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Logitech’s upgrade to the G11, the G110, is an excellent gaming keyboard with a number of features that will certainly make any gamer or desktop power user, take kindly to it and never look back.

The most notable feature is, as with all gaming-focused keyboards, the programmable keys that can be linked to just about any function, macro, script, or shortcut in both Windows applications and games. The keyboard comes with 12 “G” keys to the left side with three profiles (M1, M2, M3) that are easily programmed and allow for on-the-fly switching, effectively giving you 36 programmable keys. Each of the three profiles can be assigned a color from red to blue and anything in between (meaning lots of shades of purple are possible). While the backlight for the keys isn’t quite as bright as you would like, the color differences are noticeable if you stay to extreme ends of the spectrum. Progressively lighter shades of purple won’t do you much good here.

Another great feature is the “desktop/gaming mode” switch located above the first bank of Function Keys along the top. Clicking this over into “game” mode disables the Windows and Context Keys making inadvertent trips to the desktop a thing of the past when you really just wanted to hit CTRL to crouch behind a crate.

Along the top ridge are standard mini jacks for your gaming headset (microphone and headset) as well as mute buttons for each. Also available is a standard USB 2.0 jack, although this jack is non-powered. To the upper right corner are the standard media controls with a volume control wheel and a mute button, all work natively with Windows without any additional software.

To program all of the function keys you’ll need to install the provided Logitech software which allows for customized programming of each of the 36 “G” keys, for basic functionality you can enter in your own macro commands, or record a keystroke macro and make common functions easier to perform. For desktop power users you can even enter in blocks of text that make repetitive typing easier.

The keys themselves are very soft and quite, after being used to a slightly more rigid keyboard for typing, it takes some getting used to, but you adapt quickly depending on your need for tactical feedback. The extra size of the keyboard (due to the programmable keys) makes finding your “home” location a bit more difficult without looking and the nubs on the F and J keys are a little smaller than usual, so don’t be surprised if you somehow start on the wrong key and hit CAPS LOCK a bunch in the beginning, you’ll eventually get the hang of it.

In the end the G110 is a solid, thin, and versatile keyboard that allows for deep customization in a variety of applications, while profile importing is allowed, there isn’t a huge community actively hosting profiles to download, but even generic gaming profiles would get novices users on the right foot, maybe even game publishers releasing recommended profiles wouldn’t be such a bad thing. You can’t go wrong with the G110, coupled with a G9 Laser Mouse to frag some aliens this weekend.

After spending a few weeks with the Nextar I4-BC you find that there are a lot of features packed into this little navigation unit, but, ultimately, the big guns in the nav arena just make it too hard for anyone to really stand out, this unit included.

The big selling point of the I4-BC is the wireless (almost) backup camera which can be affixed to your car near the license plate (it uses the top or bottom two retaining bolts to stay in place), however, while the camera is wireless to the navigation unit, it still requires power from the car’s reverse lights in order to properly work. The 12V+ power from the lights also sends the trigger to the camera (and the navigation head unit) that the car is in reverse. However, due to the installation limitations of the camera (including drilling new holes in our vehicles bumpers), the camera was not tested for this review. The instructions provided by Nextar, included in printed form and available online in PDF format, are detailed enough that any novice could complete the job.

The navigation unit was tested along side the built in Mitsubishi navigation unit in a 2008 Lancer GTS (see pictures in this review for a visual comparison). The head unit boasts a 4.3” touch screen with voice guided turn by turn prompts, over a million points of interest as well as bonus features like a picture viewer and MP3 player (only functional with a SD card installed). The picture viewer is a curious addition when the driver should probably be focused on the road, and while adding in MP3 support internally is great, the single, tinny speaker doesn’t provide great sound you would want to listen to over road and social noise inside the vehicle.

The maps on the review unit were instantly outdated with a date code more than two years old, leaving many locations in the ever developing Phoenix area completely off the map. Upgrading the unit requires an SD card, and while this is an acceptable means of replacing maps, it shouldn’t be the only way available as we would have liked to see USB support, or even over-the-air downloads of new maps or points of interest. Frequently navigation was jittery with our current location jumping around, almost as if there was significant lag in determining your fix. GPS start up times were long, sometimes taking minutes depending on location, and a few times we were forced to hard-reboot the unit in order to obtain a GPS location.

When we were able to find a location to plot a route to the unit was accurate and seemed to emulate the similarly outdated built in navigation system in the Lancer, although its on the fly route updating did take longer than we would have liked, the turn by turn voice and navigation co-pilot where pleasant, clear, and much better than a few other navigation systems we’ve tested. The touch screen is responsive and organized logically with ETA, remaining time, and miles till destination presented on the bottom of the screen. There is a stylus hidden on the edge of the unit for precision use but it’s almost impossible to use it while mounted to either the dashboard or window and will require you taking down the unit.

Nextar provides an internal Li-Ion battery to power the unit as well as a 12V car adapter, wall charger, carrying case, arm mount with suction cup, USB cable, and the aforementioned backup camera.

The I4-BC is a very capable navigation system that suffers from a few problems that keep it from propelling itself to the next level. The unit is solidly constructed, the screen is clear, and the main features of a navigation system like route planning and turn-by-turn work great, however these are marred by a slow boot up time, and almost impossible to manage on-the-fly controls due to the touch screen. The backup camera is a nice addition to set it apart from the field, and for vehicles that don’t have one standard, and owners who are willing to do some rudimentary wiring changes, the I4-BC is worth considering.

The idea of gaming in 3D is a novel one, and on paper it seems like a no-brainer. The bullets of a first person shooter flying towards you, the eerie atmosphere of Rapture seeping into you, the expansive land of Azeroth all around you, and the possibilities are endless. However, after a few hours of play you realize that 3D gaming is just like virtual reality, its neat, but it gets old fast and it won’t be long before you’re aiming to go back to a traditional setup with crisper graphics and less headaches.

The iZ3D 22” Widescreen LCD 3D Monitor is basically two monitors in one, utilizing dual DVI or one DVI and one VGA port the display presents two images slightly out of phase with one another. You, the user, use a set of polarized lenses to bring the images together and make them pop out of the screen. Subtle adjustments can be made to the “phase” of the images so you can line them up in your favorite games using hotkeys on the keyboard.

Setup of the monitor was okay, but not as intuitive as you’d expect. The screen ships with two dual-link DVI cables and a standard VGA cables. Your video card must have dual outputs for the monitor to work. The first problem here is with the connectors, the second DVI connector is placed directly in front of the stand, making plugging in the cable difficult for those with bigger hands, we actually had to remove the base and lay the monitor on its face to connect everything.

From a non-functional standpoint the monitor is much larger than your average LCD, this is because of the dual panel technology used to simulate the 3D images, the monitor is also heavier than a standard 22” (in this case a Gateway 22” Widescreen). Five buttons are located under the screen with a blue power light to the right of those. The monitor is able to be mounted to a bracket with four standoff holes on the rear and the entire stand can be removed. Only a vertical angle adjustment is available, no swivel and no turn into portrait mode from landscape.

Performance is where things really count and the iZ3D manages, but doesn’t astound. The first game we tried was the supposedly supported World of Warcraft, after booting into the game we activated the “stereo mode” by hitting the * key on the Num Pad, from here holding shift and tapping (-) or (+) on the Num Pad will adjust the offset of the two images. Assuming you keep your camera distance steady your character would seem in phase, however NPCs, icons, even trees and the road we were standing on in Thunder Bluff seemed out of phase. A slight adjustment of the camera distance meant we had to recalibrate the offset once again. The 3D images didn’t seem to pop as much as we’d like, and what we were left with was a slightly blurry experience.

The next test was to boot up Steam and try out Portal and Audiosurf, the former being supported, the latter not on iZ3D’s official game list. Portal wouldn’t even boot as it crashed out each and every time we tried to run it with the iZ3D drivers and monitor installed, the game ran fine without the monitor present. Audiosurf initially crashed when we attempted to put it into full screen but eventually worked. On the menus we were able to make the center of the screen stay in phase, however the top bar and bottom of the screen showed up as ghostly images akin to a TV signal over bad rabbit ears. Audiosurf itself was unplayable as the colored bars came at you in separate pieces, sometimes not being able to tell what color they were until just before your craft hit them, sometimes not until afterwards.

The iZ3D can be used as a standard monitor for office applications, although it isn’t a great one with colors being muddy and images being less crisp than competing monitors running DVI cables as well. For the price the lack of multiple inputs like component or composite is also disappointing. The novelty of the monitor will have you eventually going back to just a regular old flat panel, but you may keep the glasses around to look stylish while playing.

Ever since Apple introduced video to the iPod, the portal media player market has really taken off. Sure it existed prior to the 5G iPods, but with iTunes integration and TV shows on demand, everything has been about your media, anywhere you want it. Several smaller companies have also stepped into the game (including behemoth Sony with the PSP) and started to release low-cost, high functionality media players. The T30 from Nextar is one such player, a $100 unit boasting the ability to play videos, music, FM radio, e-Books, display pictures, and even voice record, but with the old adage of “you get what you pay for” firmly in place, the T30 has some definite room to grow.

The basic design of the unit is small, compact, thin, and easily hidden in a pocket for use just about anywhere. The 4GB unit (expandable to 6GB using a SD or MMC card) boasts a 3.5” 320×240 LCD screen, USB 2.0 transfer speeds, and 1000 mAH Lithium-Ion Battery. The face of the unit is clean, just slightly bigger than the screen with a stereo emulated speaker to the right, all encased in glossy black plastic. All the buttons are located around the edge (accented in orange). On the top you have the power, record, next, previous, and return buttons, all used for navigating the main menu. Along the right side are two volume control buttons with the play/pause button nestled in-between them. Finally, on the left side are the I/O jacks featuring the USB hook up, headphone jack, 5V DC input, and hardware reset button.

The USB plug has considerable problems as the shallow receptacle on the unit itself causes the computer to detect the media player, but at the slightest touch, the connectors can lose connection, dropping it off. The only way we could find to successfully establish and keep a USB connection was to turn the unit on its side and continually apply light pressure to the USB connector, making sure it was snug. The instant we would let go, the computer would drop the USB device.

With such a small unit navigation can be a problem at times, and the T30 takes some getting used to. The next and previous buttons are used to navigate the main menu, a ring of icons that can travel to the left or right depending on the button clicked. However, you must use the play/pause button to select the item, meaning there is no good way to hold the unit in such a way you won’t have to fumble around to find the correct button. After selecting your mode, you are dumped to a file browser where now the volume control buttons become your up and down navigation scheme and the play/pause retains its role. It might have been better to universally use the volume buttons for navigation, or incorporate some sort of jog dial to make scrolling easier.The screen itself is very good, even in sunlight, although viewing angle could be wider, but this is really a non-issue considering you’re going to most likely be viewing the unit directly on most of the time.

Audio playback is what you would expect with a simulated stereo speaker, the songs (and recorded playback) are audible, there’s very little distortion even at higher volume levels, but the speaker itself is weak, with decent projection cranked all the way up, but maybe not as loud as you’d like it from a foot or two away. The music interface is basic, but it will read ID3 tags and associated lyric files when properly named and configured. In addition to MP3 files, the T30 will play both protected and unprotected Windows Media 9 files, however you must use Windows Media Player to transfer the files encased in DRM. No AAC support is offered, which is a letdown considering many iTunes users may have converted all of their files to the format when ripping CDs.

Video support is another mixed bag. The T30 itself only supports AVI format, meaning all of your media files in other formats will need to be converted before they can be transferred. This poses somewhat of a problem it isn’t as easy as drag and drop files to play. However competing devices like the iPod Touch and Sony PSP also require a certain format to play for arguments sake. The bundled AVI Converter will allow you to import RM, VOB, DAT, MPG, RMVB, MP4, ASF, WMV, and MKV files and covert and resize them to work on the T30. Notably absent is support for QuickTime and H.264 MPEG-4 files, two big hits on out of the box functionality. The standard resolution of 320×240 also means that larger files could lose a majority of their definition in the conversion process. Honestly though, you aren’t going to be watching Blu-ray quality movies on a portable device like this, if that’s your intention, start looking elsewhere.AVI Conversion uses the provided program with a simple interface. Users will add files to the converter queue by specifying the original file, target file, quality, and the scope of the video they’d like to convert. Conversion is generally quick, for the most part, although the program does tend to lock up when converting, starting at 1% and ending on 100%, with no indication of anything going on in-between. We experienced several program locks that displayed 1% of the conversion was complete, but looking in the target folder, the file was done and ready to go.

While the unit boasts the ability to pick up, record, and play FM stations, it can’t be viably done without the headphones plugged in as the T30 uses them as an antenna. Without them in, we weren’t able to pick up a single station even in close proximity to the relay signals in the Phoenix area atop South Mountain. The ability to record the files, and later export them off the unit is a novel addition, however. Similarly, voice recording for reminders or that upcoming secret conversation you want to keep a record of works well, with the files being saved to a separate folder for easy playback.

The T30 comes with all the attachments you’d need to get yourself started. A printed manual, felt carrying bag, headphone adapter (to use with standard headphones), a set of earbud headphones, power adapter, USB cable, and CD containing the AVI converter program and other manuals all come with the $100 unit.

In the grand scheme of things, the T30 does a lot of things right, if you are willing to convert your video library to AVI and audio to MP3, provided you use a good set of headphones, the unit does what it’s designed to do for a very affordable cost. Although there’s lots of room for growth and functionality advancements we’d like to see in future units from Nextar, or even a refresh of the T30. For the price, the T30 can be recommended for those on a budget that want to take some media with them on a decent screen with lots of functions, however for those looking for a more high fidelity experience, there are better, albeit, more expensive, options available.

SteelSeries always has a knack for providing the world with stunning sound for any application, and the addition of the earbud headphones to the mix is no exception.

The full headsets that SteelSeries has delivered have always been top notch. With computer gaming, the sound is crisp, clear and very well placed. You can hear the rustling of grass behind your left shoulder, you can hear the sounds of gunfire coming from great distances, you can hear it all. Unfortunately, that sound clarity does not transfer to the in ear headphones with ease. It’s one thing to be able to produce that kind of sound with large speakers that surround your ear, it’s another thing entirely to pull it off when it’s in your ear. During testing with World of Warcraft, I just didn’t get the sound clarity that I was hoping for. I won’t chalk it up to a flaw in the design of the earbuds, it’s simply a shortcoming of the earbud style itself.

However, for music enjoyment, these deliver in every way I was expecting. The packaging comes with two different in ear inserts. The typical rubber dome shaped inserts, as well as a three layered design that I’ve never come across before. I’m assuming that this design is for keeping more of the sound going into your ear and not escaping, but I didn’t notice a difference, other than the discomfort of the insert. It’s pretty big, and unless you have big ear canals, you’ll probably want to stick to the traditional inserts. Cord length is pretty standard, it’s long enough to keep your iPod in your pocket and still have some room to move around, but not so long that you are tripping over your own cord. The wire is the new softer rubber design that is resistant to kinking, and doesn’t catch on everything like the standard wire covers to. The bud fits pretty well in the ear and doesn’t fall out at the slightest tug like the stock iPod earbuds seem to.

The sound is second to none. Rock, techno, pop, even spoken word all come across clearly and balanced. The sound was never too tinny or too full of bass, it was a good mix of levels and made for a very enjoyable music listening experience. It also offers a small amount of ambient sound dampening. I tested the headphones on an airplane and I was able to hear the music at a reasonable level without getting outside sounds in. Granted, they’re certainly not design for noise canceling, but they do a pretty good job of keeping the noise out all on their own.

Overall, these headphones are best for your iPod. They put out a great sound, they’re comfortable, and the price is definitely right. Leave the computer gaming to the big headphones, and take these along with you when you need a good music fix.

Entertainmentopia continues on the Razer train with a look at the new Razer Destructor precision mouse pad boasting a higher response rate and faster speeds as compared to the $2 pads that come with your shiny new computer. The Destructor utilizes a pitted and grooved plastic material collectively referred to as Razer Fractal Technology which provides both a smooth surface and added mouse speed due to the optics of your mouse interacting with the fine pits in the plastic.

As with most high end gaming pads, the Destructor comes neatly packed in a nylon, zip-up case for easy transport. Embroidered with the Razer logo in green and housing foam specially designed to hold your new addition firmly in place the perks of the product are certainly worth the $40 MSRP purchase.

The mouse pad itself, as described above, is grey with a black Razer logo and “Destructor” name curiously using an ant as the products logo (moving away from the snake names used by previous Razer products). The underside of the pad features a rubberized grip to bind it to your desk and prevent slippage. During our tests we did notice some movement, about a half inch creep after a couple hour session, so some readjustment may be necessary at times, but this isn’t a big factor.

The performance of the pad is hard to test other than subjective means, but the Destructor provided a great surface for gaming, graphic design, and for normal home use. Gaming tests were conducted using Audiosurf, World of WarCraft, Bioshock, and Portal, with control of each game firmly in the user’s grasp. As with cheaper pads the laser can become lost due to the same color or reflective nature, but the pits and grooves in the Destructor provide a unique surface for the laser (in our case, a Logitech G5) to track, giving us excellent response time. Graphics work was done in Adobe Fireworks CS3 with some vector and freehand drawing of web graphics. At a high zoom level, even minute movements were tracked accurately and precisely.

The Razer Destructor is an excellent addition to your gaming setup, coupled with a gaming grade mouse and keyboard. While the rubber grip wasn’t as strong as you may like during longer play sessions, the hard plastic, with a unique shape and design certainly works in your favor when gunning for that game winning frag or avoiding the latest Big Daddy to be in hot pursuit.

Many gamers around the globe will recognize the name Razer, long known for its PC gaming products before the niche market was even developed there wasn’t an aspiring PC gamer who didn’t want a Razer mouse strapped to their hang fragging way in Quake III Arena. The company has expanded into all markets of gaming geared products. The lightweight Piranha is the latest headset from the company which offers a combine headset and mic setup, how does the headset fare in the ever crowding marketplace?

The first thing you notice about the Razer is the USB cable dangling off the end next to the red mic and green headphone plugs. This powers the hypnotizing blue Razer logo on each of the earpieces and the cord-based volume control unit. A nice little touch not seen on most headsets that would really make you stand out at the next LAN party.

The headset features a swivel microphone as opposed to the hide-away ones used on SteelSeries’ lineup of headsets. The mic has a 90 degree rotation and meshes in with the contours of the headset while in the up position and rests far enough away from your mouth in the down position. There is very little adjustment to its placement when down, the plastic constructing the unit isn’t very formable, with good reason as moving it too much would prohibit it from return to the up position. The gain on the microphone is excellent for its distance from your face, in our tests microphone recording was excellent, clear, and crisp without any static on the files we created or over Vent.

Sound output was great as well, although a little lighter as far as a medium volume setting goes compared to other headsets we’ve tested. This is by no means a problem; you just need to be careful when switching between headsets, or going to speakers. To test sound we utilized several high quality AAC files in Apple iTunes, a combination of tracks ripped, purchased, and listened to directly from a CD were used, with all sounding excellent. The bass spectrum wasn’t as punchy as we would like, and when compared to the upper models of rival SteelSeries’ offerings I was a little disappointed, but sound output was great otherwise with crisp music and sound effects in World of WarCraft (our benchmark title). Moving the headset to an Apple 5G iPod also yielded similar results, a slightly softer bass but overall excellent quality sound.

Comfort is the biggest thing, besides sound, when dealing with headsets and the Piranha is a light-weight entry into the market with its over-the-head band and padding make it rest easy on the ears without nearly any fatigue after a long raiding session. The padded earpieces fit over the ear for the most part providing a good cone of sound, however the headset is not noise canceling.

The little touches also add up including a ridiculously long cable which is braided until about the last foot when it separates into three distinct wires (mic, headphones, USB). I would have liked to see a little less of the three separate cables as most gamer’s systems are going to have the three ports fairly close together negating the need for so much unbraided cable. The in-line remote, as previously mentioned, features a bright blue Razer logo, microphone mute button, and headset volume control along with a clip to hang it from your clothes while playing.

The $80 MSRP headset is a great addition to your gaming setup with excellent sound quality and the noise-canceling mic is one of the best we’ve seen. The unit doesn’t have some of the flashy bells and whistles found on some of the competing products, and its bass output isn’t exactly gamer tuned, but a solid, light-weight and comfortable construction with its own set of perks certainly put the Piranha in the top of its class.

Back in the late 1990’s and early portions of this decade all the cool kids had CD players and 64MB MP3 players in high school. One of the inventions of the time was the neckband headphone, with some of the first being released by Sony and quickly picked up on campus by the elite few who could afford them. They were a showcase that you knew how to look good, and keep a neat head of hair while rocking out to Third Eye Blind or Dave Matthews. Today the neckband headset has fallen by the wayside to pave the way for inexpensive and unimposing earbuds ushered in by the Apple-era of MP3 players. Still neckbands are being released, and in the gaming scene they make a comeback with the SteelSeries Siberia Neckband, albeit to some mixed results.

The feature set of the Siberia Neckband is just as rich as all the other entries in the niche manufactures collection. These assets include solid construction, detectable volume control, expanded use for home and gaming, as well as a great sound from the ear cups themselves and the retractable microphone. The previous Siberia model lacked the latter option, instead opting for more functionality as a MP3 accessory with a external mic.

The two biggest options with any headset is sound, and comfort, one of which the Siberia Neckband keeps up the proud tradition of the SteelSeries line, the other, seems a bit off from previous offerings. First the good, the Neckband sounds just as good as its big brothers with deep bass and crisp audio clarity in our standard bevy of tests including gaming (Audiosurf, World of WarCraft, and Portal) and music (both direct from a PC and using a Apple 5G iPod). You can never really complain about SteelSeries and audio quality, their audio processing capabilities of their entire line of headphones is second to none.

However the comfort of this device is the one area where it is lacking and this is a direct effect of the choice in neckband style over the traditional over the head band. While the Siberia Neckband isn’t big, bulky, or particularly heavy, the headset does tend to slip, quite a bit if you’ve been perspiring. As the headphones drift down, and the neckband itself tends to angle downward, the added pressure on the top of the ears can cause some discomfort after extended playtimes. While this can easily be altered by taking frequent breaks (as you should do anyway) sometimes Shattered Halls won’t run itself and you’ll need a marathon session.

The rest of the features are great including Xbox 360 support which just puts icing on the cake (cake which isn’t a lie of course). The 360 adapter plugs into the micro jack on the bottom of your controller, then the included extension cable can be used to plug the output sound (the ear cups) directly into your receiver while allowing your mic output to pass through the console and onto the game you are playing over Live. The retractable mic also makes it easy to stow the unit when not being used, or easily pull it out for the latest Call of Duty 4 match when your buddy comes online. This is easily one of the shinning points for the unit.

As far as construction goes, it’s up to SteelSeries aforementioned solid quality. The headphones don’t feel hollow, the neckband itself stretches to fit just about anyone’s size head, and the spring mechanism distributes the same amount of force no matter the size of your noggin, big or small. The elegant white color matches with both iPods and your Xbox 360, so if color coordination is your thing, consider yourself set.

If you’re able to get past the shortcomings in the comfort of the headset you’ll find that the Siberia Neckband proudly carries on the tradition set down by SteelSeries of producing a great array of units specifically tailored to the gamer. Maybe with some modifications a v2 could eliminate the slipping problem and craft the second coming of the neckband where users are free to once again rock out, without messing up that wonderful head of hair.

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