So that VR Thing………

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Over the last few weeks, I have spent my time out at Computex 2016 in Taipei.  Of course there is the glitz and the glamour of all the new technology coming to us in the coming months. The two letters on everyone’s lips are V R.  Virtual Reality to be exact.  My feeling is that this is going to be a long term game changer for the industry.  The applications are far reaching.  Of course the immediate is a more immersive gaming experience.  However when you look beyond this, it can touch many aspects of our lives.  Virtual class rooms, Virtual Real Estate tours, medial applications.  The list is endless…….. and

So the debate rages on which will be dominant platform.  For us in the west we know only of HTC Vive, Oculus Rift  and to a lesser extent, PlayStation VR.  In the far east it has a different flavour with 3 Glasses and AntVR worthy additions to the global line up.  That not withstanding the feeling is that VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality) are ground breaking and will drive the industry to new heights.  So what is the downside to the new golden egg of computing world ?  Accessibility and portability.

One of the big draw backs with VR is how do you make it portable ?  With Oculus or Vive you are tied with wires which can make for a cumbersome experience.  One new product I saw at Computex was a new VR ready backpack from MSI

 

 

This is where the games really begin.  Now imagine having a lightweight PC but powerful enough to power Vive or Oculus.  Now you are not tied to your desk, it allows for full movement without tripping over the wires.  Power should not be a concern as you can in theory game for upto 150 minutes without having to recharge the unit.

All things considered, this is the kind of innovation that will bring VR to the early adopters who want the full on VR experience.  Not worrying about wires would surely make for a better more immersive experience ?

 

New PC Time – The Nostromo Build

The time has come for a new build.  My old(er) PC was running fine but it was on the noisy side and looked relatively cluttered.  The key considerations for the new build was, the acoustics and aesthetics.  I wanted a clean look with the absolute minimum of fan noise.  I also wanted to have the option to be able to upgrade to a full water cooled solution in the future, so my decision on case was equally as important as the components.

 

The New Bits n Bobs
The New Bits n Bobs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is not pictured here is the new case.  I have spent quite a few months trawling the net and the goto place for ideas and feedback on a good case for my needs and settled on the Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ATX Case.  What nailed the decision on this was the cable management options.

Core Components

MSI Z170A Krait Gaming Motherboard

Intel Core i5 6600K

2 x 16GB DDR IV Corsair Dominator Platinum at 3200Mhz

MSI GTX 980Ti Armor 2X

Corsair H110i GTX Liquid CPU Cooler

Corsair RM 750i Gold plus related PSU

256GB Samsung NVMe SSD

2x 2TB Seagate Barracuda

Let the building commence

I was really surprised on how well the system came together from what I wanted to achieve.   Again this is in no short part to the choice of case.  The cable management was made easy and I achieved the clean look I wanted.  Some very simple additions like the velcro stips on the inside of the case meant that it was just the core components on show

CPU Mounted and Ram Installed
CPU Mounted and Ram Installed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MSI Z170A  Krait Motherboard
MSI Z170A Krait Motherboard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As mentioned, I wanted to make sure this looked cool and clean, so the black and white theme seemed to be a good fit.  I have swapped out all of the case fans and now have 2x  Corsair Air Series AF140mm fans for the CPU cooler and Corsair AF120mm case fans.  As expected the systems runs near silent

Corsair AF140mm fans for the CPU Cooler

Corsair AF140mm fans for the CPU Cooler

 

The (Almost) Final Build

So today the system has been put together and I have got the look and feel I want from this system.  The short term addition will be a white 24pin ATX Cable for the motherboard.  Some pictures of the final build  are below.

A 40 somethings guide to stumbling up Ben Nevis part 1

Who am I ?  I am a 40 something nerd with a patient, inspirational and supportive wife and two extremely amazing kids (Dad and Husband Bias card played already  !!)  I am extremely proud to look after a group of 14 year olds and represent them as their football manager every single week.  I also work in the IT industry for a global leader in gaming notebook technology.   On the downside, I have type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, need to shed some timber and occasinaly slip in and out of depression.  So for me the preparation for Ben Nevis is the focus I need to attack all of them things and kick em in the ass.

On the 7th of May 2016, I will be walking up ‘The Ben’  with my truly great friend AJ and  13 other people of varying ages, abilities and motivations.    I have decided to start a blog about my personal experience and motivations for walking up the talest mountain in Great Britain.  I hope this gives also you a little bit of inspiration in your day to day what you do and why you do it.  Of course there will always be people who know me who will sit on the sidelines reading this for amusement around the coffee machine, but hey read on, this is for you.  You know the kind of people who love to see you fail.  Your failure makes their life seem more interesting.  Whatever happens, I am sure I will provide a bit of ammo for them.

 

Where is 'The Ben'
Where is ‘The Ben’

For me preparing, training and walking up Ben Nevis is much more than just a 16Km hike just for the sake of it with like minded individuals.  I guess it is one of them opportunities to reach deep inside and really push yourself to prove you can achieve something good.  Really good infact.  I go into this with open eyes and full of commitment.  So this blog will be about what I and we have done and why I am doing it.  This journey is not just two days at Fort William it’s a journey starting in January that I hope will have a lasting impact on my future.  My target is not based around getting up in a certain time.  My immediate target is

So why do it ?  Surely just running a gym or swimming is good enough to keep you in top top shape ? Well  my make up has always been about proving people wrong. Tell me I cannot do something is the best way to get me to do something.  From a very early age I was told I would never walk and spend a lifetime in a chair but that is not for me.  So that’s where it started, sorry Doc !  In my life I have a lot of people who believe in me from my family and friends through to my colleagues and associates right through to the football team that I run.  I guess the only person who does not beleive in me is well me.  So the walk up ‘The Ben’ is about making a commitment and believing that I can achieve something for myself.  It is an opportunity to tick a really amazing achievement off the list.  The walk in itself will be nothing, absolutely nothing.   It’s all about the prep and doing something that is life changing.  If I get this right then Nevis will literally be a walk in the park.

This blog will not be a master class in training for rough terain or mountain walking.  Do not expect advice on walking technique, or how to get in shape.  I am hoping to learn a lot so I can live a lot and pass this on.  I hope this proves as motivation if anyone tells you that you cannot become who you want or achieve what you want, they are wrong. YOU decide if you can succeed and you decide what your own measure of success is. I am sure we all have our own mountains to climb

Enjoy the read, take what you want (either laugher and or inspiration) from this.

 

Regards. N

 

 

 

 

 

Unboxing the Sennheiser Game Zeros

Before the festive fun and frolics, I was in the market for some new ‘Cans’  My trusty old 2.1 Corsair USB headset would just not cut it any longer, with poor sound.  I decided that if I have a pretty decent Gaming PC and Laptop then surely it was time to make sure I could hear in game as well as I could.  Having owned a set of Sennheier’s previously, I had the itch to get another set.

Outer Packaging

The Game Zero from Sennheiser is presented in a very thin box and sleeve  and looks stylish from the moment you get them.

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The back of the packaging gives an overview of some of the technology employed in the headset.

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Inner Packaging

Game Zero’s come in a very lightweight but robust carry case.  I think these would be ideal for those gamers who want to take these to LAN’s or make sure they are well protected when not in use

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Out of the Box

 

Once you take the Sennheisers out of the box you get the fell that this is a quality product.   I have put these to good use to over the last few weeks.  The first thing that I can highly recommend is the comfort.  Unlike some other headsets, they are lightweight.

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The closed cup’s over the ears do a fantastic job of noise cancelling, ideal for any long gaming session.  Although the cups are not mesh,surprisingly, your ears feel pretty cool and comfortable afterwards.

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Sennhesier position these at the premium end of the spectrum.  At £199 SRP then it is a considered purchase.  That said if you want outstanding sound quality with unrivaled comfort, then these could be your next best purchase

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Fallout 4 First Look on MSI GS70 Stealth Pro

f4-logo

One of the most anticipated games of the year has finally launched.  Fallout 4 is here and welcome to the future.  I wanted to check out the performance to see if the notebook experience would be the same as on desktop.

 

Check out the first ten minutes game play on my GS70 Stealth pro.  I am running this on 5h Generation Intel Broadwell CPU along with Nvidia GTX 970M.  Results I am really pleased with the results.  With all settings at Medium to High the game runs smooth at 60 FPS.

Check out the game play

Coming to a TV near you in October

Amazon Netflix HuluI must admint, normal TV does not offer much for me by way of entertainment.  Due to my work and family commitments sitting down to watch does nothing for me.

That said, it’s money well spent on Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video and Hulu.  I really get my moneys worth every month.  There has been some fantastic shows on recently such as Narcos, Bloodline and Daredevil to name but a few.

Let’s take a look at some of the programmes coming soon at Netflix. To start the Horror season off in time for Hallowe’en,  Netflix are airing season 2 of Hemlock Grove on October 23rd.  There is also  but you’re also going to be able to watch American Horror Story: Freak Show (season 4) from the 6th of October.  If Superhero’s are your thing then also look out for new seasons of Arrow and The Flash

 

Over on Hulu you can expext Season 3 of Sleepy Hollow and the new season of the Vampire Diaries.

Three Games to add to your hit list

Wow what a year for gaming 2015 has been with some great titles early on  such as The Witcher 3,  Mad Max, Elite Dangerous to name but a few.

2015 is a great year for gaming but there is more to come
2015 is a great year for gaming but there is more to come

PC Gaming is really cementing it’s position as the dominant gaming platform of choice.   Such  a massive selection of games to chose from.  in 2014 PC gaming had over 330 releases, twice as much as any platform.

So as the end of the year approaches we see the inevitable launch of some fantastic indie  games, right upto the Triple A Blockbusters.    So in no particular order, here is what I am looking  forward to before the end of the year.

The Park 

Release Date: October 2015

Developer: Funcom

Official Website

Game Type: Single Player (Horror)

Little is know about The Park other than it is a single player horror game set in an abandoned theme park.    Very few screen shots have been made available and there is a short teaser on Youtube.  All of which adds to the mystery surrounding this game.  The premise is that you are  a mother who’s sun goes missing in an abandoned theme park and you must find him.  No doubt this will be a short sharp shock game from the people who brought us The  Secret World

Fall Out 4

Release Date: November 10

Developer:  Bethesda Studios

Game Type: Post Apocalyptic RPG

Official Website

Valut 111 is waiting for you
Valut 111 is waiting for you

Fallout 4 ranks right up there with Half Life 3 as one of them games that every gamer worth his salt wants but did not think would ever happen.  Que mass internet  hysteria on June 2nd, Fallout 4 had been officially announced !

The main story of Fallout 4 is set around 200 years after the Nuclear Holocaust of 2077.   Unlike the previous four installments of Fallout, the start of the game centres around the bomb drop of October 23rd, 2077.   Game play is centred around Boston, Massachusetts and  the wider New England area, known as the Commonwealth. Like Fallout 3, the game theatre is expected to be massive with many side missions to be immersed in.  No doubt there will be lots of quests to aid in understanding why you survived for 200 years in valut 111.  Expect a selection of guns and toys to help you in your journey throughout the wasteland

Where Fallout 4 moves on from Fallout 3 is the ability to create your own settlement.  If you love customising in game then this should be really appealing.

I guess the only real question mark remains over in game performance.    Bethesda announced that Fallout 4 will run at 1080P 30FPS on all platforms.

 

Star Wars: Battlefront

Relase Date: Nov 17th – Nov 20th

Developer: EA Digital Illusions CE

Game Type: First Person / Third Person Action Shooter

Official Website

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away……………Cannot wait for this one !!.  Battelfront is an action packed shooter set aross the Star Wars universe.  Battle in the cold depths of Hoth to the  twinned sunned deserts of Tantooine.  You have  the choice of siding with the Rebel Alliance  or The  Empire.  Who wouldn’t want to be Darth Vader or Bobba Fett for a day ?

Battlefront has been developed on the Frostbite 3 Game Engine utilised by Battlefield 4 and other popular titles.  This should allow for some pretty epic battles on a large scale.  For multiplayer, this will accomodate upto 40 players in  various game modes

Expect to see a beta in early October.

 

 

 

 

 

Batman Arkham Knight, 4K PC Gaming

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Ok lets get the big white elephant in the corner out of the way.  The PC launch could have gone better, much better in fact.    Lots of early reports that the game was unplayable.  Frame rates too low, screen tearing too high.  No fix till September with a lot of patches inbetween.  It was apparently so bad that Warner Bros (Publisher), Rocksteady Games and Steam decided to remove the game from Steam and PC for the time being.    How to play a game  that can not be played ?  Riddle me that Batman.

On my current rig, its playable and I have had a grand old time gliding round Gotham kicking no end of bad guys in the butt.

– Intel i7 4770K

MSI GTX 980 (4Gb GDDR5)

Philips 40″ 4K Monitor

Testing batman at full 4K resolution was, well eye opening to say the least.

So whats the story Bats ???

For those who have played either Batman Arkham Origins, Batman Arkham City or Batman Arkham Asylum, then Batman: Arkham Knight should see you on familiar ground  in terms of game play and game mechanics

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Early into the game you are get a glimpse of what you are up against with the emergence of Scarecrow as the main protagonist.  I say main, this game is like a Batman Villains who’s who.

The Villains

Penguin and Two Face
Penguin and Two Face
Poison Ivy
Poison Ivy
Scarecrow
Scarecrow
The Joker
The Joker
Arkham Knight
Arkham Knight

The game is set one year after the death of The Joker during the events at Arkham City.  On Halloween, Scarecrow threatens to unleash an ulra potent fear toxin unless the residents vacat the city.  Unfortunately the inmates are running the asylum.

Gameplay

Throughout the game there are many quests and side quests to keep you occupied.  However there is a new start to the show in the shape of the Batmobile.

Batmobile
Batmobile

This forms part of your deadly arsenal for completing the quests. Certainly on the PC version, the controls are easy to pick up and master.  That said the combat mode can become a little repetitve.  Dodge rocket, aim at villain, shoot, wash rinse repeat !!  That said, Gotham is an open world and there are plenty of little easter eggs should you decide to drive around to take in Gotham by night !

This is what happens
This is what happens

Very early on there is part of the game that has that wow factor that Rocksteady managed to produce in the first game.  It’s subtle, it’s very well done and it’s   one of them moments in PC Gaming where you pause the game and say that was really well done.  Wait till you are looking for Barbra Gordon

Conclusions

So the obvious performance issues aside, the game is very enjoyable at 30 fps in 4K.

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It’s dark and gritty and it has a really good story with lots of side quests to keep you going.  Of course there are perfomnace issues that are well documented, but these will be fixed no doubt.  The combat can become a little repetitive but thats more than evened out with the story backdrop.  All in all this could well be one of the games of the year if the techincal issues are ironed out.

A Quick Tour around the Amazon Fire TV

Over the past few years my TV  viewing habits have changed considerably.   With the advent of Subscription services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video and others, On demand TV  is becoming more of the norm.

To satisfy my requirements for a fast media box, I have recently bought an Amazon  Fire TV.  Here is an unboxing  to give you an  idea of what the Fire TV looks like

Outside Carton

Outside the BoxThe Fire TV comes win a very clear packaging and this gives you an indication of some of the streaming services available.

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Unboxing the Fire TV

Unboxing the   Fire TV
Unboxing the Fire TV

 

Taking the outer sleeve off there is a robust carton with the Amazon Fire TV Insignia.  Everything is well packaged so there is no damage in transit

Open the Box
Open the Box

The Amazon Fire TV has a pretty small foot print and it easily fits into the palm of your hand.  It will fit in with most home entertainment systems discretely

Amazon  Fire TV Top Side
Amazon Fire TV Top Side

Around the back the ports are kept to a minimum with

-HDMI

– SPDIF

– Ethernet

-USB 3.0

Rear Ports
Rear Ports

Fire TV with Remote

Fire TV with Remote

Tech Specs

– 115  mm x 115 mm x 17.5mm

-281 grams

– Qualcomm Krait 300 Quad core 1.7Ghz Processor

– Qualcomm Adreno 320 GPU

– 2GB DDR2

– 8Gb Storage

– Dual Band Dual Antenna Wi-Fi

– Bluetooth 4.0

Overview  

The Amazon  Fire TV offers fantastic value for money at £79.99.  It’s always worth looking for the promotions as  Amazon sell at £69.99.  It is a very fast and responsive media centre based on Android Operating system.

For a novice it’s extremely easy to use once  you are connected to the internet.  Netflix and other streaming services are included .   Another key feature is instant streaming of Prime.     No more  buffering is always welcome.  I have side loaded Kodi Media Centre onto the AFTV and this will allow you to manage  your  local media very well.

Fantastic piece of hardware and excellent value for money

 

 

Unboxing the MSI GT80 Titan

Big is Better
Big is Better

Today I was lucky enough to get a call from HQ asking if I would be intersted in doing an unboxing of the  MSI GT80 Titan.  Given it’s our flagship model, 18.4″ FHD Screen, 2x 980M in SLI.  A World first to feature a full backlit SteelSeries mecahnical keyboard with Cherry MX Brown Switches Premium audio, best in class networking and a whole host of other features, i jumped at the chance

Lets unbox this Beast and see what kind of bang you can expect from your hard earned buck !!

The Outer Box 

MSI GT80 Titan Outer Box
MSI GT80 Titan Outer Box

The GT80 Titan comes in a very sturdy outer carton.  All of the key features such as Cherry Mechanical Keyboard, Xsplit GameCaster, SteelSeries engine,  Speakers by Dynaudio

Out of the Box
Out of the Box

 

Lucky and the GT80
Lucky The Dragon has a new toy

The Track Pad and Keyboard

One of the stand out features of the GT80 is the SteelSeries Mechanical Keyboard and the track pad.  The GT80 offers a world first for a Gaming Notebook to feature, a full sized mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX Brown Switches.  Cherry Browns offer no compromise for long gaming sessions on the go or at home

 

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Cherry Browns offer no compromise for long gaming sessions on the go or at home.  They are also considered the best option for FPS and for RTS games.  Comfort for any gamer right out of the box.  The key click sound is not as loud compared to Cherry MX Blue.

Fully Backlit Keyboard and Trackpad
Fully Backlit Keyboard and Trackpad

 

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The Track pad is also a new feature that allows to have a full size number pad.  It can also be used as a more traditional track pad for navigating around the screen.

The Track Pad
The Track Pad
Beautiful red number pad.  Very stylish
Beautiful red number pad. Very stylish

 

Around the Chassis

A wealth of ports
A wealth of ports

As you would expect, the MSI GT80 is an ideal desktop replacement for any serious gamer.  Whilst some of the stand out features are the SLI technology with MXM Graphics module, it goes without saying that you can maximise your gaming experience or work experience with the GT80.   It’s much thinner and quieter than you would expect from such a powerful machine.  From the back you can see 2 x Mini Display Port and 1x HDMI.  this will allow for upto three external screens, ideal for Nvidia Surround.

 

Plenty of Ports
Plenty of Ports

Plenty of USB3.0 ports for fast data transfer of files and keep you connected to all of your favourite peripherals.  The GT80 features an independent AMP for both onboard sound and for headset.  You will also notice SPDIF/Optical out.

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Dynaudio Speakers on the underside for deep rich sound experience

Under the Hood

Before launch a lot of people were asking how you fit the Mechanical Keyboard, All the Rich Technology in one box.  With a more traditional laptop, a lot of the key components are underneath the keyboard.  The GT80 puts these in front of the keyboard to allow for a more modular design and to accomodate the SteelSeries Mechanical Keyboard

 

Lets go deep inside the GT80
Lets go deep inside the GT80

 

How the GT80 is built
How the GT80 comes together

The GT80 is available from selected retailers such as Scan and Box