Apple AirPods Max Are Expensive

When Apple announced the AirPods Max, I wanted to get a pair simply because it is over the ear headphones. I had the original AirPods (broke after washing my pants with them inside pocket) and the AirPods Pro. I prefer the original AirPods over the Pro. They seem to fit better for me. The Pros don’t seal well even with the smallest tips. I also hear lots of cracking when I’m on phone calls.

I recently found a pair of AirPods Max that open box for $493.99 off at Best Buy. I’m never shy from open box items so I gave these a pair. I figured, any discount is a deal.

Open box at Best Buy

I picked them up and they were in great condition. I know they are used because when I paired the headphones to my iPhone, the name is Kevin’s AirPods Max. I guess Kevin returned them.

There are already many reviews out there so I will just mention things the stood out to me (good and bad).

USB Type C to Lightning cable

The rechargeable cable that comes with the headphones are USB-C to Lightning. You will need an adapter if you don’t have a Type-C connector. They are trying to push their Macs because all newer models come with Type-C/Thunderbolt connector.

My wife and I both carry “purses” now.

This is the case it comes in. It serves two purposes from what I can tell. It is a “protective” case. It also ensures that the headphones are in a sleep state while in this case so that it consumes less energy while not in use. Many reviewers have found a significant amount of battery charge/life when out of the case and not in use. Carrying it around made me feel like I have a purse/murse.

Removable ear pads

The ear pads are removable and are held by magnets. This is by far the best feature I like on the headphones. I’ve had older headphones that still work but are very worn. It’s either hard to find/replace the ear pads or you can’t replace them. You can buy them from Apple AirPods Max Ear Cushions – Silver – Apple or you can get third party ones from elsewhere.

The verdict? Way too expensive for my taste. These sound just as much as my AirPods Pro, it’s just slightly better because my ears are well inside the pads. I also prefer over the head headphones instead of ear buds. They are also a bit heavy. I wear while working and when I do my walks. I currently have the Anker Soundcore Life 2 and are great. They are also lighter and more affordable. Why did I even consider the AirPods Max? Well, I’m deep in the Apple ecosystem. I started replacing my Amazon FireSticks with Apple TVs. I’d like to connect headphones when I watch at night so I don’t wake up my wife. I wanted something that will work seemless and the AirPods Max does. I just can’t justify the price tag. Most of it is the “Apple Tax” in my opinion. There are plenty of other noise canceling headphones at lower prices. I’m actually looking at the Sony WH-1000-XM4. We’ll see how those go.

3D Printing Is Not For Me

I have been curious about 3D printers for some time but the cost did not justify to quench my curiousity. Recently, the Creality Ender 3 Pro went on sale for $199.99 at Micro Center. I decided to pick one up and some PLA filament. The first print I tried is the dog demo that came with the printer.

At first, things were looking good. The first couple of layers look rough but I thought it was fine and it’ll straighten out. This print is supposed to take about 5 hours. More than halfway through it fell apart.

I should have leveled the bed

As you can see the first few layers were all over the place. The bed should have been leveld. The print failed because the level was off. Not sure why it took that long.

I downloaded a file to help level the bed and started to print the dog again. Another failed attempt.

The filament spool got tangled

This time the filament spool got tangled up. This was the starter spool. Instead of running into the issue again, I opened a new spool – one of the 1 kg spools I bought.

Okay, attempt number 3 on the dog. This time the nozzle got clogged after 2 hours of printing.

I am striking out with all these attempts. I took it apart, which was a good exercise. It helped me get more familiar with the printer. Cleaning wasn’t too difficult, just time consuming. I cleaned out the filament and put the printer back together. Here we go, attempt 4.

Success!

I finally got a successful print. It took several tries and many hours of waiting. Long filaments but the cost isn’t that bad. It’s mainly the time and power consumption. Even with this print, there is a stain on the right leg – may have been due to excessive heat/burn during the print. I was pretty excited to finally get one print done so I printed another and it completed without any issues.

The one I tried is the pig demo. It came out fine. This was a long print – around 6 hours. I am getting the hang of it and tried to print a knob for the printer. It failed a few times but finally printed correctly. Next was the cat demo. This failed. After that failure, I decided that 3D printing is not for me.

Just some of the failed attempts
Successful attempts

After some thing, I decided to return the printer before the return period expires. I just can’t get the hang of it. You invest a lot of time and electricity and from my experience, it gave me a low success rate. I also found many 3D printed items being sold on Etsy.

Noctua Is Too Big

I have been having bad luck with closed loop water coolers so I decided to try an air cooler. I also picked up new case, the Lian Li 011 Dynamic. Noctua fans are great so I went ahead and got the Noctua NH-D15 Chromax Black.

Noctua NH-D15 Chromax Black

Installation is fairly simple and the packaging is outstanding. Reminds me of opening up an Apple device. I was very excited to get this up and running and see improvements of noise and possibly lower temps. Unfotunately, my excitement was met with disappointment. It’s too tall. I cannot close the side panel.

The cooler is too tall

I should’ve read the reviews/comments. This cooler does not fit the Lian Li case. I didn’t want to get another case just to use the cooler. I opted to keep the Lian Li case and returned the Noctua cooler. If it weren’t for the spikes, I believe this cooler would fit. I couldn’t remove them.

I’m really contemplating on using this Noctua cooler on my next build and use a bigger case. Maybe look into another Fractal Design Define series or Corsair Obsidian series.

Apple Trade In With Phobio

I currently have a 2016 MacBook Pro. It’s been great but my biggest complaint is the keyboard. Fortunately, it doesn’t malfunction. It works as intended but that’s the problem. The butterfly keys are terrible and for a laptop, the keyboard and monitor are pretty much everything. I can plug in an USB keyboard but it won’t make it portable.

I paid $2799 for my 2016 MBP and the trade in value is only $710. I decided to bite the bullet and take a loss and trade in for the 2019 16″ MacBook Pro. Three things I’m after: the bigger screen (vs 15″), 8 cores (vs 4 cores), and “magic” keyboard AKA the old keyboard that shouldn’t have changed to begin with (vs butterfly keyboard). I bought the 2019 MBP online and started the process for the trade in. Phobio is the company that Apple uses for trade in. The plan is to pay for the 2019 laptop and once the trade in is completed, get the refund for $710 back on the card.

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2016 MBP (top), 2019 MBP (bottom)

Phobio sent out a box with shipping labels for me to pack up my old laptop and send it off for inspection and trade in. I took several pictures during the factory reset and noted the condition of the laptop. I am very careful with my stuff. These devices are expensive!

A few weeks later, I get an email from Phobio informing me that my trade value has been reduced from $710 to $250. They said they detected some screen damages during their inspection. Here is the photo they took and sent to me.

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Phobio found screen defects… can you see it?

I don’t see it and I also took photos before shipping my old laptop to them.

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Do you see any imperfections on the screen? I don’t either. I declined the new trade in offer. I called Apple and Phobio for additional options. Phobio is firm with their decision. They say that the damage they saw could not have happened during transit but more of wear and tear damage. I told them that there is no damage when I sent it to them, could the damage occur while they were inspecting and testing – of course not.

They shipped the laptop back free of charge. After receiving it back, I inspected the laptop and did not find any screen damage as they described and photographed (I still don’t see it on the photo). I contacted Apple and they suggested to bring it into the store to do the trade in – but with COVID19, the stores are closed. I was nearing the return/refund deadline – which was extended from 14 days to 30 days due to the current situation. I didn’t want to risk not being able to get the trade in amount and/or get a refund on the new laptop so I just returned it and got a refund.

Working from home, I don’t need to be portable with the laptop so I just docked it with a keyboard and monitor – problem solved until the new ARM Macs come out and I’ll revisit the trade in option.

After this experience, I would definitely suggest to do your trade in inside the Apple store. Any screen damage will tremendously reduce the value. But at least when doing it in the store, you will know right away of the value. And they may be more lenient with imperfections.

Fix Your Favorite Headphones

I have a pair of Bose SoundTrue headphones I got back in 2015 and it has seen better days. I don’t want to throw them away since they work. The only problem it has is the worn earpads.

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Bose SoundTrue

I called Bose to see if they could help me. They have cushion kits for sale but at the cost of $34. They have the black ones (329586-0010) or white ones (626655-0040). I got these headphones during Black Friday for $60. Getting those replacement pads for that price is not a good idea.

I searched on Amazon and found them cheaper for $29.95 but it’s still too expensive. I might as well get new headphones. I found an alternative for a lower cost from Amazon.

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Earpad Replacement

They are easy to replace. The pads are held with clips. You just remove and replace.

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Clips hold the pads in place

The fit is good. You just have to go around and make sure the edges are under the clips.

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Nice fit, good as new

I decided not to use the L and R dust-proof scrim. I kept the blue ones in. It’s easy to determine which is left and which is right. Just put them on and you’ll feel it. Otherwise, the cable is always on the left side ear. Now to find a headband replacement. The support is still there but the fabric is getting worn as well.

My other headphones, Audio Technica M50 headband is worn. Again, I called the company and was told to send them the headphones and pay a fee for them to replace it.

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Audio Technica M50

I found a zipped up cover and it solved my problem.

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Zipped up cover

Make sure the zipper is on top or it will head our head when you’re using it. It fits snug.

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What a mess

As I was fitting the cover, all the headband material started coming off. This is why I wanted a cover. Now I can continue to use and enjoy my old headphones.

The best USB C dongle for your 2019 MacBook Pro

I recently traded my 2016 MacBook Pro for a 2019 MVVK2LL/A model (8 cores) for obvious reasons (“magic” keyboard and more cores). With this generation of MBPs, you will need a dongle sooner or later. I have been using this dongle for a few years.

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doedoeflu dongle

It has mostly every thing I need. USB3 A ports, C ports, card reader and most importantly HDMI. I tend to dock my MBP when I’m at home because the keyboard is just unusuable and I like using a larger monitor. The only port I wish it had was an ethernet port.

Wifi is convenient but I don’t really like using it with computers. I transfer data between my home server and other computers on the network. Wifi is slow compared to being plugged in. So I end up using a USB-C to A adapter and a USB3 Gigabit LAN adapter. Yes, another dongle.

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Tendak SuperSpeed USB 3.0 to RJ45

The current dongle works with the 16″ MBP. The connectors are the same – dual USB-C. I figured, new laptop, new dongle but this time get one with an ethernet port. There are more dongles available now and at competitive pricing. I was able to find one from Saferell that checks all the boxes.

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Saferell dongle

The dongle consist of 2x USB3 Type-C ports just like the previous dongle. It takes up one side of the laptop. With all those ports, it utilizes both ports. It has a way to run the power adapter as well. It has everything I need from the previous dongle and more. It has gigabit ethernet and 2 HDMI ports.

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2 HDMI ports

Now the description may say triple display but it only has 2 HDMI ports. The third display is the laptop itself so don’t misunderstand thinking there are 3 HDMI ports or 2 HDMI plus an addition display port.

I’ve been using it for a few hours with one HDMI external display. I have a HP 27″ 1440p monitor. I don’t have any 4K displays but it does run at 60Hz. I don’t game on my laptop, mainly coding so the refresh rate is fine. It does run warm so be aware of that.

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Card readers

I’m still disappointed that Apple removed the card reader but at least most dongles have card readers. This one has a reader for SD and Micro SD cards.

The USB-C can accept the 100W charger and will charge through the dongle. Or you can charge on the other side of the laptop where the other 2 USB-C ports are open.

The dongle plug is on a stiff cable and I prefer this design than the previous dongle. It makes the dongle more flexible where I can position in different positions.

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Flexible plug

It makes it a larger dongle but it’s fine. I mainly use the dongle when I’m at home “docked”. I rarely use the dongle when I’m out or moving around the house.

I’ve always preferred the Space Gray over Silver – on my laptops, watch, and iPhone. If they had matte black, I’d be all over it. Between the two dongles, I feel the Saferell matches better.

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Space gray

I’m really pleased with it so far. Do you use a dongle? Which one do you use. What port do you miss the most?

2020 Ryzen 3900X Quarantine Build

For many weeks now, there have been some discounts on the AMD Ryzen 3900X CPU. More than likely, the cause would be the Ryzen 3950X and possibly the release of the Threadripper 3000 series CPU. I’ve been bouncing bettween building a 2000 series Threadripper or Ryzen 9 3000 series. Even thoughts of Threadripper 3000 series. The prices are very reasonable and the performance is outstanding. I eventually went with the 3900X 12-core CPU because of a Best Buy deal. For $450, you get the processor and 500GB Western Digital SN750 NVMe drive. Not bad in my opinion.

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Ryzen 9 3900X, Gigabyte X570 Aorus Master

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Western Digital SN750 500GB NVMe

Next was the motherboard. I was torn between the Asrock X570 Taichi and Gigabyte X570Aorus Master. I spent the extra money and went with the Gigabyte board. This was the board that many reviewers got from AMD as part of their press kit. For what I was looking for, both motherboards were close but I preferred the look of Gigabyte more than Asrock. My older Intel 5820K build used an Asrock motherboard – cost and features were great but software experience was lacking.

Finding ram took longer than expected. The cost at time of purchase was not bad, it has been rising a little bit. I have decided that I wanted 32GB capacity. I think it will pair nicely with 12 cores. I will mainly be developing on this machine and using virtual machines. Deciding what speed and CAS latency took some thinking. I could save money and get 3200MHz and CAS 18. Or was it worth getting 3600MHz and CAS 16 for my use case? I will hardly game on this machine and if I do, rarely will I play FPS (first person shooter) and recent games. I decided to get a 3600MHz with CAS 18. I ended up with TeamGroup T-Force Dark ZA.

Next is the tower. I wanted a tower that had good air flow, cable management, and 5.25″ bay. All of this has a starting price of $150. Fractal Design just released their new Define 7. I have a 4 and 5 and really like the series. They are just heavy and if you lose parts, they are not available (drive cages). I don’t need it to be heavy and durable. It’s just going to sit on the floor and I can do without the 5.25″ bay. I’ve been interested in the NZXT H510. I really like the cost and features. Only down side is the air flow. Well, I decided to go close loop water cooling – that takes care of that.

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NZXT H510

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3x 3.5″ drive cage, nice cable management in the back

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Removable radiator mount on the front makes installing easy

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So fresh and so clean

I was very surprised at how great this tower is for only $70. It’s been a while since I built a computer using more recent cases. Lots have changed. The cable management in the back is really nice. The removable plate for front mounting the radiator is a nice touch. The power supply shroud is nice. The three 3.5″ HDD drive cage on the bottom is great. This case really has a lot of functionality at a great price. It is also light compared to the Define R series. This case also has a USB3 and USB Type-C port on the top of the case.

Next is cooling. There have been many reports of difficulty with dual 140mm coolers. To avoid this, I went with the Corsair iCUE H100 Pro XT dual 120mm cooler. I don’t care for RGB and wish they made coolers without them.

Finally, the power supply. I really like EVGA and have used them in the past. I also wanted modular. I picked up the Supernova 850W Ga 80 Plus Gold.

You can check out my complete build at pcpartpicker.com.

Here are some other parts from old builds and some new I bought.

  • RAID5 drives
    • 2x Seagate Barracude Green 2TB
    • Hitachi Deskstar 5K3000 2TB
  • 2x Noctua NF-P12 redux-1300 120mm case fan. I wanted to get quieter fans.

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Mount 3x 3.5″ hard drive

Shout out to @edgarcreates for hooking me up with the featured image.

I built an AMD Ryzen 2600 PC in 2019

AMD Ryzen 2600 and MSI B450 Tomahawk

Yes, the Ryzen 2000 series CPU was released in 2018. Why have I just built one in 2019? Prior to building this computer, I primarily was using the Intel 5820K as my main computer. Recently, I started feeling its age. I noticed lag when playing some games even after upgrading my EVGA 780 to an EVGA 1070 card. I also started noticing just slower performance with every day tasks. Initially, I thought my NVME drive had issues but I ran some diagnostics and it reported no abnormalities.

Then the Ryzen 3000 series CPUs released and the previous generation processors went on sale. I figured this would be a good opportunity to check out the AMD chips for a more than reasonable price. I was able to find the Ryzen 2600 about $126 (back in July 2019, it is now available for a cheaper price at time of writing this). I don’t plan on overclocking so the stock heatsink works fine.

AMD Ryzen 2600
AMD Ryzen 2600

It runs at a modest base clock of 3.4GHz and has a boost clock up to 3.9GHz. I paired it with a MSI B450 Tomahawk. One of the biggest benefits of the AM4 socket is the huge compatibility between the Ryzen CPUs. It’s compatible with the 1000, 2000, and 3000 series processors – with the correct BIOS version of course.

MSI B450 Tomahawk
MSI B450 Tomahawk

This motherboard is priced just right for the features it comes with. It’s one of the more popular choices. The VRM should be able to handle faster, more capable processors, should I choose to upgrade in the future. I will have to upgrade the heatsink though. It’s a plain board with no RGB. It has M.2 x4 slot and 2 SATA ports. An additional 4 SATA ports are available through the chipset. However, you lose 2 of those when using the M.2 slot. My only complaint is the number of USB ports. There are 2 USB2.0 ports, 2 USB3.1 Gen 1 and 2 USB3.1 Gen 2 type A and C. I would like more. It doesn’t have to be the fastest, just more. There is a USB3 header I have connected to the front of the case. I am using an old case and not all the ports work on the front panel. I plan to add a few more ports using the USB2 header.

The ram I chose is the Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2x8GB) 3000MHz. It has pretty good timings at C15. Setting the profile in the UEFI, it’s not exactly 3000MHz but around 29xx something – close enough. Not a big deal for me and my use case. People recommend using 3200MHz ram for Ryzen 2000 series. So far, it’s been running well for me. I plan to double the ram once prices go down.

Corsair Vengeance LPS 16GB (2x8GB) 3000MHz
Corsair Vengeance LPS 16GB (2x8GB) 3000MHz

For the case, I used my old Fractal Design R4 case. These cases are great. They are well built. I have the R4 and R5. My only complaint is they don’t sell the replacement drive cages separately. I also wanted a case with a 5.25″ drive bay since I have a bluray drive. I had it in an external enclosure with my previous computer but hated having cables and another thing to plug in. As I mentioned before, one of the front panel USB port is broken and I’m worried that the others will soon follow. I have considered looking for a new case but many of the cases no longer come with a 5.25″ bay – well there are not many good cases with the big bay.

Fractal Design R4
Fractal Design R4

I used a Noctua NF-P14s for the rear intake and Noctua NF-F12 for top exhaust. These bad boys circulate a good amount of air and they are near silent. The only time I hear them is if I stop and actually listen for it and it’s a faint sound. The CPU temp is about 41-43*C on light load, like creating this post and having Photoshop running to crop the photos used here. I also have a VM running Ubuntu 19.10 (not server) on Virtualbox.

I have done some transcoding with Handbrake. While only having this program run, the temps reaches around 77*C and 100% CPU load. Wattage goes up to about 140-142W. This definitely runs more efficient than my previous Intel 5820K and 3930K (I know, it’s a newer architecture).

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Not final result…

So the picture above was taken before I swapped out the video card and power supply. I ended up putting the Cooler Master PSU and EVGA 780 with my older 5820K build. I took the EVGA SuperNova 1000 G2 PSU and EVGA 1070 video card.

I didn’t take a photo of the latest build since the tower is in its place and I’m lazy to pull it out and take a pic haha. Maybe when I do my annual cleaning – follow me on Instagram.

Finally, the drive I’m using for the OS is a Sabrent Rocket NVMe 512GB drive. Nothing fancy but faster than the usual SATA SSD.

Sabrent Rocket NVMe 512GB
Sabrent Rocket NVMe 512GB

I’ve been using this PC since end of July 2019. I’m just posting about it now in November because I have been having a great time with it. No issues at all and performance is great.

I generally use it for development. I’m running one or two VMs, playing video games, light photo editing, and the usual internet stuff. I’m very happy with the set up. I am considering adding more ram so I can allocate it to VMs. I may even wait to upgrade to the Ryzen 3900X (12 Core) once the prices go down. But as for now, it does more than what I need it to at the speed that exceeds expectations and at much better cost than my last two Intel hexacore build.