Logitech G27 Racing Wheel Review

Logitech G37 Racing Wheel

For those of you that know me well, you know that racing is one of my favorite activities to do not just in the gaming world but in real life as well. As far as reality goes, I’ve owned a track ready racing Mustang since 2004. I’ve been racing cars since about 1997 both on the street and at the track. The first time I ever raced a professional racing go-kart was about 1989. The first racing games I’ve played were Pole Position and Pit Stop 1 and 2 on the c64. The first arcade racing game I’ve ever played was Sega’s Outrun with the arcade console feeling like a car with pedals, steering wheel, and shifter. I’ve played almost every racing game ever made from games like RC Pro AM on NES, the Top Gear series on SNES, Lotus series on Amiga, Chase HQ on the arcade, Jaguar XJ 220 on the Amiga, Grand Prix Legends on PC, every Trackmania game on PC, every Need For Speed game on PC and consoles, every Codemasters racing game ever made, etc. I was ranked in the top 10 US players for Trackmania Nations when they were doing the world championship for the game.

Today I will look at Logitech’s G27 Racing Wheel. It is designed to be used with PC and with the Playstation 3 console.

rfactor

Setup – Installation and Software:

The installation on the PS3 is basically a plug and play procedure. For PC, you simply install the software from the drivers CD that comes with the unit. Shortly after installing the software and drivers you get prompted to plug in the wheel to one of your USB ports and it will be detected. You will know that the wheel is detected because it will spin like a bat out of hell for about two to three seconds and it will flash the tachometer RPM lights. After that, you can calibrate the wheel if it is needed. Once you’re done doing that, you’re ready to use it. Configuration and sub-calibration can be done through whatever game you are going to play.

The Wheel also comes with (RFactor) which is a very popular racing simulator.

Logitech-G27-full-set

Setup – Assembly and Physical Installation:

The first thing you want to do is connect all the subcomponents of the wheel to the main wheel unit. This means that you will plug in the pedals, shifter console, and AC adapter unit. After you have done so, you may need to assess your gaming desk area to make sure you have enough physical space to mount the wheel properly to a desk or table as well as find a comfortable chair and distance to your TV or monitor. You also want to make sure that all cables are tucked away so that they don’t interfere as you use the controller.

Both the wheel and shifter have plastic screws which you can use to secure them to the edge of your desk or table. I have found that they can slide off sometimes if the bottom surface of your desk doesn’t have the right kind of surface for them to stick to. I wish Logitech would have added a rubber surface of the plastic area that holds the controller in place. To me without such a surface friction it is easy for the controller to become loose while using it. Since I’m a low-tech-fix kind of guy, this isn’t much of a problem. I recommend to either glue a thin rubber piece to each plastic end or the even easier fix is to use a piece of cardboard in between the surfaces (just make sure you screw the plastic screws as tight as possible).

You might have to be careful as well with the pedals because the bottom is plastic as well. Since I have a tile floor all over my house I had to use a small portable rug to place it under the pedals as well as putting a heavy object behind the pedals to keep them from slipping further (remember you’re going to be putting a lot of pressure on them with your feet).

Once you have setup the wheel as needed, the fun starts!

trackmania-nations-forever

Test On Multiple Racing Games:

I tested the wheel on RFactor, Dirt 2, Dirt 3, Dirt Showdown, Grid, Trackmania United, Trackmania Nations, F1 2010, F1 2011, and F1 2012. For most of the games the wheel was enabled through the game options of the game if it didn’t automatically detect it and set it as the default control method. You can enable the motion feedback to get a more real feel of driving a real car with the resistance would feel in a real steering wheel. I found that with the G27 it was more enjoyable to do so after first of calibrating it to feel as you need it to based on your driving style. Also, it was overall more enjoyable on racing games which are more simulator than arcade style racing games. Simulators need exactness, whereas most arcade racers can be played even with keyboard or a cheap handheld controller.

Using a racing wheel on games like the Codemasters F1 games is almost necessary. I found it nearly unplayable to play such games using just a pure keyboard. With a racing wheel such as the G27 it becomes a real F1 car that you’re driving rather than a musclecar like it would feel with a primitive controller. It’s all about precision when you use a wheel. For this reason although we have the computer technology to do it, we still use a pedal and steering wheel in real cars as opposed to using joysticks like a normal video game controller or the controller for an RC car.

Logitech-G27-Racing-Wheel

Construction and Feel:

The materials used in the G27 are sturdy and it feels almost like you are racing using a aftermarket racing wheel like a Momo steering wheel for a racecar. Although most of the parts are plastic the G27 is durable under most wear and tear situations.

The shifter is both soft and sturdy. I would compare it to using a shifter in a manual Japanese car like Honda Prelude or Nissan Skyline. The wheel itself has flappy paddles which can be used to much like in a real Ferrari or Lamborghini. It is a matter of personal preference and the G27 provides both the flappy paddles and the normal manual shifter. The wheel part has an LED tachometer, which is color coated green, yellow, and red, which makes using a manual gearbox a more viable option in your game.

Since the pedals are made out of drilled metal it feels like the pedals found in a modified street car or a racecar. As they are sturdy, it’s no problem to push down on them as hard as you can, if need be. With the inclusion of a clutch pedal that’s highly responsive you can power drift to your hearts content if you want to drive like that.

logitech g27

Conclusion and Recommendations:

If you are serious about playing racing simulators I recommend a wheel like the G27 to get the precision you need for competitive racing.

A racing wheel system like this one works extremely well when paired up with the Playseat chairs that are ideal for having a sturdy armature that keeps your controllers in place and gives you a much more realistic car feel. I haven’t tested the G27 with a Playseat chair but I have used a chair like that at multiple game conventions and they do make a huge difference and are much more favorable over using a regular chair and desk/table for setting up a racing wheel.

The G27 costs about $200 retail so it might be outside the budget for many gamers but then again there aren’t that many racing simulation gamers out there anymore and those that are into that genre are always concerned with having as good of a controller as possible to be able to execute precise maneuvers.

Gaming PC Benchmarking Guide August 2011

Gaming PC Benchmarking stopwatch

It’s been a couple of months since I last wrote a benchmarking guide and since then the video card of my old machine started to fail more eventually leading to me replacing it, not being happy with the performance and last month building a nearly state of the art gaming system.

All the theory I talked about in my original benchmarking guide still applies but my new system is able to run all modern games with every setting super maxed out. Since everybody will not have a super new computer, I will keep my recommended benchmarking settings high but still reasonable so you can compare new systems to legacy systems.

The specifications for my new main gaming PC, which I built, now are:

OS: 64-bit Windows 7 Ultimate edition
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-990FXA-UD5
CPU: AMD Phenom II X4 3.7 Ghz per core 6 MB L3 cache AM3+ socket processor
Video Card: Sapphire ATI 6870 1 GB
Memory: Kingston HyperX 16 GB (4 X 4 GB) 240 pin DDR3 SDRAM 1600 (PC3 12800) Quad Channel Kit non-ECC unbuffered CAS 9 1.65V RAM
Sound Card: onboard sound via a Realtek ALC889 chipset
Storage: Seagate Barracuda XT ST33000651AS 3 TB 7200 RPM 64 MB Cache SATA 6.0 Gb/s 3.5″ internal hard drive OEM
Case: Thermaltake Xaser III LANFire VM2000A Case
Power Supply: hec X-Power 780W (peak) 600W (mean) ATX12V v2.3/EPS 12V v2.91 SLI nVidia Hybrid-SLI Certified CrossFire power supply
Peripherals: Lite-On iHAS124-04 DVD Burner

Again, this benchmarking guide consists ONLY of things you can download for free. Everybody can test with these free tools so it requires no spending on your part, just time and patience.

Let’s see what programs now got added, and why, and which ones got removed and why:

The RealStorm Benchmark 2006 test has been removed. This is rather unfortunate as this IS the ultimate single core CPU performance test I’ve ever used. The reason for the removal is that the real storm website was permanently taken offline and there are no plans for it to be brought back online in the future. If you can still find it somehow, I recommend using it. I might post it in the future for download and I can give you a copy via Skype or chat if you really need it. Just ask.

The Battleforge 1024×768 test has been removed as this resolution is too low and most people won’t use it to game anymore. I usually just run every game these days at a minimum 1280X1024. Yeah, my system can run stuff at much higher but I’d rather get 200 FPS than 120 FPS just to get more eyecandy. I’m more concerned with the smoothness of the graphics such as anti-aliasing options being turned on and high framerates. Like always, LAG is a killer.

Battleforge is a FANTASTIC free-mmo-rts that has kind of been abandoned by EA but it’s still free and many, many people still play it. I have mastered everything in the game and my friends are now all bored of it but I will play it once in a while. You can check my original review of the game here as well as check out my first strategy guide here for doing Battlegrounds as well as my second strategy guide for Battleforge here that shows you how to farm the mission Raven’s End by yourself.

Anyways, this full game is FREE and it includes a built in benchmarking tool. The way to use it is to login first to the game and then not login to your character, instead hit back, and select options, and go to the graphics screen and select to run the benchmark.

Again, if you never checked out the game, I encourage you to do so, especially if you are a massive RTS player. I like this game and benchmark because it taxes your CPU, RAM, and GPU. Every unit in the game moves and attacks in a complex way and it’s a great example of showing how well your system performs playing a real time war game with a ton of units.

The updated criteria for benchmarking with Battleforge is the following:

Shadow Quality: Very High
Resolution: 1280×1024
Texture Quality: High
Fullscreen: On
Shader Quality: High
Anti-Aliasing: 8x
SSAO: Off
MultiThread Rendering: Auto-Detect
FX Quality: Very High
VSynch: Off
Cloud Shadows: Off
Glow: Off

Download the Battleforge benchmark and full game from: http://www.battleforge.com/

Some of the options in this benchmark and others to come are either off or set not to max because the benchmarks are too picky and unless you have a 700 dollar video card, it will not let you run them. I’d rather everybody be able to test. The faster systems will yield insane numbers anyway.

My new PC got an average of 78.5 FPS, a minimum FPS of 7.1, and a maximum FPS of 182.7. You can compare that respectively to my old computer’s 6.8 FPS, 0.5 FPS, 53.5 FPS. It just blows it out of the water.

The Dirt 2 benchmark test still stays because it’s still a modern game engine and DiRT 3 is almost the same thing. That one was added too to the list as we’ll see below.

Dirt 2 Test settings:

Resolution: 1280×1024
Refresh Rate: 60
Multisampling: 8x MSAA
Vsync: Off
Aspect Ratio: Normal
Gamma: 1.0
Night Lighting: High
Shadows: High
Particles: High
Mirrors: Ultra
Crowd: Ultra
Ground Cover: High
Drivers: Ultra
Distant Vehicles: Ultra
Objects: Ultra
Trees: Ultra
Vehicle Reflections: Ultra
Water: Ultra
Post Process: Medium (this setting is annoying and usually defaults to this)
Skidmarks: On
Ambient Occlusion: High
Cloth: High

Download from: http://download.cnet.com/DiRT-2-demo/3000-7513_4-10977053.html

Codemasters games are pure unadulturated eye candy, especially Dirt 2, GRID, and F1 2010. The games keep getting prettier and still run very efficiently despite the graphic quality increase. These games are also system killers because of how great they simulate the physics needed to create a realistic racing and driving experience.

My current gaming machine yielded an average framerate of 105.5 FPS and a minimum framerate of 85.7 FPS versus my old machine’s 15.7 FPS and 13.4 FPS.

Moving on to a newer game we are now using the DiRT 3 game to benchmark as well. It’s the same as DiRT 2 but the game engine is tweaked a little more. The game is usually bundled often with most current video cards so either get it from there or download the demo for testing. You can check out my review for DiRT 3 here.

DiRT 3 test settings:

Resolution: 1280×1028
Refresh Rate: 60
Multisampling: 8 x MSAA
VSync: Off
Aspect Ratio: Auto
Gamma: 1.0
Night Lightning: High
Shadows: Ultra
Particles: High
Mirrors: Ultra
Characters: Ultra
Ground Cover: High
Distant Vehicles: High
Objects: Ultra
Trees: Ultra
Vehicle Reflections: Ultra
Water: High
Post Process: Medium (again this loves to set itself to this over and over so just leave it like that)
Skidmarks: On
Ambient Occlusion: Ultra
Cloth: High

I couldn’t find a direct download link for the demo because Codemasters is crazy enough that they don’t really have a main website anymore. I recommend getting the demo from Steam. Having a demo not be available would proabably encourage piracy but since this game is now being bundled with everything you’d probably find a product key easily with any AMD or ATI purchase at this moment.

With all the added graphic features to DiRT 3, my system got lower framerates with this one compared to DiRT 2. It yielded 66.39 FPS average, and 55.74 minimum FPS in this test. The game looks amazing.

I was considering adding the HAWX 2 benchmark to this guide but since the demo even includes the draconian Ubisoft you-must-be-online-and-make-an-account-like-an-mmo copy protection SCHEME then I refuse to. Sure, the game looks amazing but I don’t want to subject people to Ubisoft’s bullshit. Let’s stick to the original HAWX, which is still a great benchmark and doesn’t require all that drama to run.

Tom Clancy’s HAWX test settings:

Game version: DirectX 9 for legacy compatibility purposes
Screen Resolution: 1280×1024
Refresh Rate: 60 Hz
Antialiasing: 8x
VSync: Off
Full Screen: On
View Distance: High
Forest: High
Environment: High
Texture Quality: High
HDR: On
Engine Heat: On
DOF: On

Download from: http://www.gamershell.com/download_40308.shtml

If you never play this game, I recommend it still, and you can read my Tom Clancy’s HAWX review here.

My new computer gets an average framerate of 163 FPS and a maximum framerate of 392 FPS… WOW. My old system got an average framerate of 23 fps and a maximum framerate of 127 fps. What a difference!

The X3 Terran Conflict benchmark demo continues to be an amazing testing tool not just for performance but for system stability. This IS the benchmark I use the most to either make or break a system.

X3 Terran Conflict benchmark test settings:

Resolution: 1280×1024 Fullscreen
Antialiasing: 8x
Ansitropic Texture Filtering: On
Anisotropic Texture Filtering: 16x
Glow enabled: On
Texture Quality: High
Shader Quality: High
More Dynamic Light Sources: On
Ship Colour Variations: On

Download from: http://www.egosoft.com/download/x3tc/demos_en.php

This game engine will rock the socks of your CPU, RAM, and GPU. I couldn’t believe my eyes as to how detailed the final part of the benchmark was when I saw the massive, super-detailed space station being rendered as it was, on my old gaming PC. Even on my new gaming PC, this benchmark will bring your system down to its knees and make it cry like a little girl.

This benchmark is old but it even comes with a built in warning that it WILL really ABUSE your video card.

My new computer got a score of 91.303 FPS. There were some parts in the benchmark when performance dropped to about 22 FPS, like the warnings said. My old machine used to get 17.012 FPS.

Trackmania Nations, free as always and still a solid full game with a simple benchmark feature built in.

Trackmania Nations test Settings:

Resolution: 1280×1024
Antialiasing: 16 samples
Shadows: Complex
Shader Quality: PC3 High
Texture Quality: High
Max Filtering: Anisotropic 16x
Geometry Details: Normal
PostProcess FXs: On
Force Dynamic Colors: On
Force Motion Blur: On
Force Bloom: On
Water Geometry: On
Stadium Water Geometry: On
Trees Always High Quality: On

Download from: http://trackmaniaforever.com/nations/

This benchmark now yields a 69.7 FPS on my new machine versus the 31.8 FPS I used to get from my old system. It’s much more enjoyable to play this again with everything on.

***

There is the updated list! I moved on from Windows XP especially since 32-bit Operating Systems have both RAM and hard drive allocation limitations. Windows 7 is okay but I’m surprised as to how few games have pure real DirectX 11 support. Only super megacorp insane-budget titles seem to have this so far, so I’m disappointed.

Share your benchmark numbers with us either as a comment below, on our facebook page, or forums. Stay tuned for more hardware reviews and articles.

WarFactory PCs’ The Sentinel PC January 2011 model Review

Cooler Master HAF 912 caseThese days there are many manufacturers which make custom or prebuilt gaming PCs, but which one is the right one for one to choose? There are many factors to take into account such as price, choice of parts, real world performance numbers, the reliability of the system, the quality of construction and assembly, the availability of support as well as the duration and quality of the warranty, and especially these days whether or not the company will be around during the life of the product to be able to help you with or help repair the system. There are many brands and companies to choose from whether big or small, such as Alienware, Dell, OriginPC, IBuyPower, LanSlide PCs, WarFactory PCs, and many others. I’ve seen many companies come and go so most people will usually only want to purchase from a bigger company but even some of those are starting to disappear. It’s important to choose the right brand. Today, we will be looking at The Sentinel, the model offered around January 2011 by the manufacturer WarFactory PCs. I will discuss its real world performance, how I found the construction and finish to be, and talk about what I thought about WarFactory PCs based on my interactions with them.

What are the specifications of the Sentinel – January 2011 model?

Price As Configured: $1238
OPERATING SYSTEM: Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit
PROCESSOR: AMD Phenom II X6 1090T BE 3.2GHz stepping: AACAC AC, CACAC AC
GRAPHICS PROCESSOR: ATI 5870 1 GB
MEMORY: G.Skill 4GB DDR3 1600MHz
MOTHERBOARD: ASUS M4A89TD/USB3
STORAGE: Western Digital Caviar Black 500GB
CASE: Cooler Master HAF 912
POWER SUPPLY: Corsair CMPSU-650TX 650 Watt
PERIPHERALS: Asus DVD Burner

Performance benchmark tests:

The criteria used for my gaming PC benchmarking is shown in my Gaming PC Benchmarking Guide February 2011 article.

The Sentinel will be compared to my old gaming PC that I built in 2007. At the time it had all the parts needed to run anything and it still can run just about every game out there. That system has the following specs:

OS: Windows XP Professional (Corporate)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-MA770-DS3
CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 5400+ 2.8 Ghz
Video Card: Sapphire ATI 3870 512 MB
Memory: G. Skill 4 GB DDR2 800 Mhz (limited to 3.4 GB by the 32-bit OS)
Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster Live Platinum
Storage: Western Digital 750 GB 7200 RPM HD
Case: generic black case from newegg.com
Power Supply: generic 480 Watt
Peripherals: NEC DVD burner

Onto benchmarks…

Following the order of my benchmarking guide first we will see how well the systems compare in the RealStorm Global Illumination Bench 2006 test.

If you remember my benchmarking guide you will remember that this test shows a real world analysis of single core raw processing power. In this test The Sentinel is 43.79% faster than my machine. That means that each core is that percent faster per CPU core. This is important because not every program one uses is multi-threaded (supports multi-core processing).

The average performance in this test showed that The Sentinel is about 44.06% faster than my gaming PC in this single-core CPU test.

In this same test, this shows that at the bare minimum frames per second rendered, The Sentinel was 39.41% faster than my system. Minimum FPS tests are usually very important tests because this is when you notice the lag the most.

At their peak performance, we see a performance difference of The Sentinel being 47.35% faster than my gaming PC. Max fps is not as important as other benchmarks but I include it in my tests simply to see as high as peak performance goes.

Battleforge 1024x768 average fps

Battleforge is a free RTS MMO that I used to play a lot of and it still looks pretty amazing and is a great benchmarking tool for testing how good your system is at running a modern war game. I usually run my Battleforge settings to display 1024×768 so I wanted to benchmark it like that, as well as at a higher resolution. At 1024×768, The Sentinel performed on an average 757.60% faster than my old gaming PC. This is the proof I needed to remind myself to get a new gaming PC! The game supports all the latest graphic technologies for modern video cards as well as has modern multi-core support.

Battleforge 1024x768 minimum fps

Again, this is where a PC fails and we notice lag, which ruins the gaming experience. In this test, The Sentinel is 311.76% faster than my system. It put out 14 Frames Per Second, which is still under the desired 30 Frames Per Second that most of us would want, but then again this is with every option on, so a smart move would be to turn down some of the options before playing.

Battleforge 1024x768 max fps

In this test we see that The Sentinel is 240.61% faster than my machine. The game is obviously much smoother on The Sentinel system.

Battleforge 1280x1024 average fps

The Battleforge test gets more brutal as the resolution gets bumped up to 1280×1024 with everything on. The limitations of my own system are more obvious now and even The Sentinel has a hard time, but it’s still 845.58% faster in this test.

Battleforge 1280x1024 minimum fps

11.1 Frames Per Second are still not desirable so again, I recommend lowering the graphic settings. Still, it’s nice to bring systems down to their knees. Although in this test, The Sentinel does shame my old machine by being 2120% faster than it… Yeah…

Battleforge 1280x1024 max fps

This again is the fastest each system can run the benchmark. The Sentinel flies again, yielding performance 215.51% faster than my old gaming rig.

Dirt 2 1280x1024 max settings average fps

Like I mention in my guide, Dirt 2 is simply brutal and overall the best benchmark I recommend for testing the real gaming capability of a system since racing games require so much to run right. Lag is most unforgiving in racing games out of all games because one wrong move and you crash, so you need peak performance always. This test shows that The Sentinel is 280.25% faster than my machine. I will have to get a new machine before playing the next Codemasters racing game, although I do love how efficient they code them.

Dirt 2 1280x1024 max settings minimum fps

This is where we see that my system can no longer handle modern racing games. The Sentinel is 273.88% percent faster than mine. It’s Frame Rate at 50.1 is much higher than the 30 fps minimum we all need. This does make it a great gaming machine for modern gaming.

HAWX 1280x1024 max highest fps

Tom Clancy’s HAWX is still one of my favorite action flying games out there and it does showcase some of the best graphics I’ve seen come out in the past 2-3 years. The efficiency of this game engine makes me smile and the built-in benchmark tool does too. At peak output, which this test shows, The Sentinel is 181.88% faster than my machine.

HAWX 1280x1024 max average fps

Again, in this test The Sentinel shames my system by being 582.60% faster than mine. Its 157 Frames Per Second put my 23 fps to shame utterly.

X3 Terran Conflict 1280x1024 max average fps

This game is filled with super eye-candy and you really want to be able to run this game on a system that is totally up to par with the scalability of the game’s graphics engine. In this benchmark, The Sentinel was 397.80% as faster than my machine. The average FPS is at 84.686 which is way higher than the fabled 60 FPS that most people desire.

Trackmania Nations average fps

This test shows what a legacy game that still requires a good system to run will yield. The window closes a little but The Sentinel still beats the crap out of my system being 107.86% faster than it.

Performance Conclusion and Parts Analysis:

In the performance department, The Sentinel is sufficient enough of a gaming PC to be able to run any modern game at pretty much max settings, staying reasonably realistic.

The processor it comes with is great for both gaming and running heavy applications. It’s great for multitasking and multi-threaded programs and applications as well.

The video card has 1 GB of memory on it which is really important for rendering high resolutions. 1 GB of video memory is usually enough for most gaming needs unless you are one of those people that wants to set the resolution as high as your display can handle for every single game you play. It also has a strong GPU which keeps your framerates high while minimizing minimum framerates.

The RAM is quick but 4 GB is starting be a low number for modern PCs. It’s still enough to run anything, don’t get me wrong but this is probably one of the first areas that one will want to improve on if you are like me and run 10 applications WHILE running a game at once and alt-tabbing. The motherboard supports 16 GB of RAM max so it’s very future-proof and that’s a really great thing to have.

The hard drive only has 500 GB of space, which is not high compared to some other gaming machines but it does have enough speed to be able to load games up quickly. Anyways, I wouldn’t probably use the machine to store much on if you want it straight up for gaming and if you do want to store a lot, I would recommend adding a multi-TB hard drive for storage and using the main drive for applications and gaming. That’s a no-brainer. ;]

The case is a Cooler Master HAF 912 which looks both great in its jet black color and could pose well not only as a gaming machine but a professional server or business computer. Not many cases have such prestige to be able to pull that off. Great pick, WarFactory PCs on such an amazing case. The design of the case inside is so well done that it’s easy to install and remove components. This is highly desirable. All wiring came neatly assembled and tucked-in correctly as well.

Compared to my systems The Sentinel is relatively quiet. The fans barely make any noise even when under heavy load.

The Corsair CMPSU-650TX 650 Watt power supply is more than enough to handle the power requirements of the system and leaves enough free power for reliable operation as well as adding more parts and faster parts in the future.

Warfactory PCs emblemSupport and Warranty Information:
The basic price and system include a limited lifetime warranty. This means that you get a one year warranty on the actual parts, a three year labor warranty, and a lifetime of general support. Since there are manufacturers out there that will not provide any sort of support whatsoever for an out of warranty machine, WarFactory PCs beats them in with their lifetime general support warranty. At the time of this writing, support is available through a phone system at the number 708-667-5375 as well as through AOL Instant Messenger under the screen name WarFactoryPCs and email. It’s important to be able to call a company in the instance that the system is your only system and you have no way to get online to contact support. WarFactory PCs addresses this criteria with their phone system support channel.

My Impressions of WarFactory PCs:

They were very attentive to my many, many annoying questions that I used for formulating this review as well as asking them questions that showed me that they are a reliable and trustworthy company worth buying products from. If you guys know how annoying I am and how little life I have, you very well know that I am the kind of person that will contact a company in the middle of the night when normals are sleeping or having dinner. Gamers don’t rest! WarFactory PCs understand this.

Conclusion:

If you are looking for a gaming PC machine right now that DOES have a manufacturer warranty and is set at a reasonable price, I would recommend The Sentinel to be among the systems you look at before making a purchase or build decision. Some manufacturers which I will not name right now (or yet) offer really shitty entry-level gaming PC solutions, but this is not the case with The Sentinel. Even the basic configuration is worth getting as it will be able to run every modern game. You can’t go wrong with a system like that for only $1238. This recommendation is coming from someone that only builds his own systems and never buys any built PCs. It might totally be worth the difference of spending 100-200 dollars more knowing that you have the manufacturer’s expertise to help you out when something goes wrong.

***

This review was done on a Sentinel PC lent to me by WarFactory PCs solely for review purposes. Stand by for upcoming reviews by other gaming PC manufacturers. Once I get a good list of reviews going and more data for my benchmarking database, stand by for a competition to see who is the best bang for the buck out of these gaming PC manufacturers!

Gaming PC Benchmarking Guide February 2011

Gaming PC Benchmarking stopwatchIf you are like me then you probably do not have the latest gaming PC out there. Even if you built a new machine it will probably have at least one obsolete part easily within a month or two. Because of this dilemma I have created the following gaming PC benchmarking criteria, which has some modern games and game engines as well as some older ones which still scale well.

A problem a benchmarker will face, especially when comparing an older machine with a newer one is that sometimes the older machine will not be able to run whatever game or benchmark as opposed to the new machine. Not necessarily saying the whole program won’t run but saying that it won’t run at the exact settings that the program runs on the faster, newer machine. Some settings will simply never run because the GPU will never ever have the ability to render those settings as it’s limited at a hardware level.

The specifications for my main gaming PC which is now old are:

OS: Windows XP Professional (Corporate)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-MA770-DS3
CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 5400+ 2.8 Ghz
Video Card: Sapphire ATI 3870 512 MB
Memory: G. Skill 4 GB DDR2 800 Mhz (limited to 3.4 GB by the 32-bit OS)
Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster Live Platinum
Storage: Western Digital 750 GB 7200 RPM HD
Case: generic black case from newegg.com
Power Supply: generic 480 Watt
Peripherals: NEC DVD burner

My concern was to create a benchmarking guide that a normal person that is not running the latest hardware AND does not have an unlimited budget can use to test their system against ours and all the upcoming gaming PCs and parts we plan to review. How to do that? It’s rather simple. I sat there and hunted down many free games and demos that are currently available on the internet for download.

These benchmarks are run at a reasonable resolution that will yield great graphics while getting high frame-rates which a real gamer will use in a real world without risking to suffer lag in a (ranked) game.

As far as my picks go, I could have picked to run other games and just have FRAPS show my the framerates but FRAPS uses the hard drive a lot, especially to record and that would quickly become a bottleneck.

I will discuss why I picked those programs to benchmark now rather than some others which might be more popular. The list is the following:

The RealStorm Global Illumination Bench 2006 test has the following settings:

Demo: 1/5 Global Illumination Compare
Resolution: 1280×1024
Shadows: On
Reflections: On
Anti Alias: On
Depth of Field: On
Volume Lights: On
Radiosity: On

Download it from: http://www.realstorm.de/

This is the default benchmark option for this old benchmarking tool that is now discontinued but it will destroy the living shit out of any system out there. This benchmark uses straight-up RAW CPU processing power. It does NOT have multi-core support and it will simulate the max speed a single core will deliver in a system. Not every program has multi-core support and it’s still extremely important to have each core be as fast as possible. To a limited degree this benchmark does test the RAM as well but it’s mainly for the CPU. It stressed the living shit out of the system by making the CPU render everything, ignoring the GPU.

On my system, under the settings I listed above my computer yielded 2569 raymarks (the raw score used only by this benchmark), as well as 2.61 fps (frames per second) average, a minimum score of 1.7 fps, and a maximum score of 9.27 fps. Yes, that’s really really low but go ahead and run the benchmark on your own system. I hope you have good cooling, because you will need it! ;]

The Battleforge 1024×768 test has the following settings:

Shadow Quality: Very High
Resolution: 1024×768
Texture Quality: High
Fullscreen: On
Shader Quality: High
Anti-Aliasing: 8x
SSAO: Off
MultiThread Rendering: Auto-Detect
FX Quality: Very High
VSynch: Off
Cloud Shadows: Off
Glow: Off

Download from: http://www.battleforge.com/

Battleforge is a FANTASTIC free-mmo-rts that has kind of been abandoned by EA but it’s still free and many, many people still play it. I have mastered everything in the game and my friends are now all bored of it but I will play it once in a while. You can check my original review of the game here as well as check out my first strategy guide here for doing Battlegrounds as well as my second strategy guide for Battleforge here that shows you how to farm the mission Raven’s End by yourself.

Anyways, this full game is FREE and it includes a built in benchmarking tool. The way to use it is to login first to the game and then not login to your character, instead hit back, and select options, and go to the graphics screen and select to run the benchmark.

I picked this part of the test to run at 1024×768 because when I play the game competitively and most of the time, I run it only at this resolution to get the max amount of framerates and no lag.

At this resolution my system put out an average framerate of 9.2 fps, a minimum framerate of 3.4 fps, and a maximum framerate of 54.9 fps.

Again, if you never checked out the game, I encourage you to do so, especially if you are a massive RTS player. I like this game and benchmark because it taxes your CPU, RAM, and GPU. Every unit in the game moves and attacks in a complex way and it’s a great example of showing how well your system performs playing a real time war game with a ton of units.

The Battleforge 1280×1024 test has the following settings:

Shadow Quality: Very High
Resolution: 1280×1024
Texture Quality: High
Fullscreen: On
Shader Quality: High
Anti-Aliasing: 8x
SSAO: Off
MultiThread Rendering: Auto-Detect
FX Quality: Very High
VSynch: Off
Cloud Shadows: Off
Glow: Off

Download from: http://www.battleforge.com/

The same as above except with better eyecandy because of the higher resolution.

My average framerate was 6.8 fps, my minimum framerate was 0.5 fps, and my maximum framerate was 53.5 fps. Do you see now why I play it at a lower resolution? The game looks almost the same to me anyways, so might as well avoid lag!

The Dirt 2 1280×1024 max settings test has the following settings:

Resolution: 1280×1024
Refresh Rate: 60
Multisampling: 8x MSAA
Vsync: Off
Aspect Ratio: Normal
Gamma: 1.0
Night Lighting: High
Shadows: High
Particles: High
Mirrors: Ultra
Crowd: Ultra
Ground Cover: High
Drivers: Ultra
Distant Vehicles: Ultra
Objects: Ultra
Trees: Ultra
Vehicle Reflections: Ultra
Water: Ultra
Post Process: Ultra
Skidmarks: On
Ambient Occlusion: High
Cloth: High

Download from: http://www.codemasters.com/downloads/details.php?id=39424

In my opinion, you cannot get more intense for beating up your gaming system than playing a racing game OTHER than playing a real flight simulator game with all the options on. Think about how fast a system needs to render what’s going in a racing game, especially 200 MPH or higher being scaled realistically and you will see how these games are system killers.

Codemasters games are pure unadulturated eye candy, especially Dirt 2, GRID, and F1 2010. The games keep getting prettier and still run very efficiently despite the graphic quality increase. These games are also system killers because of how great they simulate the physics needed to create a realistic racing and driving experience.

Although I play it usually at a lower resolution, I tested it at 1280×1024 just to stay consistent with my future gaming PC reviews as well as my upcoming new gaming PC that I plan to buy this year so we can see the before and after results. My average framerate was 15.7 fps and my minimum framerate was 13.4 fps.

This IS the game that made me realize I needed to upgrade my machine to a newer system.

The demo (although I have the full game) includes a built in benchmarking tool so it’s a great test.

Tom Clancy’s HAWX 1280×1024 max settings test:

Screen Resolution: 1280×1024
Refresh Rate: 60 Hz
Antialiasing: 8x
VSync: Off
Full Screen: On
View Distance: High
Forest: High
Environment: High
Texture Quality: High
HDR: On
Engine Heat: On
DOF: On

Download from: http://www.bigdownload.com/games/tom-clancys-hawx/pc/tom-clancys-hawx-demo/

My friend Chris Mosso, which was my top Lieutenant in my massive guild in Auto Assault, always kept recommending for me to try out Tom Clancy’s HAWX saying it was an amazingly fun game and of course, he was completely right. I hadn’t had that much fun playing a game like that where you fly around fighting for your life since Descent: Freespace. The game is a permanent adrenaline rush and is simply total eye candy. I’ve shown this game to some friends of mine that are not gamers and it got them dizzy from just staring at the screen when I play.

Anyways, although this game is super eyecandy, it does have an AMAZINGLY efficient game engine. I like to include this game in the benchmarking guide because it represents for me what a well written game’s performance would be like with a typical game system. My system got an average framerate of 23 fps and a maximum framerate of 127 fps.

The fun demo includes the benchmarking tool, so it’s totally worth getting.

X3 Terran Conflict 1280×1024 max settings test

Resolution: 1280×1024 Fullscreen
Antialiasing: 8x
Anisotropic Texture Filtering: 16x
Texture Quality: High
Shader Quality: High
More Dynamic Light Sources: On
Ship Colour Variations: On

Download from: http://www.egosoft.com/download/x3tc/demos_en.php

My friend Ramiro became a huge fan of the X series after I lent and gave him a copy of X Beyond The Frontier many years ago. As kids, we grew up playing Elite 2: Frontier on my Amiga 600. We thought it was the most epic game every made and and I played it religiously exploring star systems and reading up on their composition and learning a lot about astronomy as well as doing missions nuking planets from space as well as other crazy things like assassinations. I even dabbled with Privateer 1 and 2 later on, but those games were much simpler than both Elite 1 and Elite 2: Frontier.

Anyways, although I played X: Beyond The Frontier a lot and a little of X2, I kind of gave up on that series, especially when I later got into playing Eve Online and found it kind of pointless to play a game like that single player. The people who make the X series have ALWAYS impressed the living hell out of me with how efficient their game engines are as well as how scalable, detailed, and completely beautiful they are.

This game engine will rock the socks of your CPU, RAM, and GPU. I couldn’t believe my eyes as to how detailed the final part of the benchmark was when I saw the massive, super-detailed space station being rendered as it was, on my old gaming PC.

Let’s see the numbers… My system only got a framerate of 17.012 fps in this benchmark but believe me, considering the settings and how beautiful everything looks, that was still higher than I expected it to be. Still, I would maybe play X3 when I get my next gaming machine.

Trackmania Nations

Resolution: 1280×1024
Antialiasing: 16 samples
Shadows: Complex
Shader Quality: PC3 High
Texture Quality: High
Max Filtering: Anisotropic 16x
Geometry Details: Normal
PostProcess FXs: On
Force Dynamic Colors: On
Force Motion Blur: On
Force Bloom: On
Water Geometry: On
Stadium Water Geometry: On
Trees Always High Quality: On

Download from: http://trackmania.com/

Trackmania is still one of my favorite racing game series of all time. This benchmark is done using the game Trackmania Nations that has always been the free version of Trackmania and the one that most people in the world play. I highly recommend getting Trackmania United if you are serious about having FUN in playing a racing game MMO.

This game is a massive physics simulator and it has looked good right from the start. The game engine is probably even as efficient as probably the Unreal engine except that Epic Games doesn’t put out free games! At 1280×1024 my system puts out an average framerate of 31.8 fps.

Okay, so there’s the list. Yeah, you might say that who cares because my system is running Windows XP and therefore DirectX 9 but the way I see it, gaming is a lot like racing cars in the real world. You might run DX11 on your Windows 7 box but if you barely run stuff and my system gets higher framerates than yours, that’s pretty sad. Only real results matter in the real world! I say fuck it, compare apples to oranges. I just care if the system will be able to run a game 100% stable as well as with decent performance.

So that about wraps it up. I hope you use my February 2011 benchmarking guide to test out your system and post some results below as comments. I know my system is a 2007 average price gaming system but let’s see what my next PC yields! And let’s see what the gaming PCs I will review soon will show us. Will these brands defend their speed claims when being tested in the real world? Stay tuned!

DiRT 2

DiRT 2 CRUNCHHH
DiRT 2 CRUNCHHH

DiRT 2 review by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:

“More dirt slingling, car crunching rally madness from Codemasters!”

Overall Score:
8 out of 10

Overview:

Codemasters surprises us again with another great Colin McRae Rally racing classic.

For the campaign game, you take the role of an up and coming rally race car driver that’s finally making it to the big time. You start entering races in the lower tiers and eventually you “level up” enough to take one the mid grade tiers and up, eventually getting invites for special global events and championships, such as the X-Games, special historical races, etc.

As you do more races you keep getting paid, letting you buy different cars but there are mainly 2-3 cars that will dominate each race mode. If you figure out which those are, the rest of the cars (and money is sort of irrelevant). Some of the cars are much funner to drive than others and you might want to get them simply for the challenge of trying to take on cars with better handling (pretty much the most important characteristic for cars in this game).

The game mainly has modern day rally cars that are favorites today and less of the classic rally cars of legend from the 70s-90s (as opposed to DiRT 1).

Like DiRT 1, DiRT 2 has many big names and personalities from the world of rally racing. Ken Block, Mohammed bin Sulayem, and Travis Pastrana are some, to name a few. The racers interact with you as you race (crash) them with a little pop-up and some smart ass comment to keep you in good spirits. Once in a while, in between races, if you really owned it up or sucked big time, the game will offer you a special challenge against one of these personalities. The challenge will depend on the kind of event you just did and what kind of racing that racer favors the most.

The game offers an online racing mode, which I will discuss in detail below.

DiRT 2 is available on PC, Nintendo Wii, PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, and PSP.

Fun Factor:

I’m a big fan of racing games, particularly ones where you abuse the hell out of your car and you have to make it last as much as possible. This is such a game!

Some of the tracks will feel repetitive after a while but they do require mastering if you want to take this game on at the max difficulty or make a legend of yourself racing online. Learning every pebble can be fun in itself.

Fun factor gets a score of 7 out of 10 from me. It’s not the funnest racing game I play but it is entertaining, especially when I’m in the mood for off-road racing.

Difficulty Versatility:

DiRT 2 is a lot harder than the first game. The customization for the diffuculty is more detailed and it’s a lot like Grid’s system. You have a finite number of “flashbacks” which let you rewind part of the race in single player offline mode. The harder you set it the more damage you car can take faster, and the easier it will be for damage to disable it. The driving skill of the computer opponents will also get upgraded.

If you want a better challenge than the computer, you will often find better players online. Some players will just specialize in the game so unless you want to get owned, you might have to put in some time to take them on.

Since this game is harder than DiRT 1 and in some parts less annoying (difficulty speaking-wise), Difficulty Versatility gets a score of 10 out of 10.

Value:

I bought DiRT 2 via Steam for about 33 dollars a few months ago. Through Steam at the moment of this writing, DiRT 2 is sold for $40, which is a bit steep considering you can beat the game in a few hours.

Overall, gogamer.com has the best prices for most system’s versions of Dirt 2. The link to find it at gogamer is the following: http://www.gogamer.com/searchresults.htm?keywords=dirt+2&categoryId=&x=0&y=0

Considering how little time I beat DiRT 2 in, I would say pick the game up for about 20 dollars if possible, around that price, it’s worth getting hands down. For the current price, mainly get it if you are a hardcore rally racing fan. At the current prices, Value gets a score of 4 out of 10.

Replayability:

I’ve played the campaign mode twice and it’s kind of like an experience of diminishing returns. I find the online mode now more interesting. The problem with the online mode is that most people on there are a bunch of cheating assholes (crashing you if you are doing well) so to me there’s only the rally mode where you can’t crash your competitors, so it’s more of a pure test of skill/luck.

All the tracks from DiRT 1 are missing in the sequel, which was a disappointment for me because they seem much more real as tracks/courses. I don’t know why they didn’t even bother to include the Pikes Peak Hill Climb course.

Overall, the Replayability gets a score of 6 out of 10. If they can manage to incorporate the non-cheating, non-crashing into the online mode for the modes other than Rally, I’d say it would be worth a 7 out of 10, solely for that.

Sound:

Wonderful sounds ring to my ears. Whether car crunching sounds of smashing your fellow racers or the roar of your rally car flying up a hill. I found it kind of cool in some tracks how they have a running fireworks display as you are about to finish the race and they do sound pretty real to me. Turn the volume ALL the way UP! Sound gets a score of 10 out of 10.

Music:

I found the music in DiRT 1 to be more fitting towards rally racing. The music in DiRT 2 feels as though you’re stuck in a Mountain Dew commercial hopped up either on MD or Red Bull or Monster, the two latter for which you will see ads for throughout the game in almost every race.

DiRT 2 certainly feels more commercial in this sense. I guess the music fits the current direction of where they are trying to get Rally racing to go (especially the infiltration into the US), so it’s more fitting towards the attitude this game has.

Music gets a score of 7 out of 10 in my book. I don’t like it myself but it gets the job done for what they want DiRT 2 to be.

Graphics:

Like DiRT 1 and Grid, DiRT 2 continues the tradition of being amazing eye candy. The game has about 8 or so different global locations and it is does feel as though you really are in the country where you are racing. The car models are simply beautiful and it’s always fun to see them all covered in dirt!

I do enjoy that this is a great game AND it also happens to look great as well.

Graphics get a score of 10 out of 10.

Stability/Reliability:

I’ve only gotten the game to crash once and that was after playing it non-stop for 5 hours, probably because my video card was overheating. Other than that the game is pretty rock solid. I believe Codemasters took steps to address the lag bug from DiRT 1 and it happens much less in DiRT 2. I will address that below under the performance explanation. Stability/Reliability get a score of 9 out of 10.

Controls:

Like DiRT 1, controls are fully customizable. The standard arrow keys for the PC version are all you need unless you want to remap them to your heart’s content.

For the PC version and consoles I’ve been told that wheel and pedal support has been improved dramatically over the first game.

Controls get a score of 10 out of 10 from me.

Performance:

Overall, this game runs pretty great for how pretty it is. I’ve had moments where it lags due to what I think is a bug inherent in the game engine, even if offline, playing against the computer. It’s a bit less drastic than DiRT 2 and I think Codemasters is trying to work this problem out for their future racing games.

The game will run fine on most gaming machines. Racing games are some of the most intense kinds of games because of how many different objects that are moving at high speeds have to be all computed in relation to each other.

Performance gets a score of 8 out of 10.

My history with this game:

This is one of the many games I played around the holidays of 2009. They kept delaying the PC version over and over, which I found annoying. I was a little disappointed as to how little time it took me to beat the game. I basically beat it on the first day.

The online mode is okay but I only like doing the Rally mode which gets repetitive once you master all the tracks.

DiRT 1 was a nice surprise for when it was released. DiRT 2 has been heavily marketed in comparison, and some of that hype got it sales, but the game itself is still a great game. Fans of the first game should probably give it a chance.