Orbi WiFi System (RBK50) AC3000

The Consumer Electronics Expo happened this weekend at Suntec and I had the time and opportunity to take a look at what latest gadgets are on offer. I have been a MyRepublic broadband user for 2 years now and it is almost due for a re-contract. I have had ZERO issues with MyRepublic. No unexpected downtimes, or technical broadband glitches during the two years I have been with them. I find their service extremely reliable and stable, offering blazingly fast speeds of 1gbps of throughput that I originally subscribed for.

MyRepublic offered the Asus RT-AC88U router when I first subscribed with them 2 years ago. It was a monster of a router. But over time, as more and more wifi enabled devices were slowly introduced into the household over the years, I can feel the strain the router is having from trying to support all these new devices. Recently, I added always-on, smart devices like the Nanoleaf Aurora, and the LIFX bulbs in my room. The Asus router, while powerful, wasn’t able to reach far enough to my room to get a stable connection with my smart devices. Even the mining rig in the other room, closer to the router were getting dropped connections from the internet every now and then. Then, the 4K TV came along. Situated at one corner of my room, further away from the router, I couldn’t get a minimum of 50mbps of wifi speeds to stream 4K content from Netflix reliably. I had to resort to getting a wifi extender, leading to more headaches such as differing SSIDs, and more cables to deal with. All in all, the Wifi setup in my house was a patchwork of 2.4ghz and 5ghz networks from both the router and the wireless extender.

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That’s when I told myself; enough is enough. I am tired of having to deal with dropped connections, slow WiFi speeds and my smart devices having to reconnect to my weak WiFi signals so that I can control them remotely on my iPhone app. It’s time to upgrade my WiFi network.

In comes the Netgear Orbi RBK50 AC3000. I bought at CEE for S$488. It comes with one router and one satellite. It is a tri-band WiFi system consisting of 2, 5ghz band (1733mbps and 866mbps)  and a single 2.4ghz band (400mbps), for a total of 3 bands. Long story short: I am blown away by its WiFi performance.

Setting up is extremely easy. A quick start-up guide is available in the package. Simply connect the router to your broadband modem, and then place your satellite somewhere central in your house. Switch both on and while a couple of minutes for the router to connect to the internet and for the satellite to sync with the router. Once the LED lights at the top of the device go off, you are good to go. The satellite LED will light up blue, showing that the connection to the router is good and everything is ok. Set up is done through the Netgear Orbi app with step by step instructions to set the whole thing up. One thing I appreciate about the router and satellite is that both of them comes pre-synced right out of the box, meaning that the satellite, once it finds the router will work almost immediately.

The router comes with 3 ethernet ports (the 4th is to the internet) while the satellite comes with 4 ethernet ports. The router can connect up to 3 other satellites, vastly increasing your WiFi range if you have a huge house with multiple levels. With the recent firmware update, the Orbi RBK50 now performs like a true WiFi mesh network, allowing satellites to communicate with each other, much like daisy chaining, rather than just directly to the router, like a hub-and-spoke configuration.

So how does it perform? Out of this world! Imagine this: I live in a 5-room flat. My household has 2 smart TVs, a PS4, a NAS, 2 Macbook Pros, 1 iMac, 2 Windows PC, 3 iPhones, an iPad, a WiFi enabled speaker, an array of smart lightbulbs from LIFX and a panel of Nanoleaf Aurora. And the Orbi just connects with them seamlessly! All those dropped connections? Gone. WiFi signal is strong everywhere in the wrong. My room is the furthest away from the living room, where the router is. I placed the satellite in my room and directly connect my gaming PC via ethernet. Remember I have a 1gbps broadband subscription. My room is at least 10 meters away from the router. With a direct connection to the satellite my broadband speed is below:

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It’s insane. Remember, this is over wifi, router to satellite, and then satellite to PC via ethernet. My previous set-up, WiFi to the old Asus router (my gaming rig has onboard WiFi with an antenna sticking out from the back of the PC), couldn’t even get half as fast as to what I am getting now.

This is WiFi speed on my Macbook Pro at the same spot where my gaming PC is:

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I have never gotten such speeds before over WiFi. The Orbi performed beyond what I expected. The secret lies with the availability of the third band, the 5ghz 1733mbps channel that serves as a backhaul channel used for the router and satellite to communicate and transmit data. I think this is one of the few mesh WiFi systems with a backhaul WiFi infrastructure dedicated for use exclusively between the router and the satellites. The advantage of having this backhaul WiFi infrastructure is that when transmitting data from the router to your devices via a satellite, the data is transmitted using that special WiFi channel and not the wifi channel used between your devices and the satellites or router. This frees up bandwidth, allowing maximum WiFi performance between your devices and the satellites or router. The Orbi router and satellites actually contain 6 dedicated WiFi antennae just for the backhaul WiFi, and 2 WiFi antennae for both the 2.4ghz and 5ghz band. And because this is a mesh WiFi network, your devices will be optimally connected to either the router or satellite depending on where you are in the house.

Overall, I am happy with my purchase. This is by far the best WiFi system I have ever owned. Easy to set up, seamless connection and able to hand so many simultaneous connections at one go. Those looking for a good mesh WiFi system should seriously consider the Netgear Orbi.

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The Octavius Maximus Build!

When the new Ryzen’s Zen+ Ryzen CPU was officially launched last week, I pulled the trigger to get their latest 2700x, 8C/16T CPU with an accompanying motherboard. I couldn’t wait for the ITX motherboards to be released, so it was my first time getting a full ATX motherboard. Previously I mentioned that I never liked having huge gaps underneath the graphics card with all the spare and unsed PCI-E slots below it. It’s just an unnecessary waste of space. But after building the new rig, I am slowly getting used to the idea of having large empty spaces below the GPU.

With the ATX motherboard, I had to get a new case too, as the NZXT Manta wouldn’t be able to fit an ATX motherboard inside. So I got the Fractal Design Meshify C Dark Tinted Tempered Glass edition PC case. The tinted tempered glass, is surprisingly helpful in masking out the empty space below the graphics card because it darkens the entire area out, making it look like there’s no dead space in between. So you only see the GPU RGB LED and anything above it. This darkens out any hideous cabling found at the bottom of the motherboard but the downside is that the LED RGB luminence is somewhat diminished due to the nature of the tinted tempered glass. Everything inside looks darker now. But still, it give a surprisingly cleaner look that I initially expected when I built this rig.

The CPU and motherboard combo came at around S$800. I got the Asus ROG Strix X470-F motherboard, which was supposedly the second best motherboard after the Crosshair VII. It is significantly cheaper too due to less extreme overclocking tools and features usually reserved for the Crosshair series. I did encounter a problem with the motherboard when I first bought it. It simply refused to POST to BIOS. My motherboard was essentially dead on arrival. That set me back a couple of days after building the rig and finding out that the motherboard was defective. I had to wait till the coming weekday to have it exchanged for a new one. Luckily, exchanging it was one-to-one and it was quick and painless.

With that out of the way, I spent time doing some cable management before installing the newly exchanged motherboard. My weakest part of building a PC is the cable management. I find it extremely tough and annoying just to spent considering amount of time ensuring that the cables at the  back of the PC is neat and tidy. At the end of the day, it was still pretty messy, I gave up. At the bare minimum, so long as I could close the back of the PC with the steel case, without any impediments, I am happy with the results.

I resued most of the components like the RAM, storage, PSU, GPU and case fans from the previous build for this new one. The only new components were the CPU, motherboard, a couple of LED RGB case fans, and the case.

I named this build, the Octavius Maximus build. Octavius, similar to the number 8, which represents the 8 core, 16 thread CPU and the Maximus, which represent the flagship and most powerful consumer based GPU currently out there on the market, the GTX 1080ti.

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So here is my new PC specs:

Octavius Maximus PC Specifications

AMD Ryzen 2700x 8C/16T CPU 3.7GHz base clock, 4.30GHz boost clock

Asus ROG Strix X470-F ATX motherboard

G.Skill Trident Z RGB 3000MHz 32GB ram (3200MHz overclocked)

Sandisk Ultra II 480Gb SSD x2

WD 2TB HDD

AMD Prism Wraith stock cooler

EVGA GeForce GTX 1080ti 11Gb FTW3

Corsair RM650x PSU

Fractal Design Meshify C tempered glass edition.

Thermaltake Riing Floe 120mm RGB case fans x3

JBL Bar Studio

I was walking around town yesterday when I saw an event hall selling consumer electronics like headphones, speakers, powerbanks, and sound bars. In particular sound bars from JBL. They were selling at an offer price and I was intrigued by what they had on sale. I came across the entire line of JBL sound bars, from the 2.0 setups to the full 5.1 audio setups with discreet subwoofers.

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I got myself the JBL Bar Studio for my TV setup in my room. As you know, I recently for a 49inch 4K TV from Sony for my room. That was the last piece of major electronics I got to complete my room revamp that took place over several months since the end of 2017. Ever since I got that, I had to contend with crappy TV audio for all my video and Netflix fix. I couldn’t find a decent soundbar that is perfect for a room set up, yet does not cost an arm and a leg to get one. I just wanted a simple sound bar that would enhance the TV audio that I am currently experiencing. I was not looking for a set up that would blow my mind (or my room windows with a kW powered speakers).

JBL Bar Studio was perfect. It features a single soundbar. That’s it. Just what I needed. And for S$250, its a pretty sweet deal considering the sound quality that comes out from the  sound bar. I mean, its JBL, it has to be good. The JBL Bar Studio is not earthshattering. Bass is good, punchy, but could be better if it can go lower in terms of frequency. Still, my aim of getting a sound bar was simply to enhance the TV audio, get a little more clarity, loudness and punchiness, especially when it comes to action scenes. The JBL Bar Studio served its functions terrifically.

Heading to Sydney without an itinerary.

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Now this is going to be interesting. My upcoming trip to Sydney will be my first solo trip without an itinerary. Yeap, that’s right. I did not plan anything for my upcoming trip. The only thing that I planned was my flight, my accommodations, and one outdoor activity that I decided to book in advance just in case of limited slot availability. I seriously do not know how my trip will turn out. It can visualise my trip as going in either directions; either it’s going to be fucking awesome, or it could be the most boring trip I have ever made as a solo traveller in my entire life. We shall see.

So why did I not have a plan? Partly the reason is that I am so busy with work and school that I just do not have the time to sit down and really draft a proper itinerary. Another reason could be that after I book my flights, I am starting to get cold feet on this trip. I am suddenly not in the mood anymore. Strangely, I’m not exactly looking forward to this trip. Yes I am busy, and I feel burned out sometimes, and I know that this trip is exactly what I need to get myself refreshed before facing the onslaught of work and school. But so far, my ‘busyness’ had dampened the mood somewhat. Just a little more than 2 weeks before my trip and the thought of vacation hasn’t reached to the top of my mind yet. Usually, by this time, my vacation is the only thing I can think of right now. My mind would be so distracted that I wouldn’t be able to focus on work or just about anything else other than the trip itself. This has never happened before. For the first time, I am not feeling excited about my holiday and it’s kinda worrying. I love to travel. Somehow that love has died for some reason.

Disabling my Smugmug account

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I have been using Smugmug to host some of my photographic works over the past few years. The photos that I took from my trusty Olympus OM-D camera were all saved and backed up using the Smugmug file storage services. Now I am disabling the account because I haven’t been using the website much. The past year alone, I barely uploaded any photos at all. And while the file hosting services are fantastic, I am under-utilising the services and wasting money away. So now I am downloading all the photos that I have hosted on the website back to my computer, where it will be stored somewhere else, at least somewhere without a website as a front to showcase some of the best works. It might on OneDrive, since I have tons of space there. Goodbye SmugMug!

Nanoleaf Aurora is just amazing!

8A1aSoA - ImgurAs part of the room revamp project that I started sometime late last year, one of the final touches being made to my room and my desktop area was to fix the Nanoleaf Aurora panels. I bought the starter kit with 9 panels and an expansion of 3 addtional panels, making it a total of 12 panels to play around with it. In the end, I chose a simply clean design, spreading the panels wide across the wall above my desktop.

Ever since then, I have gone absolutely crazy over these panels. I have a number of favourite themes that I switch it up from time to time to keep my room ambience fresh and cosy and perfect for any occasion. But soon after, I begin to realise, would it be even better if I expanded to an addtional 3 more panels?

And expanded I did. The final design is the one above. With 12 panels, it just felt, incomplete. Let me show you what it looked like with 12 panels that I initially had. IMG_3939

It looked simple enough, but it felt a little short, barely stretching the entire desktop area. With 3 more panels, it now looks complete. These things are expensive, but they are totally worth once you switch it on, set it up, and let the lights take over. These things are seriously too pretty.

Smartifying my room (part 1)

As you know, my room is my sanctuary. I can go to great lengths to decorate my room to my liking. A personal and safe space where I can hang out and be alone. So it is no surprise that I invest quite a bit on a PC desktop set-up, starting with my gaming PC, followed by a nice looking borderless PC monitor from Dell. After that I did a Ikea hack and bought a kitchen tabletop and placed above 2 gray shelves to make a DIY desktop.

This near year, in 2018, my goal is to smartify my room, that is, to install smart lighting such as the Nanoleaf Aurora panels (12 of them) and the Lifx LED bulbs. Oh did I mentioned that I got a brand new 49 inch Sony 4K TV?

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The TV

The TV came in when I finally had the time to shift my bed 90 degrees away from the windows to make way for a one-seater sofa. Opposite the sofa, where my PC desktop is currently at, there is just enough space for a 4K TV. I bought the Sony X800E, 49 inches with HDR capabilities at Courts. I had a great deal. It was initially selling at S$1490, way below the recommended retail price (since, my guess is that they were clearing stock to make way for the 2018 models recently announced at this year’s CES in Las Vegas) S$1499 seemed reasonable enough for me as I always knew that Sony TVs are usually priced at a premium over their competitors. I expressed my interest in making a purchase when suddenly, the salesman who was attending to needs mentioned that there was an opened box of the same model that I wanted.

What happened was that another buyer initially bought that TV but bought the wrong size and couldn’t fit into their TV console. So they were forced to return the TV and bought a smaller one instead. Having been opened, Courts had no choice but to sell it at a lower price point. It was going for only S$1299. That piqued my interest. I drilled him further about the reason for the return and to ascertain whether he was telling the truth. He seemed truthful enough and I was pretty convinced of his story. At the end of the day, I thought to myself; It was only opened and returned within the same day, the plastic sheets and wraps were still largely intact. It wasn’t even turned on before they realised the TV they bought couldn’t fit into the wall mounted TV console. It was a great deal, nevermind it was only opened for a day. I took it immediately, brought back home and tested the TV. It was perfectly fine. S$200 cheaper just like that.

The Lighting

I decided to go for two kinds of lighting from two different companies. The Aurora LED panels from Nanoleaf,  that can showcase 16 million colours and smart bulbs from LIFX, also LED that is capable of showing 16 million colours.

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The Nanoleaf Aurora is fantastic. It exceeded my expectations when it comes to the level of brightness these panels can emit, and the vibrancy of the colours that these panels can display. Installation was a breeze. Just use the tracing paper given to you in the packaging to plan your layout and start connecting the panels together and stick it to the wall one by one. One thing I learned about installing these panels is that a little bit of planning goes a long way. By patiently installing each panel properly and ensuring that they stick to the walls will result in a satisfying piece of art in which you can manipulate the light using your smartphone. I have had hours of fun coming up with various lighting themes, moods and colours for various occasions that may be needed. The app is seamless to your and pretty intuitive. However, pairing the panels with your phone by telling it to connect to the home network can be a pain in the ass. More on that later.

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The bulbs came a couple of days later. The bulbs were meant for my spotlight fixtures on the opposite wall to my PC desktop. It can hold 3 GU10 bulbs. These bulbs are meant for spotlight effect that gives directional light to the room. Again, the colours were vibrant and accurate and although each bulb isn’t as bright as I thought it could be, having three of them light up white or different white temperatures, can be quite bright. Pairing was much more difficult than the Nanoleaf Aurora panels. I will discuss connectivity issues later in another post.