fit in place. The universal Intel bracket is not a smart design. There should be separate brackets for LGA2011 and whatever this one is, uh, LGA1151. Because of the limited space around the CPU the water piping is resting a bit on the memory. Not very happy about this but it’s working so we continue on.

birdsnest

I do not have any benchmarks yet as when I was done building this I had to tear down my office and rebuild and since I am a truck driver and on the road all the time it’s taken a few weeks to get everything done. I will update this post with benchmarks in the near future.

Overall the building of this system was an experience. Would I build this complicated of an ITX system again for myself? No. Its a lot of hassle. What I can say though with all the hassle the system booted up perfect the first time and has been solid ever since.

perchedontantalus

I was able to initially get a 4.9GHz stable overclock on the rig but when I went to overclock the memory (which ended up at 2933MHz) the stable overclock had to drop down to 4.7GHz. Still not bad.

This will be my main gaming rig from now on. I have finally ordered a streaming card for Tantalus so it will finally do duty as editing and streaming rig (and maybe some gaming too for fun sometimes cuz I got some new stuff for it as well which I will cover in another post). Once my office is all setup I’ll have a pretty decent podcasting/twitch setup.

poweredon1

Now my choice of power supply was fuel for the trolls on PC Partpicker. Would I change it? No. But what would you have done differently? Let me know in the comments.

Ebay Deals – Dell PowerEdge 840

I am always scouring Ebay for computer deals that could potentially become projects to play with or to restore and sell. While I don’t get in to really old systems that may require some real work to repair I am willing to take a shot at a system that may or may not be totally complete or being sold as untested.

Before you continue there are a lot of acronyms used in the enterprise industry used in this post. I will have links to Wikipedia where possible so you can read up on these terms as explaining them all here right now would take another few pages of writing. Enjoy!

$_57 (1)

My latest rebuild has been what initially looked like an abused and tired old Dell PowerEdge 840 server that was up on Ebay for a price of $9.80 CAD and $30 CAD shipping. Not bad really. This reseller had a bunch of similar systems up at the time and I chose one that looked like it had a tape drive in it. There were only two pictures of the system and no pictures of the inside which can always show a sign of a seller hiding something.

I decided to jump on the system and it arrived a week later from Calgary, Alberta to my humble abode in southwestern Ontario. Of course I received notification that it arrived while I was at work but the good news was I’d have my week off before my sister’s wedding to figure out exactly what the system needed to get up and running.

The seller had noted in the posting that there would be no included hard drives or cords. They also mentioned that the drive caddies would be removed from the four drive SATA/SAS RAID hotswap cage. The question remained of course what WAS included with the system. I expected to see that they had removed the SATA/SAS RAID interface card for the drive cage and perhaps the SCSI card removed from the system that controlled the tape drive.

I received the system in the photo for sure as it was the only one they had with a tape drive. That’s a good start. I opened the tower up and realized the first thing I was going to have to do was remove the dust inside. It was absolutely caked with dust inside but I was able to get it all cleaned up.

I brought it back inside and began to inspect the components remaining with the system. It still had the CPU which was good though I couldn’t confirm it was the correct one until I booted the server up. It had the 4GB of memory that was promised which was good as many of the others were shipping with just 1 or 2GB. It came with a SATA DVD-ROM drive which was interesting to see. I wasn’t expecting it to be just a DVD-ROM. The tape drive was still there and it was indeed still connected to it’s SCSI interface card. There is no front drawer cover on it though and looking online this part is worth a lot of it works. I bet they tested it and it doesn’t. I have no way to test it right now so I removed it from the system. This was the best news though. It came with the SAS/SATA RAID interface card AND the drive cage to go with it. This was great news even though I was initially planning to just use the server’s built in SATA RAID option otherwise. Oh, and for some reason this server had a modem card installed. Weird.

So after inspecting all that it was time to see if she would fire up. I plugged the PowerEdge in to power, plugged in a VGA cable, found an old Acer PS/2 keyboard and a USB mouse to control it and hit the power button. With a loud whine from the fans she came to life. After the fans settled down I got a picture on the screen and saw it going through the BIOS hardware detection process. This took some time as is normal for a server but eventually I got in to the BIOS.

The BIOS confirmed that I was running 4GB of DDR2 667MHz ECC memory (upgradeable to 8GB) and the promised Intel Xeon E3240 Quad Core running at 2.4GHz. I was happy to see this as many of the other servers the seller had were dual cores.

I decided to see if I could boot it to Fedora Linux and went to open the tray for the optical drive but it refused to open. Oh it made the sounds like it wanted to but it just would not do it. Probably needs a new belt but I don’t have any lying around. So I shut down the system and removed the old SATA DVD-ROM drive and installed a LG PATA DVD burner from my stash and hooked it up. Why the switch to PATA? Well number one I have a bunch of these lying around that work great and number two I needed the SATA power and data connector for something else later.

fedora

I powered up the system again and put in the Fedora live DVD. It immediately booted to the DVD, well after I monkeyed around in the BIOS to get the thing to actually boot to DVD. It loaded up Fedora but it performed terribly. I believe this had to do with the Gnome desktop environment that Fedora uses by default. Considering the only graphics chip on this system is an ancient ATI job with access to only 32MB of memory I noted that I could indeed install Fedora but I’d have to install a lighter weight desktop environment for it to run quick enough.

I shut the system back down and began to take note of what I’d need to get the system fully operational again. I set aside a SATA hard drive for the boot/OS drive then looked on Ebay for some hard drives that I could use for the RAID array. I found four 160GB Western Digital SATA hard drives from a seller in Quebec for $30 CAD and from the same seller that I bought the server from I found some drive trays for the hard drives again for $30 CAD.

A week later and all my parts had arrived along with another project system that I will talk to you about down the road. Anyways, I installed the hard drives in to their new homes in the drive cage and booted up the server. The SAS card recognized the drives and I was able to jump into the card’s configuration utility. All drives reported good and I went ahead and created a RAID 10 array giving me a total of 380GB of storage that’s mirrored for data redundancy but also striped for performance. It took about 30 minutes to build the RAID array which wasn’t too bad.

I then went ahead and began the Fedora 25 installation. This took about 45 minutes to complete and about another hour to get another desktop environment installed (I chose MATE as it’s my favourite and doesn’t require a lot of video resources to run well) and the PowerEdge 840 was back up to, what they say in the industry, production ready.

windows-server-2008-logo

After various restarts Fedora would no longer boot properly on the Dell. I’ve never seen what was happening before and it seems the internet hadn’t either. The 840 did have a Windows 2008 Server sticker on it so I went ahead and installed Server 2008. It’s running perfectly other than the fact that the system does not support 1080p in Windows. I ordered a nvidia 8300GS and with it installed but the system would not display video. I removed the 8300GS and searched for a proper driver for the onboard ATI graphics. Finding that driver on an obscure tech website I went ahead and installed it. Still no 1080P but it does now display 720p. Interestingly if I remote in to the system it easily runs 1080p in the remote window.

I’m pretty stoked right now as to how well this all went. Currently I am planning to install MySQL on it for kicks and experiment. Yeah, I know that sounds incredibly boring but I want to learn some more about MySQL databases. It will eventually become a file server for the house.

Have you found some interesting tech goodies on Ebay, Kijiji or Craigslist for use in a project? Let me know below. I’d love to hear your experiences.

Intel Kills the Best CPU that They Sold

Intel recently announced that they were killing off their Pentium G4560 3.5GHz CPU. This CPU was recently released with the Kaby Lake CPUs like the i7 7700k and so on. So what’s wrong with it?

Absolutely nothing.

According to Intel the only reason they moved to kill the G4560 was that it was cannibalizing i3 CPU sales. That’s it. Intel has a winner CPU but they’d rather sell you an i3 for more money.

This is another decision in a list of decisions Intel has made recently that has left me questioning who is really running Intel. Obviously it’s not enthusiasts so it must be the bean counters. And this continually seems to be the problem with Intel. They are more concerned about their bottom line than having people excited about their product.

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AMD has people so excited about their new products that they’ve clawed back 10% market share recently. And that is still with a processing architecture that’s not quite as efficient as Intel’s seventh generation core design. AMD is coming back because it has an enthusiastic core of people excited about their products.

Intel instead has released their most convoluted chipset and CPU combination ever with the X299 LGA2066 blah blah blah. There’s so much wrong with this platform I honestly have no interest in even outlining it here. There’s tons of places to look up information on that topic and I’ll leave you to that after finishing this story.

Back to the G4560. It did technically compete with Intel’s i3 chips though at a lower clock rate. The G4560 featured hyper-threading so it had two cores and four threads like an i3. For $85 CAD its a lot of CPU. You can even sorta game on the thing though really four-cores is the way to go nowadays. But Intel doesn’t want you buying it. The equivalent i3 is nearly twice the price.

Will we see the G4560 rebranded as an i3? It’s possible but pretty unlikely. It’s interesting to me that a generation back Intel was more than happy to sell you the Pentium G3258 that while not hyper-threaded it was overclockable. They’ve moved that privilege to the i3 as well with it’s very own i3 7350k CPU.

In a market where AMD is a very real threat especially on the value front it’s hard to believe that Intel would remove a highly competitive product like the G4560 from the market to sell you a more expensive one. If you were on the fence waiting for a Ryzen R3 CPU or APU or buying a G4560 your decision has been made for you.

I know Dan will have some comments on this as well. Bring it on, buddy!

KB Paradise V80 Tenkeyless Keyboard

As many of you know I have a keyboard addiction. Especially compact keyboards that are mechanical.

I didn’t always have a mechanical keyboard. In fact the first two computers I bought for gaming (which weren’t really great gaming systems at all) game with Dell’s default boring keyboard and mouse combos.

However, when I built CapSupreme, my first real gaming machine a few years ago I decided I needed a real keyboard. I ended up with the Cooler Master CM Storm TK+ keyboard with CherryMX brown switches. I then discovered I really love brown switches though every mechanical keyboard I have purchased since has had CherryMX blues or blacks. Weird.

Anyways, lets get to what we are talking about today. The KB Paradise V80 tenkeyless keyboard. I have been interested in picking up a V80 for quite some time from KB Paradise. When it came up on Massdrop with some fancy different key-caps and a choice of different switches I had to jump on it.

I chose the V80 with the “Vintage Keycaps: Cherry MX Blue (No LEDs)” option which with the black frame looks really great. I do wish it had back lighting but the vintage key-caps style did not come with that.

So I’ve been typing on this keyboard for a couple days now and I gotta say, I love this keyboard. While I prefer having brown switches as they make a little less noise this keyboard types really well. It feels just like my CM Storm TK+ with blue switches that I just re-picked-up off ebay used (’cause I spilled *cough cough* chocolate milk *cough cough* on my other one) which is good.

The key-caps on this while not doublshot ABS they are good quality ABS. I think what I like about this keyboard the most is the keys are a little more, should I say, slippery? The V80 has a smooth texture but not so texturey? I don’t know how else to explain it. It feels really good type on regardless.

The key-caps I chose also look really good. If the keyboard came with an off-white frame it would look a lot like a real vintage keyboard. The font used on the keys is really nice too. Very simple and smaller which is fine since I don’t really need to look at the keys while I type very often.

The frame is incredibly strong. I mean, you can’t bend it. You just can’t.

The Caps and Scroll lock lights are both white led’s which is also nice. Though to complete the effect they could have went for an old school green led. Not complaining though.

So, as I mentioned, this was a Massdrop special. The problem with Massdrop is all prices are in USD and often on anything that is shipped to Canada there is a hefty shipping fee and on top of that a hefty import tax fee. I know that’s not Massdrop’s fault but I think they are big enough now to consider setting up localized shipping solutions to avoid some of the high costs. Even with the discount here I spent more money than I really should have. Does the V80 that I received feel like a $200 CAD Keyboard? Not quite. I feel that the Cooler Master CM Storm TK+ offers more value. That said, I still love the keyboard and it is my main daily driver at the moment.