Another Narita Trip

By the time I reach the hotel, it was already 10.30am. Could have reach earlier if not for the connecting passengers. I managed to sleep for 2 hours plus.

Something freaky happened halfway sleeping, all the lights in my room turned on automatically. I’m too tired to even think what have caused it, and just flipped all the lights off and continued sleeping.

I got up, took the 2.30pm shuttle to Terminal 2, and only able to catch the next bus at 3.40pm to Tokyo. By the time I reach Tokyo, it is already 5pm. That’s mean I have only 3 and half hour to walk around before I need to catch the last bus back to the terminal. How sad.

This time I decided to visit a bicycle store. I’ve chosen Y’s Road Bike store near Akihabara, thinking naively that I still got time to check out Yodabashi at Akihabara after I’ve finished browsing the bike store. The store doesn’t disappoint, so I overspent my time there.

There are so many Brompton bikes which made my heart itchy again for a Brompton bike after I’ve gave up on that idea last July when I visited London. They’re price pretty competitively without tax:

M3L Normal Color 160,000 yen
M3L 170,000 yenS6L Normal Color 178,000 yen
S6L 185,000 yen
M6L 184,000 yen

They also sell few Dahon folders and ther rest are expensive road bikes. Since they sell Dahon there, parts can also be found there, such as 20″ Kojak tires. I also get to try out Ergon grip which I think I’ll pick one up soon. Then there’s also quite a selection of Knog and Cateye lights, bicycle locks, saddles. Oh not forgetting quite a selection of Shimano gear sets.

After visiting the bicycle store, I walked around looking for dinner, which is also my lunch. I went into this bar called おかってや 御徒町店. I ordered a plate of sashimi, mix rice and some sake. The waitress named Ami are kind enough to guide me on how to drink the specially over-poured sake. The mix rice was sort of cooked on the spot on my table, and I was specifically told to only eat after 30 minutes. A timer was placed on the table together with the meal.

おかってや 御徒町店

The food is nice and I thought I could finish faster to continue shopping. End up after meal I had some small talk with the two waitress. There’s another waitress named Manami and her brother is also working in the kitchen. She’s a student and working part time. After taking their photo, it was time for me to catch my bus.

おかってや 御徒町店

I under-stimated the time needed to reach the bus stop, mainly because I got a bit loss at Otemachi station. I pretty much ran to the bus stop after I found out how far was I when I got the the surface level and checked Google Map. With so little time for actually spending in the city, I say the trip down isn’t worth the 2000 yen return bus trip.

However, thinking back again, I being able to discover some place new, talking a bit to the locals, and trying out new way of drinking sake. The trip isn’t that bad after all.

Another Narita Trip

Quick take on Arctic Accelero III

Before the next gen of GPU are out, I decided to give overclocking the 980 Ti a try. I’ve read a lot of review that the non-reference 980 Ti can achieve 1500MHz core clock, which is pretty high from default 1000MHz. The reason I don’t want to put a non-reference 980 Ti in my PC is because the small size of the Ncase M1 which is not designed for non-reference GPU with TDP above 175W. The hot air will be dumped into the case and reused by the GPU, so the fan will actually work harder to cool the GPU.

I really wanted to do a custom loop water cooling, but there are a few reasons I am not doing it right now. First will be my Ivy Bridge i5 3570k CPU which isn’t such a great overclocker. It will probably be more beneficial to watercool a i7 Devil Canyon or Skylake. I’m thinking my next CPU upgrade would probably be the i7 Extreme version with more than 4 cores. Second reason is that I don’t think I have got that much time for the project right now.

I stumbled into this product called Arctic Accelero, which is an aftermarket cooler. Many people bought Version III of the product to improve the AMD R9 290X with stock heat sink that a lot people had purchased before other company comes out with their own non-reference cooling. The original AMD cooler is pretty crappy, inferior to Nvidia’s reference cooler, so the Accelero III is a great replacement, allowing the GPU to run full speed, and even overclocking.

Arctic also has version IV of the cooler, and improved design with backplates and not using glue for cooling the VRM and RAM. However the backplate is very bulky and will not fit into the Ncase M1, so it is better for me to save a few bucks and opt for Version III.

It is not easy to find the product in Malaysia, most of the store doesn’t carry it because the price of the cooler cost as much as a low end GPU (which can run DOTA2), and those who want better cooling for their GPU will just buy a non-ref GPU, or get a water block for custom loop water cooling. I manage to found a guy in Lowyat Forum, and even he has to get his stock from Singapore.

Installation

Installing the Accelero III is very tricky, but before that I have to remove the reference cooler on Nvidia 980 Ti. That is pretty simple, just take out the 20-ish screws and pulling the board out from the card. It is very tricky in the sense that there is literally no guide on the net that teach you how to do it from A-Z. It is up to me which heat-sink I wanted to place on the VRAM chip and which on the VRM. How much thermal glue to stick the heat sink. Whether I should use the plastic stickers to prevent short-circuit. How tight I should screw the heatsink base plate onto the GPU chip. I’m just glad I didn’t break my card on my first try.

It is definitely harder to do than installing the CPU cooler, or even assembling a complete desktop rig.Instead of using the 3 fans bracket that comes with the Accelero III, I’ve removed them and intended to use my case fan to cool the GPU. The case fans are no other than Corsair 120SP. To allow the GPU to control the fans, I’ve ordered a mini 4-pin to 2x 4-pin cable from another fellow in Lowyat Forum. The Ncase M1 seems to be built with this cooling configuration in mind as everything fits in place with no extra inch of space.

I was so nervous on the first time booting up the computer, luckily for me it booted up normally. The difference is that it is so much quieter compared to with reference cooler even at idle. I have to physically look at the fans are running just to be sure they’re indeed being powered by the GPU. Even when playing games, there is no doubt the 2 120mm fans are so much more quieter than reference and the heat-sink is very efficient in cooling the GPU. Unlike the reference cooler, it will be very hard for me to be throttled due to temperature.

Overclocking the 980Ti

I did not buy better cooling just to reduce the noise while gaming, I wanted to see what my 980 Ti is capable of on air. Yeap, overclocking 980 Ti on air in the Ncase M1. On default, the Zotac Reference 980 Ti only allows me to increase the Power Target up to 106%. To unlock up to 120%, I have to use Maxwell Bios Tweaker to edit my current BIOS and flash it using NVFlash (certificate check bypass).

I was able to set the Power Target 120% and Memory Clock +200. I don’t want to get adventurous with the memory clock since it only give negligible performance improvement. Looking at other’s review, some people only manage to get max Core Clock of +200, so I guess I’ll just start off with +250

Core clock +250 – Crash
Core clock +230 – Crash
Core clock +210 – Stable @ Temp:80C Fan:1500 RPM.

With +210 on Core Clock, I manage to get 3D Mark’s Fire Strike score of: 14,154 (Graphic:19,353 CPU:8,125 Combined:7,444) up from around 12k on reference cooler (Graphic was 16k). When playing The Division, core clock hover around 1390MHz, pushing frame rates in the upper 60 region.

With that extra heat being dumped into the case, now it really felt much warmer. My i5 3570K CPU’s temperature also increase to the 80C region while gaming at 4.4GHz. I guess I’ve pretty much max out the air cooling capability of the Ncase M1 with this setup. I’ll probably get 2 more 120mm fans, one for the Noctua C14 as 2 fans setup, and one for side panel as exhaust. That is only to lower the temperature inside the case, not so much of reducing the GPU & CPU’s temperature.

Conclusion

To sum it up, the Arctic Accelero III is a great product if you’re using the Ncase M1 and wanted extra air cooling for your reference GPU, or you wanted your rig to be quiet while gaming. It probably won’t give much of an improvement if your GPU already has great non-reference cooler, but with 2 slow spinning 120mm fan, it still might be quieter than fast spinning 100mm fans. Installing it is a bit complicated and not for those who have never assemble a complete rig before. At RM319, it is not cheap, but I could most certainly reuse the cooler on future GPU that I buy.

Quick take on Arctic Accelero III

梁文音觸動生命音樂會

When I heard Gospel Church Miri is going to invite Rachel Liang to appear in Miri, in knew I have to go. Not only that I like her song, I also have a lot of friends both in Miri and Miri Gospel as they’re the same people who set up Lu Zhou Youth. It must be God’s arrangement that my roster turned out to be really good for me to attend the event without applying any leave.

I was back from Pudong on 18th morning, and I took the earliest flight to Miri which surprisingly isn’t full considering it is school holiday. After arriving, Yeu fetch me to have lunch together with the rest of my friends. After that I asked King to send me to Coco House for me to have quick afternoon nap as I haven’t sleep a bit last night due to the red eye flight.

I walked to Bintang Mall after I checked out later in the evening. After a quick dinner in McDonald, which I haven’t eat there for ages, we headed to Meritz Hotel. There was already a long queue for elevator because everyone wanted to go to 7th floor for the event. CP and I shared the RM100 ticket, which is really cheap to sit so near to the stage.

The event started with group singing by the church’s children, and then the adult group. There was also a little speech by the pastor. Then Rachel appeared on stage with her Macbook Air, which screen kept dimming (okay please ignore my little tech head habit). This is no concert but something more personal, her story accompanied by her songs such as 心裡的孩子, 三個願望, 我不是你想像那麼勇敢, 魯凱的姑娘 (I’m ain’t translating those to English).

梁文音觸動生命音樂會

You can check out Nelson Lo’s Flickr for more photos.

She talked about her good childhood memory before she finished kindergarten when she was close with her mother, when she love to attend church simply it is fun going there singing and playing with other kids. They had this prayer before bed where little Rachel will always talk the most among her siblings about what she encountered that day in school and in life.

When her mother started to become addicted with alcohol and got abusive, her family life turned upside down. Rachel feared and hated her mother for ruining the peace in the family. Her dad always reminded her to pray for her mother. At the age of 10, her dad was killed in an accident caused by gas explosion at his workplace. Her mum was injured too, but survived the accident. It was rumoured that she suspected her mum caused the accident and had never forgive her.

Due to her mum’s condition, she was sent to a Christian run orphanage not long after the death of her father. Rachel was very sad and couldn’t accept the reality that she is in an orphan house because unlike the rest of the kids there, she still have her mother. She became pretty rebellious and dyed her hair red to give a message to the other kids: Don’t come near me!

One day while she was outside at the compound of the orphanage, Rachel heard the children choir singing church song and started to weep. Young Rachel was touched and enjoyed the songs. She decided to join the choir and has become her happiest memories in the orphanage. Her mum passed away when she was 14, and since then she has forgive her mum.

Rachel joined college after high school and there, her classmates always sign her up for singing competition without her consent. With her talent and her years of experience in the orphanage choir, she was able to get top prize in most of the competition, which then the award money was shared among her friends for nice food to celebrate her achievements. That’s how she got exposure.

She first appeared in TV on the Taiwan Channel V’s Blackie show back in 2006. She later joined the program briefly in 2007. My jaw dropped when I first heard her sing in early 2007 when I watched the 240p TV series uploaded in Youtube. In 2007, Rachel became really famous in the second season of One Million Star, Taiwan’s knock off for American Idol.

I didn’t watch One Million Star, but I guess her singing career took off in a good way after that which she released her first album in late 2008. I was hooked on her song ever since. She never gotten really famous, as in super famous, in Malaysia. IMO not everyone liked her song, definitely not the clubbing peeps, as well as k-pop sexy girl dancing loving guys, nor some of the LGBT group. Art is subjective, I would say.

Anyway, the main objective of the event in Miri. Rachel wanted everyone to know that even with her hardship with her childhood, she learned to believe in God, to trust in Jesus. She is thankful of what God has done to her life. She hoped she can bring to good news to more people and asked those who are suffering to believe in Jesus too. Writing Gospel stuff isn’t for me so I’m going elaborate too much here.

She did ask 2 audience to come on stage to sing 分手後不要做朋友 with her, one of the selected seems prep before-hand, anyhow it was a good show. The 2 front moving effect lights did annoy me when she shine straight on my face. I’m glad they didn’t use coloured lights on the Rachel when she’s singing.

The video projected on to the screen for the audience behind is a little laggy (1000ms lag?), and when they mix the lyrics with the video feed, it underexposed the feed due to them using black coloured background for the lyrics feed (what?). They must be some technical difficulties that they decided to do that.

The sound is where it matters and the system didn’t disappoint. It is good, nicely balance and thank God not bass heavy. Rachel’s voice come out crisp and clear and the speakers gave a nice soundstage. The front right speaker near me got a little distorted when Rachel max out her voice, but it is too little to be noticed.

The peak of the event is, IMO, when she sang 看不見的手 and 奇妙的愛. Rachel is always touched when she sang thes songs and even during the event, we see tears came flowing out of her eyes. I managed to capture the video of her singing these two songs and you may enjoy them below. These song may stuck in your head for a long time after you’ve listened to them,like they did to mine right now. Don’t say I didn’t warn you 🙂


It it quite an amazement to see Rachel Liang singing live in a small city like Miri, a place pretty much unheard of by 99% of Taiwanese. I mean look at her, she’s pretty famous back in her country, she could have use the time to attend more reality shows or do concerts in China where the money is right now. Instead, she decided to come to Miri, and the many cities around Southeast Asia.

I’m beginning to feel bad that I have never visited her hometown before even I’ve been to Taiwan countless times. I’m felt even worse that with the amount of free time I have, I can do a lot of things for the church but I didn’t.

謝謝你巴冷公主。天主保佑。

 

梁文音觸動生命音樂會

Clearing Jass’s Phone

My gf has been complaining that her phone is out of storage space. It has become so bad that she couldn’t update the apps anymore. She was using HTC Desire Eye, which I got her for her birthday. The phone has built in 16GB of storage and I’ve gotten her additional 32GB MicroSD card for to store photos.

I’ve checked the MicroSD card, it is not full. The internal 16GB is one that is full, only left some 200+MB. The last time I was left with so little space was when I was using the HTC One X and it was also very limited by its 8GB app storage (even though it has 32GB internal storage, stupid design by HTC).

Looking thru the internal storage, the app definitely took the majority of the space, but it shouldn’t have made the 16GB full. I try to move some apps to the SD cards, and too bad Android doesn’t allow many big apps to be moved to SD eg. Facebook, Google Map, Chrome. I tried clearing her bloated WhatsApp folder, shrinking it to 700MB. With all that I managed to make a total free space of 1.7GB.

Time to hit that overdue system update by HTC. I hope the Desire Eye gets Android 6.0.

 

Clearing Jass’s Phone

Getting into Fujifilm System

I’ve been reluctant to join a new system after investing so much into Canon’s ecosystem. Two years ago I got myself a Fujifilm X100S mainly because reading lots of review regarding how great it is. The initial plan was using it an everyday camera and a second camera for the gap between my 24mm and 70-200mm lens.

The camera is so small that it doesn’t attract too much attention, it take photos without making any sound, and it take really good quality photos! Even though it cost a lot for a camera which lens can’t be swap out and not even zoom, I say it is money well spent. It has been my go-to camera for both work and play for the past two years. My neck definitely thank me a lot for not lugging my 5D and 24mm combo so often.

My 5D only see day-light during event and some oversea traveling. Heck, I decided to bring my older 40D instead of the 5D for my Europe trip to prevent my expensive full frame lens from getting stolen. Occasionally the 5D still see its uses. For events, the 24mm and 70-200mm are extremely useful while the UWA 17-40mm is mostly used for traveling.

I wasn’t really happy with the photos that comes out of the 5D and 17-40mm combo on my previous trip to New Zealand’s south island. The 17-40mm exhibit quite some corner blur even at f/11. The 5D’s 10 years old sensor is seriously old that the X100S APS-C sensor beats the heck out of it in terms of resolution, noise and especially shadow recovery from RAW files.

Being able to recover tons of shadow data from the X100S’s ISO 200 RAW file is nothing short of amazing. Suddenly the Lee gradient ND filter isn’t that useful anymore when I just underexpose the shot and pull the shadow out during PP. I wanted to upgrade from the 5D, but the Canon system isn’t what I expect it to be at the moment.

The 5D Mark II has a higher resolution sensor with amazing high ISO performance, the 5D Mark III improved the high ISO performance even further. However Canon has not make their sensor ISO-less, unlike what the Sony has done. Since I capture a lot of landscape, and not so much of portraits, the 5D Mark III doesn’t interest me that much and it is really expensive.

Then there’s the lens. The 17-40 is quite a terrible L lens, the 16-35 f/2.8 II isn’t that good for the price either. Nikon clearly has better UWA lens with the 12-24 and 16-35 VR compared with Canon’s flagship zoom. After that Canon did came out with its own version of 16-35 f/4 IS, which is probably the best UWA zoom Canon has right now, but to buy that and a new 5D Mark III will cost a bomb and still being disadvantaged by the 5DIII’s sensor.

My X100S really open my eyes of how good Fujifilm’s sensor are and the JPEG SOOC are really nice. At one point I was seriously considering buying an old X-Pro1 and 14mm to fill the wide-angle gap that my X100S is lacking. I changed my mind and get a wide angle adapter lens for the X100S instead. I figure the 14mm (or 21mm equiv.) isn’t as wide as the 17-40 that I have, and buying another camera just for wide-angle just sound dumb to me. I’m so used to just bringing the small and light X100S.

Then Fujifilm released the 10-24mm and it has got a lots of positive reviews. That really got me thinking whether I should try it out. The high price of the X-T1 put me off. I don’t like the design of the X-E2 and its similar AF system as the X100S (read: slow). Fujifilm once again tried to lure me by releasing the X-T10. And just recently they had this cash-back promotion that I finally lost to the temptation.

I got the 10-24mm for RM3300, with the RM550 cash back, the lens only cost RM2750. And then at Mudah.my I found someone selling a used X-T1 and 56mm combo for RM5300. Apparently it’s the same guy that sold me the X100S’s wide angle adapter. He’s quite happy to see me showing up at his shop again, and told me the story of the combo.

A chap need cash to get married, so he borrowed some money from him while leaving the camera at his shop. After a while the shopkeeper tried to contact him on whether or not he has the cash to pay back or should he sell the camera. There was no reply from the chap for quite a while so the shopkeeper decided to just sell them off.

He actually sold the combo to me for just RM5000. Yeah it doesn’t come with box and body cap, but I still get the included flash, charger, strap and lens cap. On top of that, he gave me a used Zeiss UV filter and a Hoya HD Protector filter after I mentioned I need a new filter for my 10-24mm. Those two filter probably cost like RM500 in the market. So there you go, I got a pretty good deal and I will be an idiot for not buying it. If I were to buy a used 5DIII + 16-35 IS + 85 f1.8, it’ll probably cost me almost double the price.

I’ll come up with a comparison soon.

Getting into Fujifilm System

Can’t Activate Windows 10

After getting the new Crucial MX200 M.2 SSD, I’ve decided to clean install Windows 10 onto it. It wasn’t as simple as I initially thought.

Initially I tried to clone the hard disk containing the OS into the SSD, but the damn thing just fail to boot. I just don’t know how does the UEFI crap work. While setting the UEFI in BIOS, I’ve also messed it up and failed to boot into the original OS. Smart ass. Time for format it!

In the past, to clean install Windows, you make a Windows installation boot disk (it was a diskette back in the Win98 days) or disc and boot your computer from there. From there you get to choose to format and install Windows.

So I use that method, downloaded Windows 10 ISO from Microsoft’s website since Dell doesn’t provide any installation CD. Wait, the laptop doesn’t even have a CD ROM. I boot up the drive, started reformatting and installing the fresh copy of Windows 10.

I managed to boot into the newly installed copy of Windows and started updating the drivers and installing the necessary software. Then I back up whatever is important on the hard-disk before formatting it. Big mistake.

Then I realised Windows 10 don’t get activated automatically. I searched the net for solution, and some says you have to wait for a while for it to get activated. So I gave it a few days and installed my usual programs and games while waiting.

Other than activation, I still haven’t completely solve the UEFI boot feature. Now that I’ve installed a clean Windows on SSD, it detected as a second OS on boot. I got that extra step to choose OS at boot and that wasted a bit of time while starting the machine.

After waiting for a few days, it is still the same thing. I just wouldn’t get activated for some reason. I called Microsoft using the toll free hotline, and spoke to the customer service. According to her, the license that I’ve installed is the retail version and is incorrect. I then realised the version that Dell provided me is “Windows 10 Home Single Language (English)”

I tried to do Factory Image Restore, hoping that I can somehow load the installer hidden inside one of the Dell HDD’s partition which I didn’t delete. No joy. Seem like all the partition I’ve left over are pretty much useless.

Going to Microsoft website, I can’t seem to choose any other version to download. I accidentally stumbled into the list which I can finally choose which version to download, while browsing the exact same Microsoft site using Android Chrome app. Apparently changing the desktop browser agent to Safari will unlock the page, and I get to download the ISO file (instead of the usual Media Creation Tool) using a time limited link.

I copied the content of the ISO into a thumb drive and booted from it. This time I deleted whatever crap partition Dell have made inside the HDD before clean install Windows 10, just to make sure there’s no dual boot thingy anymore. This time the installation didn’t even ask me for activation code and it is automatically activated.

I wish Microsoft would just provide us with a code and I can easily reinstall my Windows without going through all these hassle. At one point I actually wanted to just download an Activation remover from torrent site just to unlock the copy I’ve installed without setting up all the software and games again.

Can’t Activate Windows 10

Quick take on Dell Inspiron 15 7559

Some compliment for the Dell delivery team:
My order is originally stated on Dell’s website to arrive on 29th December. On 22nd December I got an SMS saying my laptop will be delivered on 28th instead. I phoned them to find out if I can collect it earlier as I have done so in the past with the Dell U2711 monitor. They say they only received the device on 23rd, and since it is public holiday on 24 and 25th, I can only collect it on 26th. After Christmas day. So I tell them that I will collect it on 26th. On the 24th morning, a guy called me asking if I wanted my laptop to be delivered today instead. I happily agreed and so the guy came well ahead of my Christmas eve Mass in the evening. Enough time for me to set the thing up.

The Build

Dell Inspiron 15 7559 is really big. Sorry I can’t help to compare it to my Apple Macbook Air 11″ (MBA). I know it is an unfair comparison, but I just want to say out what I felt. Obviously it is also heavier. This new Dell is wider than my brother’s old Dell Inspiron 15, but it is shorter and and slightly thinner. A problem with being wider is that it wouldn’t fit into a lot of bags that is able to fit a Apple Macbook Pro 15.

dscf5351.jpg
Dell Inspiron 15: Old vs New

The design of the laptop is more towards grown-up businessman and less teenager geeks, and I really like it. Its look can even convince your non-gaming spouse that you got yourself a laptop for work. And in a country where laptop theft is a problem, this Dell really wouldn’t attract much attention compared to any Apple laptop, or that Alienware.

dscf5353.jpg
The new Dell is wider.

The build is fully plastic and isn’t as stiff as the MBA. Although I don’t mind the screen flexes a bit, but the lid mechanism just isn’t as smooth as on the MBA. Although it have never happen to me, but I’ve seen other people’s older Dell screen hinge got so loose after many open-close cycle that the thing simply broke and lost tension.

First Boot

The first disappointment came on first start that it failed to load into Windows Boot Manager. Switching to legacy boot doesn’t help, it only shows PXE unable to find boot drive. For some odd reason I managed to boot into Windows by selecting Windows Boot Manager using the F12 key instead of pressing F2 key for setting default boot devices.

Everything seems to load so slow, which is expected with the 1TB mechanical hard disk. Since I’m using SSD on my desktop, the loading time is pretty unbearable for me. I initially plan to just use the laptop with just the HDD but looks like I need to ditch that plan.

Storage Devices

The second best thing with this laptop is how easy to access from the bottom and upgrade the storage drive and memory. Although it is not completely tool-less, only by releasing one screw, I can open up the whole under-panel.

 

dscf5357.jpg
The internal.

What’s the best thing you asked? Well they have an empty M.2 slot that actually works. I can just pop in a M.2 SSD, albeit the slower SATA instead of the super expensive PCI-E NVMe ones. That is a good thing since I really will not invest something so expensive on a budget laptop. I can keep the 1TB HDD in there and put all my space hungry files there, exactly like what I am doing on a desktop PC, only this is a laptop with two different type of storage device!

Keyboard & Touch-pad

The keyboard is okay, but I prefer the feel of my MBA ones because those feel less mushy. The arrow-keys on the keyboard are as small as the MBA ones and really isn’t good for playing games. But it does comes with numb-pad which can be used as arrow keys. However I prefer 10-keyless with big arrow keys since this laptop is market to be a budget gaming laptop.

The keyboard are back-lit and I can see what I’m typing

The touch-pad is just terrible. Not as bad as my old 2008 Dell Vostro 1400 ones which suggest that things does improve, but it still light-year behind the MBA. I heard the more premium XPS series have better touch-pad which I think Dell could have just make it standard on all their laptops and not corners on this.

While reading on the some others’ review at Amazon, I stumbled on a guide to improve the responsiveness of the touch-pad. I’ve updated the touch-pad driver with ELAN obtained here. It has since became much more responsive, so I’ll be keeping the driver.

15.6″ FHD IPS Screen

The full HD 15.6″ IPS screen is pretty okay. It is obviously not as bright and as nice as my Acer XB270HU, but it is better than the MBA’s TN panel. The panel I got is a LG one, which reportedly better than those supplied by BOE that many Americans are getting. So although they get a 256GB SSD with the USD $800 package, I prefer getting a better panel which cannot be upgraded.

I’m glad I didn’t opt for the 4k panel because I find the DPI on this 15.6″ is just nice without scaling. I’m not a fan of scaling on Windows 10 even though there is some improvement from Windows 7, but it is still not as good as on OSX. I did wish it has G-SYNC but this is a non-perfect world that I can’t use it if I were to use the iGPU during non-gaming operation for much longer battery life.

Battery Life

And speaking of battery life, if I were just use the laptop for typing, I probably get 9 hours out of it. Light browsing on the net will bring the number down to around 6 hours, which is still pretty good since this laptop as got a dGPU inside. I wish it can go up to 10 hours like the latest Macbook Pro/Air. I didn’t bother to see how long it will last playing games on battery, but people has reported around 1-2.5 hours. This thing will definitely be plug-in when I’m gaming with it.

Gaming

I always wanted that laptop with Nvidia 970m but it is just so expensive. I decided that I might as well use the money to buy a 980 Ti for my desktop and save up the rest. Well, here’s where I spend the rest, on a 960m laptop for light gaming. I recently started to play Starcraft 2 and it is a game that requires a lot of practice to be able to play ranked MP without losing each and every match. So the 960m is perfect for playing SC2.

Battlefield 4 is another game that I’ve spent a lot of time on. I am quite surprised that graphic settings set on High works. I am able to play very smoothly on multiplayer.The two fans do have to work extra hard when running BF4, so do the extra noise from the fans. That’s not a problem for me because I’ll be definitely be on headset when playing BF4.

Some says that using a laptop pad with fan can make the Dell runs cooler. I haven’t go out and buy a pad because I only use it for casual gaming. I’ll definitely get one if I’m using it 24/7. Speaking of cooling, with the Dell I have to be mindful on how to place it on my lap so that I do not fully block the fan intake vent.

Other than 960M GPU, the 4 cores i5 6300HQ plays a big part on performance, especially on BF4 multiplayer. This is one of the main reason I got this laptop too, having a 4 cores i5 instead of spending more on an i7 chip. The included 4GB RAM is borderline for gaming, and no room for multitasking. I have to add more RAM real soon, and installing them is easy.

Screen

15.6″ is also a better size to play BF4 compared to the 13.3″ GeChic. Still, the best experience is on a 27″ screen, and I think I’ll get an better experience with the newly released Acer X34 monitor which I couldn’t afford. Screen size isn’t that significant when playing SC2 though. There’s no G-Sync, screen tearing is there but the effect is less distracting since it’s a smaller screen.

Input lag is noticeably less than gaming on the GeChic + Desktop combo that I can actually hit something in BF4. I feel that the screen is slightly darker than my MBA. It’s perfectly fine for web browsing but it is a problem when playing games with dark environments in both Battlefield 4 and Starcraft 2. I can offset a bit of the problem by increase the brightness in-game. There is also no auto-brightness adjust by an ambient sensor like on MBA. No biggie for me since I’ve disable that on my MBA anyway.

Windows 10 recommended 125% scaling for the screen, which I disagree. It took away too much screen space with that setting. Although MBA and Dell 7559 has similar DPI (135 vs 141) words does look smaller on the Dell because the screen is slightly further away from my eye due to the size of the laptop. If I use an external mechanical keyboard, the screen is going to be even smaller as I am sitting even further away.

There is an option for 4k resolution screen which I had seriously considered it for future proof. I’m glad I didn’t get that as I’m fully satisfied with 1080p at 15.6″. Windows 10 scaling isn’t as good as on OSX yet, I can’t game on 4k resolution on this light hardware, and 4k video on such small screen is pretty pointless. This is from a guy who haven’t had a 4k screen yet.

Sound

The on-board speaker is adequate. It is louder and better than my MBA, and I don’t have any other laptop to compare. It is a laptop, and I expect it to fare terribly when compared to my AE Aego M 2.1 speakers.

I’m usually on my headphone, so let’s talk about the sound quality. Good news is that the quality is pretty good for listening to music if you’re using an average headphone like my Creative Fatality. I prefer to listen to music without any of the enhancement from the pre-installed Dell Audio software.

I tested with my Sony MDR-1 headphone and the sound quality can still be improved with a USB sound card like the Asus Xonar U3, in which I can hear some more details in the music. However the difference is quite small if I weren’t paying attention to it. The Asus Xonar U7 will be much better, but it is not really that portable.

Gaming wise, MAXX Audio Pro in Dell Audio software is able to simulate some surround sound. The effect is just okay and nothing to shout about. It can’t beat the 7.1 simulation through headphone from USB sound card or a real 5.1 set-up.

The microphone is terrible. I try to use it for Teamspeak, but it’s pretty unusable as it picked up too much background noise. After a lot of tweaking, I manage to make it slightly usable, but the sound quality from it is still pretty bad. My headphone has got mic, so that solve the problem.

Connectivity

3 USB3 ports, which is more than enough for me since my MBA only has 2. It has a SD card slot, and a HDMI port. Oh and it has a LAN cable port which a lot of ultrabook do not include. If I had a choice, I would be playing multiplayer games through LAN cables, not WiFi.

The WiFi is good even though they have been many review out there saying the signal kept dropping and requires a restart to solve the problem. I’m guessing the latest firmware has fixed the issue.

What this laptop is lacking for a Skylake system, is a USB Type-C port. Those are pretty rare and only available on high-end desktop motherboards for now. Even then, most of those are only USB 3.1 and does not have Thunderbolt 3 pass through. The gaming laptop of 2016 are starting to have Thunderbolt 3 ports that they are able to connect to external GPU enclosure for desktop class graphic performance and cheaper upgrades down the line.

Conclusion

The Dell Inspiron 15 7559 is a great budget gaming laptop, spend a bit more on adding RAM and SSD, it’ll become a very good gaming laptop as long you’re not planning to play at Ultra graphic settings on the 2014/15 titles. Dell did cut some corners to keep the price low, on things like the build quality, touch-pad, sound system and a little on the screen. However Dell seems to know the target audience will be using headset and mouse during gaming session.

For general purpose usage, this laptop will still going to perform well, if not really good, for the next four to five years. As for gaming wise, I will really need to turn down the graphic settings for future titles for smooth frame rates at 1080p. Thankfully it won’t be that noticeable at 15.6″ and I am lucky enough to have a desktop gaming rig for more heavy gaming.

The gaming laptop of 2016 is going to be even more interesting with USB Type-C external GPU enclosure setup. If the ultrabook and external GPU is something you would be interested in, then I would advice you to wait. If you want to be playing games a lot outside home, then a traditional laptop is still the way to go.

Quick take on Dell Inspiron 15 7559