A PC Update

2016-05-07 11.28.53

Yep, so I finally got my LEDs.

But they aren’t from the NZXT Hue+ kit; I gave up waiting, and decided that I didn’t need the audio or temperature lighting effects from the Hue+. The reviews for the Hue+ were decidedly mixed, with people complaining about the software. Given that it’s also quite expensive, I thought I might as well just get some regular LED strips used for home deco and do a little DIY.

It doesn’t look half bad, doesn’t it?

I spent about half the price of what the Hue+ kit would cost, with 5m worth of strips and a bunch of accessories to make the strip run off my PSU instead of from an outlet. That involved using a Molex-to-fan cable my dad had lying around, cutting and stripping the cables and using a DC adapter to hook up the 12V and ground cables. It was pretty easy, all said and told, but I accidentally hooked up the 5V and ground wires initially. I forgot to document this process, but it’s easy to find instructions online.

Putting together the LEDs wasn’t a breeze though. For a start, I realised my plan to light up the insides, the I/O at the back, and the bottom was a little too difficult with these cheap strips. The adhesive sucks, and the extension cables I bought were just a smidgen too short. I was also missing specific connectors for the strips to the power splitter that would enable my plan, so it was just a mess.

I gave up on my initial plans, and focused on lighting up the insides. That was easy enough, but then the receiver died on me. It worked to light the strips, but couldn’t receive signals from the remote. I initially thought it was the problem of the remote battery (that was leaking), but that wasn’t the case since it was sending out signals when I hit buttons (using my phone camera to check if the light flashes [thanks to my dad again for said advice]). It stuck my lights at a bright white, with none of the effects available. I had to contact the seller to send a replacement, and it took ages to reach me.

But now it’s here, and it’s working. I decided to abandon the length of strip I used initially, because it didn’t go all around the PC for a really even lighting and using extension cables just made the short strips further down the chain see signal problems. I resorted to using the other end of the 5m strip (that has the plug to connect to the receiver, the plug that I forgot to buy), and cut a really long length in a hopefully permanent fixture.

I ignored cable management of my Molex-to-fan adapters, which are now hiding behind the HDD trays. It’s a pain in the butt to move my heavy system to access the back panel and fix it, so I didn’t bother. The strips kept falling, so I’ve now resorted to masking tape to hold them up. Some of the LEDs are not perfect, with either green or blue LEDs dead. But it’s not a big deal, especially since it’s cheap and I got it from China; I wasn’t expecting QC excellence.

2016-05-07 11.26.02

The remote is a 44-key infrared controller, better than the ones in the DeepCool RGB kits. It’s probably from the same OEM, given that the seller I bought my kit from had the same remotes as the DeepCool kits. But this has more colours and effects, so I bought this one instead.

There are your fixed colour options, and 6 DIY colours for you to adjust the RGB levels with the arrows. They start off with the RGBs fully lit, and you just reduce the relevant RGB levels to get the colour you want. A bit counter-intuitive, but I had experience doing RGB mixing for my keyboard, so it was easy to get the darker orange I wanted.

There are quick and slow buttons for the Jump3, Jump7, Fade3, Fade7 and Flash effects. Jump is basically moving between 3 or 7 fixed colours. Fade is the same, just that the colours fade into each other rather than skipping. Flash is just flashing white. Auto runs through all the programs; likely for demo purposes. At the top are brightness controls, play/pause and on/off buttons. Brightness doesn’t work for DIY colours, but works for the programs.

It’s been pretty fun being able to change colours as I want to. Sure, I’m missing more fine-grained control, but I don’t need that because I don’t stare at my PC all the time anyway. The only thing I wish I had was a rainbow effect, but that would necessitate getting a Dream Colour kit, and those are a lot more expensive and don’t offer fixed RGB colours, or DIY colours for that matter. Given the price tradeoff, I thought this kit was better suited for what I wanted to do.

2016-05-07 11.25.28

As you can see, today I decided on an orange theme. Naruto on my screen, orange-lit keyboard, mouse and PC. The colour reproduction from my phone camera is horrid, but you get the drift.

And that is also a new monitor! From the Dell S2240L I bought to use with my MBP, I decided to go for a 2560×1440 monitor. I mean, that was what I got the R9 390 for: 1440p gaming.

I had a lot of trouble deciding the monitor I wanted to buy. I wanted it to be IPS, since colour reproduction is more important to me than the response speed of TN panels (since I don’t do FPS that much). I wanted 1440p, and people online say that 27″ is the perfect size for 1440p. Lo and behold, most 27″ monitors are just about the right height to fit beneath the top shelf of my desk, so I don’t have to worry excessively about height clearance (like I had to do with my PC case).

Since I was going to play games now and then, I thought of getting 144Hz monitors (I do play Team Fortress 2), and one with FreeSync to make full use of my GPU. Recently, Acer and ASUS both released monitors that fulfill all these conditions: the XF270HU and the MG279Q respectively.

They use the same AU Optronics panel, but it seems that 144Hz IPS panel tech is just too new, since there are a LOT of complaints online about these two products. And the XF270HU isn’t even in Singapore yet. And these monitors are costly; they are nearly one grand each.

I also thought of going Ultrawide, but I had wanted a dual monitor setup so that was a no-go. There was also a lot more pixels for my R9 390 to push (if I went 3440×1440), and height clearance became an issue for those with non-adjustable heights. Not all content scales well to 21:9. And the cost…goodness.

I spent a lot of time reading advice on the net, and realised that the Dell U2715H was more than sufficient for my needs. It’s $200 cheaper, has decent response times, and I don’t need the high refresh rates since I only play one FPS (and non-competitively at that) and the games I want to play in the future are AAA titles that I can’t get beyond 60FPS anyway. Sure, FreeSync would’ve been nice, but I played Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate on my S2240L and the fluctuating framerates didn’t make a difference to me.

The Dell was actually the first monitor I considered, but the lust of better gear made me turn to the MG279Q. But I guess common sense won out in the end. Then I snagged a $100 coupon for Qoo10 and that made my decision to buy it now, rather than later. It made my purchase cheaper than if I bought it at the IT Show, by about $70. And I went ahead with the $5 shipping, just to save myself the trouble of having to collect it from SLS.

VideoPro, the shop I got it from, was selling it as the U2717H. That’s obviously wrong, since it’s the U2715H. I checked reviews and realised it’s just a typo, so I put the money down and got it in a few days. When I opened it, I was too excited to notice that it wasn’t the U2715H. Only when I started connecting cables did I realise that the connectors were different from what I knew of the U2715H.

That’s when I took a good look at the box and realised it was the U2717D, a newer model that was just released in Singapore for a whopping $929. That’s almost comparable to the expensive 144Hz FreeSync monitors I considered. There are some technical differences that escape me, but I do understand that $100+ difference.

Checking back on Qoo10, VideoPro fixed the typo, but it’s now the U2717D and still selling at the much cheaper price than retail. I don’t know when they might change it, but I feel pretty good about snagging this particular deal.

So I went about setting up both monitors on my desk, like I intended. But there’s only one monitor in the picture! So what happened?

Size, for one. My desk isn’t really big. And then there’s the problem of ergonomics. I angled the two monitors so I could fit them within the confines of my desk, but that meant angling my keyboard and mouse. But that also meant I couldn’t lean my right arm on the desk when I’m using my mouse, and it started tiring me almost immediately. I lived with that setup for a few days, before giving up and returning to a single monitor setup. I only really wanted the second monitor for ease of referring to research when writing or doing work, but it’s not as huge a productivity boost as I hoped. And finally, powering one monitor takes less power than powering two. It’s not a huge amount of electricity saved, but I really shouldn’t be wasting it either.

So that’s my PC setup for the foreseeable future. I’m not going to upgrade to AMD’s Polaris 10, coming Q3 2016. I’ll probably wait for Vega in 2017. Monitor-wise, I’m more than happy without FreeSync and 144Hz since gaming is only a small fraction of what I do; this baby will last me until…goodness knows when. Probably when OLED becomes cheap enough. The PC will last for a couple of years at least, and maybe in the future, I might go for something more ostentatious. Like the Thermaltake Core P5 case, finally getting a SuperFlower PSU, an NVMe PCIe SSD, mass storage SATA SSD and so on. Will probably be sensible and stick with air cooling though.

Well, that was a long update.

NEW UPDATE: The monitor pricing is murky as heck. The U2717D has outright replaced the U2715H at the CEE Show 2016 and adopted the old pricing too. Weird, because the Dell Singapore website reflects otherwise. Oh well, still saved a lot of money on it, so I’m happy.


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