Joined on 04/16/05
Terabytes of Additional Storage
Pros: Western Digital has a real winner on their hands with the My Book Duo 12TB. The external raid device has a wide range of flexibility. The My Book Duo offers the ability to set the RAID as either 0 (default out of the box), 1, or JBOD. Two Western Digital Red 6TB drives are inside providing the total 12TB of storage. While being in RAID 0 on a USB3 port, read/write rates held steady between 270-285MBps. RAID 1 and JBOD, on the other hand, floated between 150-190MBps for both read and write speeds. The addition of the two USB3 ports on the back of the unit, while sharing the bandwidth of the main USB3 back to the PC, afford the ability to plug items for either charging or light transfers. This proved especially helpful to charge a wireless headset. Power saving is also a tremendous plus. The Duo will power down when the computer its connected to shuts down or goes to sleep. Many other external drives requiring external power will continue to run until they are manually turned off or unplugged.
Cons: These drives run hot. The ambient temperature around the unit for the majority of these tests remained around 70F(21C). After transferring data to the Duo for several hours, the drives began to alarm on my WHS due to temperatures of 127F (53C). Western Digital did not include any active cooling on the Duo choosing to, instead, rely thermodynamics to draw cool air through the vents in the bottom of the unit and expel hot air out of the top vents. For intermittent transfers, this works well but not prolonged periods. The specifications for the WD Red 6TB drives indicate this is within their operating temperature range of 32F(0C) to 158F(70C). Heat affects the longevity of all hard drives so this is a little concerning especially for an external hard drive RAID of this size.
Overall Review: I performed many of the prolonged tests by connecting the WD My Duo 12TB to WHSv1, FreeNAS, and Windows 8. With a little tweaking on the server side, WHSv1 recognized the entire 12TB and added was to the storage pool. In order to allow Drive Extender to perform correctly, the Duo was set to JBOD. FreeNAS and Windows 8 required minimal interaction in order to get the Duo to work in any of the three available RAIDs. On a side note, I was able to control the heat issue by placing a USB powered fan on the top of the unit. By doing this, the temperatures came down to a more respectable 97F(36C). Again, the WD Reds can operate up to 158F according to Western Digital but this was for my own piece of mind.
Budget Home Office PC with a Loud Harddrive
Pros: For what comes equipped in this PC, it is a decent value for the price. Acer was kind enough to provide the 8Gb worth of RAM in a single stick which makes it fairly cost effective to double the RAM by only having to purchase one additional 8Gb stick o' RAM. The built in Wifi works well. Acer added a wireless antenna to the back of the machine that is very inconspicuous and unlikely to be broken easily as it isn't the typical whip style antenna.
Cons: The included 2TB Toshiba harddrive is incredibly noisy and slow. Acer attempted to quiet this beast by installing rubber grommets at the mounting points for the harddrive but it was unsuccessful. Even though the motherboard does have a free PCIEx16 slot, the 300W power supply will quickly become a limiting factor when looking for anything more than a low-range after-market videocard in case you need a Displayport connection (which this PC lacks from the factory). Be prepared for lots of Windows updates out of the box. All told, it took approximately 3 hours for all of the updates needed to download and install. Sprinkle in a healthy dash of restarts scattered throughout these update marathons and you have the groundworks for the initial interactions with this Acer.
Overall Review: The included mouse and keyboard are functional although not the most comfortable or accurate. I personally only used these for approximately 5 minutes before switching them out. All in all, this PC would fit right in a home office as long as the included keyboard/mouse aren't used and the loud harddrive sounds aren't a concern.
Stunning! My PC gaming won't be the same
Pros: This Samsung monitor pulls you in and adds a new level of immersion. The curvature of the display combined with the vivid, non washed out colors and blacks culminate into a great package. Coming from a 24" G-Sync monitor, the C34F791 well exceeded my expectations. With the UltraWide format along with the display's curve, new portions of games supporting the 3440x1440 resolution are visible. I've noticed a huge difference with FPS games as now I see portions of the game previously unseen in a single screenshot. Samsung wrapped this beautiful display in an equally gorgeous shell and stand. It's very reminiscent of Apple's styling from the early iPod era. Another area this monitor stands out is with the built in audio. These dual little 7W speakers can pump out some clear, well rounded sound. DisplayPort 1.1 and 1.2 are supported along with HDMI 1.4 and 2.0. These are selectable within the monitor's menu. There's also a built in USB3 hub and a 3.5mm headphone jack. With all of the real estate offered by the Samsung C34F791, Picture-in-picture is a slam dunk! For many instances, I was playing a Nintendo Switch in the lower right hand corner of the display while "working" on my desktop PC. Samsung added many PIP options such as size, picture source, location, aspect ratio, and sound source. The included stand even includes a hollow section for cables to be run through in order to make it more aesthetically pleasing.
Cons: I've had two times where the audio didn't function through the DisplayPort after my the monitor had gone to sleep. This occurred over the course of the monitor going to sleep about 14 times (1:7). Powering off the monitor and powering it back on resolved the issue. Strangely enough, I didn't experience this issue over HDMI. There's no option to set audio to fixed. With a PC connected you'll have to contend with you're PC's volume as well as the monitor's volume. This wouldn't be as large of a concern should the monitor come packaged with a remote as negotiating behind the monitor to reach the menu controls may be tricky in certain scenarios. The monitor also doesn't have different sound settings per input. This can add an extra step when changing inputs as it's very easy to go from a tolerable audio level from one source to something a bit louder on the next. Game Mode... Samsung indicates this should be used when playing games on a PC or console. From what I've noticed, when this mode is enabled it washes out colors without providing any tangible lag benefits.
Overall Review: Comparing 4k and UWQHD, going with an UWQHD seems a better use of graphics processing power. UltraWide formats add a new layer of connection to a game. The downside is the compatibility with games. If you're game of choice is of this generation, odds are 3440x1440 is supported. Older games are hit or miss. When I've been gaming via a 1080p source over HDMI from a PS4 and Nintendo Switch, I found the monitor's built in Upscale Mode 2 seemed to provide the best improvement without over-sharpening objects.
Quiet Keyboard with an Odd Feel and Strange Lighting Zones
Pros: The K55 is incredibly quiet. I was able to work on an essay while not waking a family member asleep less than 15 feet away from my PC. With my old keyboard, I'd get complaints about it being loud from guests late at night. The wrist support is comfortable and allowed for extended sessions of typing without any fatigue.
Cons: The keys feel spongy. I've never used a gaming keyboard that felt this odd. When pressing down on the keys, it almost feels as though the keys aren't sliding down smoothly. I'd compare it to felt fabric lining the side of the plastic peg on the bottom of the key used to press down on the switch membrane. With other keyboards used, all of the resistance is in the initial press. The K55 has resistance through the whole stroke even after the press has been registered. Lighting... The lighting on this keyboard isn't configurable through software. Corsair has several preprogrammed light configurations which are selectable via pressing <FN>+ a number key. The lighting is strictly set to three zones. For a gaming keyboard not to light up the WASD keys differently from the surrounding keys is baffling. The Media Keys are also left out of the back-light pack. I found myself fumbling to find the volume controls on the keyboard late at night multiple times.
Overall Review: Zone 1 runs from the far left of the keyboard up to the right side of the F4, 5, T, F, and V keys. Zone 2 starts at the end of Zone 1 and runs till the right of F12, Backspace, \, Return, Right Shift, and Right CTRL keys. The remaining area containing the number pad, arrows, and page options are all in Zone 3. Aside from the preprogrammed lighting modes, this keyboard has the ability for changing the back-light colors individually for the three zones. To cycle through the colors for Zone 1, press <FN> + F1. Zone 2 is controlled with <FN>+F2 and Zone 3 is <FN>+3. Symbols accessed by holding Shift + a key are displayed under that key instead of above. This is a striking difference from the norm. For example, the $ symbol is located at the lower left corner of the 4 key instead of in the upper left corner. Not necessarily bad but it led to some confusion with my young nephew.
Fast Bridged Modem
Pros: The Linksys CM3024 has performed flawlessly. I've been consistently getting 350Mbps x 20Mbps on a 300Mbps x 20Mbps internet plan. I've always struggled to get the full bandwidth from my ISP, legacy TWC/now Spectrum, even with the Arris modem they provided. During these first two weeks, I also experienced no packet-loss or random modem reboots while using the CM3024. Of course, packet-loss can be caused by many issues not due to the modem itself such as RF issues and noise on the cable line. Linksys allowed a large amount of ventilation on the modem. My modem is located behind a couch in an area that doesn't get much airflow. Even in a sub-par environment, the Linksys CM3024 remained cool and functional. I'm impressed at how accurate the modem reports cable signal. It's common knowledge modems tend to report RF levels inaccurately compared to a professional RF meter simply due to the cost differences in said devices. With this modem, it is reporting within .5 dBmv of a D3 cable meter.
Overall Review: I've always been a big fan of having the modem and router as two different devices. When a modem incorporates router features, it becomes difficult to identify issues as either ISP related of end-user network related. Lately, it has been harder and harder to find modems without any router features with the work around being setting the modem to bridged mode. Even with the all-in-one router/modems in bridge mode, they generally have a hidden SSID broadcasting or random firmware bugs that result in oddities. By having a stand-alone bridged modem, these issues are no longer a factor. In a matter of 5 minutes of talking with Spectrum tech support, the modem was up and working on my account. In the San Antonio area, Spectrum is now utilizing 24 downstream channels.
Great Managed Switch but PoE an Afterthought
Pros: The inclusion of Port Mirroring and cable test functions makes this switch perfect for taking in an IT kit. Many small businesses use unmanaged switches making it harder for troubleshooting intermittent issues. I've used this switch to replace the hub I'd carry with me to run a packet-sniffer for identifying the source of random broadcast storms. It's been a valuable tool thus far! STP is included although it is called "Loop Prevention" in the GUI. The Cable Test feature identified an open at 56' on a Cat5e run. I verified the accuracy with a professional cable tester. The tester reported the same issue at the same distance.
Cons: There are no PoE settings in GUI. With troubleshooting a wifi issue (such as a locked up AP), a normal step is to reboot the AP. Typically, a PoE switch has the option to disable power to a port or even set a specific power output per port. Disabling the port on the TL-SG108PE only resulted in data being terminated to my PoE AP while the AP continued to broadcast an SSID. Missing these options means having to manually disconnect the ethernet cable feeding the AP and limits remote troubleshooting.
Overall Review: This switch is limited to a combined 55 watts over the PoE ports. If this amount is exceeded, the switch will automatically kill power to port 4. Most PoE devices don't use more than 12 watts. The exceptions will be high power APs such as the new 4x4:4 802.11ac Wave 2 APs. I will continue to use this switch for on-site trouble calls but wouldn't recommend it for those needy locations with PoE based devices due to the inability to reboot a PoE based device remotely.
Essentially theft - Blemish on Newegg
Seller sent me the incorrect product. I contacted the seller and was told I would be receiving a return shipping label and to mail the product back. As soon as I did this, I was to notify them as so that they could verify the package was in route and send me the correct package. I sent an email notifying PNP games I had shipped the game but this was followed by an email stating they would send the correct game after they receive it in their warehouse. Waiting due to the sellers mistake was the first problem. A week went by and I had not heard from PNP Games so I again contacted them. After some research, the rep came back saying they received the item last week and will ship the correct item out the next day. Now this is four days later and I have not had any other response from PNP Games. No notification of shipping, no tracking number, nothing. Today, I attempted to reach out for information but was greeted by an automated message asking to leave a message. DO NOT BUY FROM!