AVADirect Avant Mid-Size

Now I know most of you have no problem building and upgrading your PC, hell for me that is half of the fun. But for everyone I know that builds their own PC, there is another person asking me or friends to help put everything together. Not everyone has friends that can help and some people just don’t have the time to do it as well. This is especially true with things like renovations around the house and working on or building cars but for some reason, there is a big stigma when people would rather buy a prebuilt PC. For me, it's not something I need to do but I completely get why some people would go that route and frankly I would rather people be going with boutique builders who use off the shelf parts that are easy to fix or upgrade later than proprietary PCs from other companies. Anyhow the Ohio bases AVADirect sent over one of their Avant builds a while back and we have been playing with it. It’s about time that I sit down and talk about the build, its performance, and the overall experience.

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Project Build Iris – Part 2

So last week I went into detail on the case, power supply, and the fans I went with in Iris. Those are cool, but it’s the components inside that determine how fast the computer is going to be. So today I’m going to go over the “go fast” goodies so to speak. I will talk about the reasoning on the motherboard and CPU and what else is going with it. Considering that my wife ends up playing more games than I do, making sure this build was extremely fast was important. I don’t need her getting angry at me when her games don’t work!

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Cooler Master MasterSet MS120

So for people who get really excited about meticulously picking out each and every component and part for their new PC you might know exactly what you want for a mouse and keyboard. But for a lot of people, especially with the popularity of things like PC Part Picker that help just about anyone pick out their components, you just want something simple and that you know is going to work. For a while now Cooler Master has actually been producing these combo packs that get you a mouse and keyboard at a decent price. Well with the recent introduction of their new mice they are following that up with their MasterSet MS120. This gets you both a mouse and a keyboard, but what exactly do each of them have going on? Today I’m going to check them out and find out.

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Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ITX

I haven’t really had time to check out too many cases over the last few years but I’ve been trying to do a little catching up. On my very short list was a small ITX case that I’ve been seeing around all over the place from Phanteks. The Enthoo Evolv ITX is one of those rare cases that is priced like a budget case but seems to have some of the features and styling that you find in higher end cases. So I reached out to Phanteks and they were happy to send over the case. I’ve been testing it out with our Ryzen ITX setup and I wanted to sit down and talk a little about the case. So let's dive in to see what Phanteks has going on with this popular case.

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Project Build: Iris – Part 1

So 5-6 years ago I had a crazy custom painted build in the office and my wife came in and snatched it up. I like to tease her about it but the fact is she gets more gaming time in than I ever do so that build has been put to good use over the years. It’s had its video card upgraded a little but overall it has been extremely long in the tooth and as I was writing this is actually died on her. So a while back I started putting together plans to build something specifically for her, something more fitting than the rig she snatched up. So my base idea was something in your face, flashy, with lots of bright colors. This is just her style, always picking the crazy colors. She picked up her nickname (Koolaid) back when we were dating because her hair was never the same color. Anyhow with this project, I kind of set off with a theme best described as unicorn vomit, but she picked out the name Iris. In Greek mythology, Iris is the personification of the rainbow and messenger of the gods. I think that sums up what I was going for with this build. Anyhow! Today I’m going to just start things off by touching on a few of the base components and then we will come back later to talk about the go fast parts and what we are going with to get those crazy colors.  

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Cooler Master MM520, MM530, and MasterMouse Pro L

It must be that time of year, everyone is introducing their new and updated mice. It just so happens that I haven’t had a Cooler Master mouse in the office for a while now. Well, they are introducing two new mice today, the MasterMouse MM520 and the MasterMouse MM530. I went ahead and had them include the MasterMouse Pro L as well so we could take a look at the whole range. They all are similar in that they are all 3360 sensor based with Omron 20 million click switches, so they already have a few things going for them. Let's see what else they have going on.

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MSI X299 SLI Plus

If you aren’t into flashy builds or if you are building a PC to be used in an office environment it seems like it is getting harder and harder to find simple but feature filled motherboards. Thankfully a few of the manufacturers like MSI have Pro focused lines. This is especially important with X299, a platform that overall seems better focused on workstation builds. Well MSI just happened to send over the X299 SLI Plus from their Pro lineup and today I’m going to check it out and see what it has going on.

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Fractal Design Celsius S24

Okay so just about everyone has their own variation on the AIO water cooling kits these days. Most are working with Asetek as well, so most of the designs are about the same. Well Not long ago Fractal joined the fun but they aren’t exactly known to just do what everyone else is doing. Fractal is known for their very specific styling and quiet cases. So when I heard they were bringing out an AIO I was really curious how they would be doing things differently. This past week I dug into the Fractal Celsius S24, today I’m going to talk about it and then see how it performs.

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TP-Link Deco Mesh Wi-Fi

Over the past 10 years having wireless access in your home has gone from being nice to have to basically a requirement if you have internet. Of course wireless has been around longer than that, but just looking recently with the growth of mobile devices, tablets, laptops, and smart home devices it used to be just a few devices in a home where now it is easy for a family to have 20 or more devices connected without getting into smart home devices. It's amazing how quickly even a good router or access point can get over loaded with that number of devices on them, not to mention just being able to get a signal in all of the corners of the house. I live in an older house, combine that with a very high number of PCs and electronic devices, the wireless range in my house is really bad. I upgraded years ago from a basic router to a PF Sense setup and recently I added a long range wireless AC access point. Well at CES this past year mesh networks were all the rage and TP-Link seems to be one of the first out with their Deco Mesh Wi-Fi system. Today I’m going to see what they are all about and then do some in depth testing, comparing a mesh setup with one long range access point. I’m excited to see what is going to give me better coverage and better speed in all of the rooms in our household.

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WD My Passport SSD 1TB

When it comes to data storage there are all different form factors and options. If you have a huge computer and don’t need to transport the data you can just toss a hard drive in and you are good to go. I take advantage of network attached storage for most of the data around the house but I also used a few flash drives for on the go. But when you need more space the thumb drive options get expensive, huge, and they aren’t exactly fast as well. So you are left with a portable hard drive but again speeds are terrible. Well recently SSDs have been making it into the portable market and the WD My Passport SSS really caught my eye to be paired with my Ultrabook for when I’m on the go and between test benches around the office. With a small form factor and a Type-C connection, it looks to be what need but first today I want to put it to the test and see how it performs.

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Be Quiet! Dark Base Pro 900 Orange

I think everyone knows at this point that I’ve been on a big ITX kick for a while now. But sometimes when you need to build something completely crazy you have to go bigger. I did that with our Fridge build years ago. But what cases are a good pick to do that now? Well, it just so happens that I’ve had the Dark Base Pro 900 in the orange model from Be Quiet! sitting around the office for FAR too long. It’s about time I build something in it and see what it is all about. With a tempered glass side panel, orange highlights, and a lot of modularity it has the potential to be a great case. Let’s take a closer look and see if it is.

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Prusa i3 MK2S Kit

So I started down the 3d printing hole over a year ago and in that time I have in some ways reached my original goal of being able to learn how to design 3d parts and later use them around the office and house. In that time I spent a lot of time with Delta style printers, having the chance to check out both the SeeMeCNC Eris and their Rostock MAX v3 as they launched. This only made me more curious about other printers, especially Cartesian style printers. Cartesian printers are by far the most popular style and are more what you expect to see what you think of a 3d printer. Well, earlier this year I had the chance to meet and talk with Josef Prusa and later through email, we arranged for a printer to come our way. For the last few months, I have had the Prusa i3 MK2 here in the office as I worked on projects (a few that you guys have seen me post about) getting a feel for the printer. Well, it’s about time that I sit down and gather my thoughts on the printer and run through my experience building, troubleshooting, and making with the i3 MK2.

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SteelSeries Rival 310 and Sensei 310

It has been seven and a half years from when I first saw the SteelSeries Xai at CES. A few months after that I had one in hand to review and from that point on I have been using a variation of that design, mostly Sensei’s on my main computer and/or other computers. It was never perfect, even back then I mentioned the sensor having a few issues but the overall shape and balance was great, so great in fact that it has spawned multiple mice from other vendors trying to capture that same design. But for a few years now the Sensei has been feeling dated with so many other mice getting great optical sensors so you can imagine my happiness when I found out that SteelSeries was introducing a new Sensei along with a new Rival, both with their new TrueMove3 optical sensor. Now after seeing some images of the design I was a little worried that they had messed with the shape and it might lose what made it so special. This is a huge moment for SteelSeries and given how particular about the mice I use when not testing, they will have to get this one just right for it to replace my old Sensei. So let’s see what the big deal is and then put them both to the test.

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Alphacool Eisplateau Anti-Static Mat

You would think with a few desk, a large photo area, and a full sized workbench I would have room to work on things around the office. The truth is though that the workbench fills up with projects quickly and everything else overflows into the photo area because of the space it provides. That isn’t a problem in itself, but the damage I have done to our past photo backdrops when everything was white was an issue. With the new wooden setup the idea was that dings, scratches, and scuffs wouldn’t be as big of a concern and for the most part they haven’t been. But I want to take good care of the space when getting into big projects. I’ve been looking for a mat to work on for a while and it just so happens that Alphacool has one that was perfect both for protection but also with nice information on the surface to help with projects. Today let's take a quick look and see if it ended up doing what I needed it to do.

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Visiting SeeMeCNC's new facility

If you have been following my journey through 3d printing you may have seen my visit to SeeMeCNC last year. What you might not have noticed was just how packed they were in their location at the time. In talking to them through a few product launches they had also expressed their interest in moving to a larger location and at one point they even bought the land and were working on plans to build a new building. Well a few months ago I saw the notifications on their personal FB pages about a new building they bought and I scoped it out a little on Google Maps. Well, I waited a little while after their move and checked in to see how the move was going and they invited us to come check it out. Let me just say that the satellite images did not prepare me for just how crazy the new location is. I took a few photos that don’t do it nearly enough justice, so let's do a quick update on my original tour.

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AMD Ryzen R3 CPUs

The Ryzen 5 launch was a lot better for budget minded gamers but all eyes have been on the Ryzen 3 launch to see if AMD is going to pull off the hat trick. Plus AMD has traditionally been the perfect company to go with when doing gaming PCs on a small budget. While the Ryzen 5 CPUs are great, they don’t really help with those builds. Today is the official launch day for Ryzen 3 and I’ve spent the last few weeks testing and playing around with it. I’m excited to give a quick run down on the details then dive into the performance numbers to see how it performs.

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Logitech BRIO

For almost forever now the webcam market has been extremely stagnant. That’s not to say that there haven’t been great options out there. Last December I took a look at the Logitech C922 Pro Streaming Webcam and loved it. The problem is the C922 is really just the C920 that has been on the market for 5 years and it is very similar to the C910 that it replaced. So in my C922 review, I mentioned how badly I wanted to see 4k webcams and to finally see webcams take advantage of the bandwidth that USB 3.0 gives us. Well not long after that Logitech introduced the BRIO a 4k USB 3.0 webcam with a whole list of improvements. I’m not going to take all of the credit, only most of it, clearly the short paragraph last year was the motivation they needed. Anyhow, I begged and they promised to send one over and they did just that. So today we are going to check out the BRIO and see if it is all that I had hoped!

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VisionTek SoundTube Pro Wireless Speaker

Portable speakers is an area, like keyboards and mice, and for a while SSDs everyone seems to have their own model. Even VisionTek who I would normally associate with video cards has gotten into the market. They have their SoundTube Pro Wireless Speaker with a pill like shape only with a large grill across both the front and back. So they sent one over, curious what we thought of it so today I’m going to see what it is all about and find out if it is a good pickup to take out with you this summer while you are enjoying the weather.

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Functional Prints: Solar Light Peg

In the past year I have been having a blast with 3d printing in my free time. This past week I ran into a situation that printing helped me out and I thought I would take a few minutes to tell everyone about it. I was outside installing a new flag mount to our porch and moving our flag and when I went to move the cheap solar light that keeps the flag lit up at night I had trouble reinstalling it into the ground. The peg started making cracking noises and then broke. I didn’t want to have to buy a new light and If I didn’t keep our flag lit at night (I’m far too lazy to bring it in each day) it would be against the US flag code. So I brought a small piece of the broken peg inside to look at my options.

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HyperX Alloy Elite Mechanical Keyboard

Like Corsair and a lot of other SSD and Memory brands, HyperX in the last few years especially have jumped in completely into the peripheral market. It makes sense, SSDs and Memory are commodities so the margins are small and they are able to expand their gaming brands to an area where people can get their eyes and hands directly on your products. HyperX with their Cloud headsets has really done well and recently they even got into the mechanical keyboard market. I hadn’t had the chance to check what they had going on out yet though so when I heard they were introducing a new keyboard I was all in. So today I’m going to check out the HyperX Alloy Elite, their top of the line mechanical keyboard, and see if HyperX is doing as well here as they have been with their headsets.

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