Going mechanical: Corsair K95?

I’ve been sporting a nice Microsoft Sidewinder X6 for years, but every good thing comes to an end. To be faire there was nothing wrong with it, it still works and all but I wanted something more, something different.

I’ve switched to a Corsair K95 with Cherry MX Speed switches.

Cherry MX Speed

The Cherry MX Speed switches used in this keyboard are actually surprising. No pressure is required to push them down. Since the switches are linear there’s no resistance at all thus making me type faster, but not by much.

The switches are quiet but the keycaps are noisy without adding any rubber rings.

iCUE

The iCUE is the essential tool that you will need to manager your keyboard settings, macros and lighting. I’m skipping this part since I didn’t test it much but it missing some things.

Regrets?

Oh boy where do I start?

The Cherry Speed switches are too sensitive for me, if I hover a key or rest a finger on it will trigger a keystroke. After a week of use I wasn’t used to them at all.

The iCUE software isn’t bad, but I would love to be able to add multiple programs to the same profile, it would make life easier for keeping similar profiles together like for example the regular Overwatch profile and the PTR one.

Conclusion

I sent it back after a week. I don’t like Cherry MX Speed switches. This post isn’t even worth calling a review, it’s more of a rant and I’m actually pissed about it because I wanted to love this keyboard but was dreaming about my old Sidewinder X6…

Maybe a K70 with Cherry MX Brown switches would fit me better.

Nintendo Switch: hands on

With Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee and Super Smash Bros Ultimate coming out, I couldn’t pass any longer.

Handling the console

It’s quite wide. The joycons are not the most comfortable and need some serious getting used to, especially on games such as Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate!

The pro controller is not cheap at all, but since I didn’t buy it (yet?) I can’t speak about its comfort. It looks much better for using it while the console is standing or docked.

The triggers are awkward to use, the sticks are not placed ideally. It’s looks like a hot mess at first and getting used to it is part of the learning curve, not that it’s a good thing.

I’m a trained soldier though!

Get a glass screen protector

The screen glass is low quality compared to the smartphone glass, it will keep your fingerprint like the police just arrested you. It might scratch really easily too, especially if the dock is used a lot.

Any tempered glass screen protector should improve the screen durability, the biggest challenge will be placing it correctly with no dust or air bubbles. I have yet to master this skill.

No memory card included

As expected there’s no micro SD card included, I’d recommend getting at least a 32GB if you plan to screenshot a lot and purchase games from the eShop. Just to list storage requirements for a couple of games:

  • Super Smash Bros Ultimate: 14.7GB;
  • Zelda: Breath of the Wild: 14.5GB;
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 2: 14GB + 4.5GB (DLC);
  • Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate: 12GB;
  • Mario Odyssey: 5.6GB;
  • Stardew Valley: 1GB.

No one is safe from storage heavy games anymore.

The Nintendo eShop

The eShop should learn from other stores. There’s no way to get easily a list of free games or demo without resorting to the search features and ordering by price.

Sometimes by going back through the prompt instead of pressing B will throw you back to the eShop home, not what I though would happen when I started downloading a couple of demos.

Album

When saving screenshots and short clips of 30 seconds they are sent to the album which is the screenshot folder where nothing seems to be sorted. The only way to transfer these files is by ejecting the micro SD card, which is a fine option.
But there’s no way to upload videos to YouTube!

It’s possible to only share screenshots and videos through Twitter and Facebook, or you could buy a card reader and turn off the console then dump the micro SD card’s media onto your computer.

Not every screen can be screenshot and the output format is always JPEG, not the best quality.

Regrets

The red joycon doesn’t look red like on the pictures. It’s closer to a neon red than a bright red color. I’m nit-picking because I really like red. The controls are not as comfortable when getting started too, it’s like there’s a break in period for your hands.

Accessing the other region stores, like the Japanese one for Phantasy Star Online 2 Cloud (to get the Breath of the Wild items), requires adding another user. If you keep that user on the Switch you will be asked to select a user to launch at game… I’d prefer a default user in this case.

There’s no option to upload videos to YouTube as of right now.

Conclusion

As I have not had the opportunity to play a game online I can’t comment it just yet, same goes for cloud saves and any of the advertised features of the subscription. I just really hope that the sales won’t be lock behind the subscription since I don’t plan on paying until I get a game that can be played online (like Smash).

I’ve bought Super Mario Odyssey with the console and got Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu when it came out, for now I feel satisfied since they are both great games and the upcoming line up is great.

There have been talks of new Switch hardware, I’m not sure how to react to that but an upgrade might be coming.

Desktop specs: 2017 edition

While it currently is 2018 I still think it’s not too late to speak about my desktop’s specs as they were during the last upgrade (in 2017).

Under the desk

  • Intel i7 3770K 3.5GHz;
  • 16GB (4 by 4GB) Corsair Vengeance 1866MHz;
  • Gigabyte GTX 1080 (8GB);
  • Asus Sabertooth P67;
  • 2 Seagate Barracuda 2TB drives;
  • Corsair H100i CPU cooler;
  • Coolermaster HAF-X.

I upgraded to the P67 platform during summer of 2011 with an i3 2100 and swapped it out during the next summer with an Ivy Bridge CPU. I am still not overclocking because I don’t actually feel the need.

SSDs would be great but are still not cheap enough for the performance and capacity I’d be interested in and the Sabertooth P67 doesn’t have support for NVMe drives.

On the desk

  • AOC 24″ 144Hz 1080p main screen;
  • Hannspree 25″ 60Hz secondary 1080p screen;
  • Microsoft Sidewinder X6 keyboard;
  • Logitech G500 mouse;
  • Roccat Kanga mousepad;
  • XB360 pad;
  • AKG K142HD headphones;
  • Generic Logitech microphone.

The secondary screen used to be a primary, but it’s getting pretty old and I felt that upgrade to a GTX 1080 was a good reason to get a high refresh rate screen.

Sadly the AOC screen can’t be used with a secondary screen when plugged into a Display Port… That’s because turning off the screen will pull low the hotplug pin on the DP connector therefor “disconnecting” the screen and moving over my windows. High refresh rate such as 144Hz are a thing with DVI.
The reason I need to be able to turn off manually the screen is because the 360 pad seems to wake up the screens.

The software

  • Windows 10 Pro 64 bits;
  • Logitech Gaming Software;
  • Cygwin.

Sadly for gaming running Windows is still pretty much the best way to enjoy games. But gaming isn’t the only reason.

Because I don’t need a GPU for Linux I can use VirtualBox for when I want/need to use Linux.

Benchmarking

Let’s see how it performs! In run my benchmarks with the settings I play with.

These benchmarks are just here to add some fluff and give a rough idea of how it performs, I don’t plan on running 3DMark or any specific software suite.

Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition Benchmark

Metro: Last Light

Click to enlarge

Conclusion

This PC is good enough for gaming in 2018, it’ll certainly last long enough to not have me bother upgrading for a couple of years.

The bottleneck will be, without a doubt, the CPU and RAM… Sadly not lasts forever. Since I’ll be upgrading the combo MB+CPU+RAM I’ll be able to upgrade to some sweet speedy storage.
I really hope that NVMe SSDs will drop their prices in the next few years.

And just for the health of PC gaming I hope that mining will drop dead and stop being a thing with consumer GPUs.

Asus ROG G750JM: Defective by design

Republic of Gamers

Update 18/07/2017: BSoD reported with nVidia drivers WHQL (dated 29/06/2017) to me (in French) and fixed by applying Asus’ drivers. See conclusion.

If we ever have to speak about the looks, the form factor and the cooling system, I’d have to say that I love the Asus ROG (Republic of Gamers) laptop G750JM.

But it has issues. It actually has a number of issues you can’t overlook.

Technical specification

Its specs are not the best, but good enough to be able to run multiple VMs, the Witcher 3 and enjoying desktop like performance on just about any tasks. Not high-end desktop like performance, but not far from it.

  • CPU: Intel i7 4700HQ 2.4GHz;
  • RAM: 16GB;
  • GPU: NVIDIA GTX 860M (2GB);
  • Storage: 1To Hitachi Travelstar 7K1000;
  • Windows 8.1 Pro 64bits.

For the operating system I have installed my own license of Windows 8.1, just to make sure I don’t have to live with the bloat it comes with. No overclocking was involved at any moment, it’s still a laptop so I’d like to maximize its lifespan.

Blue Screen of Death: DRIVER_POWER_STATE_FAILURE 0x9F

Ever since I have owned this laptop, I remember having systematic Blue Screens of Death (DRIVER_POWER_STATE_FAILURE) when Geforce Experience was installed and Shadow Play was enabled at startup. I have since then removed Geforce Experience to not experience any BSoDs at startup.
I never go to understand the issue. I have since then never installed Shadow Play ever again, and I actually would like to be able to record gaming footage…

But recently I have been experiencing those BSoDs again. Strange since I didn’t update the NVidia driver in a long time (version 353.06). I could take a look at a crash dump.

The good thing about running into issues is that it’s the perfect time to learn stuff such as using WinDbg. With just a few commands I can find out what went wrong… Or get to close to know.

This is the debugging process:

I get to understand a few things from it:

  • Line 11: pci.sys might have caused the BSoD;
  • Line 33 & 34: A physical device object blocked an IRP for too long;
  • Line 36: The block IRP.

What’s actually interesting is the line 36: ffffe000e546a010. At line 91 I run a command with that IRP number:

The entry that is marked is the one on the line 14. It mentions on line 51 that IRP’s driver is \Driver\ACPI. ACPI is what puts some components to sleep and does status monitoring. What could possibly be the issue and how is it related to Nvidia ?

I don’t know. Reports on the internet have pointed at some feature called Turbomaster being the culprit. Disabling it in the UEFI should fix the issue according to reports from people online. It did not for me.

Let’s check the most recent BSoD:

Why is \Driver\pci the issues ?
Well it’s time to rollback, like suggested here, to the OEM drivers to be sure I’m not going to have anymore issues. Version 347.52 from the 2nd of April 2014!

Damaging SATA controller

What’s great about the G750JM is that is has two 2.5″ bays, one is already populated with a 1TB hard drive (Hitachi Travelstar 7K1000). That’s a great opportunity to put another 1TB drive in the other bay so I can double my storage !

Except no. The SATA controller seems to damage hard drives put in the second bay. I got no response from Asus’ support team regarding that issue. When I RMA’d the laptop they changed the motherboard (on wich the SATA controller sits ?), I ran through 4 hard drives of the same brand as the one that came with the laptop in the second bay.
They all ended up dying. And more often than not, not even reporting S.M.A.R.T. issues. Something is wrong, and it’s not the hard drives causing issues.

So I started thinking… Maybe I’m the only one experiencing this issue. Well I’m not really the only one actually. That might not mean much.

Asus’ support

Let’s rant a bit. I have been contacting the support since 2014 I believe. I have RMA’d this computer twice and it still damages the hard drives in the second bay, it still needs to be disassembled to rewire the screen correctly sometimes. It still Blue Screens with Nvidia’s drivers.

Is this Asus quality? How come I’ve had a flawless experience on a desktop computer with Asus but on a laptop I must pull out my hair?!

I have literally emailed Asus’ support team begging them to get the laptop repaired once and for all, begging them for the quality of service I believe every single customer deserves. Even when my warranty ended.

I have tried my best to diagnose issues, I have sent videos and logs. I have asked for help and nothing was ever done to help me. Instead it was always the kind of response where I would have to send the computer back and let them evaluate if the warranty covers the damages or not before doing anything.
Am I an idiot for trying to figure out what wrong and getting a fully functional laptop?

You tell me Asus.

Conclusion

The Asus ROG G750JM is a defective by design laptop. My motherboard, GPU, screen and “SATA cables” were changed during the first RMA. I then got a screen that have some of the worst burn in you could possibly ever have and it wasn’t even securely wired, so when the cable came loose the picture would just glitch.

While I think that customers don’t have to be treated as kings, I believe that quality should be a concern. Produce the best product and service possible to your customers.

It seems that the G552VW model has kind of the same problem for the nVidia driver, I have done some support (in French) about a BSoD happening. The BSoD happened in Phantasy Star Online 2.
Installing the old drivers from the Asus’ support site resolved the instant BSoD that he would get a few seconds after loading the game. I see a pattern.

Asus Xonar DGX

dgx-chips

They once said to me that on board audio is crap, and I should get any Xonar.

I listened and was aware that with great audio, comes some surprises.
I bought an Asus Xonar DGX because it was within my budget and had headphone amps.

My Gaming experience

This is not that bad since I can only come up which two games that had problems.

Star Wars: Republic Commando had no sound if the GX option was turned off, it wasn’t a big deal.

Dead Island had buzzing sound on 7.1. I don’t want to have to change my settings every time I must play a game.

My gaming experience was overall good and smooth.
But I don’t have only games in my life.

My Anime experience

For watching animes I use the Combined Community Codec Pack with Media Player Classic. The playback was alright with my on board sound on my Sabertooth P67.

With the Xonar I had to reconfigure everything. One video could not have a single problem and restore some 7.1 sound.
Some other started stuttering like if the video had to follow the sound.

Getting the good settings was probably not possible and since I can’t watch animes with buzzing and stuttering sound… I had no other choice than popping the card out.

My VoIP experience

This is a bit of an awkward one. I mainly use Skype with people I personally know in real life.
Getting the settings right was really hard at first, but good enough.

After a while I decided to switch to my old desktop mic since people were complaining that they could here in my headset the sound playing. I usually listen to cool stuff.

Getting the settings right without everybody picking up the keys I mashed or my mouse clicks isn’t possible.
The mic got all the sounds, even when I was cooking in my kitchen.

It’s not that bad, right ?

Yeah. You could say that.
But Anime is a big part of my life, and if I must tweak every single game to get it running because I have a sound card… Well no thanks.

I could blame the game developers for that, but Asus is to blame too.