Sage/Breville Barista Pro review

This is a super short review of this fairly popular espresso machine. I bought this last year, despite a lot of arguments from my wife. She even threatened to throw it out if I bought. I did. And now she demands latte/cappuccino every day!

My budget was pretty limited at that point, so other decent options (HX or even dual boiler machines) are out of reach. Barista Pro fits in my budget (and kitchen), and when Amazon had a very good discount on them, I pulled the trigger.

I was happy.

When it was new

Don’t laugh.

Pros:

Sage/Breville is feature oriented, and when you open the box, you have everything you need to get going: a milk jug, a 54mm portafilter with 4 different baskets (2 double shots (1 pressurized, 1 non pressurized), 2 single shot), and of course, a grinder built-in. If you are new, this is hugely important. Some sellers do not include the milk jug, or even tamper (looking at you, Lelit!), and it’s bad that you are excited to open your new fancy espresso machine and realize you can’t make a decent cappuccino due to lacking equipment. The UI is intuitive and easy to work with. Once you understand the basics, using the machine, UX wise, is simple and easy.

The flow is well defined, and smooth – you take the portafilter, put it in the holder and click – the grinder grinds coffee for you, in the fineness you chose and the time you pick. Then you take the tamper (attached to the machine using a magnet, a pretty smart design), tamp it, put it in the head, place your cup, and press a button. It is the convenience you are paying for.

Cons:

Once you open the box, you quickly realize this machine is not built to last. It’s a thin layer of stainless steel outside of plastic. Build quality is … fine, but don’t expect the same quality as Italy-made machine. It’s been reported that while Sage/Breville service is very good during warranty, but one you are out of warranty, you have to pay hefty fee for repairs, because they just break down. And repair usually means “replace”.

The machine is advertised as “3s start up time”. You press a button, and the machine is ready. Truth is, however, if you want to get better shots, you need to wait for at least 10m, and flush 1 or 2 cup first. With the empty portafilter inserted, press the double shots button, and let the hot water flows through it. It warms up the head, the portafilter, and make sure you get stabilized temperature in the boiler. Otherwise, your cups will be incredibly sour. Or some times, both sour of bitter!

The machine overall is quite noisy, both the grinder and the pump. it’s not a big deal until you have tried quieter machines. This is even more true when you have empty grinder, it sounds like it gonna break (it is fine to grind in a short amount of time, mind you)

Another downside is that this uses a 54mm portafilter. The portafilter itself is fine, well made and solid, but after a while, you will want to try out new things, like bottomless portafilter. But this is when you realize you are left with either options: 1. buy cheap no brand products from China or 2. absurdly expensive or 3. both. Should it come with a 58mm portafilter which is the “industry standard”, you will have more options from reputable brands, at reasonable prices.

The built-in grinder is merely adequate, it’s step conical burr grinder (some says it’s actual stepless, but you will need some “tricks” for that). You will be able to grind espresso with it, but not with the fineness adjustment needed to extract the best out of your coffee. Whenever you can, upgrade to a good espresso grinder would make a huge difference in your espresso. (Note: a good espresso grinder can easily cost $400 or more!). Also, cleaning it is not the easiest task – it’s doable, but requires additional tools (like a vacuum cleaner) to do it properly.

It’s messy to grind a double shot (18-20gr), because some coffee ground will be left on the portafilter holder, or on the drip tray. Yes you can use a dosing cup, or a funnel, but you will, once again, agonize the limited options of a 54mm portafilter.

So so

The included tamper is “serviceable”. It can be tucked in which is need, and it does it job. But I’d suggest to buy a nice, ergonomic tamper as soon as you can. It’ll make your experience much more enjoyable.

The steam wand is ok, but it is on the weak side, and it produces wetter steam than I would like. It is enough to froth the included milk jug, but if you want to use a bigger jug (so you can make 2 cappuccinos or 1 big latte in 1 go), it’ll not powerful enough.

The included milk jug is OK. Good ergonomic, but the wall is a bit too thin, so it gets hot very quickly. I had hard time holding it when it reaches 55*C. In comparison, my Motta one is only fairly warm even when the milk reaches 60*C (that is however not the perfect thing)

Summary

In the end, Barista Pro is a well rounded, full featured espresso machine. It’s a budget/entry one, capable of making good shots. You have everything you need to start going, but it also does not really excel in neither brewing, nor steaming. Once you horned your skill, upgrading to a better grinder, and a better machine 58mm portafilter will be a big step.

If you want to learn and can spend, of course.

HP inkjet printer is a scam

I occasionally need to print something, and based on the reviews in rtings.com, a HP OfficeJet Pro 9013 was probably my best bet for performance/price (given the top choice is not available anywhere in my region – Europe/Sweden). Researching showed some shady business practice by HP for their inkjet printers, but against my best judgement, I decided to try my luck.

My mistake.

The printer worked fine for a while. Nothing particularly good or bad about it. It prints, it scans, it fits what I need. I bought it new at a reasonable price, and got 3 years commercial warranty which seems like a good deal.

But the honeymoon does not last long.

The yellow cartridge went out first. It does not let me print even black and white document.

Why do I need yellow when I only want to print B&W?

This is crappy business, and I was warned, but OK fine. I signed on for this. So I bough the yellow cartridge to replace the old one. All good? No, this time, it’s cyan that is out of ink.

You can see Magenta is still there

Even without printing one page.

I am forced to buy cyan. Just to print one page, in black and white.

And then, when cyan cartridge arrives, I replaced the old one, and guess what, magenta is out!

Until it is magically out

Even without printing one page.

I can’t help but to heavily suspect that HP does that intentionally.

The printer fails to do its job when you need it, sometime sorely. This entirely defeats the convenience of having your own printer at home. I could have just printed it by a service, and be done with it.

I called HP support and told that “the cartridges should be replaced at the same time”, and “just get a new cartridge and it will work”. You can see, that is less than helpful.

This is simply a terrible, terrible practice from HP (and sadly it’s not uncommon in the business)

I learned my lesson – never again.

A super short review of Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age

DQXI is the last game I completed, and I don’t complete a lot of games. I was interested on the game because it was hugely anticipated, but the reviews put me off a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, the reviews are very positive – or at least most of them are, but they are not that level I wanted. The final push is a very good discount on the physical version, so I was like “What the hell” . Surprises, I was hooked.

The good

Very good “anime” styles. The game looks quite as good as the pre-rendered cutscenes.

The game is very well rounded and very enjoyable. I had almost no bug, at least none noticeable during my ~100 hours spent with the game.

Some plot twists that make the story interesting.

Good characters and side stories. Even thought they are not up to the level in The Witcher 3, they are still good enough to enjoy.

The crafting system (Fun-sized forge) is actually quite fun to work with.

The bad

The combat lacks depth usually seen in turn based combat. It is not exactly a bad thing for me, but if you are looking for some challenges, then the combat system in Persona 5 is far engaging.

Traditional, quite predictable main story.

The ugly

The background music is repetitive and can be annoying at time

The new improvements in the Switch version are not coming to PS4.

Super short review of Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is the second Switch game I played, and the first one I actually enjoyed.

Plus:

  • It’s a Mario game
  • Beautiful and vibrant world designs.
  • In fact it might be the most cute game I’ve played. Can’t wait to play it with my children (but given it’s rated ESRB 7+, it’ll be quite some time.
  • It’s XCOM without creepy creatures and scary moments. It does not have the strategy/tactical depth XCOM 2 has to provide, but it’s fun nonetheless.
  • It’s easy to restart a battle and play differently for different outcome.
  • The game is, surprisingly, smooth on Switch. Can’t say the same for XCOM 2 on PS4. I have to give credit to Ubisoft for this.

Minus:

  • As other Mario game, it’s not voiced.
  • Finding ways can be frustrating some times.
  • Some puzzles are more confusing than funny
  • Dragging end – you have battle after battle toward the end, which can be tiring for both you and the team.

All in all, it’s a fun game regardless and one I can recommend to Switch’s owners. 9/10.

Super short review of God of War PS4

One of the iconic characters on PlayStation, Kratos is known for his super violent nature, a tragedy past of betrayal, a thirst for revenge – and God of War is known for its brutal combat when you kill your enemies in most violent ways possible. The last major game in the series was God Of War 3 on PS3, released in 2011. 7 years is a long time to wait – and did Sony Santa Monica soft reboot of the series live up with the expectations?

I’m happy to say, it does, and some more. I’m still early hours into the game, but yet I’m very impressed. An older Kratos who is now a father, accompanied by his boy Atreus to fulfill Atreus’ mother’s last wish. And their journey begins.

This is Sparta!

Plus:

  • Violent, brutal, extreme satisfying combat. Animations are very well done. Yes, if you are looking for a God of War, here it is. Kratos is older, and he might not as fast or agile as he used to be, but his combat skills haven’t aged one bit. He still kills.
  • Excellent world design, exploring is both interesting and rewarding. Santa Monica Studio also did a great job adding lore and Norse mythologies into the game. Nothing feels forced, at all.
  • Beautiful characters and landscape. Horizon Zero Dawn set the bar very high for graphics, yet God Of War managed to even exceed that, in many ways.
  • Excellent character design. Kratos is obviously older, he is still strong and brutal, but he is slower and more grumpy. It feels so real.
  • A story you can believe. Some reviewers complained about Atreus. Come on, he is just a boy. Were they children, at all? He lost his mother, and then (supposedly) suddenly gets a father, who can be grumpy. There’s no doubt that Atreus will try hard to get his father’s approvals. I find his performance very good.
  • Leviathan is probably one of the coolest weapon in games, ever. Easy to use, great in melee combat and superb in ranged combat. Also super useful for opening gates, bridges and puzzles. The gameplay and puzzles are built around the weapon, so it feels so good to use.
  • Smart little puzzles/challenges.

Minus:

  • None yet. Or rather a small one: The photo mode feature (which was added as an update, was not available at launch) is quite hidden. Wish there was a way to quickly enter it, but that I can live with.

If I’m to give a score now, it’s a 9.5/10. I expect it will raise even higher because the combats should get even better and the story might contain some twists that make it’s worth it.

A super short review of Xenoblade Chronicles 2

I’m still just 1/3 way through the game. Here’s some of my thoughts so far

Hit:

  • Gorgeous world. No it’s not the level of graphic detail of Horizon Zero Dawn, but given Switch’s processing power, the game looks absolutely amazing.
  • Pyra is really cute (Talking about her face)

Miss

  • Pyra is overly sexualized. .Does Monolith need to let her wear a thong into battle. While it’s common in Japanese Role Playing Games (“fans service”, they said), it’s not what gaming should be.
  • The fetch quests are really, really boring. They need to die.
  • Looting is tedious. Too many “collection points”, too little value or interest for each of them.
  • The enemies really lack of diversity, Well, they have plenty of beasts in the game, but they way you kill them are no different at all. Combats are pretty much the same. Wait for this then press this button. Bah.
  • Crafting is not that fun.

WTF

  • The characters are super talkative during the combats. All 6 of them!

My friend told me the game will get much better in chapter 4 and 5, especially in combats, so I’m trying. But right now, I would give it a 7. Or a 7.5, for Pyra.

The super short review of Horizon: Zero Dawn

Plus:

  • The game is very well polished. Everything seems smooth, and I’m yet to see any game breaking bugs (I’m looking at you, Witcher 3, and XCOM 2)
  • A vast, beautiful open world. Probably the most beautiful ever in a game.¬†Even on the original PS4, it looks spectacular. PS4 Pro + HDR will blow your mind away – well, Sony made¬†sure the game is a showcase for PS4 Pro, so that’s expected

    If you think Rise of Tomb Raider was visually stunning, think again. HZD easily blows it out of water. In short, it will drop your jaw!

  • The combats versus machines are engaging and rewarding. The bigger, badder the robot, the more satisfying you’ll be after a battle. You will have to be both smart, and fast to win. The variety and diverAlso, the Critical Hit move feels both powerful and satisfying.

Neutral:




  • The story is fine, but not really ground breaking. Passable but don’t expect anything like The Witcher 3.
  • The open world settings get bored after a while. Still many things to do, but you’ll probably want more.

Minus:

  • The combats versus humans are … meh. It’s not that bad, but compared to the machines, humans are just boring enemies which bring very little enjoyment to the table.
  • The voice acting is underwhelming. In many cases, voice actors do not sound convincing as they should. The NPC faces are also quite generic and you’ll have hard time remember who is who.
  • Stealth action is a joke – you caused an explosion and your enemies are still acting like nothing happen. If you expect the level of Metal Gear Solid V depth – I have bad news for you.

Verdict:

9/10. Buy it! If you have PS4 Pro + HDR TV and it’s easily a must have. If you don’t, then this is a very valid reason to buy those!

Big and beautiful: A quick Phillips BDM3270QP review

My screen finally arrived and I’ve spent a couple of days playing with it. It is the screen I wanted, and I tried to search about it quite a lot, but the English content about it is quite limited, so I decide to write one here, in case you’re looking for some reviews before buying it.

Why BDM3270QP?

In the specs, this screen is completely a steal. 32 inches, QHD (2560×1440) resolution, AMVA native 10-bit panel (without RFC, so 1.07 billion of true colors), stand which supports titling, pivoting etc,… And it’s only 4390 SEK here (equivalent to 534 USD, but hey, I am in Sweden, where everything is crazily expensive, remember?), which is even cheaper than many other 27″ QHD screens. I have a habit (not sure good or bad) of checking everything before buying, and this is the list I come up with:

Plus:

+ Big size. 32″ 2560×1440 is just right, considering the distance between my eyes and the screen. 27″ QHD is a bit small, while 32″ 4k is a bit too much pixels (which makes thing smaller than I’d like). And 4k non-TN panel screens are much more expensive currently.
+ AMVA. It’s not TN! It might not be as good as IPS in term of color reproduction and viewing angles, but it’s 10 bit panel (of course that requires extra parts like the connection, the machine to make it works) so it should be comparable on some level. And VA, in general, is better than IPS in terms of contrast (black level) and not-glowing.
+ Rich in port and connection. I have anything I’d like to and more: DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI, USB (2×3.0 and 2×2.0).

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