Friday, September 25, 2015

Korean Monitors: Are they truly worth the risk?

Yamakasi Catleap 2703 S-IPS LED panel w/ DL DVI input.

Hey all, Lawrence the "Golden Age Gamer" here, I recently decided to pull the trigger on a Korean monitor, I wanted to see if these displays are truly worth all the hype they have been garnering. This isn't going to be a review, it's just my personal experience regarding the display I purchased and whether or not I feel there worth the time, money, and risk that is associated with buying one.  For the last 3 years or so I've been reading about discount monitors from Korea, these displays use high-end Apple Cinema, LG or Samsung panels that didn't meet the standards or requirements of the aforementioned companies. 

On paper of course this all sounds great, you get a 27" IPS panel with one or more inputs (depending on which model you buy) and as of the writing of this blog you can pick one of these monitors up for anywhere from $350 (New) to $180 (Refurbished). Depending on which one you choose you will get a stripped down display with only one Dual-Link DVI port, other options are now available which sport DL DVI-D, HDMI and DP inputs. However that's going to cost you, and in my opinion if your going to spend that much you might as well just fork over an additional $150, and get a monitor from a more reputable manufacturer.

So after much research and deliberation I finally landed on Newegg's website and ordered a Yamakasi Catleap 2703 refurbished 27" S-IPS LED display. I recently just built an AMD gaming rig and my money is rather tight so I was looking to save some money as I just can't afford to shell out 400 or more dollars on a display. As I said earlier I did much research on these monitors, due to that I already knew that the stands that are supplied are not up to snuff so I also picked up a really nice mount by Ergotron. If your looking for a high quality stand for your monitor I would highly recommend this one. I've seen many stands in my day, and this one is definitely one of the top really can't do much better and once setup it looks fantastic!

Ergotron 33-310-060 Neo Flex LCD Stand

The other thing you are going to want to think about whether you buy new or refurbished is replacing the power brick that is supplied buy the manufacturer. These bricks are cheap and more importantly they are made for the EU power standard. Many people have had issues with these power supplies so as a precaution I bought an american alternative designed for our power output needs. The Bestcompu 24v 5amp replacement power brick costs about $25.00 and many Korean monitor users have purchased this PSU with great results, so I to picked one up...better safe than sorry.

At $25 these PSU's aren't the highest quality, but they're better than the one that comes with the display.

The last accessory I picked up was a high quality dual link DVI cable, once again the one's that come with the display are very cheap, (this is beginning to sound like a broken record) however the fact of the matter is the companies that manufacture these displays truly provide you with the cheapest junk they can find, hundreds of commentaries I read on the forums can't be wrong. So for this I tapped Amazon and their "Basic's" line of products, you may think that I went cheap here but actually you couldn't be more wrong.

The AmazonBasic brand represents their house brand products, that said Amazon is very picky about the products that they sell with their name on it. Any product being sold as a "Basics" product has to meet a high standard of quality, the companies that are contracted to manufacture these products are usually at the top of the food chain when it comes to this standard. As far as quality and longevity goes, Amazon cables have a 4.7/5 average rating from thousands of reviews. Currently you can pick these up for under $9.00 here.

When it comes to AmazonBasics line of products you always get quality.

The gold plated ferrite cable I received was delivered in a no-frills plain brown box and I'll put it up against any other manufacturers product, the signal this cable delivers is excellent and picture quality is what you would expect from a high quality cable.

So armed with all of my additional accessories I thought I was going to be good to go, unfortunately I had no idea how wrong I was...However before we get into the nightmare of this cheap, shoddy Korean monitor let's go over the spec's.    

Yamakasi Catleap 2703 27" LED IPS Monitor:

Resolution: 2560x1440 (Native) WQHD         
LED Panel:     Super-IPS
Screen Size:   27" (16:9)
Brightness: 380cd/m2
Response Time: 6ms
Static Contrast Ratio: 1,000:1
Viewing Angle: 178* /178*
Color Support: 16.7m
Inputs & Outputs: (Dual Link) DVI-D
Speaker: None
Dimensions: (W x H x D) 25.11" x 19.88" x 10.19"
Weight: 15.43 lbs
Typical Power Consumption: 63w (Max)
Stand by Power(DPMS): 0.6
Required Volt: AC100~240V
Operating Frequency: 50hz / 60hz 

As I said earlier the display looks real good on paper, however you need to understand one thing...the only part about this display that is actually a quality piece of tech is the actual panel. Everything else is cheap garbage plain and simple, they couldn't even be bothered to provide users with a decent chasis. This is what you need to be worried about when buying one of these displays. I took a chance and got burned...more than you could possibly imagine.

This is what you get with the refurbished Catleap 2703 out of the box.

I'll just cut right to the chase, I finally got the display that I ordered from Newegg. Everything looked fine (aesthetically speaking) no scratches, nicks, bruises or anything you wouldn't want to see on your new (used) monitor. I plugged in the PSU I purchased and noticed that there was no power going to the thing, so I jiggled the cord a little and whamo...I had power and the monitor's blue flashing light was now visible. 

I was not too happy at this point due to the fact that there was obviously a bad connection at the point were the power input port was so I new I was going to have to return it. That said I figured I would use it for a couple of days before I requested an RMA...might as well get some mileage out of it. At this point I plugged up my DL DVI-D cable to my Asus R9 290 GPU and fired up the PC. I waited for the beep of my PC but got none, then I saw and smelled smoke coming from the back of the display and at the same time my GPU's fans started to spin up like they were trying to launch the GPU out of my case.

I immediately unplugged the DL DVI-D cable from the display but it was too late, the monitors video board (most likely) burned out and took my video card with it! To say I was angry would be an understatement, at the end of the day I was lucky due to the fact that my GPU was still under warranty so I got that replaced. You would think I returned the monitor for a refund as well but I didn't, I really wanted a 27" S-IPS monitor with an effective resolution of 2560 x 1440p so I sent the thing back for a replacement. 

Here you can see the power input, mine had some sort of short...

Even though I was really pissed I didn't actually suffer any real loss since my GPU actually got replaced with a higher-end model (Sapphire R9 290 4GB Vapor X) and I can't afford to buy a 27" display at this resolution for what most manufactures are charging (450-650 USD). Factoring in all that I decided to give it another shot and Newegg graciously paid for the return shipping. This brings me to my main concern with these displays, if I had bought this from ebay I would have gone through hell to (try) and get my money back, or at the least get a replacement. 

I guaranty they would not have paid the $100+ dollars for the return shipping to Korea not to mention it would have taken weeks for them to receive it, and god knows how long for me to get it back. The only reason I actually took a chance on this thing was due to the fact that it was being sold by and shipped from newegg's warehouse in California, and it falls under their refurbished product warranty. Always understand that you are taking a HUGE risk buying from someone in another country, especially Korea where you have no one to turn to if you get screwed.

These displays are beautiful...if you can get one that's not defective.

Needless to say I just received my new (refurbished) Catleap and this time it worked right out of the box! I can't believe how incredible this thing picture or video you can watch on youtube or the net will truly do this thing justice, you have to see it in person. So at the end of the day was it worth it? Well I guess that all depends on you, if your just being cheap and want a good deal then I would recommend you bite the bullet and shell out the money for a more reputable companies product. However if you're like me and just don't have 500-600 dollars in your budget for a 27" IPS monitor then this may be the deal for you.

I would highly recommend that if you do choose to buy one of the many Korean monitors out there you take certain precautions. First and last this is the one and only real precaution, BUY FROM AN E-TAILER HERE IN THE US! If you've been reading this article then you already know the risks, and precautions needed to be taken so I don't need to go over that again. Just buy the display from an e-tailer like newegg or amazon. With these companies you will be able to get either your money or a replacement if god forbid something goes wrong.

All said, these displays are a great deal for what you actually get just make sure you follow my advice and you'll be up and running with your own Korean Monitor real soon! Below I have links to some of the most popular Korean monitors sold from Amazon or Newegg...happy hunting!



Here is where I got my $179.99 Yamakasi Catleap!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Mad Max: First Impressions & Commentary

Hey everyone Lawrence "The Golden Age Gamer" here and I'd just like to say, What a lovely day! Yes I picked up Mad Max for the PC a couple of days ago and I've had some time with the game, so here's my initial impressions of "MM" for the PC. I just have to say that when I heard there would be a game that would accompany the new movie I was less than excited. We all know the track record when it comes to games released that are attached to movies, generally they fall flat on their faces.

For some reason games usually never live up to their movie counterparts. However I have always maintained that if you want to be successful making a game based on a movie you need to learn about and understand the mythology, the world in which the movie has evolved from. Then you need to build a game that doesn't try to mimic the movie but somehow acts as a companion to it, maybe you set the events of the game at a time before, or after the events of the film. Alternatively you could just build the game based on the world and not have any ties to the movie(s). 

It would appear that the people over at Avalanche thought the same, and I have to say that so far I am very impressed with what they have created. Mad Max is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, which features terrains like canyons, caves, and deserts. The game's story is standalone, and was never planned as a tie-in of any of the films in the series. Inspirations for the game were taken from the Mad Max universe instead of the films. I'm also a little confused by what I've seen as far as editorial reviews go. A lot of these clueless reviewers out there seem to think the game is no good...are they playing the same game I am? I can't understand why it seems that these guy's are out to ruin this game. Well no matter what their personal bias are I am happy to inform you that Mad Max the game is outstanding! 

Speaking on the other versions of the game the PC variant is clearly the superior, it looks and runs great! Even if you have a low-end rig you can easily find the proper settings and graphical configurations needed to play the game at a respectable performance level. Contained in the options menu I found one of the best graphics settings I have ever seen on a ported PC game, it actually looks and feels like it was made for PC and then ported to the consoles after!

There is no shortage of graphical settings to get the game running and looking its best. 

You would think a game that takes place entirely in the desert would look bland and boring, however this couldn't be further from the truth and the dev's at avalanche have in my opinion done some of their best work (graphically speaking). Indeed the desert has never looked so good! Tans, dark browns and a golden sun set in a hot, hazy bluish back-drop. Looking through binoculars (or not) reveals an impressive draw distance. I've been playing Mad Max for days and I can't recall one time when I witnessed any form of pop-in. The game has been wonderfully optimized the likes of which I haven't seen in a long time.

The world looks terrible and beautiful at same time.
This is not a cinematic, every place you can see you can actually travel to.
The much maligned combat system in MM is another point of interest to me, I'll put it like this...if you like the "Batman" style of combat you'll be right at home here. However if you don't go for the two button combat of the aforementioned game(s) then nothing in this game is going to change your mind. One thing that I did notice about MM is that unlike the Batman series the combat is a little more challenging. In Batman one only has to push the attack, or defend buttons and Batman will dance around seamlessly locking onto the nearest enemy.  

However in MM you need to time your attacks / defenses much more accurately, spacial awareness is also important. If you think your going to simply mash the attack or defend buttons and your character is going to magically snap to the nearest enemy, you've got another thing coming! What will happen is you will miss your target and then get pummeled by two or more assailants. I personally happen to like this combat system, its a little deeper than Batman and it allows you to resolve combat situations quickly.

You will often find yourself outnumbered fighting more than a dozen enemies.
In your quest to build the "Magnum Opus" the perfect battle car you will embark on many fetch quests, and a lot of "busy work" as one reviewer put it. I won't argue this, its definitely true but unlike other games that's actually a good thing! Even the most mundane of quests is just fun, I can't really explain just is! Each mission you go on inches you closer to your goal and they make perfect sense...or as much sense as they can in this insane world. Even though many of the things you will be tasked with could be labeled as "busy work", its just fun plain and simple.  

Unlike other recent games like MGS5 that claim to be open world but in reality are not, MM is a true open world game. Although main missions are scripted (just like every other open world game) everything else is not. Its all random, you could go out looking for scrap and get attacked by a passing convoy, or you might run into some drifters. Give them some water and you might get rewarded with information that leads to some secret prize. Go out another time and you just might get swept away by a sand storm.

Sandstorms are dangerous proceed with caution.
All in all Mad Max is a great game if you like open world games that is, I would highly recommend you pick this up. Don't worry about the clueless professional reviewers, they obviously don't have a clue what a great game is and this is definitely one of those. I've been playing MGS5 along side of this and I'm having more fun playing MM. At the end of the day it all comes down to what you like to play, but if you do like these types of games and your on the fence about purchasing it, I would tell you to pick it up I can't see how you could be disappointed.

Thank you for reading my commentary, I look forward to your feedback!