EnGenius ECS2512FP Switch

It’s funny how I remember specifically my first experiences with a full Gigabit network. Around the time we started our LAN events, I upgraded our home network to gigabit. But it really was when after a few events that we finally had our whole event network running in that I finally got to experience the transfer speeds and at the time saturating it required more than one hard drive in raid and it was a huge improvement over 100 Megabit. But gigabit has been around now for a long time and in that time storage speeds have gone insane in comparison. For comparison, gigabit is 125 MB/s, and even a 5400 RPM hard drive today will do 147 MB/s. If you are just running your PC and the internet this is perfectly fine because your internet is still the limitation. But if you are transferring files over your network, especially to multiple PCs a 1G or gigabit network is a slowdown and with Intel now including 2.5G network cards in their Z490 chipset faster network speeds are a possibility for more and more people. Today I’m checking out the EnGenius ECS2512FP which supports 2.5G with POE as well as has the potential to run SFP+ transceivers for 10G as well. This combination makes it perfect for feeding our ECW230 WiFi 6 AP and could be a perfect backbone switch with 2.5G to servers and 10G to other switches for a LAN or business.

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EnGenius ESR530 AC1300 Home Mesh System Dual pack

I’ve worked with EnGenius a few times now including upgrading our office network to support testing WiFi 6. They reached out about their ESR530 AC1300 Mesh wireless router combo pack and initially I was hesitant, everyone is moving to WiFi 6 and mesh isn’t exactly new. But when I saw the price of the two ESR530’s was under $100 I was really curious what that might get you. So today I’m going to check out the two ESR530 combo pack and see what they are all about, check out their software, and test them out and see how they perform. They may not be cutting edge, but they are more in line with what a lot of people would want to spend to get a mesh network setup. So it will be interesting to see if they are worth it.

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Corsair iCUE LT100 and LS100 Ambient Lighting

As if Corsair hasn’t already taken over case lighting with their fans, cases, RGB headset stands, Water Cooling kits, and even memory. They have recently been diving into the ambient lighting as well for your office and it makes sense. When you have things like your peripherals and all of the other components I already listed tied into one system. It makes sense to try to cover anything else that people might like and while some people HATE RGB lighting as a whole. There are also a lot of people who love the flashy colors and the ability to change things up on the fly. I personally don’t have a lot of lighting in my own build, but I was thinking of adding a touch of ambient lighting into my office. With the recently introduced iCUE LT100 and also the LS100 from Corsair, I thought I would give them a try. My initial plan was basic RGB lighting strips, but addressable LEDs can offer even more. So let's see how they perform.

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Viotek GFV24C 24-inch 144hz Monitor

Back in May, I took a look at the Viotek GFV22CB which is a 22-inch monitor with FreeSync, G-Sync, and runs at 144Hz. While it wasn’t perfect, it was at a price point that made it easy to ignore some flaws to get a cheap high refresh rate monitor. Well, Viotek sent over another monitor, this time around a 24 inch which is the sweet spot for me when it comes to monitors to take to and from LANs. The GFV24C is another 144Hz refresh rate monitor and Freesync is supported (including Nvidia) as well with a VA screen. Once again the price point is right, so I am curious to see how the GFV24C performs. It just might be a perfect monitor for budget-minded people and for those who want something to take to and from LAN events.

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Corsair iCue Nexus

Corsair has done a great job integrating their iCue software into all of their hardware with the exception of their Elgato branded products which have their own software. This puts their software in a great spot giving you control over your peripherals as well as internal hardware. Not to mention all of the lighting on your peripherals, inside of your PC especially with Corsair RGB fans being some of the most popular, and recently office lighting as well. The idea of a desktop way to control and see things isn’t completely new, their Elgato brand has the Stream Deck. But the new iCue Nexus doesn’t have buttons. It is a small touchscreen that can be programmed using iCue which means it can be used to show you current stats, tie into lighting controls or any other function you might be able to think of. I see this as Corsair bringing their ecosystem all together even more but I am curious what all can be done with it. Today I’m going to check out the Nexus and put it to the test. The plan is to try integrating lighting into my office and maybe using the Nexus to control everything. Let’s see how it all work!

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Viotek GFV22CB

If everyone could afford it, they would all be running huge high refresh rate monitors running at 1440p or 4k. But the reality is that high-end monitors are expensive. But most gamers have realized the importance of a high refresh rate and adaptive sync tech like FreeSync and G-Sync. Well, there is a cheap option available, at least normally (COVID has obviously caused supply issues across the board). Viotek has a smaller 22-inch monitor that runs at 1080p with a refresh rate of 144Hz and because of its price, it is one of their most popular monitors. The GFV22CB sells for $129.99 making it a great budget option, so today I’m going to take a look and see what you get for that price.

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Nvidia Shield TV 2019

The original Nvidia Shield TV launched back in 2015 and was updated again in early 2017. When the first version launched my household was still running traditional cable TV along with servers hosting backups of our movies and TV shows just being fed to traditional HTPCs where needed. When we moved, to keep costs down I was looking to cut out cable but not lose the functionality and the original Shield TV as well as the Shield TV 2017 really helped with that by combining them with Plex and PlayStation Vue and I even was able to tie in Samsung’s SmartThings as well and use the Shield TV as a hub. I talked about both in THIS article. Well, Nvidia is at it again with the new for 2019 (hey it came in a little late lol) Shield TV with an updated Tegra X1+ SoC and a new form factor as well for the non-pro model. Today I’m going to check it out!

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Lian Li Strimer Plus

I’ll be the first to admit that the entire RGB scene has just been crazy, anything and everything you can think of now has it. It's not for everyone and for some of the people who don’t like it, it can even lead to an angry response. Three years ago, I wrote an article on the topic of why RGB can still be useful even if the idea of that rainbow look isn’t your thing. Last year Lian Li came out with one of the most outrageous RGB products with their Strimer RGB cable extensions and this year they have upped the ante by upgrading them with addressable lighting with a lot more effects. Today I’m going to check them out and see what they are all about and try to figure out if they should only be used on the craziest RGB builds or if maybe you can use them as an accent in a “normal” build.

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EnGenius ECW230 WiFi 6 Access Point

If you haven’t been following updates in wireless technology, I would forgive you for not knowing about WiFi 6 or Wireless AX. Even if you do try to keep track, things have been a little extra confusing. Basically, WiFi 6 is the new name for 802.11ax. Depending on who you ask, simplifying the name may be a good thing or a bad thing. For me, I think that cutting it down and including a number makes it much easier to know how it compares to your current router or access point. How could anyone tell if N was better than G or AC is better than N. WiFi 6 has been out for a while now and it has finally started to trickle out to devices like phones and a lot of the medium to high-end motherboards I have been testing. With motherboards having WiFi 6 I haven’t been able to properly test them without updating our office network to it. Which is where EnGenius comes in, they were kind enough to send over their ECW230 WiFi 6 Access Point and their ECS1008P 8-port PoE Managed Switch to up our testing capabilities and today I want to check out what WiFi 6 is all about and see what makes EnGenius’s access point special as well!

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Elgato 4K60 Pro MK2

Almost 20 years ago after I bought my first PC (at least the first one I bought myself) I did my first few upgrades which included more memory, a large hard drive (I think it was close to 20GB), and a video card so I could play all of the games that I wanted to play. I also tied my PC into what was my “entertainment center” in my bedroom which meant being able to output sound to my obnoxiously large stereo and being able to receive signal from devices like my DVD player and game consoles to watch things on my PC with a really poor quality USB capture device. Well, things have improved drastically from there as has the need for capture devices as well now with streaming and YouTube video production. I’ve gone through what is now a large collection of them myself from using them to stream our Old School tournament at LANs and needing one to capture motherboard BIOS’ for motherboard reviews. My most recent one was the Razer Ripsaw which while still functional only works on a few devices after windows updates broke it. So I was excited to see Elgato introduce their latest and greatest, the 4K60 Pro MK2 last fall. Today I’m going to check their new device out and also talk a little more about what sets this apart from the original 4K60 Pro which shares the same name.

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Elgato Stream Deck XL

Does anyone else remember the Maximus Keyboard? It was a full keyboard designed with small screens in every key. All the way back in 2005 it hit the internet and while it was just a concept back then it blew my mind with the possibilities. It did later come out at a crazy price point and they have even continued to make other variations. But it wasn’t until Elgato brought their first Stream Deck to market that the idea has ever really seen a proper use and a market that actually needed it, not just as something to show off or play around with. Well, today I’m going to check out the Stream Deck XL, Elgato’s third and largest model. I’ve been extremely curious how it could be integrated into regular PC use or workflow as well as the more obvious streaming application.

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Cooler Master GS750 Headphone Stand

If you are like to keep your desk all organized there is a good chance you have a headphone stand or have considered getting one. I personally have had a few different designs. I’ve even seen people use banana stands as a cheaper alternative, especially before a lot of the “gaming” companies got into the market and started making them. Well, recently a few companies have been making them up adding other features including Cooler Master. They showed one-off at Computex and they have finally released it. They call it the GS750 and in addition to being a headphone stand it also has a wireless phone charger built-in, USB ports, a 7.1 sound card, and of course… RGB lighting. Well, today I’m going to check it out, it most certainly isn’t going to fail from lacking features. But is there too much going on? Is this something people want? I’m going to check it out today and find out.

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SilverStone RGB fan grills, Christmas decorations?

Late October I was at FortCon for their LAN event and I won a SilverStone FG121. I know the name doesn’t really explain what it is, but basically, it is a clear fan grill with RGB lighting built into it. The grills have SilverStone's snowflake design and this brought up the discussion with how it actually looks like an ornament. Well, one thing leads to another and not long after the event I reached out to SilverStone with a weird idea turning our new Christmas tree into an RGB tree with their grills. The idea is relatively simple, but there were a few things I had to figure out. So today I’m going to show what I did, maybe if you have one or two laying around or other RGB products you can take my idea to another level.

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CableMod AIO Sleeving Kit

Okay so just about everyone and their moms have AIO kits in their PC these days. They have gone down in pricing and when it comes to the nicer builds there are now a lot of good options available. A lot of the companies even now pre-sleeve their kits for an even cleaner look. But if you are running an AIO, the one thing you can’t do that you can with a custom water cooling kit is change the color of your coolant. Well, CableMod came out with another option last year and I put it to use in our D-Frame Mini build this week. They have sleeving kits for your AIO kit available in a few different colors. Today I’m going to take a quick look at them and see how easy they are to install and find out if they are worth picking up.

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LanReel

For anyone unaware, when you go to a typical LAN party one of the things you need to bring along with your PC is an ethernet cable. The length of the cable depends on where your seat is and where the switch is located but most events just recommend bringing a 25-foot cable. Any cable will get the job done but you want to be able to spot it and you want to be able to pack it up quickly when the event is over. For me I use bring orange cables for both my wife and I so they stand out at the switch and then I just use Velcro cable wraps on the cable to keep it all bundled up. This gets the job done and helps maintain my cable, but it isn’t the fastest to pack up at the end. I do have to take my time winding it up to prevent damage and to make sure next LAN I don’t have a mess. Well a while back a good friend of ours Matt who you might know better as Vector from PDXLAN introduced me to Nick aka Vaelin who has been to PDX events from the beginning. Long story short, he has designed a solution to all of this in what he calls the LanReel. It is a 25-foot network cable that can quickly be spooled back up and packed away in your LANbag. He sent one over and I’ve been playing with it for a little while now, today I wanted to talk a little more about it and show everyone what it is all about.

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Dropping cable with the Nvidia Shield TV

For years my wife and I dropped cable television simply because we didn’t have the money for it in our budget. Then eventually we added back a basic package and were okay with that. Fast forward 6 years later and we are spending a fortune and have every channel under the sun. What happened was they slowly offered us deals that added additional channels, we started watching shows on those channels and then when the deal went away I would call and tell them I was going to drop it all and they would add even more channels to get me to stay. When we bought a new house though it was finally time to find a better option to save some money and it just so happened that Nvidia had sent out their Shield TV to us and it was sitting unused. So today I’m going to talk a little about how I dropped cable by using the Shield TV and I’ve been loving it.

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Nest Thermostat and Protect

As you guys have most likely noticed, things have been slow around here for a few months now. In addition to being sick a few times and hurting my back. We also bought a new house and had been working on the move and later doing work around the house. One of the best parts about moving and getting a new place is that I finally have an excuse to take a closer look at more of the home automation and smart home products that have been coming out. Even before the move I had a few things already planned and upgrading to a smart thermostat was one of them. Well, I reached out to Nest and they sent over a new Gen 3 Thermostat as well as one of their Nest Protect smoke and CO detectors. I finally have some time with both and wanted to run through what they do and how they have performed for me so far.

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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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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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TP-Link LB130 WiFi LED Bulb with RGB

The idea of a smart home really started to pick up in the late 90’s but it really wasn’t until recently when wireless technology got small enough to be integrated into various devices around your house. The whole idea that every device and part of your house would be wired together was expensive and took a lot of work. Recently though you start to see lots of devices come with wireless integration, hell even my humidifier connects to my wireless network. But the whole idea really comes together when LEDs, wireless, and smartphone all come together. That is why you are starting to see new lightbulbs that can be controlled remotely that plug into standard light sockets. TP-Link has jumped on board with the whole idea and has a whole mix of smart home products. They sent over their LB130, a WiFi capable LED light bulb with fully integrated RGB lighting as well. So I’ve been messing around with today we are going to check out what it's about. Is the smart home finally here? Let's find out!

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