Wednesday, October 28, 2015

JiliK Builds a New PC: The Second Anniversary Spectacular

I'm not sure how much use a two-year old PC build is going to be to anyone, but damn it, I took pictures (which made this take at least twice as long) and pictures demand to be posted, even if they are just accidental Half Life 2 screen shots... Huh? Oh yeah, PCs! So, after quite a few years of faithful service, and a fair few upgrades, I was finally starting to hit some walls with the Dell Dimension 9200 I got back in 2007. I can't say I had any immediate plans to put together a new PC, but then I came across a couple of articles on the best new parts to get, started browsing around Amazon. One thing led to another and the next thing I knew, PC components were arriving in the door.

Here's what I got:

Note: The links to Amazon in this post are all affiliate links.

AsRock Z77 Pro4 Motherboard - £92.37 (€107.21)

For the motherboard, the Z77 Pro4 seemed to strike a good balance between performance and price. However, if I'd known that there was another one in the same range with a freaking floppy connector, firewire and goodness knows what other dumb stuff crammed in there, in 2013!, the allure of having all that archaic technology in my PC may have proved too much.

Intel Core i5-3570K 3.40GHz SKT1155 6MB Cache - £175.42 (€203.49)

The Core i5 3570 seemed to be another solid, mid-range choice for the CPU.

HyperX Black Series 16 GB Gaming Memory Kit (2 x 8 GB) - £70.21 (€81.49)

Memory-wise, I've usually go with Kingston and this turned out to be no exception. I didn't know HyperX was just a sub brand at the time though; it just seemed to be a cheaper, well-reviewed alternative.

Actually, I was thinking about cheaping out even more on the memory here. 8 gigs seemed like it'd be plenty, at least for a while, so I was going to go for two 4 gig DIMMs here. The problem with that is that I'd be throwing those out if I ever decided to max out the motherboard's memory to the full 32 gigs it supported (and after doing that with my last PC, it was certainly a possibility). Seeing as they were only slightly more expensive, the 8 gig sticks felt like the smarter investment here.

Asus Radeon HD 7770 (1GB GDDR5) - £97.23 (€111.21)

Ooh, a controversial choice for the GPU: AMD and a budget card. :D I was trying to keep my budget under control here though, and with amount of time I spend playing graphically intensive PC games (hell, I barley play any PC games these days. Doesn't stop me from buying them though.), this card seemed like it could handle anything I'd be likely to throw at it for the foreseeable future.

WD Black 3.5 inch 1TB SATA Hard Drive -£71.71 (€82.29)

For the hard drive I wanted something reliable. I've had pretty good luck with various flavours of Seagate Barracuda over the years, but everyone seemed to recommend the WD Caviar Black, so you'd think that would be a pretty solid choice. You'd think.

LG BH10LS38.AUAU 10x Internal BD-RW Drive - £71.73 (€83.20)

A physical media drive?! In 2013?! What is this madness? I don't know, maybe I'm just crazy, but when it comes to games, music, movies, I think it makes more sense to be able to take advantage of both physical and digital media, rather than putting yourself solely at the whims of rights holders and pirates for your entertainment needs. And look at the price, for a drive that can freaking burn Blu-rays.

Zalman Z12 2x USB 3.0 Midi Tower Case - £54.91 (€63.73)

The case, I think, was probably the thing I spent the most time looking for. There's a lot of choice out there, but generally, most cases tended to be 1.  ridiculous looking things intended for someone you know refers to their PC as a "sick rig"; 2. cool-looking, but impractical ones with the disk drives or USB ports hidden behind doors (damn it, when I need to rip my copy of Now That's What I Call Music 1983, I don't want to be opening doors. I need immediate access to that disk drive. Love Town by Booker Newberry III isn't going to listen to itself, you know.) or 3. butt-ugly black boxes. This one had a bit of style, while also being nice and practical. Plus it came with two fans included. That seemed like a nice bonus...

NOCTUA 120x120x25 NF-P12 Fan x 2 - £35.00 (€40.46)

...until I powered them up for the first time. Several of the reviews on Amazon and elsewhere commented on how quiet they were. They were like freaking jet engines. And no tinkering with the fan speed seemed to help much. After a few days of that, I decided to replace them with two Noctua fans, which do make a little noise, but it's blissful silence compared to the Zalman fans. Well worth the money. They really are a gross colour though.

Corsair Builder Series CX 600 - €60ish (in 2011)

And finally, the PSU. Actually, I didn't need to buy a new one at all. I had this sitting around, unopened since 2011. Back then, my Dell was having some trouble that looked like it might have been power supply related, so I picked this up just in case. Ultimately it pulled through and rather than returning this, I thought it would come in handy when I was building it's eventual replacement. What do you know? :D I was a little worried that 600W PSU might be a little underpowered for this new build though, but after some research, I was confident enough that I'd be able to get away with using it. Just about.

On to the build!

Starting off very professionally, I put the case up on my desk next to my old PC. (In the days before I had a tablet, frantically looking something up after everything had gone on fire was a definite possibility.) I cleared all the wires out of the way, connected my new anti-static wrist strap,... and then realised that with the case up here, I actually had no room to put together the motherboard, CPU and RAM together before fixing the whole assembly in here. Screw it, I wasn't moving the case again. Safety be damned, I was taking the most delicate part of this process down to the carpet.

Well, on top of an anti-static bag and the motherboard box. It'll be fine. Probably.

The CPU was the first in: a pretty fool-proof operation, though I have to say pulling down the latch to lock it in place I was still half afraid that it'd snap it in two somehow. :D

The CPU fan was a little trickier actually. There were four plastic pegs that needed to go through the motherboard to hold it in place and two, maybe three of them needed quite a bit more pressure than I was comfortable with putting them under to go through fully.

Next, the RAM, which is always a bit of pain to install inside a case, especially when it's upright. Out in the open here though, it was no problem.

Motherboard assembly complete!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Another Bloody Reblog: October 2015 Pick-ups and More

Okay, I’ll admit it: it's been me all along! :D

No, not much in the way of rarities here, I’m afraid. This lot's mostly made up of a bundle of Mario-related games I bought a few weeks ago, mostly games I already had in some form, but never on the NES/Famicom. It’s been kind of neat to go back and play Mario 2 and 3 without the Mario All-Stars enhanced graphics for the first time though, and it’s proved to be a great refresher course for Super Mario Maker, even though I didn’t quite plan things out that way.

Also picked up a few Konami classics (the two Wai Wai World games and the Famicom version of Kid Dracula, which is super fun), plus Downtown Special: Kunio-kun no Jidaigeki da yo Zen'in Shūgō, a follow-up to River City Ransom set in old-timey Japan (JiliK: history expert). I was really temped to grab that one up on the Japanese Virtual Console, but there’s far too much text to try and play it in Japanese. Thankfully though there’s a translation patch out there though and with the cart, I can put it to use on my Retron 5.

Picked up a few Super Famicom and Gameboy games too. Puzzle platformers aren’t usually my thing, but I spotted a copy of Mario & Wario going for a few dollars and I couldn’t resist. Mystic Ark was much the same. All I know is that it’s an Enix RPG that involves collecting people that have been turned into dolls, or something. Eh, it was two bucks and there’s a (really well-done so far) translation patch. It’s got to be worth a shot at least.

The other two SFC games I’ve played a fair bit of already. Magical Taruruuto-kun (top left) looked like a pretty neat cartoony platformer in videos. From what I’ve played of it though, the platforming seems super basic, but the game’s also quite frustrating because if you take a single hit, you not only die, you go back to the freaking map screen. Heisei Inu Monogatari Bow: Pop'n Smash (centre left), I’m enjoying a lot though. It’s a wacky tennis meets soccer game, more or less, where both you and the computer have goals sealed off by blocks. The basic aim of the game is to smash the blocks by lobbing a ball off them with your tennis racket and getting it into your opponent’s goal. There’s definitely a bit of jankiness to it, but it’s been pretty fun, frantic action so far.

On the Gameboy side, I also got the portable version of Kid Dracula, as well as Metroid II and Donkey Kong Land, which I've actually been enjoying quite a bit. It’s impressive how much of the SNES game they managed to cram in there, especially in the animation department. Granted it looks kind of like garbage, and it can be tricky to play with the big character and limited view of your surroundings, but it features all-original levels and the Retron’s save states take a lot of the frustration out. I’d say it’s worth a look if you can get it for cheap and preferably Retron/Retrode it up.

Some new additions to the family. That brings me up to 13 amiibos now. I think. :D Definitely still a few out now that I’m thinking of getting. I’d be surprised if I make it to the end of the year without picking up Sonic and Fox, and maybe the Duck Hunt dog. Overall though, I find most of the amiibos they've released so far either fall into the categories of cool-looking figures for characters I have no attachment to (Palutena, Little Mac, Shulk, ROB) or characters I like with figures that I don’t (Gannondorf, Wario, Link). Chibo Robo will be mine though. Oh yes, he will be mine.

Club Nintendooo!!! Having blown most of my remaining points on the Link Between Worlds soundtrack a few months prior, I was just short of getting the MK8 soundtrack when it appeared, of course, at the eleventh hour before the service shut down, leading me to spend..... too much on eBay for a copy once they started going out to other members. But boy, that soundtrack’s awesome.
That’s not the only Club Nintendo soundtrack I picked up in the last while though. I managed to snag the Ocarina of Time, Animal Crossing and Kid Icarus: Uprising all for about €20 each thanks to a saved search I set up. Not bad. Actually bad though: Pokémon 2BA Master. Thanks, Laser Time.

If the Mario Kart 8 soundtrack hit at the eleventh hour of Club Nintendo, the Endings and Credits CD hit at the twelfth. This time though I wasn’t about to spend *cough* *cough* *cough* euros on the damn thing. Instead, I bought a few unused Club Nintendo codes on eBay, enabling me to clear out the last of my stars in style. (Though it really bums me out to think of how many more I'd still have to play around with if I hadn’t spent all my Gamecube era ones on all those terrible wallpapers. Damn it, Nintendo.)

Also grabbed the Mario 30th Anniversary double CD, and, let’s address the elephant in the room: I bought the Data Discs Shenmue soundtrack...

...which is pretty rad, but it’s the thing that finally got me to cave and get a turntable, and I held out for so long. Vinyl is just something I have no attachment to or nostalgia for. Now I have this bulky-ass player and (already) a stack of records that I don’t know where to put, and I'm just ripping everything to MP3 anyway. Couldn’t we have skipped the middle step and you could have just given me downloadable versions of hard to find/non-existent video game soundtracks, Data Discs/iam8bit?

But no, you had to get me out there buying vinyl-exclusive early Now compilations didn’t you, because hey, I might as well. I’m already swimming in a sea of the stuff!