Monday, December 23, 2013

Geek Gifts for this Holiday Season.

The holiday season is upon us yet again and hordes of you, my readers, are looking to spend some good money on presents for yourself or loved ones. So to help with redistribution of wealth and that your hard earned money is not wasted on worthless things like food or utilities, I kid, I kid, here is my list of things to get for the discerning geek.

iPhone 5S – Yes, even though I, myself shun Apple products but there are those of you that love that red fruit and the iPhone 5S (RM2399 16GB) is a major step up from the iPhone 4 series. Owners of iPhone 5 may want to skip the 5S unless you happen to do a lot of phone photography or seriously want an iPhone with the new 64bit processor, in which case then rock on. For those of you that cannot dish out that kind of dough but are still thinking of upgrading your old iPhones can check out the iPhone 5C (RM1999 16GB). It is basically a plastic iPhone 5.
For the Android fans that want a beautiful and simple user interface coupled with one of the fastest mobile processors, stunning display and awesome audio then the HTC One is the one to have. The Samsung Galaxy S4 comes in a close second if the HTC One is not to your liking and for those that believe size does matter and want 4K video recording the Galaxy Note 3 will suit you just fine.
VitaQi-S4 - A complimentary gift that goes well with the Galaxy S4 is the VitaQi-S4 (USD $43.99). It gives the Galaxy S4 the ability to wireless charge it battery just replace the back cover with the VitaQi-S4 and your Galaxy S4 can now wirelessly recharge like other nifty phones out there.

Evolutive Labs Rhino Shield – Now that you have bought your expensive smartphone you need something to protect the screen. Yes, I know most smartphones have Gorilla Glass protecting the screen but with Rhino Shield providing 5 times the protection to Gorilla Glass 2 every little bit helps for those of you with butter fingers?

Belkin SongStream BT HD Bluetooth Music Receiver– Another cool accessory for your smartphone is a Bluetooth Speaker or better yet a high quality Bluetooth Receiver. We all know you can find decent Bluetooth speakers but what if you want to rock hard with the expensive speakers on you already have? Well the Belkin Songstream provides a good solution of utilizing any speakers you have instead of buying some mediocre Bluetooth Speakers that will disappoint you.

Google Chromecast – Speaking of streaming music, how about streaming video from your smartphone or tablet straight to the TV without wires? Chromecast from Google is being an extremely popular solution and every device from Android and Apple is supported. It is simple to setup and simple to use.

Nexus 7 (2013) – Speaking of Google, the new Nexus 7 is out and it is better than ever. Starting at USD229 for 16GB almost everything has been upgraded in a thinner and smaller form factor. As for Apple fans, they can look forward to the new iPad Mini Retina if comes out before Christmas otherwise you will have to wait until Chinese New Year or Hari Raya but from what I seen and heard it will be worth the wait.

GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition – Looking to do a little adventure filming? Nothing beats the GoPro in that regard. Not only is it a favourite camera of sport enthusiasts to record their hair brain, near death experiences but it comes with a plethora of accessories that will make camera geek drool. There is almost no place a GoPro cannot go.

Pebble Smartwatch – In all honesty I really do not see a reason for a smartwatch since I find the screen too small to be of a practical use when I can just spend 4 seconds to pull out my smartphone but some people do enjoy this little toy. It can last 5 to 7 days without needing to be recharged, has a totally customizable face, a hosts of apps from keeping track your exercise routine to all sorts of notifications like SMSes, footie scores and so on. It is also water proof and readable in the sun so those days on beach where you want to get away from it all but cannot, the Pebble Watch should fit right in.

iRobot Roomba – How dare we prattle on about all the good gear for ourselves and not spare a thought for dear old mom? Well the Roomba will not replace the maid anytime soon but it does happily do its work on schedule without needing a break. If you are looking for a full floor service there is also Scooba to wash the floor and Braava to mop it. But I think that we should take things a little slow with Mom until she gets used to this new fangle thingamajig, her and the cat.

Despicable Me 2 Minion Tim (Singing Action Figure) – This is a gift for all those Minion fans out there. Tim has 25 quotes and 3 songs, there is nothing more to say only to grab your wallet.
Suck UK Salt and Pepper Bots – Sometimes you have one of those awkward dinners where nobody is saying anything due to all sorts of reasons? Well the Salt and Pepper Bots is a great way to break the tension. Offer someone the salt, wind up that sucker and watch it match onward to surprised recipient. Also great for keeping the little kiddies occupied while the grownups talk.

Game Technologies Dice+ - And finally this is one your tabletop gamer friends out there.  Dice+ is a Bluetooth motion controller that is, well, a dice. Toss it around like any other dice but what separates it apart from normal dice is how it interacts with the games that you can download on your tablet that come free with it. Most of the games uses the Dice+ like eh, a dice but certain games do take advantage of the motion sensors. There is WWII fighter plane game that utilizes Dice+ motion sensor so that you can control the motion of the plane while tapping or holding one of the Dice+ face to fire your machine guns or rockets. There will be more games coming out for it although not all will be free to play but it works on both Android and Apple devices and makes a nice diversion for the kids, family or friends on those long quiet nights.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Review of the ILLEGEAR RS-17

Someone once asked me if they should just buy a laptop instead of a desktop and I would then rattle off the pros and cons of a laptop as opposed to a desktop. Like, you have a complete and easy-to-carry PC or that the price includes an LCD monitor, speakers, keyboard and ‘mouse’. But then you have problems of not upgradable CPUs and GPUs or that if one component starts pushes up daisies the whole system still has to go for ‘repair’ under warranty.

Once you have come to terms with ups and downs of owning a laptop is the next question is “What is the right one for me?”  If you are the average Net Freak, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, a little office work, movies and music then most RM1200 to RM1800 laptops are good for you. For gamers I answered that the best I can with the review of the RS-15 on what to look out for but supposed you’re looking for a little ‘Oomph’?

Well maybe little more than just ‘oomph’, especially when you are considering the RX-17 line from ILLEGEAR. Important specs of the base configuration are 17.3” LED backlit screen at 1920x1080, Intel i7 4700MQ, Dual NVIDIA GTX 765M in SLI setup with 2GB GDDR5, 8GB DDR3 RAM, 500GB WD Scorpio Black 7200rpm, Thunderbolt port, Sound Blaster X-Fi MB3 and 2.1 Onkyo Speakers.
You can upgrade the CPU up an i7 4930MX, slap in RAM up to 32GB, maybe run RAID 0 for both dual HDDs and dual mSATA SSDs at the same time and just for kicks rock a Dual GTX 780M 4GB in SLI mode. How is that for some extreme sports?

The RX-17 is handsomely made, yes is a bit bulky but then you are not driving a Mini here but a full fledge all terrain 4-wheel drive of a PC. The keyboard is full sized and has a very nice tactile feel, same as the clickable touchpad. There are four USB 3 ports available for you to use, two on the right and two at the rear. Also on the right you find the ultra-fast external storage ports; the Thunderbolt port and the USB 3/eSATA combo port. For you luxury car fans out there, there are optional automotive colour finishes of your favourite cars for you to choose from in case you do not like the default matte black colour. And ILLEGEAR provides a free backpack carry your RX-17 should you want to ‘pwn’ the wannabes at Starbucks.

On the left of the laptop it is rather lonely with the card reader and the headphone jack with 7.1 output jacks for sound.

Enough with the specs, I know you guys want to know the results of my testing on this bad boy. The review unit I had was completely the base configuration except for the killer GTX 780M 4GB in SLI so my results will be based on that setup.

For the benchmarks I got 8299 on 3DMark 2013 Fire Strike Basic Edition, 2718 with 107.8FPS on Unigine Heaven 4.0 max details and 4096 with 97.9 FPS on Unigine Valley 1.0 on max details. Cinebench 11.5 I scored 60.83 FPS on OpenGL with 6.92 on CPU and on Geekbench 2.4.2 32bit I scored a 10474 points. While playing Crysis 3 I got an average of 41 FPS and maximum 62 FPS on max graphics. Note that is with the AC plugged in, when you go mobile your scores drop to half to save battery life. Speaking of battery life, I manage to run Unigine Heaven 4.0 on max details for 1 hour and 14 minutes before the battery gave up the ghost.

Now those with experience know the badder the laptop the more heat it makes and medium rare is on the menu and Café Le Thigh but the RX-17 is again solidly built. Gaming temperatures at the bottom of laptop hang below 40C on normal usage and around 46C on the keyboard considering that internal temperatures for the CPU and GPUs are both 83C and air vent exhaust is 58C. The idle temperatures for CPU and GPUs are 52C and 40C respectively.

Those of us that like a little relaxation after a hard day of gaming will enjoy excellent clarity of the 17.3” LED LCD when watching HD content with Onkyo speakers pushing out audio decently well. But if you are a fussy pot you can hook up your 7.1 speaker setup so you can rattle the fillings out of your neighbour’s teeth.
It is not all rainbows and sun shine with the RX-17 though and power usage is one issue I do have to bring up. With the laptop off but plugged in and fully charge there is a steady 11 watt draw of power. While off and charging the battery you get 22 watt draw. And finally while powered on but idle it draws around 50 watts and a maximum of 143 watts in Crysis 3.

Another is that the Sound Blaster X-Fi MB3 is actually a software emulation with appropriate third party hardware namely the RealTek audio chip. I wish this was made a little more clearly in the labelling but none the less as you read above it sounds awesome just the same.

The RX-17 an awesome machine from a standpoint of upgradability to a monster video/photo production or gaming laptop. ILLEGEAR has once again provided not only a high end product but one that does not dictate its own rules but bows down to yours.



RM6799 (base model)


Specifications (base model):
4th Generation Intel Core i7-4700MQ Processor, Intel HM87 Express Chipset , x2 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M GPU 2GB GDDR5, 17.3" Full HD (1920x1080) LED Backlit Display, 8GB Dual Channel DDR3 1600MHz RAM, 500GB 7200rpm WD Scorpio Black, Sound Blaster X-FI MB3, Onkyo Speakers & Subwoofer, Thunderbolt, HDMI Output, 802.11 B+G+N Wireless LAN + Bluetooth Combo Module, 8X DVDRW DL Writer, Colour Programmable Backlit Keyboard, Fingerprint Scanner, Removable 89.21WH 8 cells Smart Lithium-Ion battery pack, 1 Year Limited Warranty with Onsite Pickup (Malaysian and Singapore) and a free Backpack.

Verdict: 4 1/2
Pros: Thunderbolt, SLI graphics doubles performance,

Cons: Weight, big power brick, uses a lot of electricity on AC due to high end parts