Wednesday, June 23, 2021

MSi Optix MAG27CQ Review


"What the hell?" you might be asking. Didn't I just buy a new monitor to replace my MSI Optix MAG272QR? Yeah, you are right, I impulsively purchased an Acer Nitro VG 252Q from Walmart for the rather expensive amount of 260 bucks. The Acer's 240 Hz refresh rate sure is nice, but what I couldn't get used to was the downgrade in resolution from 2560 by 1440 to 1920 by 1080. Everything looked blurry. As far as gaming goes, graphically intensive games like Red Dead Redemption 2 and Control appeared grainy and last-gen, like games from the 360 era. Thankfully, the corporate dystopia that we live in gave me an excellent opportunity to upgrade by way of Prime Day. Newegg was running a competing sale, and I snagged the MSI Optix MAG27CQ, a very similar panel to the one my five-year old ruined. It's a VA panel at 27 inches, equipped with Freesync and a 144 Hz refresh rate. The curve is pretty sweet; that's pretty much the only real difference I've noticed between the MAG27CQ and my old MAG272QR. Well, there's a difference of 16 Hz between refresh rates, but I don't think anyone can notice the difference between 165 Hz and 144 Hz. This is a great panel for the low price of 250 dollars (with tax). Unfortunately I don't have the box or receipt for my Acer, so I'm going to have to take a hit and sell it. Anyway, if you play single player games primarily for atmosphere and immersion, don't let anyone tell you that 1440p isn't much of an upgrade over 1080p. It's actually an increase in pixel density of 78 percent! Red Dead 2 looks amazing again, and so does everything else I play.

New Music Video: Sweet Jane


One of my favorite songs of all time. I kept the arrangement simple, just acoustic guitar setting the rhythm along with a bass, with my strat doing overdubs. Still the year of covers, but I need to upload something original pretty soon or there will be more covers than songs I have written.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

My Five Year-Old Broke My Monitor: Acer VG252Q Review


My oldest child tossed a toy at my MSI MAG272QR 27 inch 1440p 165 Hz monitor(Jesus that's a lot to type), damaging the crystals beneath and resulting in about half of the screen displaying a black space streaked with the color spectrum. Needless to say, I was pissed. A quick drive to Walmart resulted in my buying an Acer VG252Q 24 inch 1080p 240 Hz monitor as a replacement. Walmart is the only game in town, and the Acer was the best monitor they had that wasn't a 4k screen that would require a supercomputer to game on. The VG252Q is G-Sync monitor; it works fine with my AMD 5700 xt. As for the 240 Hz refresh rate, I can't really test it out, because I don't play anything that runs that fast on my computer. Downgrading to 1080p is very noticeable, however, especially in general desktop usage. Gaming wise, I can turn everything up to High in Control and Ultra in Red Dead Redemption 2, which helps offset the lowered pixel count. On the bright side, I don't have to worry about upgrading my graphics card in a year or two--the 5700 xt is a beast at 1080p. Yet I'm missing those extra three inches of screen space, as well as the general clarity 1440p provides. Nevertheless, I do notice the more accurate color reproduction of the Acer's IPS panel--my old MSI monitor was a VA panel, and colors often looked washed out. 

In short, 1440p is noticeably better than 1080p; however, being able to turn up the graphics settings helps. I like this Acer, but I miss my MSI MAG.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Control First Impressions


Control is currently free from the Epic Games store until the 17, and if you're a fan of atmospheric third-person shooters, I recommend picking it up. You play as Jesse Faden, a young women drawn to the Oldest House, the base of an inter-dimensional quasi-government entity known as the Federal Bureau of Control. When Jesse arrives, the Oldest House has been taken over by a malicious entity known as the Hiss, and she soon becomes Director through a pretty cool sequence of events. Control is dripping with Lovecraftian menace, and it's obvious that the X-Files is another big thematic influence. It's weird, and pretty fun. Jesse has a regenerating pistol that's an Object of Power, and she soon obtains the ability to telepathically throw objects at her enemies, which is a blast. The Brutalist architecture of the Oldest House is unique, and you really get the sense of being stuck in a vast labyrinth. My only complaint so far is that this game is a beast to run. On my solidly mid-range Ryzen 7 3700x/5700 xt build, I'm hovering under 60 frames per second at High settings and 1440p. Medium settings boosts the framerate considerably, but I recommend keeping those extra graphics settings and playing with a gamepad, which feels better. I'll do a full review when I've completed the game.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Tech Ramblings: Be Quiet! Shadow Rock 3 Review


No more RGB, but this thing matches my graphics card better.

My computer was noisy as hell, due to my MSI 5700 xt Evoke OC, which was overclocked and overvolted, and my Wraith Prism CPU cooler, which came stock with my Ryzen 3700x. Modding the Evoke and undervolting/underclocking fixed its noise problems, but the Prism still remained. I purchased a Be Quiet! Shadow Rock 3 to replace it, mostly because it was affordable and well-reviewed. Well, I don't have thermals or any of that stuff to compare it to the Prism; I think it keeps it a couple degrees cooler, but the Prism was always sufficient at that job. It is, however, almost completely silent. Now that I have the Evoke's fan speed locked at 55 percent, gaming is a far less noisy pursuit than it was before. The Prism had configurable RGB lights that I could sync with my Razor keyboard, and my son was disappointed that the pretty fan was gone. However, the Shadow Rock's black and chrome looks go better with the Evoke, and RGB quickly lost its novelty for me. So yeah, this is a nice replacement. It's keeping my 3700x at around 46 degrees Celsius, which is pretty cool for my 23 degree Celsius room.

The urge to constantly tinker with my system has become a hobby unto itself. Future upgrades will likely include a NVMe drive, maybe another 16 gigs of ram, and a new graphics card probably a year or two out, assuming that things ever get back to normal. My motherboard is an x570, so I could always put a more powerful CPU in there, at least until AMD switches to AM5. There's no reason to upgrade right now. I don't have a performance reason, despite what the internet might say, and the current hardware shortage is insane. 

Monday, May 31, 2021

Tech Ramblings: Modding the MSI 5700 xt Evoke OC


Last year, I bought the MSI 5700 xt Evoke OC, which was the faster graphics card in my price range. I didn't do my due diligence, however, and later learned that MSI cut corners with this card by not putting full sized thermal pads on the memory chips. This beast has always run a little hot, and the fan is loud as hell over sixty percent. Considering the current GPU market, where a budget card like the rx 570 is going for 460 on amazon, and anything more powerful is either one-thousand dollars or out of stock, I thought I'd mod my card. Gamers' Nexus did a good video on this subject which I used as a reference, as well as a couple reddit posts.

Taking apart the card was pretty simple, there are only six front screws on top and a three holding the i/o plate together. The fan connector isn't difficult to remove if you use a pair of needle nosed pliers. Once you take the cooler off, you'll see the pcb. Here's a picture cribbed from TechPowerup. You can see that the pads on most of the chips are just a little too small, except for the front two memory chips, which only cover about forty percent of the chip. That's why this card runs so hot and why the fans are so noisy.

I mistakenly bought a 30 x 30 x 2 mm thermal pad, which only gave me enough material to replace three of the pads. With what I had left, I cut thin strips that I put next to the remaining pads, completely covering the memory chips. I removed the old thermal paste from the GPU chip with a microfiber cloth and then replaced the paste with Thermal Grizzly compound, a high-quality solution that's probably better than whatever MSI used. When I put the card back together, I used M3 plastic washers on the four screws that mount the heatsink to the GPU. These washers help apply more pressure, since the added pads will make it hard to keep the card together. According to the internet, if your hotspot/junction temperatures are really high (I would assume that value would be 110 Celsius since that's the value that the card starts throttling) then you need to tighten the screws, although you always run the risk of overtightening and damaging your card. Modding is not without risks! I didn't have any problems, though. I think the washers work well.

As far as testing goes, I haven't had a whole lot of time, but I've immediately seen results. Before, after undervolting to 1000 millivolts and underclocking to 1900 Mhz, my gpu temps would climb to 80 degrees quickly with a custom fan curve usually maxed out at 70 percent fan speed. My memory temps usually stayed around 86 to 88 degrees, while the hotspot usually reached 108 to 110 Celsius. Now, using the same underclock/undervolt, after 12 minutes of playing Red Dead Redemption 2, my GPU temp was 61 degrees, the memory stayed at 68, and the hotspot was a cool 74 degrees. At stock clock (2150 Mhz) and voltage (1100 millivolts), my GPU hit 73 degrees, memory hit 80, and the junction a toaster but still ok 96 degrees. 23 minutes of Doom Eternal at stock specs and 60 percent fan speed produced a 75 degree GPU temp, 82 memory, and 97 degrees for the hotspot. This is a massive improvement, and proof that MSI cut corners on their 400 dollar graphics card, which makes me reconsider ever buying an MSI product again. However, this mod was actually pretty fun to do. My graphics card is finally able to run at its advertised speed without the fan at 100 percent. So if you bought this card or have an opportunity to do so at a decent price (you won't), definitely swap out the thermal pads. It's worth it.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Tech Ramblings: Don't Put Thermal Paste in Your CPU Socket/R9 380 Still Has It


For no reason in particular, other than I wanted to, I removed my Wraith Prism cooler from my Ryzen 7 3700x yesterday to clean it and add new thermal paste. During the cleaning process, I accidentally got some thermal paste in my motherboard's cpu socket. According to the internet, the next step was using a toothbrush and rubbing alcohol to remove the paste. So that's what I did, and after about fifteen minutes, I put my cpu back in and attempted to start my computer, dumb ass that I am. Well, nothing happened, because I have a good motherboard, and the wet alcohol on the cpu pins prevented (I'm assuming) my board from detecting a cpu, which meant it wouldn't power on. This safety precaution prevented my frying my board. After removing the cpu again, I called a local computer repair guy and he recommended putting a fan on the socket to evaporate the alcohol. Melancholy and convinced that I had either ruined a 300 dollar cpu or a 200 dollar motherboard, I went home and sat my computer in front of a fan. A couple hours later, my pc booted up, no worse for wear despite my stupidity. Lesson of the day, folks: moisture is bad for electronics. Also, don't fuck up computer parts in the middle of an electronics shortage.

In other news, I decided to mod my MSI 5700 xt Evoke OC, because it shipped with memory thermal pads that only covered about forty percent of two of the memory chips. Unfortunately, I took it apart before I received my thermal pads, so I stole my old R9 380 out of my parents' pc. It's doing surprisingly well! Retro shooter Amid Evil runs great at 1440p and High settings, while Red Dead Redemption 2, which I thought would be completely unplayable, averages around 47 frames per second at 1440p, with a mix of low and medium settings (textures at Ultra). I'm redownloading Doom Eternal to give it a go. Because of the ridiculous graphics card shortage, this old beast is worth far more than it would have been a year ago. I can't even find it in stock anywhere, but if you can get one somewhere for cheap, it's still a decent card, as long as you don't expect too much. From what you'd think reading the internet, if you're not rocking a 3090 and Threadripper, you're a piece of shit. Honestly, a smooth experience around forty frames per second is more than what most of the last-gen consoles offered. Go fire up an N64 and Goldeneye to see how far we've come. Twenty frames a second was playable when I was a kid. Now I'm going to go yell at a cloud or do something similarly odd.

Red Dead Redemption 2 at mostly low/medium settings. Looks great!

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Writer's Block: The Boys

Teasey wakes up and demands his biscuits

The milk must be poured just so

The water must be half-filled with ice

and if any of it is wrong

There will be holy hell to pay.

Outside later Harrison flips cicadas

and carries them on a stick to safety.

If Teasey catches one, they are dead

Their little husks brittle and oozing

in-between his tiny hands.

At the grocery store he scatters a whole carton of blueberries.

I make Harrison wait on a bench so that his sticky fingers

do not adhere to any chocolate bars in the checkout aisle.

"I'm a fire engine, I'm a rat in a cage,

I'm a tongue singing without a mouth," sings my eldest.

Together they scream as loudly as they can

while tearing my couch to pieces.

I let them wail on me,

little fists of rage, eyes eager and mouths grinning

hopelessly toothy grins of malice.

What joy there is in watching these monsters grow.

What have I unleashed upon the world?

You cannot convince me that the world does not deserve it.

MSi Optix MAG27CQ Review

  "What the hell?" you might be asking. Didn't I just buy a new monitor to replace my MSI Optix MAG272QR? Yeah, you are right,...