Friday, October 25, 2013

Check out the Batman Arkham Origins launch trailer, then go pick it up

For anyone living under a rock, the follow up to the Batman Arkham games is upon us with Arkham Origins. Not only do we get another game devoted to the Dark Knight, but Vita owners also have the opportunity to take advantage of a 2.5D platformer, Blackgate, from the same great people that brought us the Metroid Prime games. Unfortunately, this Arkham Origins is only planned to be released on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but from the looks of the gameplay videos and trailers and the help of the Kombat guru's  at NetherRealm. Check out the launch trailer then make your way to the nearest retail store and kiss your weekend goodbye.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

SMS Audio follows up the Streets with the Sync by 50

I am thinking Mr. Cent may have grown a fondness of MashButtons after the review of the Street by 50, that or this latest delivery of the Sync by 50 On Ear Wireless headphones hot on the heels of my last review is a metaphorical horse head. The key feature to the Sync by 50 is the Bluetooth capability and SMS Audio has placed the controls on the headphones so you do not have to reach for your phone. In terms of sound, SMS has chosen to equip the headphones with professionally tuned 40mm drivers for big sound and included a folding design and carrying case for portability. The features aside, it is time to sync up and see how they perform at high volumes.

The main differences between the previously reviewed Street by 50 and the fresh out of the box Sync by 50 would be the on ear fit and lack of Active Noise Canceling, but the cutting of the cord still makes for a great experience. Syncing the headphones to a Bluetooth supported device was easy and once synced, they are fast and easy to use whether by way of laptop or smartphone. You wouldn’t think these headphones would be as clear as they are without being wired and they are lightweight to take the pains out of extended use, topped with leather wrapped memory foam pads to make a great seal to eliminate outside noise and prevent sound bleeding. Speaking of sound bleeding, the Sync does a much better job at keeping the music between you and them rather than you and anyone in a ten foot radius. Between the two headphones I preferred the look of the wired Streets as these headphones came in a glossy silver as opposed the flat black. The build quality did not feel as solid as that of the Street, but the smaller stature and lack of cord make for a newly discovered feeling of freedom.
When all is said and done, the Sync by 50 headphones once again surpassed my expectations, and are a superior headphone for audiophiles. I had thought that the Street over ear headphones would be my new go to for daily use, but after a week of using the smaller, lighter, and cordless Sync, they have become my go to cans for work, but when it comes to traveling or trying to tune out roommates and family members, the Street by 50’s still take the honors. SMS Audio’s Sync by 50 on ear Bluetooth headphones are available now in either Shadow Black or Cool Silver for the price of $229.95, in which I feel are a great pair of wireless headphones at a reasonable price.

ZEN balances the Force with trio of new Star Wars Pinball tables.

Zen Studios has added another trio of tables to it’s already large list of beautiful and addicting pinball tables, that go by a number of names depending on your platform of choice. Whether you have heard it referred to Star Wars Pinball, Zen Pinball 2, or Pinball FX2, one thing rings true for all three games and that is an amazing looking pinball game with realistic physics, 3D support, and a long list of available tables. In this release, the tables being provided are Darth Vader, Starfighter Assault, and Episode IV: Return of the Jedi, all of which contain the famous moments from the legendary series. Now that I have topped my friends’ leaderboards, it is time to pull myself away from the sci-fi arcade goodness.

Ever since the release of the Street Fighter 2 table on the original Pinball FX game, I was hooked as I have always loved playing Pinball in the arcades and have tried the numerous attempts to bring the nostalgic gameplay affordably into the home, unfortunately few come close to succeeding. Zen Studios is one of the few, and with the Balance of the Force tables to add to the Star Wars Pinball collection, they have once again outdone themselves. All three of them look amazing, each with a completely different look and layout, playing just as smoothly as they look. Of the new tables, I preferred the Darth Vader table as it had fun missions and was what I felt was the easiest of the three to rack up millions. My only disappointment was with the online community, as it is hard enough to find an online match when I own most of the offered tables, I have yet to find anyone online playing Star Wars Pinball when I was playing. When playing in 3D, I noticed there was a delay recognizing when using the flippers which lead to a number of lost balls and quickly abandoning the multidimensional romp.

Zen Studios does it again and provides a fun and addicting experience with the Balance of the Force tables and hope that this is just the beginning of a long list of Star Wars themed tables like we have seen with the Marvel tables. Zen Studios’ pinball games are available on just about all gaming and mobile platforms and once again I had requested my review be performed on the PlayStation Network as is it playable on both the Vita and PS3 from a single purchase. My issue with the online multiplayer has been with all tables, not just the tables in the newest release, if there were additional network options to identify how many players online and which tables are being played, it may help with endless wait times trying to find an opponent. Star Wars Pinball: Balance of the Force is available on just about all consoles and mobile devices with exception to the iOS at the time of this review.

VÜ, Tylt's new Qi charging compatible device lets you set and forget

With more and more accessories supporting NFC capabilities, we are now getting our first wireless phone charger from Tylt and it is called the VÜ. Unfortunately, Apple does not support NFC charging, but luckily there were a couple people in the office with Qi compatible smartphones willing to let me  see how this bright red charger works. The VÜ gets it’s name from the 45 degree angle it sports to allow users to see the screen while charging and the charging starts once the supported device is set in either portrait or landscape positions. Now that I have had some time with the VÜ and have seen how it performs against some of the in office NFC wireless chargers, it is time to see how it compares.

Much like like the other products in Tylt’s lineup, the VÜ fits right in with the bright and boisterous look accompanied with the soft rubber feel. The desktop charger is larger than most wireless chargers out there, but the stand which makes it easy to see the screen is what stood out over the other chargers currently available. The place anywhere charging is also nice as I was just able to ‘set it and forget it’ without any worry that if not placed properly, the mobile phone would not charge. If there were anything in which I was not a fan of, it would be the short list of supported devices and the flamboyantly loud variety  of available colors, luckily the VÜ is also available in black.

Wireless chargers and supported devices have come a long way in a short time, as I remember the Powermat and other similar attempts at the market with no luck due to the size of the bulky packs that were required and large surface areas needed for the charging pad. A few years later and phones are incorporating the ability into the development of devices to allow for easy wireless charges without the additional bulk and desktop clutter. Tylt’s VÜ takes advantage of this innovative feature and doesn’t charge in one set position, but holds the mobile device angled so that it is easy to view both notifications or streaming video. The VÜ is available now in three bright colors and the more subtle black for the price of $69.99.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

C6 wraps the iPad Mini in their Magnafix Bookcase

Moving on to the next product now, a case for the iPad Mini, the Bookcase that comes to me from C6. This smart fold style case is not exactly like the rest of them, it's standout feature consists of a magnetic locating system on the case for the cover to hold my tablet either upright for viewing or typing while also offering protection. The front cover works as a Smart Cover that sleeps/wakes the tablet upon opening, preventing the always annoying slide to unlock. The materials that make up this case are polycarbonate for protection and the inside of the front cover is made up of micro fibre to help keep the screen clean. Now that the case is snapped on my tablet, it is time to see how it performs.

I like my cases to be minimal and functional, so when I popped my iPad Mini into the Bookcase, it was not noticeably bigger or heavier in my hands. I have come across some cases where the smart cover does not occasionally work or at all, but C6’s case works great. The magnetic locating system really shines as it holds the cover strongly against the back of the case and is easy to find the sweet spot without fumbling. The only issues in which I noticed during use was that while the microfiber lining is nice to help keep the screen clean, it is very hard to keep the micro fiber clean. While the magnetic locator is nice for standing the tablet up for viewing and typing, I was left hoping for another locator to hold the cover flat against the back of the case when reading.

C6’s Bookcase is a solid case for protecting my iPad Mini without adding much to the size and weight of the of the already small mini. The magnetic stand was also a great idea as it held my iPad Mini securely upright on my nightstand, counter tops, and at my workspace. Keep in mind that it is really easy to get dirty and hard to clean, but as long as the elements are forgiving, this allows for easy transportation of the Mini. C6 has made the Bookcase available in a variety of color combinations to provide subtle personalization without screaming for attention at the price of 36 pounds, which at the time of writing this converted to roughly $57.50.

MashButtons gets hands on SMS's Street by 50, specifically the Over Ear ANC

I have been waiting for this next pair of headphones to come in since I got the press release in the beginning of August and my recent white buffalo of headphones come straight from SMS Audio and are the over-ear anc’s from the Street by 50 lineup. If you haven’t deduced from the name, they are over ear headphones that include active noise canceling, use the trademarked THUMPP Enhanced Bass, and is endorsed by 50 Cent. The rechargeable battery allows for up to 70 hours of active noise canceling use before recharging and the Hybrid ANC design allows for use even if the battery dies, unlike a lot of the the ANC headphones previously reviewed.

I was like a kid on Christmas morning ripping into theses bad boys, and I must say that I am not disappointed with them. The artist branded headphones have been a disappointment to me with the sub par quality on Ludacris’ Soul to the always breaking and unbalanced Beats by Dre, Street by 50 had some work to do. The build quality is solid, although very easy to get smudged when touched due to the flat black soft rubber surface. The smudge is addressed in the carrying case’s bag of tricks as the compact, hard shelled case includes a soft cloth, airplane adapter, USB charger cable, and cable with inline and microphone. The soft foam pads make extended use comfortable, creating a nice seal to keep outside noise out, but the active noise canceling worked so well that I was unable to hear the jingling of dogs' tags as they play while I write this review. The music quality was also great, it was loud and provided a great range that cover high highs to low lows, no matter what your playlist consists of. There is quite a bit of sound bleed from them though, which may cause desk mates in the office displeasure, depending what you are listening to.

The Street by 50 over ear ANC headphones were exactly what I was hoping for and I highly recommend for any music fan looking for a great set of high end headphones. The noise canceling also worked better than I expected and look forward to using next time I am camping, flying, or in a noisy hotel. What makes these stand out though is the capability to continue listening to music if the battery dies and even though they were large, the Streets by 50 folded up neatly and the carrying case made for great portability and provided piece of mind while on the go. These big, comfy, good looking cans are available in either black or white for the price of $279.95. Other models in the Street by 50 lineup with a wide assortment of colors and features.

Prong sends us their latest successful Kickstarter, the PocketPlug

This next review is a bit different and it is easy to tell that the designers behind this product did not like cords. Prong has provided us with their recent successful Kickstarter project, the PocketPlug. The PocketPlug is a case that wraps around the iPhone 5/5s and contains flat plug prongs that fold out to recharge without having to worry about making sure you have the lightning cable on hand. In case you need to keep playing Candy Crush while charging and you don’t want to be face to face with the wall while charging, there is a micro USB port on the bottom to give more slack to operate while charging.  Lastly, Prong included their advanced charging technology that allows charging in just a matter of minutes.

I admit that I was rather curious about Prong’s cable-less charging case, as someone that hates having cables lying around, I hoped that it was going to blaze a bold new trail. Functionally, the case works as advertised but there were a couple things in which I realized during use that weren’t so convenient. On the plus side, the lack of cable is great when traveling light and the case has a soft rubber texture with hard lines on the side that makes a great attempt to prevent from dropping. The plug folds out smoothly without requiring much pressure, but the speed of charging is where the PocketPlug really shines as it charges faster than when connected to the lightning cable. I did think that this case was a bit bulky, especially when it does not include an internal battery pack. Also, I quickly learned that there aren’t many locations in which the PocketPlug was convenient to use outside the the kitchen, bathroom, or airport.

At the end of my week of usage, the PocketPro proved to be useful on the go due to it’s ability to charge quickly without the need of a cable. The inclusion of the micro USB port did allow me to still link to and charge my phone from my vehicle’s head unit and make it easy to use connected to the cord if I didn’t want to stare at it from the floor while plugged into an outlet. Some improvements to the case would be a change in design to make it easier to remove from the case, slimmer in build design, or include an internal battery for extended use between charges. Prong’s PocketPlug is available now for the iPhone 5/5s in black or white and can be purchased for $69.95.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Buckshot is Outdoor Tech's light artillary

I have gotten my next product from Outdoor Tech, the same folks that previously provided me with the Turtle Shell wireless speaker, this go round we have the ultra portable Bluetooth speaker that is designed and named after a shotgun shell. The Buckshot is small enough to easily tote around, targeted for bicycle users with included handlebar mount, and built to withstand the elements, keeping smartphones and MP3 players out of harms way. I have seen and reviewed a number of the ultra portable wireless Bluetooth speakers, but what makes Outdoor Tech’s stand out is the design with a stealthy look and rugged build quality. It is time to see how the pocket sized Buckshot compares to it’s bigger sibling, the Turtle Shell.

Out of the box, I would have to say I like the look of the Buckshot most as it does not take much space, being the size and shape of a shotgun shell. The solo speaker is wrapped in rubber shock proof coating  which makes me worry less about it rolling of my desk or workbench, but the part part would have to be the battery life as it stays charged for up to 16 hours allowing for less frequency in being connected to a charger and forgetting to charge. Lastly, if you are someone that lives in a bicycle friendly area, the Buckshot is awesome because of the bike mount (glorified rubber band), it is easy to strap the speaker to the handlebars and listen to music without blocking out surrounding noises. Another safety feature would be  the controls, no fumbling for a ringing phone as the controls for calls, music, and volume come in the form of three onboard buttons. The downside in my experience was the sound, it gets rather loud but with just one small speaker, there wasn’t much depth, and depending on where you ride your bicycle, it can be difficult to hear.

The Buckshot is an amazing portable speaker that is easy to take on the go, even in my pocket, to provide added sound on the go or around the house and pool that can also take a beating. The only things that this little speaker is missing are the ability to charge my phone from it, the lack of colors, and the option to chain two Buckshots together in stereo to really disturb the peace. The boisterous bullet is great at providing additional sound over the weak onboard pc/phone/tablet speaker to any mobile workspace and the ability to strap onto a bike almost motivates me to commute to work via bicycle...almost. Outdoor Tech’s Buckshot is available now in black for the price of $49.95.

Chrome's Bravo Night let me pack everything but the kitchen sink

Bags, we have reviewed many of them here on MashButtons, but this will be the first roll top bag we will have reviewed and it comes straight to me from Chrome Industries. After seeing Joey sporting the good looking messenger and camera bags around, I wanted to get my hands on a new bag to replace my bulky Powerbag. The Bravo note is a roll top, which is great to extend in size for additional storage, but on top on being able to carry a big load it also sports a front pocket that fits up to a 15 inch MacBook Pro, a signature 3M reflective panel that is visible at night, and a cross compression strap system that helps with load distribution. I managed to pack a five day vacation into the bravo night, so let's see how it carries.

I am simply amazed that I got five shirts, three pairs of shorts, a pairs of pants, a pair of flip flops, and three hats with my liquids on top to make it easy for airport security. That is just the main compartment, without having to extend the roll top. In the front pocket, rested my MacBook Pro, PS Vita, point and click camera and all my necessary chargers neatly. This bag was neatly organized without a lot of unnecessary pockets. Being that this bag carried what I usually split into a laptop bag and carry on, so I was expecting a much heavier load on my back, but the EVA foam back panel sat nicely against my back and was very breathable, particularly in the usually warm, Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. The straps couldn't be any easier to adjust with the inclusion of cam lock buckles for simple adjustment, but the sternum strap is what I particularly liked, from the seat belt like signature buckle to the support it provides to make extended use more comfortable.

Functionally, I absolutely loved the Bravo Night bag and it has made its way into my number one spot for weekend travel bag. Unfortunately in regards to daily computing it is a bit large and bulky, but if I know I need to move more than just my laptop and a couple other small items like textbooks, consoles, clothes, or beer, the Bravo Night is up for the job. In terms of appearance, it is a bit large if you have to extend the roll top, then it does look awkward, but if you aren't pushing the bag's storage ability, it looks rugged and stylish, with high end materials and support in all the right places. I definitely suggest Chrome's Bravo Night for it's storage capabilities and comfort when heavily packed, it sports the same urban look as other bags in the lineup with the signature 3M Reflective panel that just lights up at night, and is available now for the price of $180.00.