Our First Look at Google Home

The automated home has been a fantasy for most for a very long time. Since the launch of Amazon’s assistant device Alexa through their Echo devices other companies have decided they want a piece of the automated assistant market. Since then Google has launched their Home device powered by Google’s Assistant also found on Android devices. Microsoft also has their own assistant found on all Windows 10 powered devices called Cortana and will soon be available in their own speaker like device as well. Continue reading “Our First Look at Google Home”

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.

 

 

 

World of Warships – The Most Expensive Free to Play Game I Have Spent Money On

*Insert epic movie guy voiceover* – In a world, where things happen, only one ship can make a difference…

Yes we’re going to talk about what is possibly my most favourite game currently (besides Forza, well, anything) – World of Warships.

This is probably going to be the most biased review I have ever written so keep that in mind as I do not intend to hold back my absolute love for this game. I mean it has issues. Every game that is based on PvP combat has issues. Usually the players but we won’t dwell on that.

Anyways, I discovered World of Warships not long before I purchased my RX 480 video cards for Farpoint (which are now in Tantalus) and initially I thought I was not that impressed by the game. And indeed at the beginning I truly believe I was not. Sure the incredibly detailed ship models were what drew me in initially but the focus on total PvP without any sort of story campaign sort of made me less impressed.

You see at the time I was still playing World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV (the latter being one of the best Final Fantasy’s ever done let alone one of the best MMORPG’s ever done in my opinion) and I still wanted a story.

cb6f34fe-ee4e-11e4-b106-000c2923ff17Well the funny thing was I kept starting up World of Warships. Over and over again. To a point where I wasn’t playing any other games much any more. To a point where I thought that I need to evaluate exactly what keeps me playing this game.

So here we are. Let me tell you why I play World of Warships. The following aren’t necessarily in order.

First of all it’s free. Of course if you want to gain experience faster there are things you can do to do that but it’s not something you have to do.

Secondly it’s a relatively quick load into the game and each match is on average about ten minutes. It’s perfect for playing when you just want a quick fix of shooting some tremendously huge guns.

Thirdly the ships are incredibly detailed. I mean to a point where the developer has told us that the recently release HMS Hood took nearly 110 days to design and detail. I mean that is some dedication. That said you see that in the cost of buying that ship. The Hood is a buy only ship that costs $44 CAD. I actually think that’s pretty fair considering the time it takes to get these models together. This is also why I have mentioned in the past on our podcast that World of Warships is the most expensive free to play game I’ve ever played.

Fourthly (?) the simulation is pretty good for lining up shot on enemies. There is no auto-targetting system. You have to lead your target appropriately if you want to hit it. And the game does not cheat and give you an idea where to fire. You get sights that give you a ballpark idea but you still need to think about what you are doing.

Fifthly (??) The different classes from Destroyer to Cruiser to Battleship to Aircraft Carrier all offer a different and unique way to play. Destroyers are fast and rely heavily on their torpedo armament and scoot in to battle quicker than anyone else. Cruisers have the best sort of all around play with relatively powerful guns while still having access to torpedos and can almost keep up with destroyers in some cases. Battleships are big heavy and for the most part slow though once you get to the later built ones they are much more maneuverable than the older ones. Battleships rely on their heavy guns for offence and their anti-aircraft guns for defense. Aircraft Carriers play a lot like an real-time strategy game in World of Warships and are really truly unique in the game. You command groups of fighters, torpedo bombers and bombers from an overhead map view while paying attention to the relative location of your ship and planning accordingly.

Sixthly (yep I did just write that) There’s a ton of things to earn while you play including camouflage of different types, different signal flags, and as you earn experience and credits you can buy new ships and ship upgrades all in a very easy to use interface. The camouflage and signal flags offer boosts to certain things on your ship during a batter. Often the camouflage will decrease the accuracy of opponents shots fired to a small degree and some of the other ones will give your commanding officer (which also offers perks to your ship by the way) and your ship more bonus experience.

There are also clans in the game now so you can run a sort of guild with your friends in the game. You can team up to 3 of them at a time as well which is great fun.

Things that nag me about the game aren’t really even game issues. It comes down to players. Every time you get a bunch of people playing a PvP game you get trolls. Every few battles there’s always one person that will be just ticked off at everyone and often times it’s their own fault. Engaging in chat only makes the infuriated so often the best thing to do is to just ignore them and report them if their language gets absolutely foul, which sometimes it does. IT’S A FREAKIN’ GAME PEOPLE. CHILL OUT!

Anyways, one of the best things about the game is it can run on a variety of older and new hardware. My brother runs the game at decent settings on a Core 2 Duo E8400 (3GHz) system with 4GB of memory and an ATI HD7770 graphics card. He says it runs great. I can run at full detail with my RX 480 (no the game doesn’t seem to support crossfire or at least you get no benefit from it so I just disable it before I play) and I get a consistent 60 or so FPS at 1080p.

Obviously I recommend everyone tries this game out but perhaps you aren’t as much in to naval battle? The first game this developer released was World of Tanks. Tanks are like one gun battleships to me. Never really enjoyed it. There’s also World of Warplanes. This was more interesting to me but I just didn’t like the controls. World of Warships is just so straight-forward. In fact it’s easy enough to get in to that its the first 3D game I think I’ve ever gotten my dad to play on a computer.

Seriously guys, Dan, Kevin and I recommend this one hands down as a great game to play. Again it’s even free!

Mass Effect Andromeda – Where it Went Wrong

We’ve all heard the stories about the launch of Mass Effect Andromeda. Initial reviews for the game were absolutely terrible. We’ll go over why that was and still is later on. First I want to tell you why I like Mass Effect.

Andromeda is set in one of the best science-fiction settings of all time. When Bioware initially conceived this universe and delivered it to the masses with the original Mass Effect they had created an incredibly rich universe with an absolute ton of back-story that can be read in the main menu.splash800_masseffect1

Mass Effect proved that you could have an incredibly deep story set in a third-person shooter. We had story arcs that reflected to a degree what decisions you made while you played as well.

maxresdefaultMass Effect 2 built on all of these things. It refined the combat to something a little less dreary (though in my opinion adding ammo to the game was the wrong thing to do and a step back in technology in the Mass Effect universe), the character models were highly refined and more detailed and character choices made a bigger difference including the choices you made in the previous game. Mass Effect 2 to this day is still my favourite Mass Effect game.

mass_effect_3_female_shepard-hdMass Effect 3 refined what Mass Effect 2 had begun but did not improve the game in my opinion. The loading screens were uninspired, additional characters were not interesting (including one that you had to pay for even though it was on disc) and the story ended on a huge dud even after Bioware changed it. The only thing that saved the game in my opinion was the Citadel DLC. That DLC returned to the Mass Effect I enjoyed. Right down to the elevator loading screens from the original Mass Effect. It showed a more relaxed developer making something they actually wanted to make and it works fantastic.

Of course here is where everything goes wrong.

mass_effect_andromedaAndromeda instead of refining what was already a decent game and engine threw that all out the window. They began by using the Frostbite engine which I believe was not utilized to it’s best ability in Andromeda. If you want to see what Frostbite can do boot up Star Wars Battlefront. To be sure the game is incredibly pretty but none of it looks way better than Mass Effect 3. We have more detailed textures this time around and some more polygons but that truly is the extent of it.

Next we find out the game launches with some pretty incredibly bad bugs. Animations were going wrong or not working at all, facial expressions were odd at best and eyeballs were, well scary. Then we get in to the menu system. The interface initially looks very similar to the previous Mass Effects until you begin to use it. It is the most convoluted mess of bunk I have ever used. Nothing and I mean nothing is where it logically makes sense. There are menus buried in menus and options where you wouldn’t expect them. There are a million different currencies to deal with that offer you minimal perks during the game. And, oh man just talking about all this is ticking me off.

Playing missions is OK but the tracking mechanism is useless.3208867-gameplay_meandromeda_nomad_20170317_gs

But WHY ON EARTH DID BIOWARE BRING BACK THE STUPID PLANET ROAMING WITH THE STUPID MOON BUGGY WANNA-BE. SERIOUSLY GUYS. THEY BRING THE THING BACK AND DON’T EVEN GIVE ME A FREAKIN’ GUN TO SHOOT THINGS WITH. Absolutely the worst thing Bioware could have done. PERIOD!

This all said I do enjoy the game to an extent but here’s the thing, I couldn’t put any of the three previous Mass Effect’s down. I had to play them all the way through before I played another game. That’s how good they were. Mass Effect Andromeda is an abomination compared to them and that’s just the problem.

bioware_eaIf EA and Bioware had created the game in the Mass Effect universe but just titled the game Andromeda I think people would have been less inclined to compare it directly to Mass Effect. The funny thing is Mass Effect itself (the method of faster than light transportation in the previous trilogy) doesn’t even exist in the Andromeda galaxy. There are no mass relays so even using that name for the game was silly. The game should have been marketed as a game in the same universe but it should have not been marketed so hard on it’s Mass Effect origins. It should have been pushed as it’s own game.

I’m not saying that this would have greatly improved it’s reviews but I think for most people that play games this would have improved their feelings on the game. The original trilogy were absolute masterpieces to behold nigh unlike the Knights of the Old Republic games that came previous to them. To compare a game made by what is essentially Bioware’s backup studio is unfair. Should EA have allowed the farming out of the game to a B studio? No I don’t think so but it’s a typical EA decision and often why we see big game brands getting cancelled as we have now seen for Mass Effect. The next release has been put on indefinite hiatus.

All I can say is way to go EA in ruining yet another fantastic franchise. Every time they touch something great they seem to find a way to screw it up. It can’t be the bean-counters fault in this case since Andromeda had a huge budget.

What do you think made Andromeda fail in the eyes of so many?

Turbot Tenkeyless Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

There plethora of keyboards out there on the market all claiming to be the best of the best of the best sir! With honours! OK, Men in Black quotes aside there are a lot of off brand mechanical keyboards out there that claim they are just as good as their big brand brethren. Well Turbot claims that they have one of the best keyboards out there for a relatively cheap price. Let’s take a look.

As many of you know I am a pretty big fan of the Cooler Master CM Storm Quickfire TK+ with CherryMX brown switches. In fact that is the keyboard I compare all other keyboards out there to. The Turbot has a long hill to climb indeed.

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Normally I’d start with the box but in this case I actually can’t remember the box that it came in as I bought this quite some time ago and never had a chance to review it. So moving on…

At first glance the Turbot keyboard actually looks pretty good. It’s a floating key design which I actually do really like. It doesn’t look a lot different from the other tenkeyless keyboards out there though in all honesty. The keyboard has everything but a num pad which is standard for an 87 key keyboard.

The keycaps are nice single-shot ABS that should last a good deal of time and thanks to the keys not being painted the colour of the keys themselves should at least stay black and not wear. The heavy metal frame wont flex at all when I try to bend it which is also great. There are stands to help lift the keyboard at the front which I appreciate. Some keyboards in this class are starting to ditch those which I think is a bad idea.

The USB cord is a simple rubber covered affair and cannot be removed like many keyboards nowadays in the gaming/mechanical keyboard environment. This doesn’t kill it for me though I never realized how handy that could be until I didn’t have it.

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The key switches themselves are some off brand blue mechanicals that Turbot claims are good for 50000 keystrokes. I can’t obviously substantiate the 50000 stroke claim but the switches themselves claim to be from a company called “Switch Master”. Yep, never heard of ’em. They do feel like blues though with the clickiness and so on. These ones perhaps aren’t quite as loud as CherryMX blues but that’s OK in my book.

One thing I wish was that the keyboard would have it’s it’s default setting on the function keys set to the media keys rather than the actual function keys. I rarely use F1 through F12 for their original intended uses or in many games (other than World of Warships). Oh and back-lighting would be nice but is rarely found at this price point or if it is it’s that annoying non RGB rainbow setup I can’t stand.

Overall for a relatively cheap keyboard this is a pretty good option for those trying to get a relatively cheap mechanical keyboard on a budget. I haven’t had any real issues to speak of. It has a price tag right now of $66.99 CAD on Amazon.

Meet Tantalus P400S TG – My New Rig

Ryzen is here and so is my new computer. Meet Tantalus, named after the FTL drive from the Normany SR2 of Mass Effect fame. I have talked about the new system briefly on our Technobabble podcast but I thought I would go more in depth here with a look at some benchmarks and so on in comparison with Farpoint, my previous main system.

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First we should talk specs. At the launch of AMD’s new Ryzen chip there were only three eight core and sixteen thread available: the R7 1700, R7 1700X and R7 1800X.

CPU

R7 1700

R7 1700X

R7 1800X

CORE COUNTS

8C/16T

8C/16T

8C/16T

CLOCK

3.0 GHz – 3.7 GHz

3.4 GHz – 3.8 GHz

3.6 GHz – 4.0 GHz

TDP

65W

95W

95W

PRICE (current as of writing)

$407.98 CAD

$479.98 CAD

$619.98 CAD

On April 11th the new R5 chips are releasing and for your reference I’ll put the information here so you can at least see what they are compared to the initial chips.

CPU

R5 1400

R5 1500X

R5 1600

R5 1600X

CORE COUNTS

4C/8T

4C/8T

6C/12T

6C/12T

CLOCK

3.2 GHz – 3.4 GHz

3.5 GHz – 3.7 GHz

3.2 GHz – 3.6 GHz

3.6 GHz – 4.0 GHz

TDP

65W

65W

65W

95W

PRICE (MSRP USD)

$169.00

($226.67 CAD)

$189.00

($253.50 CAD)

$219.00

($293.73 CAD)

$249.00

($333.97 CAD)

Anyways, after checking the reviews I decided to go with the R7 1700. Reviewers were coming to the conclusion that all three chips were basically the same but clocked differently and so most have been able to achieve stable overclocks on their 1700s up to 4GHz with a decent air or water cooler.

That was the toughest choice. There wasn’t really a budget for this build. I had promised myself that I would build something that would be nearly top of the line. So the specs. OK. Fine. Prices are in CAD.

CPU

Ryzen R7 1700

$407.98

CPU COOLER

Corsair H110i

$138.99

MOTHERBOARD

MSI X370 Xpower Gaming Titanium

$399.99

MEMORY

G.Skill TridentZ RGB 32GB (4X8GB) DDR4-3000

$389.99

STORAGE

Samsung 850 EVO 250GB

WD Caviar Blue 1TB 3.5”

Pulled from CapSupreme

VIDEO CARD

Asus RX480 8GB Reference x2

Pulled from Farpoint

CASE

Phanteks Eclipse P400s Tempered Glass

$119.99

POWER SUPPLY

EVGA SuperNOVA G3 750 Modular 80+ Gold

$149.99

TOTAL

$1,606.92

WITH NEW ZOWIE MONITORS

BenQ Zowie 24″ RL2455

$2,126.90

Like I said, I wasn’t too concerned about the cost this time around. I wanted a system that could blow away Farpoint and CapSupreme. But did it deliver? Well shall we compare Farpoint and Tantalus directly then?

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First I want to tell you I was able to get at fully stable overclock of my 1700 at 3.9GHz at 1.375V. Where it comes to voltage I wouldn’t want to be running this chip on anything less than my H110i to cool it. I left my RX 480s at their stock 1266MHz.

Alright, benchmarks. I will show you my in game benches but keep in mind I ran all those at 1440p previously. All my new benchmarks are at 1080p. Synthetic benchmarks are run at their defaults. Also I only included the graphics scores on the previous runs so I will include those only this time as well.

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Data, data everywhere! There are your numbers. Tantalus stomps all over Farpoint in almost every test. In fact the only one that is remotely close is Time Spy in DX12 mode. As you can see here DX12 utilizes all the available power pretty well already. The bump in score for Tantalus is merely the extra 8 SMT cores.

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As for building the system overall it was a lot of fun. I mean the best part is always opening the boxes but man getting the final system all worked out has been a treat. The hardest part of the build was actually getting the RGB effects set up and working on the G.Skill memory. Also apparently Ryzen cpus prefer even CAS numbers like CAS 14 and 16. If you can get a kit of CAS 14 or 16 in 3200MHz you’ll be set.

The H110i took a bit to wrestle in to plase as well but it turned out great. In fact so well that I ordered a second P400S TG and moved Farpoint over in to it. Sorry In Win 303, I loved you but I love the P400S more. Here’s what Farpoint looks like now:

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The MSI motherboard is more expensive than it needs to be really. Don’t get me wrong, it looks great and I actually really like how the UEFI interface is laid out. It is also nice to have a temperature readout right on the motherboard itself instead of having to open up AMD’s Ryzen Master software to get an accurate reading.

Other than that I would not change a thing in this build. I love it. Let me know what you guys think.