Blockbuster Mini VHS Game Case Review

I am an easy mark when it comes to weird retro stuff.. A few weeks ago I learned of the Retro Fighters Blockbuster VHS Mini Game Case, a case for Nintendo Switch games that looks like a Blockbuster rental complete with a replica VHS tape inside. This is the subject of my latest review.

The case, an officially licensed Blockbuster replica, is designed to hold Nintendo Switch games, capturing the essence of a bygone era of home video rental. Purchased from Stone Age Gamer (compensated affiliate link), this $20 item is likely going to be in short supply given its very niche appeal. It is manufactured by Retro Fighters, known for their retro gaming accessories and controllers.

Unboxing the product, the first component that caught my eye was the miniature Blockbuster case. Although smaller than the VHS cases many of us picked up from Blockbuster on a Friday night, the detailing is impressively accurate, complete with a generic label and a barcode, mimicking the original Blockbuster aesthetic. The case even includes an address for a fictional Blockbuster location.

The next component, central to the product’s function, is a faux VHS tape, which houses the Nintendo Switch games. This miniaturized tape, while not functional in the traditional sense, features movable wheels and a decent weight, contributing to its realistic feel. The tape opens up to reveal storage for 12 Switch games and four microSD cards. The design ensures games are securely held, with a slightly rubbery surface inside for added grip.

Assembling the case with the tape inside completes the nostalgic experience. It’s a creative and playful way to store and transport Nintendo Switch games, merging modern gaming with a touch of retro flair.

With all of the chatter about the end of physical media, this product makes a bit of statement. It pays homage to a dead physical media distribution while housing modern physical games!

First Impressions of Lenovo’s Legion Go Gaming Handheld

Last night I was invited to Lenovo’s launch event of their Legion Go handheld gaming PC. They sent me home with a review unit so I’ll have more to talk about soon, but I thought I would deliver my first impressions after playing with it for a little while. You can find it at Best Buy (compensated affiliate link) starting at $699.

First and foremost this is a much better Steam Deck alternative vs. the Asus ROG Ally that I reviewed a few months ago. In my review I felt the Ally was “unpolished” but its performance was certainly a leg up over the Steam Deck especially as it could run many games at 1080p with decent framerates. The Ally also was running Windows which is especially attractive for those subscribed to Microsoft’s Game Pass service.

Lenovo seems to have paid close attention to the market with the Legion Go and built a handheld with features that so far have been missing from the other big name handhelds.

First it has a much larger 8.8″ display vs. the 7″ display on the Ally and Steam Deck. I didn’t think the Ally benefited much from its 1080p 7″ display, as even 720p games look pretty good on a screen that small. Like the Ally the Go has an AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme processor and performs roughly the same.

What I like most about the Legion Go so far is that it adds some nice creature comforts missing from the current crop of PC handhelds. It has detachable controllers that work wirelessly. The right hand controller can even function as a joystick style mouse thanks to its optical sensor on the bottom. The Go has a sturdy kickstand that folds out from the back for standing it up on a desk or table.

But the standout feature for me so far is that the Go comes equipped with two USB 4.0 ports running at 40 gigabits per second each. There’s one on the bottom and one on the top of the display. USB 4 is backwards compatible with Thunderbolt 3, so it’s possible to dock the Legion Go with an eGPU enclosure to boost its graphical performance. The ROG Ally had a fast expansion port but it only worked with proprietary Asus docks. The Lenovo device should work with just about anything.

I still have a bunch of testing to do before I’ll be ready to post a review but my first impressions so far are very good. This is definitely the better Steam Deck alternative.

Disclosure: I paid for my travel to the Lenovo launch event but they did provide me with a review unit free of charge. They did not review or approve this blog post before uploading.

iBirdie’s 50 Foot Fiber Optic HDMI Cable Goes the Distance with No Lag

HDMI is not friendly towards long cable runs so when going beyond 15 feet you often need some kind of active amplification of the signal to get it reliably delivered. I’ve found fiber optic HDMI cables to be the best and simplest way to do it – especially for gamers who do not want input lag introduced into their games.

The other day I received a new 50 foot fiber optic HDMI cable from iBirdie that is performing exceptionally well. It’s the subject of my latest review.

This iBirdie cable feels very nicely constructed with solid metal connectors at each end. The cabling also feels decent but you should be careful not to significantly bend fiber optic cables like you would a more traditional copper-based one.

Also in the box is a small power injector that plugs into a USB port to power the fiber optic transmitter and receiver. The injector can be attached to either end of the cable. I did run into some difficulty with this as the cable for the injector’s USB connector sticks out of the side. If you have neighboring cables on your television or output device this could make it difficult to fit.

Once everything is connected the cable feels just as good as a regular HDMI connection. For video formats I successfully drove 4k 60fps video streams including streams with HDR10 or Dolby Vision. Lossless audio formats like TrueHD/ATMOS and DTS-X also passed through to my home theater receiver without issue.

Additionally the cable supports sending remote control commands back up the cable via HDMI CEC. I successfully controlled my Nvidia Shield using my television remote control. HDMI Audio Return Channel (ARC) also works.

I was surprised that I could not measure any significant gaming input lag on the cable. To test lag I use a specialty retro game console called the Analogue NT Mini that is by far the lowest latency video game console I own. I shoot my tv screen at 240fps and see how long it takes for a button push to register on screen. The results were close to what I get with a traditional HDMI cable with maybe 4-5ms of added lag. I was able to play some Super Mario Bros without any noticeable lag in the game play.

So in short this long fiber optic cable works just as well as a shorter regular one. If I have any long term issues with it I’ll come back and update but so far so good.

Kamrui Ryzen Mini PC Review

As the computer component market is becoming less and less constrained we’re starting to see A LOT of cheap but nicely performing Mini PCs flood the market. We looked at a couple of “Ace Magician PCs” over the last couple of weeks and my latest review is of another sub-brand of theirs called Kamrui. This particular model is geared for gaming.

The Kamrui Mini PC is priced around $500, which can vary based on promotions, coupon deals, etc. For this price, it’s impressively equipped with a Ryzen 7735HS processor, 32GB of DDR5 RAM, and 512GB of NVMe storage. The device is user-friendly when it comes to upgrades. You can easily swap out the NVMe or upgrade the RAM to 64GB. Additionally, there’s a SATA storage area for adding a 2.5-inch notebook hard drive.

In terms of ports, it offers a good variety, including USB-C, USB 3, HDMI outputs, and more. However, the USB-C port isn’t full-speed USB 4, and while it supports video output, it doesn’t support an external GPU. The device also features 2.5 gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi 6, and Bluetooth.

Upon booting, I was pleased to find a clean, licensed copy of Windows 11 Pro. The Mini PC has RGB lighting on top, which currently can’t be turned off, but software adjustments are expected soon. There’s a performance rocker switch on the device, allowing users to adjust between performance, auto, and silent modes. This switch slightly adjusts fan noise and performance. While the fan isn’t overly loud, it does run almost constantly.

In terms of performance, web browsing is swift and responsive. However, I did notice minor frame drops when running 4K 60fps videos on YouTube. Video editing on DaVinci Resolve with a 4K 60 video project showed some stuttering, especially with cross dissolves. For live streaming, I tested vmix, which worked decently for 1080p projects but struggled with 4K.

Gaming is where this device truly shines. Games like Red Dead Redemption 2, No Man’s Sky, Doom Eternal, and Ace Combat 7 performed well at 1080p with low settings. Emulation, such as the PS2 game Outrun 2006, also ran smoothly. It performed well in my benchmarks but the 3DMark Stress Test indicated potential performance reduction during extended gaming sessions.

I also tested Linux on the device, using the latest version of Ubuntu. Everything, from audio to video, was recognized and performed well.

In conclusion, the Kamrui Ryzen 7735HS Mini Gaming PC offers good value for its price point, especially considering its RAM and processing power. However, potential buyers should be aware of its limitations, especially during extended gaming sessions. While the quality level I’ve seen from this company so far is good, long-term support for such no-name brand PCs can be a concern. Still, for those seeking a well-performing secondary or primary PC at a low price, this is a solid choice.

Disclosure: Kamrui provided the PC to the channel free of charge for this review.

The Asus Zenbook Pro 14 OLED Is a Compact Powerhouse

In my latest video, I review the Asus Zenbook Pro 14 OLED. It’s a compact yet powerful laptop that’s marketed towards creators. The loaner Zenbook in the video came equipped with an RTX 4070 GPU running at 85 watts and an Intel i9-13900H CPU, all packed into a lightweight frame of about three and a half pounds.

As its name implies, The Zenbook Pro 14 OLED features a nice 14.5-inch OLED display with a resolution of 2880 by 1800, offering a vibrant and immersive viewing experience with the deep black levels we’ve come to expect from OLED technology. As it’s geared towards creators, the Zenbook’s display supports 100% of the DCI P3 color range and is Pantone certified. Although it can run at up to 120hz the display does not support Nvidia G-Sync which might be a deal breaker for some gamers.

Despite the impressive specs, the laptop’s performance has a notable limitation that gamers will no doubt experience: The RTX 4070 GPU, while powerful, is constrained by its 85-watt power limit. This results in performance that matches an RTX 4060 on a Lenovo gaming laptop we’ll be looking at soon running at 140 watts.

But for creators it delivers more than adequate performance for photo and video editing along with live video production. In the video I demonstrate it successfully rendering out a complex live Vmix production, compositing five 4k video sources simultaneously in realtime. The system still had plenty of resources left to spare too.

One unique feature of the Zenbook Pro 14 OLED is its multipurpose dialpad built into the trackpad. In the video I demo it working as a shuttle jog in a video editing application but it can be configured for different applications and tasks.

The laptop’s battery life is decent, offering around six to eight hours for basic tasks. However, using the GPU or the display at full brightness and 120Hz mode can significantly reduce the battery life. This is far short of the longevity many are experiencing with the Apple Silicon powered Macbook Pro’s that are much more power efficient.

In conclusion, the Asus Zenbook Pro 14 OLED is a powerful and compact laptop that offers excellent performance and a gorgeous display, making it a good choice for Windows-based creators on the go.

No Man’s Sky Ported to Apple Silicon

In my latest video I delve into the performance of the game No Man’s Sky which is now running natively on Apple M1 and M2 processors. This development provides a glimpse into how Apple’s processors can handle popular PC games. I tested the game on my MacBook Air with the M2 processor and my MacBook Pro with the M1 Max chip.

The game runs well on both devices, maintaining a steady 60 frames per second at 1080p resolution. The MacBook Air, which lacks a cooling fan, does have more variations in its performance as it will throttle the processor as things heat up. The MacBook Pro is able to maintain 60 fps at higher settings and is more consistent in its performance.

The Mac port also supports multiplayer features, allowing you to interact with other players on the PC version of No Man’s Sky.

The game is currently available for the Mac on Steam and will soon be available on the Mac App Store. Steam users who bought the game on Windows (like I did) get the Mac port for free. It also syncs up the save game file using steam cloud.

I also discuss Apple’s recent release of a new tool to help developers port their games to the Mac. This tool has already shown promising results, with many Windows games, especially DirectX 12 games, being ported over to Apple Silicon quickly and efficiently.

Apple has been trying for the better part of two decades to attract game developers to the Mac platform. So far those efforts have been in vain but perhaps now the combination of fast and power efficient processors along with better development tools for porting may be enough to convince other developers to port their titles over too. Time will tell!

And if you’re a No Man’s Sky traveler you’re all invited to stop by the Lon System and set up a base on the beautiful planet Lonville with perfect weather conditions. More info here!

No Man’s Sky Players: Come to the “Lon System” and Set Up a Base on Lonville!

I’ve been busy settling a “paradise planet” in No Man’s sky over the last couple of months. What’s great about No Man’s Sky is how it runs on just about everything I have at my disposal including my Steam Deck, GeForceNow and even my Macs with a native Apple Silicon Port !

Because I’m running the game via Steam through each of these platforms I’m able to sync my save game file between them. So if I do a little bit on my Steam Deck things are right where I left them when I jump on my PC in VR.

My home system, “The Lon System,” is feeling a bit lonely so I’d like to invite you all to come and visit and maybe plant your flag down on the planet “Lonville” – a stable paradise planet. Here are the coordinates that’ll take you to my system’s portal:

From there you can take a short flight to Lonville to bask in my stable temperatures and a lack of nasty Sentinels! My base on the planet has both a living space on a hillside and an underwater habitat!

One of the many cool things about this “open universe” game is how seamlessly it integrates the multiplayer experience. If you happen to be in the same place as another player you’ll encounter them! And one of the fun things to experience in the game is visiting a populated star system.

Come on down and be my galactic neighbor!

I Preordered a ROG Ally

I pre-ordered an Asus ROG Ally (compensated affiliate link), the new Asus gaming handheld today from Best Buy.

This looks to be a device targeting the Steam Deck and differentiating itself by running Windows and not Linux. For those subscribed to the Game Pass PC or Ultimate Edition, the Windows 11 powered Asus handheld will make it a lot easier to access PC game downloads vs. Valve’s device.

The Ally is slightly more powerful vs. the Steam Deck but I don’t think the performance differences will be significant enough to designate it a “Steam Deck Killer.”

That said, the Ally may have some legs given their retail distribution strategy and marketing push. It’s exclusive to Best Buy stores upon its initial release meaning it will be available for hands-on demonstrations at hundreds of retail outlets throughout North America. This will undoubtedly drive some consumer interest that many of the lesser known brands can’t afford to do from a marketing perspective.

I’m sure Microsoft will give it a marketing boost too as it runs Windows and is a great solution for portable Gamepass downloads. In fact my friend and Xbox community manager Larry Hyrb (aka Major Nelson) got an early unit for an unboxing on his podcast.

But if pre-orders are any indication it’ll take some time to build up consumer awareness and interest. Pre-orders began on May 11 here in the US and units are still available on release day both for shipping and local store pickups at Best Buy. By comparison I had to wait months for my Steam Deck!

I’ll have more on this once my unit arrives next month. Stay tuned!

Gamevice Flex Review for Android and iPhone

The Gamevice Flex controller for Android and iPhone (compensated affiliate links) is the subject of my latest video review. If this looks like the Razer Kishi that I reviewed a year or two ago it’s because Gamevice manufactured that device for Razer. Razer went in a different direction for their version 2 controller.

The biggest challenge any of these slide-in controllers have is finding a way to make things fit properly given how every phone is a different size. Phone cases complicate this problem further. Gamevice attempts to solve this problem by including dozens of slide in adapters to ensure a snug fit. They also have a compatibility guide on their website to provide further peace of mind.

I tried a couple of phones, some with cases, some without. I was able to get all of them to fit snugly, unlike the Kishi that always felt a little loose. It’s not all that difficult to slide out the spacers and put new ones in. But you’ll definitely want to hang onto the original packaging so you don’t lose them. Gamevice says they can fit up to the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra but it’s not big enough to accomodate larger devices like tablets. So the iPad Mini is a no-go here.

Gamevice accounts for nearly every variation in phone size

On the Android side you’ll need a phone that has a USB-C port that supports OTG data devices (most meet that requirement these days). The iPhone version uses a lightning connector and it will fit everything from a small iPhone 6s all the way up to the iPhone 14 Pro Max. Both versions offer a passthrough charging port, with the Android version supporting USB-C and the the iPhone version using a lighting connector. You’ll also get an actual 3.5mm headphone jack on the left-hand side of the controller!

The controller interfaces with its USB or lightning connector to the phone, meaning it’s not using bluetooth. It therefore doesn’t need to be charged and it shouldn’t draw all that much power from the host device. This will reduce input lag a bit but the performance will vary based on the phone and the USB controller in use. I have found even some of the best phones are not great when it comes to input latency, however.

From a gameplay perspective the Flex solves a lot of the problems I had with the Kishi. Gone are the analog deadzones and oversized thumbsticks. Controls are very sensitive and begin responding with just a slight movement on the stick. The d-pad is better too but still not perfect. I found that it would sometimes register errant diagonals when playing 8-bit NES games.

All in I found the Flex to be very competitive with my favorite mobile controller, the Backbone One for iPhone. The d-pad is better on the Backbone but the Backbone won’t work with phones in a case. The Flex appears to be a nice improvement over the original Razer Kishi design.

New Video: HP Victus 15 – Budget Gaming Laptop

Last night I posted a review of HP’s budget gaming laptop, the Victus 15. As I always like to say with PCs if you want a laptop that’s lightweight, powerful and has great battery life you pay a premium.

If you want one of those things, you can get it at a reasonable price. And that’s what the Victus 15 is all about.

The review loaner we received has a 12th generation Intel i5 processor along with a GTX1650 GPU from Nvidia. It performs at the top end of the 1650’s performance curve per our benchmarks and comparison with other laptops – including some that cost a heck of a lot more. They also managed to get a 144hz 1080p IPS display on it too.

So what about the compromises? So given performance is the key factor here all the other stuff is where you’ll find compromises. Battery life is pretty bad on it even for light work (maybe about 6 hours). The display isn’t very bright, the webcam is lousy, the fan is super noisy, it’s mostly made out of plastic, it has no biometrics and it’s pretty heavy.

But if you’re just looking for performance and nothing else this will get you there for well under $1000.

My Apple //c Circa 1987ish

I was playing the “Halley Project” – a game that taught the basics of space navigation. It involved using an included paper star map to find planets that you needed to navigate to. I was very proud of myself for reaching whatever planet I landed on and took a picture (with film!) to mark the achievement.

The Halley Project also had about 20-30 seconds of full speech when the game first booted up! A rarity for sure on the Apple II.

You can play the game here on the Internet Archive, the audio sequence starts right when it boots up.

8bitdo Ultimate Wired Controller for Xbox Review

8bitdo released a new game controller for the Xbox (affiliate link) called the Ultimate Wired Controller for Xbox. You can see my full review here.

Unlike their last Xbox branded controller that didn’t actually work with the Xbox, this one will work on any Xbox One or Series console along with Windows PCs. I also found it to work with Raspberry Pi’s and the MiSTer project. It does not, however, work on mobile phones or Android TV boxes.

As its name implies this is a wired only controller but its cable is a little short at 3 meters (about 9.8 feet). This might have been ample length back in the 80’s and 90’s but it only got about 3/4s of the way to my couch from my Series X console. While it has a bluetooth radio on board that is only used for its configuration app. It will not function wirelessly.

In my game controller latency test (done by shooting a screen and the controller at 240 frames per second) I found this to be one of the least laggy I have ever reviewed. It was even a little quicker than the first party Xbox One controller connected via a USB cable.

The control sticks have a little more travel vs. the first party Xbox controller so you may notice a larger dead zone in some games. Most Xbox game developers are targeting the Xbox controller for their controller dead zones so you might find yourself having to push the stick a little further to get the same movement vs. the stock controller.

The directional pad looks a lot like the SNES inspired one of the 8bitdo Pro 2 controller. But it doesn’t feel as a precise – I encountered a few errant diagonals when moving my character back and forth in the legend of Zelda. But the d-pad here is definitely better than the stock Xbox controller.

The rest of the controller feels pretty nice. It’s a little smaller than the stock xbox controller but I like the way it felt in my medium-sized hands. Buttons are solid and it even has two buttons on the lower portion of the controller that can be configured.

The configuration software is really the killer app here. It’s possible to configure the controller with your phone and remap its controls while it’s active in a game on the Xbox or PC! You can find that demonstrated in the video – it’s something I’ve never seen on a controller.

It’s possible to configure the controller with a phone while it’s plugged into an Xbox or PC!

While it doesn’t allow for macro functionality you can remap any button on the controller, adjust the sensitivity and deadzones of the control sticks and analog triggers, and invert the stick controls. It stores those settings in one of three profiles that are stored on the controller.

For the price point I think this is a solid offering for more casual gamers who are not looking to spend $100+ on a controller.

Free Top Gun DLC for Microsoft Flight Simulator

Microsoft Flight Simulator added an F/A-18 Super Hornet back in November and a new free Top Gun themed update released this week adds some scenarios and challenges for that virtual aircraft.

The update includes three training missions, five challenges, a carrier deck landing scenario, and a new “hypersonic aircraft that can attain speeds of Mach 10 and altitudes greater than 150,000 feet above sea level.” It all works in VR too.

I took the Super Hornet out for a spin this afternoon. It’s tons of fun especially when you fly over familiar terrain. It’s crazy how different of an experience it is flying that plane vs. a Cessna!

Flight Simulator is included with Game Pass and this update will work with the Game Pass edition on the PC and Xbox.

One of these days I’ll start taking flying lessons.