Here’s a quick news release of new WD products for this month:
A. WD Blue 5mm HDD and WD Black 5mm SSHD
Western Digital announces the release of their new 2.5” Blue and Black drives that are now 5mm thin, and the new 2.5” Black drives now being a Solid State Hybrid Drive, which was developed in partnership with SanDisk.
Here’re some features included in the new 2.5” Drives:
Ultra-slim Form Factor – 5 mm height with compact connector offers system designers a greater degree of chassis design freedom. This ultra-slim form factor reduces weight by up to 36 percent compared with a standard 9.5 mm drive.
Best-in-class Acoustics and Shock – WD’s best-in-class acoustics use technologies that reduce noise when the drive is active or idle. The WD Blue and WD Black 5 mm drives deliver unprecedented operation and non-operation shock specifications with 400 G and 1000G, respectively.
Edge Card Technology – WD designed the connector and board utilizing cell phone miniaturization technology to maximize the mechanical sway space in the hard drive and ensure shock performance.
Edge Card Connector – WD Blue 5 mm hard drives also feature the first application of a new small form factor SFF-8784 edge connector. This new connector receives power from and interfaces with the host I/O bus via the SATA interface connector SFF-8784.
StableTrac™ – The motor shaft is secured at both ends to reduce system-induced vibration and stabilize platters for accurate tracking during read and write operations which enables consistently higher performance.
Dual Stage Actuator – Leading-edge enterprise dual stage actuators provide two actuators that improve positional accuracy over the data track(s). The primary actuator provides coarse displacement using conventional electromagnetic actuator principles. The secondary actuator uses piezoelectric motion to fine tune the head positioning to a higher degree of accuracy.
Now the main difference between the Blue model and the Black model is the existence of a solid state drive co-developed by SanDisk.
Right now, the WD Blue 5mm 2.5” drive is being sold here for 3,995 SRP, while the Black model is still being shipped to OEMs and would be released for retail later.
B. WD 3.5” SAS WD XE
WD releases a solution that solves the problem with some enterprise servers seeking a way to transition from the legacy 3.5” storage solution to the latest 2.5” solution. The answer is through the WD 3.5” SAS WD XE (or WD XE for short) which is a 2.5” drive mounted on a 3.5” adapter (similar to a WD Raptor, which is also mounted on an adapter, but used for cooling purposes) to fit the new drive on legacy 3.5” mounts found on servers.
WD XE 2.5-inch SAS hard drives in 3.5-inch performance adapters feature:
Highest performance in its class – WD XE delivers ultra-fast 6 Gb/s transfer rates, best-in-class sequential data rate of 204 MB/s, and outstanding random I/O performance;
Low power consumption – This 3.5-inch SAS drive delivers up to 67 percent lower power versus 3.5-inch 15,000 RPM drives, which can result in substantially lower total cost of ownership (TCO) while increasing capacity and reliability;
Form factor – 2.5-inch drive mounted in 3.5-inch performance adapter for ease of upgrade and ultra-cool operation;
Dual port, full duplex connectivity – Offers higher reliability, performance and data availability by eliminating single points of failure, designed for high-availability datacenter systems;
NoTouch™ ramp load technology – The recording head never touches the disk media ensuring significantly less wear to the recording head and media as well as better drive protection in transit; and
Industry’s highest reliability rating – 2 million hours MTBF.
Availability, it’s currently being sold through some retailers and distributed by Verdure Xchange Tech and Ubertech Inc for an SRP of 10,999 to 28,999 depending on drive size (300GB to 900GB).
C. WD My Passport Ultra
WD announces the availability of the new WD My Passport Ultra, which offers more layers of data protection of your files. Available in 500GB, 1TB and 2TB sizes, these My Passport Ultra portable drives have SmartWare Pro backup software with DropBox integration, hardware encryption and password protection.
The new portable drives are available and sold for an SRP of 3,790 for the 500GB drive, and 5,090 for the 1TB Drive.
Better late than never, here’s a list of some of the games released over the summer that would have given us something to play with (note, some of the games here that I own didn’t get a review due to time and schedule constraints). Listed not in correct order of release:
- Far Cry 3
- StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm
- Bioshock Infinite
- Strike Suit Zero
- Devil May Cry
- Crysis 3
- Assassin’s Creed 3
- Resident Evil 6
Sharing this weekend Gadget Sale at the Whitespace in Makati. Here’re the details:
(pardon for the abruptness as I’m currently feeling the effects of a fever)
Bioshock Infinite is in a totally different world from the original Bioshock, yet still brings back the mystery and lore of the original game from 2007 (and its sequel).
We play as Booker De Witt who is formerly a Pinkerton Detective, now a private investigator whose current job is to retrieve a girl from the floating city of Columbia in order to pay off his debts. Unknown to him, he would play part in the fall of Columbia and discover other things regarding its existence, his past, the girl Elizabeth and her role. The story is grand
Gameplay wise, Bioshock Infinite carries the previous title’s gunplay and use of plasmid based attacks into what is now called as vigors. Stores come in the form of steampunk style mechanical vending machines and certain vigors can override some machines into giving money. One new element in the game is the use of Columbia’s Skylines that enable Booker to traverse between platforms letting him move to higher/lower ground when needed as well as setup his shots. Enemies in the game are varied, from club wielding city police to their more heavier armed variants to Columbia’s soldiers and automatons called Motorized Patriots who have faces of famous US founding fathers like Washington. Handymen are steampunk cyborgs who utilize brute strength in fighting Booker. Others include Boys of Silence which are blind people equipped with a helmet that enables them to hear better and will call backup once Booker has been detected. Gunplay requires some degree of thinking on the move as later levels suggest, having a mix of combat between human enemies and not-so-human enemies.
For noncombat gameplay, there’s a lot to explore in Columbia, lots of items to pick-up, voxphones to collect in order to understand the whole story behind the game, and the kinetoscope machines (something sort of a TV) scattered around the place. Also do take note of some irregularities in the environment… as well as the music being played. One may just notice, but the some of the songs are recreations of some well known songs of the 20th century.
Graphics, Irrational made it well polished, especially during the earlier part of the game, showcasing Columbia as a bright city, shiny and bright. As the game progresses, they are able to show the decay and destruction being brought to the entire city. Character design is topnotch and their animation is good, drawing upon the late 19th and early 20th century design styles. Weapons are detailed down to the labels on their frames, their designs range from the classic 19th century weaponry (revolvers and gattling guns) and WWII era weaponry (machine guns, rifles, sniper rifles, pistols, etc.).
- Excellent Artwork by the team in bringing the city of Columbia, the people and everything in between.
- A well written story, full of plot twists.
- The little details were taken cared of, like the mysteries of the Leutece siblings, the source of various music played, and the play on US’s founding fathers’.
- Combat with Elizabeth can be creative, enabling Booker to have cover, additional gun turrets to aid in attacking enemies, or stashes of additional weapons around the map.
- Some problems I’ve found came with the combat, while it is true that Elizabeth helps in giving Booker the edge in combat, I noticed that handouts could be quite frequent at times, making things a bit boring as one would just wait on her to give reloads.
- Not all areas could be backtracked.
- There are not much menacing enemies in the game. It doesn’t have the Big Daddy enemy found in earlier games which give suspense when fighting them.
Final Score: 9/10
I was drawn to the Steam Indie Sale like a fly. For some odd reason I noticed this advert when I was about to play Civilization V one evening and took interest in looking for games. And one game did entice me: Strike Suit Zero.
Born from a Kickstarter project years ago by Born Ready Games, Strike Suit Zero brings back the good old sci-fi shooter in the PC space. As a kid, Wing Commander was my all time fave on my earlier PCs, then came the updated console versions of Macross, Armored Core and Gundam, which redefined playing with mecha. And with the release of this game, it gave me that ‘Oh, I must get that game at once’ feeling.
The premise of the game is quite simple. Earth learned a technology from aliens leading them to develop fold technology, reaching far in the galaxy building new colonies. With the rise of the colonies, and the discovery of an alien ship which believed was the source of the human’s technology, the colonies made a bargain with Earth for their freedom by giving access to the wreck. However upon the Earthers’ discovery within the wreckage, they packed up and left colony space and not granting the colonies their freedom nor divulging what was found. Because of this, the colonies rebelled and launched an attack on Earth. As part of the defense forces, we’re tasked to defend the planet.
The game consists mainly of the campaign and is separated in 13 missions, which is quite comparable in number to the stages of other games (like a single story line in Macross Ultimate Frontier on the PSP like the original series for example), but far few if one has played Wing Commander which has quite a long list of missions and campaign.
From the list of missions, we select our difficulty, checkout the victory conditions and upgrade conditions (making the game a bit challenging to play), ship selection and apply weapon loadouts for the ship we’ll be using. At the start of the game, only one ship is available, and would increase as the game goes. After some stages, then the Strike Suit is available.
The game picks up quite a notch once the Strike Suit is made available. It’s fast, highly maneuverable and is an advance unit, similar to Macross and Gundam where we’d normally see some fodder units going up against more advance suits piloted by aces. As a game balancer, players must destroy enemies in order to earn ‘nexus’, the energy used to power the Suit’s biped mode. Shooting while in Strike mode reduces the amount of ‘nexus’ stored, and once empty, the Suit returns to Pursuit mode. There’s a selection of weapons to use in fighter mode: from laser/photon/ion whatnot blasters to gun pods (a mainstay in Macross), and single fire/dumb fire/swarm missiles. Strike mode weapons are a staple blaster and multi targeting missiles, labeled as MTAM Circus (which is a play on Itano Circus, a style popularized in Macross wherein a ship launches an absurd amount of missiles that hit numerous targets all at one time).
The game I bought came along with a nice art book in pdf format. The art, separated into the mechanics, was drawn by Junji Okubo (Steel Battalion and Infinite Space) provided the core design japanese mecha inspired Strike Suits, as well as the UNE and Colonial Fighters and Ships found in game. Other artists from the team contributed to the background illustrations for the game world (Mike McCain) and for the characters (Opus Artz team). Within the game, the designs were translated well and effects such as the light trails from the ships provide cues as to which side they are from (blue for UNE, red for Colonials). The expansive background used for the game environment provides character to the level. However, I find that the character design to be too similar to one another.
Strike Suit Zero uses a control scheme similar to most space flight games, and I find that the XBOX controller I’m using is quite responsive and button mapping is well laid out. However, I find that I’m unable to invert the controls while in Strike mode for looking up and down.
With the availability of the game through Steam, there are possibilities of further expanding the game through DLCs, which in fact the first DLC added the ability to fly one of the second gen Strike Suits, the Raptor.
- A rooted PC sci-fi shooter that brings back memories
- A varied selection of ships to fly, from basic fighters/interceptors/bombers to the Strike Suits. (can be expanded through DLCs)
- Great mecha design and level design.
- Combat is fast and frenzied, relying on the player’s mastery of handling the Strike Suit.
- Has out of the box support for the XBOX Controller, which is way better than using the keyboard and mouse setup.
- Variable difficulty, which puts the player’s piloting skills to the test as difficulty goes up.
- Story is a bit simple, cut scenes are limited only to ship to ship communications.
- lack of customization for separating the Invert options for the control.
- Still has some crashes occur from time to time, however, random resizing of game screen from Full Screen to Windowed mode can be very annoying.
While not a full fledged game created by a big development company on a big budget, Strike Suit Zero still delivered what it promised in as a Kickstarter project.
Where is Baku anyway?
After a good three year wait, Activision/Blizzard has released the first expansion for StarCraft 2 called Heart of the Swarm. In this installment or next chapter Kerrigan, de-infested, tries to piece together her past and reclaim her rightful rule as the queen of the swarm. She works along side some of the characters in the previous game like Raynor, and the crew of the Hyperion while also interacting with new and some returning characters from the first StarCraft.
As an expansion to the series, Heart of the Swarm introduces some new units for each race:
- Updated the Hellion to transform, called Hellbat.
- Widow Mines which fire rockets at targets with splash damage.
- Some units were upgraded/balanced such as the Medivac having ‘ignite afterburners’ speed boost skill. While the Reapers lose their ability to throw anti building grenades, but gain the ability to regenerate health outside of battle.
- The Swarm Host is more or less, a ground based Brood Lord that throws out locusts that attack ground targets (but in the Campaign can be improved to have anti-air abilities).
- The Viper is a flying unit that uses its ‘Blinding Cloud’ ability to block an enemy’s view.
- Other units got some ability improvements. The Hydralisk now has a research to improve its ground speed when traveling out of creeps. The Overlord also has a similar boost ability but now available in the hatchery. Of note, the Ultralisk had a new ability called ‘Burrow Charge’ but it’s only limited to the campaign.
- The Protoss gain the Oracle flying unit, no not a flying database, but it is designed with disrupting harvesting workers in mind. It also serves as a detector of sorts, revealing hidden enemies and buildings alike.
- The Tempest is used as a flying siege unit,
- This time around, the Protoss Mothership got some improvements by introducing a two stage build for it, starting with the Mothership Core, it has a feature from the full mothership, ‘Mass Recall’ enabled at this early stage, while having attack and defensive capabilities.
- As this review’s been written after several weeks since the release of the game, I believe spoilers no longer apply. Also, I got the novel “SC2: Flashpoint” that ties into this game, and explains some details that relate to what happened in between Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm.
- A new campaign story with Kerrigan as the lead.
- A newer user interface to include Heart of the Swarm.
- A chance to actually play as the Hyperion! (search youtube for the vid)
- Zerg evolution missions in campaign is novel in approach to differentiate it from Wings of Liberty.
- The return of Stukov
- Missions are quite too similar to Wings of Liberty.
- Only one Terran side Mission (see Hyperion mission) vs 4 Protoss side Missions.
- Nothing much to be seen in between missions, Zerg Leviathan isn’t as packed with interactive stuff like in Hyperion.
Looking for SC2: Heart of the Swarm?