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Framed Jerseys Cheap and Easy

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Charles Barkley Framed Jersey
Charles Barkley Framed Jersey

If you’re into sports and have a basement to decorate, I’m sure one of the things you’ve thought about doing is putting up some framed jerseys of your favorite sports stars.  I’d been wanting to do this for a long time in my basement, and this week I finally got around to it by ordering a bunch of stuff off Amazon and Ebay.  I’d bought a couple jersey frames in past but the ones I bought now are far superior to those.

Ordering the Frames

The first thing I did was order 5 frames off Amazon.  I ordered these (Amazon affiliate link below):

LOCKABLE 98% UV Protection – Baseball / Football / Basketball / Soccer / Hockey Jersey Display Case Shadow box, (Black Finish)

There are some similar options are that a little deeper or have slightly different dimensions, but these were the ones I thought had the best bang for the buck.  They arrived in two different bundles, one of three frames and the other with two.  The frames are fairly heavy so it’s a good thing they were split up, if all 5 were together it would have been pretty heavy to lift.

Installing the Jerseys

Once I got them separated, it was time to start putting some jerseys in them.  I had 5 different jerseys I had gotten off Ebay, two basketball, one football, one hockey, and one baseball.  The basketball ones were really easy to do.  The case comes with a black hangar to do basketball jerseys with, so it was as simple as putting the jersey on the hangar and then putting it on the hook inside the frame.  After hanging you’ll probably have to tuck in the jersey a little bit (depending on the size and sport).  For the basketball one I just had to fold the jersey a little behind.

The football one though was a little trickier but still pretty easy.  The frame comes with a white cardboard insert that you put the football jersey around.  Once you have it over the cardboard, you can pin it to tighten it up if you want (pins are included) or you can just put it in the case and squeeze the fabric in.  The hardest part it just keeping all the fabric out of sides of the case when you’re trying to close it, if any fabric isn’t inside the case the case will have a hard time closing.

Hanging the Jersey Frame

Once the jerseys were installed inside the cases, it was now time to hang them on the wall.  Luckily, the cases come with three hangers preinstalled on the back to make it easy.  No screws are included though for putting it on the wall, you’ll have to provide those yourself.  I would recommend hanging these on a stud when possible, the heavy weight will make the nail/screw sag after a while if you don’t.

Fit and Finish of the Frame

The frame itself is really nice, it’s not an el cheapo product that you sometimes get with frames.  Evidently the front is real glass, or at least the box says it is.  Most of these frames usually come with Plexiglas, so glass is a step up.  I couldn’t really tell from touching it, all the edges that would give it away are hidden in the frame.

The back of the frame is a nice black velvety fabric that absorbs light very well, giving the jersey good contrast in the frame.  Whether you get this frame or some other frame, having a background that is light absorbent helps a lot.

Conclusion

Basically, the whole point of this article was that you can save yourself a ton of money by buying this frame or one like it from Amazon or another retailer.  Then just get a jersey off Ebay of your favorite star.  If you go to a local sports store, they’ll probably charge you double, triple, or quadruple what doing this would cost.  Save some money, do it yourself.  Then if you want to change out the jersey at some later point it’ll be 10 times easier as well.

Samsung Surround Home Speakers SWA-8500S/ZA Review

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Samsung 8500 rear speakers
Samsung 8500 rear speakers

One of the problems of the modern soundbars is that they don’t provide very good rear sound.  They do a good job with the front sound stage and ok with the bass usually through the small subwoofer, but rear sound is usually non-existent.  Samsung has come up with an economical solution for that issue, the Samsung SWA-8500S/ZA rear speaker set.

The set is a combination of wired and wireless.  The system is wireless from the soundbar to the rear station, but wired from the rear station to the left and right rear speakers.  This may or may not work out very well depending on your setup.  If you have a living room and want to hang the speakers on the wall, it may be a little hard to hide the wires.  On the other hand, if you have a bunch of shelving and other items on the back wall, hiding the wires should be easy.

Samsung 8500 rear speakers right back speaker
Samsung 8500 rear speakers right back speaker

The wireless communication between the soundbar and the rear station is pretty strong, I keep mine in a storage closet and it works great still.  I didn’t test how far it would work, mine is about 15 feet away and works fine.  Hooking them up though, they didn’t connect very well at all.  Initially, I had to have them right next to each other in order to get the soundbar and the rear station to connect.  I’m not sure why there was an initial communication problem when trying to pair the items but there was.

How do the experience do they add?  A ton, they’re great.  When you initially plug them in, you might find them slightly underwhelming.  One of the problems you may have, depending on your room, is that they might be too soft.  Luckily, you can adjust them pretty easily to be louder through an option on the soundbar.

If they’re still not loud enough for you, there’s a louder and slightly more expensive option that Samsung offers:

Samsung Electronics Surround Sound bar Home Speaker Set of 2 Black (SWA-9000S/ZA)

I thought about going that direction but when the 8500S was on sale that made my decision pretty easy.  Now that I’ve heard the 8500S, I’m glad I went that route, they’re plenty loud enough for my particular area.  If you have an area where you want louder rear speakers though, you might want to consider going with the 9000S pair.

Conclusion

The Samsung SWA-8500S/ZA is an excellent rear speaker solution for those looking to expand your soundbar sound to a higher level.  I know that after I installed it the appreciation level for the sound system went up a notch from the people using my workout area.  The video games I play on it are definitely a lot better sounding with the rear speaker addition.

Samsung HW-M450/ZA 2.1 Soundbar Review

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Samsung M450 Soundbar
Samsung M450 Soundbar

If you’ve bought a new TV lately, you’ve probably realized that the sound coming out of these new TV’s is usually pretty sub-par.  This issue pretty much exists for almost all TV’s currently made, the physics of producing great sound from a tiny space just don’t work out.  Luckily, new sound bars solve these problems and take sound to heights that used to cost a ton of money.  I bought this Samsung HW-M450/ZA Soundbar to go with my LG 65UJ6200 TV.

This Samsung Soundbar via Amazon affiliate below.

Samsung HW-M450/ZA 2.1 Channel Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer, Black

Out of the Box

Once you get the sound bar out of the box, it’s pretty easy to setup.  You can either use an HDMI cable (ARC) or an optical cable to send the sound from your TV to your sound bar.  Either one works really well, I tried them both out.  I would say that HDMI is the preferred method if your TV supports ARC (audio return channel) because generally things work better via that method (the TV and sound bar will communicate better).  The optical output is a one way deal which can make it more difficult to keep working.  I didn’t have any issues with either method for the most part but I did have a couple times where the optical connection didn’t respond right away.

Samsung M450 Soundbar ARC connection
Samsung M450 Soundbar ARC connection

Once you have it connected, you can either leave it on a shelf or mount it to the wall.  I’m currently on a shelf but have been thinking about mounting it to a wall.  It comes with the two brackets necessary to hang it on the wall, which is nice.  However, the brackets don’t stick out from the wall much, so if your TV wall mount isn’t super slim your TV will stick out in front of the sound bar quite a bit.

Controlling the Soundbar

The first thing I did was turn off my TV’s internal speakers.  That way all sound would come from the sound bar instead of from the TV.  On the LG TV I hooked the Samsung Soundbar to, the volume from the TV remote would control the volume to the Soundbar.  That makes it extra nice because then you only need one remote to control everything.

The Samsung remote is pretty basic.  It allows you to control the sound modes, the subwoofer volume, and volume should you choose.  The only feedback you get is through an LED display that comes on when you adjust the volume and settings.

It works out pretty well once you figure it out, but it isn’t the easiest thing.

Sound Quality

Of course everyone wants to know, how does it sound?  It sounds pretty good for the most part.  Everything I’ve tried with it sounds pretty good.  I have had a couple issues with some Xbox One games and character speech, for some reason a couple games have the dialog very soft in relation to other sounds which makes it a little hard to hear sometimes.  That isn’t the soundbar’s fault though, just a game mixing issue.  AC: Origins was one of the games in particular I had problems hearing the dialog.  NBA 2k18 on the other hand was phenomenal with the sound bar, clearly the best sounding game on it.

One of the drawback to just having a soundbar is that you don’t have any rear speakers for surround sound.  Samsung though has come up with a solution for that, the Samsung SWA-8500S/ZA rear speaker set.  This set connects wirelessly to the sound bar and produces the rear speaker sounds from a 5.1 system.  I added this option on and it’s fantastic.  I know some of the reviews have mentioned that they think it’s too soft, that’s easily fixed by upping the volume in one of the menus (albeit, it’s very hard to find).  You can check out my full review of those speakers here:

Samsung SWA-8500S/ZA rear speaker review 

You can also see them through Amazon affiliate here:

Samsung Rear Speakers for Soundbar (SWA-8500S/ZA)

Conclusion

I’ve been very happy with the Samsung HW-M450/ZA soundbar so far.  I put it in my workout room, and I’ve had people comment that it feels like a movie theater in there now with the TV and surround sound.  I’ve really enjoyed the sound + TV when playing games while working out on my elliptical machine, makes the time go by pretty fast.  The ability to add the rear speakers takes the soundbar to a different level in performance for not a whole lot more money.

Best Console Video Games of 2017

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Horizon Zero Dawn
Horizon Zero Dawn

It’s that time of year again, where all the magazines and websites go through all of their games and figure out which games are the top games of the year for 2017.  For the first time, I’m going to do this on this website as well.  I play a ton of games (and have for 30+ years) and like games from about every genre except horror.  So without wasting to much more time here, here are the Best Console Video Games of 2017.  Only games that I personally played will be on here, so if you’re favorite game isn’t on here, I probably didn’t get a chance to play it.

  1.  Horizon Zero Dawn.  Without a doubt, this is the best game I played this year.  The story, the gameplay, the huge robot dinosaurs, etc were all amazing.  One of the few PS4 games I played this year, but it was unquestionably the best game I played.  I highly recommend this game, probably the best game I’ve played since the Witcher 3.
  2. Shadow of War.  When this initially came out, I thought ‘eh’.  I liked the first one, but would I really get into the second one?  It took about 10 minutes and I was hooked on this game, played it nonstop till I beat it.  It just has a ton of character and is just flat out fun.  There are a wide variety of missions that don’t seem too repetitive, and tons of collectibles to get.  Online missions are featured too.

    Shadow of War
    Shadow of War
  3. Persona 5.  I played this game a ton.  It’s LONG.  So long that I still haven’t beaten it yet.  Probably put 60 hours into it and still have a ton of stuff to go in order to get to the end.  It’s definitely a weird game, not for everyone.  It has the horrible save system from the 90’s era PS1 games, and has a ton of weird things happening all the time.  The combat is pretty fun, and overall the game isn’t too difficult or otherwise the save system would be maddening.
  4. Halo Wars 2.  This game kind of fell under the radar after it released in February and was followed by all those blockbusters in March.  It’s the best real time strategy game on the console pretty easily.  The whole game is really fun, makes me remember playing Command and Conquer back in 1995 for the first time.  Good videos, fun action, etc.

    Halo Wars 2
    Halo Wars 2
  5. Pillars of Eternity: Complete Edition.  This game came out on the PC a couple years ago and I actually bought it there but never got into it.  Once I saw it was on the Xbox I rebought it as I knew I would be a lot more likely to finish it there (and I was right).  I played this game for a long time before I finally beat it.  Still never beat some of those ridiculous dragons in certain places, they were just too hard.  If you liked the Baldur’s Game series on the PC, you’ll love Pillars of Eternity.  I also played through the expansion I liked it so much.

Honorable Mention

These are games I played but didn’t make my Top 5.

Cuphead.  Fun, very hard, not my cup of tea.

NBA2k18.  I actually played this game a lot but it really doesn’t do that much more than NBA2k17.  If you like basketball it’s a must have.

Super Mario Odyssey.  Everyone says this is 97% rated game, it’s ok but honestly it’s not that much different than any of the other Mario’s of the past 15 years.  Super annoying to beat a boss and then not move to the next level because you’re out of moon gas, lol.

Legend Of Zelda:  Breath of the Wild.  Another game everyone thinks is 97%.  I think if you haven’t played many games in the past 10 years, you’d probably think it was amazing.  I thought it kind of paled compared to Horizon Zero Dawn and the Witcher 3.  Do my weapons have to break every time I look at them wrong?  And it’s 2017, it’s story and production values are very low compared to most Triple A titles.

ARMS:  I actually really like this game.  However, Nintendo’s network doesn’t work with my internet provider (PS network and Xbox Live work fine) so I can’t play it online unless I use my hotspot on my phone.  Great 2 player game.

Splatoon 2:  A game that’s pretty good but not great compared to other games in the genre.  Not as good as Overwatch online, single player is pretty limited, but it’s still probably your best online game on the Switch currently (along with Mario Kart).

Star Wars Battlefront II:  I really liked the campaign, the multiplayer though is ‘eh’.  I feel like I’m at a disadvantage every time I play because I don’t have some power up card that people who have been playing a lot have.

These are the games I wasn’t that impressed with

Assassin’s Creed Origins.  People were saying how they thought this game was so I had a lot of anticipation.  After playing it 10 hours, I actually prefer the one before it, AC: Syndicate by a large margin.  AC: Origins is just kind of boring with no really motivating characters or quests.

South Park:  The Fractured But Whole.  Loved the first game, played all the way through it and beat it.  This one though I just can’t get into, it’s a little boring.  I may get back to it later to play if I have time.

COD: WWII:  Probably the worst campaign in the past several years.  I don’t play multiplayer in this game anymore, but that aspect seemed fine in the few games I played.  The campaign was just really boring and not really that exciting.  Part of it may have been that I previous played all the COD’s that were WWII back 10 years.  This just felt like a rehash of that.

These are the games that released last year but I still played this year

Overwatch.  Still the best multiplayer shooter game on the console.  Endless fun.

Rocksmith 2014.  If you want to learn how to play the real guitar, this game is phenomenal.  I think I’ve spent like $500 on DLC for this game, and I don’t buy DLC for any game normally (only other game I’ve bought DLC for in the past few years is the Witcher 3)

Ori and the Blind Forest.  I didn’t play this when it first came out, but it’s actually a great game.  I was about 1/2 way through when I got stuck in one place and couldn’t get out.  Eventually I need to get back and finish this game.

Conclusion

Hopefully you enjoyed my Best Console Video Games of 2017.  Obviously everyone’s tastes are different, but if there’s one game you should play it should be Horizon Zero Dawn.  I also think the Switch games are overrated IF you’ve been playing games continuously the past few years (blasphemy I know).  They’re good games but only great if you don’t have perspective on how good everything else has gotten.

 

DropMix Review

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DropMix Box
DropMix Box

Ever since the Guitar Hero and Rock Band phase fell apart about 5 years ago, music games have been somewhat scarce.  Rocksmith 2014 is probably the best music game going currently, but what if you just want to play for fun and not devote a ton of time into learning an instrument?  The new Guitar Hero and Rock Band that were released a year or two ago haven’t been very successful which is where this DropMix review comes in.

DropMix is made by the same company that worked on a lot of your music games, Harmonix.  Instead of being on a console, DropMix is an interactive Bluetooth game that syncs up with your phone or ipad.  Instead of buying DLC, you buy decks of expansion cards that add more songs to play with.

Setup

Setup is a fairly easy process.  It involves:

  • Downloading the app on your phone or ipad
  • Connecting the Bluetooth Game board to your device
  • Opening all the decks of cards for use
  • Watching some training videos (you can skip them but I wouldn’t)

Once it’s all setup, you’re ready to play.  My favorite mode so far is the score challenge, it’s fun to see if you and some friends can score the highest.  In the time I’ve played it, I’ve noticed that every time I play it I score slightly higher.

 

DropMix Empty Board
DropMix Empty Board

 

The game comes with 60 cards to start which is quite a bit since you don’t seem to use all of them every time you play, usually you only get to about 30% to 50% of them.  I’m sure that if you played quite a bit you would get to know all of them by heart but after the few hours I’ve played, I still haven’t tired of the existing deck.  Expansion decks are available like the one pictured below:

Playing the Game

DropMix is played by putting cards on a Bluetooth playing board that has slots for 5 cards.  Each of the five slots has a color(s) associated with it.  The slot colors are:

  • Yellow/pink
  • Pink
  • Pink/blue
  • Blue
  • Blue/Green

The slots that have two colors mean that you can put either color card in the slot.  Looking at the slots above, you can see that you’ll be playing a lot more pink and blue cards than the other colors.  In addition to the colors, each card has a volume level and an instrument associated with it.  During a round, the app will ask you to put down a certain instrument, color, or volume level and then it’s your job to find that card in your hand and play it in the time allotted.  It’s a little confusing the first time you play but after that it gets a lot easier.

There are three different game modes with the game.  They are:

  • Clash
  • Party
  • Freestyle

Clash

Clash is the first mode of the game.  It’s basically a 2 to 4 player VS game where you take turns placing cards on the board.  After playing this a couple times it wasn’t immediately clear to me why sometimes you got more points than others.  When you play a card, you get a point.  If that card is a white card, it sometimes has extra attributes with it that can cause points to be added or taken away, depending on what other things are going on.  The game doesn’t do a great job of animating why exactly you’re getting extra points or losing points unfortunately, you basically just have to keep playing until you figure it out.

Party

This is my favorite mode of the game.  Basically you partner with 1 to 5 people in order to create the highest score.  It then becomes kind of a coordination between you and your partners to figure who’s going to play and what.  At first it was kind of difficult but after a few games it became a lot easier.  At first you’re going to make a lot of mistakes for -1000 points as you put cards that are too low in volume over others or play the wrong color cards.  That all goes away a few games in and the music starts to come together.  When you’re playing some of the mixes that you come up with are quite entertaining.

DropMix Board with cards
DropMix Board with cards

If you like the mixes you come up with, you can save them off in the game as well.  Most of the time the vocals stand out more than anything else, some of the guitar and drum additions don’t feel like they do much.  As a result, I think I’d rather have a lot more of the yellow vocal cards than anything else.  My kids also seemed to like the vocals more than the other cards.

Freestyle

This is just a mode where you try out different combinations of cards to see what cool remix you can come up with.  I didn’t really spend much time in this mode. You can kind of do this when you first fire it up, any cards placed on the board automatically start playing.  You can save off your remixes to show friends and family, some of them can be pretty cool.  How much time you spend in this mode depends on how much you’re into being a DJ.  I made a video showing the different modes below.

 

Expansion Sets

Beyond the base 60 cards that come with the game, you can buy expansion sets for the game too.  These sets are typically priced about $1 a card, sometimes more if you buy fewer cards and sometimes less if they’re on sale.  They come in small 5 card packs and larger 16 card packs, kind of like baseball cards to a degree.  It feels a little expensive but licensing isn’t cheap either so I’m guessing they couldn’t really make it much cheaper.

Conclusion

DropMix is the best music game to come out in the past few years.  Finally something that’s a little different than playing plastic instruments.  I’m hoping that they add more modes to the app, the current 3 modes is a little lacking for longer term appeal.  I could see after the initial 4 or 5 hours you play this that it might only come out when friends come over.  However, that’s kind of like all the music based games, they’re all better with friends.