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Adventures in Virtual Reality and PC Gaming - leading up to a review of a Generic Gaming Laptop - Infinity W5 Ryzen 5900HX with 16GB RTX3080 mobile (a.k.a. XMG/Clevo/Eluktronics/TongFang)


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It's been a long road getting there to here.. as the Enterprise theme goes

 

Like many, I tinkered and assembled my own PCs when I was younger, the official reason being for school, and then later for work - but deep down, it was always for gaming. I remember having a Voodoo 3D card, then Voodoo 2 SLIs which still needed a 2D only graphics card (to play Street Fighter 2 of course). The hobby escalated quickly with small upgrades every 6 months and then a major upgrade every year. Even had a stint writing reviews for a PC hardware site years ago. 

 

But age and other hobbies took over - hifi and cars - and I relegated my gaming to the consoles, using computers only for serious work. I guess moving to a MacBook Pro in 2009 was inevitable given the trajectory. Since then, the only PCs I have tinkered with were quiet, low powered PCs for Home Theatre media playback and for dedicated music streamers/servers, the last ones built in 2014, as shortly after, we moved towards DAC streamers like the DirectStream DAC or Chord MojoPoly and dedicated media playback boxes like the Zappiti. 

 

And to be fair to Macs, they didn't need much of a refresh. Right now, I am typing away on a MacBook Pro Retina from mid 2014 which still chugs along fine. 

 

But idle hands are a devil's playground - which brings me to the end of 2020. After a year of non stop work, we finally managed to take a stretch of 3 weeks of doing nothing. Or as close to nothing - the wife still had chores she needed done. But my days consisted of watching YouTube videos, Thankfully,  the rabbit hole I followed didn't end in pizza parlours or QAnon, but in virtual reality. At that time, there was a lot of hype about the HP Reverb G2 which was going to be the bee's knees - super high resolution 2160x2160 per side and the best lens designed in conjunction with Valve and borrowing the speakers from the Index. I had experimented a little with PSVR on the Playstation 4/4Pro a while back, and games like Grand Turismo Sport, Ace Combat and Iron Man showed me how immersive it could be. But they were really hampered by the low resolution panels on the PSVR and by the lack of computing horsepower on the PS4/Pro. 

 

So I was hooked on the idea of the Reverb G2 but not having a gaming desktop stymied my efforts a lot. I looked at the decommissioned HTPC from 2014 - an intel i7-4771 quad core with DDR3 and saw ideas for upgrades - maybe a spanking new Nvidia RTX3080 graphics card for a mere $700 would get me up to speed. How naive I was. 

 

A good friend explained the flaws in my reasoning and brought me back to reality. With more recent developments, he turned out to be more right than he realised as well - Nvidia's drivers taxed the CPU and an RTX3090 could end up slower than a much more modest graphics card on my PC because of the overheads. Also, unless you have been living under a rock, you might have heard about the global shortage of PC and electrical/electronic components. With the shortage, my dreams grew wilder and bigger, and as luck would have it, I ended up chatting to a guy from Computer Alliance on the phone and he clued me in on their "custom desktop builds". It turns out that some retailers and custom builders would reserve some of the very hard to find components like graphics cards and CPUs, in case they had a customer who wanted a complete system build. So while it was virtually unheard of to find an RTX3080 in the wild, they actually had some in stock a week after I configured my system. Prices were much higher than Nvidia's original announcements but they were still going for RRP. All in, the system was maybe $300 more than if I had managed to source the individual parts from the lowest prices available - which was only a theoretical since they were always not in stock. But for that difference, you got them to build and test the system for you and offer a 2 year warranty on the build. 

 

In case you are interested, here's the set up I ended up with

 

Spoiler

AMD Ryzen 9 5900X - 12 core/24 threads CPU 

Corsair iCue H150i AIO CPU cooler

Skill RipJaws V DDR4-3600 C16-16-16-38 8GB x 4 dual channel, double rank configuration

GALAX GeForce RTX3090 24GB

Gigabyte Aorus Master B550M

Samsung 980 Pro 1TB PCIe Gen4 SSD

Corsair AX1000 Titanium PSU

Thermaltake View 37 case

HP Reverb G2 VR headset

 

And I was hooked. VR especially for driving games is just another level. I already had a cockpit from years back for the PS4/5 and Xbox OneX/Series X so it was easy to get that hooked up to the PC. It is a totally different feeling looking ahead into the turns and identifying the braking zones. 

 

And Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 in VR just felt like a much needed escape for a year of lockdowns and being stuck at home. The level of real time weather and photogrammetry just creates an illusion of flying over the Statue of Liberty or Big Ben or the Opera House. 

 

My biggest time waster at the moment is Assetto Corsa - an ancient game from 2014 but one which has amassed an incredible array of talented fans that just keep creating new content for it. Content that have surpassed the creator's vision. There are open world driving roads that are based off the mountain roads off Los Angeles, the midnight high speed runs on highways of Shotoku in Tokyo. And in VR, you just feel like you are right there, driving a Singer 911 through the back roads. 

 

 

But once you start down this rabbit hole, you never know where you will stop. 

 

The Quest 2 VR headset was initially an also ran when I shortlisted my choice of VR headsets to the Reverb G2. I dropped it then because it felt like the low price was misleading - everyone said you had to pay for all the additional options like a better head strap, speakers or link cable to play on the PC which made it awfully close to the Reverb's asking price. 

 

But Facebook/Oculus know that VR can be a new avenue in their race to collect every morsel of information about you. And they have thrown their considerable technical resources behind that. The wireless virtual desktop app is a game changer. You can now play PCVR titles untethered from your computer. 

 

You needed a dedicated WiFi 6 router allocated just for the Quest 2 but they are now incredibly cheap too. And what a liberating experience it was. 

 

This created new ways of playing that I am sure Microsoft never imagined possible on Flight Simulator. Imagine flying a plane around the Taj Mahal, then landing there and then walking around the palace grounds. 

 

But I hit a snag. My driving paraphernalia takes up pretty much the spare bedroom that used to be called my study, so there wasn't any standing room, much less moving room for walking around. 

 

So this led me to another rabbit hole - this time for a new gaming laptop. 

 

Ooops, time to head off. I will continue my rambling later on. 

 

 

Edited by DoggieHowser
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The saga (windbag) continues.. 

 

Armed with more research, I knew I wanted an Nvidia RTX3000 series graphics and an 8 core processor for the basis of my "portable" VR system - as close as possible to my desktop rig. 

 

That said, Nvidia and laptop manufacturers have not made it easy for us to decipher everything.

 

One would think, that an RTX 3080 mobile would be faster than an RTX 3070 mobile, which in turn would outpace the baby RTX3060 mobile. But we would be wrong. Nvidia now allowed manufacturers to decide how much of the system power to allocate to the graphics subsystem and this can have a large range. For instance, some RTX 3080 mobile equipped laptops only have about 85W of power allocated to it, while some RTX 3070 mobile could have 125W allocated, and the "baby 3070" could end up outperforming the 3080. Some manufacturers also chose to implement an Optimus only software switch to change the laptop's default graphics system between the internal graphics (part of the CPU) or the external graphics (the Nvidia RTX), but worked by channelling the Nvidia's output through the internal graphics. This had the benefit of better battery life but had a performance penalty under certain conditions. 

 

So now, I was looking for an 8 core with RTX 3070 high wattage part with a physical MUX.

 

Another source of confusion was also due to the name itself. One would expect the RTX3080 mobile to be derived from the desktop equivalent, but it is not. It is closer to the desktop RTX3070. 

 

Armed with these requirements, I was on the lookout and it looked like the 2021 Lenovo Legion 5 Pro was going to match those requirements I had listed. But the small 8GB video memory of the RTX3070 mobile troubled me since I have seen more and more games - especially in VR suck up all available memory 

 

So I switched targets to the Lenovo Legion 7 (2021). But alas the combination of crazy demand from cryptocurrency miners and worldwide demand for new laptops/computers began to percolate to the laptop space as well, with even auto companies facing shortages. 

 

Lenovo-Legion-7_AMD_16inch_Left_Profile_

 

Lenovo Australia teased us with images and specs of the Legion 7 without a Add to Cart button, then promptly removed it overnight.

 

In the meantime, I have been reading about this series of laptops from a variety of companies called XMG (European), or TongFang (the original manufacturer) or Clevo, or Eluktronics. The designs seem to be taken out of a gamer's wish list 

 

Upgradeable, packed to the brim with the latest and greatest tech and stuffed with enough RGB rainbows to make a unicorn happy

 

XMG-NEO-15-E20-02-900x900.png

 

While this is a new model, the predecessors from the company have always garnered praise. I never really considered them because I didn't even think you could find them in Australia

 

Then, over in reddit, XMG replied and indicated that there was an Australian importer called Infinity Gaming. And this was being badged as the Infinity W5. As luck would have it, the local Umart branch even had one in the warehouse in the next street over from my work place. So I cancelled my order for the Lenovo and got this instead. 

 

The packaging was quite nondescript but it was well packed with enough cloth and plastic protection to keep it safe in transit.

IMG_5527.thumb.jpg.3f9b3392eae00210159255bf4d3f31c1.jpg

 

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Two compartments inside store the power brick (230W) and the power cord, along with some documentation and some stickers. Seeing the AMD RADEON and NVIDIA GeForce stickers made me laugh a little. I had often wondered how badly stuck on they were in the display laptops in JB HiFi. Those badly aligned stickers must give OCD guys nightmares. I guess I have been spoilt by the spartan clean look of MacBooks for so long, so the Infinity's clean looks definitely impressed. 

 

Build quality was also good - with use of strong metallic materials for the display lid, the keyboard deck and parts of the bottom/side assembly. The main bottom lid was plastic though but it didn't seem to suffer from much flex.

 

The keyboard was also really good with tactile optomechanical keys, each with individual LCD lighting. I quickly switched them all to single light as close to white as I could get. I also liked the full sized arrow keys. I always hated the weird half height up/down keys on many Windows laptops flanked by full height left and right keys.

 

9F25E6C5-DA2F-4A6A-B0DF-A1FE5F425C75.jpeg.f2578603ec738e58846ff399048f5d0e.jpeg

 

My only gripe with the keyboard is more of a user preference. I am used to resting my hands on the sides of my MacBooks which don't have a separate numeric keypad. The Infinity W5 does, and I get that it is handy. But it means that I would need to place my hands at a slight offset to the left which feels awkward. So I end up making lots of typing mistakes because I am not used to the orientation. I guess if I only used the W5, I would eventually get used to the layout but I still switch back to the Mac for emails so the transition is taking longer. I imagine when I am actively playing games, I will be using the Logitech K915 keyboard anyway 

 

The main thing though is how it performs and holeeee sheet, does this thing go. With the more mature Oculus VR API, I find that some games run smoother on the Quest 2/notebook than it does on my desktop (G2 relies on Windows Mixed Reality which require plug ins/translators to SteamVR)

3A8521AF-A17D-4DEE-8EA6-D1F203D4F83D.thumb.jpeg.fce4426a89611e8057c674a1cfeb8461.jpeg

 

 

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Oh, one other thing.

 

Noise and heat. 

 

I read that this laptop (gaming laptops in general) does get loud. For context, the MacBook Pro I am using right now sounds only marginally quieter when it is fully loaded (usually Chrome), compared to the Infinity W5 on a full load on Beast Mode

 

The internals do get hot - based on the monitoring software I used but never hot to the touch or on the keyboard which affected some early preproduction units. 

 

And overall weight.. at 2.5kg, it is heavier than my 2014 MacBook Pro but not in a very intrusive way in my Crumpler laptop bag. The power brick.. now that is noticeably heavier than my Apple 65W one. But thankfully it uses a regular IEC C-15 power connector so I can easily leave a spare power cable at work and not need to lug the bundled one around. 

 

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Oh, I did skip over a few issues getting Oculus to talk to the Quest 2 over the official Link cable

 

I guess it didn't help that I was setting up this new laptop just as Oculus was rolling out their massive version 28 firmware. Version 28 would introduce a whole host of new features, including

  • 120Hz refresh rate 
  • Infinite Screens - where you can use VR to display virtual monitors for work
  • Real to VR keyboard - by pairing a Logitech K830 keyboard to the Quest 2, you could see a virtual representation of the keyboard in VR so hunt and peck typists can see what they are typing :)
  • Air Link - wireless link for PCVR (coming soon)

This was a gradual roll out so your headset would get an alert to upgrade when it was deemed ready. You couldn't download the upgrade from Oculus' website and manually do it.

 

And Facebook/Oculus are pretty opaque when it comes to supported hardware. If you aren't using a component that is in the whitelist, you will get a pop up saying your hardware doesn't meet the recommended specs! And it often gets tripped up by computers with dual display adaptors - like most gaming laptops, which have a low powered integrated graphics as part of the CPU and a dedicated graphics chip which does all the real work/heavy lifting. There are numerous workarounds for this issue but what works for one person may not work for another. It involves configuring Windows control panel to assign the software to the better graphics. I spent 3 days trying to sort this out. Installing drivers and uninstalling newer ones for older versions. Even a hard factory reset. Nothing worked. Then Wednesday night, I got a prompt saying the update was available. And then afterwards, the Oculus Link function finally worked. 

 

And all was right in the world.

 

 

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On 21/04/2021 at 6:06 PM, DoggieHowser said:

It's been a long road getting there to here.. as the Enterprise theme goes

 

Like many, I tinkered and assembled my own PCs when I was younger, the official reason being for school, and then later for work - but deep down, it was always for gaming. I remember having a Voodoo 3D card, then Voodoo 2 SLIs which still needed a 2D only graphics card (to play Street Fighter 2 of course). The hobby escalated quickly with small upgrades every 6 months and then a major upgrade every year. Even had a stint writing reviews for a PC hardware site years ago. 

 

But age and other hobbies took over - hifi and cars 

Oh boy @DoggieHowser that sure brings back a lot of memories.  I still remember the day back in 1997 when i 'accidentally' overclocked my pentium 166mmx to 200mhz... boy was it a proud moment.  And then came the voodoo 2..  Nvidia TNTs :)   and then uni,girls and counter strike came into the picture.. and i was broke for 4 years until i graduated..lol  

Edited by MrBurns84
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My first overclock was a Celeron 300A that was overclocked to 450MHz ;)

 

I remember you even had to hunt for a specific batch number just to be sure. 

 

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On 27/04/2021 at 11:20 AM, DoggieHowser said:

My first overclock was a Celeron 300A that was overclocked to 450MHz ;)

 

I remember you even had to hunt for a specific batch number just to be sure. 

 

Yep.  That was a popular cpu to overclock then.  The best overclock i had over got was an AMD Athlon 600mhz running at 1100mhz stable with an after-market heatsink+fan.  Not to mention 6 fans running on a full tower case...lol   Gosh i remember having to hunt down the right carbon pencil to retrace the laser cuts on the cpu for me to change the multipliers on the bios.   Good ol Artic silver thermal paste...never failed.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

fascinating, thanks.

 

I'm very sad to see that computer parts (and hifi) have gone up in prices since covid.  Still my rtx2070 just showed me how epic forza horizons is, wow.

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Yes, a 1660 Super that was $375 late last year is now $750.

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The scary thing about our hobbies - whether it is Hi-Fi or cars or watches or wines or cigars - it is that we can go off the deep end


So here is this week’s installment. 
 

I saw Pagnian Imports were having a sale for the Warthog HOTAS combo. I was using an old PlayStation compatible HOTAS4 for flying duties and it wasn’t designed for mounting so it was always just balanced on my lap when I was playing. A day later and a lighter wallet later, the flight stick and throttle arrived with the attachments for the GT Ultimate cockpit to fix them to. 
 

first hitch - they only supplied one attachment. The second attachment was to reuse the one I had already used for the gearbox. Urgh. 
 

second hitch - these are meant to be realistic replicas so they don’t offer a way for rudder controls. You’d need a standalone rudder set. So off went a second order for the matching Pendulum Rudder kit. 
 

I even went to Bunnings to get some Velcro and heavy duty anti slip mat so I could swap between my car pedals and the flight pedals. 
 

then I realized my mistake. The pendulum throttle is too damn large to fit. Looks like I’ll need to wait for them to release a new 8020 profile cockpit and upgrade 🤦‍♂️
 

in the meantime I decided to hook them up at the dining table (while shewhowouldbeannoyed was at work). 
 

installed the drivers and tested them a bit. 
 

 

 

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I probably need to learn some meditation or zen bullshit - I am just impatient as heck. 

 

Pagnian had this on offer for $199 last week but of course I had to go for the biggest baddest one. Now it is sold out. Umart had these for $10 more so picked it up on the way to work. 

 

You know the saying that a bad workman always blames his tools but in this case, there is definitely a case where the tools maketh the man. The movements on the more expensive rudders and joystick are much more refined and controlled, allowing you to make more precise adjustments. With the cheaper HOTAS4 and these matching rudders, it feels more twitchy, more digital, more on-off. 

 

Tonight more adventures in Velcro and non slip mats to get them to fit in the rig. Hopefully without removing the gas pedals. I have a cunning plan... (which I suspect will go as smoothly as BlackAdder's)

 

D6FF4B25-6A19-4942-AB0A-D9C3DB371C85.jpeg

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