Tech

Review: Nintendo Switch

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Nintendo has created a genuinely beautiful product that has such a unique degree of versatility that it just screams “Nintendo!” to the player. The ability to play a game like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the go is absolutely insane. Is it going to render everything in 4K resolution? No, but it will still give players a chance to bring some of their favorite Nintendo franchises on the go.

Let’s look at the hardware. The Switch comes with two JoyCons, the console, the controller that the JoyCons can slip into to work as a standard controller, the Switch itself, and a docking setup. The Switch (I ordered the gray console) has a metallic finish, much more premium than the Wii U GamePad, which feels like a cheap toy by comparison. The dock, unfortunately, is made of plastic, and has been reported to scratch the screen of the Switch. Caution should be exercised there when placing the Switch inside of it.

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The Switch itself is a little more than half an inch thick at 0.55 inches, and has a length of 9.41 inches with the JoyCons attached, with a width of 4.02 inches. At 297 grams, or 0.65 pounds, it’s a very lightweight device. There is a thermal vent on the top that rarely makes a sound alongside the power and volume buttons, and a standard 3.5mm audio jack. The bottom of the Switch contains the USB-C port. Nintendo decided to thankfully get rid of the proprietary connector, and moved towards a more universal port. The JoyCons slide directly into the sides of the console, and make a click when successfully connected.

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The Switch can be played in various ways. In the portable mode, players can opt to remove the JoyCons and play in a freer context, holding both JoyCons and attaching them to the impossibly difficult to remove wrist straps. The Switch can be propped up on a weak, cheap, and plastic kickstand that looks like it could fall over in a small wind burst. In the console mode, the JoyCons can be slid into the JoyCon grip, and played very similarly to a home console. Although the controller has a bit of extra height, it still plays surprisingly comfortably. The transition from portable mode to console mode is incredibly seamless, and takes no time at all. A quick drop in the dock will transition to the console mode within a second.

On the software front, however, Nintendo needs to do a bit of work. The Switch’s menu is extremely fast. It’s responsive, and it’s very simplified. It’s almost too simplified for Nintendo, given the previous complexities of and the utter mess that was the eShop. It’s back, but it’s a lot better and so much faster than before. There’s no music on the menus, and the only noises are from moving between items and the satisfying trademark “snap” that the Switch makes. The operating system is great, but is missing some of the key features that many have desired such as Virtual Console, media playback, MiiVerse, or even a simple internet browser. While Nintendo has stated that some of these features would be arriving post-launch, at present it definitely feels half-baked and does not reach its potential.

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On a final note, let’s talk about the price. At $300, the console is a pretty solid purchase. It’s expensive but actually feels like it’s worth it this time around. Compared to the Wii U, which felt like an under-marketed Fisher-Price toy, the Switch is a premium device that looks like it was made for a more mature gaming audience. However, there are additional expenditures to consider. A Switch game can cost around $59.99. The Switch dock is$90 if your current one breaks, and a Pro Controller (most similar to a ~$20 current generation console controller) sets you back a ridiculous $70. Individual JoyCons cost $49.99, and a full set is $79.99. These costs add up quite a bit, and for me, having purchased a Pro Controller and a case to hold the Switch (an absolute must!) the total is about $400. This is definitely going to be a hard sell if you want to play with more friends, to say the least, and the lack of backwards compatibility on previous controllers makes this a bit of an annoyance.

Regardless, the hardware for the Nintendo Switch is brilliant. When I was demoing this to my friends and family, everyone was amazed at the sheer versatility of the system and various configurations in which games can be played. It’s revolutionary, and changes the playing field for console makers. The software still needs to be developed a bit further, but with time, this console has the inventiveness to compete with Sony and Microsoft’s systems despite a lack of power. I’m in love with the Switch, and I’m grateful to Nintendo for providing us with this copy for reviewing purposes.

Review: Tesoro Excalibur RGB Mechanical Keyboard

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Gaming keyboards are one thing. Mechanical gaming keyboards are an entirely different thing? Why? Because for professional gamers or enthusiasts, the technology under the keys is just as important as fancy macro keys or colored backlight features. This is something that the guys at Tesoro, a perhaps lesser known gaming peripheral manufacturer, seem to completely understand. The Tesoro Excalibur RGB is their attempt to eat a slice from the gaming keyboard market, and combines a budget-oriented price with the advantages of a backlit mechanical keyboard. Is it any good though? Let’s find out!

The Packaging

Don’t expect anything over the top with the Excalibur. The keyboard is well tucked into its box, but other than that, there’s nothing really surprising. You’ll get a small brochure that highlights other Tesoro gaming peripherals, as well as a small manual that explains the basic functions of the media keys. No software is included, so you’ll have to download the keyboard’s software from the official website. The “Sword of King” description for the keyboard’s name is a tiny bit hilarious, but hey, the company isn’t US based, and this is just a minor nuisance, so let’s not nitpick.

The Keys and Software

If you don’t know much about mechanical keyboards, here’s the gist of it: they are loud (generally speaking), but highly efficient, due to the Cherry MX switches that they employ. There are several variants of the Cherry MX switches, from highly sensitive ones to less tactile ones. The advantage of using these switches is that your keyboard will detect individual keystrokes without limit (anti-ghosting), while being extremely responsive. A simple touch of a key will activate its command, without the end user having to push the key fully for the desired effect.

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Now, Tesoro doesn’t use original Cherry MX switches, due to the high cost of these, and instead uses replica switches. This might sound like a turn-off, but it’s really not. After extensive testing, we’ve found no tangible differences in how effective these replica switches are, and they should still last you a few million keystrokes each. Whereas most mechanical keyboards cost way above $100, the Excalibur has a reasonable price-tag of $89.99. The keyboard doesn’t offer a lot in terms of additional macro keys and the like, and has a very standard layout. This can be both a plus and a minus, depending on your personal preference. I personally almost never use macro keys, so not having them doesn’t bother me, on the contrary. It saves space on my desk and ensures I get a layout that I’m highly familiar with. Additionally, the shape of the keys is pleasant, with no chance of your fingers sliding off to adjacent keys by accident. Especially for someone who types a lot, this is a huge plus.

The keyboard provides a 1000 MHz polling rate, meaning it’s highly responsive, and also provides the option to switch between G-Keys and N-Keys. It also includes a 512 KB on-board memory for storing macro profiles, which you can easily set up via the keyboard’s software. While not included in the original packaging, the software is easy to download, and you should definitely consider installing it, as it allows amble macro customization options for all your gaming needs, without the need of additional 3rd party software. With 5 profiles and every individual key being customizable, there’s definitely a lot to play with.

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The Excalibur’s software allows plenty of customization options, with 5 profiles and access to configure each individual key’s function.

The Looks

The Tesoro Excalibur keeps things simple. It’s black, with a standard layout and a rubberized back that prevents the keyboard from moving. The rubber is particularly effective, more so than let’s say my older Microsoft Sidewinder’s, which does on occasion slide in various directions. The only downside of its design is the lack of a palmrest, which can take its toll over extended use. Other than that, The Tesoro Excalibur looks and feels good, with nothing out of the ordinary. If you’re worried about leaving fingerprints or grease stains, rest easy, the keyboard is not sensitive in this regard.

And now let’s get to the good part. The Excalibur is completely backlight. The backlight can be adjusted, from intensity and color, to several templates that allow you to have only some of the keys light up. For instance, you can have the WASD keys, along with the spacebar, direction keys and F9-F12 keys light up, with the rest of the keys remaining unlit. From vivid red to bright blue, there are definitely plenty of versions to choose from in the keyboard’s RGB edition.

Overall

To sum it up, the Tesoro Excalibur brings nothing new to the table. However, what it sets out to do, it does well enough. It’s affordable (you can even find some sales online that take the keyboard’s price down to $69.99 for the holiday season), sturdy and reliable. Once I’ve gotten used to it, it made gaming and typing a breeze, although it does tend to be rather loud, so make sure you adjust your microphone sensitivity accordingly if you’re using Teamspeak or Ventrilo. A good backlight system, combined with a basic but solid design, a long enough USB-based cable and a solid software that allows ample customization ensure that the Tesoro Excalibur is a good investment. You’re getting plenty of bang for the buck, but you have to keep in mind that this is still a budget-oriented keyboard. If you want additional macro keys or original Cherry MX switches, the Excalibur is not for you.

The lack of a palmrest is also felt (at least in my case), and I feel that part could have been introduced without huge additional costs to the overall product. Still, you can’t have it all I guess, and for what it costs, the Excalibur is a solid investment that won’t let you know. It’s basic enough, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Less is sometimes more, and everything the Tesoro Excalibur RGB brings for its affordable price makes it easy to recommend.

Review: Turtle Beach Stream Mic

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When it comes to condenser mics, there is usually the one tried and true most popular among streamers and YouTubers, the Blue Yeti. And I’ll agree, it’s a fantastic mic with some neat bells and whistles and a pretty great build. But it is pretty bulky and heavy, and it retails for $150. Not exactly the most inviting price point. Turtle Beach has an answer to that, albeit still a somewhat pricy one, but as an entry style microphone, it certainly does the job.

The build is small yet sturdy. The mic itself is rather light but is nicely weighed down to your desk with its base. Even though its light weight can make the mic itself seem more cheap than its competition, the combination with the base make it feel slightly more premium.

You’ll find all the necessary functions you’ll need directly on the mic, making it viable to use on consoles without its first party software that you can download and use alongside it on the PC. As condenser mics go, you have a few different polar patterns to switch from, such as the cardioid and hypercardioid for streaming just yourself or if you’re in a noisy room respectively. There’s also a bi-directional and omnidirectional feature, in case you wanted sound being recorded from two or all four sides.

I was pretty excited about the hypercardioid pattern since my house isn’t always quiet, especially with two kids, but sadly the noise filtering isn’t all too great, and I was still able to pick up some of the occasional chatter, however, it is still a great solution when you are in a quiet room, as it really focuses only on your voice, and makes it come through extremely clear.

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The Stream Mic also has a built in headset port, which lets you not only monitor your own voice and make sure it sounds great, but you can also have the game audio stream straight through there, which is almost always important since you wouldn’t want that audio being picked up by the mic. Sadly there isn’t a gain knob that allows to adjust the sensitivity of the mic itself, however the button that switches the patterns can be held down to switch between two modes. The tabletop mode is active when the back LED is green, and raises the gain to allow the mic to be placed on your table. The boom/close proximity mode is active when the LED in the back is off, and that’s used when you have the mic almost directly next to your face, usually aided by a boom scissor arm stand. After testing both of these modes, and actually having a boom scissor arm at home, I can safely say that the latter setting is the way to go, at least if you’re going for amazing voice clarity.

However, the reason you won’t want to rely on the included microphone stand is because it actually picks up quite a few vibrations when its sitting on your desk, and you’ll immediately hear that in your recordings. So unless you put something soft underneath, having the mic suspended above you is really the only way to cut that out completely.

The box advertises the mic for the Xbox One, but it can be used on any of your home consoles, as well as your PC, since the mic is simply plug and play. The only thing you really have to worry about is flipping a switch on the back so it’s compatible with the Xbox One, or the PS4 and PC.

Normally the Stream Mic retails for $100, but it can now be found $20 cheaper on the official site as well as Amazon. If you’ve been looking to up your streaming game with a much better sounding mic, or you’re maybe looking for better audio quality in your video productions but don’t want to spend over a $100 on the Blue Yeti or other similarly priced condenser mics, then the Turtle Beach Stream Mic is certainly a great option, and provides the voice clarity you’re looking for.

Aftershokz Trekz Titanium Headset Review

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Bone-conducting headsets bring a unique listening experience into the fold, as the headset is designed to rest not inside the ear, but outside. The headset generates noises via vibrations made from contact with the jawbone, while allowing full aural awareness in the surrounding environment. I found this to be incredibly useful during my evening jogs around the neighborhoods here in Little Rock. I was able to tune into the music being played on my mobile device while also listening to oncoming traffic, and interacting with people that I met along the way.

The Trekz Titanium headset is a flexible, wraparound kit that utilizes Aftershokz’s proprietary “OpenFit” design that ostensibly provides maximized situational awareness and comfort. In the box, you get the Trekz Titanium, a small drawstring carrying bag, your USB cable, and a pair of ear plugs. Other proprietary trademarks the company has placed in the Titanium are Premium+ for better audio quality and “LeakSlayer” technology that supposedly prevents leakage of audio. It connects to devices using Bluetooth 4.1 and is IP55-certified to repel sweat and dust. Some of the specifics of the hardware are listed below, as enumerated on the Trekz Titanium webpage:

Speaker type: bone conduction transducers
Frequency response: 20Hz~20KHz
Sensitivity: 100 ± 3dB
Microphone: -40dB ± 3dB
Bluetooth version: v4.1
Compatible profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HSP, HFP
Wireless range: 33 ft (10m)
Battery: rechargeable lithium ion
Continuous play: 6 hours
Standby time: 10 days
Charge in: 1.5 hours
Weight: 1.27 oz (36g)

Connecting the device is extremely simple with the use of their “AudreySays” interface, which will guide the wearer through the pairing and connection process. The Titanium’s battery lasted, on average, about five hours of continuous music playback and phone calling; it is one hour shy of the advertised life of six hours. To be frank, the battery life is somewhat disappointing as six hours is still insufficient fora normal day of work, which means that the Trekz Titanium requires frequent charging. It took about one hour, forty-five minutes to complete a charge. The standby time was something that I was rather puzzled about, as I was two days under the advertised ten hours. Many headsets in this price range feature higher quality construction and longer battery life, as well as further noise-cancellation technology. While I understand that I could be comparing apples to oranges, as they are often vastly different products, these headsets share enough commonalities that it needs to be brought up.

I was hoping the audio quality would be better developed. It had a clearer sound quality than that provided by the Gamez headset, but it interestingly didn’t quite meet the capabilities provided by Apple’s EarPods. Again, this is probably an apples-to-oranges comparison, but the price demands a certain quality. Call quality was as expected: clear, with little interference. With these bone-conducting headsets, the best sound quality is obtained by locating the sweet spot, which has little room for deviation. This was an issue with the Gamez headsets; it’s much better with the Titaniums. It moved about way less, and makes the older Gamez headsets feel incredibly loose around the head. The Gamez headsets, though, were encased entirely in plastic whereas the Titaniums have more of a rubbery feel to them all throughout.

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I do not quite agree with the $129.99 price point set for the Trekz Titanium. The other headset I had been provided with from the company, the Gamez headset, was priced at a more palatable $99.99. Wearers are provided more color options on the Titanium in comparison to the kiwi green of the Gamez, and the sweat and dust-resistant ratings are nice, but it doesn’t seem like it’s quite worthy of an additional $30 price hike. I like the headset for what it does, which is an adequate job of providing music and keeping you aware of your surroundings. Unfortunately, it’s not quite up to par given the high price point. These technologies are fantastic for the outgoing fitness enthusiast or for those who want a bit of isolation in a crowded environment, but there is room for improvement in future iterations.

 

Sound of Justice Headset Review

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When we are playing video games, there are inevitably going to be features, details, and dynamics missed. There is so much going on when you are playing  a game like Watch Dogs 2 or Uncharted 4, this cannot be helped. For me, some of the most enjoyable aspects of gaming are sound effects and music that accompany scenes of triumph and despair alike. If the music is fitting, defeating bosses, clearing stages, or just doing something incredible feels so much more glorious than if the moment was accompanied by silence. Since there is so much going on, music is often one of the parts of a game that gets stuck in the shadow of the other things that are happening. Using a quality headset can help alleviate these issues, and better your overall gaming experience. Enter the PDP Legendary Collection Sound of Justice.

I have recently adopted the PDP Sound of Justice into my collection of gaming accessories. As the headset was specifically designed for Xbox One, I took to my game-shelf to revisited a favorite game of mine, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. This game is a great test of audio peripherals for many reasons. The soundtrack is not only terrific, but atmospheric in the sense that you can feel the tension of the battle/event/cut-scene currently taking place. More upbeat moments are paired with inspiring tracks that make players familiar with The Lord of The Rings films swell up with a sense of nostalgia. The PDP Sound of Justice does these moments, well, justice! Unlike my previous playthroughs of Shadow of Mordor, the audio is front-and-center instead of losing mental priority to the visuals. Properly presented audio makes the action more impactful, and the quite moments more serene. One of my favorite minor features about Shadow of Mordor is that when you see a captain or a Warlord for the first time, the audio that accompanies their introduction is the sound of uruks chanting his name. While I am wearing PDP’s Sound of Justice, these chants ring through my head and feel intimidating, whereas with my TV speakers the aggression of the challenge is lost completely. This is true for many other sounds in the game, and Sound of Justice headset does a proper job of balancing the audio in a way that makes it feel impactful, but not overbearing.

Since it is not a high-end headset, it (understandably) has its deficiencies. Static interference is a common occurrence. Since my Xbox One sits surrounded by a handful of other electronics, I decided to experiment to see if I could remove the interference completely. I could not. Having, myself, unplugged my other electronics It was not enough interference for me to say my gaming “suffered” from it, but it was still apparent enough that it is worth mentioning. While this issue is fairly common for wireless headsets, it’s still worth noting and needs to be improved on. If you are an audiophile of any kind, I would urge you to not pinch your pennies and go for a higher-end headset. If Granny gave you $100 during the holidays and want to spend it on a headset, the PDP Sound of Justice is a great one to pick up. For the average gamer who wants more from their gaming experience, the price is right.

Another issue I had with the Sound of Justice headset is that it isn’t incredibly
comfortable, nor does it have great breathability for longer play sessions. When my gaming session exceeded 5 hours, the headset’s presence was very apparent. Every point of contact on my ears and head felt the burden of its weight. Spots where fabric touched my skin began to itch. The lack of breathability in the ear-muffs encouraged heat to build up and sweat to form. As a result, the Sound of Justice is not ideal for many consecutive hours of play.

In terms of the level of quality, the PDP Legendary Collection Sound of Justice is not a high-end headset. Wisely, it is not sold as one either. Simply put, the Sound of Justice is a higher quality budget headset. PDP sells it for $99.99, and after using it I would say that the price is appropriate. It is around the same price point as other, more known, models such as the Turtle Beach Stealth series. Where the Sound of Justice and the Stealth are both great headsets for the price, the quality of PDP’s headset makes it worth considering.

None of the issues I have mentioned are deal-breakers. Where the headset lacks certain desirable qualities, it makes up for these by being a solid product that is easy to use. Setting the headset up is as simple as plugging it in and pressing the power button. The overall design is slick. The microphone communicates clearly and is positioned optimally. The PDP Legendary Collection Sound of Justice has a lot going for it, and not a lot going against it. PDP has made a solid headset that is meant to stand out within its price range, and they have succeeded.

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LG’s New G6 Smartphone Arrives Next Month

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Next month in Barcelona, the Mobile World Congress event will be held. Samsung is usually the big contender at the event, but it looks like the star of the show this time around might be fellow Korean company LG. The LG G6 will be revealed February 26th and features a minimal bezel and a 5.7 inch display. The LG G6 will feature an aspect ratio of 2:1, and the screen-to-bezel ratio is more than 90%. The phone follows recent trends of maximizing screen space, with other phones from Samsung, Apple, and Xiaomi minimizing the borders on their phone and ditching the home button. The G6 will also feature curved display corners.

The LG G6 will be made entirely out of glass and metal, unlike the company’s previous devices that featured tacky plastic. The phone will feature a headphone jack as LG works to avoid the controversy surrounding Apple’s latest entry. The G6 will feature a dual camera and center-mounted fingerprint sensor, just like the G5. The Korean company has been struggling to compete with mobile giant Samsung, and has consistently failed to turn a profit with their mobile division. As more details are released about the G6, it will become easier to discern whether this latest entry from LG will compete in a market largely monopolized by Apple and Samsung.

Samsung Unveils New Gaming Laptops

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CES 2017 had lots of exciting technology to show. From Virtual Reality to Smart Homes to self-driving cars, the expo showed off some of the newest and hottest technology. Computers and gaming are still a huge part of the show, however, and Samsung had some new models of gaming laptops to share. The technology giant also announced a partnership with Google to roll out new Chromebooks that can use Android applications.

Samsung hasn’t made a serious push into the PC gaming market, but research shows that while PC sales in general are falling, PCs designed for gaming are maintaining or even increasing sales. It only makes sense that a company known for producing some of the most powerful smartphones makes a foray into the gaming laptop environment.

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The new Samsung gaming laptops are the Notebook Odyssey 15 and the Notebook Odyssey 17. Both laptops cater to the hardcore gamer with a beefy Intel Core i7 desktop-class processor. The Odyssey 15 is available with up to 32 gigs of RAM with the 17 capable of using up to a whopping 64 gigs. The 15 has a 256G solid-state Drive and a 1 TB hard-disk, while the 17 has a 512G SSD and a 1 TB HDD. One major detractor to purchasing a laptop is the lack of the ability to upgrade parts. Samsung seems committed to convenience with these entries, making the RAM and storage drives easy to access and simply swappable.

For graphics, the Odyssey 15 features an NVIDIA GTX 1050 and it can be assumed that the Odyssey 17 has a slightly more powerful chip. Gamers may be disappointed that the screen is only 1080p rather than 4k, but initial testing of the device seems to show that the display is still beautiful and powerful. As is the trend recently with gaming laptops, both the Odyssey 15 and the Odyssey 17 come with back-lit keys – red for the 15 and multi-colored for the 17.

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The Chromebooks are on the opposite end of the sprectrum in terms of power, but more excitingly this partnership between Samsung and Google will produce the first two Chromebooks that can access the millions of apps on the Google Play store. The laptops will also function as a tablet, and a stylus will be included with each Chromebook allowing users to draw on the display.

CyberpowerPC Releases VR Ready Desktop for $499

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Virtual Reality was one of the hottest aspects of the gaming industry in 2016, and will only become more prevalent in the coming years. Many Steam games now offer VR support, but it’s not exactly widespread due to the limited adoption of VR technology in the gaming community at large. This lack of prevalence is not often by choice, however. As the technology in its current state is relatively new, the barrier to access Virtual Reality has been high and requires both a high end PC and a decently expensive VR system. CyberpowerPC, a global manufacturer of custom gaming PCs, has demolished the price of one of those aspects with a Virtual-Reality-ready Desktop priced at just $499 when bundled with an Oculus Rift headset.

“This bundle will be the first complete AMD Oculus-ready gaming PC that provides the full experience of VR gaming at an affordable price,” said Eric Cheung, CEO of CyberPowerPC.

CyberpowerPC teamed up with AMD and Oculus Rift to design the product, so it’s clear that the intention from the start was to build the PC to function well with the Oculus’s Virtual Reality. The price of the bundle, including both the PC and the Oculus Rift will be $1,099.98. While that price may still be a little rich for some, having a computer and Virtual Reality system bundled together for around $1000 is still a lot better than buying the two separately. This fairly priced system gives a marked improvement in cost for the PC side of the equation, and the VR headsets should continue to decrease in price as technology inevitably advances.

“Less than a year after launching the Oculus Ready program, we’re thrilled to see that the all-in price for jumping into the highest-quality VR experience continues to drop by hundreds of dollars,” said Nate Mitchell, head of Rift, Oculus. “Thanks to the efforts of hardware companies like CyberPowerPC and AMD, more people will have the opportunity to enjoy the amazing games and experiences coming to Rift this year.”

The system will include an AMD quad-core FX 4350 processor and AMD Radeon RX 470 graphics card. It also offers twice the clock speed of a consumer desktop, with twice the amount of cores and cache memory of similarly priced options. The VR ready PC will launch with 8 Gigs of Memory and a 1TB hard drive, ensuring gamers have plenty of space to store their VR experiences.

The Gamer Ultra VR Bundle is available for purchase on Bestbuy.com and Amazon.com starting today, and includes the VR-ready Desktop and the Oculus Rift Headset.

Razer’s Stolen 3-Screen Laptop Listed for Sale

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One of the coolest prototypes at CES 2017 was Razer’s design for a 3-screen laptop. In a scandalous turn of events, someone walked off with the prototypes, leading many to suspect some form of industrial espionage. Trade secrets are important in the tech industry, and having an original product stolen by competitors could drastically cut into profits if they release a copy-cat version.  How practical Razer’s laptop really is remains to be seen, but prototypes are just concepts and might never materialize into anything. It’s possible that the laptops shown will be the only ones of their kind, never released for the public to enjoy. However, for those who have some cash to burn and don’t mind dealing in illicit laptops, the devices that were stolen from Razer’s CES booth have been listed for sale on Chinese webite Taobao.

Razer offered a $25,000 dollar reward for information leading to the apprehension of the thief, and it looks like for close to the same price you can have yourself a Razer prototype. The thief listed the laptops for the equivalent of $21,733 USD. Razer may be able to recover the laptops, or at least get the listing taken down, as Taobao’s terms of service prohibit the sale of stolen goods. Those looking for a three screen experience in a laptop can experience the magic for far less than 20 grand, however. Though current options don’t include screens that are attached to the main screen and fold out like the fancy prototypes, you can easily hook up external monitors via USB or HDMI for far, far cheaper. One might argue that having bulky external monitors reduces the portability of a laptop, but with three screens that are sure to be power-hungry, Razer’s model will likely need to be plugged in for any serious gaming. The model represents the latest in the recent trend of “portable desktops” – laptops that are rather bulky and pack the punch of a more stationary machine.

It remains to be seen whether we’ll actually see a 3-screen laptop on the market, but if the reaction and press regarding the scandal is any indication, there definitely seems to be a demand for such a product. Razer’s priority right now, however, is getting its stolen tech back and protecting its IP.

SteelSeries Diablo 3 Headset Review

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I’m only distracted by a pretty face for so long before I start to look around for something with a little more substance. Such is the case with the SteelSeries Diablo 3 Headset: it looks cool as hell (see what I did there?), but it’s not going out of its way to do anything that special.

If Looks Could Kill

The matte black color, sharp edges, and blood-red highlights nail the whole Diablo 3 vibe, and the pulsing red lights add to this devilish aesthetic. They’re also really comfortable, sturdy, and lightweight — something the entire SteelSeries brand manages to excel at — which makes them great for long hours of clicking away at demon hordes.

Like most good headsets, the guts of the Diablo 3 set have a 50mm magnet driver in each earpiece that delivers a pretty good mix of highs, mids, and lows. It’s too bad the entire sound experience is in stereo instead of surround, especially when you consider that you can get the Tritton AX 720 7.1 surround-sound set for around the same $120 price. The noise-cancelling microphone is serviceable, and it has the added bonus of being retractable.

I would have preferred the USB cable that dangles off of the headset to be longer than three feet (it feels like a one or two feet short), because the included 6.5-foot extension cable makes it too long, increasing the likelihood of stepping or rolling over it. The volume control dial located on the headphone cable feels awfully cheap, which is in stark contrast to the sturdy nature of the rest of the headset.

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High Maintenance

For being a USB-powered stereo headset, this is priced pretty high. Under the Diablo colors it’s functionally identical to the $90 Siberia V2 headset line, and the only difference is its lack of a standard 3.5mm headphone plug. For a wired headset I consider this a misstep because the USB-only connection will replace your existing default soundcard settings. So if you have a card that’s powered by a powerful audio chip (like the Recon3D’s we recently reviewed), make sure you’re okay with these taking control of your PC as your default audio setup when they’re in use.

The downloadable software package that the packaging makes a big deal out of is an incredibly generic inclusion that does little to help justify the high price. It’s little more than an EQ slider that allows you to save your settings and adjust how much you want the red lights on the outside of the headset to pulse. There’s no pre-set profiles (e.g. music, game, or movie), and compared to other headset software packages like Creative’s TacticProfile EQ software, it all feels incredibly useless.

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It’s hard to justify the cost of this headset unless you’re a Diablo 3 superfan, and even then I’d probably recommend you look for something that provides a better sound quality experience for the price tag.

Pros: Good stereo sound; light, comfortable, and sturdy design; looks cool as hell.
Cons: Expensive; no 3.5mm plugs; weak software; volume control feels cheap.

Rating: ★★★