Gamdias Hermes M3 RGB

It turns out, since my reunion with computers and gaming a few years ago with my first PC build in years, that I have become a bit of a snob when it comes to peripherals. Specifically the mice and keyboards that I use.

I used to be happy with the simple Logitech or Microsoft budget options. That was until I purchased a Cooler Master CM Storm TK+ with Cherry MX Brown switches. I found that keyboard to be the perfect mix of compact while still offering a numpad.

Well since then I have went through several keyboards including another TK+ with Cherry MX Blues, the very compact Drevo Gramr with Kaihl Browns, Turbot 87-Key with some kind of clone blue switch, Tesoro Tizona with Cherry MX Blacks, KBParadise V80 TKL with Cherry MX Blues and recently the Drevo Blademaster TK.

So that’s a lot of keyboards and I am convinced I have missed some. Regardless we are here today to talk about the Gamdias Hermes M3 RGB.

Continue reading “Gamdias Hermes M3 RGB”

N88 IP68 Smart Watch (X9 PRO Smart Band)

I should mention that this post is not sponsored by Wish in any way. I just wanted to try the service out and see what I could get.

The N88 is one of a gazillion cheap Chinese smart devices on the market that can be easily bought on websites such as AliExpress and Wish (where I purchased mine).

My initial plan when I made my order on Wish was to see if I got anything I actually ordered and if they even worked at all. Well this story has turned into a full review of one of the three devices that arrived. Now the FCC ID on the back of this device calls it a X9-PRO smart band made by Shenzen Niyajia Technology Co. Ltd. Catchy right? Continue reading “N88 IP68 Smart Watch (X9 PRO Smart Band)”

My New Phone… Again!

I may be slightly addicted to buying phones. This time my addiction didn’t cost me a large part of my pay. Instead it was a small investment in the aftermarket, specifically eBay.

My last phone was the Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus. I actually really like the phone. For an Android based phone I really can’t think of anything I really need more that the Redmi 5 Plus. And Xiaomi has been faithful in providing security and feature updates which is great.

So lets be clear. I didn’t move on from my last phone because I didn’t like it.

So why?

I hate virtual on screen keyboards. I can’t type quickly on them as there’s no feedback. I’m constantly typing the wrong letters as no keyboard seems to be well spaced out for my fingers. And there’s no feedback. No click, no feeling that you have indeed typed what you have typed other than seeing the mess of a result on the screen. I have been trained to not have to look at the keyboard to type but with no defined keys a normally easy process on a computer is turned in to hell on the modern smartphone.

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I am reminded of the days back when I had my various Blackberry devices. I started with a Blackberry 7130e. From there I had three different Blackberry Curves. Then I graduated to the ultimate Blackberry Bold 9930. I bought that Blackberry full price from Verizon about two years after that phone was relevant. In fact the box had dust on it when the sales guy brought it up. You could just hear the sales guy’s muttering under his breath on me buying such an out of date phone. Keep in mind at this time I could have bought a Samsung Galaxy S2 or S3 (I think the S3 was just available).

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Anyways I used the Blackberry Bold 9930 for years until my dad and I left Verizon for Virgin Mobile Canada. My Bold was not compatible with the Canadian network so I had to buy a new phone. That started my stint with Blu phones. While their phones are cheap their support is miserable and their promised updates never came.

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I discovered Xiaomi after my miserable life with my last Blu phone. But during all this time using the all screen smart phones I have been ever increasingly ticked off at not having a physical keyboard. As referenced by the success by Blackberry’s latest KeyOne and Key2 offerings the keyboard has become popular again. No I didn’t buy either of those as they are still around $400 CAD to buy but I did do a lot of research on their older phones and came up with the perfect solution:

(BlackBerry)  CLICK02_BBY_070516_COMPANY

The Blackberry Classic (also know as the Q20)

The Blackberry Classic is ancient by all means nowadays being released in 2011 with the Blackberry 10 OS based on Blackberry’s own QNX operating system.

The phone itself looks like a bigger version of the Bold that I had before (and actually still have). It has all the same features where it comes to input. Qwerty keyboard, touch scroll button, send and end buttons and the blackberry menu button. You also get the volume up and down buttons with a hot button that can be set to what you like and a lock button up top. The screen is also touch sensitive like the the Bold.

The Blackberry OS smooth to work with but doesn’t feel like natural update to the previous OS on the Curve. The Blackberry tablet OS on the Playbook felt more like a natural update in my opinion.

Anyways you will have to deal with the lack of apps on the App World (which is being discontinued soon I believe anyways) or the installed Amazon App Store. There aren’t many apps on the Amazon store either so you may have to manually install the Google Play store which is easy to find on the internetz.

I haven’t installed many apps regardless and have honestly been enjoying the fresh experience of just having a browser and the ability to text and get email. It has been great.

The Classic is snappy when using it’s built in apps. The emulated android apps run OK when they run. Don’t expect any Android apps that are somewhat resource intensive to work as the resources on the Classic are limited. It is a seven year old phone after all.

The real benefit of the Classic is the physical keyboard. OH THANK THE HEAVENS! It is glorious. I love having a physical keyboard. It has made using my phone such a better experience. I don’t need a spell check anymore as I can touch type without worrying what I have typed in. It’s so great.

The best part of all this is the phone only cost me sixty bucks. In almost perfect shape and it even came with charger. Very impressed.

Do I recommend doing this. Actually I do. It has been very therapeutic. I have been unplugged from social media though Facebook and Twitter are available on the Classic. It feels really good to just have the ability to text and get email.

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Give it a shot. I’d even recommend going to a Nokia E71 if you are with a communications company that supports 2G and 3G still.

Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus

Xiaomi is a little known company from China that has been making huge strides into the North American market. They are known mostly for mobile devices like smart phones, tablets and notebook pcs. They also produced the recently released Oculus Go VR headset.

In the last couple of years Xiaomi has made a name for themselves building high quality devices at a great value compared to others in the space. In an environment where high end phones are demanding more than $1000 CAD Xiaomi is selling devices in the $150 to $300 range.

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This is the colour I chose.

I have been happy with my Motorola built Nexus 6 but recently I’ve been feeling the lack of on board storage, second sim slot and memory hampering my experience. Which is too bad really as the Nexus 6 is a great device. Continue reading “Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus”

Virtual Reality On a Budget – Oculus Go

A couple years ago everyone was excited with the release of the Oculus Rift funded through Kickstarter and HTC’s Vive. Both are basically dumb high quality stereo displays with sophisticated sensors on board to detect what position your head and feet are in relation to things in a game.

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The HTC Vive.

Both the Rift and the Vive require a high end PC to be tethered to it to experience anything otherwise all you have is an expensive mound of sensors and displays. Continue reading “Virtual Reality On a Budget – Oculus Go”

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.