Shmee Owns An Xbox One Elite Controller!


When the Xbox One Elite Controller was announced I shrugged it off as an expensive luxury that was sure to fail, but when reports started to come in that it was amazing, I was intrigued.  When I started to hear from everyday gamers saying that it was the best controller they had ever used, I had to have one.  After months of saving my money, hording Amazon gifts cards and waiting for it come back in stock, it is finally mine!  So what do I think of this expensive piece of plastic?  It is pretty darn great!

Overall they didn’t really change a lot from the normal Xbox One Controller, with the exception of the paddle buttons on the back and the trigger switches, but everything is just a little better.  The buttons are all ‘clickier’, the directional pad is more responsive, the texture of the controller feels better in your hand, and the weight is just a little heavier.  However, all those little changes make the controller so much better as a whole!

Getting back to those paddle buttons and trigger switches, they are a great addition as well.  The controller adds four paddles to the back of the controller to map as any other button using the Xbox Accessories app.  For myself, I took two of the paddles off and then remapped the paddles I left on as the bumper buttons, and it has been a much better game playing experience.  The trigger switches are nice because they shorten the distance the triggers have to travel before they are fully pressed, so for a first person shooter it means you can shoot faster.  Halo players rejoice!  Playing Forza?  Flip the switches back to get a more responsive ‘gas pedal’.

Other features like being able to change out the thumb grips and d-pad layout on the fly thanks to the controller’s magnetic connections are nice, but I don’t see myself doing that a lot.  Though using the magnets to rearranged paddles on the back, I have already used quite a bit, and it is pretty slick.  If you are wondering, the magnets hold very tight, so I am not worried about anything coming loose.

All in all I am very happy with my purchase.  Should every Xbox One gamer get an Xbox One Elite Controller?  It is hard to say.  Yes it is better then the normal controller in just about every way, but enough to justify the $150 price tag?  For me yes, no regrets, and if it was $100, I would say yes for everyone, but as it is now, I would say it is just for people who spend a lot of time with their Xbox One.  If you do get one, I am sure you will enjoy it.

Checking Out The Surface Book!


It has been awhile since I have given a tech review, so here we go!  Work has seen fit to pair me with Microsoft’s latest computer the Surface Book, and I have to say it is the best laptop I have ever used.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t without its flaws, but it is a fantastic device.

The screen is gorgeous.  It is bright, and the 3000×2000 resolution makes everything crisp and clear.  With the great PPI (pixels per inch), I am able to read very small fonts without issue, and that is a bigger deal than you would think.  With most laptops with a high resolution you usually have to zoom the in screen in order to read anything, but that costs lot of App real estate.  With the Surface Book’s excellent readability you can keep the zoom to a minimum.

The Surface Book is screaming fast as well.  I have an i7 and the dedicated GPU, so it should be fast, but it is nice to know that it lives up to its potential.  Apps and videos load and play almost instantaneously.  I have heard that it is not great for high end gaming, but it is more than powerful enough for everything else.  Plus the fit and finish is amongst the best out there.  It will go toe to toe with the high end Samsungs and Apples.

There are a couple of issues though.  After upgrading to the November 2015 Update for Windows 10 my screen would blink every time a video would load in a browser, and then tell me that my Intel graphics card had failed and then recovered.  Not a deal breaker, but annoying.  I was able to fix it with the beta driver from Intel, so I am sure that it will be on Windows Update soon, but no one likes their new toy acting up.

Also the fact that the Surface Book doesn’t close all the way is odd.  I understand it is due to its cool hinge, but stuff gets between the keyboard and the screen when it is in my bag.  While the screen does come off, it is simply too big to be a tablet.  When holding it my thumbs can’t get to the middle of the screen, and I have big hands.  If you are going to use the pen and draw on it, it is fine, but you would think for that you would want the dGPU in the keyboard, so you would simply flip the screen around and lay it flat that way.  It is neat that you can do it, but impractical.

Those minor issues aside, The Surface Book is still a wonderful device, and one that Microsoft should be proud of.  If they can get that Intel driver out fast to clear up the issue with the November Update that would get rid of my one hesitation with recommending the Surface Book.  Well that and the price.  You really do pay for quality.  Though in this case maybe slightly too much.  I think it is worth it, you may not, and I would totally understand.

Some Windows 10 Beta Updates!


Windows 10 has been out on PC for a few months and it has been a worthy upgrade, but on the phone it has been a different story.  It has been a slow buggy mess.  To be fair it was in more of an alpha state instead of a beta, but that has changed with Build 572.  It finally feels fast enough to be a decent upgrade to Windows 8.1, or at least on a downgrade.  I hope things keep progressing this way because it would awesome for Microsoft to have a viable mobile operating system, and as a bonus have it be the same OS that is on all their other devices.

Also on the Windows 10 upgrade train is the Xbox One.  It is being call the new Xbox One Experience, but it is really just Windows 10 with a new console interface.  For the most part the new interface layout does make basic day to day tasks better, but one problem is that the Apps and Games section feels disconnected from the rest of the layout.  They should be just a blade away instead of an app.  It makes it feel disjointed when you are looking for a game.  They are starting to upgrade all the preview program members, but I think they may be pushing it a little.  While I haven’t had any major issues with the new interface it does feel a little glitchy still.

The last little piece I am going to talk about is the new Windows 10 like start menu that they gave older Surface devices.  It was nice of Microsoft to do something for Surface and Surface 2 users, and I love having the Start Menu back, but they really should find a way to put Windows 10 on these tablets.  They should be far more capable then a cell phone.  It just seems like they are burning those early users.

I hope Microsoft’s unified platform works out for them.  They have a lot of work left to go, but for users to have one OS across all their devices would be amazing.  We will see how it turns out later this Fall.

It Might Be Good For Radeon To Get Away From AMD…


I am an AMD/ATI fanboy from way back, so in 2006 when AMD bought ATI, I was pretty excited.  I thought that they would work well together, and that together they would bring us some incredible technology.  While they still do produce good stuff, they just can’t seem to keep up with Intel or NVidia.  Now due to declining revenue and continual financial losses AMD is starting the process of spinning off ATI, or the now named Radeon graphics division.

It is kind of sad that they were never able really compete with the big boys, but now that Radeon is on its own (and I am sure up for sale), maybe we will see some cool new video cards come out that really put NVidia to task.  Good competition helps us all.  AMD on the other hand will probably continue to decline.  In a world that doesn’t need desktop computers it hard to be the guys making the slower less efficient chips, even if they are a really good dollar/performance value.

It is kind of hard to be the fanboy on the loosing side, but I will get over it.  I just hope the new Radeon group will be able make me proud.

A Tale Of Two Windows 10 Installs!


I celebrated the release of Windows 10 yesterday like most techy people, installing the software on just about every PC I could.  Two in particular, my wife’s old laptop, and my mid-range gaming rig.

First up the Gateway T-1424u:


I believe this laptop is like six years old (could be older), and since it is a budget laptop anyway it should be long dead, but I do my best to keep it running.  It has an old Athlon 64 X2 dual core processor running at 1.9 GHz, and an integrated Radeon X1270 graphics card. It only has three gigs of RAM, and it is still running on its original hard-drive which is a bit of a minor miracle.

The Windows 10 compatibility test said that it wouldn’t work since Gateway/Acer hasn’t updated their version of the Radeon X1270 video card since for forever, but I went ahead and installed it anyway.  For the most part everything worked great except for the aforementioned video card.  Luckily I was able to dig around on some forums and find a way to get the Vista x64 driver to work.

The experience on the laptop has been pretty good.  Windows 10 has lower system requirements than Windows 7, so it is running a little faster.  It is still slow, but it is fast enough that I am thinking of slamming a solid state hard-drive in it and seeing how much longer I can get this machine to last.

Next up my custom gaming rig:

Lian-Li PC-9F

Now if there was ever a PC that was going to upgrade well this was it.  All new hardware, and it has processing power to spare.  Windows 10 took like fifteen minutes to install, and it was running great.  I didn’t run in to any issues until I decided to link it with my Microsoft account.

The problem is that I have like three Microsoft accounts that I am using.  Mrs. Shmee’s OneDrive to sync her pictures, my work account for my Office 365, and my personal Microsoft account for my email and Xbox.  My personal account wrote over the settings for the other two, and it temporarily locked me out my wife’s pictures and caused my Excel to crash.

I was able to go in and overwrite all the settings for the various programs again, and I got it working the way it was while still having access to the Xbox App (very important), but it was a bit of a struggle.  Now that it is running well it makes my fast computer, just slightly faster, so what is not to like?

Should you upgrade?

As you can see from my two computer installs above for the most part everything worked fine, better than most day-one Windows installs.  So if you are like me and love the latest and greatest go ahead and download the OS and install it (you probably already have anyway).  However if you just want your computer to work, I would hold off.  I would still upgrade eventually (especially while it is free), but I would let people like me deal with all the issues for a few months, and write up their solutions to issues on forums.  Let Microsoft patch a couple of things, so that way your computer upgrade tale will be a happy one.