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  1. It's been just a little over two years since the Nintendo Switch launched back on March 3rd of 2017. Looking into the sales statistics to date, The Nintendo Switch has sold an astounding 32+ million units so far, and achieved the title of Best Selling Console of 2018's Thanksgiving weekend. So, why am I still a little upset with my purchase? Coming off the nostalgia that was the Nintendo 64, I've been mildly disappointed and uninterested in most of the consoles and the game lineup that Nintendo has released in the last decade or more. Needless to say, I wasn't totally shocked when I didn't fall completely head over heels in love with the Switch and what it has to offer shortly after my initial purchase; however, I was hoping it would have grasped my attention a little tighter than it has so far. Now, don't get me wrong here.. The Nintendo Switch IS NOT a "bad" console, especially now that it has had a chance to mature and grow over the last two years. With that being said, here is where I think it falls a little flat (for me): Cost: The Nintendo Switch IS NOT an affordable platform, in fact I feel like it is one of the most expensive options available right now outside of specialty platforms like the PlayStation 4 Pro and the Xbox One X. At it's $399.99 Canadian price-point, it is currently more than both the PlayStation 4 ($379.99 off sale price brand new) and the Xbox One S (Also $379.99 off sale price), and does not include a free game like the before mentioned offerings. Other than the console, the controllers or "Joy-Cons" are also $99.99 for a set of two. Sure, you can play a select variety of games with the included pair of Joy-Cons that come with the console; however, there is a growing list of titles that either require a full set of controllers per player, or simply play better with a set vs using one Joy-Con each. Lastly, we have the games. We are constantly plagued with the "Nintendo Tax" across the entire platform. What is the "Nintendo Tax"? Well simply put, first party Nintendo games and accessories simply NEVER go on sale. Want Zelda Breath of the Wild? FULL PRICE. Mario Odyssey? FULL PRICE. Both of these titles, although good, are at this point very old titles when it comes to their release dates respectively. If you're into indie titles, be prepared to again pay that oh so sweet Nintendo Tax on those too as those titles tend to be unnecessarily more expensive on the Switch compared to PC and competing consoles. Outside of games, first party accessories like Joy-Cons, extra Switch Docks, Pro Controllers, and more are all exceedingly more expensive than offerings from competing console brands. Online experience: The Nintendo Switch now requires a subscription based service to play multiplayer games with friends and family online. Although it is the most inexpensive offering of all the consoles, it is also the most lacking in features and return on investment. Sure, you get to enjoy a couple of nostalgic NES originals for your $4.99 a month or $29.99 a year, but I need more than that. Both Sony and Microsoft offer 2 to 4 free titles PER MONTH, as well as offer an extensive back catalogue of high tier and quality titles from both first and third party developers. Their online experience is passable at best and typically results in a lag and/or delay filled experience on titles like Super Smash Bros Ultimate, and their online voice chat... It's non-existent. Nothing is worse than trying to play a Smash Bros tournament with friends and having all of our phones die one by one as we try to communicate over a third party service like Facebook Messenger or Discord. Performance: Now I have to admit, I am a snob when it comes to both image and sound quality. An immersive experience to me is one filled with 7.2 surround sound and amazing cutting edge visuals. These again are two things that are lacking on the Nintendo Switch. When it is off the dock, the Nintendo Switch offers a 720p experience with audio provided by its from facing stereo speakers. While docked, it can offer a maximum resolution of 1080p at 60fps; however, most titles never max that out (Zelda Breath of the Wild currently supports 900p at 30fps with frequent dips) with 5,1 surround sound (This honestly shocked me). There are a handful of services such as YouTube that will provide additional entertainment outside of gaming, but yet again we see a lot of popular services like Netflix missing from its current line-up. Game selection: Other than a handful of amazing titles like Mario Odyssey, Zelda Breath of the Wild, and Super Smash Bros Ultimate, there are not many titles that have really held my attention for a great deal of time... And trust me, I have spent a lot of money trying to find my next go-to game for the platform. Games like Mario Aces and Mario Kart are amazing to play with friends, but I could never sit for a great deal of time and play them on a continuous bases on my own as a constant source of entertainment. Thankfully we are seeing more indie titles and triple-A ports coming to the platform, but again we are also getting hit with the Nintendo Tax on games that are both aging in their release dates and simply play better on most other consoles at a fraction of the eShops asking prices. So, everything is sounded pretty negative to this point right? Well, ok... Maybe I have been a little hard on the console throughout this blog post. There are a couple of things the Nintendo Switch does exceptionally well that you simply cannot find anywhere else. Let's take a further look at a couple of these categories: Portability: No other console is currently doing what the Nintendo Switch is going when it comes to pick up and go playing. Some have tried by using either third party accessories or remote play; however, those all require a much larger investment that the base console itself and only work half as well as the Switches native pick up and go nature. Although flimsy, the built in kickstand is passable for vertical play, with handheld mode being a secondary option for mobile entertainment. Local Multiplayer: The Nintendo Switch does this SO MUCH better than any other console in recent years. Most titles offer a split screen or local play option for either 2 player fun or even larger group play. During a staff party, we had a Smash Bros tournament and I have to say that it was once of the most memorable local gaming experiences I have had since playing Golden Eye 64 in my younger years. Aside from same console fun, the Nintendo Switch also allows for remote connectivity between multiple consoles, meaning you can all play the same game on multiple screens while in the same room. Something that requires too much equipment to be a viable option on any other mainstream console. First party titles: Although they my not hold my attention for a long period of time, there really isn't anything better than some of the first party titles that the Nintendo Switch has to offer. Mario Kart, Mario Ace's (Tennis), Pokemon Let's Go, Zelda, and many more are exceptionally fun to play over the short term... I just wish they weren't so damn expensive! Do I regret my decision? No, not really. I have sunk ENDLESS hours into Zelda Breath of the Wild and Super Smash Bros Ultimate since I purchased my console in November of last year. My major issue is there is nothing to date that had captivated me to turn on my Nintendo Switch before my PC or PlayStation 4 Pro. I am a little shocked and upset that I've spent nearly $1,000 on the console, 2 full sets of Joy-Cons, over a dozen games, travel accessories, expandable memory options, and more... All to have my Nintendo Switch for the most part sit underneath my upper-livingroom TV collecting dust as I favour other consoles. I'm sure in the summer my Nintendo Switch will come into play more often, as we tend to travel frequently during our couple of months of nice Canadian weather. I am also looking forward to taking with me on my upcoming trip to Costa Rica to entertain me during the long flights and layovers at the airports. For me, I just don't think I am the key demographic of user for the platform; however, I can see the appeal for those who are on the go more often compared to myself. What are your thoughts on the Nintendo Switch? Do you own one, and if you do, how do you like it? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.
  2. Should I use a VPN? This is a question I hear quite often, and one that I think deserves a little more attention in the modern day. So, what are some of the benefits of using a VPN? - P2P downloads (Depending on VPN services) - Anonymity - Security - Service purchasing & geographical restriction prevention - Throttle prevention - Much more I myself have been using various VPN services off and on for a number of years from various different VPN providers, and recently had the chance to test a service from FastestVPN. The main reason why my usage has been off and on is mainly due to pricing. I find most VPN providers offer an amazing introductory offer; however, tend to inflate their pricing once you become an established client. This has resulted in me cancelling many subscriptions in the past and moving on to test new services. Over the last week or more of testing, I have to say that FastestVPN has been one of my favourite services to date. Let's break down some of the advantages of VPN services in general and why I think you could benefit from them. P2P Downloads: In the modern day of PLEX servers and cord cutting, everyone is either currently downloading or has considered downloading their content. Years ago this was a viable solution to supplement your entertainment needs with little to no repercussions; however, with the recent crackdowns on Anti-Piracy in Canada, Canadians run the risk of receiving notices/warnings and possible fines between $500-$20,000 for infringement damages. Users are found via the "log" files given by their ISP to the copyright holder if requested in order to track down the user(s) downloading and/or distributing copyrighted content. So, can a VPN help you P2P safely? Yes it can, providing it offers a couple of features. The first thing to look for is whether or not your VPN service collects log files. If they do, the copyright holder can still request the downloader/uploader information to determine the origin of the offence in order to serve potential repercussions. A second feature I always look for is a "Kill Switch". This allows the VPN service to disconnect from the internet if the VPN service fails or disconnects for any reason. This means your downloads/uploads will not continue if the Kill Switch terminates your connect rather than having your activity continue uninterrupted via your actual IP. Anonymity/Security: We do almost everything via the internet these days. Whether it's from a mobile phone, tablet, or computer, we are almost always connected even when we are inside or outside of our homes. For most of us in Canada with lower GB mobile data packages or for those constantly on the go for work, this fact really hits home. So, how does anonymity come to play in these situations? Well, open/public Wi-Fi networks at hotels, resorts, coffee shops, and more tend to be a feeding ground for those looking to phish for information. This information could include passwords, emails, phone numbers, banking information, maps data, and the list goes on from there. This is done by placing a digital wedge between you and the open Wi-Fi connection, and filtering/collecting data logs in the process. A VPN service can offer additional safeguards by encrypting the traffic sent/received across open Wi-Fi networks, as well as adding additional Firewall protection to prevent potential intrusions. Service Purchasing & Geographical Restriction Prevention: This can either be a key feature or an added bonus for those considering a VPN. Since a VPN allows you to connect to another country while maintaining your physical home placement, you can do a lot more than just secure your connection. As an example, video games tend to have a wide variation in cost and promotions depending on where you live. I've seen fluctuations of $50+ between our Canadian market and promotions found for those who live in locations such as Mexico, India, The USA, and more. A VPN has allowed me to connect to another countries marketplaces in order to purchase game keys at a fraction of our Canadian market price. Once purchased, you can easily connection back to your home country outside of your VPN in order to install the game to your local region. I've done this for titles like TitanFall 1 and 2, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and many more. You can also use this same method to get around geographical restrictions for services like US Netflix, HULU, Amazon Prime Video (US), and more. Throttle Prevention: Things in Canada have been getting better when it comes to ISP throttling; however, I still see a little slowdown here and there. ISPs tend to throttle high demand games and services in order to maintain network uptime and limit network congestion. The most notable ISP throttle in Canada is probably against gaming services like WoW, as well as PSN and Xbox Online Services by ISPs. Since these services have high traffic demands, ISPs would throttle the connection in order to maintain network speeds across other services. We've also seen or have heard tell of ISPs throttling competitive services in order to give first party services more appeal for their users. Since a VPN redirects and masks your traffic, ISP throttling can easily be prevented. As I mentioned before, I have tried probably half a dozen VPN services from various providers in the past. I am currently using a service offered from FastestVPN, and have been extremely satisfied with the results and pricing thus far. They offer everything mentioned above, as well as a large variety of servers, 0 bandwidth restrictions, server hopping, DNS protection, ad-blocking, and more. One of my favourite parts of FastestVPN is the ability to have multiple sessions logged in at once (10 per account at once). This means I can have multiple devices operating on the VPN across various servers, while still operating others via my regular home connection. They also support a wide variety of devices such as Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, FireTV, Kodi, AndroidTV, and more. I currently have FastestVPN on my main desktop PC for safe P2P connectivity for my PLEX server with the Kill Switch enabled. Since my desktop PC pretty much runs 24/7, this feature is a must as I do not want file sharing to resume outside of my VPN in the event the VPN ever fails. I also have the client on my Google Pixel 3 XL for safe connectivity to open Wi-Fi networks and for my upcoming vacation outside of North America. As far as speeds are concerned, I am acheiving on average about 80% of my advertised download speeds and 90% of my upload speeds with the VPN enabled and connected to my closest Canadian based server, with my Ping only increasing by 15-20ms. These are much better results than some of my previous VPN services that would provide speeds of only about 20-30% compared to results directly connecting to my ISP and drive my Ping into the 100s. If you want to try FastestVPN, I will leave an exclusive subscription link here: https://goo.gl/d4Qk4v FastestVPN is currently offering a lifetime subscription for only $80 for a limited time, which is well under the average yearly price of competing services. You can also choose shorter terms such as $50 for 5 years, $40 for 3 years, $30 for a year, or $10 a month. All subscriptions are backed by their 7 day money back guarantee, so testing the service based on their better valued plans is more comfortable as there is no obligation to keep the service if it's not right for you.

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