Dark Rage v.2 is complete

My PC upgarde is complete. Featuring an all new LED RGB RAM sticks and an EVGA 1080ti. This is Dark Rage v.2. My previous graphics card, the EVGA 1070 will be sold to a friend of mine, who is building his own gaming pc this weekend. I have offered to assist in building his rig after we get the parts at Sim Lim.

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Isn’t she a beauty?

I have decided not to do further upgrades, like the CPU and motherboard. Despite the recent official announcements by Intel on their upcoming launch of Coffeelake CPUs, I feel that the upgrade (at this moment in time) of motherboard and CPU would be a waste of money. This is because I predict that the performance increase in real world usage (primarily in gaming) would be so minimal, that it would not justify getting a brand new processor, AND a whole new motherboard. It is quite unfortunate that despite the fact that Intel is launching Coffeelake using the same LGA socket, prevous z170 and z270 motherboards are not supported. Thus, I would need to buy a whole new motherboard just to use these CPU. If it was possible, I might have considered just upgrading my CPU, while using my current motherboard.

I guess I just have to wait what AMD has to offer down the line, now that Intel has shown its hand.

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Dark Rage upgrade in progress

Dark Rage, my current gaming rig is well underway. Recently I bought a new pair of RAMs from G.skill, the G.skill Trident LED RGB 16GB RAM. I bought the 3000mhz version from Newegg, and within days, it arrived at my doorstep. Installing it was easy but tricky at times because I didn’t have enough room in the case to align the new ones in. I had to go blind and hoped that the RAMs aligned perfectly. I simply remove the old RAMs (incidentally also from G.skill but the Ripjaws series, in red) and then snap the new ones in.

Then it was time to switch the PC on. Good lord the LED RGB strips lining the entire length of the RAMs was bright, colourful and glorious! One thing that stood out was how bright these individual LED diodes can emit! I could literally switch off the NZXT Hue+ LED strips lined along the edge of my case and the light from the RAM is enough to softly illuminate the PC’s internals. Overall, it was gorgeous! Why didn’t I make the plunge earlier?

The decision to upgrade my PC’s RAMs was a purely for aesthetic reasons. My old RAMs were working fine, but I decided to upgrade them to add more bling to my build. The RAMs were not cheap. RAM prices have spiked in recent months. In fact, the old RAM costs 140 bucks at the moment I bought it last year. These new ones came in at about 240 bucks. We are talking about a 100 dollar price premium over last year’s price. However there are exceptions. For one, its LED RGB, so naturally, these RAMs that I bought would definitely cost more. Secondly, the new ones are running at 3000mhz rather than 2400mhz from the old ones. So the price difference between these two pair of RAMs are not purely attributed to the global supply shortage of RAMs chips, but also having premium features not found on the old one.

Not that it matters much buying a 3000hmz RAMs, since my current motherboard can only support at RAM speeds of up to 2133hmz. I bought the faster RAMs because I initially wanted to upgrade my CPU and motherboard as well to a Ryzen system. But at the very last minute, I decided to wait out on my purchase and wait for Ryzen Zen 2 CPU architecture to launch (sometime in the second half of 2018). I have a lot of thought of whether it would be worth upgrading my CPU now but decided against it. My current i5 6500 CPU still have the muscle to perform admirably when it comes primarily in gaming. And since my rig is a gaming rig first and foremost, I don’t really need an 8 core/ 16 thread CPU just yet. I’ll let the Ryzen series chips mature a little bit more before making the plunge.

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So RAM upgrades have been completed, CPU and motherboard upgrades are put on hold. I’m only left with my graphics card.

A friend of mine decided to buy my EVGA GTX 1070 FTW card for $450. I was not warm to the idea at first since I had to plans to upgrade them. But after much consideration, I was like; why the hell not? I am in the process of upgrading my rig. And since I have decided not to upgrade my CPU and motherboard (since real-life performance improvement would not immediately be felt) I thought that upgrading the GPU might be a better choice. The performance upgrades would be substantial, and at this point of time, there have been no plans for Nvidia to release a new line of GPU anytime soon. A GTX 1080ti would be a sweet upgrade. A sweet but overkill upgrade, since I only game at 1440p. My current 1070 can do the job just fine at 60fps ultra settings. Maybe not just everything at ultra, especially in current and potential future games. So to get ahead of the curve, 1080ti would be a great investment. Now I don’t have to worry about not being able to play any games at ultra settings 60fps. I know a 1080ti would devour everything I throw at it.

 

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My EVGA GTX 1080ti FTW3 is on the way. Due to arrive on Monday, I am very excited for the moment to arrive where I will be installing the new graphics card in my rig.

After this final installation, my gaming rig upgrade will be complete and it will be Dark Rage V2.

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.

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.

 

I finally completed Mass Effect Andromeda

Mass Effect Andromeda was released sometime in March of 2017. It’s August as of this writing. I took nearly 6 months to complete Mass Effect Andromeda.

Mass Effect Andromeda was one of the most anticipated video game. When it was first announced, I was beyond excited. For Bioware to bring the beloved Mass Effect franchise back to life was a bold move for them to make. After releasing three rock solid games that formed the Mass Effect Trilogy, it was certainly a tall order to meet or even exceed the standards and quality set by the first three games.

So when it finally came out, I was ecstatic. But flash forward 6 months later and it is only now that I finally get to complete the game. So why did it took so long for me to play the game in its entirety from start to finish?

Sad to say, the game fell short of expectations. When it was first launched, the game felt hugely unpolished. Numerous bugs, terrible facial and lip sync animations. It felt like a beta. Although animations can be improved through subsequent patches, (and thankfully it was improved) it is the story that ultimately fell short. The main character, Ryder, was a little two dimensional and boring. Your squadmates are no better, featuring very bland backstories and flat personalities (maybe with the exception of Peebee). At the end of the day, you don’t feel invested in spending time doing any of their character related missions or make any extra effort to gain their loyalty and unlock higher level skill set for you to level them up.

Gameplay was not bad. I had fun. Action sequences were intense and I am thankful for that. If the characters were boring and the gameplay was no better, the game would have tanked. The reviews would have come back panning the game. Bioware really came close in releasing its first ever flop. That would have been embarrassing for Bioware, masters in RPG, storytelling and world building to release an RPG that sucked for the very first time. It would have marred the entire Mass Effect franchise with the release of Mass Effect Andromeda. Generally, taking the game in its entirety. There are good moments within the story and robust gameplay mechanism. Bioware had the opportunity to truly create an epic RPG storyline within the Mass Effect universe. But it decided to squander it away.   Bioware had a blank slate to come up with a killer storyline on a new galaxy (Andromeda, instead of the Milky Way where Shepard and the rest of humanity reside in the first three games) but it squandered it away. Bioware had the opportunity to bring back that sense of discovery and exploration for gamers to experience on a totally new galaxy but it decided to squander it away. Bioware had the opportunity to run wild on a totally new set of alien species and all of its intrigues and unique characters on a new galaxy but it chose to introduce just one main alien species, the Angara (two if you consider the Kett, the bad aliens you have to fight against). In other words, Bioware missed on a lot of opportunities to elevate the franchise on a whole new level and bring a new generation of gamers to the Mass Effect universe.

Looking back, I enjoyed the game. But the reason it took me so long to finish is that I feel at times, the game to be very inconsistent in terms of the pacing and plot progression. So it was inevitable that I take long breaks before firing up the game and continue slugging it out and forcing myself to bring the game’s plot forward bit by bit over time.

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