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Technology

Asus VG259QM High Refresh Rate Gaming Monitor Review

The update bug got me. It got me good. With the recent releases of the latest generation graphics cards from Nvidia (the RTX 3000 series) and AMD (the RX 6000 series), I’ve been itching to upgrade my gaming setup. I know that it’s more a want than a need, but when has my addiction to the latest tech ever needed any justification?

For reference, my current rig was built in 2019, and isn’t too bad:

ComponentMain Rig
MoboGigabyte Z390 Aorus Elite
CPUi7 9700K
RAMCorsair Vengeance RGB Pro 3000 CL15 32GB
SSDSamsung 970 250Gb Evo Plus
GPUZOTAC GeForce GTX 2070 Mini OC
CaseCorsair 900D
OSWindows 10 Pro
CoolingCorsair h115i Platinum
PSUCorsair Hxi 850w Platinum
Monitor3 x Dell U2414H
Specs of my main PC/ gaming rig

The one component that I obviously need to upgrade to take advantage of my current GPU and any future (i.e. coming very soon) upgrade would be my monitors. The U2414H’s are about 5 years old, and though they are still as sharp as the day I got them, they are missing some key new features that I’ve been dying to try out.

Where I do what I do. Cat for scale.

The big one is obviously adaptive sync, which comes in 2 flavours: Nvidia’s G-Sync or AMD’s Freesync. This feature allows the frame or refresh rate of the monitor to scale up or down depending on what the GPU is capable of delivering. This benefits gamers by eliminating tearing, stuttering and judder during gameplay. I’ve seen a few demos of 144Hz displays and games in shops, and I’ve always been blown away by how smooth the games feel. I want that feeling when I’m sitting down for a sesh at home too. Unfortunately, my current monitors are only capable of going up to 60Hz.

That’s where this bad boy comes is:

Asus TUF VG259QM

While maintaining the same profile and size of my current monitors, this little fella, the Asus VG259QM, can boost up to 280Hz! That > 4 times what my current monitors can do. Its also got some other modern features like Extreme Low Motion Blur (ELMB) backlight strobing, which claims to improve the sharpness of the image further. Also important for me was the fact that this was an IPS monitor, which I have always found to be the best for colour reproduction. Every monitor I have is an IPS monitor, and this one would be no different!

Features of the VG259QM

You may be wondering why I didn’t go for a larger size and bigger resolution. The main use case for my PC is for work and productivity, and for that, nothing beats multiple monitors. I find 4K monitors to be too big for a desktop, and the size of 27 inch/1440p monitors means I can only fit 2 of them on my desk. Add on the fact that I’ll need a top-of-the-line GPU (RTX 3090 or RX 6900) to drive them to even 60Hz, it just does not make sense for me.

One area where this monitor lacks is probably HDR. Its HDR 400 certified, but that is a pretty low bar. My 3 year old 65″ LG Oled B6 TV is so much brighter, but then it also costs me the equivalent of a couple of body parts. For a 80% productivity / 20% gaming use case the VG259QM should do just fine.

The first game I loaded up was Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and put everything on Highest/Ultra preset settings. When I ran the benchmark, the FPS was usually in the 100-140fps range. During actual gameplay, it went from a high of 120 fps all the way down to 65 in some high intensity scenes. This was with ray tracing and DLSS enabled. The visuals were epic!

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Benchmark
Shadow of the Tomb Raider Benchmark 2

Hopefully I’ll have more time this weekend to really push my rig with more demanding games (Crysis remastered – I’m looking at you). I’ll also probably run it through the benchmark suite just for kicks. Overall, I’m happy with my purchase as I don’t have to drastically overhaul my workstation – it took me all of 10 minutes to dismount my old monitor from my Vesa stand and mount this new monitor up. Plugged in the power cable (which comes with a tiny little power brick) and the included Displayport cable (which is the only option if you want to enable G-Sync compatibility), and I was in the zone in no time.

In summary, if you’re intending on getting one of the next gen GPU’s from Nvidia or AMD, make sure to pair it with the right monitor. My preference is for a good quality (IPS) 1080p monitor with a high frame rate. If you want something a little larger, Asus also has the 27 inch VG279QM, which maintains to 1080p ration. Or, if you want to really splurge, get one of those Nvidia BFG (I really thought the F stood for F^&$%&!) monitors that have 4K panels that go up to 360Hz. Good luck finding the graphics power to drive those and commiserations to your wallet!

Edit: Managed to play CS:GO at a constant 240 fps. It didn’t make me any better or worse than before, and I died as often as I’ve always done, but at least I’m doing it in high FPS!

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Technology

Gadget Review: Asus RT-AX56U Router

Last month, my AC87U started acting up. It was randomly disconnecting from my wireless clients, and was often failing to handover the connections to the AC5300U. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to bring a portion of my infrastructure up to Wifi 6 standards.

A little bit of a background – the 87u sits near the entrance of the house, and is mainly to service the living-room, balcony and kitchen. Due to the presence of 2 large aluminum backed mirrors, I had to place the 5300u in the study room, so that it could service the 4 bedrooms.

Since the 87u was no longer fit for purpose. I was on the lookout for a new router that could integrate with my existing hardware. I had heard about the Asus AIMesh functionality, but the reviews had been poor for the first couple of iterations. But the latest reviews were starting to sound good, so I knew this was an option.

I also researched other standalone mesh systems, but the price to feature ratio did not make sense for me. I didn’t want to be paying $400 for a device that had better Wifi 6 speed, but then loses out on the configurability (?!) that I can get from the Asus WRT software and especially from the Merlin firmware. Long time readers (all 2 of you) would know I love this firmware because of the OpenVPN integration and the general performance boost.

So a quick search online and I found that Asus had more than a few options:

Source: https://www.asus.com/sg/Networking/Wireless-Routers-Products/

The Asus RT-AX56U caught my eye for a couple of reasons:

  • Cheapest of the lot
  • AI Mesh compatible
  • Merlin firmware compatible
  • Dual band (Since this would be placed near the entrance of the house to serve only a few clients, it didn’t need to have mind-numbingly high throughput)
  • A quad-core broadcom 1.5Ghz CPU with 512MB of RAM (double the 87u)

A quick trip to the hardware shop, and here it:

A fresh Asus RT-AX56U

Out went the 87u and in its place went the 56u. The usual process through the Asus connection wizard and I was up and running. Of course, I had to import all the settings from the 87u, but that didn’t take me more than 30 minutes. I used my only Wifi 6 device (Samsung Galaxy S10) to connect to the router, and lo-and-behold, would you look at that Network Speed!

1.1 Gbps wireless connection speed – welcome to the future!

I’m obviously happy with that connection from 2 meters away, but what I was really keen to test out was the mesh network handover. Using the S10 I walked step-by-step towards my bedroom. As expected, the hand-off occured the moment I passed the 2 aforementioned mirrors. (Sidenote: The 5300u backhaul is connected using an ethernet cable for maximum stability. ) That is exactly how I wanted the router to perform, and I am happy that that’s what it does out-of-the box.

One caveat about Asus routers – they tend to run hot. After an hour, my 56u was hovering in the 70 C range. I put a USB fan under it, and the temperature went down to 50 C.

Router in DB Box with a USB fan for cooling

In summary, if you are looking for a cheap Wifi 6 router that can serve as an AI Mesh node, look no further than the Asus RT-AX56U. It is priced in the S$159 – S$199 range, and it’s good value for a simple but capable router. I’m happy with my purchase, but there’s that little voice that tells me I should have bought the RT-AX58U for the triple band connection. Let’s see how long we can ignore the upgrade bug!

Categories
Technology

Gadget Review: Asus RT-AC5300 Router

I just re contracted my home broadband to a 1Gbps plan, and felt I wasn’t getting all the features I wanted out of my existing router.

My primary concern was that I could not run OpenVPN on the router directly, and had to do it on a client by client basis. With the ongoing issues with OpenVPN, Windows 10 and IPV6, I prefer to have the client sit on the router instead, so that my entire home network is protected behind the VPN.

My VPN provider of choice is privateinternetaccess. The main reason I chose them is because they don’t store logs, and they are reasonably cheap. I’ve been using them for the better part of three years, and in that time, they’ve added more features, including a server in Singapore!

I strongly believe in the right to browse anonymously and privately, without your ISP or governments spying on you (hear that NSA?), so my best bet is to secure my home network from the primary point – the router.

Which brings us back to the RT-AC5300. My current ISP provided router was decent, but it could not support OpenVPN, so out it went. I looked at the latest routers, with Asus being the first (and only) port of call. I’ve had great experiences with Asus routers. I’ve owned the RT-N56u and the RT-N66u (which is still in use as a wifi extender), and love the GUI and the features of Asus WRT (which is a fork of DD-WRT). I particularly enjoy using Merlin’s firmware.

So when I read that the RT-AC5300 was the newest router from Asus, I knew I had to get my hands on it (being the gadget-freak that I am). My wife took a little convincing, but now, this monster is sitting on my console:

Daughter for scale

Design-wise, it looks like a facehugger. But that only makes me like it even more!

From a hardware perspective, it run’s on Broadcom’s newest 4×4 MU MIMO chip that is supposed to provide

1000 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz band and 2167 Mbps on each of the 5 GHz bands for a total of 5333 Mbps theoretical bandwidth (Anandtech)

What that basically means is that as of the end of 2015/start of 2016, this is the most sizzling-hot piece of networking hardware in the market. And it looks like a freaking alien!

The first thing I did when I got it was install Merlin’s firmware. Then I ran the Quick Internet Setup, which automatically detected my ISP’s settings. Lastly, I set up my wifi security password. I was online in under 2 minutes.

Like I said, OpenVPN is a priority for me, so I first went to VPN –> OpenVPN Clients, and entered the following details:

ASUS-WRT privateinternet access configuration details

The tricky part for me was the Custom Configuration portion – there are a few different guides available online, but the one that finally worked for me was:

tls-client
remote-cert-tls server
reneg-sec 0

Now, with just 1 click, I can toggle on or off my VPN.

Of course, that wasn’t the end of the set up for the new router. I also had to do the following:

  • Port forwarding (for Plex and other gaming servers)
  • Disable WPS (best practice for home network security)
  • Disable guest networks
  • Set static IP pool for my server and other lan line devices
  • Test IPV6 to make sure it works, but disabled it untill the OpenVPN issue is resolved
  • AIProtection Security test: This is a new feature, which scans my router for potential vulnerabilities.

Today is the 3rd day I’ve had it running, and its been rock-stable ever since I turned it on. And as for the internet performance, here’s the first speedtest result once my new plan was activated:

First 1gbps speedtest

Blistering!