Monday, February 25, 2013

Cass spends some time with Hauppauge!'s HD PVR 2

The HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition is a 1080p high definition video recorder from Hauppauge! This device has the capability to record video from your cable set top, satellite, PC or Nintendo Wii, PS3 & XBOX 360 consoles through HDMI or Component Video. Out of the box this product comes with the personal video recorder, a 9 ft. USB 2.0 cable, bundled software, a 6 ft. HDMI cable and a 6 ft. IR blaster cable used to control the channel changing on your set top box. With all included in this package you're ready to go straight out the box.

The bundled software includes 3 software packages. ArcSoft Showbiz which allows you to capture HD content, edit and upload your videos to YouTube or burn a Blu-ray compatible disc using H.264 AVCHD encoding. WinTV v7 with its built in TV Scheduler technology & IR blaster so you can record TV from a cable or satellite box. Hauppauge!’s own StreamEez software which allows you to stream your game play via Twitch or Ustream in real time with no lag. This recorder includes “no delay passthrough” so you can play seamlessly while you record in HD. In addition to this technology there is a mounted Record button on the top of the HD PVR 2 so you don’t have to be at your PC to start or stop your gameplay recording.

If you're looking for a HD personal recorder make sure you consider the HD PVR 2 by Hauppauge! Ease of use, features and high quality recording are 3 main factors you can’t overlook when looking at this device. I really enjoyed streaming my gameplay to all my followers via with no lag in gameplay. Gotta love the “no delay passthrough” technology! The only issue I have with this product is that it does not support Macs at this time. Hopefully Hauppauge will be able to support those users in the near future. I highly recommend the HD PVR 2 to the die hard gamer and personal video recorder enthusiast.

Third time's a charm for Crysis in Crysis 3 review

Another weekend, another set of reviews. Crysis 3 was delivered at the beginning of the week and since I had completed Revengeance, it was a welcome delivery. In Crysis 3 you take on the role of Prophet, a Nanosuit soldier hell bent on the cliche, yet standard storyline, rediscovering humanity while seeking brutal revenge. For those that missed the previous entries and are joining the party a bit late, the storyline in Crysis 3 takes place in a future dilapidated New York City and follows an adventure around the symbiotic relationship between soldier and suit while coping with the memories of the previous suit’s occupant. On top of that you must also deal with wake of an alien invasion and a secretive military faction. That being said, let’s see how this title actually plays.

A little history of my time spent with this series consists of me missing the first title, playing most of the second until I reached a game breaking glitch, and played through the third in it’s entirety. I felt that the third probably played more smoothly than the last with a much better tutorial to get you accustomed to the nanosuit and the available abilities. Like the last, the post apocalyptic New York City looks stunning with the CryEngine3. Aside from looking great, the gameplay is smooth and has a lot to offer regardless to your gameplay style, run and gun or stealth, you are rewarded for your actions and can progress your character based on your preference.

Now for the things I was not particularly fond of, first would easily be the online multiplayer gameplay. The maps felt small in comparison to the large single player sandboxes and the number of people online was rather lacking with a couple hundred at most in any of the game modes at numerous times throughout the day. The other, would be the story and dialogue. My issue with the story is that is it just kind of bland and doesn’t stand out in comparison to a number other recent titles that have been released. While there is plenty of conflict and great subject matter the cutscenes are easily skippable, the only thing you would be missing out on would the eye candy.
All in all, Crysis 3 is a solid game for the single player experience. The online is a fun to play, just don’t expect to play against a large variety of opponents and with such a small community, I worry that it will quickly get smaller. The single player was where the real enjoyment came from for me, that and stealth with with the bow. I loved starting new levels, scanning the area for look out points to plan one long and violent strategy with numerous contingency plans for when my suit runs out of energy to recharge. The gameplay is a blast, the graphics are stunning, but the story just wasn’t too memorable for me, possibly resulting from not playing the first or completing the second.

Braven's comeback to the ECOXBT, I bring you the BRV-1

As some may recall, I recently had reviewed the Braven 650 and I described it as a versatile and multifunctional speaker. Not sure it could have gotten much better, but low and behold, we get the Braven BRV-1. Similar to that of it’s older sibling the BRV-1 still provides wireless sound and charging capabilities, but this time around it is weatherproof to IPX5 standards. Though I don’t know what all IPX5 certifications entails, I do know it means that this speaker is water resistant and shock absorbent. With that said it is time to get into my experience with the BRV-1.

This was about half the size of what I was expecting from the images, making me a bit apprehensive about the audio quality and battery times. I feel that there is definitely a change to how this speaker is tuned as there is a lot more depth to the sound, which happened to be my biggest complaint about the 650. This outdoor speaker also packs a noise cancelling mic, which made calls clearly outside in the wind. I made and took a number of calls outside and was never asked to repeat myself or heard complaints of background noises. While it does not have the aluminum build that the other models have, this model was built to be beaten, while not being so bulky that it is a nuisance to transport. I was disappointed by the battery size in comparison to the 650 as you get almost half of the battery play time at 12 hours, even less if you plan on charging your phone or tablet.

I really liked this portable speaker and while it couldn’t float like the ECOXBT in the same class, it does have a few tricks up it’s sleeve. Instead of the ability to float, it can still sit poolside and tolerate a splashing. What the ECOXBT can’t do that the BRV-1 can is charge, while still playing music if you want. The impressively tuned baseball sized speaker puts out more sound than those twice it’s size, and packs a surprising amount of bass for its small size. I just wish it had a bigger battery for more use between charges,  and other than that and the inability to swim, it is a mighty mini boombox/speaker phone/charger.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I just wanna cut in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

It has been a while since our last gaming review, and now that the dust from CES has finally settled and the gaming season is starting to take off again, especially with Sony’s announcement regarding the PS4 being later this week. Needless to say, it is a big week for gaming, because Crysis 3 and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance  are also now available.Revengeance  is the topic at hand and lets just say it has some pretty big shoes to fill. In MGR:R you take on the role of Raiden, a cyborg on a mission to fight injustice, but this isn’t your typical Metal Gear game, as it was developed by Platinum Games, the folks that brought us Devil May Cry and Bayonetta. With that said, can it live up to the hype and please both fans of the series and newcomers alike.

As a fan of everything that Platinum plays a part in and the story and dynamics of the Metal Gear games, this was exactly what I expected. You get fast gameplay with an in depth story and a lot of character customization that gets you hooked and coming back for more. Speaking of gameplay, with the new 'ZanDatsu' feature, you are able to slow time and precisely slice enemies and the environment at will in a form of “free slicing”.  Along with gameplay that racks up high combos and rewards you with points for customization at the end of each level are huge boss battles and a story line that Kojima Productions are known for. Throughout Revengeance, you get an in depth story that takes place after the events in Metal Gear Solid 4 with a world full of cyborg crimes and terrorism, and the main character being a child-soldier turned cyborg ninja on a mission for both justice and revenge. When I say missions, I also mean VR missions, that's right, throughout the game you are able to unlock VR missions to complete for for additional unlockables.

It isn’t a Metal Gear game without beautiful and long cutscenes. While they do take you away from the action I quickly got hooked on and yearned for, I did want to skip as we all know they can drag on, but luckily none have seemed as long as those found in previous titles, but if you do opt to not skip them like I did on my first playthrough, then you get a  strong storyline that does a good job at introducing conflict through real world unethical political issues. The other thing that I felt was as much of a battle as the gameplay was trying to determine what you can or cannot slice and dice throughout the environments. Cutting stuff up from fruit to cardboard boxes, the are some items you can approach, but when you try to release some steam, you will be disappointed that some don’t fall to pieces.

I had an absolute blast with my time spent playing MGR: Revengeance, while I was a bit on the fence while stumbling through the Free Slicing in the demo, the actual game does a good job and walking you through the motions so that you can easily execute some incredible combos. There is a lot a replay value, much like any other Platinum title, but I actually found the story more engrossing than that of the Devil May Cry titles, while also enjoying the faster gameplay with the Metal Gear storyline. I feel that this is great collaboration in which I can only hope that there will be more to come. While it is a single player title, the unlockables and various difficulties are what kept me hooked after my initial playthrough.

Monday, February 18, 2013

We ask and V- Moda delivers the M-100

It isn’t very often we get headphones that really stand out. V-Moda previously did so when they provided us with the Crossfade over ear headphone, then Ferrari’s with their T350, and now V-Moda has sent us their latest M-100. The M-100's come equipped with dual 50mm drivers, the same solid Crossfade build, a new CLIQFOLD design for smaller storage, and tuned by over 200 audiophiles, editors, producers, and DJ’s. When the M-100’s were announced, V-Moda reached out to a brain trust and decided to go with the feedback to create what are the M-100’s, made by the people for the people. Let’s see how they compare to the previous Crossfades that I have been beating up on for the last year.

Out of the box, I immediately notice the smaller packaging and case, causing a bit of confusion. Due to the new CLIQFOLD design, both sides fold in for more compact storage fitting easily into most bags, unlike the previous Crossfade models. The design and build always amazes me with each model, whether it is earbuds or headphones, they not only look modern but are made with the highest quality materials to live up to military standards. Now for the reason you are looking to drop this kind of coin on your tunes, the audio quality. As you, like me are looking for that set of headphones you plan to use for years and not have to worry about replacing as they will be your go to reference pair. These are that pair for me, the sound is incredibly clear, giving all ranges of music the attention it deserves from the low bass in rap, crisp highs of live concerts, and being able to keep up with the headache that is dubstep.

A few things come to mind that I would have preferred did not change and the first would be the cable. The new cable is bright orange and has a one button remote, while the old models came with a black and grey cable with a three button remote. Both are made with Kevlar, but the new orange cable was and is still a bit stiffer than I like. Luckily the old cable with the three button remote works just as well with the M-100’s. The only other thing that I noticed right out of the box was that the little black plugs that go into the headphones when not connect to the cable were gone in the first week. They were a neat idea, but one didn’t even fit snugly in the hole, and would have been nice if they came with spares.

After just a few hours of listening, it is easy to see how the M-100 quickly became the most highly discussed headphone on the internet forums with over 10,000 posts and 700 pages on the world’s largest headphone site, Head-Fi. I liked the Crossfades, I love my Ferrari’s but the new headphone of choice that go with me everywhere are the M-100’s. The smaller design make it easier to carry with me, they do not require batteries, and possibly best of all would be that they do an incredible job with issues of sound bleeding as you can have them cranked and people will be hard pressed to hear what you are listening too. I think V-Moda made a great decision by crowd sourcing the tuning of the M-100.

NIS releases Generation of Chaos and we get to play early

Next up we have NIS America’s latest PSP title, Generation of Chaos: Pandora’s Reflection, which is a strategic, timing based battle RPG chock full of alchemy. Pandora’s Reflection takes place in an empty world known as Hades and follows our heroes Yuri, who is cursed with a life draining disease and her brother Claude, who will stop at nothing to save her. Of course with NIS games, it is never that simple, they get in the middle of world ending conflict, and with help from an eclectic cast of characters, you will determine the siblings true destiny.

This title came at me out of nowhere, when my bestie at NIS gave me a code to check out and much like most of their titles, they can be pretty hit or miss. I must admit when I saw alchemy, I didn't see it ending well as I don’t have the patience to learn the ins and outs. Luckily it is fairly basic as you mostly use it to breakdown your gear for points to be spent on character development or upgrading gear. I particularly enjoyed the timed battle system as you pick the weapon you want to use, and have to hit the attack button in a timed pattern to get the most from your move.  That is just the attack function, the real strategy comes in the form of map control, occupying strategic points, and summoning huge creatures.

It was a bit simplistic but that simplicity keeps you coming back for the one last battle to see how latest upgrades and allocation of points results on the battlefield. The story is a lot of fun being over the top with dramatic undertones. The character are likeable and grow on you throughout the story and surprisingly the alchemy mechanic behind the character progression ended up being one of my favorite features. I lost track of time between battles trying to figure out the best loadouts for my band of misfits.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Soul's SL 100's are loud as they are shiny

We have another set of headphones to review here and this time around it is the Soul by Ludacris SL 100’s. The SL 100 is an on ear headphone that comes equipped with an inline remote and a flat no tangle cord. The headphones also fold to fit in small carrying case and polishing cloth to keep the shiny orange headphones clean and shiny. The SL 100 has a solid plastic build, a shiny coat, and soft padded ear cups and head band for a comfortable fit for extended listening.
These headphones are eye catching at first glance, the pair sent to me was the orange and black model, and it is a high gloss burnt orange color. The fit on my ears was nice and did a good job of isolating outside noise and filling that silence with all they have to offer. That is to say the SL 100, while being Soul's entry level headphone is still capable of providing noticeable bass which does not overpower the highs, giving the user a broad range of depth no matter what the genre.

Most of my enjoyment with these headphones were at high volume, as that is when you get the higher highs and deeper bass. It would have been more enjoyable if you get that clarity at the lower volumes as they do allow loud enough sound bleeding at just medium volumes that those around you can hear. The only other thing I noticed was that the ear cups do move some to offer a better fit, but for me, I would have preferred a little more play as they still pressed on my ears.

The Soul SL 100 while providing an appealing look and some good sound  even if it was most noticeable at higher volumes, it is a good entry level headset. The added features like a compact carrying case to keep shiny and a three button remote, so you don't have to muddle with your phone or MP3 player to adjust the volume, change track, or take a call are very nice to have. The Soul by Ludacris is available now in an assortment of colors are are priced at $149.95.

A bluetooth speaker that now goes anywhere

We have another speaker in the house and this one’s got something haven’t had the chance to review. That would be that the ability use just about anywhere because not only is it waterproof, but it floats as well. The ECOXBT is about as rugged as we have seen here at MashButtons, it is waterproof and rugged for the active lifestyle. The speaker has a rechargeable battery pack that allows for up to ten hours of audio playback via Bluetooth to connect and stream wirelessly from your phone, tablet, or computer. Lastly, it does include a microphone for taking calls from the speaker while your phone is stored away. Now that I have had a chance to beat the hell out of this speaker, let’s see how it fares.

When I was told that this is a rugged waterproof speaker, I tend to take that more of a challenge than a feature, so you know that I have got to throw this in the pool, out of the pool, and deliberately knock it off countertops, especially for the shock value of people passing by. So after the ECOXBT has taken my beating, it is still playing like it had when it first arrived, hell it even looks as it did right out of the box due to the rubber coated shell. My biggest question though, is it really waterproof? The answer to that is yes, it played all day without interruption from the surface of my pool. As far as volume goes, we were able to hear what was playing at all areas of the pool. Even better, when you are floating and the phone does ring, you can answer and take from the ECOXBT. On the other hand, the sound quality was not anything special. While it puts out a great amount of sound, it is a bit flat with subtle highs and very little in the way of depth, and forget about the bass.

The ECOXBT is great for anyone that has to take their music with them everywhere. An audiophile would be disappointed by the sound quality, but when the speaker is waterproof and Bluetooth, it is hard to complain when you can listen to your music anywhere and not worry about destroying any pricey electronics. I think the ECOXBT is a great speaker for those looking to add some sound to the outdoors whether active or floating in a pool and even comes fitted with a fastener to attach a carabiner, to carry with you. I was never worried about the bumps or beating in which this speaker took, it just kept playing regardless.

MashButtons reviews the Drift HD Ghost, good bye GoPro?

As someone that uses their GoPro often, when the Drift HD Ghost arrives at my doorstep, it’s kind of a big deal. The HD Ghost is a point of view action camera built to film at up to 60 FPS in 720p and 120 FPS in WVGA resolution. As my current action camera of preference is the GoPro Hero 2, I was thrilled to see that the HD Ghost not only comes WiFi enabled but also comes with a flat remote with a strap to go around your arm or wrist. While you do need to provide your own memory card, if you don’t already have one, the HD Ghost supports MicroSD up to 32GB in size and shoots photos at 11-megapixels. So after being delayed a weekend on a count of rain, I have finally given it the beating it was made for.

My review and impressions are based on my time spent filming while riding an ATV in a dry climate. What I liked was the goggle strap mount, mainly because it is less permanent and my helmet and quad are littered with black camera mounts already. The video quality is great, I always use 720p as it films at a faster frame rate and was impressed at how clear the video was, I actually preferred it to the Hero 2 as I got less glare from sunlight. Better though, was the 2 inch Gorilla Glass LED, making navigating through the interface easy and the WiFi in connection with my iPhone through Drift’s free app, so I can change settings on the fly without having to take off my helmet. I was a little worried about the fact that it did not have a protective case but it did get smacked by some tree branches and coated with dirt and some mud, but it cleaned up well without any scratches to the screen.

There were a couple of things that also had me missing my GoPro despite being the HD Ghost’s convenience and ease of use. The first would be the microphone, I expected to pick up wind noise while riding, along with some distortion from the exhaust but the the noise was a lot more than I was expecting. Some of that noise also came from the goggle strap mount and the sound of it rattling against my helmet. The more permanent helmet mount is a quick fix for the rattling, but if you lend out I would be sure to warn your friends or they may be disappointed. Lastly, if you plan on mounting this camera to anything other than your helmet or goggles, you will be surprised to find only flat and rounded mounts included, but a number of accessories are available to expand your options.

I was pretty impressed by this little action camera, while there were a few items I think could have been different, it had a lot to offer and most of all, worked extremely well and better than the Hero 2 in most cases. If you intend to used this camera mounted to your helmet or goggles, I would say this is the camera to go with. In the end it was the convenience and ways to access and film that won me over. I am talking to you, awkward fitting arm strap remote.

Click HERE for unedited video of a ride to see picture and sound quality.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Acase's BlackDiamond3 makes for a colorfor review

ACase has provided me with their latest Bluetooth speaker and from the unique main feature alone, I wanted to see how it worked and sounded. A little about the BlackDiamond3, it is a sphere shaped, glassy diamond designed dock and compatible with iPhones. The unique semi see through ball illuminates in a variety of colors by Yantouch’s Jellyfish LED light, which can visually alert you as to missed calls, battery status, and pulsing to your beats. Now that its plugged in, yeah it requires an outlet, let’s see what this little disco ball can do.

Right out of the box, my 12 year old daughter immediately said she wanted it,me on the other hand was not a big fan, as I prefer the sleek and inconspicuous. I didn’t write it off, I immediately grabbed the remote to see what this light thing was all about. There is a wide spectrum of vivid colors in which can be seen in a variety of patterns. I preferred the ones that flashed to the beat of the music. The sound is mediocre at best, it will fill a room with sound and light, but I have headphones that put out about as much sound this crystal ball.
While this wasn’t the best fit for me or the majority of people in my age group, it is a great gift idea for a child that has a Bluetooth enabled device. The JellyFish LED is a neat idea, but I would suggest going with another look, a solid build, and higher quality speakers before marketing to an older audience. I will hand it to Acase, my daughter is not a tech nerd, not for lack of trying, but her her want for the BlackDiamond3 is a reaction I had not seen in some time.

booq's Python Courier wants to try and replace my daypack

We have reviewed a number of bags in the past for your laptop in the form of a tote and a backpack, but this time we have a camera bag from booq, dubbed the Python Courier. The courier is built tough to carry your DSLR camera with two additional lenses along with having a dedicated pocket for your iPad. This more minimalistic bag is built to take just your camera necessities or can be converted into a day pack by simply pulling out the Velcro lining and dividers.  Another feature that I was unaware of before delivery was Terralinq; each bag has a unique code that help’s booq locate the rightful owner if misplaced and returned to booq. Now that a couple desert shoots have been completed, lets how this compares to other sling bags used in the past.

I was pleasantly surprised by this bag, at first I thought it was a bit large for the few items in which it could carry but in the end, the size and available space was just right. It holds everything and provides peace of mind with the padded dividers and a couple small pockets for the occasional items that have to go with you. What I appreciated most was how comfortable it was to carry with the wide seat belt shoulder strap, no slip pad for comfort during extended use, and pass through for ease while traveling with your wheeled carry on. It is easy to get into and locate exactly what you are looking for, and also able to stay shut by Velcro in case you are frequently getting into, without having to unbuckle each time you need access.
I would be hard pressed to find anything wrong with this bag. In the beginning I thought it was a bit over sized, but in the end it resulted in being just a touch more than I needed. I will say one thing though, on the fact sheet it says that the Courier can hold 2-4 lenses. I find this hard to believe, but if you are creative enough with your space management and do not possess any high zoom lenses then this may possible but a little hard to believe.
I have used a number of bags from laptop to camera and messenger to backpack. At the end of the day this is a great bag for the recreational photographer. It is even better though that it has the space available to bring along your iPad, you know, for those times your shooting where there is WiFi access. It is nice that it is also big enough to be used as a day pack for when there isn’t enough space in your pockets and you are not going to need to carry around your camera and lenses; in those situations I bring along my point and click camera and just store it in one of the few smaller pockets.

duo has an iPad peripheral for your game of choice

As a gaming site, seeing the duo games booth at CES this year hit a soft spot as I got some time with their iPad peripherals. Luckily, they have provided me with the duo GAMER, duo Pinball, and the ATARI ARCADE. To put bluntly, we got some fun ways to enjoy games on my favorite tablet in ways they were meant to be played, without having to use the touchscreen or miss what is going on due to fingers or hand placement. It is pretty easy to figure out what they are used for and if you're a fan of pinball, 80’s arcade games, and/or Gameloft games, then you may want to see how they fare.
I will start with the duo Pinball, which you guessed simulates the pinball experience on your lap or desk. Connecting by Bluetooth and powered by three AA batteries, the pinball cradles your iPad, regardless to which of the three you may have and holds it snugly at an angle. Using the realistic plunger and buttons, the experience is so much more enjoyable and the no slip pads add a great deal of security. What I did not like was the this product only supported Pinball HD, and while it is a good game, Zen Pinball has some great tables and it would just be a lot nicer if it could be used on multiple applications.

Next up, is the duo Gamer controller and stand to provide a console like experience on the iPad. This, also Bluetooth, controller plays exclusively with Gameloft apps and has the same control scheme as PlayStation and Xbox, minus a pair of shoulder buttons. Playing through the limited selection of games, it did provide the console feel and allowed for a lot more viewable area on the screen. I am going to repeat myself, this does not play on any apps that aren’t from Gameloft, and even their list of supported titles from their large library are supported. If the Gamer supported more titles or developers, it could easily become a must have.

I have saved the best for last, the ATARI ARCADE, a desktop arcade that has the capability to play the ATARI games of childhood memories. This is a must have desktop novelty for me and likely most anyone that is a nostalgic gamer and owns an iPad. The design is sleek and incredibly solid, with four buttons and a joystick in a white base with a red logo on the top. Surprisingly this does not require batteries so as soon as I could get the Greatest Hits downloaded to play Asteroids, Missile Command, and Lunar Lander. My only problem were how loud the joystick is when it clicks during movement, and that it did not come with all the titles included or at least tokens to try out the majority of the games.

Braven 650 is Swiss Army knife of speakers

We have another Bluetooth speaker review for the masses, and this time around it is the Braven 650. Not only is this a speaker, but it is also a PowerBank, allowing to charge devices via USB out on one end and volume and phone controls on the other. The 650 is packing two speakers and passive sub woofers to add depth to the sound put out by this elegant, yet powerful cube. In terms of power supply, it has a 2000 mAh battery to provide 20 hours of playback or charging your devices while you listen, added to being encased in an aluminum body to match your apple devices. Now that this has become a permanent fixture to my on the go bag, lets get to the good stuff. 

Over the past couple years, there have been a number of Bluetooth speakers that have done their job, some good, some didn’t last long, and then we have this, a portable speaker that has a number uses. The 650 also has what a number of new and upcoming Bluetooth speakers are coming equipped with and that is a microphone for wireless calls as well. The size and design are nice, making it easy to fit in a carry on or laptop bag without losing precious real estate. The ability to charge your phone or tablet when without an outlet comes in handy more often than I thought. The sound was clear, both on calls and listening to music, filling my office or garage, or table outside my favorite coffee shop.

What I would suggest if anything would have been a larger battery back, as having the extra energy is nice, but when using for music AND charging, the charge dwindles away rather quickly. The sound quality while nice was lacking depth and is not a good fit for a bass heavy playlist. It does the most with the space available by packing left and right channel passive sub woofers, but it does not pack much in the way of bass, but does add to the mid range so it isn’t just the highs you are hearing.

This is my favorite speaker to take on the go with me so far, whether I need some added sound or to charge something. While it may not be the best to use for a party, it is my favorite to pick up and go, particularly on the go with my laptop or to take calls from my desk while in the middle of something rather picking up the phone or using a headset. As an MacBook user, I was just as fond of the design as I was of the portable matching powerpack. The Braven 650 is available now for $189.99 and more details can be found here.