Satechi mat & mate (by fulldesign)

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The Satechi mat & mate is a very elegant desk mat that would serve as a perfect companion to any minimalistic desk setup. It is a rather large deskmat, measuring 24″ by 14″. It is also the last piece of accessory that I bought on Amazon, before declaring my new gaming desk setup complete.

This deskmat is actually the third iteration of the deskmat to be released by Satechi. The new version is now waterproof and if I am not mistaken, slightly heavier and denser than the previous version. Having the mat waterproof means that water will not seep into the mat and potentially damaging the material over time. You can also be assured that any sweat or grime from your arms as a result of using the mat that might accumulate over time can be wiped off fairly easily. The denser and more premium feel of the mat allows the mat to lay completely flat on the table. There were issues with the previous version where occasionally, the edges of the mat would curl up, making it difficult to lay completely flat. This time however, since it’s much heavier, the edges now lay completely flat.

The great thing I like about the mat is that it can also be used as a mousepad. Because the mat is rather large, you can place a keyboard and the mouse on the mousepad together. This results in a really clean and minimal look on my new gaming desk setup, as I do not have to deal with any extra mousepad accessory that may look out of place with the keyboard. Having them together on a single mat, while at the same time being able to use as mousepad adds great practicality and functionality to and already great looking mat.

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As you can see the image above, there is ample space to put both your keyboard and mouse together. I really love this mat. Doesn’t look too gaming setup, but rather, it looks more professional and subdued.

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Some clarity to my PC upgrade path

For some weeks now I have come with multiple iterations on my new gaming PC rig. Each iteration is an idea as to how my upgrade path will follow. Some of which became more expensive, some of which became cheaper. Each iteration follows a different idea of what it means for me to upgrade. What do I want to get out of it following an upgrade after having my gaming PC for a year now?

Every time a new iteration was created, I gain a little more clarity as to the sole purpose of the upgrade. In the end, I decided upon an upgrade path that salvages most of the PC parts, mainly the storage (SSD and HDD), PSU, and my beloved NZXT Manta case. It dawns upon me several factors that made me decide to choose such an upgrade path.

  1. A total overhaul is just too expensive.

I have calculated the cost it would take me to do a complete overhaul in addition to a substantial graphics card upgrade from 1070 to a 1080ti. It is very expensive. An endeavour that I would like to embark, but just goes beyond what I am able to spend on. Rationally, my current rig works perfectly. It has just passed its one year mark of usage. It is still in pristine condition and all of the parts are still working fine. Having to sell the entire rig and then build a new one from scratch is expensive, even after factoring what I can potentially earn from selling my previous rig.

2. I still find the NZXT Manta a hugely unique case in terms of design.

The NZXT Manta was space age when it was first released. And I still find it so, despite the fact that it still sports an acrylic window. Now, every case maker has gone the tempered glass route. While it is highly tempting to own a sleek, tempered glass build, the overall looks and design of the Manta, still holds dear in my heart. I simply cannot part from an ITX build, especially when using the NZXT Manta case. It is simply unlike any other.

3. Upgrade to mATX or ATX motherboard in the hopes of upgrading to an SLI build is just wishful thinking.

It is tempting to dream of a time of building an SLI build in the future. I have factored that idea in several iterations of my PC upgrade path process and still, it is deemed an extremely expensive investment. Costs aside, I have come to a conclusion and is backed by official sources from GPU makers themselves that SLI support is in decline. Several gaming enthusiasts have also highlighted the fact that owning and using an SLI build may be more trouble than it’s worth. When games no longer support SLI, your return on investments are severely curtailed. At the end of the day, spending potentially 1000 bucks or more just to have another graphics card installed for aesthetics purposes is meaningless. Therefore, I still feel that an ITX set up is perfect for my use case scenario.There is simply no need to spend unnecessarily on a second graphics card.

I have gained a little more clarity in my upgrade path now. Even the cost of it has gone down significantly. For example, I have calculated that a complete overhaul of the system (getting a brand new gaming PC) would cost me $2571, excluding graphics card (the reason why I exclude graphics card is that the GTX 1070 is still hugely relevant in gaming and there is technically no need to upgrade). However, If I were to simply upgrade my current gaming PC, the Dark Rage build to a Dark Rage ver.2.0, it would cost me $1242. I would be saving around $1300 just from upgrade Dark Rage alone. The only thing that I would need to upgrade is a new CPU, (I am going for AMD Ryzen 7 1700, more on that in another post in the future) motherboard, AIO cooler RGB RAM, and a couple of RGB fans. That’s it. With the new upgrade, especially the AIO and RGB fans and RGB, my upgrade rig will look even better. Dark Rage ver.2.0 would closely resemble the ideal build I have always dreamed off for my Manta. That way, I can enjoy my Manta case for a couple more years until something better than a Manta comes along the way. Who knows, maybe NZXT may release Manta 2.0 with a curved tempered glass build. That would be wicked! So why AMD? Well, for a couple of reason, but I will explain them in another post someday.

 

PC upgrade woes

Ever since AMD released their latest line of ‘Zen” CPUs, the CPU landscape has never looked so exciting in a long time. With competition from the red camp, Intel is now upping its game in pushing forward the release schedule of their latest ‘Coffeelake” CPU, the 8th Generation of new CPU from Intel that is rumoured to launch in the 5th of October. Consumer now have a myriad of CPU choices from both the blue and red team. And both of them are offering, or will be offering excellent CPUs at every segment of the PC market. Anything from the most budget conscious consumer, to the PC enthusiasts, or someone who wants the best of the best to maximise their productivity.

That has led to some upgrade woes for me. With so many choices, I am faced with so many issues in choosing the ideal parts for my next build and making sure that they all play nicely without any hardware, software or even physical conflicts with one another, especially when you are actually building a new rig from scratch. With so many offerings, all clamouring for your attention, it is very difficult to separate the signal from the noise.

One good way to do that, is to question yourself critcally; what would be the ultimate use of your upcoming PC rig? What will it ultimately be used for, for most of the time that it is switched on?

Suprisingly, I haven’t been able to answer that question myself, despite the fact that no matter how I use my new gaming rig, there will always be a build that is suited for it.

I play games on my PC. That is the primary use when building a gaming rig. Sounds straightforward. Get a decent performance CPU (no need to get the highest end model with the highest core count or clockspeed) and invest more of your money to getting a good GPU that will get decent framerates at maximum setting over a 1440p resolution screen. That is my set up at the end of the day.

However that is another use of my PC, one that does not involve gaming, but rather, involves donating idle computing time to useful causes through Boinc. Boinc is a platform that allows users to pick a project from a list, (scientific or otherwise) and donate your computer’s processing power (either from the CPU or GPU, or both at the same time), to help people in cruching mathematically complex data for useful causes. It could be as noble as climate change model modelling, chemistry and protein-protein interaction modelling, or to a more benign project like searching for signal out in space for intelligent life (SETI) to a downright hobbyist type like finding the largest prime number.

And so I find donating my spare processing power for the benefit of mankind to be a noble cause. Afterall, it’s easy to set up. Just download Boinc, and choose a project that you think is interesting to you and you are well on your way to potentially contributing meaningfully to society, all while sitting on your desk behind your monitor.

Therefore, having a more powerful PC would greatly help in the cause. That is where the conflict arises. I don’t need a powerful PC to enjoy my games, and yet, I want to build a rather powerful one, because I find using Boinc and crunching scientific data for good a cause to be fun.

So which is it, to spend more on a more powerful rig, or simply save money and get a decent specced gaming rig?

My idea of a power rig involves multicore CPUs with adequate cooling (preferably water cooled) and at least 2 powerful graphics card. But adding just another graphics card costs a lot of money and will definintely increase your overall budget on a PC considerably. Do I want to walk down that path.

And thus, this is my source of my dilemma. I simply cannot decide. Of course, there are other smaller problems when it comes to upgrading your PC. Do you salvage parts from your previous PC, or do you sell off the entire rig? What parts can I salvage? Do I want to start from scratch and create something different? Or do I want to stick to largely the same build but just some beefier parts? Each has it’s own pros and cons.

Personally, I want to upgrade. I really do. It’s just a matter or which path to choose and then sticking to that path and commit myself in choosing the correct parts that would bring me the greatest benefit without breaking the bank. And once I am on that path, I must not regret that decision. It is hard to know where I will go. I have never dont a PC upgrade before. I don’t know what are some of the considerations when making an upgrade. For example, is it more feasible to sell the entire rig and start from scratch, or is it better to sell off certain parts and salvaging others to add to my new rig? How do I go about doing it efficiently and effectively?

I still love my rig. It still performs extremely well. Given a choice to upgrade one component, I would most definitely go with the graphics card. I do fancy a shiny new GTX 1080ti. It’s overkill for gaming over 1440p, but at least with a 1080ti, number crunching would be faster by a slight margin, and when it comes to GPUs, one can always bring it forward to whatever future gaming rigs you are going to build.

My first ever mechanical keyboard

For quite a while, I don’t really understand why is there a need to get a mechanical keyboard. Sure, it does feel different, but to pay a high premium over standard membrane keyboard just to type comfortably, seems like a waste of money. Afterall, isn’t the layout o the keyboard more important and bigger factor when it comes to typing comfortably? People’s hands comes in different shapes and sizes. I initially thought you need to find right sized keyboard for your hands and you can call it a day.

I guess I have to retract my statement. Because mechanical keyboards feel so damn awesome!

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I am quite price sensitive when it comes to buying a mechanical keyboards. I have put it off for a very long time now partly because most of the mechanical keyboards from big major brands, especially those touted as mechanical gaming keyboards are just super expensive. And the way they market the keyboard often times feel extremely gimmicky. At the end of the day, when buying those mechanical keyboards from them, you paying for the brand and features marketed to you, that may or may not be useful at the end of the day.

What I precisely wanted, was a cheap, decent mechanical keyboard without the baggage of marketing stuck to it.

So recently, I delved deep in to the world of mechanical keyboard. It wasn’t so much as educating myself about the different types of mechanical switches, its pros and cons or where it was produced. What I wanted to know was what other keyboard manufacturers are out there that can offer a similar product for a fraction of the cost.

It wasn’t very difficult doing my research. There were tons of keyboard enthusiasts out there on the internet. All I had to do was to follow their forums, threads and conversations online and see what keyboards others were reccomending outside of the usual gaming brands that I am already familiar with.

The keyboard shown above is the Ajazz AK33 keyboard. Two weeks ago I had no idea such a brand exist. Now, it is right here on my desk, and I must say, I have fallen in love with this keyboard. Typing is such a breeze! The keyboard uses Zorro blue switches. I have little to no idea what that means actually, other than the fact that pressing the keycaps feels smooth, and it isn’t as noisy as I initially expected. The only noise is the keycaps hitting on the aluminium base of the keyboard, which I am totally digging. Producing the sound a mechnical keyboard without sounding too annoying (afterall, I like to enjoy my music while doing work without being too distracted by my typing.

The keyboard costs SGD68, which to me, is still expensive for a keyboard (I would never pay more than 60 bucks for a decent keyboard) but I was willing to take a chance at it and make my purchase anyway.

Boy was it love at first sight! The RGB LED is just gorgeous! Its bright, vibrant and im totally loving the fact that there are dozens of RGB effects in which I can cycle through! Pressing the Fn+F8 allows me to cycle through the effects and you can even change up to 7 different colours (in addition to rainbow effects) on almost all of the RGB effects! That alone amounts to hundreds of combination or effect you can choose from!

The keyboard is a tenkeyless design meaning it doesnt have the number pad. This makes for a smaller and more compact keyboard suitable for having a minimalistic design on your desktop.

Now the only thing left is the Satechi Mat and Mate, which is basically a long mousepad to put underneath the keyboard and mouse. Once that arrives sometime next week, my room revamp will finally be complete!

 

My first impressions of Dell U2717D monitor.

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I purchase a new Dell monitor, a 27 inch U2717D as part of my room revamp. I previously had a full HD TV that I used to connect with my PC and for my usual gaming needs. Now that I have transformed part of my room to a desktop set up, I had to get myself a brand new computer monitor.

I have always been fans of Dell monitors. They are well built, uses high-quality panels and their patented tilt, swivel and height adjustment stand makes it one of the most flexible monitors on the market. Their design is a no-nonsense, simplistic design and doesn’t really distract you from the main feature; the screen. Unlike other monitors, especially the gaming monitors with its aggressive colour and design, Dell monitors design ethos are more subdued, suitable for any type of use, from professional office use to gaming.

I got myself the U2717D which is the recent 2017 model. At QHD resolution, that is, 2560 x 1440p resolution, this is a step up from the usual 1080p models. It’s screen real estate is 27inch, which, personally is the perfect size of 1440p resolution. The texts that I see on the screen is significantly sharper than a similarly sized 1080p monitor. Overall, reading text on the screen on the new Dell monitor is easy on the eyes.

As for colour reproduction, Dell Ultrasharp monitors are known for its colour accuracy, suitable for semi-professional users. I have no complaints when it comes to colour and contrast, after all, it is an IPS panel. IPS ‘glow’ is there, although not as obvious, and my monitor has minimal backlight bleed or backlight inconsistency on the panel, which is a good thing.

One thing that I am most impressed about is the ultra thin bezels around the edge, even at the bottom where typically the Dell logo would be located. In the U2717D monitor, even the Dell logo is shrunken so that the width of the bezels are consistent on all four sides. And it is super thin, one of the thinnest I have ever owned.

My rig is primarily used for gaming. Although I might have gotten a monitor with GSync or FreeSync, high refresh rate monitor for my gaming needs, I realized that I don’t actually need them. First of all, I am not playing competitive e-sports, and that includes first paced shooters or other twitchy games. So the need to get a high refresh rate monitor is personally a waste of money. Having a decent monitor with the 60hz refresh rate that primarily focuses on colour accuracy is my main priority when it comes to deciding the ideal monitor for my set up and usage.

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This monitor is beautiful. Having a monitor with an ultra thin bezel makes the monitor the central piece in any desktop set up. The screen just draws you in and before you know it, you become completely immerse in it.

Room revamp

Last week I began revamping my room. Previously, I had a sofa and a full HD tv as a computer moniter. Coupled with the Roccat Sova, a sofa keyboard and mouse setup, I played games on my PC from the comforts of my sofa.

Now, I decided to revamp my entire room and go back to using a desktop. I bought all my furniture from Ikea, some paint, and went with cleaning my room, removing all unwanted furniture, repainting part of my room and assembling all the furniture needed for my new computer desktop. Oh and I also got myself a brand new 27inch Dell 1440p IPS minitor.

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This was my setup before. With my gaming PC on the left, a pair of shelves flanking my TV. It’s acutally a very comfortable setup to game. I love my sofa. And the fact that I have a room big enough to fit a two-seater sofa makes this setup pretty unique. In the middle, the Roccat Sova, keyboard system for sofa use.

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It took me a couple of days to remove all the furniture and the the stuff you see in the first image. After emptying my room (except for the bed, which sat at a corner) I suddenly realised how dirty my wall was. I got myself a small bottle of paint but realised I couldn’t find the same original color that was previously painted. I had to choose a color that closely matches the original and got paint named ‘Mocha’. The original colour was ‘Cuppuccino’ Close enough. Oh and I had to patch up those hideous holes with white plaster.

 

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Painting done. The colour was quite close to the original. Thankfully. I had to coat the wall with white paint first for greater colour consistency and to ensure that the old paint colour does not affect the new one. The picture above looked washed out but that was because of the bright fluorescent lightbulbs.

 

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The colour is more presentative to what I personally see. The furniture is an Ikea hack. To make this desk, you just have to get a large kitchen tabletop and place on top of Alex office drawers. The drawers came in white or gray. I chose the gray, because it reminded me of space-gray found on iphones and Macbooks. I love the walnut color of the kitchen tabletop. It has this high quality and luxurious look to it, although in actauly, its not a single piece of solid wood. Rather, its actually some kind of compressed chipboard. But still, that piece of wood you see there is super solid and heavy. You definitely need to person to carry that piece of wood around.

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The cables looked messy, but trust me, it is much better that having it on the floor, criss-crossing each other. The Signum cable management from Ikea is an excellent addition to any desk if cable management is a problem. Elevating it above the floor makes the table underneath so much neater. Out of sight, out of mind. Installing the Signum requires power tools as you need to drill holes into the wood to hang as such. It is recommended to drill and install before placing the kitchen tabletop on the Alex office cabinets.

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And now comes my favourite part of the revamp. Putting everything in its rightful place. The gaming PC, the larger-than-expected speakers, PS4 console, and my new Dell monitor. After placing everything I needed on the desk, I realised that I had less space than I expected. When I bought the kitchen tabletop from Ikea, I initially thought this 1.86m long wood was super huge. However, after placing all the things on the table, I realised that it is actually perfect.

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My final set-up from different angles. Took my an entire week from purchasing the furniture, to assembly, to cleaning, moving of old furniture, and room painting. It has truly been a tiring, but hugely satisfying week. My over vision for what my new desktop should look like has finally been realised.

There are a couple of changes that I will be making in the near future. For one, the Roccat Sova will be replaced by a tenkeyless keyboard. The mouse and keyboard will be placed on a Satechi Mat and Mate base that will serve as a mousepad as well. That way, I will save more space and make the set-up even cleaner. Currently while the Roccat Sova works just as well as on the desk (simply remove the 4 paddings below) it looks rather bulky on my desk. That will change when the keyboard and the mat arrives in the coming days.

Happy one-year anniversary gaming rig!

Exactly one year ago today, I completed building my first ever gaming rig. I was an increadible experience. I learnt a lot PC gaming rigs and how to build one. It was a journey I started months ago before actually acquiring the parts. But once I did, it was a journey I enjoyed tremendously.

One year on, and I still love my gaming rig to death. It has served me well this past year without any problems whatsoever to either the hardware or software. I must have done my homework properly. Everything works fine.

I plan to keep using this as long as I can. However I have plans to build a new one. A bigger and better one. I have the confidence to really build the rig of my dreams, one that requires to graphics card with a water-cooled build. I will upgrade once Nvidia announces a new generation of graphics card sometime next year. But for now, I have no plans to change, upgrade to build a totally new rig. I am going to continue using my current set up as much as I can.