Chevrolet C8 Corvette- Not Bad… Not Bad at All.

Wow. I wasn’t prepared for how awesome the new C8 turned out to be. A mid-engine Corvette that looks like a Ferarri and that starts under $60K? Bravo Chevrolet.

Thus far they have released the Stingray model (the basic coupe) and have rolled out a Z51 performance package. Despite “only” having 490 HP the performance statistics appear impressive (0-60 in less than three seconds). At some point Chevrolet will release a higher horsepower model (maybe a Z06?) and that’s when I’ll start taking a serious look again at the Corvette.

I really like the customization options Chevy is offering. A blue interior would be fun. Here are a few pictures from the configuration tool:

 

Razer Blade 15 4K OLED (2019). The Best Yet!

Here’s the reality: The new Razer Blade 15 4K OLED model isn’t much different from the last model I owned. The “only” changes are a better GPU, a slightly newer CPU, the 4K OLED screen and a small, but not unimportant, cosmetic upgrade. These revisions do not necessarily represent a good reason or value if you’re moving from the laptop I previously used (and for the record, that’s not why I migrate). However, if you’re fascinated with emerging technologies this is a laptop worth checking out.

Let’s start with the big one: The OLED screen. In a word: Wow. I have been watching television on a 60″ LG OLED TV for the past couple of months and it’s breathtaking. The 15″ 4K Samsung screen on the Razer is no less breathtaking and it’s difficult to believe how far screen technology has come (for some reason I’ve had the image of a CRT laptop stuck in my head for years).

The level of color richness is intense- maybe even a little exaggerated (which you could always adjust if you hated the insane level of beauty). To be fair the color on some LCD screens comes close, but in terms of contrast there’s just no contest. The Razer’s screen has no edge bleed and, when watching HDR content, the black screen is nearly indistinguishable from the bezel (this is an excellent OLED screen demo). Color evenness and brightness are excellent and my screen, so far as I can tell, is defect free (pixel density is so high I doubt a single dead pixel could be easily seen with the naked eye). Overall, a very solid win.

It’s not completely perfect thought. Past OLED panels have suffered from screen burn in. That’s a TBD issue at this point, but a computer screen has many static components (hey Windows bar, I’m looking at you). Also, while OLED screen are more energy efficient when showing black (as the pixel is effectively off) they consume more power than LCD counterparts when showing white. Thus far in my testing the new OLED Razer has shorter battery life than the my previous model. Finally, there is a strange, almost unnoticeable flickering effect when scrolling through dark images on a white background and even sometimes while typing or selecting text (I changed my screen to 59hz and turned off the screen refresh in the Intel graphics control panel- this seems to have eliminated the typing flicker which was my biggest concern).

Out of the box the Razer 15 ran a respectable 16463 in 3DMark’s Firesrike. After a RAM upgrade (16GB to 32GB) and an SSD swap (512GB to 2TB) the computer managed a 16108. This drop may be a software (driver) configuration issue – I had a hell of a time getting everything loaded back onto the computer and working so there’s a chance I messed something up somewhere. Still, this is a fairly mild performance drop and not something I’ll worry about too much while I work to sort it out. I ran the Firestrike test several times and, oddly, the score was better with the Razer Synapse performance modes set lower (follow up: after more tweaking this was not an ongoing issue).

Based on my very limited 3DMark testing the GPU is a solid step up (the RTX 2080 scored an 18912 vs the GTX 1070’s 15917). However the CPU-intensive physics score seems to take a significant hit compared to my previous computer’s performance (the i7-9750H posted a 14348 compared to the i7-8750H’s 16783). I definitely have some questions about what may cause this performance drop (I know Razer is undervolting the CPU but it shouldn’t affect the score this much). Overall the performance on this new Razer is more than sufficient for my needs. I’m not a huge gamer but I tried out my go-to favorite, Doom, at 4K and it played well and looked incredible- that contrast!

3DMark Follow Up: I changed a couple quick settings and I came up with this new run. The surprising thing here is that g-sync is on (or, at least, it thinks that it is). What’s even more surprising is that there’s no way to enable / disable g-sync in the Nvidia control panel (the “display” portion of the menu isn’t there). After fiddling with a few more setting I ended up with the following run. Bizarrely I didn’t get a g-sync warning and the while the graphic portion of the score is higher the CPU side of things has tanked a bit. I would love to understand what’s going on (tell me, dammit!).

So… what did Razer get right? It’s a big one for me because I work in the dark so often (physically and metaphorically). All of the keys are their respective functions are now backlit. It’s small modification but it will make things so much easier in low light situations.

Aside from the keyboard illumination this new Razer is nearly identical to it’s predecessor. Scratch that- it is identical. There’s very little point in covering it’s appearance, build quality, etc., because none of those aspects have changed. I will restate that it’s a beautiful looking laptop.

My gripes with the model are still the same as before. I’d like an SSD card reader and a network jack. I’d also like to see some better thermal control on the left side of the palm rest. When doing day to day tasks it heats up a bit warmer than the right side. This is not to say it’s uncomfortable, but the inconsistency is off-putting.

We’ve come a long way from my first Razer. In my opinion, the new Razer 15 4K OLED  (2019) is exceptional and, for the time being, about as close as you can get to a perfect portable workstation. The performance increase is respectable and the OLED screen is something you have to see to believe. No regrets on this one.

Model: Razer Blade 15 – Advanced Model
OS: Windows® 10 Home (64-bit)
Processor: 9th Gen Intel® Core™ i7-9750H 6 Core (2.6GHz/4.5GHz)
Graphics: NVIDIA® GeForce® RTX™ 2080 with Max-Q Design (8GB GDDR6 VRAM)
Display: 15.6″ OLED 4K Touch 60Hz, 100% DCI-P3, HDR400, factory calibrated
Storage: 512GB SSD (NVMe) / Upgraded: 2TB Samsung SSD (NVMe)
Memory:16GB Dual-Channel (8GB x 2) DDR4 2667MHz / Upgraded: 32GB (16GB x 2)
Battery: 80Wh
Keyboard: Per-key RGB powered by Razer Chroma™
USB 3.2 Gen 2 (USB-A) x3, Thunderbolt™ 3 (USB-C)
Wireless: Intel® Wireless-AX200 (802.11/a/b/g/n/ac/ax), Bluetooth® 5
Webcam: Windows® Hello built-in IR HD webcam (1MP / 720P)
Finish: Black with backlit green logo and green USB ports
Dimensions: 0.70″ x 9.25″ x 13.98″ / 17.8mm x 235mm x 355mm
Weight: 4.83 lbs / 2.19 kg

Other Laptop Links:

Apple 520C
Apple 540C
Review: Pulse 17
Review: 2014 Razer Blade
Razer Blade Pro
Razer Blade 15 (2018)
Razer Blade Stealth (2019)

Limitless 2019. 200mph Porsche 991 Turbo S? Yes!

Limitless rolled around again. I had a pretty specific goal this year: I wanted to hit 200 mph. For some reason this speed has been an elusive siren. A few times I’ve snuck within twenty miles per hour or so but there is a huge difference between going 180 and going 200 miles per hour. A chasm I had not decided how to cross…

At last year’s Limitless race I was pretty sure 200mph was out of reach but I wanted to hit somewhere close. On my first (and best) run of the day my odometer showed me going right around 184 mph. That was back when I had “stage 3” modifications. I shrugged it off, blaming it on my catalytic converters, tiny turbos and utah’s higher altitude. I forgot about the race until they announced the 2019 event.

There was no way I was going back to do the same thing over again. I needed more power… I needed ByDeign‘s stage 4 package. But the idea of installing more upgrades made me nervous. Really nervous.

It’s funny how we can decide something and there is so much stress centered around the decision- probably because of what we don’t know. I was committed to the stage 4 build but it created a ton of anxiety. It was almost enough that I didn’t order the upgrades. But I ordered them. Then it was almost enough that I thought about cancelling the install. But we did the installation. So many things are like that- our fear can stop us from living our best lives. As we look back at the times we jumped with no net there were certainly times we fell, but there were times when we got to fly.

You can read about my install here if you’re interested.

The week of the race Sam, my tuner,  whipped me up a “medium level” tune for the event. I wasn’t looking for a glory run or anything like that. I just wanted to hit 200 mph safely (in both a physical and mechanical sense). Normally I’d run fuel from Sunoco but my supplier was out (and I had used up what I bought for the race while I was playing around) so I ended up using 100 octane “pump gas” (thankfully we have one floating around over here). I filled the car half way up, topped off the methanol, checked the tire pressures and plugged the car in for the night. “Big day, tomorrow,” I whispered.

There were a few important changes to the Limitless event this year. First, Cars4Kids had purchased professional timing equipment because the radar times had been so inconsistent.  The length of the straight section of road was lengthened slightly giving us just over a mile of straightaway to achieve lift off. The best change was probably the police escort we got from our “briefing & breakfast” to our race destination (Thanksgiving Point all the way out to Eagle Mountain). Before we left one of the officers said “Stay with us… we’ll be going a little over the speed limit.” As we tore down residential streets at 80mph, ran red lights and stop signs I became certain that this was they way I was born to drive.

Race time! I admit I was nervous. With last year stuck in my head I imagined how embarrassed I’d feel if we only crawled our way to the 190’s… especially given that I’d spilled the upgrade beans to a couple of people. My turn! I drove conservatively around the curved part of the course and launched into the straightaway around 100 mph. The car was running strong! She just kept pulling. By the time I crossed the finish line my odometer was definity past 200. But what would their official timing system say? 201.72mph! Wow. Talk about feeling elated. That was just my “test run!”

For my next heat I decided to hit the curves more aggressively and try and come out onto the straightaway with as much speed as possible. It helped quite a bit.  207.87! It was a great feeling. It was thrilling to hit 207 mph and smash my goal to pieces.

And that’s about it for this race. The car showed up, no one gave it a second look, and then it kicked everyone’s ass. Well, almost everyone. A 1000hp twin turbo Lamborghini Huracan beat me by 1.3 mph. It’s hard to lose by such a small margin, but on the other hand it’s a satisfying car to lose to. My car was the only one that ran back to back 200+ mph runs. I think the third place driver was somewhere around 196mph. Not too shabby of a showing. I am extremely impressed by the Porsche 991 platform and how much this car can be pushed. Maybe we can push a little more in 2020.

Limitless: June 15, 2019.

Here is a bit of Race banter:

Here is the Make a Wish Foundation presentation:

The Photos below were taken by Piece of Power at the 2019 Limitless Event.

Antigravity Lithium Battery Install – Porsche 991 Turbo S

Freak, Cam. Is every post on your blog about some car crap! Hey, thanks for noticing. But it’s not just about cars- it’s about health. Many of you know I’m big into weight loss. I think this video may help people lose weight quickly and safely. It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change.

So you want to lose a bit of weight, eh? A lithium battery might be just what you need! They’re not cheap, but the weight reduction is legitimate. Spoiler: I knocked off forty three pounds by switching from a lead-acid to a lithium battery. Forty three pounds!  This video also demonstrates the removal & installation process of the battery in a Porsche 991 Turbo (as always it was more difficult than I thought it would be):

If you watched the video then you’ll know I had to do a bit of cosmetic surgery, but I’d call the operation a success. So far the battery works as advertised- weighs less, starts right up and the car drives great. I have negated he additional weight added by with methanol kit (& actual methanol) and my fire extinguisher. As I mentioned before, they are pricey, but a lithium battery is a pretty easy win!

7/13/2019: I decided to remove the battery when there’s no current concern about weight reduction. A couple of times in the last month I’ve had the PCM cut out followed by multiple dash errors (i.e. steering fault, PDCC fault, etc). I think this may be related to the battery but I’m not certain (seems like some type of power surge / drop). I removed it today and reinstalled my tune so we’ll see how things play out.

Antigravity H7 Lithium Battery
Guardian Tactical OTF

Rennline Fire Extinguisher Mount Install – Porsche 991

Safety first! I have never kept a fire extinguisher in any car I’ve owned. Even though I’ve never had a car fire I’ve often considered installing in some type of fire suppression device. With the addition of methanol into my car I figure I’d better not push my luck too and so…

I picked up a Rennline fire extinguisher mount for my 991 along w/ a 2.5 lb H&R Performance extinguisher w/ Halguard (if you’re interested you can get your own here). I opted for a Halguard model – this shoots out a fire suppression gas as opposed to a fine powder (not big on powders after I had a fire extinguisher blow up at work once).

The install was a bit more complicated than I imagined but I’m pleased with the results:

Helpful Hint: If you install a similar setup in your car I’d recommend a bit of practice. You’ll need to be able to release the holding clips and remove the extinguisher from its cradle quickly all while sitting in an adjacent seat. When fighting a fire, remember the P.A.S.S. acronym. Pull the pin. Aim at base (closer proximity is better). Squeeze the trigger. Sweep side to side. Hopefully you don’t have a fire in your car (or anywhere you don’t want one) but it never hurts to be prepared.

991.1 Stage 4 Tuning & Testing w/ 91 Octane & Methanol

I’ve had my car back for a little over a week and I’ve been able to do some empirical testing. Hardcore scientific-level stuff. As I had mentioned, it felt like the car was faster than before but now I’ve officially confirmed it. It’s nice to be right. Also… Whoa. Momma.

Below I’ve put two runs side by side. This left shows the car in its previous iteration (stage 3) tuned for 91 octane. The right shows the car in its current iteration (stage 4) also running a 91 octane tune (w/ methanol). Watching the video shows how dramatically the top end tapers off with the old set up. I really wish I had made videos from every stage of the car’s development, starting when it was stock. But hey! At least I have something:

Fun fact: The current setup is faster than the previous setup using race ga$ (I used the “$” because it’s like liquid gold). You could almost make the argument that a stage 4 build is more cost effective since you only need a couple gallons of methanol for a three tanks of 91 octane gas gas (driving normally).  Of course taking into account the cost of the stage 4 upgrades you’d just be lying to yourself… and everyone. You’d just be a big stage 4 liar. And it’s a moot point since I’m about to use race gas.

Stage 4 w/ race gas should take the car to yet another level!

Quirks thus far are really minimal. Under certain circumstances the car sputters a bit when it starts (allegedly this has to do with residual moisture present in the intake manifold). I’ve also seen some slight idle stumbles but I’ve seen that even before this latest upgrade. All in all I’m feeling pretty confident that this setup is bulletproof enough that I’m willing to pop in the race gas for a couple of days. I should have some updates next week.

My 991 Turbo Is Using Meth And I’m Okay With It.

The call of “more power” is strong… omnipresent.  I have held out for nearly two years (although I harass my tuner, Sam, much more frequently than that). Eventually my passion overpowered my promise and I ordered in a shiz-ton of new upgrades. The excitement is definitely overpowering my shame (just kidding… I have no shame).

I caved in and called Sam. He hooked me up with some DO88 inlet pipes,  68mm VTG Turbos, straight pipes (the removal of the catalytic converters for the race is necessary, but they’ll be put back on afterward). And last, but not least, a methanol kit. This is a big last step but I feel like it’s been race proven at this point so I’m all in! 😀

Going in with eyes wide open from my past experiences helped keep me calm even when issues popped up. Broken screws that needed to be drilled out. Cracked piping that needed some mild repairs. Sam talked us through everything and gave us peace of mind.

I really enjoy working with my local shop. They are some of the coolest guys in the biz and they do bulletproof work (and I never get tired of saying that they are just a quick walk down the road). They let me come and see the progress and talk shop whenever I wanted.

There’s a big size difference between the old impeller and the new one (top left). I can’t wait to see what she can do. Even with just bigger turbos the top end should have filled in a bit but why stop there?

Everyone should have a methanol kit. Install was pretty painless (for me). The only elements that give the methanol away are the Devil’s Own reservoir in the frunk and the snow boost gauge on the dash (I was absolutely okay swapping out the clock).

After the installation was finished I consulted with Sam who explained how everything should work. He gave me a slew of cool tunes (he said I could use the 93 octane w/ methanol tune and it should be fine- more on that in another post). We filled the meth tank up with a couple gallons, added in some water (16 oz / gallon), primed the pump, installed the recommended new tune and Dagan and I took her for a test drive. Wow. No issues out of the gate. Hoses stayed on. No explosions. I wasn’t 100% sure what I was experiencing. And then it hit me: the top end of the car’s power band was a monster. Normally the car would be losing some oomph around 80 or 90 mph but with the new turbos and meth it just pulled and pulled. It was like being on race gas… all the time. Suffice it to say I was pretty impressed. Obviously I haven’t logged any data or measured the acceleration at this point but my butt dyno was stoked. What’s crazy is that that there’s still a ton of power left on the table.

More to come!

MACarbon Seat Belt Buckle Repair

These MACarbon seat belt buckles have been a bit of a headache for me. I had to modify the covers for the two rear buckles before they would fit. A recurring warning light forced me to replace the front passenger side buckle altogether. And then the new buckle promptly “broke” apart (the two parts of the housing separated and it’s much worse where the belt is attached and there’s tension). I’m not sure if I’d buy / install these parts again.

Regardless, I’m a guy that looks for solutions. The first thing I tried was epoxy. I glued the halves back together but they came apart again shortly after transporting a  passenger. I considered a number of different options before settling on some 3M adhesive- the same stuff you might cover the exterior of your car with. I cut out a couple of sections and did some test fitting.

Originally I had just intended the fitting to be temporary but the 3M seemed to be exceptionally strong and the installation went fairly well (you can see the lines in the pictures but in real life it’s very hard to see where the film is at all).

One of the back seat belt buckles also had a case that was coming apart so I applied the 3M there as well. I suppose my next step will be to see how well the film works over the coming months (I’m worried about its ability to stick and the potential of stretching). In the meantime this appears to be a quick and elegant solution for anyone with a similar problem (and not just limited to seatbelts folks– you can wrap this clear 3M film around pretty much anything).