SHODAN: The Evolution of my Battlestation

Now that I recently received my Ikea desk that I ordered more than a month ago (there was a bit of a mix up in the shop’s inventory), I upgraded the setup in terms of desk and chair, and a bit of bling.

All other items, such as the new chair and the LED strip, etc., were all shipped in way before the Ikea desk did, so I had to control my excitement until everything has arrived before I start building anything.

I will post a separate blog on the actual transfer of my PC setup from the old layout and desk to the new layout and desk. For this post, I will just chronicle how this current PC build named SHODAN (yes that is a System Shock reference) way back in 2012 and how it evolved through the years.

Let it be known that I have been building my own PC’s since 1998; each iteration has its evolutionary stage. What do I mean by this? Well, each time I build a new system from scratch with the latest CPU of that generation, I don’t buy all parts immediately. That is, I start with the most important parts: CPU, motherboard, RAM, and if needed, another HDD and other peripherals like monitor/s. I then add the other parts like GPU, possibly another monitor, or other peripherals that is both functional and cool (mechanical keyboards, gaming mouse, etc.). A lot of people deem me to be a rich person… nope. I am just good at saving. And others will say “hey, it’s 2017, why do you have the i7 Ivy Bridge instead of the new Kaby Lakes?”; well, like I said, my builds have an evolutionary stage, and I don’t build completely new systems until an 8 year span or if I feel my current CPU is no longer doing its job. But my current PC is still a beast, so I will keep using this, keep upgrading if need be, until it overall will no longer be able to do the things I want it to do.

And also of note, I have been rocking a dual monitor setup since 2008 and since 2015, I have been using triple monitor setups. So I am more used to systems with multimonitors and feel very limited if I just use one screen even if it were an ultra widescreen monitor.

Anyways, let us see a bunch of photos chronicling SHODAN’s evolution! Join me for a trip down memory lane! From SHODAN’s humble beginnings to what she is today!

2012:

My Workstation (As of 12-22-2012)

My Workstation (As of 12-22-2012)

My Workstation (As of 12-22-2012)

As mentioned above, when I first build new systems, I don’t buy all the necessary parts immediately. So here, I still had my old peripherals and I didn’t even get a GPU, yet.

Specs in 2012:

CPU: Intel i7 3770 3.4GHz
Chassis: Bitfenix Shinobi Windowed Edition
Motherboard: ASRock Z77 Extreme 4
RAM: G Skill 2 x 4GB 1600Mhz DDR3
HDD/SSD: Seagate Barracuda 500Gb/Plextor M5 Pro 128Gb
PSU: Corsair GS700
GPU: None
Cooling: 23″ LG IPS234V and 17″ HP f1703 monitors; DeepCool IceBlade Pro CPU Heatsink with 2 120mm DeepCool 120mm IceBlade Pro fans on push/pull config; 3 x DeepCool XFan Blue LED 120mm  fans for rear and top exhausts; 2 x DeepCool XFan Blue LED 120mm for front intakes
Peripherals:  : E-blue Cobra (Got this for free… I don’t even recognize the brand LOL); A4Tech KD-800L (Cheapo keybaord but has LEDs LOL); (A cheapo) Ozaki 2.2 Dual Bass speaker system; Phillips SHP3000 Headphones
Misc: Roccat Taito Midsize Mousepad; NZXT Blue LED Kit; Razer Mouse Bungee

2013:

My Workstation as of 8-11-2013

My Workstation as of 8-11-2013

By this point, I waited for the new Nvidia cards to come out and snatched me one; here I have added the GTX 660ti and I upgraded my keyboard to a mechanical keyboard, the Ducky DK9008 Shine II Cherry MX Blue Mechanical Keyboard… and still use that keyboard to this day as I am typing this blog. I also added a NAS for filebackups and whatnot and a 3.5 multi card reader for transferring phots/videos since I am into photography and videography, too.

Specs in 2013:

CPU: Intel i7 3770 3.4GHz
Chassis: Bitfenix Shinobi Windowed Edition
Motherboard: ASRock Z77 Extreme 4
RAM: G Skill 2 x 4GB 1600Mhz DDR3
HDD/SSD: Seagate Barracuda 500Gb/Plextor M5 Pro 128Gb
PSU: Corsair GS700
GPU: Gainward Nvidia GTX 660Ti
Cooling: DeepCool IceBlade Pro CPU Heatsink with 2 120mm DeepCool 120mm IceBlade Pro fans on push/pull config; 3 x DeepCool XFan Blue LED 120mm  fans for rear and top exhausts; DeepCool XFan Blue LED 120mm fans for front intakes
Peripherals: 23″ LG IPS234V and 17″ HP f1703 monitors; E-blue Cobra (Got this for free… I don’t even recognize the brand LOL); Ducky DK9008 Shine II Cherry MX Blue Mechanical Keyboard; (A cheapo) Ozaki 2.2 Dual Bass speaker system; Phillips SHP3000 Headphones
Misc: Roccat Taito Midsize Mousepad; NZXT Blue LED Kit; Razer Mouse Bungee
NAS: D-Link DNS-320L

2014:

My Workstation as of February 2014

Upgraded my monitors to 2 Dell 23″ S2340L IPS monitors, added the Razer. As you can see, I have been using an awful, AWFUL, chair back then…

The mouse by the way, as with most Razer products back then, are USUALLY green, I said usually, cos they did have blue LED products, but for the DeathAdder 2013, they didn’t have a blue LED one I can find. Of course, this is all but a blip in history now as they have the Chroma series that is basically RGB. Anyways, I modded my DeathAdder 2013 by changing the green LED with blue ones… destroying my warranty, but hey, that is what we setup addicts would do to make the theme match.

Specs in 2014:

CPU: Intel i7 3770 3.4GHz
Chassis: Bitfenix Shinobi Windowed Edition
Motherboard: ASRock Z77 Extreme 4
RAM: G Skill 2 x 4GB 1600Mhz DDR3
HDD/SSD: Seagate Barracuda 500Gb/Plextor M5 Pro 128Gb
PSU: Corsair GS700
GPU: Gainward Nvidia GTX 660Ti
Cooling: DeepCool IceBlade Pro CPU Heatsink with 2 120mm DeepCool 120mm IceBlade Pro fans on push/pull config; 3 x DeepCool XFan Blue LED 120mm  fans for rear and top exhausts; 2 x DeepCool XFan Blue LED 120mm fans for front intakes
Peripherals: 2x Dell 23″ S2340L IPS Monitors; Razer DeathAdder 2013; Ducky DK9008 Shine II Cherry MX Blue Mechanical Keyboard; (A cheapo) Ozaki 2.2 Dual Bass speaker system; Phillips SHP3000 Headphones; A4Tech HD1080p Webcam
Misc: Roccat Taito Midsize Mousepad; NZXT Blue LED Kit; Razer Mouse Bungee
NAS: D-Link DNS-320L

2015:

My Workstation as of August 22, 2015

My Workstation as of August 22, 2015

Here, I upgraded my GPU to the VTX3D ATI Radeon R9 390. This can handle triple monitor gaming for the most part so I added a 3rd Dell 23″ S2340L IPS monitor. I also got a couple of Corsaur SP 120s that I sued on the after market heatsink, as well as an Ipega Bluetooth Gamepad, mainly for my Android phone, but works well with the PC.

Specs in 2014:

CPU: Intel i7 3770 3.4GHz
Chassis: Bitfenix Shinobi Windowed Edition
Motherboard: ASRock Z77 Extreme 4
RAM: G Skill 2 x 4GB 1600Mhz DDR3
HDD/SSD: Seagate Barracuda 500Gb/Plextor M5 Pro 128Gb
PSU: Corsair GS700
GPU: VTX3D R9 390 8Gb GDDR5 1000Mhz Core Clock 1500Mhz Memory Clock
Cooling: DeepCool IceBlade Pro CPU Heatsink with 2 Corsair SP120 fans on push/pull config; 3 x DeepCool Ice Blade Pro LED 120mm fans for rear and top exhausts; 2 x DeepCool XFan Blue LED 120mm fans for front intakes; 1 x DeepCool Ice Blade Pro LED 120mm for bottom intake
Peripherals: 3x Dell 23″ S2340L IPS Monitors; Razer DeathAdder 2013; Ducky DK9008 Shine II Cherry MX Blue Mechanical Keyboard; (A cheapo) Ozaki 2.2 Dual Bass speaker system; Phillips SHP3000 Headphones; iPega Bluetooth Controller (Mainly for my Android phone, but works well with the PC)
Misc: Roccat Taito Midsize Mousepad; NZXT Blue LED Kit; Razer Mouse Bungee; Buffalo Bluetooth 4.0 Dongle
NAS: D-Link DNS-320L

2016:

Workstation as of 02-09-2016

Shameless Workstation Glamour Shot

Finally added a better chair, this is racing inspired but as you can see, there is no way for this to recline. I also added an extended mouse pad, a cheap clip on/lav mic, and a cheapo webcam and a printer at this point. Oh I nearly forgot, I also upgraded my mouse into the Logitech G600 MMO Gaming mouse – works well for all games not just MMOs. This also marks the beginning of my fanboyism to Logitech. Also added an extra 2 sticks of 4GB RAM totaling 16GB good for photography and video editing.

Vidya Gaemz

A later little on, after I passed my medical licensure examination and became a licensed physician, I was able to land a job early and get to save enough to get a new a case, added 3 more Logitech products: Logitech G13 advanced gaming pad, G430 7.1 Headset, and F310 gaming pad. Told you I was a fanboy. Oh hey, I have a Megaman E Mug, too.

Specs in 2016:

CPU: Intel i7 3770 3.4GHz
Chassis: Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ATX
Motherboard: ASRock Z77 Extreme 4
RAM: G Skill 4 x 4GB 1600Mhz DDR3
HDD/SSD: Seagate Barracuda 500Gb/Plextor M5 Pro 128Gb
PSU: Corsair GS700
GPU: VTX3D R9 390 8Gb GDDR5 1000Mhz Core Clock 1500Mhz Memory Clock
Cooling: DeepCool IceBlade Pro CPU Heatsink with 2 120mm Corsair SP 120 fans on push/pull config; 3 x DeepCool 120mm IceBlade Pro fans for top exhausts; 2 x Phanteks 140mm front intakes; 1 x Phanteks 140mm rear exhaust
Peripherals: 3 x Dell S2340L 23″ IPS 1080p Monitors; Ducky DK9008 Shine II Cherry MX Blue Mechanical Keybord; Logitech G13 Advanced Gamepad; Logitech G600 MMO Gaming Mouse; Logitech F310 Gamepad; iPega Bluetooth Controller (Mainly for my Android phone, but works well with the PC); Logitech G430 Headphones; (A cheapo) Ozaki 2.2 Dual Bass speaker system; Brother DCP-J100 Printer with Continuous Ink System
Misc: Tecware Haste XXL Desktmat; NZXT Blue LED Kit; Razer Mouse Bungee; Buffalo Bluetooth 4.0 Dongle
NAS: D-Link DNS-320L

2017:

Workstation as of 01-05-2017

Workstation as of 01-05-2017

Finally, we caught up with the present year. As you can see, I got a new desk, I also got a long awaited LED strips that are USB powered and connected directly to my PC so when it powers on, it powers on the LED strips. I also upgraded the speakers to, guess what, Logitech Z333 2.1 Speakers. I also changed my chair to the Ergodynamic F1 Blue Fauz Leather Gaming chair that reclines.

Specs in 2017:

CPU: Intel i7 3770 3.4GHz
Chassis: Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ATX
Motherboard: ASRock Z77 Extreme 4
RAM: G Skill 4 x 4GB 1600Mhz DDR3
HDD/SSD: Seagate Barracuda 500Gb/Plextor M5 Pro 128Gb
PSU: Corsair GS700
GPU: VTX3D R9 390 8Gb GDDR5 1000Mhz Core Clock 1500Mhz Memory Clock
Cooling: DeepCool IceBlade Pro CPU Heatsink with 2 120mm Corsair SP 120 fans on push/pull config; 3 x DeepCool 120mm IceBlade Pro fans for top exhausts; 2 x Phanteks 140mm front intakes; 1 x Phanteks 140mm rear exhaust
Peripherals: 3 x Dell S2340L 23″ IPS 1080p Monitors; Ducky DK9008 Shine II Cherry MX Blue Mechanical Keybord; Logitech G13 Advanced Gamepad; Logitech G600 MMO Gaming Mouse; Logitech F310 Gamepad; iPega Bluetooth Controller (Mainly for my Android phone, but works well with the PC); Logitech G430 Headphones; Logitech Z333 2.1 Speakers; Brother DCP-J100 Printer with Continuous Ink System; A4Tech HD1080p Webcam
Misc: Tecware Haste XXL Desktmat; NZXT Blue LED Kit; Buffalo Bluetooth 4.0 Dongle; 2M RGB USB Powered LED strip
NAS: D-Link DNS-320L

Now some people will ask why I have a small (that’s what she said) HDD in my system, well, I have a 4TB NAS and another 2x2TB HDDs coming in as well as another 2 bay NAS, so I will have 8TB NAS for most of my files. The 500GB HDD is just for games. the 128GB SSD is for the OS, some games, and the more commonly used programs. I will be adding another 256GB SSD mainly for games later on this year.

Also of note, I used NZXT extended sleeved cables and a couple of custom sleeved SATA Data cables, so if you look inside my PC, you’d see sleeved cables.

So there you have it, a trip down memory lane… thanks for joining in the ride!

Til next time! PEACE!

UPDATE:

Fixed the remaining wires that are bothering me under the desk.

Workstation as of 01-11-2017

Workstation as of 01-11-2017

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Weekend Project: Open Part Surgery

I have always contemplated on changing my Bitfenix Shinobi midtower case for another one with far better airflow and for possible future watercooling projects for my system. I was bouncing around different cases, even thought of getting the new Corsair 400c, as it had a PSU shroud and seemed to be roomy enough if ever I decide to go for dual GPU and whole system custom watercooling loop.

But then I remembered the owner of the local enthusiast shop had a Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ATX for his build, before he switched to the ThermalTake Core P5 case. And I was entranced back then, and looking at the pics, it turns out, I still was.

Speaking of ThermalTake Core P5, I was also thinking about picking it up, but I was thinking how the dust build up and the clean up would have been an absolute nightmare. I love being different from the norm, and getting that ThermalTake case would help me be different, but the trade off for having dust build and the nightmarish clean up was just not worth it.

Needless to say, I got myself the Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ATX in black. All the while knowing that this is primarily a full aluminum paneled case, apart from the steel inner chassis, I was anticipating this being heavy, and oh boy, was it heavier than I expected. In fact, I asked some of the employees at the local shop where I ordered this to help me pack in the car since I can’t carry something this heavy due to my right knee being operated and all.

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Even the box looked great!

After staring at the box for at least 30mins and planning out how I would tackle the transfer of my current system in the Bitfenix Shinobi case, I knew that apart from the transferring and cleaning of the system, I have to rewire the “battle station” and clean it up, too.

So the plan of action yesterday in what I dubbed “Open Part Surgery” was firstly, clean up the desks and the re-route the wires in such a way that little to no wires can be seen on the floor; move the power strips and the subwoofer underneath the 2nd desk that is accessible thru a crevice between the 2 desks; remove and clean each component from the Bitfenix Shinobi case; and finally, plan out the cable management on the new case while transferring the rest of the components.

I had to move both the desks slightly from their original positions to assume a more compact look; this way I can hide the cables and the subwoofer underneath the 2nd desk, as they were formally on the 1st desk, covered by a printer and a small plastic drawer for cables. Where the cables, plugs, subwoofer, etc. were placed originally was not the most ideal as I had no more leg room. Thus, I decided to utilize the space underneath the 2nd desk, using the tiny opening that combining the 2 desks creates to access the power strip and the subwoofer to turn them on or off. I am a pseudo audiophile, so with that said, I knew there will be a better boost to the bass sound when placed in placed like this. Having tested it with several bass heavy songs, I was happy with the deeper bass it is now creating – in fact, I even have to adjust the equalizer later on in the PC just to get all the sound right.

I then decided to move the printer next on the side of the 1st desk so I have leg room. Sure now it ruins the ease of access, but come on, I am not that lazy to stand up just to go to the side of my desk to load up paper if need be.

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My printer’s new home

That process took a good 2 hours just de-cluttering the desk, re-routing the wires, and simply dusting off the desks and the floor, and placing the printer in its new location. Onward to removing the components from the Bitfenix Shinobi and dusting them off.

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I removed my system, some peripherals, 2 of my monitors in order to move the desks and dust them off
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Putting back the monitors after dusting off and used the main desk to put the system back; here I will remove the components and clean them
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As always with cleaning, it will only get messier before it really gets any cleaner. This is how it looked like, and it got worse before it got better

My way of cleaning my components is using tiny brushes that are used for painting on an easel; they aren’t too tough, get in between ares real easily, and just for peace of mind, these do not make as much electrical/static discharge that may destroy these components. Also, speaking of electrical/static discharge, I am not using an anti-static wrist strap, but I am touching the case and the PSU every now and then to remove any static built up in my body.

I would like to try Brian’s, from Tech Yes City in YouTube, method of cleaning up; he uses parts/brake cleaner and such to get them really clean and looks, in his voice, “brandy new”. The reason why I am not ready to do his method yet is that this is my main system and currently only system, so if I screw up, well, I have to replace them and will set me back weeks or so. Also, I need to research on the strength of the parts/brake cleaner he is using as I don’t know if the ones sold here locally will be too tough on the electronics and the plastics on it.

The PSU, HDD, SSD were easily enough to clean; just dust them off, and you’re all good. The PSU, in my case, wasn’t dirty inside, so I just had to clean up the exterior. The GPU was a little more tricky. Thankfully the heatsink didn’t have that much dust on it that warrants my to break the GPU apart to clean it properly. The fans were a bit hard to clean on this particular GPU (VTX3D Radeon R9 390), but after near mini heartattacks cleaning this GPU, I can breathe a sigh of relief as this is the most expensive component of my whole build.

The CPU, I decided not to remove the DeepCool IceBlade Pro heatsink out; I cleaned while it was placed in the motherboard, I just covered the motherboard really well and dusted off the heatsink. Thing about this heatsink is that it is tarnished like crazy; no matter what I do to get it all shiny, I just can’t. Anyways, I am gonna replace this with an All in One watercooling loop, or a whole system custom watercooling loop, later on. After that, I just dusted off the motherboard, the extension cables of the PSU, the rest of the fans, and the Shinobi is now bare bones.

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What lung cancer looks like in a PC
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Having cleaned the components, I am ready to transfer the system to the new case
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A closer look at the clean CPU heatsink and the Corsair SP120 fan

I thank you Bitfenix Shinobi, you have been a great case for the past 4 years, but I started to see the limitations of the case, thus I needed to move up the case food chain for possible future upgrades like water cooling or simply for a future build still using the new case.

Enter that aforementioned new case: The Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ATX case in black!

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The box so nice, it worth a second look

Even the box itself looks menacing.

What’s inside the box? Apart from the obvious case, which I took the time to stare at it – set me back another 30 mins… It came with an cardboard accessory box that is really sturdy; this isn’t like those cheap cardboard boxes that comes in other cases that you are compelled to just dispose, this one was sturdy enough to really have it for keeps. Plus what is inside really forces you to keep it anyway.

So, inside the accessory box you get the manual, a plastic with some zip ties (I honestly didn’t need it thanks to the robust design of the case) and extra LEDs for the front panel (I used the blue one, of course), a plastic toolbox of sorts to keep all your screws in (easily my favorite accessory! Now I can keep my other screws in here, too!), and other brackets for HDD, etc. to be placed in the main compartment of the case (I didn’t need them as I just had HDD and SDD and they can be placed in the PSU shroud/back of the case away from prying eyes).

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Labeled… just in case you forget what it is. *sarcasm*
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The manual; most of the time you don’t need this, but for the PWM chip and the front panel connectors, it can help sometimes
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Some cable zip ties, which I didn’t even use. Then extra front panel LEDs; I switched the stock white for the blue to match my overall theme
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My favorite accessory! The screws all placed in a convenient case of its own. Perfect for your surplus of other screws, too!
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The extra brackets/cages for HDD and whatnot to be placed in the main compartment. I didn’t use this to utilize better airflow

Now the star of the day… everyday… of the whole year… of every year… the case! I won’t go all review on this, because this is just a weekend project blog, but I will give a gist: it is aluminum panels with a steel inner chassis, with a huge side window and a hidden front panel port for 2 USB 3.0 ports, the mic and headphone jack inputs, and the reset button witch also acts as a HDD activity light. Both side panels can be easily removed and they are further dampened with foam to prevent metal on metal and causing noise. The front panel is also easily removed revealing a removable dust filter and 2 140mm fans. The PSU also has its own removable dust filter. The top panel can be removed by removing 2 screws in the back and front, and it is minimalistic as it only has tiny vents and the power button.

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Well packaged…
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The large windowed side panel
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The top panel; very minimalist with just a power button.
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A portion of the front panel can be opened up, so to speak, to reveal 2 USB 3.0, the headphone and mic jack inputs, and the reset button that also acts as a HDD activity LED
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The front panel with the removable power LED; I changed it to blue. The front panel dust filter is removed at this point.

Inside, you can see the area where the brackets can be placed for extra HDD and what not, or leave it blank like I did for better airflow; this area can also be used to place your reservoir or radiator. You can see another 140mm fan at the back as well as ventilated expansion slot bay covers. The cable holes are grommeted, the PSU shroud is porous in case you change the orientation of the PSU and this provides the 2nd GPU, if present, to get air. The shroud also has a big cut out in case you want to show off you PSU, has a smaller cut out and a drop in screws for a SSD – I used that small slot to route my NZXT Led strip. That way, I can hide the small PCB of the LED in the shroud. Also of note, I could have done a way better job keeping the PSU cables in the free space in the shroud as my PSU is not modular, but that’s something to keep in mind especially if you keep the HDD/SSD brackets in there.

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Once fully swung open, both side panels can be removed by simply lifting it up
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Tool-less alright
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Look at all the room for activity! The side panels are also cushioned with dampening foam to stop metal to metal contact

At the back, you can see there is a big motherboard cutout, 2 more drop in screws with brackets for SSDs, a PWM controller chip, 2 HDD/SSD cage in the PSU shroud, and Velcros for better cable management. As you can see the blurry pic below, the clearance is around a 3/4 of an inch, but that is measured on the smallest area possible; the motherboard tray angles at the front so there is a lot more space towards the front and you have room in the PSU shroud.

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Behold the back! See the PWM hub/chip, Velcro for cable management, grommeted cable routing holes, and everything else
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The blurry pic… around 3/4 of an inch in the smallest possible space

The rear is your standard rear so I won’t even talk about it at all.

I first moved the 2 140mm fans in front higher to give more airflow in the main compartment. I am neglecting my HDD and SSD underneath the shroud, and I am banking on the large fan of the PSU to cool itself down. I then added the 3 fans on top as exhaust; I like this feature of the case, I remove 2 screws on the fan/radiator mount in one side, and 3 more in the other side, to easily slide out the mount. I made a mistake though, I had to put the motherboard in before the placing these fans.

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Moved the fans up
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The radiator/fan mount for the top can be removed for ease of attachement
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The top fans installed; I made a mistake as now I can’t install the motherboard. Thankfully, the mount is easily removed

I’d usually put in the PSU first; it adds stability to it since the heavy side panels aren’t there to keep the chassis stable. Next was the motherboard; I can’t, for the life of me, remove the extra 3 stand offs for the EATX motherboards, so I am forced to use the one and only extra stand off to complete the ATX stand offs. I wished Phanteks supplied more stand offs for clumsy people, or people like me that likes to keep a surplus.

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PSU in!
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Motherboard in!

After the motherboard I then placed the HDD and SSD in the cage underneath the shroud. I can use the drop in cages for the SSD near the motherboard cutout but my current sleeved SATA data cables are with 90 degree angles, so I had to use the regular cages; in fact, the 90 degree angle of the SATA data cable was such a tight fit on the HDD since it is close to the bottom part of the case. I might want to replace that real soon to avoid problems. Thus far, it seems to be holding up well.

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SSD and HDD in!

I then planned out the cable management of the fans and the extra cables of the PSU. Like I said earlier, I probably could have done a better job in tucking the extra PSU cables away, but I was already tired at this point. I fixing the cables now since the GPU and LED cables are not as hard to fix; the GPU has its own route in the shroud and I will use the small cutout for the SSD in the shroud to route the LEDs.

After the initial cable management, I then placed the GPU and also managed its cables through the grommeted cable route. Nice to note that both the 24 pin motherboard and GPU’s 6 pin and 8 pin molex cables have cable combs to “train” them and keep them neat. And yes, it will take awhile for these cables to be trained.

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GPU in! And the cable combs on the cables!!

Last bit was the LEDs; I just used my favorite 3m double sided tape and re-used the cable clips that hold the LEDs in place. I removed the bracket of the PCB that controls the LEDs so I can tuck it inside the PSU shroud. The top was a bit tricky as there was no space to place the clips. I decided to place them on the fans plastic bodies and orient the LEDs upward at this area to avoid seeing them in the window.

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Removed the bracket of the NZXT LED strip kit… DIRTY HANDS!

Finally, the build is technically complete. I then had to do the usual test before placing all the peripherals and panels; let it also be known, even if I know this PC works, I still did the traditional booting outside the new case after clean up. Powering it on, it worked, however, the top, back, and front fans are not working. I knew I connected them all on the PWM control chip, connected it to the motherboard and supplied power. It turns out, I placed it on a 3 pin header in the motherboard and PWM is usually on 4 pin headers. After the switch, everything runs.

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Initial boot, fans didn’t work due to me connecting the PWM chip to a 3pin header instead of a 4 pin header; needless to say, it all worked after

Added all the panels and all the peripherals and did another test boot to see if everything really works, to my surprise, my system was on a constant reboot; the motherboard has a small LED panel that gives a alphanumeric code to tell what is causing the problem. The error code was 0x55 and looking at the motherboard manual, it means that the RAM are not installed. Which is weird, because all for DIMMs are in and it worked earlier. I removed 2 of the DIMMs in 1 channel, test booted it, and it worked… re-inserted the other DIMMs I removed and the whole system is working again. Probably a seating issue while I was moving the case around a lot while connecting the monitors, peripherals, and panels. Removing it and inserting it again provided a better re-seat of the DIMMs.

I am not gonna lie, this case with my full system is heavy. REAL HEAVY. And since I am still recovering my right knee, I had to ask my dad to help me move it in the right position; when I say right position, that is a position where the cables in the back won’t be seen, but you can still get to see the large side panel. I will probably move the cable modem, router, and my NAS to a different place in my room to give more room for the case as I might want to move it a little more forward to easily remove the side panels if need be.

The rest is really just managing the rest of the cables of the peripherals – I just used black duct tape and taped them on the edge of my desk; no, an IKEA signum or the like will work… I’ve tried, so taping them was my only option.

 

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Final clean up!!

After putting all the peripherals back and cable managing, the PC system, overall is done. I just needed to sweep the floor, wipe the bare floors, and I am completely done. This entire ordeal took me 13 hours, skipping lunch and dinner. I tend to get really absorbed in my projects and work that I forget to eat, much like my busy days at the hospital. But in both cases, I never complain, because I am a workaholic, and I enjoy doing these.

I am absolutely happy with the Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ATX case; I got it because of future upgrades that this can accommodate and if ever the time comes, I can still use this case for my next PC build. The design, to me at least, is simple and timeless. I also got this knowing it has better airflow than my previous case and being mostly aluminum and steel, it can also act as a heatsink. Thus far, the temps are great even with the side panel on. I would usually remove the side panel on the previous case to get it more cool.

DSC_0418
Glamour shot with the lights on! Plastic still on the side panel! And yes, that’s Minnie Mouse and Mickey Mouse! There were no clean sheets other than that that could match my room
DSC_0423
Glamour shot with the lights off!

Now, I will save up for a new PSU, a second GPU, and a possible watercooling loop, all within the year. And this case we have no problem accommodating all those.

And with that! I end my post about my weekend project. Hope you all enjoyed reading this, though I know it is quite wordy.

Til next time! PEACE!

P.S.

If you want to see my parts list, just click here to my PCPartsPicker list.

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My Everyday Carry!

I have, like most everyone else, an everyday carry; this can be as simple as just a cellphone and wallet, others may have a multitool, a vlog camera, etc.

For this post, I will showcase my everyday carry (as of August 2015); by the term, this is what I take with me on a daily basis, whether I be at work or at the mall. This is different from my complete gear on vacation where I take my DSLR gear, tablet, laptop, etc., with me.

I will try and give the specs of each everyday carry (hereafter, EDC) and a link to their manufacturer’s website. I will avoid posting prices because, it may change by the time you stumble into this.

So, here goes.

1. ASUS Zenfone 2 (Previously ASUS Zenfone 5)

Let us begin with my phone; honestly, I am not too big in the cellphone/smartphone department. Ever since I was in high school, I never bought my own phone, I had to had hand-me-downs from my sister. My first smartphone was also a hand-me-down from the same sister, an Apple iPhone 3G (She bought herself a 3GS). The very first smartphone I ever bought on my own, happens to be just be my second smartphone ever, the Zenfone 5, but I since upgraded to the Zenfone 2. Why am I not so big on phones? Well, I just needed a phone where I can call or send text messages. Simple as that. But I must admit, having a smartphone like the ASUS Zenfone 2 is making me use my Apple iPad Mini a lot less.

I always said to myself though, if I do get a phone, or even a tablet at that, it would run an Android OS, because my experiences with iOS on my Apple iPhone 3G was not as good as others would say it would be. Well, to the everyday person, an iOS is a superb OS, and rightly so it is, but if you are like me, a PC geek, you hate things that are too locked down like iOS, and an Android OS, so far with the Zenfone 5 and later on the Zenfone 2, I have done a lot more customization and a lot more productivity with it than I ever had on my iPhone 3G or iPad Mini.

Plus, the time I bought this Zenfone 2, it had a price none could beat with it’s specs. I was a no brainer for me to get, since my Nokia and Samsung (I forgot their models; these were the phones I chose for my clerkship) were dying, and my iPhone 3G was practically dead.

So I may not really be a big fan of smartphones, but if it is an Android phone like this one, I had to get it and use it to it’s full potential, and thus far, it has been very good to me in my work/studies. Perfect when you are in the hospital, and then a consultant asks you a question, you can easily browse through your apps, books, or check online for the answers; Perfect when you are tired at work and just want to check your social sites; And most importantly, perfect just to bust out to play some games on emulators. Couple this with the iPega PG9021, you got a perfect handheld gaming device that still serves other purposes other than gaming.

I can also remotely control my PC/Laptop or control PowerPoint presentations remotely and be able to read the notes; this is especially useful, if one has no projector and has to present the PowerPoint directly from a laptop without being able to read the notes on the laptop screen.

Love this phone.

2. Apple iPad Mini

This was given to me by my parents and sister as a gift for becoming a clerk/junior intern. They knew I needed something for me to use for quick references, reviewer, etc. Or just go online to relax a bit while on duties.

But like I said, I wanted an Android tablet if ever I get a tablet. Though, a gift is still a gift, thus I kept it, and sure, apart from its super locked down OS, I still found good use for it.

Again, I used this just for studies or finding answers while in the hospital. And it served me well in that aspect, but I never placed any games here. It was just not a good gaming platform FOR ME. And that’s just me. Sure it has emulators and good games available for download, but it was just not powerful enough for most emulators I wanted to have

I can still do things like, remotely control my PC; control my PC/Laptop while having PowerPoint presentations, and the like. But it just isn’t as intuitive as my Zenfone 2 in doing so.

Like I said above, I am beginning to use this a lot less now since I got my Zenfone 2, but I still bring it just in case I need it. For whatever reason.

3. HUAWEI E5220 Pocket WiFi

My postpaid accounts for all my cellphone numbers (yes, I have a total of 3 numbers; The Zenfone 2 is dual sim, and my “dying” Samsung has the other sim. I just don’t bring my Samsung with me everyday.) doesn’t have 3G or 4G capabilities; I got these numbers when my iPhone 3G was dying, and I was using non-smartphone (stupidphone?) that doesn’t have the ability to go online anyways. So I opted out of the 3G or 4G fiasco. Looking back, maybe it was stupid of me not to, but than again, having a separate pocket WiFi is a better choice in the end.

Having a pocket WiFI instead of a mobile data plan for my numbers, makes it so my phone won’t have it’s battery drained faster, and if I want to share the WiFi, I don’t have to turn on my phone’s hotspot.

The bad thing about this, is that it is signal dependent of course. But then again, also is my phone…

4. USB Flashdrives

I just showed one flashdrive, btu believe me, being a computer geek and being a senior intern, I have loads and loads of these flashdrives, from different companies, of different capacities, and different interfaces (USB 1, 2, and 3).

I never leave my home for work on vacation without at least an 8GB Flashdrive with me… You just never know what you’ll need this for or when you’ll need this.

5. Romoss Solo 5 10,000mAh Powerbank

Just a new addition to my gadgets; I just bought this last month. In fact, you can read my review on this powerbank right HERE (note this post was imported from Blogger; may look messy).

I love this. My Zenfone 2, though higher capacity battery life compared to let’s say an iPhone 5S, it does go through quite quickly depending on what you do in a day. I usually charge every 36hours (yes, I track how many hours my phone usually lasts before charging), but if I game, or text a lot or call a lot (which I do in the hospital due to referrals, etc), I do have to charge after 18-24 hours after previous charge. And we all know, by the advent of all mobile devices, finding a free socket to charge in is now rare. In fact, even USB ports of PC’s are occupied with devices being charged.

At first I wanted to jsut buy an extension cord, so everyone can share a charge, but then again, I would leave my devices on charge while I go through the different floors, in different rooms of patients, etc., thus risking missing important calls or messages. So I needed a powerbank so I can charge on the go.

And this Romoss has been nothing else but truly AWESOME. It has dual output (one is 2.1A and the other is 1A) so I can charge my HUAWEI E5220 pocket WiFi and my Zenfone 5 at the same time. In fact, if you have an octopus cord, you can charge even more devices! Albeit slower charge… but still. Perfect.

Do read my review for more info on this powerbank.<

6. iPega PG9021

I wanted to have a controller that is bluetooth, so it can be used with my Zenfone 2 and emulators, and can still be used with my main PC system by way of bluetooth. Not only that, it should have a clip on for the said Zenfone 2 and have a XBox controller form-factor. Sounds impossible? NOPE.

I found this iPega PG-9021 that is everything I just said above. And for a good price.

Now I won’t say everything about the controller for I have a review right HERE (note: also from Blogger; may look messy).

Do read it.

This is perfect for those boring days at work where you see people playing Clash of Clans or what not and you play Doom on your phone by way of DOS emulator and then mapping the controls to your controller.

Heck, if I have the urge to “catch ’em all!”, I can also do so by way of various Gameboy emulators.

Because REAL gamers don’t settle for games that are for casuals… Just saying.

7. Xiaomi Piston V2 Earphones

I was in the market for good quality earphones that don’t break the bank, and these pair of drivers certainly are, and literally are, BANG for the buck.

With its sleek looks (I got the gold ones), and sleeved cables, it can trick the unknowing and may pass for an even more expensive earphones that they really are.

Once you dial in the equalizer just right on your device, these earphones are truly a wonder to hear.

Of course, when you go out, be it alone or with other people, sometimes you need to listen to music… have a soundtrack for your life… so a simple strut around the mall or park can be so epic when “Bittersweet Symphony” starts playing and blasting through your earphones.

8. WIRES!! And Stuff!

Of course, this is a must, I need a couple of micro USB cables to charge my devices while I’m at work or out somewhere. I still bring along my Samsungs micro USB AC charger, cause I may need to charge my phone/pocket WiFi/powerbank all simultaneously and I just had one AC adapter from ASUS. Sure I can charge my powerbank and plug in devices on it’s USB ports to charge simultaneously, but it charges itself and the devices EXTREMELY slower if charged simultaneously. So I must charge them separately.

I also have this peculiar CDRKing Lightning to Micro USB adapter for my iPad Mini. BUT WAIT, you say! You have that octopus cord, you say. Well I SAY!! That octopus cord only charges, it doesn’t transfer files, so if I need to transfer something to and from my iPad Mini, I am screwed with the octopus cord. And why don’t I buy the actual lightning cord? Because it is too expensive. This was 10% of the total price of the cable. No brainer.

I also have an On The Go (OTG) cable for my phone. So I can quickly transfer files from my Flashdrive if need be. Just being a boyscout here.

9. Wallet

Self explanatory. Usually empty.

10. House/Room Keys

Ditto.

Not pictured because people sure know how to make copies by screen capture and molding the key. Not saying I did it, but I heard of it that’s why people warn me not to take pictures with my keys, any keys, visible. Let this also serve as a warning to you all. Be it true or not, better safe then sorry.

10. Rubbing Alcohol

Yes, I am a “germaphobe”… well only when I am in the hospital. Of course, you see patients that are sick, you can’t always go to the bathroom to wash your hands if in a hurry, so rubbing alcohol is necessary.

11. Rosary

I may not look like it, but I am religious, I get really scared if I don’t bring one along. Every time the going gets tough, I just hold on to this, say a little prayer, and everything gets better for me.

And that concludes my EDC.

So, how do I keep all these things when I am on the go? I have several travel bags/cases where I keep them. Note… All these cases came from Medical Representatives when I attend medical conventions… very handy. As I can’t find these items easily in the local malls for the life of me.

I have this small case for my powerbank, wires, flashdrives, pockt WiFi, chargers…

For my earphones, I also have a nice little organizer and case for it… doesn’t come with the earphones when you purchase them, I just got this separately thanks to the Medical Representatives.

Yes, I also keep my controller in a case when I travel. That’s how OC I am! But there’s more to it… read below as to why I have a lot of cases.

Then they all go in together a larger case.

Why do I still have other cases for my stuff if I will ultimately end up putting them inside a bigger caset that obviously accommodates them all?

Let us be realistic, some days, I don’t want to game, or I don’t need to listen to music, etc, so I need not bring the everything (which kinda contradicting to the EVERYDAY CARRY moniker); if I just want to bring my chargers, I will bring the smaller bag/case for example.

And of course, my wallet, rosary, rubbing alcohol, and phone is kept in my various pockets.

So there you go! That is my EDC as of August 2015.

Tell me what you guys think what are your EDC!

CHEERS!

iPega PG9021 Bluetooth Classic Gamepad Review

READ ME: This review is targeted for Android users. This controller can be used for iOS, since I don’t plan on using this on my iPad, my review will be based on my experience with an Android. Also, you can look at other reviews, that using this controller on iOS isn’t all that good anyway.

Disclaimer: I do not condone downloading ROMs for emulators unless you have the physical copies of them; As shown below, I own SNES and N64 with games such as Earthbound and Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time. Please do not ask me where to get ROMs. Google is a far better friend than me.

THE BACKSTORY (Skip to ACTUAL REVIEW if not interested):

As a PC gamer, the keyboard and mouse is a staple, and simply an extension of my upper extremities. Nothing compares to the precision and almost second nature controls of a keyboard and mouse for me. That being said, there are some games that I find that it does need a proper gamepad to play with.

Such games include emulators and of course the notorious Dark Souls, that if you can play it with the keyboard and mouse and be just as good, you probably don’t have a soul… no pun intended. Well, maybe just a little bit.

Thus, I was in the market for a good gamepad that I can use with my PC. Gamepads from Razer, etc, are off my radar because such gamepads are, in my opinion, overpriced. I was looking at PS3 Bluetooth Controllers or Xbox 360 Wireless or Wired Controllers for the PC, they are way cheaper, well built controllers, and basically does what it’s supposed to do. So I don’t need to buy an expensive gamepad just for the name.

But for some strange reason, even if I had the money to buy either the PS3 or Xbox 360 controller that would work with my PC, I have always put it off.

Then come October of last year, when I got my ASUS Zenfone 5, I knew I would want some emulators on it so I can play, let’s say, Pokemon, on the go; just like it was meant to be played, on a handheld. However, as with everyone that is a gamer and owns a tablet or a smartphone, they know the on-screen display takes up most of the screen revenue and let’s face it, without the proper tactile sensation of real buttons, the controls are wonky at best.

And as a consumer that would rather buy one item that can be used multiple times, in multiple ways, or across multiple platforms, I had to buy a controller that I can use with my PC and my smartphone.

At first, I was really inclined to using an Xbox 360 controller or an alternative with the same shape and button layout; don’t get me wrong, I still believe the Playstation controller form factor is perfect. Probably the simplest, well thought of, but really, the best controller form factor out there. But I wanted a change, and I wanted the Xbox controller form factor.

Sadly, the wireless controller for the Xbox 360 runs on RF and not on bluetooth. Smartphones usually don’t use RF anymore and use bluetooth. So there was a huge strike against the the Xbox controller. All the more with the wired Xbox controller, where I need to use my OTG cable to connect it with my smartphone. Yet another strike, this time on the wired variant.

With the RF controller, you can also use it with your smartphone, but like the wired one, you need to connect the RF receiver to your smartphone with an OTG cable.

In fact, if you’re still interested, or if you already own an Xbox 360 wireless or wired controller and want to connect it with your smartphone or tablet, you can look at this.

Why are these strikes, even if technically I can make them work? Well, if I’m using my smartphone, and gaming while I am on the go, portability is a must, and having wires, apart from my earphones and possibly short microusb cables charging my phone vis power bank, dangling isn’t what I will call “mobile gaming”, and certainly defeats the purpose of gaming with my smartphone.

So, as much as I wanted an Xbox controller, I had to say no.

Next up on my list is the PS3 wireless controller. Now this is bluetooth that can run on both my PC and smartphone. And it is with the form factor I deem perfect. So what’s stopped me from purchasing it? You know what? I really didn’t know what stopped me! Something, like a thorn on my side, stopped me from getting it. It was strange.

I had it all planned out, buy this PS3 controller, get a bluetooth dongle for my PC, and pair it with both my PC and smartphone to play games that need a controller. It was perfect! In fact, I even found this!

A GameKlip Universal CaseMount, that mounts your smartphone to your PS3 controller; I mean sure, it has 3M double sided tape on the back in order for your smartphone to mount on it, but you have to buy a silicon case or the like as to not have your actual case be mounted on the GameKlip forever… But this ain’t cheap! For a piece of plastic, it ain’t cheap!

But even if it wasn’t cheap, I would have still gotten it in order to have that mobile gaming. Though, like I said, I didn’t know what was stopping me at that time to but these.

It was like the Heavens were telling me “Son, there is something out there, much better, and bang for the buck than this… Patience, son… Patience”. And so like my love life, I stayed patient.

However, unlike my love life, patience paid off while waiting. As I was looking for bluetooth controllers for smartphones, I stumbled into the likes of Steel Series and MOGA, but they were expensive, and they didn’t look to have a comfortable form factor. Because, even if these controllers were made specifically for mobile devices, I know, it being a bluetooth controller, I can still use this on a PC and I need a good form factor for gaming on either my PC or smartphone.

So the search continued. I found some that had a good form factor, but let us take into account that I live in the Philippines, and not all gadgets are available here; so browsing the local online store, I found, I consider, the Holy Grail of bluetooth controllers.

THE ACTUAL REVIEW:

Front… obviously
Back… I am insulting your intelligence
Here she is!

As you can see, it is shaped as an Xbox 360 controller, and yes it is bluetooth, so it will work with my smartphone and with my PC with a bluetooth dongle. The only deviation from the real Xbox 360 controller is of course the clip for your mobile device and the media buttons on the right side of the controller as you can see as greyish/silvery buttons on the pictures above

What comes in the box is, of course, the controller itself, a micro USB cable, and an instruction manual. Just the essentials. The way it should be really.

Build quality, well, it is light, and really, really “plastic-ky”, but I guess that is all controllers anyways, but the light weight kinda gives the feeling of cheap build quality. That being said, it is quite sturdy, except for the clip part where you mount your smartphone, it feels it may give way someday, but for the price, I guess it is easy to replace the whole unit without feeling that you’ve lost a lot of money.

The instructions on how to pair this with your smartphone come in your standard Chinese company’s poor English, but you can figure it out somehow. I recommend not downloading the game center app they are saying, all you have to do is turn on your controller, hold down X and then press the Home button, to go into gamepad mode, turn on your smartphone’s Bluetooth, search for the gamepad, and pair. YOU ARE GOOD TO GO.

This controller is fully functional in the emulators I have tried for my Android phone; NES, SNES, GBC, GBA, N64, PS1 emulators (I won’t give all the names of the emulators I have; just go to the Play Store, I am confident, whichever apk you get, will work with this controller…). Games like GTA3 and GTA Vice City supports this out of the box (with a slight hiccup in Vice City. Read below), and acts like it should on the console versions of these games.

EarthBound!
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time!!! I will make a separate post on how to run N64 games on ASUS Zenfone 5 or any other Android device… It took awhile for this to run right

Both analog sticks and all buttons work the way they should, and have no input lag at all. The D-Pad is a lot left to be desired; it is flimsy and, well, it just doesn’t feel good. For those rare instances where I used the D-Pad, I do get frustrated by its poor build quality. The media buttons that are found on the right side of the controller is also fully functional; from left to right, the media button layout is Volume Down, Back Track, Play/Pause, Forward Track, and Volume Up. In some emulators, or using the Game Keyboard APK, you can also remap these buttons for extra control.

All the games I’ve played, and emulators I’ve ran, the controller had no problems whatsoever; but of course, there is always an exception, strangely, GTA Vice City, the left and right trigger buttons don’t respond as fluidly as one would want. I have to press either one several times before the game actually responds. This is not the fault of the controller, because apart from Vice City, this controller works like a true champ.

Portability is quite high, even if it is a full sized Xbox 360 controller clone, it is very, VERY, lightweight, and having to put this in your bag, won’t be a bother.

My new “Everyday Carry” devices: Clockwise from top left: ASUS Zenfone 5, Romoss Solo5 Powerbank, HUWEI Pocket WiFi, and iPega PG-9021 Controller. I will make a separate post for my complete Everyday Carry

Battery life is also high, it lasts obviously longer than my phone, at one point, I gamed 2 whole days and still didn’t get low batt on this controller. Coupled with my dual output Romoss Solo 5 power bank, I can game for long road trips, or long plane rides, for future vacations.

To summarize, this short review, but long back story post, I HIGHLY recommend this controller to any Android gamer. The fact that it works great, battery life is long enough, shaped as a comfy Xbox 360 controller, has a clip for your device, and works with your PC (chances are, if you are an Android gamer, you are a PC gamer), what more can you ask for from a controller that is cheap?

Go. Get it. NOW.

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