Hardware Platform RSS Feed | GameSkinny.com Hardware RSS Feed on GameSkinny.com https://www.gameskinny.com/ en Launch Media Network TCL P-Series 55-inch TV Review: 4K Gaming on a Budget https://www.gameskinny.com/vwxxb/tcl-p-series-55-inch-tv-review-4k-gaming-on-a-budget https://www.gameskinny.com/vwxxb/tcl-p-series-55-inch-tv-review-4k-gaming-on-a-budget Thu, 12 Apr 2018 10:38:34 -0400 Ethan S (Point Blank Gaming)

If you are at all in the market for a 4k television, you have heard the buzz around TCL's new P-series. With built-in Roku, High Dynamic Range (HDR), and Dolby Vision support, and its too-good-to-be-true $599 price point, TCL made a huge splash into the American television industry.

Sure, you can go to Rtings.com and pour over the minutia of this TV's specs, obsessing over the gray levels and peak brightness, but...

If you were looking for a real consumer and gamer's perspective on this TV's performance, not useless data and inconsistent user reviews, you have most certainly come to the right place. Without further ado...

Design

A TCL's P-Series 55-ion TV sits on a TV stand and shows its main menu with red backgroundSource: CNET

TCL really made a slick piece of hardware with this set.  It's thin, attractive, and lightweight if you are looking to mount it. If you plan on using a table or stand, the legs it comes with screw on easily and are more than adequate.  The minimal bezel on the sides give the screen a nice 'frameless' look, especially when placed flat against a wall.

You should have no issues with input and output; Multiple HDMI 2.0 ports, a USB port, and even a headphone jack occupy the right side of the TV (if you are facing the screen). And, thankfully, there are some physical buttons on the back of the television.

Functionality

The Roku logo

This TCL model comes built-in with Roku TV's smart software, and it is impressive to say the least. The tile-based user interface is snappy, customizable, and easy on the eyes. Roku provides a great platform for streaming, with both their own free channels and access to the usual suspects (Netflix and Amazon). 

The platform is surprisingly comprehensive in its offerings, including live sports content, and I have yet to use a console or laptop for streaming since getting this TV. Being able to rename and quickly switch between inputs has been a godsend for gaming, and the remote even has dedicated Netflix and Hulu buttons for your binge-worthy compulsions.  

With applications galore and plenty of cable TV alternatives, Roku's software should be able to cover almost every base for the typical consumer.  

Performance

Horizon Zero Dawn played on a TCL P-Series

It's the most important question and likely the reason your here, how does this set actually perform? First, a quick overview.

This model is only produced and sold with a 55-inch screen, so those looking a for a larger display are out of luck. Tech-wise, this panel touts a 10-bit wide color gamut for HDR content, 72 separate lighting zones for its "local-dimming" feature, and a bevy of picture settings to tinker around with. For convenience sake, we'll break the performance section down into a few categories...

HDR Gaming

Gaming is arguably the best reason to own a TCL P-series, and I wasted no time hooking mine up to a PlayStation 4 Pro console. I used the included HDMI cable, enabled a few options in the Playstation and TV settings, and was up and running at 4k/60Hz in no time.

First off, turning on the television's game mode lets you play with a rapid 13 millisecond response time, even in 4K with HDR enabled. Online multiplayer feels responsive enough for the most discerning gamer, and going back to a standard 1080p TV or playing at a friend's house will likely feel sluggish in comparison. 

Visually, HDR is stunning if not inconsistent. I may have disparaged the in-depth tech specifications on websites like Rtings, but it is fair to say that this TV is right on the threshold of being HDR capable. Its color gamut is just wide enough, its screen just bright enough, and so the quality of HDR being implemented is often left to the game's developers. 

Horizon: Zero Dawn and Assassin's Creed Origins look unbelievable in HDR, whereas FIFA 18 is dull and unimpressive. The result is a television that can display HDR as intended but cannot carry the load for sub-par implementation.

Every game somewhat suffers from strange light and color shifting due to the local dimming feature, but the individual zones work well enough to increase contrast across the entire screen. Do not get me wrong: your gaming experience with this television will be miles ahead of your current setup.  Games that are patched to run at a higher resolution look noticeably crisper than standard 1080p. But if you want the deepest blacks and brightest colors possible across the board, you will need to buy a more expensive set than this one.  

HDR Movies & TV

Breaking Bad played on a TCL P-Series shows Walter White and Jesse Pinkman wearing hazmat suits

While I maintain that gaming is the best reason to own this television, non-gaming 4K content is often more beautiful and consistently well-implemented.  Whether you are watching a disc or streaming on Amazon, the level of detail, realistic lighting, and possible shades of colors are certainly head and shoulders above your current television. Even older series like Breaking Bad look brand new in 4K resolution -- HDR or not. Despite the low price point, you should expect a cinema-like experience with this purchase, especially if you invested in a 4K Blu-ray player (unfortunately, the PS4 Pro does not play 4K Blu-rays).  

Glaring Issues

Although my thoughts on this TV are overwhelmingly positive, there are a few glaring issues that are worth talking about. 

Live sports do not look too good unless you are watching in 4K resolution.  The local-dimming feature seems to have trouble with the camera panning across a single-colored background, which football, soccer, hockey, and basketball all suffer from. 

In regards to screen brightness, this set does have some reflection issues in a well-lit room, as well as a narrow viewing angle. Ultimately, it's not the best choice for a big living room.

Lastly, you are going to want to avoid up-scaling content. 1080p Blu-rays look incredible off disc, but streaming regular HD content or playing off of a base PS4 will start to look blurry as your eyes adjust. You'll ultimately want to upgrade your hardware to get the most out of this television.

Source: Kevin the Tech Ninja

Verdict

Overall, I would strongly recommend the TCL P-series as your first 4K television. You simply will not find a better or more capable set at this price point -- especially with the same impressive gaming features and true HDR support. It doesn't hurt that Roku TV is the best built-in software I've used on any smart television, completely eliminating the need for an external box. You really have to marvel at how much they crammed into this budget television.

And while it is easy to get carried away with the overall value of this purchase -- as I certainly have -- this TV is still not for everyone. Having 72 separate contrast zones ultimately works for HDR content, but there are still some issues with the "local-dimming" feature and how it shifts colors across the screen. Discerning viewers may consider this a deal-breaker, but the overwhelming majority of you should be happy with the results.

If you plan on buying this television for more traditional uses, like watching cable TV or sports broadcasts in a large room, you may want to look elsewhere. Not that the P-series isn't capable enough, there are just cheaper options better suited to that experience. Issues with viewing-angle and glare ultimately hurt the P-series in a living room setting.

However, if you are salivating at the chance to test your shiny new game console, if you are ready to binge all the 4K content on Netflix and Amazon, if you want real High Dynamic Range color and lighting to elevate your 4K experience, then you will look no further than the TCL-P series.

This is the cheapest way to make your 4K dream a reality.

You can buy the TCL P-Series 4K TV on Amazon for $649.99.

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AOC AG322QCX Curved, Freesync Gaming Monitor Review https://www.gameskinny.com/fqe9t/aoc-ag322qcx-curved-freesync-gaming-monitor-review https://www.gameskinny.com/fqe9t/aoc-ag322qcx-curved-freesync-gaming-monitor-review Thu, 05 Apr 2018 12:53:40 -0400 Jonathan Moore

The type of screen you game on matters. Whether you're playing alone in Far Cry 5 or against the world in Fortnite, things like refresh rate, response time, viewing angle, and pixel density can drastically alter your gaming experience -- and by proxy, immersion and success. With that in mind, AOC's Agon line of monitors looks to keep you competitive on and offline while giving you an elegant set piece to round out your desktop setup. 

Released late last year, the AG322QCX gaming monitor prioritizes AMD gamers, offering them an affordable panel that's got a lot going for it under the hood. Featuring FreeSync technology and a 1800R, 31.5" screen, the AG322 makes 144Hz sing and 2560x1440p res look great on a wide-angle panel. 

Melding elegance with practicality -- as well as a few interesting tricks -- there's little doubt the AG322 commands the consideration of any AMD gamer looking for a new screen. However, that doesn't mean it's a perfect solution, either. At $399, this AOC monitor may live in a mid-tier price bracket, but there are a few things to consider depending on your current and future needs. 

Design

One of the things I appreciate about AOC's Agon line of gaming monitors is how sleek they look on any desktop. Eschewing the typically boring "black box" design found on many monitors, the AG322 continues AOC's penchant for elegance by deftly augmenting the monitor's mostly matte black finish with silver accents and LED lighting.

The thin, muted bezel of the sides and top nicely flows into the glossy, slightly wider portion running along the bottom. And on the back of the monitor, you'll find a silver plate attached to the middle portion that rises up almost like wings (it looks similar to the red chevron on the back of the AG271QG).

On both the bottom bezel and the silver back plate, you'll also find LED accents that can be either turned completely off or easily set to varying intensities of red, blue, or green. The LEDs along the bottom are housed within a clear plastic that runs from one side of the monitor to the other, stopping in the middle where the AG322's OSD button resides. And on the back, the LEDs are housed in an opaque plastic that keeps them from being too obtrusive. 

Around the back is where you'll also find the AG322's VESA mount and stand bracket. When you take the monitor out of the box for the first time, you'll have the option to either attach the included stand or another one you've got lying about. If you choose to go with the included stand, you'll find that it's crafted out of sturdy steel, and although its three pronged feet give the stand character, they do take up quite a bit of space due to their triangular configuration (which I found a tad disagreeable with my current setup). 

However, with the included stand, you'll be afforded quite a bit of movement once you've got it together. The fully adjustable support lets you raise, lower, pivot, and tilt the monitor at your leisure. With a VA screen this large, that's a great feature to have at your disposal -- and it really helps you get the best viewing angle for your space. 

As for inputs, although AOC's typical side-panel offerings aren't found on the AG322, the monitor does have I/Os in spades. If you look underneath the silver panel along the back of the monitor, directly underneath the VESA mount, you'll find the following ports: 2x HDMI 2.0, 2x Display 1.2, 1x VGA, 1x line in, 1x microphone out, 1x Quick Switch Keypad (which comes with the monitor for quick OSD support), and 1x power. Move to the left of that -- just under the left wing of the silver plate -- and you'll find ports for mic in and headphones, as well as 1x USB 3.0 downstream + fast-charging, 1x USB 3.0 downstream, and 1x USB 3.0 upstream. 

 

Performance

Thankfully, the AG322's OSD is much easier to access than the one found on the AG271QG. Here, everything's controlled by a single, central button found just beneath the AGON logo on the front of the monitor. You can press the center of the button to open the entire on-screen display -- or you can click any of the square's sides to open one of four quick menus that, for example, let you adjust the monitor's LED intensity or choose which input you'd like to use. 

The inside of the OSD itself is also (thankfully) easier to navigate than the one found on the AG271QG. One of my main gripes with that monitor was its OSD wasn't entirely intuitive and required too many clicks to get through. AOC's fixed that here, and while one menu option (Image Setup) was always grayed out during my review, all six other options were easy enough to navigate and tweak. 

It's worth noting that you'll have quite a few image presets to choose from with the AG322 -- some better than others. Depending on what option you choose, some of the OSD's options may be grayed out that previously were not. That means you won't get full customizability all the time, but honestly, that's something to be expected and not a big gripe on our end. 

To actually test the monitor's color, brightness, contrast, gamma settings, response times, and more, we made sure to use the Langom Display Test and Blur Busters to get a bit more granular. We also adjusted our OS and GTX 1080 color settings to reflect an unbiased setting. Note: Aside from any adjustments mentioned below, all of these measurements were captured with the AG322's settings turned to default. 

Contrast

Although the specs on the AG322 say the monitor can achieve a 50M:1 dynamic contrast ratio, the average player is most likely going to mostly experience its 2,000:1 static contrast ratio. We won't get into the minutia of why that is (you can check this article out for that), but all in all, the contrast ratio on this screen is pretty durn good.

Its contrast scores well on the LDT. Nearly all bars from the left to the right are discernible from one another, with marked demarcations between each one. The only bar that's a bit murky is the darkest blue bar, meaning dark darks may be a bit hard to separate. 

Sharpness

Sharpness on the AG322 is a bit off out of the box. Using the LDT page for this measurement, the test boxes never fully integrated or blended in with the gray background -- no matter how hard I squinted my eyes.

They nearly became uniform during testing, but there were still rough edges and centers to each of them. Unfortunately, we were not able to adjust the default sharpness, which we believe is behind the locked "Image Setup" tab in the OSD, so we aren't able to definitively say the monitor gets better with a few tweaks in this department. However, we can say the test was worst at Gamma3, best at Gamma2.

Gamma

Gamma is the brightness of intermediate tones of color, with the Langom Test using red, green, blue, and gray for examination. The AG322QCX has a native gamma setting of Gamma1, which can be changed to Gamma2 or Gamma3 -- for varying results.

However, working through all three gamma settings, the Langom Display Test showed that the monitor wasn't able to coalesce colors around the 2.2 thresholds on any of the settings. Tweaking contrast settings did not ameliorate the issue on either the 48%, 25%, or 10% luminance bars.

Instead, Gamma1 coalesced around 2.1, Gamma2 around 1.9, and Gamma3 around 2.3. 

In-game, we didn't notice any terrible deviations between light and dark colors across the spectrum, but we did notice some seepage -- as is common with VA monitors -- in later tests, such as viewing angles, as well as some washing in Gamma2. 

Black Level

Viewed from straight on, no matter the height, the first black square in this Langom Test is barely distinguishable. One can make out the top- and bottom-right corners -- just slightly.

Taking another angle, from straight on and with the monitor at its lowest point, neither the first nor second square can be seen using the default brightness of 50. Even at 100, the first two squares cannot be seen (I'm 5'8" sitting straight up, for reference). 

With the monitor at its highest point and tilted at its most extreme, the first three black squares are indistinguishable from the background. The same issue persists if viewed from its highest angle, straight down. Objectively, most users won't be using the monitor this way, but it does show that not every angle produces the truest blacks -- and that you can run into some issues playing games like Vermintide 2, which rely on stark contrasts and deep blacks. In fact, while playing that game in particular, I did notice some black mottling in the top right-hand corner of the screen specifically.  

Even though we'd like to see all of the blocks distinguishable, it's known that VA panels have issues in this regard, so that is par for the course with a screen such as this and not completely surprising. 

White Saturation

Using default brightness, contrast, and gamma settings (Gamma1), all of the blocks in this test were visible except those in areas of RGB 254. Those were indistinguishable from the white background. Adjusting the brightness, contrast, and gamma settings did not help to bring these out. Changing these settings only made the block in the bottom row, specifically in section RGB 253, worse or better. 

Gradient (Banding)

There was slight banding in the darkest portions of this test. However, the rest of the grayscale gradient was smooth and didn't express any perceivable dithering. The banding in the darkest dark can be noticeable from some angles when watching cutscenes in-game or in the Steam overlay in dark rooms, but it isn't terribly jarring unless the media in question uses stark deviations in this spectrum. 

Response Time

Using Blur Busters, tests show that the monitor's native response time is comparable to what AOC advertises, somewhere around 4ms gray to gray (GTG). Engaging the monitor's overdrive mode in the game settings section of the OSD can help improve ghosting and coronas at lower refresh rates (sub 100Hz), but the "strong" setting greatly increases overshoot, as seen in both the LDT response time model, as well as Blur Busters. 

Further ghosting tests with LDT reveal that the higher the refresh rate, the less ghosting appears on-screen. This means that the monitor is best used at 144Hz if you have a rig capable of hitting that number. You won't see major differences until right around 100Hz -- unless you're eagle-eyed. 

Viewing Angle 

At 1800R, the AG322QCX is supposed to make viewing angles more comfortable, especially when looking from the center of the screen to the periphery. In-game, we found the screen to be helpful in that regard, specifically in shooters like Battlefield 1 and CS:GO.

Taking a scientific look at what's going on behind the scenes -- and how the monitor actually performs compared to how it feels when playing -- it's evident that gamma is affected by viewing angle with the AG322QCX. From certain angles, the words on the Langom Test screen for this experiment blend into the grey background and retain a reddish hue. From other angles, specifically the sides, the words stand out in a darker, more vibrant red. While viewing from the top, for example, or a high angle, the words are dark red, yet the background takes on a greenish hue. 

Overall, it wasn't something we specifically ran into or that was entirely noticeable when using the monitor in real-world situations, but it does mean that the gamma in the monitor is somewhat dependent on viewing angle and curvature. 

When viewing the color saturation blocks of the test: 

  • The purple block remained vibrant in the middle when viewed from straight on, with the edges and corners darkening into a deeper hue. When viewed from above, the entire square took on somewhat of a pinkish hue. 

  • The red square appeared to be the most consistent of the four, with minimal color degradation along the sides and corners when viewed from straight on. Viewing it from above washed out the color a bit to a less saturated red. 

  • The green square also performed very well, without any discoloration or yellowing. When viewed from above, however, there was distinctive yellowing of the frame. 

  • The blue square was noticeably darker on the edges when viewed straight on. It deepened to a much darker hue when viewed from above.  

Verdict

Overall, the AG322QCX stands out as a well-made monitor that gives you 2560x1140p resolution across 31.5" -- stretching those pixels out over such a large distance instead of changing the resolution altogether is something most monitors don't do. And surprisingly, those pixels don't look stretched in the slightest. 

Since it employs a VA panel, there are some issues with the AG322QCX that are endemic to that panel type. Dark shades can crush into one another -- especially at certain angles -- and the gamma could be a bit better. During tests, we also noticed quite a bit of ghosting below ~100Hz and a few color inconsistencies, but in-game, neither was terribly distracting (although it could affect some gamers differently). 

If you're in the market for a Freesync-enabled 32" monitor, the AG322QCX is a VA monitor that mostly outperforms other VA panels. In other words, if you're not going TN or IPS, this AOC monitor should be one of the first on your VA list. It's responsive with low-input lag, and it reproduces colors competently. It's a monitor we definitely recommend. 

You can see the monitor's full spec sheet here. You can buy the AG322QCX from Micro Center for $399.99. 

[Note: AOC provided the AG322QCX used for this review.]

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Logitech G Pro Headset Review: Built for Pros, Made for Every Player https://www.gameskinny.com/0ywa7/logitech-g-pro-headset-review-built-for-pros-made-for-every-player https://www.gameskinny.com/0ywa7/logitech-g-pro-headset-review-built-for-pros-made-for-every-player Mon, 02 Apr 2018 16:40:18 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Logitech's new G Pro gaming headset drops the frills and fancies found in other headsets to focus on what many gamers really want: great sound. Instead of RGB lighting and myriad software solutions, the G Pro is a plug-and-play, all-in-one answer for gamers that wanna get gaming right out of the box while encountering as few hurdles as possible. 

Last year, I tested the G Pro's predecessor, the G433 -- and I quite liked it. It had plug-and-play analog capabilities, but didn't do stereo sound the justice it deserves. And while that headset was comfortable and lightweight, my main gripe with it was that it didn't provide deep, crisp sound for the price -- even on the surround sound front. 

Perhaps it was kismet or that Logitech heard me through the collective conscious of the hardware world, but the G Pro headset comes much closer to the sound I wanted out of the G433. In reality, though, it was the pro gamers Logitech closely worked with to develop and design the G Pro that helped the company craft a headset that is built for pros and made for everyone. 

Coming in at $89, the G Pro is really what the G433s should have been from the start. For a hefty majority of average gamers, this headest will give them the pro-level gaming audio they've been looking for at a price they're mostly comfortable with. Sure, looking at the echelon in which it sits, the G Pro doesn't really stand out when compared to in-space competitors. But it stands toe to toe with them and rounds out Logitech's well-crafted headset line.

And if you're wondering what systems the analog G Pro works with, the answer is all of them. It'll work with your PS4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch, VR headsets, and mobile devices -- which is another big selling point. 

Logitech G PRO Gaming Headset  with all its connecting wires and removable earcup pads

Design 

Looking at the G Pro and the G433 side by side, it's almost impossible to distinguish the two based on appearances alone. From their lightweight polymer bodies to the adjustable steel headband and the left-earcup I/O ports for wires and mics, each is only truly distinctive by color and finish. Whereas the G433 comes in four different colors and wears a mesh finish from its earcups to its headband, the G Pro only comes in (sleek) black and a soft-touch, matte finish, the latter of which really accentuates the professional aesthetic Logitech is going for with these cans. 

Like its predecessor, the G Pro also features 100-degree rotatable earcups with detachable earpads. Here, the Logitech logo is more prominent and highlighted in silver on the outside of each earcup (another nice touch for the brand), while the word "Pro" is emblazoned in chic white just underneath the silver steel headband extenders on each side.

Overall, I'm glad to see that Logitech kept the design so similar between the models since the G433 was comfortable to wear and easy to carry from place to place. Weighing in at 259 grams (the same as the G433), the G Pro sits snugly across the head and can be worn for hours on end in relative comfort. It does feel a bit heavier than the previous model. And that's perhaps because of two things: it doesn't feel as flimsy from stem to stern as the G433, and the earcups fit more snugly along the sides of the face, causing a bit of discomfort over time. 

However, I'm also happy Logitech decided to keep the rotatable/tiltable earcups for this model. Not only can you lay these on your chest between matches or easily shove them in an overnight bag, you can also tilt the earcups up or down to quickly (and easily) hear any outside noise or conversation without removing the headset. It's a small design choice carried over from the G433, but one that's important for pro players that can't take their headsets off in between matches. 

Logitech G PRO Gaming Headset Side View with MicPerformance

If you're a pro or competitive gamer, you're playing games to win. Coming in second just isn't an option. That means you've got to hear your enemies before they hear you. It's something that the Logitech G533 does very well, as well as the SteelSeries Arctis Pro+. The problem is, those headsets either only work with PC or fall into the upper echelon of headset pricing (think $150-$250). 

And while those headsets are worth the pretty penny you'll pay for them, most gamers need something that affordably gives them good directional audio. The G433 didn't achieve that and ultimately felt too flat and thin overall during our tests. And when compared to the G Pro, which can clearly emit tones as low as 10hz and as high as 20Khz, that's even more evident. 

What's more, Logitech says that the Pro G provides "precise awareness of everything that's happening around you." And while I certainly don't agree that the awareness it provides is 100% precise, the G Pro does provide some of the better directional audio within the $90 price point. 

Tuned specifically for analog playback, the G Pro headset uses drivers that may be a bit bass-heavy, but work quite well at emitting clear sounds and ameliorating distortion. Testing the G Pros directly against the G433s showed that the Pros are more precise and consistent across the board. They do sacrifice a bit of volume for that sound consistency in comparison, but that's a worthy trade-off in our books. 

Playing Battlefield 1 and Far Cry 5, explosions felt appropriately large, and gunfire cracked with realism. Voices were warm and full, with dialog brimming with realism, easily parsed from music and diegetic effects. In all, sound felt fuller and richer than it did when wearing the G433s. 

The only real hiccup was that I wasn't able to dial in on pinpoint directional sound, meaning I could only tell from what general direction my adversaries were coming. Having directional capabilities at all is a step in the right direction considering you're able to get some semblance of 360 audio on console without dropping the big bucks, but it's also a bit of a carrot on a stick. If you want real directional audio, you're still going to have to shell out for it. 

When it comes to music, the G Pro provides meaty playback that's, again, heavy on the bass side of things. Listening to Leech and Rot by Northlane, kick drums and low-end chugs rise unmuddied through the mix. Mid-tone toms also come through nicely. Trebles tend to hang out in the background, although they aren't completely overshadowed. If you're used to a more treble-centric mix, you might not like that the Pros really focus on lower tones (although the headset does make those lows thick and powerful, like in Kendrick Lamar's DNA and Humble). 

Lastly, the G Pro claims to have up to 50% more passive noise isolation simply by proxy of the headset's premium earpads. And while I'd rather have active than passive noise cancellation, I think it works -- for the most part. At max volumes, it's hard to tell between the G Pros and the G433s -- immense volume tends to drown anything out simply by its overwhelming nature. But at around 55-60% volume, there is a discernible in-game difference in outside noise reduction with the G Pros. 

It's not perfect, and relying on passive devices always introduces variables into the equation, but I think it ultimately works as Logitech intends it to work: acting in tandem with the clear boom mic to better help pros hear the voices of their teammates in the din of the tournament stage. 

Logitech G PRO Gaming Headset tilted with mic and wireThe Verdict

With its Pro series, Logitech means to take existing designs and make them more approachable for professional gamers. They aren't out to redesign the wheel by any means -- and the G Pro gaming headset is testament to that. It takes the very best of the G433 and tweaks it to make something better. 

That something better doesn't necessarily mean "the best of the best," but what it does mean is the punchy G Pro is now firmly in the company of the best there is at $90. Inarguably, the G Pro is a step up from the G433, which doesn't look as appetizing as it once did -- especially when you compare sound profiles between the two headsets. 

And when compared to similar headsets on the market, such as the HyperX Cloud Flight and the Corsair Void Pro, the decision-making process can get a bit muddier, as those headsets take the G Pro head on. But we can say that the headset is much better than the SteelSeries Arctis 3, so keep that in mind when making your comparisons.

Ultimately, the G Pro is a well-made headset that performs very well either at home or on the tournament stage -- and whether you're listening to music or sniping sneaking players in team deathmatch. And for that, it gets our recommendation. 

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Logitech C922 Pro Stream Webcam Review https://www.gameskinny.com/yzhtd/logitech-c922-pro-stream-webcam-review https://www.gameskinny.com/yzhtd/logitech-c922-pro-stream-webcam-review Fri, 16 Mar 2018 16:55:10 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Logitech's C922 Pro Stream webcam has been on the market for a good while now. Released in 2016, this version is improved over the lauded C920, and it's one specifically geared toward providing pro-quality video to new and veteran streamers alike. 

Coming in at an affordable $99, the C922 has proven over the last two years to be a widely popular webcam: Dozens of streamers use it for their broadcasts every day, and it's easily made Top 10 lists around the web for its crisp video and sleek design. It also helps that the C922 is intuitive and easy to set up. 

We recently decided it was time to take the C922 for a spin and see what all the fuss was about. Here's what we thought. 

Design

Out of the box, the C922 comes in two parts: the webcam itself and a detachable tripod. Both are sleek, if understated, and will fit right in with all the other peripherals on your desk. The point of a webcam isn't to call attention to itself, and the C922's utilitarian aesthetic nails that ethos. 

Looking at the wedge-shaped cam itself, the C922 has a single lens in the center and two omnidirectional microphones on either side. When the webcam is in use, two soft-white, half-moon lights flash to easily indicate you're live. With Logitech's more recent push to incorporate more RGB elements into their products, the C922's soft-white is a bit drab knowing what could be -- but then again, you can't fault a two-year-old product for not implementing more recent design decisions.  

Underneath the lens, the webcam is seated on a sturdy, L-shaped clip which has an adjustable mechanism that allows it to be clipped to a monitor (or other display). When in use, most of the clip sits on the back of what it's connected to. In most cases, I didn't find that to be a problem, but thinner displays may prove a tad fickle depending on the make and model. 

If you find yourself falling into that boat, or just don't want to mount the C922 on your display, then the included tripod is going to be your best bet. The bottom of the L-shaped clip is where you'll find the threaded hole for the tripod. Once attached, you can position the webcam how you want it and lock it into place. 

At its initial height, the tripod stands at about 7 inches when fully unfolded. Depending on your setup, this might work for you or it might not. I found that the tripod was the easiest, sturdiest way to mount the C922, but I also found that it didn't always provide the most flattering angles. In the end, it's completely up to personal preference since the tripod and clip both work as advertised. 

Lastly, the C922's 5-foot cable means you can basically place the webcam anywhere on your setup. It's nice to see a webcam afford its users flexibility in this regard, even if I'd prefer the cable to be braided instead of the usual plastic. 

Performance

Considering you buy webcams to actually use them and not look at them sitting on your desk, we're all really here to see how the C922 performs. And from our time with it, we can say it performs exceedingly well. 

The C922 camera can record (or display) video at both 1080p and 720p. However, unlike the C920, the C922 is able to hit 60 FPS at both resolutions, making it a much better option than its predecessor. What's more, whether you're streaming on Twitch or catching up with pals via Skype, this webcam's video is super crisp and clear. 

With the C922's easy-to-install software, you can tweak a ton of settings, too. Everything from contrast to field of view and more has a dial to turn. Even in low-light conditions, the C922 performs very well, taking photos and capturing video that were clear and essentially lag-free. 

Integrating the C922 into something like OBS is hassle-free. In my experience, I took the C922 out of the box, attached it to the tripod, plugged it in, and started using it in the streaming software in less than five minutes. And that's on the initial setup. When you're a streamer or YouTuber, time is always of the essence, so it's great to see that Logitech's made a quality webcam that's super simple to use. 

When it comes to actually streaming, I tested the C922 on my high(er)-end desktop. With an i7-770k 4.2GHz processor, 32GB of RAM, and a GTX 1080 8GB in my rig, I was able to stream Warhammer: Vermintide 2 on Twitch without too many issues. Although I would've liked to have gotten a solid 60 FPS, I was able to get 1080p video out of the C922 at about 45-50 FPS -- even with streaming the game on High settings at 2560x1440. That's pretty damn good for a $99 webcam. In fact, I'd argue it's more than enough for your average streamer.  

Green Screen Effect

OBS Chroma Cam capture dark room

The C922 Pro Stream also comes with Personify Chroma Cam, which lets you put various overlays on your video, among other things. But its biggest draw is that it purportedly allows you to remove your background sans green screen. In theory, it's an awesome bit of tech, saving you the hassle of buying and setting up your own green screen. But in practice, it's more hit or miss. 

If you're in a brightly lit room, Chroma Cam does a pretty darn good job of removing your background, although if you're like me and wear glasses, there are some areas that it just won't remove, such right through the lenses. In a darker room, Chroma Cam is considerably choppier, cutting off parts of your ears and head if you move too much -- or not removing all of the background, such as your chair. 

If you want to look as professional as you possibly can when you're streaming, it's a bit hard to rely on Chroma Cam to get things done. You're still going to want to grab a green screen and go that route. But if that type of thing doesn't bother you too much, then the C922's Chroma Cam works fine enough. 

Verdict

Right now, this two-year-old webcam is still one of the very best on the market -- especially at its price point. Its popularity is underlined by its easy setup and ability to output 1080p video at 60 frames per second. It works with OBS and Xsplit out of the box, as well as PC, Mac, and Xbox One. 

It might not have all the bells and whistles found in other webcams, but it provides the essentials in a convincing manner. Sure, Chroma Cam green screen can be hit or miss, but most software solutions to background removal encounter issues from time to time anyway (that's why a lot of streamers still use actual green screens). Just buy the C922 and a green screen -- and you're more than future-proofing your setup. 

Reliability often comes at a price, but Logitech is giving it away at a steal.  

You can buy the C922 Pro Stream on Amazon for $99.

[Note: Logitech provided the C922 Pro Stream webcam used in this review.]

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SteelSeries Arctis Pro+ and Pro Wireless Headset Review https://www.gameskinny.com/3sll5/steelseries-arctis-pro-and-pro-wireless-headset-review https://www.gameskinny.com/3sll5/steelseries-arctis-pro-and-pro-wireless-headset-review Tue, 13 Mar 2018 12:52:58 -0400 Jonathan Moore

SteelSeries' Arctis headsets are already widely popular among gamers for their comfort, ease of use, and sound. With the release of the Arctis Pro line of gaming headsets, I'd posit they're about to get a lot more popular -- including with a subset of typically hard-to-please audiophiles.

Coming in two variants -- a wired Pro+ GameDAC version and a Wireless Pro Bluetooth version -- this new Arctis echelon focuses on high-quality, high-fidelity sounds for the PS4 and PC. The line sports an improved design, sturdy construction, and a few bells and whistles you don't typically find on most gaming headsets these days.

There's a lot to love here, and I'd wager these are the best headsets SteelSeries has ever released. Combining some of the technology found in the Siberia line of headsets, these new cans allow for nuanced customization for almost any setup.

The only "big" downsides are that they're fairly expensive when compared to many gaming headsets on the market, and they're both a bit cumbersome to set up out of the box. They're high-end for sure -- and going toe to toe with the likes of Sennheiser, ASUS, and Astro, they ought to be. If you've got the budget for these bad boys, you won't be disappointed.  

Arctis Pro Wireless headset

Design

Whereas other headsets in the Arctis line have felt a bit flimsy in the past, the Arctis Pro tier feels anything but. Made with premium materials, the Arctis Pro+ and the Arctis Pro Wireless are made of sturdy aluminum alloy and steel across the headband and hangers, with bits of resilient plastic gracing the outside of each removable, customizable earcup. Sporting a gunmetal gray finish, the headset itself has a more elegant appearance than those headsets in the original line. 

Both sets of cans feature the same comfortable ski-goggle headband found in other Arctis models, while the earcups seem bigger and more agreeable than those on the Arctis 5 and Arctis 7. Moving to the left earcup, you'll find a retractable mic on the front of each set, as well as inputs and controls on the back. 

Something I find more pleasing on these headsets than the others in the Arctis line is that the mic mute buttons and volume scroll wheels are more prominent and textured this time around. This makes them easier to find and use in-game or during streams; finding them before was a pain, so I'm glad to see this improved in these prestige models. 

And as for the Wireless model specifically, SteelSeries has made the Bluetooth button more identifiable in this model (in comparison to the Arctis 3 Bluetooth model). On the outside, it's not a huge, headset-selling improvement, but from a usability standpoint, such an improvement is appreciated. 

Esports Player using the Arctis Pro Wired Headset

Sound Quality and Features 

Before we get into the feature sets of these products, I want to get something off my chest: Both of these headsets sound fantastic. Out of all of the SteelSeries cans I've been able to test over the past year and a half, these stand head and shoulders above the rest. 

Whereas previous iterations of the Arctis line often left me wanting more in regards to sound -- specifically surround sound -- I found that the Pro line finally provided the high-end sound quality I've been searching for in a SteelSeries headset. 

It's especially worthy of note that while the PC Master Race has mostly come to expect this type of quality from a gaming headset, most PlayStation 4 players will find a distinct improvement in sound quality from their typical console headset -- and they'll be able to enjoy the headset/home theater combo much more easily than they might have before. 

The Arctis Pro + (Plus) with box, game DAC, and wires on a grey background.

Arctis Pro+ GameDAC

I was able to hear directional sound for the first time on console with the Pro+ GameDAC (and with the Pro Wireless). There are several other headsets on the market that can do this, sure, but the Arctis Pro line does it more elegantly with single drivers. Playing games like Horizon: Zero Dawn and Overwatch, I was able to pinpoint where enemies were coming from -- and bring them down with greater ease. It's something I loved in Logitech's G533, but something I never thought I'd get on console until now.  

SteelSeries says the Arctis Pro+ GameDAC achieves higher-quality sound than the Pro Wireless by using what's called a dedicated USB DAC (digital audio converter), along with an amplifier made specifically for gaming. It even received the Japanese Audio Society's Hi-Res Award -- if that kind of thing floats your boat. But honestly, the difference between the two headsets was negligible in our testing of the devices. 

If you go the Pro+ route, the DAC itself comes packaged with the headset and fits in the palm of your hand. It's made of black plastic and has firm rubber feet on the bottom. The top is home to an OLED screen that displays the audio mode you're currently in, your surround sound and EQ settings, your volume, and your audio/chat mix. On the back, you'll find I/Os for optical, USB, Line Out, and mobile. On the left side, you'll find the input for the headset itself.

Arctis Pro+ GameDAC

SteelSeries specifically states that the GameDAC model is best used when playing at a desk, an assessment I tend to agree with. One of my biggest issues with the headset's setup (even if it is a nitpicky one) is that there are a lot of cables here -- especially if you're wanting to use the headset's optical passthrough.

With that in mind, there are at least three cables attached to the DAC if that's the route you want to go: one coming from the headset into the DAC, one coming from the DAC to your PS4's USB port, and one coming from the DAC to your console's optical port. If you're using the headset on PC, you can opt out of the optical option and only have two cables, making things a bit more manageable. 

So for a living room setup, I can see things becoming a bit tedious and cumbersome. 

Arctis Pro Wireless with box, USB transmitter, and cables 

Arctis Pro Wireless

The Pro Wireless model provides similarly crisp and robust sound as the Pro+ GameDAC, but this time over lossless 2.4GHz wireless or Bluetooth connections. Here, surround sound is meaty, with nice highs and mids across games and music. Like the Pro+, the Pro Wireless isn't huge in the volume department, meaning we had to dial up the volume on each headset and corresponding input device to achieve comfortable sound, but the 7.1 surround of the Pro Wireless performed well and provided clear dialog and in-game sound. 

We found this to be true on both PS4 and PC. Playing Skyrim, for example, we were able to hear in-game breathing better than we had with other headsets, adding a sense of realism to our Elder Scrolls escapades. Outside of gaming, tracks by Anthrax sounded fantastic in high bit rate. 

As for setup, the Pro Wireless features a wireless USB transmitter a la SteelSeries' Siberia 800 and 840 models -- but sans the extra power supply. This is where you'll adjust your audio, EQ, and chat mix settings, as well as find I/Os for optical, mobile, and external speaker systems. Like the GameDAC, the USB transmitter is mostly user-friendly when it comes to getting your settings just right, and it's nice controlling all of your settings via hardware instead of relying on software to do the trick. 

The transmitter does suffer from the same tedious setup as the GameDAC, however, especially if you're trying to use (once again) the transmitter's optical passthrough. You'll have quite a few cables to contend with in any setup, and (pro tip) you'll need to set the transmitter to its PS4 setting if you want to use that functionality on PC -- something that's not terribly clear out of the gate.  

But if you've got a home theater setup, want to listen to podcasts in long load queues, or take calls while gaming, you'll find that the Pro Wireless makes multitasking essentially effortless once you've got everything dialed in. Pair that with a decent 20-hour battery life and the ability to charge batteries inside the wireless transmitter, and the Pro Wireless becomes more ubiquitous than it initially appears. 

Man in black shirt wears Arctis Pro Wireless while sitting on couch

Verdict

In my eyes, the choice between the Pro+ GameDAC and the Pro Wireless comes down to usability. Both are Hi-Res certified, both provide awesome, clear sound, and both provide line-out capabilities for mobile and/or home theater setup (which is a huge boon depending on your setup and use case). On top of that, both headsets are comfortable, well-constructed models that can be used on the go if you like listening to music on the commute to work, for example. 

The Pro+ GameDAC features RGB lighting, while the Wireless Pro does not, which could potentially be a selling point for some users. But overall, the choice comes down to whether you want a wireless or wired setup -- and whether that's worth the $70 difference between the two sets. 

Ultimately, though, SteelSeries' new Pro line is a huge step up in audio quality over the original Arctis line of headsets. I'd (really) like to see the headsets come in at a slightly lower price point, but if you've got the pockets for them, you can't go wrong with either. 

You can buy the Arctis Pro+ GameDAC on Amazon for $249.99 and the Pro Wireless for $329.99. 

[Note: SteelSeries provided the Arctis Pro+ GameDAC and Arctis Pro Wireless models used in this review.]

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HyperX Alloy Elite RGB Review: Matching Color With Excellent Design https://www.gameskinny.com/1jong/hyperx-alloy-elite-rgb-review-matching-color-with-excellent-design https://www.gameskinny.com/1jong/hyperx-alloy-elite-rgb-review-matching-color-with-excellent-design Wed, 28 Feb 2018 11:47:57 -0500 Jonathan Moore

Having control feels good. With the right tools at your disposal -- such as a well-crafted mechanical gaming keyboard -- having control means you're an unstoppable force wrecking through thousands of moveable objects. And as with any tool, a keyboard's quality exponentially increases the chances of utterly destroying your opponents. 

Because of that, we loved the HyperX Alloy Elite gaming keyboard when we reviewed it back in October. And that's why we love its new RGB counterpart. 

At its core, the HyperX Alloy Elite RGB is the same fantastic keyboard that's been on the market for the past six months -- but it's one that's added a few interesting tweaks worthy of exploration. When compared to its contemporaries, the Elite RGB is a tool that stands toe to toe with products from Corsair, Logitech, and SteelSeries. 

Despite its lofty price, it's also one we highly recommend. Let's talk about why. 

Overall Design

On the outside, the Alloy Elite RGB sports the same sleek look of the Alloy Elite. A solid black aluminum body houses a full 104 keys sitting on Cherry MX switches (Red, Blue, or Brown depending on your preference). Unlike the HyperX FPS Pro, the Alloy Elite RGB has a 10-key numpad, as well as dedicated switches for media keys, key-lighting brightness, profile recall, and game-mode key locking. To increase or decrease volume, you'll find a nifty -- and easy to use -- volume wheel in the board's top right-hand quadrant. 

The board also comes with a textured wrist-rest that easily attaches to the front of the board. I preferred to not use the rest because my specific setup makes for an uncomfortable situation with it attached. However, on a desk with more room, the wrist rest is comfortable, if simple. 

To finish things off, the Alloy Elite RGB comes with sturdy plastic feet that don't easily slide across your desktop, as well as a durable braided cord that won't get easily tangled. The board features pass-through functionality that comes in handy for gamers needing an extra USB port closer to their playing surface. 

Ngenuity RGB Customization Screen

Ingenius Ngenuity

HyperX has historically held true to a minimalist aesthetic; almost all of their products have eschewed customizable features and RGB lighting for plug-n'-play mechanics and brand-standard red backlighting. Some gamers liked it, some gamers didn't. And at the end of the day, the choice didn't affect the quality of HyperX's products. 

However, with the Alloy Elite RGB, HyperX has embraced the customizability craze and combined their aptitude for quality with a more tailor-made approach. They do this through their Ngenuity software. 

When you first download Ngenuity from the HyperX website and launch it on your computer, the software looks a tad dated and unremarkable. It would've been nice had it been a bit more energetic on the visual front, but that doesn't particularly matter when it's easy as hell to use. 

Each menu and submenu item is accurately labeled to avoid any confusion -- "Macros" will open the Macro menu, while "Lighting" will open the Lighting menu. It seems obvious, but it's a nice touch that can be easily overlooked. Inside those menus, choosing colors within the full RGB spectrum and lighting presets options is a cinch, taking only a few clicks to set up, while the same can be said for macros. And yes, you can fully reprogram all the keys on the board and create libraries and profiles, the latter of which you can have up to three. 

The only gripe I have in this area is that editing and saving profiles isn't as intuitive as it could be, considering the rest of Ngenuity is basically super easy to navigate and understand. Once you do it two or three times, you should have the hang of it. But it is an area that has a just a few too many steps (you shouldn't have to choose the profile twice to edit it), and the whole process could be improved upon in the future. 

Alloy Elite Desktop Picture with Steel Series Rival 600 in the background

Performance

Like its predecessor, the Alloy Elite RGB performs exceedingly well both in the office and at home. Whether I was typing up articles, tweaking designs in InDesign, or queuing up unit actions in They Are Billions, this board remained a reliable piece of my arsenal. 

Whereas I've had issues with certain keyboards holding up after testing sessions and finding that certain keys begin to squeak two or three weeks into use, I've not come across that with the Elite RGB at all, which speaks to the board's craftsmanship and engineering. I've put in around 110 hours on the board playing input-intense titles such as Overwatch, Paladins, Cities: Skylines, Subnautica, and They Are Billions without any incident -- and I'm confident the board's going to continue to hold up while still providing impeccable performance. 

On top of that, each key provides quality tactile feedback, which I especially appreciate in-game. Requiring 45-50 cN of actuation force is what you'd expect from a board of this build, keeping it in line with other mechanicals in its range, such as the Corsair K68 RGB and the SteelSeries M750 TKL. Light-handed gamers might find they have to press a little harder to get their keystrokes to register, but I don't see a majority of users having any issues with the Elite RGB's keys.

I will say I wish the F12 key weren't as easy to accidentally nudge when pressing backspace, an issue we found somewhat frustrating in the original Alloy Elite. It's also an issue when browsing the internet and constantly opening the DevTools command in Chrome.  

HyperX Alloy Elite RGB viewed from an angleVerdict

In a nutshell, the Alloy Elite RGB is the same great keyboard as its predecessor -- except it has vibrant, fully customizable RGB lighting and programmable macros. If you're looking for quality craftsmanship and reliability to go alongside those things, then this is a keyboard you'll want to check out. 

My only real concern here is the price. There's no doubt the Alloy Elite RGB is worth the $169.99 price tag. It's made very, very well. But when you look at other very, very well-made keyboards on the market that come in at $10-40 less, things get murkier. If the Alloy Elite RGB had a killer feature that you couldn't find anywhere else (or perhaps dedicated macro keys similar to Corsair's K95 RGB Platinum), I'd recommend it hands down, no caveats. But that's just not the case here. 

Providing fantastic performance, vibrant lighting, and quality engineering, you'd do well to consider the Alloy Elite RGB -- just know you're going to pay a pretty penny for it. 

You can buy the Alloy Elite RGB keyboard on Amazon for $169.99

[Note: HyperX provided the Alloy Elite RGB unit used in this review.]

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HyperX Cloud Flight Headset Review: Soaring on Soundscapes https://www.gameskinny.com/nvpi8/hyperx-cloud-flight-headset-review-soaring-on-soundscapes https://www.gameskinny.com/nvpi8/hyperx-cloud-flight-headset-review-soaring-on-soundscapes Thu, 15 Feb 2018 16:17:00 -0500 Jonathan Moore

There's no plainer way to put it: bad sound sucks. When sound is grainy or distorted, it can put a real damper on your favorite game, movie, or album. Using a mediocre headset to consume media is worse than wearing a shoe that's two sizes too small. It's uncomfortable, grating, and just downright annoying. 

Luckily, the Cloud Flight gaming headset from HyperX is none of those things. In fact, it's the exact opposite. The Cloud Flight is a plug-and-play masterpiece that delivers unbelievable sound quality on both console and PC. Sure, it's a bit pricey at $159.99, but it stands toe to toe with the other sets in the high-end space, specifically the Logitech G533 and the Corsair Void Pro

A few design hiccups here and there keep it from being the Swiss Army Knife of gaming headsets, but considering it produces great, high-quality sound for all your devices, it's a headset you're going to want to consider if you're currently in the market for a set of cans. 

Cloud Flight and Corsair K68 Gaming Keyboard

Design

If you've ever used or seen a HyperX gaming headset, you know what you're in for when it comes to the Cloud Flight's looks. With its black, red-accented aesthetic, the Cloud Flight probably isn't going to turn any heads at first glance, but it has an elegant design that in some ways hearkens to a simpler time when not everything had to sport futuristic, Weyland Corporation-inspired motifs. And in that regard, I think some gamers, such as myself, will find its minimalist exterior entreating. 

Starting with the headset's earcups, you'll find that the Cloud Flight does have a few splashes of color on its predominantly black, hard-plastic frame. The outside of each earcup sports the truncated HX logo emblazoned at its center and an exposed red wire reaching up into the headband for added flourish. Depending on how much battery life you want to get out of the Cloud Flight, you can set the HyperX logo on either side of the headset to solid red, pulsing red, or off when the headset is in use. Moving up the headset to the headband, you'll find the full HyperX logo sprawling in glossy black across the top. 

One of the more comfortable headsets I've ever worn, the Cloud Flight's earcups are also roomy and soft. They employ a combination of memory foam and pleather to create a snug, agreeable fit. You'll also find this cushy material on the inside of the headband. After 40ish hours of using the headset, I can say that even gaming in an upstairs bedroom with basically no ventilation save a creaky old box fan, my ears and head didn't sweat at all.

Cloud Flight Controls

Coming in at around 315 grams without its detachable microphone, the Cloud Flight is also lighter than both the Logitech G533 (350 grams) and the Corsair Void Pro (368 grams). Unlike some other headsets, the weight of the Flight didn't cause any discomfort across the top of my head, and my ears never felt weighed down. 

As for the Cloud Flight's controls and inputs, you'll find them conveniently placed on the underside of the earcups for easy access. On the right earcup, you'll find the volume wheel, and on the left earcup, you'll find the power button, the microphone jack, the USB charging port, and the 3.5mm port. Interestingly, the microphone's mute button is the entire outside plate of the left earcup. It's a unique design choice that I'm surprised hasn't been implemented on other headsets -- and it's a feature I can see being very, very useful for streamers and competitive players. 

Oh, and it features rotating earcups you can lay flat on your chest when you're not using the headset, something I find extremely useful in everyday situations -- and a feature I think every headset made from here on out should implement, no questions asked. 

Cloud Flight Cushy Earcups

Performance

What I really love about the Cloud Flight is that it's a ubiquitous headset that you can use with any of your devices. Whether you're gaming on PC or console, listening to music on your smartphone, or watching a movie on your tablet, the Cloud Flight provides fantastic sound right out of the box. There's no software to fiddle with or dial in, but that's nothing to fear because the Cloud Flight's audio quality is simply that good.  

Providing 2.4GHz wireless capabilities for the PC, PS4, and PS4 Pro, the Cloud Flight also works with the Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and mobile devices via a 3.5mm connection. We tested the headset on the PC, the PS4 Pro, and the iPhone 6S+ across mediums, from games to movies and music. 

Sound 

In all applications and on all platforms, the HyperX Cloud Flight provided clear, exceptional sound. Its 50mm neodymium drivers thrummed with meaty bass and surged with soaring treble. It's nice to see a headset provide such parity of sound without equalizers or special software. 

Tested on the PC with Battlefield 1 (our go-to for high-quality sound engineering), tones were vibrant and lush. Dialog was easy to understand, even amid violent explosions -- and the game's score was the same sonorous soundscape it was when we tested out Logitech's G533. Unfortunately, the Cloud Flight doesn't provide the surround or directional sound found in the G533 -- meaning I couldn't hear exactly where enemies were coming from -- so that's something to keep in mind if you're strictly a PC gamer.  

On the PS4 Pro, we tested the Cloud Flight with Horizon: Zero Dawn, and again, the game's score and sound effects were on full display. Herds of Striders thundered across the plains outside Mother's Heart, and arrows swooshed through the air as if I had loosed them just inches from my ear. The only discernible drop in quality I noticed with the Cloud Flight during my time playing HZD was during sections of dialog. Although the voice acting was loud and full, the background noise and music were oddly quiet, making it sound almost as if characters were speaking within a vacuum. 

For mobile, it's no surprise that the Cloud Flight's sound is impeccable here, too. Plugging the headset into my iPhone 6S+ with the included 3.5mm jack was super easy. Watching The Force Awakens, I felt as if I were in the theater, and while listening to Mesmer by Northlane and You Are We by While She Sleeps, I was able to pick out every instrument and tone -- without any wonky distortion or muddiness.

The only gripe I have when it comes to using the Cloud Flight on the iPhone is that the volume wheel on the right earcup doesn't seem to do anything when hooked up to the device. The only way I could change the volume was by adjusting it on the phone itself. A little annoyance, sure, but something to be aware of. 

Me, Cloud Flight, and Scary Sheldon

Microphone

Tested in both gaming and work scenarios, the Cloud Flight's detachable, noise-canceling microphone worked well -- mostly.

When playing team-based games like Paladins and Battlefront 2 on PC, communications were crisp and clear. And in meetings with colleagues over Skype on the PC, the microphone was able to easily cancel ambient office noise for clear communications. The same can be said of using the microphone on the PS4 and PS4 Pro.

However, I was disappointed to find that the microphone didn't work when using the headset in analog mode. That means anything requiring a 3.5mm jack won't support the capability. It's something that I find (very) odd, considering many other headsets offer the functionality for a fraction of the price. It's an oversight that's more than head scratching -- and an oversight that really holds this headset back from being the best of the best. 

Cloud Alpha, Mic, and Cables

Verdict

At the end of the day, the HyperX Cloud Flight might be a bit pricey at $159.99, but it's the only high-end headset currently on the market that's platform agnostic. If you're a gamer that wants a comfortable, great-sounding headset that can be used across multiple devices without sacrificing quality, provides up to 30 hours of battery life, and has a wireless distance of up to 20 meters, then the HyperX Cloud Flight is a gaming headset you're going to want to consider. 

Just keep in mind that it's not completely wireless; you'll have to use a 3.5mm connection for Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and mobile. And you won't be able to use its noise-canceling microphone to chat with friends on those devices either. However, if that doesn't deter you from checking out the Cloud Flight, its sound is only rivaled by the PC-only Logitech G533. And that's damn good company to keep. 

You can buy the HyperX Cloud Flight on Amazon

[Note: HyperX provided the Cloud Flight used for this review.]

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Corsair K68 RGB Review: A Colorful Dust and Water Resistant Variant https://www.gameskinny.com/4tixp/corsair-k68-rgb-review-a-colorful-dust-and-water-resistant-variant https://www.gameskinny.com/4tixp/corsair-k68-rgb-review-a-colorful-dust-and-water-resistant-variant Wed, 07 Feb 2018 11:24:13 -0500 Jonathan Moore

Following the pervading trend of colorful, RGB backlighting in modern PC gaming -- where almost every peripheral needs the functionality to stay hip -- Corsair recently released an RGB variant of their unique, and highly reliable, K68 mechanical gaming keyboard. In our review of the original K68, we gave the keyboard high marks for its innovative design, accuracy, and nearly unbeatable price point. 

Fast forward a few months and not a lot has changed for the K68 RGB -- what we liked about the original is still here, and some of the same (small) issues are still hanging around. Nonetheless, let's dive in and take a quick look at why you should consider the K68 RGB if you're in the market for a mechanical keyboard in 2018. 

Corsair K68 RGB Mechanical Keyboard angled view

(Very) Similar in Form and Fashion

For all intents and purposes, the K68 RGB looks identical to the K68 on both the outside and the inside. Sporting the same matte black finish as the original K68, the RGB's durable hard-plastic chassis looks elegant and refined -- especially with the silver Corsair logo emblazoned at the top of the board. 

Above the ten-key numpad you'll find dedicated media playback keys (stop, previous, next, play/pause) and volume keys (up, down, and mute). For the most part, these keys are tight, responsive, and easy to reach. However, just as with the original K68, I often felt that the media playback keys were a bit close to the numpad and could use a bit more room; reaching over the keycaps required a bit of a concentrated effort. To the left of those keys, you'll find the board's brightness and Windows lock keys. 

Moving on to the main part of the keyboard, you'll find it's host to the industry-standard 104 keys. All of the Cherry MX Red switches beneath each keycap employ gold crosspoint technology and are as responsive, accurate, and quiet as you'd expect them to be. Guaranteed for 50 million keypresses, these are your standard Red switches -- the ones that are going to last you a long, long time. 

Missing are the dedicated "G" keys found on Corsair's higher-end offerings (which makes sense since this isn't one of those). But overall, that's only going to (really) impact MMO and/or MOBA players that need extra keys for standard operations and complex macros. For the average player, omitting those keys from the K68 RGB most likely isn't a deal breaker. 

Close up of the K68 RGB's rubber protective coating surrounding Cherry MX Red switches

Water and Dust Resistance for the Win

Like its predecessor, the K68 RGB is also water and dust resistant. It's hard enough to come across a keyboard that's "kind of" water and dust resistant, much less one that actually is. And that's the main feature that sets this board (and its predecessor) apart from other mechanical gaming keyboards on the market.  

Implementing IP32 standards, the K68 RGB is able to protect its most vital mechanism from foreign bodies such as water and dust. That doesn't mean it's waterproof or dustproof, but it does mean that if you spill water on your keyboard or drop a crumb between the keycaps that the Cherry Red switches beneath will be (much) less prone to malfunction. 

How does the K68 do it? Specifically designing the board from the ground up with these type of resistances in mind, Corsair product engineers developed a translucent rubber cover capable of shielding the board's switches from water seepage and dust particles. On top of that, they manufactured small channels within the chassis to then transport any liquid through the board and safely through small drainage ports on the backside of the board. 

It's something that sets this mechanical apart from the competition. 

Changing the K68's lighting effects in CUE 

RGB Backlighting Adds Pizzaz 

Whereas the original K68 mechanical keyboard only offered red backlighting, the K68 RGB adds (as its name implies) ... RGB backlighting. Using Corsair's CUE software, you're able to fully customize the backlighting and lighting patterns of the K68 RGB -- down to each individual key. 

As is basically standard in the industry these days, you'll have access to the entire RGB spectrum of 16 million-plus colors so that you can program any hue you desire -- down to the exact shade if that's your thing. On top of that, Corsair provides 11 distinct lighting patterns, from spiral to rain and more. You can even select the speed at which patterns oscillate and in which directions they move about the board.

Each of these presets -- and any you come up with yourself -- can be programmed to the board and easily recalled at any computer, regardless of if CUE is installed on the device or not. 

Verdict

It's curious that full RGB backlighting wasn't a feature on the original K68 since the only real distinguishing factor between this board and its predecessor is that functionality. But I suppose we expect options these days, so here we stand.

Like its progenitor, the K68 RGB features reliable Cherry MX switches (the board currently comes in both the Red and Blue variety, but we only tested the Red variant), unique water and dust resistance, fully customizable macros, 100% anti-ghosting tech, and NKRO. It's comfortable and reliable, providing pro-level capabilities in a compact frame. 

At any rate, it's a mechanical keyboard well worth considering if you're a casual or competitive player. Just know that if you spend hours ulting noobs in the mid lane or grinding in preparation for high-rank raid, one of Corsair's more robust, higher-tier offerings may be what you're looking for. 

Coming in at $119.99, the K68 RGB isn't the most expensive board out there. In fact, I'd say that its price tag is well-deserved for what you get. However, being that the K68 provides all of the same functionality of the K68 RGB sans RGB lighting for $89.99, you have to ask yourself: Is having access to 16 million colors worth the extra $30? 

You can buy the K68 RGB on Corsair's website

[Note: Corsair provided the K68 RGB used for this review].

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SteelSeries Rival 600 Review: Gaming Mice Can't Get Much Better https://www.gameskinny.com/9j5bx/steelseries-rival-600-review-gaming-mice-cant-get-much-better https://www.gameskinny.com/9j5bx/steelseries-rival-600-review-gaming-mice-cant-get-much-better Mon, 29 Jan 2018 14:35:03 -0500 Jonathan Moore

Finding the right gaming mouse is like finding a snug glove in winter -- it’s warm, it’s toasty, and it’s protection from the bitter chill of losing yet another ranked match in Paladins. Finding the right gaming mouse can also be an elusive prospect, one that’s made difficult by the overwhelming glut of mice filling every peripherals storefront on the internet.

In all my time reviewing mice over the past year, I’ve found two that I could definitively say are the right fit for my hybrid grip style -- and can keep up with the way I play video games on the PC. Sure, there've been some great mice to come across my desk, but only a small handful really stand out across the vast expanse of time. Now, I’ve found another.

SteelSeries’ Rival 600 is a phenomenally engineered piece of gaming hardware. It's a mouse that should be on every gamer's desk -- casual or competitive. Because of its TrueMove3+ sensor set (yes, it has two sensors), the 600 sets itself apart from the competition in a unique way. It's the mouse I never knew I wanted until I got my hands on it. 

And now I can't let go. 

Design

If you were to take a cursory glance at the Rival 600, you'd probably walk away thinking it looks a lot like the Rival 310. In fact, the 600 has a (very) similar shape and contour when compared to its TrueMove cousin. But take a closer look and it’s immediately apparent that when it comes to design, the Rival 600 is fiercer and much more aggressive.

Where the left and right mouse buttons of the Rival 310 stop at the prow of the mouse, the split-trigger switches of the Rival 600 reach out over the front of the mouse like prongs on a cyberpunk starship, lending the mouse a futuristic aesthetic that fits well with modern gaming’s RGB, space-age zeal. Move along the top toward the middle of the Rival 600, and you’ll find the obligatory mouse wheel and a relatively large middle mouse button for switching CPI on the fly. I found the 310’s middle button a bit small, so I was glad to see the surface area of the 600’s MMB grow to allow for easier access in tense situations.

From there, move along the left side of the mouse and you'll find three more buttons along the periphery, just above the absurdly comfortable silicone grips. These buttons aren’t as large as those found on the 310; their slimmer designs don't provide large targets for your thumbs. But considering the 600 isn’t as tall in the middle and the back as the 310, the 600 fit in my palm better and helped my thumb easily find each button without any problems.

As is customary with the Rival series of mice, you’ll find the SteelSeries logo branded on the back of the Rival 600. But what isn’t customary is the mouse’s eight-zone RGB lighting. Hop into this clicker’s Engine 3 software and you’ll find that you can not only adjust the lighting beneath the SteelSeries logo, but also the lighting beneath the mouse wheel and in the channels just below the LMB and RMB. The latter conduits add character to the Rival 600 -- offsetting its rather austere all-black color pattern. Using Engine 3, you can cycle through four different effects and millions of colors to program the perfect combination of lush, vibrant lighting. 

But one of the very best things about the Rival 600’s design is that it has detachable side plates that let you customize the weight of the mouse. Coming it at around 96 grams without its detachable cable, the Rival 600 is already one of SteelSeries' heavier mice right out of the box. However, by detaching the sides and inserting one or all of the included eight four-gram weights, you can get the Rival 600 up to 128 grams, making it the perfect choice for those that prefer weight customizability for different gaming situations. It also helps that the weights are on the sides of the mouse -- not the middle -- allowing for more pinpoint customization than that found in some other models.

Performance

Featuring SteelSeries’ TrueMove3 Sensor (here called TrueMove3+), the Rival 600 provides fantastic accuracy and performance. Just like the Rival 310’s TrueMove3, the 600’s TrueMove3+ eschews jitters and jerks for ultra-low latency and what really does feel like true 1-to-1 tracking up to 3,500 CPI. The mouse can reach 12,000 CPI, but SteelSeries can only guarantee 1-to-1 tracking up to 3,500. Regardless, in the same ways I adored the Rival 310 for making Paladins headshots effortless, and in how I praised it for increasing my accuracy while sniping in Battlefield 1, the Rival 600 gave me the accuracy and precision I needed to stay competitive. 

But what really makes the Rival 600 stand apart from every other mouse on the planet is that it sports not one but two sensors. Putting the + in TrueMove3+, the Rival 600’s dedicated lift-off sensor lets you calibrate the mouse’s lift-off distance from 0.5mm to 2mm via SteelSeries Engine 3 software. 

Since I’m one of those players that picks his mouse up as he moves it back and forth, I found the 600’s liftoff sensor to be a savior when playing They Are Billions. By setting the liftoff distance in the middle, I was able to select specific units and structures without having my mouse stop in the middle of my movement -- saving valuable seconds. Playing Killing Floor 2 and setting the lift-off distance as low as possible, I was able to better home in on targets and pull off more crits because my crosshair didn't float off target. 

There’s nothing worse than getting killed because you lifted your mouse just a hair -- and now you’re staring at the ground or at a wall, not the enemy. The Rival 600 all but eliminates that in the eyes of this average Joe. 

SteelSeries wants the Rival 600 to be the go-to mouse for eSports players the world over. Whether they share my sentiments remains to be seen, but I think the 600 has a shot of making that goal a reality. 

Verdict

The Rival 600’s spoiled me. Having the ability to customize my lift-off distance was a functionality I never knew I wanted in a mouse until I had it -- and I don’t know if I can ever go back to a mouse with a single sensor. Coming in at $79.99, the Rival 600 is a high-end mouse at a great price point. Comparing it to SteelSeries’ other offerings, the 600 should be the company's flagship. Hands down.

Rated for 60 million clicks, the 600's buttons are going to last you a long, long time. Using SteelSeries Engine 3 software, you can program profiles to the mouse for both lighting and functionality, easily recalling them even if you don't have the software installed on the computer you're using. And the mouse's USB cable is detachable, making it easier to transport between LANs if that's your thing. 

If you're looking for a mouse with a veritable bevy of buttons, you might find the Rival 600's seven buttons a little on the light side. If so, you'll want to check out SteelSeries' Rival 500, which boasts a whopping 15 buttons and is specifically made for MMO and MOBA players. And if you're looking for something feather-light, you'll want to look elsewhere, too. 

However, the Rival 600 is your go to if you're looking for a generalist mouse that performs well across all genres, lets you customize lift-off distance, and provides killer accuracy and precision. 

You can buy the Rival 600 on Amazon for $79.99

[Note: SteelSeries provided the Rival 600 used for this review.]

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Are you ready to ... RUMBLE?! https://www.gameskinny.com/4rdpq/are-you-ready-to-rumble https://www.gameskinny.com/4rdpq/are-you-ready-to-rumble Mon, 29 Jan 2018 13:01:07 -0500 Steven Oz

Pokémon Pinball earned generally positive reviews, holding an aggregate average of 81% at GameRankings. This was a simple pinball game with Pokémon branding attached. I bring this up to state that most see this game as a passive aside in the history of the Pokémon franchise. It may well be the case, but I would like to argue that Pokémon Pinball was a technological breakthrough.

Weirdly shaped cartridges were not the norm in the '90s. There were all kinds of GameBoy Color cartridges colors out there: green, red, blue, clear, and mostly gray. You remember the GameBoy Color Camera, with its eye-shaped camera that you could rotate for those late '90s selfies. Well, then there was the "Rumble" cartridge, an oddly shaped cartridge that required an extra battery to make the gimmick work. These chunky games used a rumble technology, or what the industry calls haptic feedback.

Image of rumble cartridges

Currently, nearly every modern video game system includes some form of haptic technology, but this was not always the case. The fist appearance was in Sega's Moto-Cross arcade game. It was the first to feature "vibrotactile feedback," enabling the player to feel the rumble of their motorcycle as it impacted with other vehicles on the screen. From there, several arcade cabinets and pinball games incorporated haptic technology. Since an increasing number of arcade games began integrating haptic feedback into their interfaces, video game consoles were jumping on the trend.

In 1997, Nintendo came out with the "Rumble Pak." Bundled with StarFox 64, the Rumble Pak attached to the N64 controller. The importance of the Rumble Pak led to rumble becoming a gaming industry norm within a single generation. What the rumble cartridge did was to shrink the haptic technology into a more manageable form of gaming on the go.

The science behind it is actually simple. These GameBoy Color cartridges use a type of eccentric rotating mass actuator, consisting of an unbalanced weight connected to a motor shaft. As the shaft rotates, the spinning of this irregular mass causes the actuator, and in turn, the connected game system, to shake and create that distinctive "Brrrzzzzzz." All that was needed to power the rumble feature was a single AAA battery.

This innovation sparked a massive boom in haptic technology, and each console had its own way of adapting it. In the same year as the release of the N64 Rumble Pak, the Microsoft SideWinder Force Feedback Pro was released. Many newer-generation console controllers and joysticks feature built in feedback devices too, including Sony's "DualShock technology" and Microsoft's "Impulse Trigger technology." 

You might ask yourself why this technology was a breakthrough. Without it, there would not be an HD Rumble in the Nintendo Switch. I mentioned before that traditional rumble uses small motors inside the controllers, while the Joy-Cons use a linear resonant actuator that is very comparable to the hardware found inside Oculus Touch controllers.

In my eyes, Pokémon Pinball and the other games that had these rumble cartridges were precursors and test cases for whether the public wanted this feature. Nintendo loves taking risks on new products. You've seen it time and time again. Recently it was with Nintendo Labo, using DIY cardboard kits to build pre-cut accessories for the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers, enabling new modes of play and new games.

Pokémon Pinball was a revolutionary title not for the gameplay but for what it did with haptic technology. It led the way for Nintendo and all other companies on how to incorporate these features into their systems. This sense of realism invites everyone into a new world of entertainment. These examples illustrate the premise that haptic feedback systems have evolved much faster than their visual display counterparts and are, today, delivering impressive peripheral devices that are truly usable by gamers worldwide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Original Xbox Controller “The Duke” Returns this March https://www.gameskinny.com/hkqt9/original-xbox-controller-the-duke-returns-this-march https://www.gameskinny.com/hkqt9/original-xbox-controller-the-duke-returns-this-march Sun, 14 Jan 2018 15:04:12 -0500 Kerry-Lee Copsey

To everyone’s surprise, Microsoft’s infamously clunky controller is making a comeback. “The Duke” will be returning to cramp up your hands this spring, courtesy of Seamus Blackley, the man often cited as the father of the original Xbox.

The re-creation is nearly identical to the original pad in terms of size, shape, and button placement, with a few adjustments and added features. The memory card slots have been removed, a USB cable is now present, and two small bumper buttons have been added to ensure full compatibility with Xbox One, 360, and PC games.

Arguably the most interesting addition to the controller is the OLED screen under the “jewel” which, when pressed, plays the Xbox startup animation. According to Blackley, it’s a feature he wanted to implement in the pad from the start, creating his own prototype before selling the idea to Microsoft.

What are your thoughts on "The Duke?" Will you be picking one up this March? Let us know in the comments below.

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Corsair HS50 Headset Review: Big Bass, Small Price, Few Features https://www.gameskinny.com/4i231/corsair-hs50-headset-review-big-bass-small-price-few-features https://www.gameskinny.com/4i231/corsair-hs50-headset-review-big-bass-small-price-few-features Thu, 11 Jan 2018 14:57:00 -0500 Jonathan Moore

Corsair's HS50 gaming headset is a frustrating set of cans. On the one hand, it's built as good as, if not better than, some of its god-tier cousins -- and it's just as comfortable, too. But on the other hand, it doesn't provide the best sound you can find for $50. Of course, budget headsets aren't necessarily known to produce tones and frequencies that cater to audiophiles, but the HS50 lacks a few key features that hold it back and could make some average users concerned. 

After more than a month with the HS50, I can say that all in all, it's a good headset -- but it's an entry-level set that doesn't do a whole lot to differentiate itself from other models in its price range. That doesn't mean you should skip it if you're budget hunting or want something that's ubiquitous, working across PC, console, and mobile. But it does mean that you should weigh everything it has to offer before taking the leap. 

Design

Where some gaming headsets opt for pomp and circumstance in design, the HS50 opts for a less ostentatious affair. Available in three color options -- all black, black with green accents, and black with blue accents -- the HS50 isn't terribly interesting to look at, with the only flair coming in the form of the Corsair logo emblazoned on the outside of each earcup and black, blue, or green accents around the edges and on the headband. 

Looking at the earcups themselves, you'll find that they're comfortable over-the-ear types made of cushy foam on the inside and metal mesh on the outside. The latter layer helps for ventilation and breathing and seems to work as advertised. You'll also find that the earcups swivel slightly, providing wriggle room for different ear shapes and sizes. They don't fully rotate like the earcups found on models from SteelSeries and Logitech, but overall, that's not something everyone is going to care about. 

On the left earcup, there's the volume wheel, the mic mute/unmute button, and a little notch for the detachable microphone. This is also where you'll find the roughly four-foot-long plastic cable that ends in either a 3.5mm jack for mobile and console use or the included (and detachable) Y-splitter for PC.   

Moving up the headset's sturdy metal frame (which feels like something you'd find on a model three times the price), you'll find that the HS50's headband is stout and comfortable. On the outside, it's covered in the thick plastic you'd expect to see on almost every gaming headset currently on the market. And on the inside, you'll find a plush cushion that sports more green, blue, or black accents depending on your model. 

What I like about the build of the HS50 is that it doesn't feel cheap in the slightest. In fact, I've reviewed headsets much, much more expensive that creak and groan when you move your head -- and you won't find any of that here. I don't feel like I'm going to break the headset when I take it off, which is a huge plus for someone that's constantly transporting all of his gear from place to place. 

Comfort

Overall, the HS50 is a fairly comfortable headset. Weighing in at about 11 ounces, this set of cans is a bit heftier than, say, the HyperX Cloud Stinger, and after about four to five hours of use, that weight becomes apparent, causing a bit of discomfort across the top of the head. 

However, the HS50's round earcups are cushy and some of the coziest ones I've had the pleasure of wearing. The wide inner cavity of the earcups provides nice, recessed areas for your ears to rest comfortably, and the plush pleather surrounding the inner areas of each earcup provides nice padding against the side of the head. 

The HS50 is a bit uncomfortable to wear around the neck because its earcups don't rotate to rest against the chest, a functionality found in other headsets that would have been a nice addition here. And even if it is a small gripe, it's something that could have set the HS50 apart from other headsets in its price range. As it stands, you're better off setting this set of cans on your desk when not in use.  

Performance

When used in its primary environment (gaming), the HS50 performs admirably. Playing Battlefront 2, I was able to hear most blaster bolts and explosions in thrumming clarity. For more story-driven games like Fallout 4, I was able to hear dialog well and didn't experience any muffled tones in that regard. I wasn't able to pick out directional audio all that well, but again, that's something that you pay the big bucks for. It makes sense that you can't do that here. 

Since the HS50 can plug into your PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch, I also tested it out on Nier: Automata and Breath of the Wild. In each instance, the headset performed extremely well, adding deep bass tones that amplified the experience. 

However, for all the things the HS50 does well when it comes to gaming, it stumbles in other areas -- namely music and movie playback. When it comes to both, the sound design of the media in question has a huge impact on the performance of the HS50. Being that the headset is innately hefty on the bass side of things, music and movies with large amounts of bass often overpower other tones. Trebles can be difficult to hear, and dialog can get muddied. 


It would have been nice if the HS50 had some type of EQ setting or a piece of accompanying software that allowed users to dial in their own EQ settings. Since this is often the realm of higher-end headsets, you won't find anything that resembles that here. It's plug and play, sure, but what you hear is what you get. 

The bright side is that chat audio is crisp and clear, as is the HS50's microphone. Whether I had it hooked up to my iPhone 6S Plus or my PC, my friends and squadmates could hear each and every syllable. 

Verdict  

The Corsair HS50 is a plug-and-play, budget headset that does a lot of great things but never really sets itself apart from the pack. Its audio quality could be better, and it could use a few more features to help it achieve that. 

If you're looking for a headset in the $50 range, I'd suggest checking this set of cans out, while also looking at how it compares to other sets such as the HyperX Cloud Stinger, which provides better sound quality but might not be as comfortable for some users. 

At the end of the day, you can't really go wrong with the HS50, but depending on what your budget is, you can do better for just a little more. 

You can buy the Corsair HS50 on Amazon for $49.99. 

[Note: Corsair provided the HS50 used for this review.]

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MAINGEAR Seeks Perfection With the F131 Gaming Desktop https://www.gameskinny.com/kzmwr/maingear-seeks-perfection-with-the-f131-gaming-desktop https://www.gameskinny.com/kzmwr/maingear-seeks-perfection-with-the-f131-gaming-desktop Tue, 09 Jan 2018 11:01:06 -0500 Jonathan Moore

If you're a desktop PC enthusiast, you're always looking for the next big thing in boutique PC gaming -- and that next piece of gear or build so beyond high-end it's silly. You know luxury gaming's not only about performance but also about bells, whistles, and looks. 

Marketed to the elite gamer and indulgent enthusiast, MAINGEAR PC today announced the F131 gaming desktop at CES 2018 in Las Vegas. Packed into a thin case that resembles a console in some regards, the F131 houses a custom cooling system and, depending on the build you choose, some of the best (and most expensive) parts on the planet. 

The launch of our new F131 desktop sets a new benchmark in gaming desktops. While most manufacturers add liquid cooling to a system as an afterthought, the new F131 and APEX where [sic] designed together to provide unparalleled performance.

-- Wallace Santos, CEO and Founder of MAINGEAR

Including options for dual SLI graphics cards, up to 64GB of DDR4 RAM, multiple HDD and SDD configurations, and much more, the F131 "can crush anything you throw at it," according to MAINGEAR. If you visit the F131 build page, you'll find various pre-builds and custom variations that range from $1,785 to $4,775 and beyond. 

But one of the main draws of the F131 isn't necessarily its customizability but, presumably, its APEX ICS integrated cooling system. And as any PC gamer knows, cooling is one of the most important things to get right about any build. Made in concert with Bitspower, the F131's APEX ICS cooling system features "failsafe dual pumps, pressure regulated parallel cooling, flow-rate and temperature sensing, and a high capacity reservoir", according to MAINGEAR. The company also says that the F131 rig features both soft tube and hard tube cooling.  

Additionally, the F131's slim case lets you fully customize the outside of the rig with custom artwork uploaded to the MAINGEAR website, or choose from the company's pre-developed designs. Featuring the advanced MARC II painting process, there appear to be nearly countless customization options for the F131. 

Here are the base features per MAINGEAR's CES press release:

  • New exclusive in-house designed chassis
  • Premium materials with steel core and Japanese brushed aluminium exterior
  • Tinted tempered glass side panel
  • Slim mATX form factor
  • Full controllable RGB interior and logo lighting
  • Available with the latest Intel and AMD CPUs, up to the 18-core 7980XE
  • Available with up to 2x NVIDIA Titan V graphics cards
  • Up to 64GB of high speed DDR4 memory
  • Options for high speed NVMe SSDs
  • Exclusive APEX ICS - Integrate Cooling System
  • Up to 420mm of radiator coverage
  • Options for closed-loop or custom open-loop liquid cooling
  • Options for MAINGEAR's True Automotive Paint Finishes with new 2018 colors, including new Spectrum Chameleon Finishes
  • Options for MAINGEAR new MARC II full coverage custom artwork 
  • Lifetime US-based support

You can learn more and start your build on the F131 custom desktops page

Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more news and information on the MAINGEAR F131 gaming desktop as it develops. 

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Corsair Looks to Cut the Cord With New Wireless Gaming Peripherals https://www.gameskinny.com/ygz5i/corsair-looks-to-cut-the-cord-with-new-wireless-gaming-peripherals https://www.gameskinny.com/ygz5i/corsair-looks-to-cut-the-cord-with-new-wireless-gaming-peripherals Mon, 08 Jan 2018 17:13:02 -0500 Jonathan Moore

Pushing into the wireless peripherals space for the first time, Corsair announced at CES 2018 a new line of wireless devices they say will provide PC gamers "high performance ... without compromise". 

Dubbed Unplug and Play, Corsair's new wireless technology is the focal point of four new products: the K63 Wireless Mechanical Keyboard, the K63 Wireless Gaming Lapboard, the Dark Core RGB Wireless Gaming Mouse, and the MM1000 Qi Wireless Charging Mouse Pad. As of this writing, the K63 keyboard and lapboard are already available for purchase, while the Dark Core RGB and MM1000 are set to be released sometime later this month. 

A CES 2018 Innovation Award honoree, the K63 mechanical keyboard looks to bring the reliability and durability of the original K63 gaming keyboard to wireless gamers and aficionados everywhere. It sports Cherry MX Red switches, per-key LED backlighting, and programmable keys. Corsair says the K63's battery will last up to 75 hours, and that the keyboard also supports three different connection options: 1ms 2.4GHz wireless, Bluetooth wireless, and wired USB. 

On top of that, if you're a PC gamer that LANs -- or might prefer playing in your living room, for example -- the K63 Lapboard looks to provide an even gaming surface in any setting. The lapboard is billed as lightweight and comfortable, complete with a full-size mouse pad.

The K63 mechanical gaming keyboard currently retails for $109.99 without the lapboard and $159.99 with the board. 

Not to be outdone by other peripherals manufacturers, Corsair also unveiled its first wireless mouse in the Dark Core RGB. Inside its outer shell, the Dark Core houses a 16,000 DPI optical sensor and can connect to your PC via the same three connection options available to the K63 wireless keyboard: 1ms 2.4GHz wireless, Bluetooth wireless, and wired USB. According to press materials, the Dark Core's battery will provide 24 hours of use before needing a recharge and will employ CUE technology for lighting and programming options. 

For those wanting to cut the cord completely, Corsair will also release a 100% wireless option in the Dark Core SE. Although there is no word on if the SE's battery will achieve the same longevity as the Dark Cor RGB, the SE does support Qi wireless technology, which can be found in the new MM1000 hard-surface mousepad.

Corsair says the mat will not only charge the Dark Core SE, but any device that supports Qi charging. Measuring in at 260mmx350mm, the MM1000 also has ports for charging peripherals that don't allow for wireless charging by providing USB Micro-B, Type-C, and Lightning Qi ports. 

As of this writing, there was no information on price or availability for the Dark Core, the Dark Core SE, or the MM1000. 

Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more news and information on Corsair's new line of Unplug and Play gaming peripherals as it develops. 

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AOC AG271QG Review: Nearly Everything You Could Ask for in a 2K Monitor https://www.gameskinny.com/xo8fy/aoc-ag271qg-review-nearly-everything-you-could-ask-for-in-a-2k-monitor https://www.gameskinny.com/xo8fy/aoc-ag271qg-review-nearly-everything-you-could-ask-for-in-a-2k-monitor Thu, 21 Dec 2017 16:12:53 -0500 Jonathan Moore

The TN vs. IPS panel war has raged for what feels like millennia. Historically, TN panels have been popular among gaming aficionados due to their swift response times, fast(er) pixel switching technologies, and brawnier brightness settings. Conversely, IPS monitors have been the choice of gamers looking for wider viewing angles, more vibrant color options, and anti screen-tearing technologies such as G-Sync and FreeSync. 

But IPS monitors have come a long way over the past several years, with many affording gamers with lush colors and high refresh rates. Getting their start in consumer electronics about 50 years ago with one of the world's first color televisions, AOC has been making monitors meant for business and design use for years. And as they've expanded into the gaming space, their monitors are some of the most drool-worthy peripherals you can get your hands on.

Specifically designed with gamers in mind, AOC's AGON class of IPS monitors meshes the best of both the TN and IPS worlds, marrying high refresh rates with rich, consistent colors and wide viewing angles. And the AOC AG271QG is no exception. An AHVA IPS variant, the 271QG reaches refresh rates as high as 165Hz, provides viewing angles up to 175 degrees, and supports NVIDIA's G-Sync technology (this monitor's cousin, the AG271QX, supports AdaptiveSync, which is compatible with AMD and Intel graphics cards if that's what you've got in your rig). 

The key takeaway is that this 2560x1440 monitor does a lot -- and it does that lot almost flawlessly. 

Beautiful, Practical Design

Coming in at 27 inches, the AG271QG is without a doubt a high-end display. On first blush, that's obvious from its elegant design. 

Looking at the monitor head-on, a matte black bezel adorns its thin sides and top, while the skinny bottom sports a brushed bezel and an AGON logo in the middle. The anti-glare screen completes the front-facing look with class, while the pressable menu buttons hidden underneath the monitor's bottom-right edge are stylishly tucked out of view. 

Going around to the back, the monitor's black plastic is complemented by an embossed AOC logo near the top and a dynamic red chevron festooned within the monitor's middle portion. Here is where you'll also find the connection point for the AG271's sturdy steel wall bracket and stand. An added quality of life feature (as well as a necessity, of course), the stand is fully adjustable and highly durable. 

You'll be able to raise, lower, pivot, and tilt the monitor at your leisure, as well as position it in either portrait or landscape orientations. On top of that, the stand also has a dial feature along the edge that helps you select a preferred height if you ever decide to disconnect it from the stand or readjust its orientation. 

As for connections and ports, you'll find quite a few along the AG271's bottom: one Display Port 1.2a, one HDMI 1.4 port, a 3.5mm microphone-out port, a USB 3.0 upstream, and a USB 3.0 downstream. Along the right side of the monitor, you'll also find four other ports: another USB 3.0 downstream port, a USB 3.0+ fast-charging port, a 3.5mm headset port, and a 3.5mm microphone-in port.

Needless to say, you've got plenty of options for charging peripherals or affixing card readers to the monitor itself. Having all of these connections at your fingertips is convenient and fast for ancillary tasks, attaching a gaming console, or, for example, quickly plugging in a webcam for streaming. Of course, you'll still want to connect things like your mouse and keyboard to the computer itself, as you'll come up no dice by hooking them directly to the monitor.

Menu and Settings



As I mentioned earlier, the AG271QG's small but responsive menu buttons are elegantly tucked under the lower right-hand side of the monitor. Activating the menu, increasing and decreasing the volume, and switching between the Display and HDMI ports is easy. I specifically found the latter two capabilities invaluable; slogging through menus just to switch ports or change volumes is a real pain in the rear. I know -- my LG and ASUS monitors make me do it, and as much as it's a first-world problem, it grinds my gears nonetheless. 

It's also a good thing those options lie outside of the primary OSD since the 271QG's menu is drab and counterintuitive. Opening the OSD, you're met with a lackluster interface set against an opaque grey background that reminds me of something from the early 2000s, not a "cutting-edge" monitor from 2017. Of course, that's not nearly a deal-breaker in and of itself, but the menu is also frustratingly difficult to navigate. It's a bit difficult to explain, but once you get inside the OSD, you'll find that buttons which should move you forward take you backward and vice versa, making for a slightly head-scratching experience. 

What's more, and often endemic to G-Sync enabled monitors, the 271QG doesn't offer a whole lot in terms of presets. You can adjust brightness intensities, contrast levels, and gamma settings, as well as color levels and the OSD's primary setup by hand, but there's no one-size-fits-all option.

You can also enable the monitor's G-Sync functionality and ULMB settings here, the latter of which decreases motion blur and ghosting for games with fast-moving objects, such as Project Cars 2. Unfortunately, like with most monitors that provide both options, you can't enable G-Sync and ULMB at the same time, but that's a small price to pay once you actually start using the monitor.

Performance

Here's where the AG271QG really starts to shine. Out of the box, the monitor provides good color and brightness settings that you could very well just run with. Colors are lush, and except for a few ultra narrow sections along the edges, the screen didn't appear washed out overall. There was a bit of light bloom on certain letters in the headers of the Steam Client, for example, but nothing too noticeable in-game or when browsing the Web.

Brightness & Contrast Ratio

Looking at white luminance and brightness, the AG271QG is factory-rated at about 350 cd/m², but in testing, it can reach into the 380s, pushing it above some ASUS and Dell models. Out of the box, the brightness settings provide a uniform, consistent look across the monitor, something some TN monitors struggle with. And using the OSD, you can adjust these settings to your liking, with exceptionally pleasing results.

Having a contrast ratio of 1000:1 (with its darkest dark and whitest white measuring around 1160:1), as well as a dynamic contrast ratio of 50 million to one, you'll also get some truly eye-popping scenes in games like Destiny 2 and Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. 

Gamma & Color

When you first plug it in, the AG271QG's colors are slightly skewed toward green, and its grey scale measurement is on the higher side, coming in at about 4.04 Delta-E. While dE ratings of around 1.0 mean that differences between colors are nearly imperceptible to the human eye, those that come in higher along that value chain mean differences become more apparent. So while a 4.04dE rating isn't terrible, it's a bit higher than other monitors. Thankfully, this value can be changed in the OSD to reach a value closer to 1 and provide a sleek viewing experience. 

With colors outside of the grey spectrum, the AG271QG gets high marks. Color temps are vibrant, and as you'd expect from an IPS panel, this AGON model reproduces colors very well. Including warm, cool, and sRGB options, colors are accurate from almost every viewing angle. Compared to LG's 24UD58-B 4K, my everyday gaming monitor, shades on the 271QG are just a bit drabber when using factory settings in games like Fallout 4, but this is easily adjustable through the OSD via the User setting, which allows you to change each color value individually.

As for the monitor's gamma settings, you're afforded three different options. The first option provides a nice depth and vibrancy, while the second and third options do slightly cut into color performance when using specific settings. However, the overall gamma selections are more than adequate for a monitor of this type and most likely will be imperceptible for most users. 

Obliterating Screen Tearing with G-Sync & ULMB

As mentioned earlier, this AOC monitor comes with G-Sync capabilities, which you can use if you have an NVIDIA graphics card in your rig. Running a GTX 1080 with 8GB of VRAM, I found that the AG271QG G-Sync reacted as you'd expect, eliminating screen tearing and jittering even at higher refresh rates. Having the ability to disable V-Sync in-game and removing the processing burden from the GPU definitely has its advantages, allowing for smoother gaming experiences on the whole.

If you're exceptionally perceptive to blurring, you can opt to enable the monitor's ULMB settings to counteract that, but keep in mind that you'll also need to match the refresh rate to the frame rate for it to work as advertised. At higher refresh rates, such as 165Hz, that's a tall task. However, if you're willing to play at lower rates, such as 85Hz, you might find some value in the feature.

Consequently, G-Sync is probably a better option here, as it flawlessly prevents tearing (and basically negates blurring) at higher refresh rates. And if you're seriously considering adding this monitor to your setup, it's something you're going to want to take advantage of.

Response Times & Latency

The best part about this IPS screen is its low response times and nearly non-existent latency. When playing competitive games like CS:GO or Overwatch, low input latency is paramount. It can mean the difference between a quick kill and a quick death. 

As is the growing trend amongst newer IPS monitors, the AG271QG has a crazy-low response time of 4ms, putting it on par with or above a lot of TN monitors out there. And when compared to other IPS monitors, such as some of those in the ASUS and Dell lines, its black to white transitions take the cake. In essence, pixel responsiveness and signal delay aren't issues you're going to fight with -- at least not at levels that are going to affect your playing. Being made with eSports players in mind, this AGON model does exactly what it's advertised to do. 

Verdict

As far as G-Sync IPS monitors go, the AGON 271QG stands near the front of the pack. Its colors and contrast ratios are fantastic, and it provides excellent refresh rates without screen tearing or jittering. Input lag is practically nonexistent, which is a boon for competitive gamers of all shapes and sizes. 

Sure, its menus could use a bit of love, but if that's the only complaint we can really find here, it's a minute one that can be easily overlooked. (I mean, how long are you going to spend in menus anyway?) If you're in the market for a 2560x1440p 2K monitor that can blow refresh rates out of the water while also providing great color and expansive viewing ranges, the AG271QG is a monitor you're going to want to seriously consider. Its high price tag might dissuade more casual gamers from picking it up, but when you start to look at everything you get in this near-complete package, it's a little easier to swallow. 

You can buy the AGON AG271QG on Amazon for $599.99. 

[Note: AOC provided the AG271QG used for this review.]

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SteelSeries Rival 110 Review: Awesome Precision on a Budget https://www.gameskinny.com/yep00/steelseries-rival-110-review-awesome-precision-on-a-budget https://www.gameskinny.com/yep00/steelseries-rival-110-review-awesome-precision-on-a-budget Wed, 20 Dec 2017 11:38:26 -0500 Jonathan Moore

Not every gaming mouse needs dozens of buttons and insane DPI capabilities to make an impact on a gamer's quality of life. In fact, most casual gamers will likely bet on something that's easy on the wallet and highly functional. When you've got a budget of about $50, you need to make sure every penny counts. 

Historically, gamers looking for high-quality mice in that lower price range have struggled to find something that stands toe to toe with mid-tier mice. SteelSeries wants to fix that with its growing line of gaming peripherals, and that's where the Rival 110 looks to change things up. The successor to the Rival 100, the 110 makes a few small but impactful upgrades to the original Rival 100 design that make it worth checking out. In a nutshell, the 110 is a great budget mouse that gets the job done very well.

There are a few things to consider before picking it up, but they're mostly small hiccups that can be overlooked considering its $39 price tag. 

Design

The Rival 110 looks a heck of a lot like the Rival 100: it sports the same matte black finish that looks good alongside your other SteelSeries gear. The finish keeps your palm locked onto the mouse's body when performing quick movements and doesn't get slippery if that palm gets sweaty. The 110's plastic side grips do an adequate job of keeping your fingers locked in place, but aren't as cozy or effective as the Rival 310's silicone grips.

Moving around the 110's body, you'll find the standard six-button configuration found in many of the mice in this price group: LMB, RMB, DPI switch, mouse wheel button, and two lateral buttons along the left side. All of the buttons look to be about the same size as those found on the 100 -- and in testing, they felt about the same, too. Personally, I prefer the fatter, more rounded lateral buttons of the Rival 310 to the sharper, skinnier buttons of the 110 because they're easy to locate and provide a wider actuation surface. But that's completely personal preference, and other gamers will most likely find the buttons aren't overly obtuse. 

In form and function, all of the 110's buttons work well and provide nice tactile and auditory feedback. Rated at 30 million clicks, the 110's switches don't have the longest shelf life, but for $39.99, you really can't ask for too much more than that. 

On the bottom of the mouse, you'll find the TrueMove1 sensor, which has a slightly larger port than that found on the Rival 310, as well as three feet that are also slightly larger and slicker than the 310's. While we'll talk about the TrueMove1 sensor in just a bit, the larger feet on the 110 make it glide across mousepads and desktops faster than the 310 -- for better or worse. If you couple that movement capability with the 110's feather-light weight of 87.5g, it can sometimes feel as if the mouse is going to fly right out of your hand. 

As someone who's used to heavier mice -- like the 310 or Logitech's G703 -- the 110's weight and flightiness were a small hurdle to overcome, but a hurdle all the same. I found myself pulling shots and missing a few clicks here and there while acclimating to its weight. 

However, for those gamers that predominantly play twitch-style games or are looking for a nimble mouse for those weekend LAN parties, the 110 checks those boxes pretty well. Just keep in mind there aren't any weights associated with the 110, so what you see is what you get in that department. 

Performance

Where the Rival 110 really stands apart from its predecessor is in the sensor. Using the TrueMove1 sensor, the Rival 110 is one of the most accurate and responsive budget gaming mice on the market. The same technology that made the Rival 310 and Sensei 310 stand out from the pack can be found here in all its glory. 

In my time with the 110, I didn't notice much difference between the TrueMove1 and the TrueMove3 outside of the 1 and the 3 in the name. And that's a good thing. Each sensor provides pixel-perfect 1-to-1 tracking, making movement latency nearly nonexistent. That's not to mention each sensor focuses on doing that with advanced jitter reduction and SROM technology. In other words, it's hella' accurate and responsive, effectively matching your real-world mouse movements with on-screen cursor movement.   

Supporting up to 7,200 DPI at 240 IPS, the Rival 110 performed very well in Paladins and Battlefield 1, helping me nab headshot after headshot. By not focusing on ludicrously high DPI values, the TrueMove1 focuses on eliminating latency -- and gets it right. At every DPI tested, the Rival 110 didn't jitter or jerk, mirroring my movement across the mousepad on screen. The mouse cursor moved precisely where I wanted it to go and abruptly stopped when I needed it to.

I did miss some shots here and there -- especially when first picking up the mouse -- but the more I used the Rival 110, the more I chalked that up to the mouse's overall weight (and how alien it felt to me), not the sensor itself. 

Verdict

The Rival 110 is marketed as a budget mouse for esports and competitive gamers -- and in a way, it is. With the TrueMove1 sensor, the 110 marries low latency with high-precision accuracy. However, it doesn't reach the DPIs that the Rival 310 is capable of producing, and its feather-light weight might deter some gamers that are used to heftier options. That means it might not be the perfect fit for the competitive gamer.

However, for casual gamers, especially those on a budget, the Rival 110 is a damn steal at $39.99. Not only do you get the TrueMove1 sensor, but you get high-performing switches, robust customization options via SteelSeries Engine 3, and tons of cool lighting effects that are often relegated to higher-end options. 

You can buy the Rival 110 on Amazon for $39.99.

[Note: SteelSeries provided the Rival 110 used for this review.] 

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Logitech G603 Review: A Functional, If Curious, Mouse https://www.gameskinny.com/3o3qg/logitech-g603-review-a-functional-if-curious-mouse https://www.gameskinny.com/3o3qg/logitech-g603-review-a-functional-if-curious-mouse Tue, 12 Dec 2017 11:39:50 -0500 Jonathan Moore

Logitech has a shining reputation for good -- if not amazing -- gaming mice. With their LightSpeed technology, they introduced a line of wireless mice that are elegant and highly responsive. The G603 is the third in that line and sports adept and reliable mechanisms underneath a sleek design. It also boasts one of the very best sensors on the market in its High Efficiency Rated Optical movement detector. Couple that with insane battery life, and the G603 is a viable option for many gamers. 

But it's also a curious mouse. Launching alongside the Logitech G703 earlier this year, it provides functionalities not found in that mouse but doesn't take advantage of the 703's PowerPlay wireless charging abilities. Sure, the G603 is a fantastic mouse that tackles myriad situations with sangfroid, but it's also a mouse I sometimes think could have been absorbed by the G703 -- especially given the quality and ubiquity of the 703.  

High-End Functionality on a Budget

Coming in at $69.99, the G603 puts itself in the higher echelon of mid-tier mice -- the wired G403 Prodigy is nearly $20 cheaper and offers a lot of the same core functionalities. But at that price, the 603 also brings quite a bit to the table, not the least of which are its battery life, wireless accuracy, and Bluetooth capabilities. 

Battery Life

Instead of a lithium-ion battery, the G603 uses two AA batteries for juice. Boasting advanced battery life by providing two performance modes via its HERO sensor, Logitech's newest mouse can stay powered for twice as long as a plethora of other mice. According to Logitech's press materials, you can get up to 500 hours of gaming out of the G603 when using it in HI mode, which delivers better in-game Lightspeed reporting of 1ms. Alternatively, you can set the mouse to LO mode, which greatly slows response times to 8ms but affords you up to 18 months of battery life on a single set of AAs. 

Of course, I didn't put in near enough time with the mouse to drain the batteries, but it didn't lose charge in my 50-some-odd hours with it. To put things in perspective, I had to charge the G703 twice in that same time when not using the PowerPlay charging mat, so that's something to consider. 

Accuracy

On the accuracy front, Logitech developed a brand new sensor for the 603. Dubbed HERO, the optical sensor is supposed to provide enhanced power efficiency while still pushing exceptional accuracy and performance. Whether at low or high DPIs, HERO doesn't use pixel rounding or smoothing to deliver information between the mouse and the computer -- keeping you ahead of the game.  

Thing is, I didn't really notice a monumental difference between HERO and the G703's PMW3366 when it came to sniping skulls in Battlefield 1 or controlling the point in Paladins. Both mice are entirely capable of delivering kill shots in BF2 and effectively moving units in Total War at both low and high DPIs. Consequently, the main draw of HERO appears to be its power efficiency when doing all of that. In a nutshell, it's power conscious and responsive, but not revolutionary. 

Bluetooth Capabilities

An interesting addition not often found in other gaming mice, the G603's Bluetooth functionality allows the mouse to be used across multiple devices at a single time. If you don't want to go the LightSpeed dongle route, you can connect the 603 to your computer via Bluetooth, as well as one other device. As of this writing, the functionality supports iOS and Android tablets, laptops, and computers. 

Giving it a whirl with a MacBook, I found the functionality competent, if a bit difficult to pair at times. And although Bluetooth makes the 603 a bit more productive for day-to-day office situations -- and keeps you from having to move the dongle from device to device or rely on per device inputs -- in a gaming capacity, I didn't find much use for the functionality outside of very niche use cases. 

The G603's Design Is Nothing to Write Home About

There's not much to say about how the G603 looks on the outside. In a nutshell, it's the G703 and/or G403 Prodigy with a slightly different color scheme and rougher, grainier finish. You'll find the same six programmable buttons here that you will on the 703 and 403: LMB, RMB, two lateral buttons on the left side, a mouse wheel button, and a nice, easily reachable DPI button beneath the wheel. On the bottom of the mouse, you'll find two feet at the front and back, the power/LO/HI mode switch, and a button for Bluetooth pairing. 

The mouse body is designed just like the 703 and 403, too. Made for right-handed players, it favors palm- or claw-grip styles and fits ergonomically in your palm, although some players with larger hands may find its apex sits a bit awkwardly in the crook of their hand. 

The main panel of the mouse body is detachable. This is where you'll find the batteries and a nicely designed notch in which to house the LightSpeed dongle when not in use. That latter attention to detail is something I truly enjoy about the mouse. Losing dongles is just the worst. All in all, the G603's design is unassuming. That fits with the ethos that this is a gaming mouse that won't stand out on your office desk.

On top of everything mentioned above, the G603 doesn't provide any RGB lighting functionalities. None whatsoever. So although you can take it to work and back without your colleagues wondering why you have a gaming mouse in the office, you won't be able to get those cool lighting effects at home, which kind of makes the G603 a bit boring against all of your other RGB gear. That's not to mention that you could just, you know, turn the 703's RGB lighting off when at the office. 

 

The Verdict  

At the end of the day, I'm torn about the G603. On one hand, I see where it fits into the Logitech line of products and how it provides great functionality on a mid-tier budget. What it sacrifices when compared to the 703 gets it into that $70 price range. Its Bluetooth functionality is a bit sluggish in-game, but for office work, it's nice to be able to switch between devices with a single input device. And even if its battery life doesn't entirely stand out against other office-centric mice, it's sustainable while providing great accuracy via HERO. 

But on the other hand, some of its functionalities really could have been incorporated into the G703. Not taking advantage of Logitech's new PowerPlay wireless charging capabilities is a bit head-scratching. And with all the R&D spent on a new sensor that makes the 603's battery life last longer -- and has no terribly discernible effects on accuracy when compared to the 703's PMW3366 -- it seems that the 603's other primary functionality, Bluetooth, could have made it into the 703's design. 

But as it stands, the G603 is a functional, reliable, and efficient mouse that offers some neat tricks and awesome accuracy for those not willing (or able) to afford the higher-priced 703 and its $100 PowerPlay charging pad sidekick. If you fall into that boat or want something that functions as both a gaming peripheral and an unassuming office point and clicker, it's definitely a mouse you'll want to check out.

However, if it were me, I'd opt to spend the extra $30 for wireless charging capabilities, an infinitely refillable battery, wired and wireless capabilities, full RGB lighting options, and near-identical performance. What's more, the switches on the G703 are rated for 50 million clicks, while the switches on the G603 are only rated at 20 million clicks. It's not a one-to-one ratio, of course, but even if you don't count all the extra functionality you get in the G703, you're still paying $30 more for 30 million more clicks -- and a mouse that will last you 2.5 times as long. 

The 603 is a fine choice for many gamers, but if you can afford to splurge on a truly sensational option, I'd go with the 703 instead.   

You can buy the G603 on Amazon

[Note: Logitech provided the G603 used for this review.]

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Logitech G703 PowerPlay Mouse Review: Reinventing Wireless Gaming https://www.gameskinny.com/olin9/logitech-g703-powerplay-mouse-review-reinventing-wireless-gaming https://www.gameskinny.com/olin9/logitech-g703-powerplay-mouse-review-reinventing-wireless-gaming Fri, 08 Dec 2017 12:00:14 -0500 Jonathan Moore

Logitech has been in the peripherals business for a long time -- since 1981, to be exact. And what put the company on the map was its attention to detail, its engineering prowess, and its damn good mice. In the 36 years since the company came onto the world's stage, Logitech has expanded its peripherals catalog to include gaming keyboards and top-of-the-line gaming headsets. But the mouse remains one of its biggest, most reliable products. 

The Logitech G403 Prodigy gaming mouse wasn't the company's first attempt at making a revolutionary gaming peripheral, but it was one that proved widely popular with fans of the brand. It's a wired mouse that provides immense accuracy and speed, and a mouse many pros and competitive players swear by. But the next logical step in iterating that mouse meant it should be wireless. 

Enter the Logitech G703 PowerPlay wireless mouse. At $99, it's a bit more expensive than the years-old Prodigy, even though it looks exactly like it on the outside. However, what's on the inside of the 703 is what sets it apart.  

 

Out of the Box

The G703 comes packaged in an unobtrusive box that keeps its various parts well organized -- and can double as a nifty carrying case if needed. Inside, you'll find the mouse itself, a charging-data cable, a wireless extension adapter, a lightspeed-enabled nano receiver, and a 10g weight. In the mouse itself, you'll find a lithium-ion battery and a PowerPlay charging cookie. 

The about 4.5-foot-long charging and data pass-through cable is braided and made of high-quality composite. It's flexible but sturdy enough to ensure you won't get any shorts in the wire itself over hours of use. Being that it's a tad on the thick side does means that it can sometimes catch on the edges of certain mousepads, such as the thick sides found on the SteelSeries Qck Prism, which can somewhat impede mouse movement depending on your setup. At any rate, you'll really only use the cable when charging the mouse if you're not using its PowerPlay functionality or want a wired alternative, so most players won't come up against this issue anyway. 

Looking toward the wireless front, and to what this mouse is really all about, you'll find in the box a wireless lightspeed nano receiver and a wireless extension adapter. The former is what provides the G703's game-changing wireless capabilities, while the latter allows you to bring the lightspeed receiver closer to the mouse, giving you a better, purer signal if need be. 

Finally, the 10g weight is for those who find the G703's 107 grams a bit too feathery. Inserting the weight into the bottom of the mouse is extremely easy and takes about five seconds to do. However, using it means you won't be able to take advantage of the mouse's PowerPlay charging features. Consequently, using the mouse's weight is really only an option for those not using the mouse's wireless charging functionality, which seems like a bit of an oversight by Logitech. 

 

G703 Design

There's no way around it: the G703 looks identical to the G403 Prodigy. From its ergonomically curved architecture to its six programmable buttons, the G703 doesn't do much to distinguish itself through its outer shell. The only real noticeable difference is that its body doesn't sport the complete black finish of the Prodigy. Instead, you can get the G703 in both a grey/black color scheme and a black/white color scheme, the latter of which pops when coupled with the mouse's elegant design. 

Made for palm- or claw-grip styles, the G703 feels great to hold for both long and short periods. I often found myself switching between styles for different games and different scenarios without a single hitch. I preferred the mouse's slicker matte finish to the grainier finishes of other mice, such as Logitech's own G603, a mouse that also imitates the 703 and Prodigy. And I loved the mouse's rubberized sides, which helped me better grip the mouse and keep it firmly in control. 

On top of that, the 703 has the same six fully programmable buttons as the Prodigy and G603: the right and left mouse buttons, two lateral buttons on the left side, one below the scroll wheel for DPI cycling, and one on the mouse wheel itself. The peripheral's LMB and RMB are clickable from the tip of the mouse to about halfway up the 703's body -- and they're rated for 50 million clicks. The DPI is nicely placed and easy to reach, and the mouse button itself provides a nice, meaty click when depressed. 

On the underside of the mouse, you'll find the switch to turn it on, the circular area for the weight and/or PowerPlay cookie, and two feet. Although I've seen some complaints that the feet provide a bit too much friction because of their placements at the front and back of the mouse, I never felt as if they impeded my use of the 703. 

G703 Performance and LightSpeed Technology 

Since the dawn of the digital age, man has dreamed of going truly wireless, while retaining the robust performance of the wired mouse. And for a long time, that was simply unachievable. But -- if I may be a tad bit melodramatic -- that day has finally come with Logitech's LightSpeed wireless technology. 

In my day to day, whether it be gaming or pounding out gear reviews and news, I exclusively use wired mice because of two reasons: One, that's mainly what we have lying around the office, and two, wired mice are so damn reliable. Historically, lag and latency have plagued wireless mice, keeping them from being the go to for a lot of gamers, especially those in eSports and the competitive scene. 

Using the G703 for more than a month playing games like Battlefield 1, Battlefront 2, Fallout 4, Endless Space 2, and Paladins, I can definitively say that G703 is as accurate -- if not more accurate -- than any of the wired mice I've reviewed this year. Click latency is virtually nonexistent, and using the PMW3366 optical gaming sensor in conjunction with Lightspeed means the G703's motion latency is top of the line. Getting headshots in BF2 with the 703 is a cinch, and commanding units in Endless Space 2 is effortless. 

Using zero smoothing and no pixel rounding, the G703 completes its responsive arsenal with technology that ensures accurate sensitivities even at high DPIs. As someone who typically plays with his DPI somewhere in the 800-1,000 range, toying with higher settings was a breeze with these functionalities, and I even found that I was more accurate scaling up my typical settings.  

PowerPlay Wireless Charging 

Even when gamers choose wireless mice over their wired brethren, those gamers still have to plug their mice in to charge them. It might be a bit pretentious, but plugging and unplugging cables can be a real pain in the keester -- and having dangling cords can pose other problems, too, the least of which is aesthetic. But Logitech has solved that with true wireless charging in the G703. 

Using the PowerPlay charging mat, which we reviewed extensively here, the G703 never (ever) has to be plugged in. Really. Never. 

The TL;DR of it is that the PowerPlay mat (which is sold separately for $100) uses electromagnetic resonance to create an energy field just above the surface of the mat, which is then converted into a charging current. All you have to do is insert the PowerPlay cookie (receiver) into the slot on the bottom of the G703, and you're ready to go. The mat even has a LightSpeed receiver built in (which sends the main wireless signal over a cable to the computer). 

Without the charging mat, you'll get about 24 to 32 hours of game time before having to recharge. With the charging mat, you essentially get unlimited charging power. In my time using the G703 and the PowerPlay charging mat, I never once had to plug the mouse in to charge -- and that's after playing 36 hours in Fallout 4, 25 hours of Battlefront 2, 12 hours of Endless Space 2, and 15 hours of Paladins

And for those of you who might think the electromagnetic charging field might interfere with the accuracy of the LightSpeed signal, you can rest easy: the mouse functions as optimally with the mat as it does without the mat in that regard. I did experience some stuttering when first powering on the mouse and moving to the extreme outside the widely defined signal area of the mat, but those instances were (very) few and far between and had more to do with the mat than the mouse itself. 

All in all, the G703 works with the PowerPlay mat exactly as advertised, ushering in a truly wireless gaming future. 

Customizability Using Logitech's Gaming Software

If you've owned a Logitech gaming mouse or peripheral before, you're already aware of the vast customizability options the Logitech Gaming Software offers gamers. From setting specific RGB lighting sequences and macros to creating per-game DPI profiles and keeping track of your battery life (if not using the PowerPlay mat), everything you could possibly ask for is at your fingertips. 

And if you're a competitive gamer or want to take the mouse with you to LANs, the G703 provides five on-board profiles that can hold your settings for quick recall. 

The Verdict

On the surface, the G703 looks a lot like the G403 Prodigy. It even has some of the same bells and whistles under the hood. But what really sets this mouse apart from the Prodigy, and essentially any other mouse on the market, is that it's truly wireless -- and ridiculously accurate while doing it. 

At $99, it's well worth the investment if you're looking for a wireless mouse that has all the functionality of its wired brethren. If you're willing to plunk down another $100, you'll have a wireless mouse with infinite battery life. I'm not one to lightly suggest anyone spend $200 -- that's a big chunk of change to drop on anything, let alone a mouse and mouse pad. But what you get for that investment is well (well) worth the price. 

I would have liked to have seen Logitech take the G703 as a chance to iterate a tad bit more on the Prodigy's design -- perhaps add an extra button or incorporate some of the features found in the G603 -- but all in all, the Logitech G703 is a fantastic wireless mouse that reinvents wireless gaming -- and aggressively challenges the status quo in the gaming peripherals space. 

You can buy the Logitech G703 on Amazon

[Note: Logitech provided the G703 mouse used in this review.]

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SteelSeries Arctis 3 Bluetooth Headset Review: Versatility in a Reliable Product Line https://www.gameskinny.com/frvsj/steelseries-arctis-3-bluetooth-headset-review-versatility-in-a-reliable-product-line https://www.gameskinny.com/frvsj/steelseries-arctis-3-bluetooth-headset-review-versatility-in-a-reliable-product-line Mon, 04 Dec 2017 16:10:00 -0500 Jonathan Moore

As anyone who follows the gaming peripherals space knows, SteelSeries has a knack for iteration. Their catalog of quality gaming mice is evidence of that, with their Rival and Sensei lines being home to many popular -- and highly reliable -- products. And with the Arctis 3 Bluetooth, a lateral iteration on the original Arctis 3 gaming headset, they've mostly struck gold yet again -- this time on the audio front. 

The new headset doesn't address some of the key issues we had with its predecessor; it still doesn't provide the most robust sound when compared to its headset competitors, and it's still not as plug and play on the PC when compared to the Arctis 5 and Arctis 7. But it's got a neat trick up its sleeves that helps it stand out from the pack.

 

Simultaneous Bluetooth and Wired Audio

One of the things I absolutely love about the Arctis 3 Bluetooth headset is how utterly ubiquitous it is. Instead of strictly being a gaming headset, the Bluetooth version of the Arctis 3 works on myriad devices: your PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, mobile phone, and more. Unassuming and comfortable as always, this set of cans drops the pomp and circumstance of RGB and slick logos to focus on form and functionality. 

Having the option to seamlessly switch between wired audio and Bluetooth audio is something I didn't know I wanted until I tried it. Being a huge music fan, having the ability to sync the Arctis 3 Bluetooth to my iPhone 6S Plus meant I rarely had to take the headset off. Essentially, I could game for a few hours, unplug the headset from my console or PC, and walk out the door jamming some Intervals or Architects without skipping a single beat. 

It's all because the Arctis 3 Bluetooth not only has quality wireless functionality but also the functionality to listen to both wired audio and Bluetooth audio simultaneously -- if that's your thing. 

Doing so can be a bit overwhelming at times and takes some getting used to, but being able to hear in-game announcements and audio while taking a phone call without removing the Arctis 3 is an amazing experience. Couple that with the ability to listen to podcasts or music while playing Paladins, DOTA, or even Assassin's Creed Origins, and you can create your own unique soundscape for any gaming experience. 

Out of the box, you'll get all the cables you need to make it happen: a dual 3.5mm cable for wired PC audio, a standard 3.5mm attachment for connecting the headset to your mobile device or controller, and another hookup that acts as a middleman between those cables and the headset. You'll also get a USB charging cable to charge the headset's Bluetooth battery via a PC or console. 

It's a lot of cables, I know. Keeping up with them all is something I'm not terribly fond of and didn't necessarily like in the original Arctis 3. Although it's a small gripe, I wish SteelSeries had taken the opportunity with this iteration of the headset to consolidate some of the wires (at least into three instead of four). But as it stands, having specific cables for specific uses is something that increases the veracity of the headset in the long run. 

Platform 3.5mm Analog Wireless Bluetooth Surround Sound Engine 3 Support
PC
PS4      
Xbox One      
Nintendo Switch ✓ (w/ChatApp)    
Virtual Reality    
Mobile Devices    


Still Comfortable, Still Sleek

As intimated above, the Arctis 3 Bluetooth headset is stupid comfortable. Like its predecessor, this set of cans sports SteelSeries' wonderfully pleasant (and easily adjustable) ski goggle headband design. Weighing in at around 10 ounces, the Arctis 3 Bluetooth won't cause any discomfort across the top of the head and doesn't feel heavy in the slightest. 

Its earcups are once again snug and cozy. And the breathable fabric surrounding the 40mm Neodymium drivers doesn't get hot or sweaty across long gaming sessions. In a nutshell, it's still the most comfortable gaming headset I've ever worn. 

As for looks, the Bluetooth version of the Arctis 3 carries over the sleek, understated aesthetic of its predecessor, sporting an unassuming look that won't stand out in a crowd if you decide to wear it in public while listening to a few tunes. And even though its jet black finish is refined, it's a shame that other color options aren't available to complement modern gaming setups and their typical RGB flourish. 

As you move around the headset, the understated design continues on the left ear cup, where users will find the volume wheel and mute toggle, as well as the main cable jack and headphone share jack. It's interesting none of these controls and/or inputs were moved to the right ear cup. But nonetheless, the buttons never feel cramped, and the jacks are easy to locate without ever taking the headset off. 

Lastly, just like the original Arctis 3, the Bluetooth model is highly portable. Being able to rotate each of the headset's earcups and lay them flat means you'll be able to easily drop them into a backpack or overnight bag, which can be especially useful for competitive and eSports players. 

Same Clear Communication

Another area where SteelSeries doesn't iterate on the original Arctis 3 -- but most certainly doesn't have to -- is the Bluetooth's retractable microphone. Whether you're using the headset on your PC, console, or mobile device, communication is clear as a bell with this bidirectional, noise-canceling mic. 

And just like its progenitor, the mic in the Arctis 3 Bluetooth never once cracked or dipped in my time with it, providing crystal clear communication in both gaming and business scenarios. 

Verdict

The Bluetooth version of the Arctis 3 headset is comfortable, functional, and reliable. It provides fantastic clarity via its microphone, offers insane versatility via its added wireless technology, and sports a 28-hour battery life that only improves its ubiquity.  

However, like the original, I can't recommend it without a few caveats, even if it does do what a lot of other headsets don't. Overall, it's still less plug and play out of the box than advertised, and if it's your first SteelSeries peripheral, downloading and setting up the Engine 3 software can be a pain in the proverbial butt. 

On the sound front, it doesn't provide the robust quality of its cousin, the Arctis 7 -- or of other similarly priced headsets such as the Logitech G533. Sometimes the sound was rich and full of vigor, while other times I could barely hear in-game dialogue or sound effects without pumping the volume to maximum. On top of that, there are no in-line controls for volume or chat, meaning you have to use the controls located on the left earpiece, which may be more or less convenient depending on your style. 

But my biggest concern about the headset is its $129.99 price tag. If you're a strict PC gamer, it's a hard price to justify -- especially with other, more audio-rich headsets in the HyperX Cloud Alpha and the Logitech G433 both coming in under $100 (and the G533 is only $30 more than the Arctis 3 Bluetooth but offers better all-around sound). If you're a console or hybrid gamer, even the other headsets in the Arctis line are more attractive, more affordable options. 

However, if you want the ability to multitask with your audio -- to listen to music and in-game audio at the same time, or to take a phone call while playing without having to take your headset off -- the Bluetooth model of the Arctis 3 is well worth checking out. 

You can buy the Arctis 3 Bluetooth on Amazon

[Note: SteelSeries provided the Arctis 3 Bluetooth headset used for this review.]

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Enhance LED Mouse Pad Review: Colorful, Functional, Affordable https://www.gameskinny.com/vyqyv/enhance-led-mouse-pad-review-colorful-functional-affordable https://www.gameskinny.com/vyqyv/enhance-led-mouse-pad-review-colorful-functional-affordable Thu, 30 Nov 2017 11:34:19 -0500 Jonathan Moore

There's a lot that goes into choosing a good gaming mouse pad. From soft cloth to rigid plastic, surface area, and RGB lighting, there's no one-size-fits-all solution -- whether you're focused on performance, look, or both. And when buying a mousepad on a budget, there are tons of options to choose from. Some are better for sniping in games like Call of Duty and Battlefield 1, while others are better for granular unit movements in games like Endless Space 2 and Total War, providing more or less friction based on materials and in-game need 

Accessory Power's Enhance branded mouse pad falls strictly on the side of rigid plastic; it's a model designed for increased speed and low resistance. Like many pads out there, it doesn't reinvent the wheel. And while it may stumble in places, at $30, it does provide the functionality expected of a budget offering while still providing a few bells and whistles that other pads in its price range don't necessarily afford. 

Design

Out of the box, the Enhance mouse pad measures a moderate 14x10 inches, making it a mid-range offering that eschews the typical square design of many other pads for a more rectangular one that promotes extended side-to-side movement. Its size means that it won't take up too much room on your desktop but will provide a relatively sizeable area for sweeping mouse movements when necessary.

Sporting a futuristic design, the slab's matte black surface is emblazoned with cyberpunk-inspired translucent decals on the right and left sides, as well as the transparent Enhance logo at the pad's bottom center. At the top, you'll find the USB socket for the pad's braided power cable and cycle switches for lighting options and presets, the latter of which are neatly tucked into the pad's ASB plastic body to avoid any bulges on the surface. 

Finally, the back of the pad sports a textured, rubberized surface that does a fantastic job of keeping it in place. When compared to my other go-to gaming pad, the SteelSeries Qck Prism, the Enhance takes the (slight) nod here. Not once did I experience any slippage or base movement in my time with it, which is perfect for long gaming sessions or intense competitive bouts. 

RGB Lighting

With RGB lighting all the rage these days, it's little surprise that the Enhance LED gaming mouse pad provides backlighting functionality (it's in the name, after all). Using the power and cycle switches at the top of the pad, you'll be able to choose between seven different static colors (Red, Blue, Purple, Green, Yellow, Teal, and White), as well as two lighting effects, Fade and Rainbow, which cycle through all of the pad's available color options. On top of that, you'll be able to cycle between three brightness options to help you better tune the pad to your liking -- or to match it to your other RGB peripherals. 

In a dark room, the light emanating from the Enhance's diaphanous edges and the translucent designs on its surface were vibrant, yet not too distracting even at the brightest setting. The fade and rainbow effects add a nice contrast to the pad's static offerings but aren't as smooth between transitions as other backlighting presets found in peripherals made by companies such as SteelSeries and Corsair (although at the price, that's somewhat expected). 

When put into a brightly lit room, the RGB lighting falters a bit more. Depending upon the angle at which you're sitting (or have the pad situated), the lighting can appear splotchy, with some sections along the edges producing vibrant light and others emitting no perceivable light at all. On top of that, some colors appear washed out along the sides and on the top of the pad depending on the lighting of the room. For example, the purple can sometimes appear white in areas, white can occasionally appear as a washed out cyan, and yellow can periodically appear the hue of lemon-lime Gatorade. 

Performance

As you'd expect, the rigid plastic surface of the Enhance lends itself to speed, agility, and low resistance. That means it's not entirely ideal for first-person and third-person shooters like Call of Duty, Paladins, or Battlefront 2 -- especially when using a gaming mouse at higher DPI settings. Instead, the Enhance is more suited to subtle mouse movements that might require rapidity to execute, such as flicking between units in StarCraft 2.

During my time with the pad, I tested it with the SteelSeries Rival 310 gaming mouse, as well as the Logitech G703. Playing BF2, Paladins, and Fallout 4, I didn't notice any perceivable mouse float at lower DPI settings, but at higher settings, the slickness of the pad's surface definitely impeded my accuracy, causing quite a few errant shots. In essence, I was able to move the reticule quickly toward a designated target, but it was difficult to stop the reticule precisely and deliver a killing blow. 

Using AimBooster and comparing the Enhance to another rigid-top pad in the Qck Prism -- which provides a bit more friction than the Enhance -- I was able to confirm my observations. Through more than 80 individual tests, I found that my average accuracy with each mouse was greater with the Qck, while my speed was increased with the Enhance. 

Note: In the table below, Avg. Speed denotes the average speed at which I was able to hit targets within a 60-second window using AimBooster. 

Mouse Mouse Pad DPI Avg. Speed Avg. Accuracy
Rival 310 Enhance LED 800 2.93s 91.70%
Rival 310 Enhance LED 1600 2.98s 92.71%
Rival 310 Qck Prism 800 2.84s 94.71%
Rival 310 Qck Prism 1600 2.91s 94.70%
Logitech G703 Enhance LED 800 2.93s  92.20% 
Logitech G703 Enhance LED 1600 2.96s  90.01%  
Logitech G703 Qck Prism 800 2.82s 95.12%
Logitech G703 Qck Prism 1600 2.86s 93.93%


As you can see, the Enhance surface allows for higher speeds in both the Rival 310 and the G703, but sacrifices accuracy to do so. The Qck's slightly "rougher" surface decreases average speeds but increases average accuracy across both mice. 

Verdict

Overall, the Enhance LED mouse pad is a decent mid-range option, even if it stumbles in the RGB spectrum, but it isn't the most comfortable slab on the market, and it is easily dinged up.

However, if you're on a budget and looking for a slick, hump-free surface that promotes speed, the Enhance is an option to consider. Its surface performs as you'd expect from a rigid-top pad, and at the end of the day, that's what matters for hard-surface fans that need something better than their pockmarked desktop. 

[Note: Accessory Power provided the Enhance LED mouse pad used for this review.] 

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