Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

Sort-of Review: Razer Naga

Razer has been my peripheral maker of choice for a while now; I bought a Diamondback Plasma LtdEd a couple of years ago and haven’t looked back. Since then I had to replace the Diamondback with a 3G upgrade; the thin cable was smashed up against a lip on the back of my desk, and the amount of stress on it just made it snap inside. It served me well though, and the replacement hasn’t died yet.

Aion has drawn me to replace the Diamondback 3G with something that is more suited to the task; the Razer Naga. I first saw it in September ’09 when it had just come out and was the talk of everyone I spoke to who had even the vaguest interest in MMORPGs. The Naga is the epitome of hotkeys; it has a dedicated 12-grid of them, plus a pair next to the left mouse button.

The Naga was meant to be easy to control and easily customisable; Razer touted that they had to rewrite all the Profiling software especially for the Naga, that it made you a better MMO player simply by giving you access to all your skills, as well as other claims that I have to admit I doubted. As a caster class (Spiritmaster), I find myself having to stand still for my skills to complete, with a few instant cast spells. But even with a limited scope for improvement, I felt it very quickly. I had to rebind all my important keys, and changed the skill keys to select marked mobs. It was a real challenge at first and spent a little while just doing repeatable quests to get used to the layout, but it was working. I only ever stopped moving to change target and to use skills that required me to stay still.

It feels like Razer have a lot more pride in the product than usual; more than say the Diamondback or the DeathAdder. The solution that Razer represents in the Naga is a lot more complete, with the ‘trainers’ (stickable bits of rubber to train your thumb to the button positions) and the enhanced manuals. But inversely, Razer has always had pride in their peripherals. I think the extra push in presentation is due to MMO players being the most discerning. Every peripheral we buy is not only a cool piece of kit to sit on our desk; it’s an investment and something we’ll be spending a lot of time using. Hand cramps and RSI show up a lot quicker with MMO gamers down to the sheer amount of time that we spend on our computers.

I can say that the Razer Naga has made me a better player, and for any class that has mostly instant skills (In Aion, it would be mostly the Melee classes) this should be an instant-buy. For Cast-classes, I would also say get it. The price is reasonable for it’s calibre of product, and it also keeps your eyes focussed more on the screen and less on the keyboard when you have a full set of 60 buttons (12 with 5 modifier keys). Plus, the natural position the hand takes when on the mouse is seriously comfortable. For someone with fat fingers, this was a surprise and a welcome one at that.

If I had stars, I would Five Star it. However, I will say that if you have any interest in MMO gaming and find yourself removing your fingers from the WASD position during combat, you need this mouse to take your gaming up a notch.

Note: The interface that fakesteve talks about in the video wasn’t one that I used in Aion. Because of Aion’s embedded Macro interface and skill-bar layout, there hasn’t been a need to make an Add-on specifically for Aion. You bind your Naga’s buttons to the skillbar hotkeys, then change the skills the keys execute directly.

Review: Mass Effect 2 Firewalker DLC

Firewalker was finally released today, and the sad thing is that even though it was free,  I feel I was robbed. Let me go through it, for fear that I miss something.

Continue reading ‘Review: Mass Effect 2 Firewalker DLC’

REVIEW: Sanyo Xacti VPC-FH1 Dual Camera

Note: This review is done with two days experimenting with the camera with otherwise professional equipment (i.e. a professional-grade tripod), and with very little physical experience of the quality of other cameras on the market. The purchase price for the camera at the time was £289.99, with a spare battery, high-quality memory card and a camcorder bag for an extra £55. The remarks made about value for money, unless otherwise stated, will be in reference to the price mentioned.

With me having to step up to the semi-professional market when it comes to producing content, now that I am actively having to search for a website to contribute to and build up my repertoire, the most expensive piece of kit was going to be the camcorder. I had saved up for a couple of months, and since I had enough money, I decided to go for the more recent cameras. This meant that I would be futureproofing myself, as well as getting my hands on some of the bleeding edge features that wouldn’t be in my normal price range for a good year or two.

I immediately went looking at Sanyo cameras, and I spotted that Sanyo had brought out new cameras in their Xacti range. The TH1, the WH1, the HD2000, and the FH1. The TH1 was released as a mid-range camera that is capable of lower-size HD capture (720p, to be precise), although having seen footage from the TH1 it was obvious that it’s abilities in low-light environments were less-than good, and the still-photo options were apparently laughable compared to those that are available in comparable cameras. The WH1 has the same specs as the TH1, but can be submerged in up to 10ft of water, for an hour. The HD2000 is the absolute bleeding edge of this year’s releases, and is the only ‘pistol-grip’ camera that is in the new range. Despite it having no real other extras other than the ‘hotshoe’ and external mic port compared to the FH1, it was an extra £55. Therefore, I went to the FH1.

The specs pretty much talk for themselves; 1080i and 1080p capture sizes at full 60 frames per second, up to 600 frames per second on a smaller resolution, 12MP photos with an integrated camera flash. 16x Optical zoom, with a combined 160x zoom. Top recording time is supposedly 2hrs with the standard battery, but you can, immediately after a full charge, usually get another 20 minutes out of it.

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For usability, it uses the standard form factor, although the size of the camcorder itself is very small. It’s actual dimensions are 53.3(W)×57.3(H)×105.0(D)mm, and that’s the maximum dimensions (including lens) . Apart from the power button, all the controls are mounted at the back with the exception of the focus being on the top, although still situated as far to the rear of the camera as possible. Having not used other cameras before, I found this layout much easier to acclimate to than most appear to in the other reviews I have seen. The layout means that you can situate the camera, pop open the display with the opposite hand (the display has to be open in order for the unit to operate at all), hit the power button with the same hand, and then you can operate it one-handed until you need to turn it off. All the buttons are relatively accessibly with the thumb, and the index/middle finger can be used to alter the focus. Altogether it feels like a very natural process, and since the two most important functions have the two largest buttons on the back, the chance of you hitting a button incorrectly is very low. The build quality itself feels very high, and has a good feel in the hand that’s supporting it. There’s minimal glossy ‘fingerprint magnet’ surface, but it isn’t completely banished. Fingerprint magnet surfaces are the bane of my life, and this device has enough to make it look glossy, but Sanyo have had the sense to use a different plastic for most of the camera.

When it comes to actually messing with the camera’s settings, there is an absolute plethora of ways to turn things off and on, making the camera work different ways, or set the camera to be overridden by a confident user. However, these are hidden behind ‘tabs’, and it took me a little while (and a quick browsing through the manual) to find out how to get to the other settings. But at the same time, this is the only layer of menu; each option is displayed in the tab without having been grouped together into another menu inside a sub-menu, and this is appreciated.

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