Disclaimer: It takes a lot to have me excited in the tech world, a lot. After years of stagnation in the display and general graphics department, the Oculus Rift is the first thing in a very long time that could really change things. After a year with the DK1 unit, my DK2 turned up today, and wow, wow, wow, is it a massive improvement.
VR isn't perfect just yet, remember the DK in DK2 stands for Development Kit. This is not for general consumers, but Oculus VR are kind enough to not lock it down to specifically just developers. What we have here is a beta product that shows us where Oculus VR is going with VR tech, and if the differences it has baked into DK2 over DK1 are anything to go by, VR is going to be here quicker than you thought.
The original Rift had a 7-inch 1280x800 display, but it had quite a bad 'screen-door' effect - where you could easily see individual pixels in front of your eyes. This was really jarring at the best of times, mixed with the laggy display, it didn't provide a great experience for VR. DK2 on the other hand, features a 5.5-inch 1920x1080 display, which is world's beyond what the DK1 had on offer.
This week I've been deep into testing mobile batteries, or power banks. I have so many in my office it's not funny, but this week has been harder on me than most, as I've let them build up, and then a few more came and now I'm writing reviews on a bunch of new batteries that just came into my office.
I have a bunch of different brands, ranging from Patriot Memory, RAVPower, LUXA2, Limefuel, and TYLT. They all vary in the amount of mAh they feature, and one of the Patriot chargers is its new FUEL iON charger, a wireless charger that I'm excited to test. I have a Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 tablet that I'm going to dock onto it soon for some wireless charging, which should be interesting.
Let's take a quick look at what I have to test over the next two or so weeks.
We'll start with the Patriot Memory FUEL iON, which is the company's new wireless charger. It has a circular design which I'm really digging.
Patriot also sent me their new FUEL+ 9000mAh battery, which has a truly gorgeous yellow styling. I didn't think I'd like it, but it is really growing on me, and quick.
Next up we have the LUXA2 EnerG 6600mAh charger, which I think I'm going to really love. I absolutely loved the EnerG 8800 model - especially with its $29.99 price point. I can already feel the Editor's Choice award for this one.
RAVPower is a company that I'm beginning to deal with more, and after reviewing their kick ass RP-PB14 Xtreme 23,000mAh Portable Battery Charger, this new charger should keep me happy for a while.
I have a handful of Limefuel's chargers in my office, but this new rugged one is one of the best. It really is strong, with my testing already starting on this one - dropping it on the ground, without it busting at all. Gotta love something that is durable and can be thrown around a little, especially when this sits in my car for emergency charges.
Lastly, we have TYLT's Energi 5K battery. I just wrapped up my reviews on the Energi 2K and 3K batteries over the weekend (which should go live onto TweakTown next week sometime). I loved the Energi 2K and 3K chargers, so I'm sure I'm going to feel the same thing with the 5K version.
There you have it! This is what I'll be doing over the coming days, snapping a bunch more photos and giving them some real-world testing before I begin writing up my reviews of them next week.
The day that Oculus VR announced the Rift Developer Kit 2 (or DK2), I clicked the "ORDER RIGHT NOW" button and paid via PayPal. I knew what to expect coming from the first DK1 unit, but the increased screen resolution and other associated, improved technologies built into the DK2 unit have me more excited than most products I receive through my lab.
Today, Oculus VR delayed the shipment of the first batches of the new Rift headset to do some last minute work on the updated Oculus SDK. I thought I'd be mad, but I never promised myself a certain date, or week to receive it - or else I would've been disappointed. I don't mind about the delay, but it just creates more excitement for when I get it.
I have setup my original DK1 unit once again and have been downloading copious amounts of Rift demos and games, even buying some games from Steam that are compatible with the Oculus Rift. I've got a few that I'm in the middle of playing, so I'm going to do some comparison tests between DK1 and DK2 when I get the second development kit.
I'm going to have a full write up on this in the coming week or so, but I wanted to vent some of my anger on a blog. So, two months ago I signed up for the National Broadband Network, or NBN. The NBN is the best Internet a consumer can get in Australia, but you have to be living in a specific suburb, house or state to get it.
I moved house a few months ago with a large reason on deciding on this house is that it was connected to Tier 5 NBN, meaning I get 100/40Mbps. In Australian standards, this is like going from dial up Internet to massively fast Internet access. Well, after huge problems even getting them to come to my house, they arrived yesterday morning to install it.
After it was installed, I thought I was all good - I was wrong. After two hours of using it, and thinking about how damn fast it was - downloading apps onto my phone, syncing my Google Photos onto my Drive account, and streaming a YouTube video at 1080p - all at once, something I could never do before, it died. My entire NBN connection died. It has been dead for 27 hours now, with 7 phone calls to my provider (iiNet) to try and resolve my issues.
According to iiNet, they have never experienced a consumer with this problem - just my luck. The bigger problem is that the NBN Co, the company behind the national roll out of fiber Internet for Australians, is government-owned. I can't go to anyone to complain, or to get my problem fixed quicker. The NBN Co pushes out all of its jobs to contractors, so there is no care in the world when it comes to a single person having a problem, like I am now.
As I type, I'm on hold to my ISP to try yet another trick on the NTD box (my 'modem'). I hope it ends up working, but for now, this has just been headache after headache. Eight weeks without proper Internet is killing me.
Right now, I am tethered to the mobile connection on my Telstra-powered (Australia's biggest mobile network) Sony Xperia Z2 smartphone, as I have no home Internet connection. I've recently moved into a new house, which is in a brand new estate - and NBN-enabled. If you don't know what the NBN is, it's Australia's National Broadband Network.
The NBN provides users with up to 100/40Mbps connections for a decent price ($100 or so for 1TB data at 100/40Mbps) which in Australia's terms - is pretty damn good. They came a month ago and said that they couldn't install it because my fence was in the way, which was something they could've drilled through - but from what I've read online, the NBN contractors seem to do these types of things often.
I had to make another appointment before I flew to Taiwan for Computex two weeks ago, and that appointment is a little over 12 hours from now. Being tethered to my mobile connection is killing me, so I'm hoping to have my fiber connection up and running tomorrow. I'm a little excited, as I'll actually be able to download and play Watch Dogs, and a bunch of other games that I've been waiting to play.
I even went to buy a Nintendo Wii U today, but hesitated because I have no Internet connection - all I want to do is play Mario Kart 8! This is the world we live in now though, isn't it - without an Internet connection, what good are all these fancy consumer electronics? #firstworldproblems.
I'm a black hole of technology and games - I love them all. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Computex in Taipei this year, but there was nothing much that really stood out and hit me in the face saying "look at me, play with me, you want to take me home!"
I'm now sitting back in Australia at home, capturing in a bunch of E3 2014 content and writing up a bunch of news on the various games and tech shown off at the show. We've seen some truly incredible things at E3 this year, something I didn't think would happen - a few of the stand out things for me would be Alien: Isolation - which looks absolutely pants-wettingly beautiful. Creative Assembly has just announced that it will built Oculus Rift support into the game, something that has me excited beyond belief.
The Division - which is something I've had my eyes on for quite some time looks delicious, as always. The four-player cooperative play is going to have me having a bunch of fun in that game, and it is hitting next-gen consoles and PCs only - something I love to hear.
The Wii U has seen some love, with some massive sales thanks Mario Kart 8 - but we're also hearing about a new Zelda game, Mario vs. Donkey Kong (working title) and much more. I think we're going to see a much better Nintendo in 2015, a company that has its crap together, ready to take on the lukewarm next-gen consoles from Microsoft and Sony.
Oculus VR is at the top of its game at E3 - but it is something you need to see in person, and not read about. But, it's great to see the now Facebook-owned VR startup working with AAA developers, and getting more and more talent jump on-board the limitless VR train.
One of the games I hold closest to me is Half-Life. The original Half-Life was the start of Valve, with Gabe Newell riding off of the money he made at Microsoft in the early days (after leaving the company) to form Half-Life. It nearly didn't make it, after years of development hell and reboots of virtually all parts of the game, it was released to great applaud from both critics, and fans.
Half-Life sits on the same throne as Quake and Unreal for me as first-person shooters that defined my teenage years. LAN parties with those first-person shooters were always fun, but it was Half-Life that stood out from the rest. It had a gripping story line, unique puzzles, for it's time - advanced AI, and so much more.
When Valve finally released Half-Life 2, after the hacking scandal with lost source code, it was met by even bigger success. At the time Valve was launching Steam, which was hated by virtually every gamer on Earth. Steam took a couple of years to win gamers' hearts, but it well and truly did. Now it has become the digital distribution platform for gamers, beating virtually every other competitor by a mile.
On our Authors page, my blurb states that I'm "a PC enthusiast - with a passion of hate for games to be built around consoles. With FPS gaming since the pre-Quake days, where you were insulted if you used a mouse to aim, he has been addicted to gaming and hardware ever since. Working in IT retail for 10 years gave him great experience with high-end, custom-built PCs".
This is 100% true - I'm a massive PC fanboy, something I've been since I was young (I'm 31 years old). I was a huge fan of the 3dfx cards, 32-bit color being pushed in Quake III, and much more. The news that Unreal Tournament was returning, and not hitting the consoles, really struck a chord with me. Epic Games is behind it, a studio that I had mostly lost my faith in. Why? Gears of War.
Gears of War was a third-person shooter for the Xbox, with Epic Games all but tied up developing the Unreal Engine, but pumping out Gears of War games. The Unreal franchise - the first-person shooter games, not just the engine - was thrown to the side. Why call it the Unreal Engine if it doesn't power any new Unreal games? Well, Epic Games sold the rights to the Gears of War franchise to Microsoft, freeing up serious dev time obviously.
For those of you who don't know, I'm based in Australia. Even though I do a considerable amount of work for TweakTown (Senior News Editor, PRs, Tweakipedia, Ask the Experts, multi-monitor content, multi-GPU content, reviewing mobile devices and much more) - being based in Australia can be quite hard.
I'm far away from events, and our Internet really sucks. Well, working from home is both a blessing and a curse. For one, I'm home with my wife and daughters 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. While I absolutely love this, it can really cut into my work time. I also find it incredibly hard to differentiate between work and play time, as they're all the same when you're at home.
Not only that, but Australia is notoriously bad for its copper-based Internet services. I'm stuck on an 8Mbps connection with 384Kbps up, meaning I can only download at around 850KB/sec and upload at around 30KB/sec. I'm uploading images and videos daily, which really restricts what I can do - and working from home is hurt by it.
Well, we just signed a lease on a new place which is around 25 minutes away from where I live - with a two-car garage that I am converting into a home office. It has ducted vents for heating and cooling, and enough space to setup a bunch of tables for all of my work - including the amount of table space required for what I do - especially multi-monitor content.
But the best part of it all, is that I get access to the National Broadband Network, or NBN. The NBN is the kind-of-equivalent to Google Fiber, where it offers some insane speeds at great costs. I have access to a Tier 5 connection, which means I get a guaranteed 100/40Mbps connection - virtually unheard of Down Under.
Right now, I'm paying $149.95 for my 8Mbps/384Kbps connection with 1TB of data cap, but with the new 100/40Mbps plan - I opted for a Business NBN connection with a better SLA with uploads not counted - costing $154.95 per month. This is $5 more than what I pay now, for a connection that is hundreds of times faster.
If I had opted for the normal consumer 1TB plan at 100/40Mbps, it would've cost a measly $99.95 per month - some $50 cheaper than what I'm paying now, for a connection that is magnitudes faster.
My office is half packed right now, with the removalists coming on Thursday to finish it all off. My NBN connection goes live on the 21st of May, a week before I fly to Taipei to cover Computex again. I'm excited to move and finally get some truly world-class Internet, so you can expect much more video content from me.
In the coming months, I'm going to acquire a 4K-capable camera, and begin shooting some incredibly detailed videos which I'll make available in 4K for those with the right monitors. If not, 1440p and 1080p users will still be able to enjoy it - but 4K is coming and it is coming quick.
I've only just gotten back from the US after a trip to cover NVIDIA's GTC 2014 event, but when I got back I was greeted with boxes of new devices and goodies to review, one of which was LG's G Flex smartphone.
The first thing you notice about the G Flex is its massive 6-inch display, which is of course curved. The 6-inch display has a resolution of 1280x720, which is a little on the low side, but it is curved, which more than makes up for it. Inside, we have Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 SoC, which provides us with a quad-core processor clocked at 2.3GHz. 2GB of LPDDR3 RAM is featured, as well as a massive, and much-needed 3500mAh battery.
Analogix's awesome SlimPort technology, Bluetooth, NFC and much more - we'll cover this in our full review of the G Flex in the coming weeks. For now, we've taken some photos of the G Flex itself, and from the 13-megapixel rear-facing camera on the rear of the curved smartphone. The camera is very impressive, so enjoy the tease of photos below.
And a quick shot of the front-facing camera, of me wearing my Google Glass.