Distance – PC Early Access Review

 

I’ve always preferred my racing games more on the arcade side of the sim/arcade dichotomy. Racing games aren’t particularly high on my list of favorite genres but there have been some over the years that I’ve spent considerable time with, such as F-Zero, Wipeout XL, and Burnout 3: Takedown.

Distance, a new PC title available via Stream Early Access, feels not unlike the unholy spawn of those games, but with a focus on solo survival racing with a liberal dash of the Tron aesthetic. Oh, and a twisted, insane track designer and even crazier community making free tracks through Steam Workshop and included track editor.

About that Early Access tag: I generally don’t advocate buying Early Access titles, but based on the overwhelmingly positive reviews on Steam for this title, I gave it a shot anyway. I’m glad I did. If the developer stopped working on this game today, I’d still feel I had gotten my money’s worth.  Why?

Let’s start with the game’s visuals.

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Continue reading Distance – PC Early Access Review

Chromebook Pixel 2 (2015) – Full Review

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Preface

Before discussing the actual device, I think it is worth spending a little time reviewing the history of the Chromebook Pixel, and how it relates to the Chromebook concept. If this doesn’t interest you, just skip down to the “Specs” header for the actual review. And if words aren’t so much your thing, check out my video review on YouTube:

 

Chromebook Pixel – Backstory

Chromebooks are, of course, designed to be Cloud machines, primarily focused on web apps and online storage. Given this definition of a Chromebook, it doesn’t really make sense for them to have high-end laptop specs. Without powerful local applications for photo and video editing software, or local graphics-intensive gaming, there’s little need for anything beyond Celeron or Core i3 processors.

Chromebooks have traditionally offered excellent value at the $200-$350 price point, providing very fast boot times, excellent battery life, and a variety of build quality and screen options, though generally most are running on Celeron processors and 1366×768 TN panels.

The one device that completely bucked this trend?

Google’s 2013 Chromebook Pixel, which released in two versions, with the cheaper being $1,299 and the upgraded model $1449!  When released, this Chromebook received generally rave reviews, but also engendered plenty of confused responses, mostly centered around who, exactly, was supposed to buy such a device?

Continue reading Chromebook Pixel 2 (2015) – Full Review

PC Gaming: The Return of the Couch

Until recently, local multi-player gaming – meaning playing games with your friends, on your couch – had become almost the exclusive domain of the videogame console. Have friends over and looking to game? Grab your Playstation, XBox, or Nintendo. This isn’t to say that PC gaming isn’t multi-player focused, but rather that the expectation there was that players were battling online, not against their friends.

In a nutshell: PCs were for the desk, consoles for the living room.

A number of factors have started to change this viewpoint, so much so in fact that some of the best local multi-player games to come out recently have been on the PC, not the console. With Valve pushing couch PC gaming with their Steam Big Picture mode, Steambox initiative, and Steam Link streaming box, I expect this trend to continue for the foreseeable future. The ever-shrinking form factor of the PC now lets PC gamers pack components that far exceed the capability of today’s consoles into a console-esque form factor.

If you already have a PC or a PC streaming device connected to a common area in your home where you can game with friends, you may be looking for some games designed to play with friends, perhaps with a range of gaming experience.

Even if you don’t, though, you may be surprised with what you can do even with non-gaming PCs.

Today, I’ll give you four of my picks for the most enjoyable competitive local multi-player PC games, including:

  • Starwhal
  • Towerfall: Ascension
  • Lethal League
  • Nidhogg

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Acer C740 Chromebook – Full Review

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Before kicking off the review proper, I want to provide some background on Acer’s Chromebook offerings the past few years and look at how and where the C740 fits into their product line.  I’d also like to note that I have a video review up as well, see the bottom of this review for the link if interested.

The Acer C720 is, for many people, the archetypal Chromebook. It pairs a very low cost – starting at $199.99 – with reasonable build quality for the budget category, and snappy performance courtesy of a Haswell-based 2955U processor and 16 GB SSD. Performance at this level was unheard of at the sub-$200 price point before this device launched in late 2013, and even today, Acer is the leading OEM in the Chromebook space largely on the back of this versatile little device.

Full disclosure here: I own a C720 and it was my first Chromebook, so I am very fond of it. You can see how it compares to some low-end Windows devices here: Budget Laptop Battle

On a less positive note, the C720 is also the poster child for the lower quality matte-coated TN panels that ship on many Chromebooks. While they do a good job of handling the glare students might face in a school setting, consumers have become used to significantly better screens due to advances in displays in the tablet computing and smartphone space. Continue reading Acer C740 Chromebook – Full Review

Acer C740 – First Impressions and Unboxing!

I just got an Acer C740 delivered – the 4 GB RAM version for $279.99!

This is the first Chromebook available running the 5th Generation Intel Broadwell 3205U processor, and WOW is it fast. The sticker on the device says seven second boot time, but it is more like five seconds, if even that long. I’ve done three Google Octane tests and they’re all over 13K with the lowest being 13,310 and the highest being 13,508.

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The median score of my three Octane tests: 13439

That is really fast for a $280 computer! In terms of responsiveness this feels as snappy as my desktop as far as handling Chrome, and that’s a 3rd Gen core i7 with 8 GB of RAM. That type of Octane score approaches the 14,500 you’d see on a core i3 C720.

Continue reading Acer C740 – First Impressions and Unboxing!

Android 5.0 Lollipop: 120 Day Checkup

Google recently released a major upgrade to its Android OS platform, moving from 4.4.4 KitKat to 5.0 Lollipop. This process has been uneven, to say the least.

Early reviews from all over the internet were exceedingly positive, even from sites with a general bend toward Apple and iOS, like The Verve. The new “Material Design” theme rolled out at Google I/O in 2014 was likewise popular with almost everyone from the first previews. Lollipop appeared ready to usher in a new era for Android devices… and yet, months after the Nexus 9 launched as the first Lollipop device, adoption is moving at a snail’s pace:

  • After 90 days, Android 5.0 Lollipop (and its subsequent upgrades) can claim less than 2% of Android’s total users.
  • After 150 days, iOS 8 (and its subsequent upgrades) claim over 70% adoption on iOS devices.

What is driving this?  Below, I give my thoughts about Lollipop thus far including my personal experiences with it on three tablets and one phone.

Moto X 2014 with Lollipop and Google Now Launcher:

Google Now Launcher

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