Nov 16, 2010

Razer Ironclad gaming mouse mat overview.


Right now you could probably hear the whole gaming world giving out one big collective sigh at the mention of another gaming mouse mat, but fret not as Razer categorizes this mat under their Elite category which makes one wonder why the Goliathus is under the lower Essential category.
Oh wait, do I hear another sigh?




According to Razer, 'The Razer Ironclad gaming-grade mouse mat is engineered to bring out the most comfortable glide of today’s gaming-grade mice while retaining extraordinary tracking control. Its finely sandblasted reactive coating delivers optimal glide to both high- and low-sensitivity gamers. Built of a solid aluminum body that prevents warping, the Razer Ironclad is reinforced for strength and durability.'


Unboxing the packaging, one is greeted by another huge black box constructed of matt plastic-like material. This is the carrying case for the Ironclad, and as some are already aware - it is pretty heavy. By my guess, the total weight inclusive of the mat is around 500-600gms - pretty much around the same weight as an entry-level DSLR - yes, keep sighing.







Opening up the box, the first thing that probably comes to mind is - wtf is the Ironclad an ugly off-white color and not the pure white that is depicted on Razerzone?
Another sigh.

(note - the color rendition is the best I could do with the Canon S90, but rest assured it is definitely not pure white, and unfortunately it's not glow-in-the-dark either).







Underneath the Ironclad, there is a compartment in the carrying case to store the Certificate of Authenticity, Stickers and a Product catalog, though why would anyone want to carry those around apart from the Ironclad itself is anyone's guess.







Feel-wise, the Ironclad somehow reminds me of the Icemat Glass mouse pads that came out a few years ago. Just not as noisy, not as smooth and not as thick.
Low sensitivity gamers may also find the lack of real estate troubling, as it is obviously not that big.

(note - here it looks white as the white piece of paper to help color balance has been removed, so the camera's auto white balance has no balance and messes it up).







The Ironclad is stabilized by a rubber backing that covers the whole underside, with the mat itself made from what appears to be a laminated construction, which of course gives it 'strength and durability'.










By itself, the Ironclad is a pretty interesting one, but it's a little pricey for being just a 'mouse pad'. If money is no object, by all means go ahead and try it out - if you have not already been dissapointed at reading all the above. Else look towards the Vespula for a better value hard mat or even the Destructor, or my personal choice - the Goliathus.

Sep 25, 2010

How Video Games Reorganize Your Brain.



It is no secret that video games aid players with their hand-eye coordination. A new study shows that playing video games extensively reorganizes how the brain handles difficult visuomotor tasks.

Gaming pundits have been pulling out the eye-hand coordination card for as long there have been video games. Seeing things is easy. Manipulating things with one's hands is simple. Watching one thing while manipulating something else with one's hands is the tricky bit. Since gamers spend a great deal of time watching a screen while manipulating a controller, their eye-hand coordination improves.

Researchers from the Centre for Vision Research at York University in Canada wanted to know how those improvements occurred. They assembled two groups of 13 test subjects. One group played video games for at least four hours a week over the previous three years. The other group did not play.

Each of the 26 young men was placed in a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine and asked to complete a series of increasingly difficult visuomotor tasks.

"By using high resolution brain imaging (fMRI), we were able to actually measure which brain areas were activated at a given time during the experiment," said Lauren Sergio, associate professor in the Faculty of Health at York University. "We tested how the skills learned from video game experience can transfer over to new tasks, rather than just looking at brain activity while the subject plays a video game."

The results found that subjects without extensive gaming experience showed increased activity in the parietal cortex, typically associated with hand-eye coordination. The experienced gamers showed increased activity in the prefrontal cortex at the front of the brain.

By extensively practicing the visuomotor tasks associated with video game play, the gamers changed the way their brains handle such activities.

Gamer brains are special!

The research grants new hope for the treatment of Alzheimer's patients, which often have trouble handling even simple visuomotor tasks.

The researchers hope to enhance their findings in the future by determining how much change occurs per time played. They also plan to test female gamers for the same changes.

Extensive video-game experience alters cortical networks for complex visuomotor transformations [ScienceDirect] [Pic]

Sep 18, 2010

Shooter video games can improve decision making?

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Violent video games like "Call of Duty" can help trigger-happy players make decisions faster in real life, according to a study released on Wednesday.

Researchers from New York's University of Rochester found that first-person shooter games produced a heightened sensitivity and led to more efficient use of sensory evidence.

"These benefits of video games stem only from action games, which almost always means shooter games, where you go through a maze and you don't know when a villain will appear," researcher Daphne Bavelier said in a statement.

"It's not exactly what you'd think of as mind enhancing. Strategy or role-playing games don't have the same effect."

The study, published in the journal Current Biology, involved testing 26 people aged 18 to 25, none of whom had played shooting games before, over several months.

Half of the participants played 50 hours of shooting games like "Call of Duty" and "Unreal Tournament" while the other half played 50 hours of a strategy game, "The Sims 2."

They were then given various tests such as deciding which direction a group of dots on a screen was moving at varying speeds, and deciphering which ear was hearing noises.

The researchers found that the group who had played the shooting games was able to make judgments faster and more accurately. They were found to be 25 percent better at decision making.

"Unlike standard learning paradigms, which have a highly specific solution, there is no such specific solution in action video games because situations are rarely, if ever, repeated," the researchers wrote in their study.

"Thus, the only characteristics that can be learned are how to rapidly and accurately learn the statistics on the fly and how to accumulate this evidence more efficiently." The findings come amid a debate about the pros and cons of violent video games such as first-person shooters.

Research from Texas A&M International University earlier this year found violent video games can increase aggression and hostility in some players but also found that they can benefit others by honing their visual/spatial skills and improving social networking ability.

Source : http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20100915/od_nm/us_videogames_shooters_odd

Sep 17, 2010

Comparison between Razer Blackwidow Ultimate and Steelseries 7G.


Some may be asking, why just a comparison only between the 2 keyboards. Well, sadly those two are the only mechanical keyboards widely available over here in Malaysia.
Well, technically there are four - Razer Blackwidow, Razer Blackwidow Ultimate, Steelseries 6Gv2 and Steelseries 7G.
The differences between the Blackwidow / Blackwidow Ultimate and 6Gv2 / 7G can all be found online, but in essence there is no difference in performance between models within the respective brands.
So now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's take a look at how the Razer Blackwidow Ultimate stacks up against the Steelseries 7G.

As can be seen the Blackwidow has a larger footprint compared to the 7G sans wrist-rest.






Now over to the side profile, here we can see that the Blackwidow also has a lower profile, but it also has a couple of feet beneath to raise its profile up. The 7G is non-adjustable.






Razer Blackwidow has a USB 2.0 port along with the standard headphone + mic outputs on its side.






Steelseries 7G meanwhile places its two USB ports which are unfortunately 1.1, along with again the standard headphone + mic outputs.






The Blackwidow runs only on USB, which allows it to use gaming-centric drivers by Razer for the usage of macros - afterall it is termed as a gaming keyboard.
The Steelseries 7G meanwhile has an option of connecting using PS/2 - which allows it to have NKRO - or with the included PS/2 to USB adapter.
NKRO or N-key rollover nowadays seems to be a popular term, and while the Blackwidow with its USB connection limits it to a 6-key rollover - how many people actually press more than 6 keys at once? Then again, how many actually use macros?






The main significant difference though between both keyboards is that the 7G uses Cherry MX Blacks switches, while the Blackwidow decides to equip itself with the more clicky Cherry MX Blues.
In terms of actuation force, the Blacks require 60 grams with the Blues requiring a lighter force at 50 grams - though somehow the Steelseries 7G feels much smoother and lighter - guess that's why it pays to learn how to touch type so you do not bottom out the keys.
Whereas with the Blackwidow, one usually presses down on the key til a click is felt and also heard - which is about half its travel distance before bottoming out.






Both keyboards have the typical media control keys. The Blackwidow, like previous Razer keyboards, has an option to disable the Windows key. Steelseries meanwhile simply relocates the Windows key over to beside the Right-Alt key and away from WASD.



Anyway, what is a gaming keyboard without gaming-centric drivers? Unfortunately, Razer still has not made available for public download the drivers required to enable macros for the Blackwidow.
The Steelseries 7G has no such option, rather it is very plain but nevertheless good even though naming it as a gaming keyboard is abit far-fetched.

So in conclusion, how does one choose between these two?
Easiest way would be to look into your wallet, as the Blackwidow is expected to have a list price of RM299 with the Blackwidow Ultimate at RM389.
Steelseries 6Gv2 has a list price of RM379 with the 7G coming in at a monstrous RM579.
At those prices, one would then think the 7G is god-like, perhaps then Razer should've priced the Blackwidows at upwards of RM600 - no surprises then that the Blackwidows are better value for money.

Jul 6, 2010

Razer Armadillo 2 overview.


The Armadillo 2 basically is Razer's latest cable management system and comes almost 4 years since the original.

Has there been any improvement? Well, for a start, the packaging is nicer.







As can also be seen, v2 - pictured beside my ageing and discontinued v1 - has a larger footprint and introduces a nice non-slip rubber base which is essential considering v2 weighs only 114gm due to its all-plastic shell.
The v1, on the other hand, is constructed from 100% carbon coated steel and weighs a hefty 300gm.







For ease of use, v2 wins hands down as one only needs to press the center down and slide the cable in from the side - v1 obviously requires un-screwing of the top before inserting the cable.
But do take note that v2 is only compatible with Razer mouse cords - non-braided or braided - or from any manufacturer whose cord is not thicker than what Razer uses.







How essential is the Armadillo to you? Obviously it's main usage is to prevent cable drag which can occur if you're one of those who places their PC casing on the floor.
The pocketable size is also a plus to those who frequent LAN often - rather than having to carry around something which resembles a spaceship - and is definitely more desirable than having to find places to jam the mouse cord under such as monitor stands or speakers in order to not affect mouse performance.

.

Mar 30, 2010

Lancool Dragonlord PC-K62 Case review.


LanCool and Lian Li. Both names synonymous with PC casing manufacturers. Both under the same company. One targets the budget conscious market, and the latter the high end. This is basically what the LanCool casings are - quality at an affordable price.



Over here we have today the LanCool Dragonlord PC-K62. Essentially a mid-tower casing with tool-less design and an all-black construction that's sure to draw some attention.
The side also features a transparent window for added visual appeal.











Over on the top, one would find the Reset and Power buttons, along with 2 USB ports, audio and mic connectors.
Though it would've been nicer if they were placed at an angle rather than flat on top, so as to accomodate those who place their casings on the desk.
The top and front panels are also easily detachable without the need for tools.







One would also notice from the shot of the back that the power supply is located at the bottom, as that's where the coolest air is, thereby allowing more efficient cooling.







Another feature of the case is that all points of mounting have rubber to reduce vibrations - from the power supply, to the hard drives, and even the mounting screws for the intake and outtake fans.
These all work to keep the case extremely and effectively silent.



Internally, at the front there are 2 sections.
The top section being to host 5.25" units, while the bottom section features 4 slots to fit either 3.5" or 2.5" hard drives, and again no tools are required for installation.
Also again, the slots are all held by rubber fasteners to absorb all vibration from the drives.







The casing comes with LED fans which of course glows with the color that everyone seems obsessed with - blue.
The frontal intake fan at the bottom is a 140mm @ 1000RPM, generally fast enough for decent air-intake while maintaining low noise levels as well as helping to cool the hard drives.
All the intakes also feature dust filters, which of course means you don't have to go and make your own.







Inside there is more than enough space for a mid-end graphics card, though if you're looking to include say the ATI Radeon 5970, look elsewhere as the case only accomodates cards up to 290mm in length.

Shown below with an ATI Radeon 5770 installed.







Over on the top there are two 140mm fans @ 1000RPM, while at the back sits a 120mm fan @ 1500RPM, all working together to draw hot air out of the casing.







One main drawback to the LanCool casing is it weighs a hefty 9.55kg due to its SECC Steel construction, unlike the Lian Li casings which are made from light weight aluminium.
This basically makes the case a little LAN-unfriendly, with also the lack of a handle making it troublesome to carry around.




The K62 basically combines the best aspects of flash and functionality in an affordable package that's sure to please most gamers out there.
For those on an even smaller budget can do no wrong in checking out the other models in the Dragonlord series such as the K60, K58 and K56, as they offer the same quality with just a few minor cosmetic differences.


For further information, do visit www.lancoolpc.com.

Feb 24, 2010

Razer Abyssus gaming mouse overview.


Razer debuts its latest ambidextrous mouse - the Abyssus - and its curiously priced at mid-level in between and with features of the Salmosa ( DPI & Polling switches / 3-buttons) - but yet featuring the latest 3500DPI optical sensor as found in the DeathAdder Refresh.
Packaging contains nothing out of the Razer ordinary - Certificate, guides and stickers.
Again there is no CD containing the driver as that should be downloaded from razerzone.com to ensure you have the latest version.










Performance wise, with its No Drift Control which basically means No Prediction, one would be hard pressed to find much faults with the sensor.
The lighter weight of the mouse also really helps to get it moving effortlessly across the mat.
At the bottom of the mouse, one would find DPI and Polling rate switches for settings of 450 / 1800 / 3500 DPI and 125 / 1000hz respectively - though it would've been nice if 800DPI and 500hz was available.
As for the perfect mousepad for it, some guys over at razerblueprints (and they're all also really liking the Abyssus which says alot) have done tests and the eXactMat seems to come out on top for having the lowest lift-off distance. Razer's latest mat, the Vespula, should pretty much offer the same results.






The Abyssus meanwhile does not come with a braided cable as one would expect, just a regular one.
The top of the mouse also glows in the usual blue that we're all familiar with by now. Looks like there's no point anymore in arguing for having Razer green or even red LEDs now.



As can be seen, the Abyssus has a slimmer profile compared to the Imperator and which makes it more suited for fingertip and claw grip users.
And that's where my only gripe with the mouse comes in - in how the side is designed - where the button and the body sides meet at an outward angle to form a little ridge.
I tend to have a tight claw grip, and that ridge tends to cut into my ring finger and sometimes my thumb due to its lower profile.
Those who grip it lighter or with fingertips should really find this mouse to their liking.






Anyway, if it's good enough to help Serious Gaming's Cypher - who switched from the DeathAdder - to improve on his already high accuracy, then imagine what it can do for you.

Feb 22, 2010

Razer Vespula gaming mouse mat overview.


Six years since the eXactMat was first released - yes it's been that long - and its long-awaited replacement has finally arrived in the form of the Vespula.



The features of both the eXactMat and Vespula are pretty similar, with both featuring a Control and Speed side with rubber feet at all corners.
The packaging as shown below includes stickers and a nice wrist rest.
The Vespula though does not have the Aluminium base of the Exactmat, rather its made of plastic.









Ohhh look! An error in the text layout. Looks like someone somewhere is going to get it.






One main difference compared to the eXactMat is in how the Vespula feels. Previously, the eXactMat when laid down felt like the center of the mat was caving in a little everytime you laid your wrist on it.
Whatever the reasons were - soft base, thick feet - this does not affect the Vespula.






So the question is is the Vespula a worthy replacement for the Exactmat?
Basically one would find no real complains about it, except maybe for its slightly higher price, and will definitely help the current generation of gamers to happily continue fragging away.