Sunday, December 30, 2012

Mionix's Naos 8200 gaming mouse fits like a glove

Next at bat, we have a gaming mouse from a company that is new to me, Mionix, and the peripheral at hand is the NAOS 8200. This mouse is equipped with a laser capable of up to 8200 DPI, 32 bit processor, 128 KB built in memory to store your settings in up to five different profiles, and once again we have a mouse with LED lighting. Owners of the 8200 also get to experience S.Q.A.T.(Surface Quality Analyzer Device) a feature that measures the tracking quality of the mouse pad. We had our fun with Roccat entries, now its time to see how Mionix fares on FPS’, RTS’, and work.

This first thing I noticed out of the box was that this thing is big, even she went on as to say it. Then once you put your hands on it, the ergonomic fit will make you quickly forget how big this life link to your gaming is. In comparison to that of the Roccat’s sturdy mice we have another with a woven cord but with Mionix you get more cord. Also like it’s competitors, the mouse requires a downloaded driver to fine tune the settings, but unlike a lot of the others you just need to set up the settings on one computer, they will be saved to the mouse so you can use them on other gaming rigs without going through the setup again.
My biggest issue was the sensitivity at first, my pointer was all over the place until I got the driver downloaded and installed. The driver is great with it’s included tuning capabilities, but it is a bit of a tedious process. With patience and a lot of trial and error, you will have everything you want at your fingertips and able to make changes to personal profiles based on particular situations for the game at hand with 3 DPI values and 7 buttons all programmable to your wants and needs. The Naos 8200 is priced at $89.99 and packs a similar punch to that of Roccat and Razer, but when all was said and done, I preferred the Naos due to how the surface felt and how it ergonomically fit my grip.

Beamhaus accessorizes the iPhone 5 with the Billfold

We are back from a cold winter vacation in northern California and on our doorstep is a handful of new tech items to review. This time around, we have the Billfold for the the iPhone 5 from Beamhaus. This manly gem guessed it a billfold and since this is a tech site, it also holds your iPhone 5. The billfold consists of Horween Latigo in tan and lined with Horween Dublin in black. This multipurpose pocket pal is equipped with three pockets, one lined with suede to prevent scratches, the other pockets are fit to hold your ID, bank cards, and cash.

The Billfold is made of all leather, which looks not only stunning, but also makes for a great accessory to reduce pocket space. The first thing I noticed going from a wallet to the Billfold was that it would need to be kept in a jacket or front pocket as it would be way too easy for me to forget to remove and sit on if in my back pocket. It was a lot more comfortable to have my essentials in one pocket, over the use of multiple pockets. Though it’s packaging states that it is fit for the iPhone 5, the 4/4s fits well in it, but does make the billfold feel a bit thicker.

This wasn’t a wallet I could use everyday for a number of reasons, mainly because I found myself constantly having to pull my phone out every time I got an email. The other reason would be that space is limited before you get “the bulge”. That being said, I plan on accessorizing with this chic piece whenever I have to wear something nicer than a polo shirt. The billfold is available now from Beamhaus’ site and priced at $89.99.

Grasshopper follows up Sine Mora with Black Knight Sword

The folks at Grasshopper have done it again, by releasing yet another obscure title. The same masterminds that brought you Killer7, No More Heroes, Shadows of the Damned, and Lollipop Chainsaw have released their newest title, Black Knight Sword. This entry happens to be a side scrolling action platformer for XBLA and PSN. The art style is in the form of a puppet play in which you take on the role of the Black Knight on a fairytale endeavor to beat down the Evil White Princess. In typical Suda 51 fashion, Black Knight Sword boasts a unique Kamishibai paper drama, similar to pop up books using a hand drawn puppet theatre environment.

This title is exactly what you would expect from a Suda 51 game, it is rated M, not surprising as anything less would not provide the experience we have come to expect. The art style is what really shines as it is reminiscent of Little Big Planet but a lot darker; instead of the cute Sackboy and happy world, you embark on quests through a twisted fairytale land that embraces a puppet show style. The gameplay is that of a basic platformer but rather than taking you by the hand, it provides challenge and tests your wits, at times being downright frustrating. Another new aspect of the experience that I am still on the fence about was playing through without continuing. That is not to say you have to play through in one playthrough, but you will have to remember to save when you need a break to prevent from pitching your controller through a window.

I particularly loved the twist of roles where the Black Knight must overcome and take down the Princess’ terror filled reign. The only thing I wish was different would be to include an option to remove the the theatre curtain that takes up a significant amount of screen real estate. Other than that and the challenge, it was a well done platformer that I mostly enjoyed for the style, story, and challenge. Grab your Black Hellebore (sword) and hold on as it is going to be a bumpy ride you will enjoy from start to (if you get there) finish.

Skullcandy's PLYR 2 is my new gaming headset of choice

Happy holidays, it is time for another product review and this time around we have a wireless gaming headset. This headset comes courtesy of Skullcandy and the model is the PLYR 2. Skullcandy had attempted to move from a dominant spot in the headphone market to the gaming headset market once before a few years back, and let’s just say that they didn’t stick around long. However in 2012 Skullcandy acquired gaming headset heavyweight, Astro Gaming. The PLYR 2 is part of their newest lineup which takes cues from Astro, and it is time to see if they if they can play with the big boys.

The PLYR 2 was incredibly easy to connect and start using, you just need to have the audio adapter that comes with your console handy. It was simply plug and play even though the instructions tried to overcomplicate things. The battery life is great, I have been using the headset for a week now and have only had to recharge once after the initial charge. Now for the best part, the sound quality. I felt that it was louder and more clear than that of Turtle Beach’s comparable model and the build quality feels much more durable. The other important item to me is the microphone quality in which my party is able to pick up what I am saying. The PLYR 2 picked up the sound clearly, never once did I have to repeat myself or was I told input was choppy, it is also easy to mute, just raise the mic boom.
Most Xbox and PS3 users running sound through the HDMI don’t remember where they placed their A/V adapter, luckily PC gamers won’t have this issue.  At first I had an issue with how loud they got but it was mainly due to how the volume works. It was a bit confusing as a 4 way joystick is used to control master volume and voice to game ratio. I would have prefered a leather wrapped ear cup, as the padding was fabric wrapped foam which felt like velcro against a five o’clock shadow.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent with the PLYR 2’s. They were incredibly easy to set up and start using, the quality provided a great experience those times you can’t crank it, and the build quality was solid in a lightweight plastic shell. Skullcandy surprised me with this headset in comparison to their previous attempt as I did not expect Astro quality sound at the lower Skullcandy pricing level. Next to be released in March are the PLYR 1’s and those will be priced at 180 as opposed to the PLYR 2’s 130 dollar price tag, the difference will be Bluetooth connectivity, and Dolby 7.1 surround.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Marshall Hanwell available and limited, I must have one

As some of you may know from our preview postings and rave review, Marshall has gotten into the personal audio game and they came wearing their big boy pants. They have been well known for their amps and while they haven't been around for fifty years without knowing their stuff. Their little headphones blew my mind and are in my list of top three headphones for their look, build, and audio quality.

The Hanwell is now upon us. The Hanwell Anniversary Edition is a tribute to Marshall's 50 year legacy and is built to carry the vintage look while throwing the front row concert feel in your face. This thing looks amazing and after reviewing the technical specs, it can quickly become the life of the party. If you want the Hanwell, it is going to set you back 800 dollars, and you will have to act fast as they are a limited production of only 10,000 units.

  • Compact Active Loudspeaker
  • 6” Long Throw HiFi Woofers -  2X
  • Ferrofluid Cooled HiFi Dome - 2X
  • PWM Amplifier - 100W (Cool Running)
  • Over Temperature Protection
  • Frequency Response - 35HZ-20KHZ +/-5DB
  • Bass and Treble Tone Controls
  • Max Output -  110DB SPL@1M
  • Mains Input Voltage -  100-120/220-230 VAC, 50/60HZ
  • Max Power Consumption - 200W
  • Dimensions - 435 X 193 X 297MM / 17.15 X 7.60 X 11.70IN
  • Weight - 10.5KG / 23LB

In case you missed the Lord of Shadows 2 trailer

It has been a week since the VGA's aired and while the performances looked forced the trailers were phenomenal. One game that took me by surprise was Lord of Shadows, a Castlevania title from Konami. It was fun, looked amazing, and played great. Lord of Shadows 2 upcoming release is upon us and we know little about it, but the new trailer played at the VGA's and while it doesn't show gameplay, the premise sounds interesting enough to get our blood flowing.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

KB Covers keeps our keys clean in latest product review

CES is getting closer and consumer electronics reviews are finally slowing down until the aftermath of the show and press conferences. This product review comes to us from KB Covers and they have provided us with three unique covers for multiple applications. We received the djay cover for the MacBook Pro, Photoshop cover for the Apple wireless keyboard, and OS X shortcuts cover for the MacBook Pro. KB Covers is a company whose focus is on you guessed it, keyboard covers, for Apple/Mac desktop and laptop computers. All covers are made with ultra thin high quality silicone and go through stringent QA methods to ensure a tight, non slip fit.  Now that we have both of our keyboards covered, lets see if they are a must have product for the Apple fans out there.
To start, the fit and feel are great. Installing the cover to keyboard is simple, pull from easy open package, lay over keyboard, slide hands over keyboard a couple times and you're all set. I think the hardest part was making sure I correctly requested the right cover for my Mac and keyboard. The fit is snug and does not move at all, while being thin enough to keep a low profile, resulting in less time getting used to the new layer. There was one thing I noticed almost immediately, and that was if I hit the buttons on the corners, it has a bit of an awkward feel. The other issue that I am sure any pet owner would come across, is that animal fur miraculously winds up under my keyboard. Either my pugs are ninjas or the silicone doubles as a magnet. 
By far, the best part of my experience was how the  design of the KB Covers received work in conjunction with a number of software programs. How they do this is by mapping hotkey instructions to on the covers to help quickly identify the command you are looking for on the keys as a very convenient cheatsheet. This was far and away the biggest feature for me, this has got to be a godsend for Photoshop users. The djay cover was great, but this wasn’t as frequently used on my MacBook, I also have have djay on my iPad and with the wireless keyboard and the touchscreen, the cover made great use of both the touch screen and the keyboard controls playing through my home stereo with the volume on loud. The OS X shortcuts keyboard cover was the only one in which I had any issue with the fit. Along the bottom of the cover, it would not lay flat, almost like it was stretched. It still fit over the keys snugly, but after I saw it, I couldn’t unsee it. 

MashButtons goes to June's in Persona 4 Golden review

It is finally here, the day that a PS2 game has become one of the most anticipated games for the Vita. The game is Persona 4 Golden, and while Persona 4 was originally released on the PlayStation 2 back in 2008. It was a critically acclaimed game but at the same time came out at the end of the PS2’s dying era, resulting in being missed by the likes of myself. Golden is a bigger and better version of the RPG, by providing enhanced visuals, additional story, and voiced dialogue added to what previously made this game so favorable, can potentially make this THE go to RPG for the Vita. Promising nearly 100 hours of gameplay, P4G lets players choose how to spend their day, before being thrust into midnight TV that leads to serial killings.

I did manage to miss this title when it was originally released, which is also surprising to me as a fan of the JRPG genre. Now that it has been refreshed and re released on the portable Vita, I am excited to say the least to get a second chance to experience what the hype has been about. Before getting into my review, I did not complete the game before posting my review, why, because it is long, and I mean really long, clocking in at around 100 hours for a single playthrough. The story, is good, if not great, and does a great job of keeping the player engaged between turn based battle sequences. The character customization did suck me in, regardless to the amount of time that took place before I could finally partake, but when I did, it was oh so bittersweet.   
Being that this was my first attempt at a playthrough of Persona 4, I didn’t necessarily know what I was getting myself into.  While that is part of the excitement of jumping in head first, but I had no clue to the amount of time that would be spent introducing the characters into the story while training the player basic combat. Luckily the story was engaging and even though the art style has a bright anime look, it has a very mature feel. While being typical as far as JRPG’s go, it does change/weird things up a bit by introducing a high school simulator to consumes quite a bit of the experience. Though I have invested a healthy chunk of time into my first playthrough, I am unsure that I am even halfway through and still thinking of the impact in which my  decisions have made.

Though I was a bit hesitant to jump into such a massive game, it was a pleasant experience and exceeded my expectations and will quite possibly hold a spot in my top 5 JRPG favorites. It looks beautiful on the Vita’s powerful screen and plays great. This remake has caused me to take my Vita with me more often and it is still early to tell, but I am a bit unsure as to if i will be able to complete the playthrough. It is a long game that covers the span of a year, day by day, playing out based on the decisions you decide to make. Even though it is a remake, it is the most memorable remake I have seen on the Vita, blowing my previous favorite, Little King’s Story, out of the water.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

With Christmas comes white elephant gift exchanges

You know the time of year where we all come up with reasons to get snookered up and look for the most obscure gift in which the recipient will likely regift at the next of many egg nog filled parties. 30 Watt: Prank Packs are sure to get some attention as they are fake gift boxes that appear to be ridiculous products from clueless companies. If you have kids and you like pranks, this is one way get that memorable reaction to be shared across the interwebs.

Pyle has the swimmer in mind

Pyle has recently announced their upcoming MP3 player and oh yeah its water proof. No more looking for a waterproof case for your phone or wireless headphones. The soft silicone earphones wrap around your ears, waterproof up to 3 meters, and stores up to 1000 songs on it's 4 gigs of storage.

Swann makes gets smarter with SwannSmart

Do it yourself surveillance is getting easier and easier these days. Sure there are days in which I want/thrive to find out which neighbor is letting their dog do their business in my yard. Back to SwannSmart, this is a Wi-Fi network camera and app allows for remote viewing and cloud storage to help you sleep at night or to see who at the last of my ice cream. The app is accessible on just about everything, even Macs. Other features go on to read 8 infrared sensors, cloud storage, and the best part is, mounts to any flat surface.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cass makes a left turn in NASCAR review

NASCAR The Game: Inside Line is the latest from the publisher Activision bringing you the official NASCAR experience. Do you have what it takes to become the next Sprint Cup Series champion? If you’ve got the tenacity to duke it out with the sport’s current legends, this is the game for you. The drivers, the tracks and the roar of the engines, all this title is missing is the smell of the rubber and the fuel. Inside Line offers a variety of game modes from the online multiplayer, single player and to the in depth career mode. Even though locally you can only play up to 2 players the tables turn with an awesome online multiplayer mode with up to 16 players.

Getting started in career mode you start out as a rookie driver trying to make a name for himself. If you're looking forward to customizing the driver to your liking, this is one area of disappointment. After you're all set up, start your engines because its time for the grueling sport they call NASCAR. Graphically the tracks are amazing, I had the opportunity to race on a few tracks I’ve personally been to. Everything down to the physics of the track can be felt in this game. You actually can feel your car pull a “G” hitting a curve at 170 MPH. During the race, your weaving in and out of the line trying to steal a position as the pit crew is in your ear giving you strategy to take the checkered flag. Time for a pit and you can control your pit crew’s action with a combination of buttons. A number 2 with extra cheese please! I’ve never seen a racer so complex, I was a bit overwhelmed the first few races in. What’s also pretty slick is that you don’t have a run the entire race. You have the option of cutting your number of laps to fit your schedule or attention span, whichever is the shortest.

There were a few things I like that they could’ve improved on by adding them to the title. One, is that I didn’t get to customize my driver as I would’ve preferred. Two, I think they could’ve implemented the use of the Kinect technology to a certain extent. I would be very helpful if I could’ve voice commanded my pit crew instead to trying to remember the all the options or read the screen during my pit. Maybe next year.

I know this time of year you tend of have a lot to chose from when it comes to racing titles but if you’re a fan of NASCAR, this title is a must have. Putting this game in, I had no idea how complex and in-depth this game would be. The graphics are excellent and racing physics is definitely something to experience. Crank up the surround sound let the engines rumble through your living room. Head to the garage if your car needs a fresh coat of paint or a tune up. Features are one thing Inside Line doesn’t lack. I've got a whole new respect for this series and I feel its only going to get better. Sometimes you need to take the Inside Line if you want to be on top.

Rain Design's mTower wants to hold your mac

It is time for a break from the games for a consumer electronics review. With CES coming up in a few short months, the news on upcoming gizmos and gadgets are flowing in. This time around Rain Design Inc. has sent us the mTower, a stand for your MacBook Pro or Air that is made of anodized aluminum to match the body of your notebook. Not only does this stand intend to free up space on your desktop but also helps cool your device. My desk is my space and anything to make room along with keeping the apple look is a welcome device.
Previously, I had been using the BookArc Pro from 12South and though they are built alike with same materials, the design is very much different. The build quality is incredibly solid, the aluminum gives it weight, while the rubber adapters that are provided to fit whichever MacBook model help your Apple notebook fit very snugly. I preferred the mTower over the BookArc Pro because of the design, it especially matched the design of my monitor’s stand and provides better cable management for my layout.

Both stands have similar fits and price tags, but when it comes to the two, the mStand holds my MacBook Pro a little more snug. I also feel that it takes up less space and looks a bit better. The main reason to get one of these stands is if you are running an external monitor, this stand definitely has that apple feel, plus being solid as hell to boot. Lastly, and this is a biggie for those worried about air circulation, the mStand has a slot at the bottom for increased air flow and designed to work as a “giant heat sink”.

ECBC proves no notebook too big or small, they got your bag

ECBC has provided us with our next product review, this time around it isn’t a tote bag, but a backpack from their new durable lineup dubbed Thor. This Norse God is built to withstand the elements, well, built to keep the water out at least. This laptop backpack fits up to a 17 inch notebook and is put together with heavy duty water resistant zippers and the outdoor material, Kondra. While toting a rather minimal look, it is also packed with pockets for the accessories and documents to take with your workspace on the go, plus dual zip away mesh water bottle pockets. After a week of daily use, will it replace the my trusty Ogio messenger bag?

At first glance, Thor does not look like it has the space for my gadgets on the go, but to my surprise it had space for more. It held my MacBook Pro with ease and my much larger outdated Dell, equipped with additional battery pack snugly in the main pocket. On the topic of pockets, it has many, most noticeably would be the water bottle pockets, because most bags looks ridiculous with them, but being there are sunny days over 300 days a year, you need your hydration. But as for the pockets, there are many to choose from, at one point I had both laptops in the main pocket and the chargers in the front, the rest all designed for organizational purposes. Bad thing about that was continuously forgetting where things were last stored. The straps and look of the bag are basic but comfortable with firm comfortable cushion that is also wrapped in breathable mesh, which unfortunately won’t help on those hotter than hell days. On the seldom days we may have a slight chance of rain, I can rest assured that all of my contents will be dry.

Apparently ECBC took note of what I felt was the lack of space in my review of the Javelin laptop tote by over compensating with this bag. It also doesn’t look like a man purse, so that's a plus. I was impressed by this low profile backpack, as I have always gone back to my Ogio bag after my portable storage reviews, but old faithful is gone and I haven’t looked back. There isn’t a lot that can set one backpack apart from the others, but with the Thor, the durable build and compact design are the biggest standout features, I just have yet to figure out what color it is.

Fun and Frustration is back in Black Ops II review

It is that time of year again, you know, when you call in sick and try to marathon play until you reach your first prestige. That’s right, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 has hit store shelves and that means multiple game modes to get your FPS fix. In Black Ops 2, fans get to enjoy Zombies, a blockbuster story, and of course the meat and potatoes behind the Call of Duty franchise, competitive multiplayer. The single player this time around focuses on two different timelines but one centralized story chasing the same terrorist over the two eras, both future and past, and includes the familiar faces of Frank Woods and Alex Mason. Now let’s see how the quest to take down Raul Menendez holds up along with my time spent with both the Zombies and Multiplayer game modes.

Each year, Activision provides me with a review copy of their latest Call of Duty title and while the gameplay experience is a great time with each iteration, there are always changes that give and take away from the experience. This time around, my enjoyment came from the Zombie and Multiplayer gameplay as opposed to the story mode found in the Modern Warfare titles. Zombies of course is a fan favorite for the frantic survival coop gameplay and of course the challenge of taking down mindless zombie hordes over multiple waves. Where I especially enjoyed my time spent was with the online competitive multiplayer, particularly Gun Game and Kill Confirmed. Anyone that has played Call of Duty’s multiplayer knows exactly what to expect, however, this time around, my average stats are surprisingly better. I am not sure how or why but I was consistently in the top three on my team in each match and the maps being much more enjoyable definitely helped.

Now for what I wasn’t a fan of in my encounter, that would be the story of the single player and the numerous server errors when trying to log into the multiplayer. As far as the story went, to me it was thrown in there for the few fans out there that do not have an internet connection to play the majority of the game’s content the way it was meant to be, online. It was short and didn’t have the same gripping experience that is felt in the Modern Warfare series. I would have stopped playing it and went back to the online, but I had hoped that completing the campaign would unlock content in the other game modes. Now for the online, I am still experiencing server errors when trying to login to the multiplayer game modes. This is understandable the first one or two days and expected with a big game, but the community hasn’t died down, so lets add some more servers Activision.

Black Ops 2 is a huge game for multiplayer shooter. While the story is nothing to rave about, Zombies and the competitive game modes are, and they do not grow tiresome. Sure it isn’t the best shooter out there, but it does offer some great game modes and such a large community that the only time you won’t spend countless hours leveling up and working on kill streaks is when you are trying to connect to a server. Luckily if you get the error, just try a couple more times and you will eventually find a server. The maps so far have been great, a lot more enjoyable than the first Black Ops, while the Zombie maps aren’t as memorable than the last, I am definitely looking forward to what the DLC will be.