D-Link Covr 2202 Mesh WIFI initial Review

How often does your device lose connection to the internet when you enter a spot in your home despite you having bought and setup a powerful WIFI router somewhere in the middle?

It’s frustrating, right?

Now, that’s just the reality of WIFI technology as radio signals do have a hard time penetrating walls or other objects. It’s just physics.

And this is a problem that mesh network technology is here to solve. Mesh network technology is basically the use of multiple connected network devices to provide consistent WIFI coverage for a large area and eliminate blindspots. And when the connected device move from one area of the house to the next, the mesh network knows how to pass the connection to the router that provide the best connection.

In this review, we will be looking at D-Link’s latest WIFI mesh network product for home users, the Covr-2202.

The Covr-2202 is a tri-band WIFI mesh networking product that uses two units to cover 550 sqm of space with WIFI signal. Unlike the dual-band implementation found in other WIFI mesh solution, the Covr-2202 uses a third 5Ghz WIFI band for communication and data exchange between the two units. This frees up the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands for devices to use to connect to the network. This means the connected devices can still stream 4K content, handle large downloads and browse the web without any drop in performance.

The marketing material and the specifications made it to be the WIFI solution to go for. But those weren’t the reasons that I got it.

For me, I got the device because it was an alternative purchase. Initially, I was looking for the Asus Blue Cave WIFI router to replace my previous Asus RT-AC68U WIFI router. I wanted something nicely designed that will complement my new desk, perform well and take up less space. The three antennas of the RT-AC68U were just ugly.

And if Apple didn’t discontinue their networking products and make new ones, I would have gone with their AirPort-series of networking devices.

Sadly, according to the salesperson, Asus Blue Cave was discontinued. He suggested that I go for Covr-2202 because it costs about the same, won awards and performs better. During the conversation, I asked about the Covr-1203 because it looked interesting and fulfilled my requirement for a small router. It turns out the performance wasn’t as good and was an older generation, which kind of defeat the purpose of buying a new WIFI router.

Before I made the purchase, I asked to see the physical product. Lucky for me, there was a display set on hand and the salesperson showed me what it looked like. I find myself liking it and made the decision to buy.

Unboxing

This is the box after removing the plastic. I got to admit it definitely look enticing and cool when compared to other networking products sold by other companies. Most networking companies don’t really bother with making nice packages.

Once you open it, you are greeted to the following sight.

Now that definitely remind me of the packagings used by certain brand of cosmetic products. And after you remove the cover, the two Covr-2202 units greet you. They are welcoming you to take them out of the box.

The white overall and the bronze-like band at the bottom definitely complement my desk that features light wood colour with white metal struts.

And the small size definitely help freed up more space on my desk that I can use for other purpose. Overall, my desk just look less cluttered.

Installation and set up

Router installation and setup is really easy and simple.

Within the box, D-link provided a small card containing instruction on where to download the their official WIFI mobile app. When you launched the app, it comes with instructions that you can follow step-by-step to install and power on the device.

At a specific stage of the setup process, the app will ask for the network name and passwords. You can do it manually or scan the QR code located on the small card. However, it is advisable to set a different network name and password after the setup process is completed.

Although I encountered some issue during the setup process due to my lack of understanding how mesh networking works, I was able to recover from the mistakes and redo the whole setup again within minutes. This is definitely helpful for those who are mostly clueless about networking and simply needed their WIFI up and running in no time.

Performance

My home subscribes to 1Gbps fibre broadband. Therefore, it’s important that we can maximise our use of the bandwidth if not it would be a waste of money. Compared to the old Asus router, the WIFI performance of this new router is so much better. On WIFI alone, I’m able to achieve download speeds that’s more than 500mbps and upload speed of slightly more than 300mbps. And that’s taking into account the overall residential broadband bandwidth tend to be lower since many people are home and using the internet.

With speeds at 500mbps, I can watch YouTube video or Netflix with relative ease and no lag. And I do have at least 5 other devices connected to the same mesh network. So the performance is definitely there.

So for the price I paid, I would say it’s worth it.

Resident Evil 2 (2019) Review

Ever since the announcement of Resident Evil 2 remake last year, I had been waiting for its release with great deal of angst. Then I shared my thoughts on why the Resident Evil 2 remake is the best survival horror yet.

Alas, the wait is no more. On 25 January 2019, the game was finally on the shelves of video game stores. I went to buy the game after work that Friday and couldn’t wait to start playing once I got home.

Now for the price tag of nearly $80, it does feel expensive considering that Resident Evil 2 was originally released back in 1998. But this is a remake and not a remaster. Capcom spent resources to re-create the whole game that not only gave it a fresh coat of graphics but also re-imagined what the game could be given the technological advances we have experienced since 1998.

After playing it over the weekend, I’ve got to say it’s definitely worth it.

It uses that 3rd-person, over-the-shoulder view pioneered with Resident Evil 4. That view make the whole gaming experience much closer and intimate while enabling you to see more of the world. The first-person view of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard though definitely increase the horror factor you experience because you can’t see what’s behind you, it doesn’t offer the same amount of tension. Just imagine what’s it like to see what’s coming at you but you can’t do shit about it because you ran out of ammunition for your weapons. Your only option was to run. In first-person mode, well, if you can’t see it, you aren’t scared of it.

To add to the tension is the game’s effective implementation of limited resources and require you to ration. There is no way you can shoot your way out of every situation. First, it takes a lot of bullet to take out a zombie. You can attempt to shoot out their limbs (looks like it takes a page out of the Dead Space playbook) to limit the zombie’s mobility but it takes up to five shots to take out a leg. Three to five head shots can take down a zombie but it doesn’t kill them. And it’s really down to chance if you can make a zombie head explode with just a single shot. For other enemies, it require a bigger weapon to take them down and ammunition for those weapon are actually even more limited. So you are better off running away.

The game also had great audio in terms of implementation and quality. Take Mr. X for example especially in the later part of the game. For those uninitiated, Mr. X is a humanoid bio-organic weapon whose sole purpose is to kill you in the game. Due to its size, every step it takes actually generate fear-inducing thump. And even if it is not in the same room as you, you can hear it moving around. There was this one situation where I’m in a room on the first floor and it is in the room directly above. I could hear the stomping sound and made me want to stay where I was, not wanting to go up for fear of encountering him. Not only that, you can also hear the groans and moans of zombies through the walls when they are hunting you. Furthermore, the music is done very well to shape the feelings you get as you move from a safe room to an open corridor.

As for the graphics, the RE engine has definitely allow for a much more realistic world. Now, the key to good graphics is lighting just like in photography. The placement of lights, how they reflect off surfaces and how they make objects look affect how you feel about a particular scene. In Resident Evil 2, the way lights are placed and how they light the world up actually make you feel like you are truly in a place where dangers lurk in every corner. If not that, they did a great job of setting the scene to make you feel like it’s a bad place to be in.

Not only that, weapon damage done to enemies are also visible and make you feel like you are making an effort to kill or injure your enemy. Let’s take this image of me having killed a zombie after dropping it to the ground with headshot and slicing it with the knife until it’s dead.

Look at the slashing damage on the body. Look at that arm. It has fallen off. This is the kind of realism that I look for in a game like Resident Evil 2. I want to feel like I’m doing something to my enemies.

Last but not least, the cutscenes are also well done in terms of fluidity, how it showcases their vulnerability and how well it transit from gameplay and back again. The characters’ voice actings are also pretty good by how they interact with each other and how they show that they are afraid in real time. There are quite a lot of times when the game character, Leon, was cursing and swearing as he tries to take down enemies or when he was being chased.

Even though I spent only a few hours on it, I’m glad that I was right that it’s definitely the survival horror game to play. There are so many times when I actually just want to put down my controller because it got all wet from my excessive sweat due to all the tension and anxiety. My heart was actually thumping pretty hard in certain area of the game and I lost count of how often I didn’t want to enter a new room because I’m not sure what I would expect. Yet, I still want to play the game despite my fears based on how often it’s hanging around in my mind. I’m always thinking about the game, having the urge to pick up the controller again even though I’ve put it aside to do other things.

Nintendo Switch follow-up review

A few days ago I got myself a Nintendo Switch, did a basic unboxing and gave my initial thoughts.

Since then, I’ve been playing Diablo 3 on it and with it, I can better determine the pros and cons of the device.

First is the audio. Even though the speakers are capable of producing stereo sounds, at three-quarter of volume setting, they still sound a little weak when it comes to the higher ranges and bass. They aren’t as crisp or punchy as I would like. Maybe it’s because I’m spoilt by the speakers found on the iPhone X and iPad Pro where playing music through those would make you want to move and dance along.

And if you are attempting to play games on the device in a rather noisy environment, chances are you won’t be able to enjoy the audio properly. But the good thing is that it has a 3.5 mm audio port for you to connect an earphone, headphone or maybe even speakers to it as you play. That way, you can use a sound-cancelling earphone or headphones when you in a noisy environment or when you don’t want to announce to the whole world you are gaming in public.

There is one good thing when you attempt to raise the volume higher than 3/4 of the way when an earphone is connected. The device will actually warn you about possible ear injury when it’s too loud. And it actually stop me from attempting to push the volume any higher to compensate for noise generated by the train as it moves.

The other thing I found problematic with the audio was its lack of support for bluetooth audio. I use AirPods with my iPhone whenever I’m outside to listen to music, take on phone calls, etc. There are times when I want to play games on the Switch but I found myself having to put the AirPods back into storage and pull out the 3.5 mm wired earphones from my back before I could start playing. To play Switch I need to switch my audio output device. Nice one. To me, it’s just a hassle. That means I could I only take out the Switch when I’m seated or in a less crowded area. And if I’m on the train, I would have a hard time pulling out the earphone from my bag since it would be pack with people especially during rush hour. It was during moments like this I just wish there’s support for Bluetooth audio. And yes, I’ve been spoilt by Apple’s seamless experience when it comes to their products.

Next is the display.

Although you won’t be able to see individual pixels when you play games due to the 237 pixels per inch 6.2inch display, it’s just not that bright. So when you play games in a bright environment, you may have to increase the brightness. In turn, it will drain the battery faster and reduce your overall play time. But I didn’t go that route so I have to find a corner that’s darker to play my games or squint my eyes.

But I definitely like the screen size. It’s the sweet spot. Come to think of it, the iPhone XS Max also features a 6.2 inch display that’s nearly edge to edge. But sadly, the notch just is too distracting especially if you are gaming on it. Besides, the iPhone doesn’t have games like Diablo 3, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 or even Doom on it. So that’s where the comparison ends.

The other issue was the lack of P3 colour gamut. Considering that we are now into 2018 and since then there has been various consumer-grade devices featuring P3 colour-gamut capable display starting with the iMac back in 2015, I don’t see why Nintendo didn’t put that in. It could have help to make Mario and friends look way more vibrant and colourful.

Lastly, it’s the bezel. It’s rather big by 2017 standard. Maybe Nintendo could find a way to reduce the bezel by another 10% or 20% and make use of those free space. When that happens, it would be more enjoyable.

The other thing I want to mention is the battery life. Even though it’s advertised that it can allow up to 6 hour of game time, when I was playing diablo 3, I find the device down to 15% of battery after about 4 hours. And that was spread across the whole day since I only play games while I’m on the train or when I get home. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I’m playing games like Doom (2016) on it.

But so far, I didn’t face the problem of running out battery when I’m on the go. Even then, I don’t really need to fear because I got myself a 20,000 mAh Power Bank that is more than capable of charging up a Nintendo Switch over USB-C. Based on the specification of the power bank, I can charge the device up to three times.

Now, despite all the so call flaws I mentioned, I still love the device because it is the only one so far that allow me to use conventional buttons to play serious games on the go. I just never quite like using touchscreen to play games because of the lack of tactile feedback. I want to know and feel that I have pressed a button. And it’s really satisfying when the game you play is all about button smashing. A touchscreen display can never give you that.

And if Sony Or Microsoft can develop and release their own version of the Switch with Xbox One X processing power that runs on battery in the same form factor, it could be really interesting. Imagine playing Horizon Zero Dawn on a handheld device without any graphical sacrifice.

Book Review: Slipstream – Book #1 of A Crisis of Two Worlds

Slipstream was a debut science-fiction novel written by Michael Offutt published in 2012. It was the first book of the A Crisis of Two World series. I came upon this book on Goodreads because I was searching for a good LGBT-themed science fiction to read and it was one of the good ones. I didn’t manage to buy it because it’s not available in store here. It was only after I got the Kindle app on my phone before I bought the e-book.

The book is about a teenager who discovered he had the ability to manipulate space-time after a car accident. And that was in addition to his innate ability to fix situation that have gone bad. As the story went on, we will see his talents with the sciences and mathematics and how he used those knowledge to help him navigate the world.

For a start, I like the writing style of the author. It’s concise, easy to read and does a good job of showing what’s going on. And there aren’t any words used that forced me to stop and use the dictionary, which will pull me out of the fiction world. That’s something I hate.

The second thing I enjoyed was the story. The story started out showing a teenager, Jordan, navigating through high school, struggle with drug use, having to deal with dreams and the drama from sharing those dreams with his sister. This help establish the brother-sister relationship that was way more interesting than the one I have in real life.

Then a car accident happened and it sets off a chain of events that put Jordan, who discovered he had the ability to manipulate space-time, his sister and a stranger, known as Kolin, in an alternate Earth that an apocalyptic event which wiped out most life due to a nuclear test gone wrong. By now, I’m truly hooked because I’m interested in how societies turn out on an alternate Earth that suffered some kind of world-changing event. And I love stories about people having special abilities. The inclusion of cybernetics, fantasy-related ideas like vampires and succubus further made the world the story is set in interesting.

And after arriving on alternate Earth, or should I say parallel Earth, Jordan and his sister were recruited to help bring down Shadow, the half of the AI that gone mad. To achieve that, both of them had to undertake various missions with the people who work with Light, the other half of the same AI. This is where I knew I wasn’t going anywhere else as I love a good AI-related story. The book also reminded me of my favourite movie, i,Robot, where a conflicted AI ultimately resort to taking power away from humans due to the wrong conclusion drawn from the Three Laws of Robotics.

And during one of the missions in the book, the characters encountered a monster. To me, monsters in science fiction are aliens or rogue AIs, not a monster monster you typically find in Japanese monster movies. And I’m not saying it’s bad. It’s just delightful to see how well it fits.

The other thing I like is how the relationship between Jordan and Kolin unfold. Even though this is the first fictional male-male relationship story I’ve read, I can tell the pacing wasn’t too slow or fast. The attraction and ultimately love for each other didn’t come across as fake or pretentious. And the way the two of character struggled with the potential truth and the discomfort arising from being judged that they are queer, and how they actually feel about each other throughout the story made me sympathise with them.

But the book isn’t without its own flaws.

Other than Kolin and Jordan, the remaining characters seemed boring and doesn’t really resonate with me. For characters like Kathy, Jordan’s sister, she looked interesting at first but after a while, she started to look like she was an extra and came across as an enigma because there wasn’t much shown about her personality or thinking. There were also attempts to show certain amount of closeness or intimacy between some of the characters but those actually felt weak and not as memorable.

The end of the book actually felt like it was kind of rushed. The fight scenes ended too fast. The enemies, although made to look like they were invincible and powerful initially, went down very quickly. Finally, the reveal of Jordan and Kathy’s origin just make me feel a little meh.

So I will give the book a 3.5/5. As for whether I will read the next book in the series, I can’t decide yet because I got myself the Greg Mandel series by Peter F. Hamilton on Kindle and would prefer to finish that first.

Book Review: Salvation – Book 1 of the Salvation Sequence

Salvation is the first book in the Salvation Sequence, a brand new trilogy from Peter F. Hamilton. Instead of the physical copy, I got the Kindle version because of my recent transition into e-books.

My first exposure to Peter Hamilton’s work was Judas Unchained, which I got the chance to read several years back. Since then, I have read The Void Trilogy, Chronicle of Fallers, The Night’s Dawn trilogy, Manhattan In Reverse and Great North Road. But I digress.

This book consists of two story threads. The first story thread was set in the 23rd century where humans have pretty much colonised multiple worlds, asteroids, and moon with their portal technology that made spaceships redundant. The second thread was set in the 51st century, focusing on a group of children who were trained to be warriors in an upcoming war with an alien race. The story threads finally linked up and we got the chance to see who was the real enemy humans faced throughout the book.

With this book, you will get the same prosaic writing style expected from Hamilton, a style that I love. For some people, they may find it rather boring. There isn’t much bombastic words to tell a story, world building or character development, which in my view, made the reading a little easier. But that’s not to say that there were some words that I actually had to pull out the dictionary to understand what it meant.

And unlike the earlier books by Hamilton where I could get lost with the sheer amount of characters and subplots to follow, Salvation actually has fewer characters and subplots. It makes following them easier especially with the way the stories are laid out on the pages. The transition between different viewpoint is also well done in my view. In fact, the switching of perspectives was done on chapter basis with individual title summarising what you will read next, which makes it easier for me to recap what I’ve read before. It’s especially so for the 23rd century story thread. The 51st century on the other hand, because the stories are placed far apart from each other in terms of pages, you may have to go back to re-read again if your memory is poor. Good thing about e-books is, you can jump around rather easily.

Now I honestly couldn’t remember the structure of his more recent books. So if this well-structured manner of presenting is also present in Chronicle of Fallers books, then I apologise for not being able to make a better comparison. It’s been a year plus since I read A Night Without Stars.

I also noticed that with this book, the amount of sex scene is minimal and are mostly set in the 51st century because those characters are younger. I remember vividly the amount of sex found in The Night’s Dawn trilogy. In Salvation, the relationships can be said to be believable with the usual ups and downs but it’s obvious they aren’t exactly intimate with each other, especially for the 23rd century story thread. I suspect it’s because the characters are much older and seen a lot of shit in their respective lives that made sex not a priority. This contrast is definitely welcomed.

With Salvation, you will also get the noir-detective story telling manner that I have come to enjoy with Hamilton’s books. In Salvation, the characters were investigating various things that was going on until the subplots merge and give you the conclusion. It reminded me of the Commonwealth Saga where Paula Mayo tried to investigate multiple crimes that culminated in her acknowledging the existence of Starflyer and participated in the war against the alien as well as arresting criminals for what they did. I’m also reminded of the book Great North Road where the police had to investigate the murder of a clone of a wealthy North family that also concluded an alien was involved.

I will give this book 5 out of 5 stars because I really enjoy it and it didn’t disappoint me at all.

Now, I just can’t wait for the next book, Salvation Lost, to be released next year.