Category Archives: Computer

daskeyboard Pro 4S Review

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When I bought my new computer, I added the daskeyboard Professional 4S switch-type input device. Want lots more info: try the daskeyboard website. The boards are available in both PC and Apple flavors though they’re mostly Henry Ford Model T black.

It’s a wired (no, not weird) keyboard, the first I’ve had for several years though now that I’m back to a hardwired board, I don’t know why I ever switched. There’s virtually no lag on input, a factor also enhanced by the switch-type keys. As you can see in the image, it’s a standard QWERTY layout, full-sized, with a glossy finish. I’m not sure about the shiny black as it does tend to show dust but that’s really a minor factor. Otherwise, the device is a joy to type on, particularly for someone who is quick on the keys and does a significant amount of keyboard input. Each stroke is crisp–a factor I’d forgotten about after years of the spongy chicklet switches on most computer keyboards–and the board is stiff (and heavy) Stiff? It doesn’t flex like so many of the lightweight wireless devices. Heavy? They keyboard has no tendency to move around on the desk. Board has a PS2 to USB adaptor on the line, two USB connections allow the user to have a pair of USB2 outputs operating from the keyboard, a handy feature on most desks.

Desk? Yup. This is a desktop keyboard, just in case you haven’t noticed. Personally, I deplore working on a laptop or even worse, on the naaasty little imitation keyboards that attach to tablet devices. I learned to type in the 7th grade gifted education, Montgomery Jr. High School, San Diego, California. Thank you, California. Though as a little boy just beginning junior high (I’m old; we didn’t call it middle school) I though typing was for little girls, I was…a usual…quite wrong. My facility at a keyboard, beginning with the office-model upright typewriters by Royal and Underwood through the early electrics by IBM (jeez, remember the Selectric?) and the first Cume daisy-wheel devices, has been an integral part of a career working in news, freelance journalism, advertising, radio/TV: well, you get the idea. Why this big pitch about typing? Because many schools are doing away with typing classes based on the specious reasoning that young people learn to use a keyboard when they first pick up a smart phone at six or seven years of age. They don’t need typing classes.

Bullshit, to use a term I didn’t learn (formally, anyway) in gifted ed.

Watch someone use two fingers (or thumbs) on a touch input device. They’re moving fast but not really entering much info. That’s why for you to know has become 4 u 2 kn0 and see you is CU. Try to write a few hundred words (or even better still, a few thousand) using a touch-input screen. Maybe you’ll like it. I don’t. Encourage your children to learn how to type, not just to poke at a cellular phone. Encourage your schools to teach typing. It’s really a wonderful skill that’s easy to learn when one is young. (I wish I’d have learned piano instead of masturbation folk guitar.)

Back to the daskeyboard, which was supposed to be what this review is about. It’s a bit on the pricey side (well over $100) but that’s true of any of the switch-type, hard-wired keyboards. There’s an entire slew of the devices on the market now, mostly marketed to gamers. Why gamers? Lack of latency, no delay when inputing from a hard-wired mouse or keyboard. That lack of latency is quite valuable when writing, particularly if you’re typing at around 100 wpm. Cheap boards create many, many errors that disappear when using a high quality input device like the daskeyboard.

There are several flavors of keyboard available to include a board without key markings for those who think they don’t need an occasional bit of help remembering where symbols, numbers and other guides are located. I do. As referred to at the top of this review, the boards are available in PC or Apple versions. Input is via a ps2 connector that comes complete with a USB adaptor attached. Connecting line is long, easily long enough to snake down past my monitor, though the access hole in the center of my desk and around to the back of a tower-type computer and there’s line left over.

Cons: I do wish the board had a textured finish instead of high gloss. I also would like to have seen a slanted (or ergonometric) style board. I’ve used several MS boards that allow me to angle my hands and I like them, though they’re not in the same league as far as touch goes.

Pros: Excellent key feel. Ability to input at high speed compared to the chicklet-switch boards that are so prevalent today. Refurbished keyboards are available at the company website, daskeyboard.com, and the discounts are quite significant. Shipping was included in the price (purchasing from the manufacturer’s US website) and the device went out from Austin, Texas, on the same day I ordered it. All in all, an excellent purchase and one I have no problem recommending.

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BenQ BL3200PT WQHD Monitor (Review Part 3)

This section of my new computer review covers the BenQ BL3200 32″ WQHD monitor that I purchased from Amazon. It’s an AMVA panel (check out the technologies at http://www.tftcentral.co.uk/articles/panel_technologies.htm) which has slower response time than a TN or an IPS but that deficit is of no significance for my purposes.

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Yes, the young lady arrived in a carefully packed box via Photoshop CC 2014 and my febrile imagination. The scoot is a ’98 BMW K1200rs that has accumulated about 95,000 miles on the odometer and still plugs along quite faithfully. Image of the bike was taken a few miles from my home in Southeast Arizona. The glare on the upper right center of the screen is carelessness on my part for popping a flash at the wrong angle to the screen. I used a Sony RX100 which is rather constrained as far as flash placement. So it goes. Also, taking in consideration I’m not a lab tech who has expensive testing equipment; I fly by the seat of my pants. I used a review at http://www.tftcentral.co.uk/reviews/benq_bl3200pt.htm for the lab info and I trust their findings.

I hesitated for several weeks before buying the 32″ monitor as my Samsung 26″ 1920 x 1200 pixel T260 was still plugging along faithfully, although its fluorescent tubes are beginning to fade somewhat. A recalibration every couple of weeks with an X-Rite i1 Display Pro has been able to tune up the colors quite well and I’m still using the Samsung–six years old–as a backup/second monitor. The BenQ provides 2560 x 1440 pixels of screen real estate, which is a nice upgrade from the T260. I had several reasons for choosing the really large monitor.

First and foremost was font size on a WQHD monitor. I probably should have shown on-screen text but it’s my review and my monitor so you get what you get. I looked at a Viewsonic WQHD 27″ monitor and did not like the screen font size. I also looked at a 28″ 4K monitor which was infinitely worse on font size. Scaling works on some screen fonts, others are distorted and still others don’t scale at all. The 32″ monitor seemed a good choice between high resolution raw image editing (images from a Nikon D800E) and usability for internet research.

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So far, and I’ve had the monitor for a few weeks, I love it. (The Sony T260 is in frame to the right, it’s both a backup and provides the capability of two separate systems simultaneously.) I may add some more comments about this system as I work with it in weeks and months to come but, so far, for the price, I have no complaints whatsoever.

Last part of this new system review will post when it’s ready. Part 4 will cover my daskeyboard Professional S keyboard that replaces a series of wireless boards, all of which had significant shortcomings for a user who does a significant amount of keystroke input. (I’m a writer…). This brings to mind an interview Truman Capote had on the Dick Cavett show several years ago. One of the other guests asked Capote what he thought of Harold Robbins as a writer. The little author never missed a beat when he snapped back, “I never considered him a writer; I always thought of him as a typist.”

 

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Core i7 5820K Burn-in, BenQ 32″ Monitor (Part 2)

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OK, moving on to the first step in ensuring that my newly arrived Cyberpowerpc Core i7 5820K gets to stay. (Above a frontal view of the new machine, plugged in to a UPS at the right and after testing but before wrapping the multitude of cables running from the desktop down with hook and loop ties.)

I unboxed, ensured that all the parts listed on my order inventory were present and accounted for and, while checking the parts, also making sure that all the lines were securely in place, memory chips are seated, GPU is seated…and so on…before ever applying spark to the fuel mixture. My one disturbing–to me–discovery was that the case didn’t have that familiar Microsoft Certificate of Authenticity sticker. Bootleg? Not able to register? Well, no. MS Windows 8.1 doesn’t feature that long number on a hologram sticker. Instead, the new OS is installed in the EUFI (new fangled BIOS). This eliminates losing the OS serial number but it also prevents deactivating the OS and installing it in a new system. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the latest move by the bowels in Seattle.

15-02-10-compOn to the burn-in. I plugged the cord into my 1500va UPS, a nice, stabilized uninterruptable power unit, and pushed the switch. (Having, of course, already connected a DVI-D line to the new monitor.) Computer takes some time counting on its fingers, initializing its mind, but it fired up properly. I then rebooted using a DVD with memtest86+ in a bootable form–latest version downloaded–and let it churn for four hours. No errors. Time to move on to the system itself. I shut the computer down, installed a 2GB WD hard drive with the test software (and several folders of graphics archives) already onboard then rebooted into Win 8.1 Pro. I used CPUZ to verify the hardware then brought up hw monitor-pro 1.21 for monitoring temperatures during burn-in. Though there are suggestions for burn-in on the Cyberpowerpc user forum, I have my own, slightly different, preferences. I add a four-hour stint of running pv95 to the burn-in battery.

I installed Furmark for the GPU testing (a Visiontek R9 280X with 3GB onboard), pv95v2511 for one of the CPU burns and ipdt (Intel burn-in) for the other. (FYI: New machine also has an Asrock X99 Extreme6 motherboard and 16GB of DDR4 Crucial Ballistix Sport memory with the capability of running 128GB total RAM and a Corsair RM1000 PSU.) The burn-ins took place over a couple of days as I had other work going on using my old Core i7 while working on the new. For those who haven’t purchased a Cyberpowerpc, the on-line manufacturer’s user forums highly recommend completing a burn-in before installing software and setting up the machine, just in case there’s a glitch. If the computer goes tango-uniform during the first 30 days, it can be returned for refund (according to my invoice). As this is my first CP computer purchase and I read many of the negative feedback posts with a bit of trepidation, I was punctilious about burn-in. Also note the Corsair RM1000 power supply; CP’s standard, off the rack power supply units have a wretched reputation. Spend the few extra bucks for a good one.

Two days later, I was satisfied. A bit of explanation: how many hours burn-in is necessary? As many as you think you need. MTBF–Mean Time Before Failure–is a strange subject. I knew engineers for Boeing and Rockwell who referred to it as “Might Go Tits-up By Friday,” when dealing with aircraft testing. Four hours when a part might die in five? Twenty-four hour burn when a part might die in twenty-five? Pick your numbers, swallow your poison.

That’s an image of the new machine to the right, again cables running into the back before I tie it all up. Why such a mess? No need to be too neat installing a new computer, new monitor and new keyboard before being sure it will all play together well.

Results of the burn–in? Total of 12 hours including Intel burn, pv95 and Furmark. No problems indicated or detected. Temperatures with the liquid cooling unit (Asetek 550LC) on the CPU never went close to Intel’s specified maximum of 67 degrees Centigrade for the i7 5820K. Temps for disc, GPU,  etc, were all well within limits. Note: look up the manufacturer limits for your machine before burn-in. Set your software to shut down if you get too close to max, I use within 5 degrees C.

Satisfied with the burn-in, I began adding more junk. The BenQ monitor was ugly with DVI-D providing a signal at full 1560×1440 resolution but I knew it would be. My display port cable (DP 1.2) arrived and I installed it during this second phase. BenQ 3200 now looked great. Other stuff included a Samsung 256GB 850 EVO solid state drive as my graphics scratch disc and current graphics file storage. The main drive is an Intel 730 OC 480GB SSD, which isn’t the fastest solid state but it’s more of an enterprise drive and has excellent reliability reputation. Third drive is a Western Digital 2GB that serves as my in-computer storage. (Note: this is a graphics intensive system. I work both with raw files and video from my two Nikon cameras. When using Photoshop CC, often I have 20 or 25 layers involved in a project, all of which adds up to REALLY BIG still files.

All this stuff is working very well. For those folks who are wondering whether to take a chance on Cyberpowerpc (I was), I would say (as Hillary Clinton answered when asked what kind of panties she prefers): Depends. How comfortable are you with doing your own burn-in? It’s really simple but not everyone wants to do it. How comfortable are you with speccing your own machine instead of buying one off the rack? This is really the key to my selection of Cyberpower. I specified almost every part in my order. I paid extra, but the price still was several hundred dollars under what I would have coughed up for one of the other custom-manufactured machines. And–this was the deciding factor for me–I used parts picker to check the price if I bought all the parts and assembled the computer myself. I came up with almost a hundred dollars less by buying the machine assembled. That’s with a one-year parts guarantee (and three-year service, but I consider service what I would have to do anyway if I built the computer myself).

So far, I’m more than pleased with my purchase. I did my homework, which included comparing how much I’d have paid for another custom builder to put the parts together. The machine is fast, quiet and if something goes wrong, I’ll pull the part and replace it, just as I would have with a self-build.

In Part 3 of this review, I’ll look at the BenQ 3200 monitor, daskeyboard mechanical input device and my experience after a couple of weeks of several hours a day use.

 

 

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Cyberpowerpc i7 5820K Computer and BenQ 3200 Monitor Review

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My office now sports a new Cyberpowerpc computer and a 32 inch BenQ monitor. That’s an inside the case image of the new box with its water cooled CPU and Intel 730 OC SSD main drive after I opened the system minutes after it arrived at my house.

Why a new computer and monitor? My old AVA Direct Core i7 920 and 26 inch Samsung monitor are still operating–5 years daily use, 10 to 12 hours each day, month after month, year after year from a desktop computer is simply amazing to me–but both box and monitor were growing gray and had lost a step when running downfield. The MSI X58 mobo had begun to have glitches. One of the SATA input ports was non-functional (disclaimer: port had been bad since a few months after I bought the system) and the USB ports were iffy. No SATA 3, no USB 3, no M.2 storage, no PCI3 slots, no DDR4 on the old board. The powers at Microsoft announced Win7 was finally going into zombie mode, dead and buried but with thousands of iterations climbing mud-encrusted from the grave to shuffle awkwardly into the future. Yes, the time was now, before my old system collapsed gasping onto the floor like I did a year ago and I had to pay $40,000 for a helicopter ride to take the computer to a surgical specialist.

Oh, Lord, why can’t I–my aging body and decrepit brain–have a new mobo, CPU and GPU so I’ll operate like the youngsters? New memory? Well, new memories, better than the old?

Before being chided for not assembling the new computer from parts by some faceless straw critic out there in etherland, I have my reasons. (Not that reasons are necessary: it’s my money and my choice to pay for a ready-made box.)  I know how to build one of these things. I’ve been maintaining and modifying machines since carrying home an AT&T 6300 with its Intel 8086 and DOS 2.11 on a floppy–paid almost $9,000, for those who don’t recall the early days of desktop PCs. (The 8086 followed a Radio Shack Trash 80 and an AB Dick magnetic card reader with a Cume printer…the AB Dick cost even more than the 8086.) My first computer builds were back in the 80486/33 days. However, collecting parts–to include a new case, motherboard, memory, drives, graphics card (GPU), processor (CPU), cooler for the CPU, power supply (PSU), operating system–I didn’t want to do it. Old as I am, I still have a business both designing and maintaining web sites and taking pictures. I didn’t want to have computer parts spread across the floor of my office like a scene from Dr. Frankenstein’s lab…and instead of Igor ably assisting the creation of life, I have Oskar, a furry little guy who would want to help.

Plus, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of discovering that you’ve assembled the machine and one of the parts, say…the CPU…is faulty. Well, is it the CPU, the memory or the mobo? Get an RMA, return the item, await the replacement: NO. Fucking NO. There’s the black clouds of collateral damage, too. One bad part can damage other good parts. Who covers the cost? Guess.

So, now that I’ve decided to buy a new system, why Cyberpowerpc or, to be more accurate, why not Cyberpowerpc?15-01-30-cppc03

I read startlingly bad reviews of the company in a variety of places. However, and this is the distillation of my decision-making process, I couldn’t beat the evil gnomes in City of Industry on their prices. Period. A comparison of computer prices is pretty simple. It’s apples to apples, oranges to oranges and lemons to lemons, not vague V8 to V8, straight 6 to straight 6 stuff. (Try this: compare a Mopar V8 413 OHV to a Cummins V8 VT903 diesel…or a Jaguar 4.2 liter OHC six to a Chevy straight 6 truck engine.) I was using prices on same case, PSU, CPU, mobo, drives, memory, etc.) I ran the numbers on AVA Direct, Puget Sound, Falcon, Digital Storm: for what I wanted, all the custom computer assemblers were hundreds and even a thousand or more higher in cost than Cyberpower.

What I did determine about Cyberpower was that their ready-made configurations often were problematic. The power supply units in particular are frequently weak links. Read about what the power supply does, it’s not particularly romantic or fascinating but the information will help you decide on whether or not to spend a few more dollars or not on the PSU. Many inexpensive prebuilts, not just Cyberpower but those of the big name manufacturers, use junk power supplies, crap motherboards, dodgy GPUs, questionable memory sticks…are you listening, Dell? Or HP? Or (fill in the blank)?

So, when I ordered, I specified each choice of options. I ordered what I would have ordered had I been assembling the machine myself. A wide variety of options was a major factor in ordering from CP. Only AVA Direct has a better selection of individual parts than CP offers. Warning: if you don’t know what each option entails, do a search. Find out why PSU 1 is better than PSU 2. Make reasoned choices, not just picking the most expensive but, as well as possible without personally testing the items, the best for the dollar. After determining my particular configuration–likely not what Joe or Sam or Fred the computer genius would choose but what I want–I selected the “NORUSH” option of waiting a few weeks longer for the new computer to be assembled. That item knocked 5% off the total, a Cyberpower exclusive as far as I know. I also waited until the “big” New Year’s sale. I’ve checked back, the sale did have good prices plus free shipping was tossed in. A new desktop computer runs $50 to $75 for shipping. Add the cost to your total…just as you would taxes. (Taxes are one more reason not to buy a pre-assembled computer at a big-box store though that advantage is quickly disappearing as the minions of government grasp for each available dollar.)

One last glance at the “build it yourself” option. My final cost, shipping, taxes, parts and all, for the new computer was almost a hundred dollars less than I would have paid using online parts picker to buy from the least expensive sources. I didn’t have to wait for all the stuff to arrive, no lost boxes (thanks, USPS, someone should write an ode to the mail similar to the “United Breaks Guitars piece), and the machine arrived (as you can see in the images) assembled and ready to go.

Ready to Go? Well, if that’s what you want. Personally, I chose to burn-in the computer, just as is suggested in the Cyberpowerpc online forum. After all, my computer went from parts picking at the warehouse to assembly to first quality control check to second quality control check to shipping and on its way all in the same day. A few hours spent on burn-in would hopefully reveal any weak parts, any infant mortality as is common in electronics.

I’ll add my qualifier to this review. I do not work for Cyberpowerpc. I don’t know anyone who is employed by Cyberpowerpc. I looked at their building in City of Industry, the garden spot of Los Angeles, on Google streetview but I’ve not been there. I hope I never have to go to City of Industry. I never heard of Cyberpower before beginning to research where to get my new computer.

In part two of this review, I’ll describe burn-in, questions I had about the computer after receiving it, my answers to those questions, and my experience with the new monitor. Onward and upward, heathen soldiers.

 

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