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PC News and Reviews

Rosewill NEON K81 RGB Gaming Keyboard Review

July 22, 2018 — by ThinkComputers.org0

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It seems as if not a week can go by without seeing the release of a new RGB-enabled device. From fans and light strips, to keyboards and mice, there are hundreds, if not thousands of RGB products available to PC enthusiasts. Rosewill, a company that has been around since 2004, is right there in the mix, providing RGB products. One of their latest keyboard designs is the NEON K81 RGB, a mechanical keyboard with per-key RGB illumination, as well as a configurable RGB outer rim. Available with either Blue or Brown Kailh switches, the K81 is a full sized keyboard with a subtle but stylish look. Let’s take a closer look!

Special thanks to Rosewill for providing us with the NEON K81 review sample!

Specifications

Color: Black
Layout: 108-key
Switch Type: Kailh Blue or Brown
Switch Travel Distance: 4.0mm
Lifecycle: 50 million keystrokes
Keycap Material: ABS
Weight: 2.2lbs
Interface: USB
Dimensions: 17.44in x 5.32in x 1.28in
RGB Colors: 16.8 million colors
Cable: 5.9ft, braided
Wristrest: Detached, Padded
Anti-Ghosting: Yes, N-Key rollover
Graphical UI: Yes

Packaging

The first thing we noticed about the K81’s packaging was the bright coloring and glossy accents. Rosewill did a great job relaying what the keyboard looks like, and the front of the box offers not only a visual reference, but also lists a few of the major features of the keyboard.

Around back get get a smaller image of the keyboard, which allows for more room to detail the features and specifications of the K81. Multiple images and call-outs help to give a good overview of the keyboard and its included features.

Accessories

While we have become used to seeing extra keycaps and pullers included with many keyboards lately, the K81’s kitting is quite sparse. Aside from a user manual and feedback card, the only other item in the box is a wristrest, which feels more like an afterthought than a feature.

The included wristrest, while quite comfortable, is quite underwhelming. There is no way to attach the wristrest to the keyboard, and the textured plastic underside can have trouble staying in place depending on your desk surface. In addition, the wristrest is quite bowed, raising up on both ends. Even after quite a bit of use and sitting on our desk, it has only slightly flattened out.

Tech News

'Emojiland' review: Come for the 💩, stay for the 💗

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Warning: This review contains mild spoilers.

Spending two hours of my life watching emoji deal with existential crises isn’t something I ever expected to do. That almost feels fitting considering that the show’s creators, Keith and Laura Harrison, never expected they’d have the chance to stage their emoji musical off-Broadway. Emojiland runs through Sunday as part of the New York Musical Festival, and it endeavors to deal with weightier subjects than you might expect from a show in which a woman dressed as a 💩 brings the house down with a brassy, gospel-inspired number in a bathroom stall. But what is it like to actually sit through? Not bad, actually, as long as you’re walking in with an open mind.

The narrative is, as you might expect, pretty thin. All is more or less well in this microcosmic kingdom until a software update arrives — which obviously calls for a party at the Progress Bar — bringing a handful of new emoji with it.

Packed with endearing characters and scene-stealing performances, Emojiland is a charming way to kill an evening off-Broadway. Just beware of the show’s uneven pacing and scattershot character development — it’s been four years in the making, and the show still feels like it needs more focus.

The newcomers instantly give the cast a jolt of energy: The feckless, domineering Princess emoji (played with scene-stealing verve by Broadway vet Lesli Margherita) suddenly meets her match in a flamboyant Prince (Josh Lamon) who can belt just as well as she can. And Emojiland co-creator Keith Harrison soon appears as Nerd Face, the endearing, nasal pseudo-protagonist who quickly forms an emotional connection with the Smiling Face With Smiling Eyes emoji (also known as Smize) played by the show’s other co-creator, Harrison’s wife, Laura.

Given their years-long marriage, it’s little surprise that the moments the Harrisons share onstage feel so substantial. Even though the circumstances of Nerd Face and Smize’s meeting are somewhat trite, their affection embodies an earnest magnetism that’s totally absent in the bond Smize shares with her douchebag boyfriend, Sunny. (You might know him better as 😎.) It’s at this point that Emojiland reveals its true colors. Sure, you’re there to see how emoji deal with a world-ending crisis in two hours, but it revels in fleshing out the relationships that the world is built around.

Especially affecting was the easy, natural romance between the female Police Officer emoji (Angela Wildflower) and female Construction Worker emoji (Megan Kane), which provided a satisfying contrast to the show’s other love story. While Nerd Face and Smize spend the show sorting out their feelings for each other, PoPo and CoWo, as they refer to each other, have an established, caring relationship between two working women devoted to their careers and each other.

Theirs is the most mature and functional relationship in Emojiland, and the fact that the show portrays a gay, interracial love story without so much as

Tech News

Zero motorcycle’s modular battery is one pricey upgrade

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

FX Get more info More Scores Engadget Not yet scored   Critic Not yet scored   Users Not yet scored   Key Specs

On a spreadsheet, electric motorcycles can be a tough sell. For starters, gas-powered bikes get outstanding mileage. So while hybrids and electric cars can save a driver money in the long run, that doesn’t really apply to motorcycles. Instead, there’s the warm fuzzy feeling that you’re doing something good for the environment. In addition, you can silently cruise around without frightening the neighborhood pets with a bombastic exhaust. Oh and there’s also the incredible electric torque.

Engadget Score Poor Uninspiring Good Excellent Key Zero Motorcycles FX 83 Pros Fast and nimble Fun to ride No transmission Over-the-air updates Cons Pricey Modular battery pack only makes sense for a small group of people Summary

A fun, quick and nimble commuter bike with a modular battery pack that most people won’t use. The fixed 7.2kWh is probably the the better bet.

The new Zero FX with modular battery (starting at $8,495.00 for the 3.2kWh version) is an even tougher sell on that spreadsheet. It’s a great bike with an intriguing feature: the ability to swap batteries and keep on riding without the hassle of waiting for a bike to charge. That sounds awesome right? It is, but it’s for a select group of riders and to be part of that group, be ready to pony up some cash.

The FX is the more capable version of the FXS I rode before. It’s able to hit the asphalt as well as the dirt. I had a blast riding it in both environments. Plus its lightweight (289 pounds) which gives it a nimbleness that’s perfect for lane splitting on San Francisco’s narrow streets.

I rode the 7.2kWh version of the bike which actually uses two 3.6kWh modular battery packs. Removing the batteries isn’t tough (you just unlock a bar and pull them out) but it requires you to be ready to carry a very heavy brick of electrons. The FX only requires a single battery to operate giving you the option of charging one battery while riding with another hence the 3.2kWh version of the bike. But with that second power supply plugged in the FX bike has 78 foot-pounds

PC News and Reviews

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (3rd Generation) Review

July 17, 2018 — by ThinkComputers.org0

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The ThinkPad brand has always been the “iconic” business laptop brand and for good reason. ThinkPad’s have always performed great and had the business features people want. The ThinkPad X1 Yoga is a great 2-in-1 that gives you the feel of a traditional notebook, but also can transform into a tablet, be set to give a presentation, or even view multimedia. The X1 Yoga is currently in its third generation, bringing with it the new Intel 8th Generation Core i5-8250U quad-core processor. This Core i5 processor does support Hyper-Threading and has a very impressive power envelope of only 15W. Lenovo has also updated the finger print reader and even put a shutter on the webcam so you don’t have to worry about anyone spying on you! Is this the perfect business laptop for you? Read on as we find out!

Special thanks to Lenovo for providing us with the ThinkPad X1 Yoga (3rd Generation) to review.

Specifications
Processor: Intel 8th Generation Core i5-8250U
Memory: 8 GB LPDDR3 2133MHz (Onboard)
Hard Drive: 256 GB Solid State Drive, PCIe-NVMe OPAL2.0 M.2
Graphics: Integrated Intel® UHD Graphics 620
Wireless: Intel Dual Band 8265 Wireless AC (2 x 2) & Bluetooth 4.1 with vPro
Display: 14.0″ FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS anti-reflective, anti-smudge, multi-touch, 270 nits
Camera: 720p HD Camera with ThinkShutter and microphone
Operating System: Windows 10 Home 64

Price: $1,428.00
Prices Start at: $1253.25

Packaging
Our ThinkPad X1 Yoga came in a cardboard shipping box with both the X1 and ThinkPad logos on it. Opening it up there us a smaller box inside which is protected by two large pieces of foam.

The smaller box inside is black and has the same ThinkPad and Xl logos on it. The top comes off and sort of opens up like a large book to reveal your laptop. Definitely a cool unboxing experience compared to other laptops we’ve reviewed in the past.

Besides the X1 Yoga you’ll also find a power cable and power adapter, user’s guide, setup guide, and warranty guide.

PC News and Reviews

Seagate Ironwolf 6TB NAS Hard Drive Review

July 17, 2018 — by Wccftech.com0

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PRODUCT INFO

Ironwolf 6TB

2017

Type HDD

Price $200

Today we’re reviewing an item that has gotten very little love on the site, something we all have and use but frankly take for granted all the time. The hard drive has been somewhat forgotten as most people mention how its an out of date technology and that NAND is the future, well that still isn’t true and probably won’t be for another few years especially in the high capacity side.

Today we will be taking a look one of Seagate’s Ironwolf drives which are NAS drives used ideally for network attached storage systems, and aim for very fast sequential performance with models from 2TB, 4TB, 6TB, 8TB and 10TB capacities with all of them rotating at 7,200 RPM which is much faster than the competitor WD Red drives which are only 5,400RPM and 3.5 inch format. The 6 TB, 8 TB, and 10 TB models have 256 MB cache memory, while the 2 TB and 4 TB models have 128 Mb of cache RAM.

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Being focused on the enterprise network environment, the IronWolf Pro aims at performance, but also on data protection. They are recommended to NAS units with up to 16 drives and, according to the manufacturer, come with vibration sensors that help to protect data while under mechanical vibration.

Seagate has had in recent years problems with the Backblaze reliability study did show the Seagate drives in the past being less reliable than the competition, though their methodology isn’t perfect it is a rather useful indicator of drive reliability. Seagate has chosen to add a Guardian series in recent years and has promised to improve reliability in all their drives as well.

Seagate With Their Entry In The NAS Market With Ironwolf Drives

Seagate’s AgileArray technology is several features that have been designed to provide a better user experience. Here we will list the features:

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  • IronWolf Health Management in their compatible NAS systems continuously helps to safeguard the health of your data
  • Drive balance with Rotational Vibration (RV) sensors manages multi-bay vibration for long-term consistent performance and reliability
  • RAID performance optimized that maximizes responsiveness and uptime with NAS-aware Error Recovery Control
  • Advanced power management saves energy and delivers the right power at the right time

Seagate does go above and beyond with things that aren’t listed on the box. For instance, Seagate attaches the spindle to both the top and bottom of the case which will improve stability. The drives also support the ATA-8 streaming command set for increased performance when doing large sequential transfers. This allows the IronWolf to handle a maximum of up to 64 data streams simultaneously.

AgileArray also features optimized power management that provides a faster response time while still reducing power consumption.

First Look At The Seagate Ironwolf 6TB – Unboxing And Closer Look

When Seagate samples HDDs they do not send them in retail boxes, so the packaging here is minimal. We have the standard plastic antistatic bag most HDDs ate shipped in and see for the most part a standard drive built for NAS purposes.

This drive has slightly different locking positions compared to regular consumer HDDs, check your drive cages and if you have 2 small rounded pieces sticking out of the bottom of the cage to “lock” the drive in place you need to either get rid of them with a file/Dremel or use another drive cage. This was an Issue I ran into with my Phanteks case, though other drive caddies that I had on hand fit just fine.

Testing Setup

Component Model
CPU AMD Ryzen R7 1700 @ 3.4GHz
Memory G.Skill Ripjaws 16GB 3200MHz
PSU XFX 1050W
OS Windows 10-64 Bit Spring 2018 Update
Motherboard Asus X370 ROG Hero IV
SSD Patriot Burst 480GB
MyDigitalSSD SuperBoost2 512GB

I use a Ryzen test bench for my reviews, since most other websites test with Intel mainstream platforms, I personally think this is useful for all of those users who are using AMD’s Ryzen CPUs and AM4 socket motherboards to get a good idea on what kind of performance they should expect. For this review we didn’t have much on hand that was comparable to this drive, so the main idea here is to show its relative performance to an older higher-end HDD. While it is not necessarily a fair comparison it is a good representation of how much hard drives have come in terms of performance. I was considering adding an SSD as a baseline of high-end performance, but ultimately decided against it, I would like to know what our reader’s thoughts are on this though and would appreciate further input.

Seagate Ironwolf 6TB Performance Benchmarks

Crystal Disk Info 7.5.1

Crystal Disk Info is a wide tool for displaying the characteristics and health of storage devices. It will display temperatures, the number of power on hours, the number of times it has been powered on, and even informing you of the firmware version of the device.

We see some Seek Error rate values here, mostly due to the drive being improperly formatted the first time I set it up and some issues with some of the benchmarking software.

ATTO Disk Benchmark

As the industry’s leading provider of high-performance storage & network connectivity products, ATTO has created a widely-accepted Disk Benchmark freeware software to help measure storage system performance. As one of the top tools utilized in the industry, Disk Benchmark identifies performance in hard drives, solid state drives, RAID arrays as well as the host connection to attached storage. Top drive manufacturers, like Hitachi, build and test every drive using the ATTO Disk Benchmark.

The ATTO Disk Benchmark performance measurement tool is compatible with Microsoft Windows. Use ATTO Disk Benchmark to test any manufacturers RAID controllers, storage controllers, host bus adapters (HBAs), hard drives and SSD drives and notice that ATTO products will consistently provide the highest level of performance to your storage.

Looking at ATTO we see a significant performance difference between the two drives, and respectable performance the whole way through the benchmark for the Seagate Ironwolf 6TB which remains much closer to some of the SSD’s we’ve tested until we hit past 16KB which all of the SSDs we’ve tested absolutely fly past at, though roughly 230MB/s is still rather respectable.

Crystal Disk Mark 6.0

CrystalDiskMark is a disk benchmark software Made by a Japanese coder named Hiyohiyo and is one of the simplest and most frequently used tests for storage due to its simple and easy to understand UI. It measure sequential reads/writes speed,measure random 512KB, 4KB, 4KB (Queue Depth=32) reads/writes speed,select test data (Random, 0Fill, 1Fill)

Here the Ironwolf absolutely decimates the older WD Black, as it should since it costs about $200 and is a few years newer. The Seagate Ironwolf 6TB at worst leads by only 60% and at most takes a lead almost 3 times that in 4k writes. Frankly, this is rather impressive here.

PCMark 8 Storage 2.0

The PCMark 8 Storage Benchmark is used to create real-world testing scenarios that many users use on an everyday basis. With 10 traces recorded from Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office and as well as Battlefield 3 and World Of Warcraft, the light to heavy common workloads have been represented. This is unlike other tests that it shows off real-world performance between storage devices. The higher the score the better the drive performs, and application tests are measured in seconds. The test has a break in cycle as well as 3 rounds of testing.

For PCMark 8 we see a more realistic use case scenario and even though the drive is much faster, HDDs are still not ideal for applications and an SSD is really what most people should be using at this point. That being said the Seagate Ironwolf 6TB is about 20% faster in most of these tests.

HD Tune Pro 5.7

HD Tune Pro is an HDD and SSD utility with many functions, the main one here is benchmarking performance which we do by using its standard sequential read and write tests along with its random read and write tests, which because of the amount of data presented we have split into 4 separate graphs.

HD Tune Pro 5.7 Sequential Benchmark

Here with the exception of the access times which are measured in milliseconds, higher is better for all other tests which are measured in MB/s

We more of the same, an absolute thrashing of the older drive while remaining 6 times larger it remains 30% to 80% faster in all the tests we’ve seen so far, with the exception of access times which are really close and the WD model even beats it, which is suspect is due to the fact the older drive is much smaller.

HD Tune Pro 5.7 Random Benchmark

Here Access make up a majority of the tests which lower is better here with IOPS and sequential speeds being better when higher.

Looking through the mass of results here we can see much more consistency in access time in reads and writes for the Seagate Ironwolf 6TB though in some cases the average access time the WD Black drive does beat it by 10% or so.

Though the random performance of the WD Black is all over the place and the Seagate Ironwolf 6TB is twice as fast and the write tests are an absolute joke on the WD drive, though oddly enough the random max access time on the Seagate Ironwolf 6TB drive is worse, I assume this is due to  it being the larger drive, though I will find out more with further testings with newer drives in the pipeline.

Conclusion

Looking at comparable drives the Seagate Ironwolf 6TB is definitely a strong contender and would make a great fit inside any home NAS as a file server for a Plex server, or any on-demand type service, as well as a solid part of a small businesses NAS set up. With only a 3 year warranty those looking to keep important data may want to look at the higher end Pro series of drives for the higher year workload rate and 5-year warranty. As it stands $200 for 6TB is not the cheapest you can get storage today, as Seagate has 4TB mainstream drives at 5900RPM for half that though it is not for a higher end drive like this.

Quite simply I plan on using this drive myself in a future home NAS system and streaming media box, and if that is your goal or hell even throwing in your primary system this drive will do a solid job. Also as this is my first high-end HDD review and the first HDD review i’ve done in years I would once again appreciate the help of our readers to know what types of tests they would like to see in the future or any specific use cases they might have and their current interest level as well as personal usages for large capacity drives like this one. Finally the drive is currently on sale for Amazon Prime day for $135 and you should seriously consider picking one up.

8.5

A solid performer through and through

Performance9.5

Value7

Design & Aesthetics5

Features7

Pros

  • Strong performance
  • Decent bang for buck
  • NAS feature set

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PC News and Reviews

AZIO Retro Classic Elwood Keyboard Review

July 16, 2018 — by ThinkComputers.org0

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AZIO started this whole retro keyboard thing back in 2016 with the MK Retro keyboard. A year later they took things even further with the Retro Classic, which added a real metal frame and different surface materials to truly give it that classic typewriter look and feel. This year AZIO has updated the keyboard once again, first they have added Bluetooth functionality as well as making the keyboard compatible with both PC and Mac systems. Next we have a new color-design which is called Elwood. It features a metal frame around the keyboard with the top-plate being made of real wood. Of course you have those iconic circular keycaps and mechanical key switches as well. Let’s take a look at this truly unique keyboard…

Special thanks to AZIO for providing us with the Retro Classic Elwood Keyboard to review.

Specifications

Packaging
The Retro Classic comes in a very nice retail package. On the front there is a picture of the keyboard and each individual color-design actually has its own box design.

Flipping over to the back there is another photo of the keyboard as well as a list of the main features.

Inside of the main box is another box where you will find the Retro Classic Elwood keyboard, USB Type-C charging cable, Mac layout replacement keycaps, a microfiber cleaning cloth, user’s guide, and warranty card.

PC News and Reviews

Biostar B360GT3S Motherboard Review

July 15, 2018 — by ThinkComputers.org0

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When Intel released their 8th generation “Coffee Lake” processors back in October 2017 they were released alongside the enthusiast-class Z370 chipset. That was the only chipset you could use with these new processors at the time. Now you have the option of H370, B360, and H310. The B360 chipset differs from H370 in a few different ways, first you only have support for a single x16 PCI-E slot, only 12 PCI-E lanes (compared to 24), fewer USB ports, and there is no CPU or memory overclocking. Today we will be checking out a B360 board from Biostar. This is actually our first look at a B360 board, but also our first look at a board from Biostar. The Biostar B360GT3S motherboard is part of Biostar’s Racing line, which is a gaming line within their product stack. Let’s take a look and see if their is a lower-cost alternative to getting a Z370 motherboard.

Special thanks to Biostar for providing us with the B360GT3S Motherboard to review.

Packaging
The B360GTS3 comes in nice retail box. One the front there is an “R” in RGB colors for the Racing line.

Flipping over to the back there is an overview of some of the main features of the board as well as an overview going over all of the ports and connections.

Opening the box up and getting things out we find four SATA cables, an I/O shield, driver and utility CD, and a user’s manual.

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Tech News

No one needs this $279 vibrating face puck

July 13, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

I’ll admit it: Any combination of tech and skincare gets me super excited, and I was stoked to try out the Foreo UFO. It’s a puck that heats up, vibrates and glows to enhance the traditional facial-sheet-mask experience, and it can be controlled via an app. But I didn’t just relish the excuse to pamper myself in the name of work. I was also intrigued by the potential for the device to not only cut down application time from 15-20 minutes to about 90 seconds but also help my skin better absorb the mask’s essences.

Gallery: Foreo UFO smart mask review | 7 Photos 7 +3 Engadget Score Poor Uninspiring Good Excellent Key Foreo UFO from $279.00 Buy Now 73 Pros Heat and vibrations make masks more intense App is generally helpful Individual masks feel and smell good Cons Expensive Must scan Foreo sachet barcode before each session Device is slightly heavy Summary

The Foreo UFO speeds up the application of facial sheet masks by heating up and vibrating, and purports to boost your complexion with its LEDs that glow red or green. But it doesn’t produce enough results do justify the $279 price tag. For most people, anyway.

Instead of chilling out while the essences seep into your skin, you’ll first have to turn on the device, pair it to the app (which is consistently quick) and select the mask you’re using. During each session, the companion app guides you through the process and explains what the puck is doing while you rub it all over your face. It’s all very comforting and makes me feel like the device is actually doing something more than a regular mask. The heat, in particular, is pleasant, although sometimes it can sting if you let it linger on one spot.

It only weighs 146 grams, about the weight of an iPhone 8, but as I dragged it all around my face and neck for 90 seconds, it started to feel heavier. Switching hands usually alleviated the strain, so it’s not a huge deal. I typically used the UFO standing up, but on the rare occasions when I’d lie down and use it for a more relaxing session, the weight was less of an issue. But then the risk of accidentally dropping the puck was real, and potentially painful.

What I struggled to get used to was scanning the bar code of each mask’s packaging. The first time I used it I had actually thrown away the sachet

Tech News

Chrome OS on a tablet doesn't make a lot of sense

July 13, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Chromebook Tab 10 Get more info More 68 Scores Engadget 68   Critic Not yet scored   Users Not yet scored   Key Specs Form factor  Tablet Operating system  Linux Storage type  Internal storage Camera (integrated)  Yes Maximum battery life  Up to 9hr

Google and a wide variety of hardware makers tried for years to get Android tablets to catch on, but they were never able to match the success Apple found with the iPad. At the same time, though, Google’s Chrome OS was gaining new features and finding traction with both individuals and in the education market. The latter has been particularly important — and with Apple and Microsoft both pushing tablets for education, Google has decided it’s time for Chrome OS to arrive on tablets as well.

Enter Acer’s awkwardly named Chromebook Tab 10, the first tablet to run Chrome OS. It costs $330 and is focused squarely on the education market. Acer built the device specifically for classrooms; the company has stressed that this isn’t a tablet meant for the average consumer. As such, this device doesn’t come close to matching the fit and finish you’ll find on an iPad or Microsoft’s new Surface Go. Still, it’s the only Chrome tablet out there, so it’s the only way right now to see if Google’s OS works as well on a keyboard-less machine as it does on a laptop.

Gallery: Acer Chromebook Tab 10 | 12 Photos 12 +8 Engadget Score Poor Uninspiring Good Excellent Key Acer Chromebook Tab 10 68 Pros Nice screen Solid battery life Having the desktop-class Chrome browser on a tablet is very nice Cons Poor performance Terrible cameras Chrome OS isn’t optimized for tablets yet Expensive for what you get Summary

Acer’s first Chrome OS tablet is hard to recommend, even for its intended education audience. A Chromebook with a proper keyboard would be far more useful, as Chrome OS hasn’t been optimized for tablets yet. Meanwhile, if you really want a tablet, there’s no reason to recommend this over an iPad, which costs the same.

Multitasking

Booting up the Chromebook Tab 10 feels familiar. There’s a quick setup

Gaming News

Octopath Traveler: The Kotaku Review

July 12, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Eight people gather in a tavern, swapping stories and preparing for adventure. It’s not clear why they’re traveling together—there’s a pious cleric and a murderous dancer in this odd crew—but they’ve united nonetheless.

As they wanderacross the world, each of these people gets their turn to take the reins. In one city the hunter will continue her desperate quest to save her master; in another, the merchant will hustle her wares. Urgency is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter that one woman is racing against time to rescue a kidnapped family member. When the scholar wants to hunt down a missing book, she’ll happily come along. She won’t complain. She’s just there for the ride.

Some of these stories are entertaining, others trite, but they’re always independent. They never intersect or share common ground. To buy that these eight adventurers would team up, putting aside their own motives to help each other out, requires a suspension of disbelief well beyond what most video games ask of the people who play them. Why would a hardened thief spend so much of his time hanging out with a goody-two-shoes healer? It’s never quite explained.

Octopath Traveler feels disparate and unsettling, like someone took out pieces from eight different Lego sets and stuck them all together. The game is not elegant enough to make up for that.

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Octopath Traveler, out Friday for Nintendo Switch, is designed to be a callback to old-school role-playing games. With sprites inspired by Final Fantasy VI and a structure reminiscent of SaGa Frontier and Live-A-Live, this game has been eyed as a holy grail for anyone who misses the golden age, the days when developer Square Enix pumped out classic after classic. Indeed, it’s got everything you might expect from a turn-based JRPG: levels, side quests, character classes, a variety of items and equipment, and so on.

The first thing you’ll notice is the production values, and there, Octopath Traveler never stops impressing. The soundtrack is stellar, full of piano and horns and pennywhistles, and it all looks gorgeous, as if Square’s artists from the 1990s had never stopped sharpening their pixels. Plastering two-dimensional sprites on three-dimensional backgrounds, the game is full of eye candy, from endless deserts to snowy fields to one very familar-looking opera house.

Yet Octopath Traveler is shallow, disjointed, and unbelievably repetitive. The combat system is excellent, which helps keep the game enjoyable even through its grindiest moments, but even that can’t mask the game’s many structural flaws.

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The game consists of eight standalone stories about eight different characters (hence: “Octopath Traveler”). Each of these stories is four chapters long, making for a total of 32 chapters. Thirty-one of these chapters follow the same pattern. You enter a town, watch some cut-scenes, talk to people in the town using your character’s Path Action (more on that later), watch some more cut-scenes, go into a dungeon, and fight a boss. Then the chapter ends.

All of these dungeons also follow a pattern. There are around 50 dungeons in the game, some optional, and every single one is identical: There’s one main path, and then there are branches that lead to treasure chests. Sure, the aesthetics will change—maybe you’ll descend the depths of a sewer, fight through a haunted forest, or explore a mansion—but every dungeon in the game has the same structure. Once you’ve played through one of these dungeons, you’ve seen them all.

Even some of the bosses feel like clones. Each of the eight Chapter 2 bosses, for example, stands next to a pair of minions who must be destroyed before you can damage the boss’s weaknesses. This is less interesting the sixth time it happens.

What makes this structure even more tedious is the grind. Every chapter has a “recommended level,” gating you off until your party is strong enough, which essentially stops you from powering through each story one at a time. You’ll probably need to grind a little bit no matter what. Problem is, only your four active party members get experience. Anyone you’ve recruited who’s not in your party will just sit in the tavern, unleveled, waiting until you’re ready to help them find treasure or save their loved ones or whatever else. And they won’t quickly gain levels to catch up to the rest of the party when you beat a tough enemy, like characters might in a Suikoden game. Leveling from the 20s to the 40s will always be a sluggish process. Thanks to these level gates, finishing all eight stories is a chore.

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You also can’t feasibly play each story in linear order because of the level requirements, so you’ll likely switch off as you go, which means you lurch from one storyline to another. It’s not that Octopath Traveler’s stories are particularly hard to follow, as packed with clichés as they are, but each chapter of the game introduces a handful of new non-player characters. Many of those NPCs look the same, thanks to the game’s wonderful but indistinguishable sprite work. The game offers a story refresher at the beginning of each new chapter, which is helpful, but it’s hard to even remember everything that’s happened in all eight stories, let alone stay emotionally invested.

Really, it’s hard to stay emotionally invested for a lot of reasons. The characters’ stories are too shallow and trite to make much of an impact. They have their good and bad moments. The merchant Tressa’s story of salesmanship is a delight, and the apothecary Alfyn’s tale asks some interesting questions—are you obligated to heal a man you know is a murderer? Less appealing is the hunter Ha’anit’s tale thanks to her story’s incomprehensible word soup of olde English. (Sample dialogue: “Comen now, girl! Thou’rt too young by half for such world-weary sighs. Must thou makest our parting so gloomy?”)

NOTE: There’s been a lot of confusion over whether Octopath Traveler’s eight stories overlap or lead to some sort of epilogue. After finishing all eight, we’ve seen nothing like that. It’s not clear whether the game contains any sort of bonus endgame content—Nintendo says that it does, but the publisher could not tell us before publication what that content is or how to access it, only saying that it was “a matter of completing the storylines and some side quests.”

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During each of these stories, the game pretends that nobody else is around. You’ll only see the hero of any given story in cut-scenes, which is jarring when you know they’ve got a full party with them. One late chapter’s scene, for example, features a dramatic turnaround where a villain escapes after gravely injuring the main character. For Octopath Traveler to ignore the three other characters—who are following that main character around and participating in every battle—is hard to get over. Why couldn’t one of them stopped the villain? Your party members can interact during optional Tales-style vignettes between cut-scenes, but they’re insignificant, just there for flavor. As you’re progressing through each main story, the party won’t talk.

Most JRPGs ask you to suspend your disbelief in some way—sure, you can fly around the world raising chocobos even though a meteor is about to destroy the world—but Octopath Traveler takes it to an extreme. You have to spend the entire game not only buying that a noble cleric and honorable swordsman would hang out with a nasty thief, but that they’d participate in his heists. You have to buy into a whole lot of narrative decisions that simply don’t make sense.

It may sound at this point like I hated Octopath Traveler, but in fact, I enjoyed most of my time with it, for a simple reason: The moment-to-moment gameplay is actually pretty great. That’s all because of this game’s strongest element—the combat system.

Every fight in Octopath Traveler takes place on a turn-based battlefield, with your party on the right and enemies on the left. You’ll see the turn order on top of the screen, while underneath each bad guy you’ll see a row of weaknesses, displayed at first as question marks, alongside a shield with a number on it. Every time you attack an enemy’s weakness, be it a weapon type (swords, staves, bows) or an element (fire, water, darkness), you’ll knock that number down. When it hits 0, you’ll get a “Break” and that enemy will be stunned, costing it a round in combat and making it vulnerable to all of your attacks.

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You can also use Bonus Points, sort of like the Brave ability in Bravely Default, to give each character multiple physical attacks or augment their skills’ strength. Every character will gain BP on every new round—except for the round directly after they’ve used a boost. This leads to a constant stream of interesting decisions. Do you want to use your two bonus points this turn to finish off one enemy or wait until the next turn, risking that you’ll get hit, in order to have three bonus points and use an uber-powerful special attack?

The system gets more complicated as the game goes on, and in action, it feels fantastic, adding strategy to even the most insignificant battles. You can’t just mash A and call it a day; enemies with their shields up are strong to most of your attacks. You have to guess their weaknesses and act accordingly.

Octopath Traveler’s many bosses add more wrinkles to this system, sometimes locking off their own weaknesses, boosting their shields, and doing other fun things I won’t spoil. The key to beating the game is figuring out optimal strategies for each one, taking advantage of your characters’ skills, boosts, and buffs and debuffs to do as much damage as possible. As you reach the fourth and final boss in each character’s story, you have to know the system cold. If you waste a turn or make a wrong move, you’ll probably lose.

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Tressa’s story is the best of the eight tales, although none of them are particularly great.

There’s also a light job system that allows you to equip each character with one of 12 jobs (eight based on the main characters, and four optional super-jobs that are guarded by uber-tough bosses). These dozen jobs allow your characters to equip additional weapons and skills. So if you’re leaving Therion the thief on the bench, you can stick the thief job on the warrior Olberic so he can use those powerful debuffs. Or you can transform the apothecary Alfyn into a way better healer by giving him Ophilia’s cleric job. Experimenting with these combos is fun and rewarding.

Octopath Traveler’s other systems are also fun, if shallow. There are tons of side activities, though most of them are tedious fetch quests that offer little reward. (Inexplicably, these side quests don’t offer experience, only gold and items, which is too bad—they could have been a nice way to mitigate the grind.) Almost all of them require you to use one of the eight characters’ Path Actions, which are abilities they can use outside of combat. For example, Therion the thief can steal items from NPCs. Ophilia the priest can use “Guide” to recruit an NPC to the party, allowing you to summon him or her for temporary help during combat. Olberic the knight can challenge NPCs to one-on-one duels, knocking them out if he wins.

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Despite the side quests’ tedium and lack of reward, it’s fun figuring out which of the characters’ Path Actions can solve them. Most side quests don’t give you direction—they just give you a problem and then expect you to figure out the answer. To rescue a helpless woman from a harassing scoundrel, you might challenge him to a duel. To assuage the fears of a worrywart who’s feeling anxious about rising water levels, you might go find a scholar and then use Alfyn’s “Inquire” ability to learn that the water is simply rising due to melting snow. (Hmm.)

The developers of Octopath Traveler clearly looked to role-playing games of the 1990s for inspiration. I wish they’d taken a closer look at SaGa Frontier, the game that appears to have inspired them most. Whereas that game also told a compilation of unrelated stories (seven instead of eight), it did a far better job, in large part because they all felt different. You’d play one at a time rather than zipping around, and they were diverse enough to avoid too much repetition. Lute’s open world quest to avenge his parents felt drastically different than Red’s linear superhero journey, even though you’d visit many of the same locations, because SaGa Frontier constantly switched up its structure. In Octopath Traveler, all eight stories are so repetitive that they blend together, forming one big bland stew.

Octopath Traveler is a beautiful game with one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard. The combat system rocks and will hopefully be used in more Square Enix games to come. There are plenty of good ideas in here. But the game is too grindy, too repetitive, too full of structural problems to be viewed as much more than another botched JRPG experiment.