Joined on 12/27/08
Price Range Marauder
Pros: For the price this is an excellent laptop. The Amd e-450 platform runs great in windows despite its low energy overhead and cost. The laptop itself is lightweight and has what you typically expect in 15" Windows Laptop such as Hdmi out, VGA out, card reader, decent dvdr, and 4GB of Memory. At the price you might have some money to buy nice upgrades and still stay under the budget. With a $25 bump to 8GB of Ram and an SSD drive instead of the stock notebook hard drive this computer runs without any lag or hitch during everyday tasks. (get a 2.5" enclosure and then you also get a Western Digital 320GB portable external hard drive out of the whole spiel) Battery life is also nice, realistically maybe in the 4.5 hours range consisting of actual use. In sleep mode it kept its charge pretty even while left on overnight. Runs cool on the outside and looks nice too. Lightweight considering the screen size, and thinner than most laptops out there.
Cons: Since the laptop was easy on the wallet, you have to expect some compromise. I would say that the biggest flaw may be the keyboard, but it still works pretty well. Just didn't jive with me perhaps, but it definitely has a cheapness to it. Surprisingly the touchpad was good despite this. Amd e-450 runs a bit hot on the inside around 56C while idling, but prime 95 on made it hit 65C at its max. The outside doesn't get hot so maybe it could use more natural heat dissipation. But then again all the softies will complain that their laps are getting too hot. Bloatware and Weird drive partitioning is horrible. Fortunately you can bypass it all by downloading the freely available Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit sp1 install discs. Google it up, download ISO, burn it, and install windows. Good by bloatware, hello efficient computing. If only it came like this.
Overall Review: Got this for my Dad and he is pretty set with it. Perfect for anyone who mostly just uses Internet browsers, office/productivity apps, and media watching apps (plays 720p and 1080p in windows media and vlc). With an SSD and 8gb of ram you can also disable the windows virtual memory and cruise through your computer use even smoother. Definitely recommended unless you plan on gaming beyond counter strike in terms of graphics demand. Also I wouldn't recommend it as a suitable computer for Adobe CS. Other than that this should be all most people need provided that the computer is set up well (no bloatware, not too many startup apps, etc). At the price it costs this is the least you could pay for a decent computer.
Weaksauce Adaptor, but easy to set up
Pros: Very easy to set up in Windows 7 x64, and did not require any set up to get going in ubuntu 10.04 LTS or later. Really a strong choice for a linux novice who is looking to get an adapter for a dual-boot windows-linux situation. Uses Atheros AR92xx as per lspci in ubuntu. 01:08.0 Network controller: Atheros Communications Inc. AR922X Wireless Network Adapter (rev 01) Subsystem: Atheros Communications Inc. Device 2091 Flags: bus master, 66MHz, medium devsel, latency 168, IRQ 16 Memory at fdff0000 (32-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=64K] Capabilities: <access denied> Kernel driver in use: ath9k Kernel modules: ath9k Basic and easy pci slot install-save those pci-e for higher bandwidth requiring devices like sata controllers, tv cards and of course graphics cards
Cons: Weak signal in comparison to other wireless cards I have. Namely those with Ra-link chipsets. Ralink cards can be more tempermental to set up, but the reception I have gotten from them easily beats this one. I am 2 floors up from my n router, and I got 40-60% form this card, whereas my Ralink based ASUS pce-n13 got upwards of 80%. I have observed this comparison in both windows 7 x64 and ubuntu 10.04. As such I have installed it in a machine closer to the router where signal reception will be better. Also it is worth mentioning that a TP-Link USB adapter I have with Atheros AR9225 manages to get better reception than this card.
Overall Review: Go with a usb atheros adapter unless you plan on moving lots of data around over your local network. If you are just going online and downloading, browsing, uploading etc., then a usb adapter really makes all the more sense as the usb bandwidth will not be a chokepoint for your data bandwidth. Your ISP will likely be the limiting factor, and the adaptor will require minimal installation. Otherwise if you have to go with a pci or pci-e adapter I recommend looking elsewhere to get better signal and bandwidth.
Super Ultra Awesomeness
Pros: Amazing FPS that works along the same premise of the first Borderlands to redefine what an FPS can be. All aspects of the game have been well attended to by the developers to create a game of very rich depth, excellent artistic design, and solid gaming mechanics. Think of this as sort of Diablo with guns, first person perspective, and way more entertainment value. This is best enjoyed with multiple people ideally of different classes - which is often the case online. Lots of capability to express your own individual playstyle within a class as well adding a great variety to the game. The story campaign is excellent fun, and I have played through it 8 times so far over the course of getting 4 characters to level 50. Still not bored with it. I haven't even completed all the side mission this has to offer either as there are a huge lot of them with interesting rewards at the end. The DLC's are also very well worth the cost and a great way to keep on playing.
Cons: Not really anything significant is wrong with this game, but some things could be improved upon. Multiplayer matchmaking ought to work a bit better (steam user here) and the drop rate for the really useful items is very very low. I'm not gripping so much on the low drop rate as I am on how the low drop rate seems to drive players to glitching, hacking, and cheating their way to all the cool weapons they want. Anyways you can always kick the blatant cheaters if your hosting the game. There are the occasional glitches with missions here and there which can also cause inconveniences, such as your mission objective item falling off a cliff into a nonplayable area-causing you to have to restart the area to unglitch it.
Overall Review: At $30-40 this is the most cost-rewarding gaming purchase you can make. $30 for a season dlc pass brings this game up to the same price as your typical new blockbuster, but instead your getting a very deep blockbuster type of game with hundreds of hours worth of potential play.
Great game with poor management by Blizzard
Pros: This game is an excellent RTS. No doubt about it. There's been a meticulous amount of attention given to everything from game balance to artwork, and is really a great deal at $30 (I paid $60). The campaign is really fun and well done, albeit not much of a sweat on Brutal mode for a seasoned RTS player. This sequel brings back all the great elements from the first Starcraft and makes the experience easier to manage and more rewarding for strategic thinkers over speedy actions per minute fiends.
Cons: That said, this game still favors action per minute focused players since you have to manage absolutely everything with your army. While this is a great task to live up to, I feel that the controls could really be improved upon. Hotkeys lack intuitiveness and the overhead camera scrolling is poorly conceived. I find myself wasting too much apm just getting the best view of what I'm doing (just pressing the spacebar rarely gets me where I need to be efficiently). Beyond the player interface, I strongly feel that BLizzard focuses way too much on the pro level crowd and not their main consumer base. All the balance decisions seem to be determined by what the pro level play calls for that doesn't really affect normal players in a positive manner. Some things such as the mindlessly fun monobattles are no longer easily available and when they were, constantly had drops and lags due to a lack of server resources dedicated to the just for fun crowd. Overall, the support and management for this game will likely not favor you, especially if you haven't purchased this game yet. Blizzard has also made a real bummer of a move by destroying the starcraft LAN experience. All your games need to go to a Blizzard server, which is not optimal for latency and simplicity. I believe their motivation to do this was to curtail piracy, but as a super rich gaming company, I doubt it would have affected their bottom line to make this game more independent of their servers. Also the $40 expansion is a slap in the face to franchise stalwarts. This game also feels incomplete. There is very little opportunity to acquaint yourself with playing Zerg since there is no campaign or even a solid tutorial. Your forced to learn via AI deathmatches (boring) or ladder matches vs seasoned players (steep learning curve). A whole zerg campaign may not have been feasible (or as fiscally advantageous for blizzard), but a substantial tutorial would have been great given that the mechanics of playing zerg have been changed a bit since the first Starcraft. Protoss also gets the shaft in this regard, although a few campaign missions help out a bit. Again this approach seems to favor the Pro crowd who would have no issue cutting their teeth from Beta onward against each other.
Overall Review: If you are on the fence regarding this game, you may want to consider another RTS for that genre fix. You can likely hold off until a "battle chest" type thing comes out with all the expansions, or at least the 2 that will be out soon in a combo pack. If you aren't interested in another RTS or another involved sort of game out there, then Starcraft 2 can be a great experience for you. My experience with the game is pretty mixed. At first I loved it. The campaign was excellent, and since Terran is my preferred race, I didn't mind the single race approach as much. I started in the lowest league on ladder and worked my way up to Diamond, which is basically the top league for normal people. This was very rewarding and I enjoyed noticing my own improvements in both strategy and execution. Online play is pretty well matched but after a while I realized it often results in a lot of the same old over and over again. Even the flakiest and most predictable of games results in 20 minutes gone from your game time. Eventually this same old on ladder got really boring so I moved onto custom games. However, some of these games I liked, namely monobattles, seemed to disappear from Blizzards servers in favor of more ladder-like custom games. As a result, I moved onto other games altogether. Recently I'm trying to get back into it since this game certainly has a lot of depth and potential for fun, but I'm still holding the high ranking I used to have, which means I'm set to get creamed until I get demoted into a league where I can be competitive again. Sorta weak on the matchmaking, but I can understand Blizzard wanting to reduce trolling by skilled players in lower leagues. Still I'll likely fire up a match or two tonight until I realize I can have way more fun doing something else. Namely Borderlands 2 for the moment.
Pros: I know this will be a lame aspect for most people, but I can't get over how quiet this thing runs. Granted I'm running this in a Fractal Design case designed to minimize noise, but I have the open back of the computer 2 feet away from my right ear and I don't notice this nose from anything other than the case's 120mm exhaust. Despite the quiet of the fan, this card runs rather cool in a case with only 2 intake and 1 exhaust and all other intakes patched up with soundproofing material. Idle it stays around 45-50 and at load it hangs around 65C. The design of the heatsink and fan are really top notch. The GTX660ti is also excellent from a processing power perspective, while being quite power efficient. My system (i7-3770K, 5 HDDs, 1 SSD, a slew of PCI-e devices) only draws 65watts from the wall at Idle (platinum Kingwin PSU helps of course). At a gaming load (Borderlands 2 maxed 1080p) I'm seeing draws between 250-300 watts. This GPU maxes out all my games at the moment. Perhaps Crysis 3 will throw a wrench into that statement when it comes out, but I'm sure it will still look beautiful even if I have to turn down a setting or two from extreme to high. Who knows, maybe I'll be able to max Crysis 3 also along with 1 and 2. Overall great card design and execution by ASUS, and a powerful GPU by nVidia. Also this is Mac OS X compatible out of the box, a nice pro for my circumstances in a customac. Has cuda capability in both mac and windows if you like that sort of thing (fun with brute force password cracking)
Cons: Really can't think of anything substantial. It's a bummer this doesn't ship with a free Borderlands 2 anymore, but perhaps it will include something else cool. The price is also steep, but not for the performance you get.
Overall Review: I would recommend this over a 670 for sure since it is largely the same GPU. I really don' t know why people spring for dual 680's given the fact that this card will max stuff out at greater than 60fps. Chances are your monitor or TV can't display anything better than this, but then again for those with enough disposable income for a 240hz monitor, those dual 680's probably won't break the bank. Can't really state any comparisons with AMD cards, but I know i'm glad I no longer have to deal with catalyst control center.
Silent White, Wholy Shight!
Pros: Uncompromising quality and excellent design in the same package. I would not expect this level of quality in a $150 case. Indeed the $150 Antec case I got a couple years ago for a different build does not equate this one in terms of materials, construction and layout. The case accomplishes what is sets out to do - provide a silent computing experience. Comes with sound proofing on both side panels, and has similar material covering the top and side vent. Coverings can easily be removed if desired, just 4 case fan screws per cover. Cooling is very effective despite the fact that I left both covers on the top and side vents. The fans that come with this case are equivalent to the most expensive case fans on this site in terms of performance and noise level. My case has a nice positive air pressure with 2 intake and 1 outtake. Dust Filters appear to be effective since I am using this computer on the floor and no visible dust has accumulated after about 1.5 months. With an i7-3770K, a GTX 660TI, 5 Hard drives and a platinum Kingwin PSU, ambient temperature inside the case is only 2-4 Celsius above room temperature while idling. At a gaming load the ambient temps are around 45C with the CPU around 50. Using the huge D-14 Noctua cooler and no overclocking in my case. Design is superb. There is room for some customization, and cable management is well thought out. Width of case accommodates cable routing behind the motherboard as well as large heatsinks on the other end. Plenty of hard drive mountings, and I'm glad this case only has 2 5.25" bays allowing for more 3.5 bays. I'll never understand a case with 4-5 5.25" bays unless its ginormous. Materials are sturdy, yet not too heavy. It reminds me of the stuff that refridgerators are made out of. Hard drive mounting has noise dampening grommets, and the stealth SSD mounts are a nice extra. Note that you cannot mount an SSD behind the motherboard with a motherboard installed, so be prepared to buy that SSD along with the case and install it before anything else. Unless you don't mind taking out the motherboard just to install an SSD. Get a decent SSD since it will be a pain to replace beyond having to deal with the loss of data.
Cons: Can't think of any. Usually with a case this nice, I would say "price" is a con, but the cost of this case is very very fair. No corners cut by he manufacturer. One nitpick may be its chunkiness, but that also works to the case's advantage. That said, not the easiest case to wrap your arms around for transport - something to be mindful of if you frequently plan to move around with this case.
Overall Review: Fractal Design will henceforth be my favorite case company. I had wanted to use them in my builds in the past, but they were mostly available in Europe only. I have no problem spending extra to get this level of quality, especially since its not too much extra. Looking forward to using this case down the line through the years. I may go with their $40 case for a media center computer I may build or perhaps go with the mATX version of this one for noise level optimization.