Category Archives: Reviews

A tech review – Toshiba Satellite A300/0C3 (PSAGCA-0C301N)

Note: This is an old post from another blog I had at one time, that I found and copied this from. The laptop in the review is dated and useless but because this was a well received post at the time I’ve decided to repost it for posterity. First published on: Apr 24, 2009 @ 05:20

 

Being that this is usually a blog I post on a couple of times a year when something pisses me off enough to write on it, I don’t usually do things like a product review. But seeing as its 5am on a day I’m supposed to be up around this time on, I guess it can’t hurt to type for several hours about a product I’m not being paid to plug.

The laptop in question is the Toshiba Satellite A300/OC3, or according to all the fucking labels on it, the Toshiba Satellite A300 PSAGCA-OC301N which doesn’t seem to occur very frequently in google searches, making this laptop quite difficult (I use that word lightly) to find any non-commercial non-webstore sites containing any sort of technical information on. So here we go.

Off the shelf, this laptop comes with a 2ghz Intel Core 2 “Centrino” processor, with the model number T6400. It had 2ghz of RAM and a 320 5400RPM hard disk. The onboard videocard is an ATi Radeon HD 3470 with 256mb of onboard RAM. Straight out of the box, this laptop has the potential to replace an older Athlon X2, Pentium 4 or early model Core 2 Duo or Solo desktop computer, Bolstered with a larger hard disk, and some more RAM it can start to replace all but the medium-high to highest ended desktop computers. The machine comes pre-installed with Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit, but has the option to install Home Premium 64bit (Boot the machine while holding 0).

The wireless card in the machine is the Intel 5100, which works with Ubuntu linux straight out-of-the-box, and will even break a WEP connection using aircrack-ng (I broke my own home wireless as a test) without any need to change settings at all. Unfortunately it doesn’t like to work under OSX, however the onboard Realtek8168 LAN adapter appears to, although I haven’t really bothered. The range on the wireless card is pretty damned good too, I seem to be able to pick up my shitty netgear router from over 25 metres away, along with just about everyone in the houses adjacent’s wireless connections with pretty good signal. Unfortunately, the button that turns the wireless on and off is a switch, which sits on the very front of the machine. So if you’re a fat fuck, or lazy, and you have the laptop on your lap, resting against your gut, theres a good chance you’re going to accidently switch off the wireless, which is the most fucking irritating thing on the planet.

The laptop itself is very shiny and professional looking – until you start using it. The keyboard is black and shiny, the lid is shiny as as the mouse buttons and the finish on the wrist rests, and around the keyboard. This isn’t a problem when clean, but after use it all becomes very dirty very quickly. The finish smears very quickly with fingerprints, and the dried salt from sweat, making the machine feel unclean and look fucking gross.

The touchpad mouse on this model of laptop is highly accurate, with built-in scroll horizontal and vertical, at the right and bottom of the keypad. The scrolling takes getting used to, but it all ends up working seemlessly after a bit of practice. The touchpad is about the only thing that doesn’t seem to get dirty. One problem I have with the touchpad is the inability to change the side of the vertical scroll, as I use the touchpad with my left hand (but a mouse with my right). The big mouse buttons make a rather loud “click” which can be heard a room away if its quiet. This has annoyed me when someone else has been using the laptop and I can hear the click click click from the other room.

The keyboard on this model of laptop is glossy black, and so it smears with fingerprints very fast. It is also impossible to see in the dark, which is not a problem if you’re a touch typer so much, but to the person who requires the odd finger repositioning or to use a symbol button, it gets a little frustrating. there are 6 multimedia buttons which are LED lit, and part of the plastic, with a touch-sensitive pad that picks up your finger but not anything else apparently, which I’m not sure is annoying yet or not.

The speakers on the laptop are pretty decent quality Harman/Kardon (more like Karman/Hardon amirite?) that can be turned up quite far without distortion, and are capable of playing music at a reasonably quality.

Built into the laptop shell is a webcam and microphone, which comes with really annoying software, but has pretty decent resolution and the mic picks up voice loud and clear. Not sure if Ubuntu knows its there though (but if you’re using ubuntu you don’t have any friends to webcam with anyway AMIRITE?).

The laptop has 4 USB ports, one of which is also an eSATA port, a HDMI port which displays perfect HD, SVideo Out, speaker and microphone ports, and a card reader (SD, Sony Memory Stick/Duo, and Compact Flash), there is also an expansion port on the side (right where you can snap the end off anything hanging out, with an overzealous left hand). The laptop even brags the ability to charge your USB devices while turned off, as one of the USB ports has constant power. I assume it only works if the laptop is also plugged in, as I have not tested this “feature”. It also has a DVDRW. I wasn’t gonna mention that because I didn’t think anyone would be stupid enough to wonder if it did or didn’t, but seeing as this is the internet, I assume there ARE people that stupid, and you MIGHT be one of them (hint: you probably are).

The battery appears to run for about 2 hours on “full power” mode under Windows Vista, and about an hour and 30 minutes on the default power setting under Ubuntu (which seems to like to run the fans pretty high the whole time). Powersaver Mode on Vista gets the machine to almost 3 hours, but don’t think about actually doing anything productive. The best thing you’ll get away with without frustration is reading Wikipedia or a similar mainly text site.

Seeing as this is not a gaming laptop, I’m not really inclined to talk about its gaming performance, but it runs Counter-Strike Source at about 100~ fps on medium-high graphics, Fallout 3 fares a little worse on medium graphics, and World of Warcraft is very much playable on medium-high.

To run this whole typed ‘review’ into the ground, and to sum it up, here’s the TL;DR version:

Toshiba Satellite A300/0C3 (PSAGCA-0C301N)
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo (Centrino) @ 2GHZ (T6400) – 800mhz FSB
RAM: 2GB (Single stick with 2nd slot available, total capacity 8gb under 64bit OS)
HDD: 320gb 5400RPM hard disk
Display: 15.4inch widescreen, built in webcam (1.3mp) + microphone, 1280×800 max resolution.
Videocard: ATi (Mobility) Radeon 3470 with 256mb onboard RAM, HDMI/SVideo out
LAN: gigabit wired ethernet, Intel 5100 wireless b/g/n
Unimportant shit: 5-in-1 Card Reader, DVDRW “super multi” drive, 6 cell battery, headphone and mic jacks, harman/kardon speakers
Dimensions: 2.7kg, 36.2cm x 26.7cm x 3.8cm (WxLxH)

Pros:
Decent desktop replacement, powerful and attractive
Decent mobile gamer
Cheap considering (mine cost about $1300 AU and they’re cheaper now)
Shiny (oooh shiny)

Cons:
Gets dirty FAST
Black keyboard you can’t see in the dark
BADLY PLACED wireless switch
Preinstalled software is very business-user oriented, and thus I had alot of stuff to delete when I first fired up the machine.

And this concludes my first (possibly last) product review. Hopefully that was…useful….
Until next time.

Agents of Mayhem – Everything I Dislike (and a few things I like)

Welcome to yet another one of my reviews where I list all the things I dislike about something, and a handful of things I like. Since I initially wrote this review on Steam, and eventually ran out of space, I will be keeping my review up to date here. While I am sort of enjoying playing this game, I cannot recommend it at its current price ($60US on the Australian Steam Store as of game release – 15/08/17). Here is a list, that I will update while I play the game, detailing things I’m not happy with, or problems with the game. Most of this is opinion and therefore is subjective, but as a big fan of the Saint’s Row series, and having bought this game due to the developer and their previous work, I am unfortunately mostly disappointed. This review is a work in progress, which means I’ll be changing it as I play the game, or the game gets updated. This article will contain some spoilers, but they are mostly minor.

This review covers release and the small patch a few days after and is up to date as of 22/08/17 additionally I have added a section where I will be moving certain “bugs” as they are fixed or patched.

Note: Most of the things listed in this review will be specific to the PC release only, despite the fact that I’ve tagged this article as both a PS4 and an XBOne article. Undoubtedly, a lot of the things I’ve listed will be platform agnostic, but there will definitely be some things that are isolated to PC only.

Things I Dislike:

  • The dialogue, the characters, everything is extremely poorly written. It’s extremely basic and generic. I doubt the same writers of Saint’s Row wrote this. Edit: Then again they might have. I think I have rose-coloured glasses on for Saint’s Row 3 and 4.
  • The humour misses the mark, hard.
  • I cannot tell who the hell the demographic of this game is, the characters swear, but the game is “safe”, in that a child could play it very easily without hassle, the game holds your hand a lot, the enemies are pretty simple, it is just not challenging, even if you crank up the difficulty. Edit: the enemy difficulty and density gets better as the game progresses…but…so do you. You gain levels, and health/shield which better protect you from the many more enemies thrown at you.
  • There is only one weapon, an alternative fire for that weapon, plus a “special” attack per character. Unlike the weapon wheel full of fun guns SR had, you have to choose a different character if you want different weapons.
  • Weapons auto-aim. You cannot turn this off. Since some people say you can, you can switch it to disabled, and your camera won’t follow your target around by itself, but certain weapons will still hit your target even if your aim is very off. Rama is the best example.
  • It feels like a single player third person Overwatch clone (by clone I mean it shares a hell of a lot of similarities with Overwatch, and feels like it was steered in that direction to appeal to a similar audience, it’s not literally a third person Overwatch) on the SR engine with its skill-set independent heroes you can change around between on the fly. I don’t dislike Overwatch, but I don’t particularly enjoy it either. This feels like I’m playing that without any humans to actually challenge me.
  • When in motion, either on foot or in a vehicle, the camera controls snap back to behind you constantly, even though I have a MOUSE to move my camera around with. This cannot be turned off.
  • The Mayhem ability. It’s your special ability and it’s supposed to be super powerful and ultra useful. It is not. It lasts about 3 seconds, which lets you kill about 3-4 enemies (if they’re spread out, which they usually are) and takes FOREVER* to charge. In a mission you get a chance to use it once or twice maybe. On the other hand the “alternative attack” charges in about 5-6 seconds and it usually much more useful (e.g. being able to launch a grenade that splash damages everyone around it if you’re playing Hollywood) Spending skill points increases Mayhem time and effectiveness, however you won’t end up having those upgraded for a long time yet. *Edit: If you have Hollywood in your team, and his group passive is upgraded, you get Mayhem abilities very often, and some characters are actually useful when their Mayhem goes off. Johnny Gat is the best example in my opinion. Edit #2: It is really dependant on who you’re using in your team as to how effective your mayhem attack is. Some characters just stun everyone around them which isn’t particularly useful compared to actually doing damage.
  • Not a big deal to me, but no cooperative play. You can select three heroes at a time, you would think the game would let you coop with 2 other people, but it doesn’t. I believe Saint’s Row 2, 3, 4 and Gat out of Hell are coop friendly, why this isn’t I have no idea. Edit: The game does have multiplayer, but it’s not story mode cooperative.
  • The character customisation just…blows. The upgrades don’t even seem particularly useful. Edit: most aren’t useful. They’re just alternative methods of play, sort of.
  • Hardtack is one of the characters you start with. His main weapon is a shotgun. A shotgun that does zero damage to anything about 3 metres (10~ feet) away. It just doesn’t connect with anything past that range. It’s the most useless shotgun in any game ever. You can get an upgrade that increases the distance the shotgun makes contact in….but it also decreases it’s damage. Absolutely pointless. Edit: Trying to level up Hardtack really sucks, because even with upgrades his shotgun isn’t anywhere near as powerful as Johnny Gat’s or Red Card’s
  • Hardtack’s triple-jump barely ever works. Edit: actually a handful of player characters triple-jumps seem to work with varying degrees of success.
  • On further observation, almost all weapons have very short range. Much, much shorter than you would expect. Of course, the enemies don’t suffer from this ailment at all.
  • Every single one of the civilian cars sucks. They’re all utterly useless. Edit: there’s also only about…20? different ones. They’re also all as slow as shit.
  • You can’t get into the LEGION military cars, even after the LEGION soldiers get out of them.
  • I don’t have any graphics issues because I updated my drivers. But occasionally a lot of things explode on the screen and my fps dips for about a half a second. Not really an issue.
  • I’m decently far into the game now (edit), and there aren’t any mini-games like Saint’s Row had. There are things scattered around the map that you can blow up, but they’re not really “mini-games”. The one where you put a shield around a person strapped to a bomb then detonate the bomb is kinda fun though, because the person with the shield ends up in a bubble that bounces around the place, and if your physics glitch out (which I believe is intended) they go flying.
  • There are some shitloads of physics glitches. Floating enemies, trucks loaded with cargo exploding once you’re in range enough for the physics engine to kick in, items bouncing around. Edit: The small patch fixed this a tiny bit, but it’s still a problem
  • Cannot fire from vehicles. Which is a step backwards from the Saint’s Row series.
  • For some reason on the “pause” menu, is an option to “Erase all save data”. This seems…well…bizarre, and increases your risk of accidentally clicking it and erasing all your data.
  • Johnny Gat in this game is only Gat in voice and model. He is not the Gat from Saint’s Row. I mean, for one he’s a cop. This is explained by the whole “alternate universe” thing, but still. He definitely has some of the best dialogue in the game though. If you don’t want to cringe much, make sure Gat is your main character. Avoid Braddock (even though her weapon is one of the better ones) because her voice sounds so fake and put-on that it gets old very quickly.
  • The radio is terrible. It’s just the same electronic background noise on every channel.
  • You can’t ride motorbikes, there are none in the game on the streets, and the parked ones are not able to be ridden.
  • There is no vehicle customisation other than 8 different skins per vehicle (10 vehicles total).
  • There is also no player customisation except for 6 or so skins for each character and then 6 or so skins per character’s weapon.
  • Warping. No one opens doors or anything, they just…warp around. Like straight through the car’s window into the drivers seat. Enemies also warp into the area instead of arriving in vehicles or helicopters. Edit: can be explained by the futuristic setting, but it’s still a bit of a cop-out
  • While driving, vehicles within your draw distance but far away disappear randomly. In fact the draw distance in general is sort of broken.
  • There’s a cooldown on melee attacks. The cooldown is about 3 to 4 seconds.
  • Cash is a bit useless. I never used any until I was level 8, and then I had so much left over after I had bought upgrades that it didn’t really matter. This isn’t really a negative, since cash ends up pretty much worthless in Saint’s Row after a while too, including it in the game just seems kinda pointless. There’s like 5 different typed of resources you need to be running around picking up constantly, which is ridiculous.
  • Apparently everyone in Korea speaks American English.
  • I only really just realised this, but the map is tiny. I’m not sure if I’m into the game far enough yet, or if any more maps unlock, but the map size is about half of Steelport (Saint’s Row 3 and 4) and about a quarter of Stilwater (Saint’s Row 2). Remember when Volition made Red Faction Guerilla and the map was gigantic (albeit empty). Everything to do in this is very close together.
  • Repetitive LEGION lair dialogue over the PA system gets annoying after you’ve heard the same line 5 times per lair, and I’ve done about 8 lairs so far and there are at least that many more to do. It’s funny the first time, but it gets old fast.
  • When you first load the game, or teleport back into the Ark, you are not given control over your character for a minimum of 3 seconds, and a maximum of about 15. Everything has loaded, you just can’t do anything until the game randomly lets you.
  • Friday has really shitty dialogue. It’s just extra shitty and I can’t stand it. She’s also a bit of a creeper.
  • Can’t change the contents of your squad unless you deploy
  • There are “Mayhem Knows” load-screens where some of the characters from the game show up and a soundbite plays detailing something “witty” (see: stupid) about them. This extends the load screen much longer than it needs to be.
  • You CANNOT run over enemies. They either dodge your vehicle, or even if you hit them dead on, they don’t take enough damage to die and bounce off your car. I have yet to kill anyone who wasn’t a civilian (who are easy to kill) with a vehicle yet.
  • There’s no way to upgrade melee strength, so the more you level up, the progressively more useless your melee attacks get.
  • Each time you return to the Ark, the game penalises you by uncapturing one of your outposts you’ve captured, giving it back to the enemy. THIS IS NOT A BUG IT’S A FEATURE AND IS FUCKING MORONIC. THIS IS IN BOLD BECAUSE OF HOW FUCKING ANGRY IT MADE ME.
  • Despite being able to apparently climb walls, most of the heroes suck at actually doing it.
  • While unlocking the vehicles is alright, each vehicle has an arbitrary amount of unlock blueprints needed. No two have the same number. Some cars have 1 blueprint needed, others 10.
  • Everything after this line added on 22/08/17
  • After antagonising LEGION enough to max out their response (like you max out the police in Saint’s Row or demons enforcers in Gat out of Hell, the game throws difficult super soldiers at you. But they are seemingly endless. They keep coming forever, and the only way I found I could get rid of them was by going back to the Ark.
  • Dead bodies jiggle around on the floor a lot, constantly causing me to think they’re still alive and shoot at them.
  • Johnny Gat’s shotgun occasionally does no damage to certain female-only enemies.
  • Some of the “side missions” (like the above-mentioned rescue-the-guy-stuck-to-a-bomb-by-putting-them-in-a-bubble mission) glitch through the floor, making them impossible to complete.
  • When driving, a lot of things are still indestructible, causing your car to dead-stop on things. Especially heinous when racing and the game forces you to take certain jumps that if you misjudge  slightly, make your vehicle stop.
  • Civilian vehicles plough over you without slowing down or stopping. The vehicle-driving AI is terrible, and doesn’t give a shit about you at all. It will absolutely run you down in the street.
  • Vehicle damage is not representative of the health shown on the car’s HP meter. Car looks totally fucked before it is anywhere near it.
  • The game tells you to repair your car and shows locations you can have it repaired…when you’ve got about 10% damage on the car. Even the weakest of the player cars takes a hell of a pounding before it blows up. The civilian vehicles on the other hand are weak and will blow up just by being shot at – but only if you’re driving them. They’re significantly harder to destroy if you’re just shooting at them yourself.
  • Slight Spoiler: A character mission for Kingpin has you driving vehicles to beat an “unknown racer” at certain circuits around the city. The time limits given are long enough that you could probably sprint them on foot if the game would let you, and you’d still make the times with plenty to spare.
  • Doomsday weapons all follow the exact same, boring formula every single time they show up. If they didn’t take pot-shots at you constantly, there would be absolutely no reason to destroy them at all. Unnecessary time wasting bullshit.
  • Your callable vehicles are equipped with an AI. The AI has no real purpose other than to say “witty” things. Instead it’s an annoying fucking pile of wank that says dumb, annoying shit.
  • Terrible FOV (field of view) and zoom. No option to change either.
  • Johnny Gat’s mayhem ability causes him to fire against walls and into the air sometimes as it’s not able to be redirected or aimed at all. It even does so when there are targets out in the open.
  • Joule’s melee often fails to connect.
  • Everything in the game telegraphs, making avoiding things without thinking simple.
  • While doing a lair invasion, the AI on the PA system continuously told the LEGION NPCs to “protect the captain”. It continued to do so even after I killed everyone in the base and reached the extraction point. So did I kill the captain or not?
  • Game occasionally draws objects on top of each other. Example: I was driving as fast as I possibly could, using the nitrous and then stopped dead, the game already had 3 cars parked on the side of the road, and then decided to draw 3 more on top of them, causing them to jump out of the parked cars and explode.
  • Daisy moves about the same speed as everyone else runs…when she has roller skates.
  • You need to rely on RNG (random number generation – where you hope the game “rolls the right numbers” and gives you proper items when you loot the crates strewn around the game) for character/weapon/vehicle skin and vehicle blueprint unlocks.
  • Red Card, a German (and a good guy), seems to ADVOCATE FOR FUCKING EUGENICS. WHO WROTE THIS SHIT?

Things I Liked:

  • Plays like a Saint’s Row game, which is why I bought it in the first place.
  • Driving is top notch, better than Saint’s Row 4 or Gat out of Hell.
  • Game is smooth as butter, seems pretty well optimised. This could be isolated to my machine, because a lot of people have told me that I’m wrong about this.
  • The world is pretty nicely crafted, if a little…boring? Seoul has no soul. But it looks shiny and futuristic.
  • You can still murder civilians. You can’t seem to kick them in the groin or throw them around, but you can shoot them to death
  • It appears that vehicles from Saint’s Row 3/4 are unlockable by finding “blueprints”
  • The unlocked cars from Saint’s Row have been given a very slight face lift
  • The one-use craftable items are actually useful
  • The upgrade cores actually make your characters a lot better. Except Hardtack.
  • The usual collectibles everybody loves that Volition is known for strewing across their games. (this is half sarcastic, but seriously, it wouldn’t be right if this game didn’t have 50 million collectible items)
  • There are robot cars, some drive ads around, some are utility vehicles. Also robots float around showing ads which is kinda cool
  • There are upgrades after a certain level which show collectibles on the map.
  • Pressing X and calling in your car is handy as fuck
  • The game does get better the more you play it, but doesn’t really reverse anything I’ve listed in the negative section unless otherwise specified
  • The game has NVidia Ansel, which is pretty awesome if you’re into taking super high resolution screenshots with an adjustable camera
  • A bunch of characters (not sure if all of them – Johnny Gat doesn’t seem to have one) have a skin reminiscent of Marvel superheroes (e.g. XMen, Iron Man,
  • Once you get your hero to level 10, it unlocks a secondary trait, so you can lose your weaker characters. e.g. Johnny Gat becomes armour piercing, so you can get rid of Fortune or Kingpin
  • Took me a while to realise that Kingpin is Pierce Washington’s alternate universe alter-ego.
  • Enemy speech has context depending on which hero you’re playing. For example, Braddock was a military commander who trained many of LEGION’s troops before they defected from her command and joined LEGION. They say snarky remarks about the training and joining LEGION out from under her.
  • The game has a very diverse cast of people, which, before someone calls me an SJW, so did Saint’s Row. Instead of having the usual muscular white dude/s it’s got someone from everywhere on the globe.
  • Everything after this line added on 22/08/17
  • Some of the explosive barrels kinda look like Daleks (Okay, not really a positive, but I found it amusing)
  • Slight Spoiler: The Johnny Gat mission with the robot police officers was actually pretty amusing, and enjoyable.
  • The game is actually VERY stable. I have not had a single crash yet in (as of writing this) 24 hours of playing. I have tabbed in and out constantly, and abused the game a little bit and it’s been fine.
  • Each character has unique dialogue recorded for it, for each time one of the mission givers talks to the group. Whoever is your currently selected character will do all of the talking. You can change it on the fly.

Fixed Issues:

  • Game resets itself to windowed each time I start it. I prefer it on Borderless or even Full Screen, but it insists on starting on Windowed.  This seems to have been fixed. EDIT: OR NOT. Sometimes it seems fixed, sometimes it fucks up again.

Even Yahtzee shits on this game.