Category Archives: PC

Edifier e10BT exclaim multimedia speakers: Funky style with impressive sound

Edifier e10BT exclaim multimedia speakers ($NZ143-$168)

The first thing you notice about Edifier’s e10BT multimedia speakers is that they don’t look like traditional bookcase speakers. They look funky.

Instead of the usual box shape, these speakers look like they’ve been created by a designer, with a vertical speaker jutting out from a cylindrical base. The upper portion has two 1½-inch mid range tweeters and a 1½-inch by 3-inch passive radiators. Each base of the speakers has 3-inch woofer and a 3-inch passive bass radiator.

Edifier claims the speakers produce 36 watts RMS of power, driving a total of six active speakers. It also features Bluetooth connectivity so it’s perfect for watching movies on your iPad or laptop. The volume up/down & power button is on the left side of the right hand speaker and while it was a little fiddly, I was able to control the volume easy enough (to be fair, I tended to use either the device or the dial control on my PC keyboard to adjust volume levels).

They say proof is in the pudding (mmmm, pudding) and as this is primarily a gaming blog, I decided to to connect the e10BTs to my newly built PC and see how some of my favourite games sounded. Games I tested were Batman Arkham Knight and Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Cranking up the opening soundtrack to Batman Arkham Knight, the e10BT’s pretty much impressed the pants off me, with deep, driving bass and clarity in the high notes. Even at low levels, the sound was crisp and clear. Turning the volume up filled my living room with rich sound, much to the annoyance of my wife who was trying to watch her favourite soup opera.

Here’s a short video of the opening music from Arkham Knight:

The same went for Rise of the Tomb Raider, a game that relies on subtle audio cues at times as Lara Croft is skulking around the Siberian wilderness or scampering around a tomb. Simply put, the sound from these puppies was phenomenal.

Keen to test out the Bluetooth connectivity, I played a selection of movies from my iPad (John Wick, The Martian, Antman and Wasp). A nice touch is that the normal red LED on the right-hand speaker illuminates blue when you’re connected via Bluetooth.

Once again, the e10BT’s performed superbly, providing great bass notes and crisp and clear mid and high notes. The speakers just don’t disappoint.

Much like previous Edifier speakers I’ve reviewed, I’ve come away impressed with the e10BTs. They’re stylish, they look different from run of the mill bookcase speakers, they’re an excellent price (between $143 and $163 according to a price comparison site), and importantly, they deliver when it comes to amazing sound, be it for your PC when you’re gaming or you iPad when you’re watching movies.

Once again, Edifier have delivered a killer blow when it comes to desktop speakers.

Thanks to Edifier for providing the e10BT speakers for review.

Edifier e10BT multimedia speakers First look (video)

Thanks to the fine folk at Edifier in Australia, a pair (set?) of its e10BT multimedia speakers arrived on my doorstep this week, just crying out to be reviewed. So that’s what I’m going to do.

I currently have the speakers connected to my desktop PC but they also have Bluetooth connectivity so they can be used for other multimedia use. I’ll use them to play music from my phone and play some movies off my iPad.

I’m going to do a full-length review when I’ve tested the speakers out for a bit longer but here’s a short video showing what they look like and sound quality (you also hear my Kiwi accent, which is supposedly sexy according to some survey some person/people did. Not sure I hear it, to be honest). I haven’t gone into specifications of the hardware: I’ll leave that for the long-form review.

I selected the opening credits music from Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham Knight to showcase the e10BT’s, which has some of the most impressive bass in any video game’s opening credits music I’ve heard in recent times.

Turn on your ears, enjoy & look out for a review soon.

 

The GamejunkieNZ PC build project: Ah, yeah, I built it this weekend!

Last week, I posted about my plans to build a new PC so that I can rejoin the PC Master Race.

To recap: The week earlier, I’d bought an Asus B365 mATX motherboard, an Intel i5 CPU and 8Gb of RAM but I still needed to pick up an SSD for the operation system and a traditional HDD to install everything. I was planning to buy those in a month or so.

Well, on a whim, I bought a 240Gb Western Digital SSD and a 2Tb Western Digital HDD on Friday last week and, home alone over the weekend, I cracked into building the PC. I recycled the Enermax 500W power supply from my last PC’s case (although, taking apart another PC that’s stored in the garage I noted it had a 700W PSU: I might dropped that into my new PC at some point) and got started …

Surprisingly, it went hassle-free and I encountered no problems, apart from stupidly thinking that the 3-pin connector on the case’s 140mm rear case fan wouldn’t fit the four-pin connector on the Asus mATX motherboard (which only has on chassis fan connector). I tried and tried and it didn’t seem to fit.

So, I made a panicked dash to my local computer store (Dragon PC in Christchurch) and was told, reassuringly, by the nice gentleman behind the counter that a 3-pin connector would, indeed, fit on a 4-pin connection (he’s right: it does). While I was there, I also bought  a $10 adapter which let me connect front case fan via a molex connection.

OK, so the cable management might frustrate the PC purists out there but it’s a mATX board in a full-tower case: There’s plenty of room for air to circulate!

As I said, the installation was easier than I expected. I even managed to connect the power and reset connectors right first time. I always seem to have problems with I’m doing things like this but this build was actually easier than the first PC I built.

Sure, this was the second PC I’d built myself so I wasn’t a complete newb but that was using an ATX motherboard, which is bigger (the mATX case looks tiny in the roomy tower case it is installed in). While it proved difficult at times to read what was stamped on the board, I had plenty of light (and my glasses on) and had no trouble connecting everything to where it was supposed to go.

I had no issues booting it up first time, either: it POSTed perfectly (although I initially wondered why it hadn’t recognised the 2Tb drive then realised I needed to format it). Much of that afternoon was spent installing new drivers for the motherboard and GPU.

Talking of GPU, I know I’ve talked about going with something like a nVidia GTX1060 but I think I need to give the credit card a rest for a few weeks so I’ve installed the GTX950 that I’ve had sitting in my games cupboard since early last year (that I won in a competition held by an Australian YouTuber). It’ll do the job until I can afford a new generation graphics card.

So far I’ve installed Astroneer, Dishonoured, Batman Arkham City, Wolfenstein: The New Colossus and The Sexy Brutale – and the GTXC950 is giving me better frame rates already.

So, Saturday was a successful day all up, and I think, all up, the new PC cost me around $650, which is much, much cheaper than if I had gone with a pre-built system, plus I got the satisfaction of building it myself, too.

The reason for building a new PC was simple enough. I wan’t to get back to playing more games how I started playing them: On PC.

My very first computer was a Sinclair ZX Spectrum and, man, those games blew me away: Knight Lore, Robocop, Maniac Mansion, Ant Attack, Sabre Wulf. I loved them.

My next PC (actually if was my dad’s) was a biege-coloured desktop that was powered by a 486 CPU that had, if my memory serves me correctly, a graphics card that had a whopping 2Mb of video memory. It didn’t stop me from playing shareware Doom or some flight sim that I had to install via about 6000 3.5-inch floppy disks.

So, now that I’ve got a new PC (a better graphics card is still to come), I want to review more games and PC hardware. I’ll still play on console for console exclusives but I want to game on PC for the most part now.

Now, I just need to re-acquaint myself with WASD …

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice review: Where I died more than two times

I won’t be the first person to make this joke, but here goes: I died more than twice during my time with From Software’s farken hard Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. A lot more than twice.

I actually lost count how many times I died but I got very familiar with the death screen. I saw that a lot.

Sekiro™: Shadows Die Twice_20190328001631

Sekiro, set in feudal era Japan with samurai, katana swords and … giant chickens, has a lot in common with From’s previous games Bloodbourne and Dark Souls. For one, they all revel in the brutality of the combat.

Secondly, patience is a virtue in Sekiro. Rush in and chances are you’ll get overwhelmed by foes and end up on the wrong end of a spear or crushed to death and body slammed by an angry ogre.

And thirdly, learn how to deflect enemy blows every time. Deflecting enemy strikes is often the difference between life and bleeding out the rough ground of a Japanese temple. Deflecting blows successfully means you’ll have more chances to deliver fatal blows and deliver deadly finishing moves.

While the Souls series has its bonfires, Sekiro has its sculptor’s shrines which do the same thing: You can rest, you can upgrade your skills and you can travel back to the Sculptor with upgrades to your prosthetic arm, practice some combat with an undead ally or teleport back to locations you’ve already visited.

Every enemy you kill earns skill points, which can be used to upgrade your combat abilities, and when you die you sometimes get the option to resurrect yourself to get back into the fight. It’s a good feature but it does come with one caveat: Every time you use resurrect, villagers in the game world get more inflicted with a rot that has befallen the world. Nasty.

As Sekiro progresses, he finds weapons that can be added to his prosthetic arm (installed by the mysterious Sculptor at a run-down temple that acts as a world hub): A shuriken-throwing appendige, a flamethrower and an axe that can splinter enemy shields. You’ll need to all as you work you way through a variety of enemies that range from cannon fodder to downright nasty.

So, how did I get on with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice?

Look, I’ve never got on well with From Software games. Bloodbourne and Dark Souls just destroyed me and I’ll be completely honest about Sekiro. I got frustrated a lot and while I didn’t once throw my Dualshock 4 controller at my TV, I found myself switching the game off after dying for the umpteenth time while facing the same mini-boss. It is a frustration-inducing game.

Here, watch this video of me getting my arse kicked by an angry chained ogre. Warning: While it’s not really spoilery, and it’s very early on in the game, if you don’t want to see the angry ogre, turn away now (or just don’t play the video)

I found the game bloody hard (I can hear the cries of “Git Gud” ringing out right now) and frequently became overwhelmed by foes, backing myself into a corner and spamming the deflect button. I learned very quickly that doesn’t work too well. You have to time the deflect to perfection: Spamming does nothing. I often found the best defence against multiple foes was actually running like hell and avoiding them until I could find a safe rooftop and jump up and have a rest.

Do you see the bastard chicken in the background?

Sekiro is one of those games that one moment you feel like you’ve got to grips with things, using the prosthetic arm attached to your arm to propel you to the top of temples and high stone walls, locking onto an enemy then jumping and delivering a death-blow (complete with spurting blood!) Then the next, when you thought you’d mastered the skills needed to progress, you’re surrounded by giant chickens, which crow your position to nearby soldiers, which then pelt you with by flaming arrows … then you’re pecked to death by said giant chickens.

I can hear the hordes, yelling in the background now: “Git Gud,” “Git Gud,” “Git Gud”.

The way I’m feeling about Sekiro right now, I’d love to say I’ll stick with the game, but being honest, I don’t really think I have the stamina – or patience – to make it through. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is actually making me feel like I’m a bad video game player, and I don’t think I am.

Fans of games like Bloodbourne and Dark Souls will probably revel in Sekiro, but that’s not me.

Excuse me, while I search for the confidence that Sekiro has robbed from me.

Thanks to Total Interactive in New Zealand for the copy of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. 

 

 

The GameJunkieNZ PC build project: Part one

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seven years ago, I build my first PC.

It was 2012 – and in real-world computing terms, that makes my PC ancient now.

What seemed la daunting experience actually ended up being a relatively smooth experience considering it was my first attempt. I got all the parts together and over a weekend, assembled the PC and hoped for the best (and, relatively speaking, it was pretty trouble-free).

It was based on an Intel DZ77GA-70K motherboard which I paired with an Intel i7 CPU, 8Gb of RAM, an SSD drive, an HDD drive and a Gigabyte GTX660Ti GPU, all housed with a Fractal tower case and juiced by a 500W Enermax power supply. It was the bees knees as far as was concerned back in 2012 and has served me well over the past few years, playing games, writing blog posts and doing general computery things.

But as the GTX660Ti got less and less relevant in terms of graphical power, my game playing gravitated towards my PS4 – the PS4 Pro (and to a lesser degree, Xbox One) – but I always had a hankering that one day I wanted to return to the “PC Master Race”.

A couple of years ago, I won an MSi GTX950 GPU that I thought I’d throw into my rig. Nope. Turns out the DZ77GA-70K motherboard won’t accept newer GPUs, even with a BIOS update. To make matters worse, Intel has discontinued the board, too, meaning it’s essentially a paperweight now. I still have the GTX950: I’d like to at least give it one go, despite being several cards old now.

For years, my PC was doing all the right things. Until now, that is.

For the past few weeks, my once trusty PC has started Blue Screen of Deathing on an almost daily basis, throwing up disk errors and restarting by itself.

Now it won’t even display anything on my monitor, despite the CPU fan, the case fans and the GPU fans running. I’m at a loss but I think it’s past its use by date. I think it’s dying, if not already dead. I think the drives have given up the ghost.

So, I’ve decided it’s time to consign the old Intel board and GTX660Ti to the PC parts graveyard in the sky and build myself a PC for modern age, especially with games like CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk coming out sometime in the next few years. It’s a game that I think I want to play on PC, not console.

I also want to get back to playing Astroneer, Deus Ex Mankind Divided and all the other PC games in my Steam library that I need a PC to play.

Now, I’m not a risk taker. I’m not a person who rushes out and buys the first shiny thing that tickles my fancy. I do my homework. I read hardware reviews, I talk to people, I get opinions. The past few weeks have been what I like to call the “Do you homework” phase.

I initially contemplated buying a pre-built system from one of the numerous PC retailers around but I decided against it. They seems to be overpriced for the components they have (many of them outdated) so I’ve decided I want to build my own again. There’s something about building a PC from scratch that’s just so satisfying.

My plan is to use the existing Fractal case and PSU (500W should be enough), so need to buy a CPU, motherboard, RAM and storage, probably an SSD for the Operating System and a traditional HDD for everything else. I’m not flush with cash, though, so plan to buy one thing a month (well, that’s the plan), and I’m thinking of going for an nVidia GTX1060 6Gb GPU or whatever the budget allows.

The right brain

Perhaps the toughest decision I had was deciding what CPU to pick. Did I go with Intel, which I have for every PC I’ve owned, or AMD who seem to be making waves with its Ryzen line.

After watching lots of YouTube videos, talking to IT colleagues at work and having general discussions with online friends, I had it down to two choices, given my budget: Intel’s i5 8400 or AMD’s Ryzen 5 2600. Both had pros and cons, with the i5 pricier than the Ryzen.

Based on my research, AMD’s Ryzen 5 is cheaper and good for streaming and video editing, but Intel’s i5 seems to be faster when it comes to gaming, and that’s what I’m going to be using my PC for, mostly. Sure the i5 was dearer but when it came to game playing, it seemed to tick all the right boxes. Decisions, decisions …

Gentlemen, start your engines …

So yesterday, after weeks of tossing up between what CPU and motherboard combination to get, this suddenly happened:

 

I went to a local retailer that I’ve bought PC parts from before in the past and bought an Intel i5 CPU, an Asus Prime B365M motherboard and 8GB of RAM (memory prices have dropped dramatically over the past few months so it’ll be relatively cheap to move up to another 8GB if I want to). Just like that. All for princely sum of $NZ546, which I thought wasn’t too bad at all, actually. Although, I have already broken my “Buy one part a month” plan.

I was actually intending to go to another local retailer that was having an End of Year sale but, frankly, its pricing was $40 to $50 dearer than the other retailer I bought the parts from, even “on sale”. Go figure, eh? The guy where I bought the parts from even installed the CPU for me, meaning I didn’t have to worry about screwing that up!

OK, so the next step is to start researching SSDs and HDDs and graphics cards, although the GTX950 I have could fill in until I get Home Office approval to buy something more modern.

Any suggestions?

 

 

 

Metro Exodus thoughts: Surviving post-apocalyptic Russia

Please note, I haven’t finished Metro Exodus yet but I thought I’d give my impressions after a few hours in the world 4A Games has created. To be honest, though, I’m making my way through parts of this game so slowly, due to all the nightmarish horrors I’m having to deal with, I reckon it’ll take me weeks to finish it.

I often question myself over things I’ve done in the past.

Most recently, after I was scared stupid – again –  by some abomination mutated by years of radiation in post-apocalyptic Russia while playing Metro Exodus, I asked myself: “What the fark was I thinking putting my hand up to review Metro Exodus, a game that features nightmarish creatures hell-bent on ripping my intestines out through my throat?”

Look, I’m a mess at the best of times when it comes to scary moments in video games. Truth be told, I tend to play games that feature any scary moments during the day, when people are at home, with the curtains open. None of this play it in the dark, all alone, with headphones on rubbish. Fark that for a game of soldiers.

The Metro series, as those that have played it will know, is a game that features scary moments and is based on the books written by Russian author Dimitry Glukhovsky. Lots of them, especially when you’re creeping through claustrophobic environments when it’s dark and all you have to light the way is the slowly dimming glow from your head-mounted torch.

I played Metro 2033 and Metro Last Light and so I had a strategy for Exodus: Play during the day when monsters are supposedly less abundant, meaning more human foes and less of the mutated humanoid ghouls and beastly beasts (notice how I highlighted less in that sentence?). Less monsters means less chance of having to deal with aforementioned nightmarish creatures. Well, I’m calling bullshit on that assumption right off the bat.

During one area in the Volga (Exodus’ first location), I decided to hunt for upgraded equipment for Artyom’s attire (upgraded helmet, gas mask, bullet carrying capacity). Three buildings nearby were heavily guarded by bandits so it was risky to take them out during the day – there was more potential for things to turn pear-shaped – but I thought I’d take that risk: It was better than facing the unspeakable horrors that lurked during the night.

One building, an abandoned petrol station, seemed easy enough, although two of the five bandits were heavily armoured. My strategy was to skulk around the outskirts, picking them off one by one, pluck the equipment from the storage areas and get out. Well, things didn’t go quite according to plan.

As I crept around a barrier, two little monster things suddenly attacked me from behind so as I dealt with them the sniper on the roof of the saw me, alerted his friends and all hell broke loose.

I took out two guys out easy enough, advancing on the building, but one of the heavy armoured dudes appeared, forcing me to duck behind a rusted out car. As I took him out, a horde of humanoid monsters suddenly appeared, forcing me to fire randomly, hoping to take them out. It had all turned to custard, royally, but I survived. Just.

And don’t get me started about the monsters during the night, or when you wander through dark locations, or the terrifying electrical anomalies that crackle and roam, setting all matter of things on fire with their electrical energy. In one example of these things, it suddenly appeared in a rail car that I had just finished driving, sending arcs of radiated energy everywhere.

In Metro Exodus, everything is out to get you, literally, be they two-legged, four-legged or multi-legged.

As in previous Metro games, part of the tension came from the scarcity of resources, and that has returned here, with things like ammunition in short supply, forcing you to collect what you can then craft it – bullets, air filters, knives, decoys – either at a workbench or from your backpack. When possible, I’d use stealth, punching an enemy in the back of the head rather than waste a precious bullet on him.

I liked how you can scavenge parts from discarded weapons then cobble together frankenstein-ish armaments at workbenches, creating some amazing variants. Want a sniper scope on a handgun? Sure. A longer muzzle and extended clip on that rifle? No problem.

Exodus’ story is engaging, and I actually became invested in the story as the travellers moved from location to location on the Aurora, and visually, man, the game looks stunning on the PlayStation 4 Pro, especially night-time environmental effects. It looks pretty impressive on PC, I’m told. I also really loved the option of no onscreen clutter and that the in-game map is a clipboard that Artyom can flip around to view mission notes. It’s a really nice touch.

All that data comes at a price, obviously, as Exodus has incredibly long load times, especially when you first fire up the game. At times, it took in excess of 3 minutes, nine seconds to first load up. Load times are quicker if you have to reload a save but initially, it’s “Make a cup of coffee and some toast load times. Hopefully, a patch will remedy those load times.

Also, I don’t think the developers have done a very good job of actually telling you what some of the controls are for certain actions. It wasn’t initially clear to me how I actually took of my gas mask when I didn’t need it (on the PS4 it’s hold down on the D-pad).

I noted that at times people would talk over the top of each other, making it difficult to follow what was going on sometimes (I always have subtitles on so that makes things easier) and sometimes, the enemy AI is a bit brain dead, with foes sometimes forgetting that you’re there.

One thing I would like to see if there are any future games is – and this is just a personal preference – is for Artyom to have a voice. Many times during the game, his comrades would call out to him over a radio and there was no response: Just silence. He grunts and groans when he’s exerting himself and gets injured but Artyom is continuing the long held tradition of many first person shooter heroes being the strong, silent type.

When I first heard that the Metro series was coming out of the tight confines of the previous two games into a more open world environment, I was worried that the series would lose some of its charm. I needn’t have worried. Despite a more open world, Exodus is a worthy addition to the series.

Now, if only I could muster up the courage to face those mutated creatures during the night, I’ll be sweet.

A big thank you to Five Eight Distribution in New Zealand who supplied a code for the PS4 version of Metro Exodus. 

Yes, it’s some more Metro Exodus stuff but with some Sekiro, too

Yes, this is the second Metro Exodus post in as many days but, c’mon, I don’t have any games or anything at the moment. I’m contemplating a nice opinion piece but until that has come to fruition … it’s some more Metro Exodus … also a story trailer for Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, which comes from FromSoftware, the crazy minds behind Bloodborne & the Dark Souls series.

Firstly, though, the third part in the Making of Metro Exodus mini-documentaries. So, without further ado, here’s part three:

Metro Exodus is landing next week!

Also worth having a look is the story preview trailer for Sekiro, a game set in late 1500s Sengoku Japan, said by the developers to have been a “brutal period of constant life and death conflict”. It’s not long – just over a minute – so I’m guessing we’ll see something with a little more meat as the month progress.

You can have a gander at it here:

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