Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Plantronics Mania!

The folks over at Plantronics were kind enough to send me box of their line-up of headsets and headphones for both PC and console gaming, so I’ll be taking a look at a select few and putting them through the paces.

In the past with our Plantronics headset reviews I found them be quite good at giving a reasonable sound at such an attractive price point. Plantronics generally offered great sounding headsets for the amateur to mid-level gamer on a budget.

Let’s kick things straight off with the Gamecom 380’s
Firstly, what an absolute effort just to get it out of its packaging, Plantronics have made a fair effort to glue shut the edges making your tear into the packaging just to reach it. Bit of an overkill to be honest and not sure as to why they wouldn’t have stuck with their packaging similar to the 777 and 780. A little heads up to Plantronics while I’m on the topic; gamers generally hate trying to fiddle around with the packaging just to open it! Make it snappy and quick to get into!
First thing I did was launch up iTunes and play through a selection ranging from different artists to genres, so a bit of everything to see how the headset fairs up. Generally it did pretty well. It gave me a good even sound across the board but it struggled with the lower end of the spectrum. Bass was seriously lacking and didn’t give that punch one would expect. It’s a shame really, because the 380’s really mimic the 7770 and 780’s so I’m not sure where they skipped to add in that extra kick of bass. Even with the lack of bass however I found it to be quite pleasing and surprisingly good. If I was to really get picky, I’d say the high end is a bit too much, but so little that most people won’t recognize it.

Gaming was surprisingly better than general music listening. Once I set up the audio as stereo within MW3 and launched up a level, the audio was surprisingly pleasing. Even though listening to music proved a bit of a letdown with the lack of bass, I didn’t really see that come through with gaming. I guess with music you expect a bit of a kick to the bass but with gaming, the rainbow clusters of audio being jammed into your head almost bypasses that feeling of no bass.
Comfortable they are, with velour padding ensures lengthy periods with it attached to your head. They fit nicely over your ears and sit snuggly. The mic could’ve used an extra inch or two to the length just to reach over my mouth, I could be nit picking though, my head is a bit big and I guess if you’re a smaller bloke it would be positioned quite evenly. The headset does come with traditional audio jacks, which is a massive plus for me. I really dislike USB powered headsets so when one comes along with good old fashioned tradition methods, I love it! 
Next up is the Gamecon 307
To put basically the 307’s are watered down version of the 380’s. They sit on top of your ears so a bit of discomfort will come from lengthy sessions. However if your suffering from Dumbo syndrome, these will be good in pinning back those ears!
The 307’s are as loud as the 380’s but don’t give the same clarity and audio definition as the 380. The drivers within the headpiece just aren’t as good quality as the higher end, and this is as expected. These are your entry level budget headsets but to be honest it does a pretty decent job in offering affordable and comfortable audio. With music, the 307’s provided decent listening especially with the added bass. The 307 definitely gives a bigger punch than the 308.
With gaming the headset didn’t favour as well. It lacked that extra bit that makes it special. The game just sounded flat and a lack of a broad range of frequencies became evident. The comfort of them also plays a bit of a disappointment from others. Sitting on top of your ears doesn’t give as much comfort as others; this also adds a lack of privacy feeling that’s associated with headset that covers your ears.
Plantronics Marque M155
Next up is something a bit different from the ordinary. It’s a Bluetooth Headset ideal for smartphones. The M155 is simply awesome. Not only did it take seconds to pair up with my iPhone but I was up and running with calls and music within seconds.
Making a call the voice came through quite clear and loud enough. The recipient reported my voice to be clear and with no breaks in audio. Answering phone calls with the headset was simple as saying ‘answer’ to accept the calls, pretty cool ey? I was pretty impressed with the M155, I didn’t expect it to be as cool as It is.

The rest of the range is your everyday run of the mill products. They offer their price point in terms of audio quality, so the cheaper you go you shouldn’t really be picky on the quality of what you get. Still, Plantronics offer great quality products at decent entry level prices aimed at all level users. One of the things I did notice on the packaging of the units was the unified design in labelling the headsets with large text that outlines what kind of environments the headsets are built for. Your options range from Gamecom, to Movies, Music & Voice (Skype / Windows Live). Another piece of heavy marketing on the labels is the Skype certified and Windows Live, iChat support labels. So basically Plantronics have created a range of headsets useful for potentially anyone with a PC or mac. You can also grab console specific headset like the X95 and X40 which are wired and wireless solutions for Xbox gaming. Unfortunately these Xbox headsets aren’t friendly with PC gaming so you’ll have to stick with one each if you go down that path.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Asus G75VW Laptop Review!

Following the amazing G74, Asus have come out with the latest addition their uber leet (and uber pricey) G series laptops, the G75!
So as always, let’s take a look at this monster’s internals.

Model: G75VW-T1013V
OS: Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
Intel® Core™ i7-3610QM (2.3GHz, 3.3GHz Turbo)
Memory: 16GB DDR3 (1600MHz)
Hard Drive(s): 
256GB SSD + 1TB 5400RPM
Optical Drive(s):
BluRay Writer
Gigabit Ethernet
nVidia GTX670M 3GB
17.3” Full-HD LED (1920x1080 Resolution)
Sonic Master with Subwoofer built-in
802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0
4x USB3.0,  1x Microphone, SD Card Reader
1x Headphone Out, 1x VGA, 1x HDMI, 1x mini Display Port
Battery: 8 Cell
Weight: 4.5kg

Comparing with the G74 we see the processor upgraded to the latest Ivy Bridge mobile quad core, RAM speed increased to 1600MHz, a GTX670M graphic processor (Don’t be fooled, it is based on the Fermi architecture, not Kepler) and a change in its audio processor. The G74 featured EAX audio while the G75’s has been changed to something called ‘Sonic Master’. Not sure yet whether or not that is a upgrade or a downgrade.

Last time I was pretty unimpressed with the packaging as it just lacked any fine detail or definition, however it seems as though Asus have listening and crafted a much more appealing internal layout. Removing the unit out of its slick packaging felt a bit heavier than the G74 and rightly so weighing in at 4.5kg, definitely not a ‘portable’ machine. The unit is almost covered in rubber padding from the outer lid the palm rest of the keyboard.

Opening up the lid reveals the full sized backlit keyboard and keys with a dedicated number pad.  The keys feel great to type on and use while keeping the ergonomics uncompromised. Along the top right of the unit you’ll see the power button and the ROG button, which allow you to select difference performance profiles for the machine. For testing purposes, I kept it on Performance (Highest setting)
The sides of the unit are showered with all your inputs and outputs including 4 USB3.0 ports. Asus have skipped the slower USB2.0 altogether and probably the wisest thing to do.
Flipping the unit upside down we can unscrew a few places off. I noticed a small screwed area towards the rear of the unit and taking off the plastic revealed a small blower fan. Now, I’m not too sure about this but I assume it is there to allow you to remove the plate when gaming for lengthy periods to allow for better airflow. It would also be very beneficial if you have a notebook cooler. The flow of air would create great thermal results. Another larger panel once removed reveals the memory and drive slots similar to those on the G74. Good upgradable laptop to have on hand.
The display on the machine is fantastic and almost is identical to that on the G74 with the matte finish. I would be surprised if it was even a different screen altogether. The sound on the G75 is a bit better than the G74. The small subwoofer on the bottom of the unit, though lacks any punch, helps reduce that little bit of tinny sounds that come from laptop speakers and add a punch, as minuscule as the punch might be.

The G75 is put simply the fastest laptop I have used. It boots up in a blitz and performs day to day tasks like browsing, emails, light Photoshop work and other tasks an absolute breeze, and it does it quietly and with style. The G series always had amazing thermal performance and the G75 is no less. Even with the higher end parts which theoretically should be slightly warmer, the rear end exhausts do an amazing job in getting that heat out.

Starting up 3DMark11 I tested the machine under Performance and Extreme settings with results as follows:
X963 3DMarks
P3001 3DMarks
Overall, that is quite an impressive result. It managed to score around 300 extra points on Xtreme and almost 1000 more under the performance setting. That’s quite a big leap if you ask me for a laptop!

In our Unigine V2.5 benchmark, the G75 once again proved why it is worth the upgrade:
FPS: 22.5
Score: 567
Min FPS: 6.9

With the heavy benchmarks out the way, it was time to test the unit under real world uses, gaming and boy was it awesome! At no point in time did I feel like it struggled, it just simply and easily breezed through my games and delivered exceptional results! Let’s take a look at some of the details:

Temperatures were amazing. Even under full load the GPU didn’t pass 70 degrees with the CPU coming in even lower. The exhausts at the back however were pushing out a good amount of heat so full credit goes to this design by Asus, the dual fan design they have in the machine definitely gets the heat out. Having said that I would not recommend using this on your lap, this will burn the hair of your legs! A desk and even if you have one, an elevated cooler would be the wisest option.

the G74 was something (and still is in my opinion) special, the G75 is even better. It’s faster and what more does it need to be? It simply performs the way you want it too, however all good things have that little tick that could be removed, and in this case once again it’s Asus partitioned the 2 disks into 4 separate drives. I would assume many people would agree with me when I say nobody enjoys that. It’s unnecessary and quite frankly most people simply remove the partitions when they first get it and do a clean installation to remove the crapware that comes with. I mean let’s face it, this is targeted at heavy end gamers who are 80% of the time well aware of everything computer related and know exactly what they need and want in their systems. Asus provides only the internals while falling short on the software side of things with its crapware.
Having said that a simply uninstallation of it all will fix any issues. Whether you do or don’t doesn’t change the fact this is a marvellous machine! If I had 2k to blow on a system, I’d get a G75.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Lynksys X3000 & E1200 Routers

Two products from Linksys today for a quick overview! The X3000 and the E1200. One is your full fledged modem router and wireless unit while the other offers strictly wireless functionality.

First up the X3000, let's take a look at it's spec sheet:
Model: Linksys X3000
Technology: Wireless-N
Bands: 2.4 GHz
Transmit/receive: 2 x 2
Antennas: 2 internal
4 x Gigabit LAN
1 x Ethernet WAN
1 x DSL
1 x USB StorageLink
Package contents:
  • Linksys X3000 Advanced Wireless-N ADSL2+ Modem Router
  • Quick start guide
  • CD-ROM with setup software and resources
  • Ethernet cable
  • Power adapter

Looking at its features we have a built-in modem supporting standard DSL connections and the ability to connect your Cable modem via Ethernet if need be. You get full 300mbps wireless speeds on the 2.4GHz band which allows for great coverage. One of the things that excite me about this router is the 4 Gigabit ports. Not all modem/routers come with Gigabit support, so when one comes along its a pretty big feature to have. Gigabit will give you much higher wired speeds between computers and even network storage drives. The USB port on the unit is ready to support your USB drive to share over the network, which makes it handy with the built-in Media Server capabilities. With the media server enabled you can use your media players (PS3/ XBox) to browse through the contents of the USB drive and stream wirelessly!

The packaging on the X3000 is remarkably simply. Once you open the box the unit is just sitting there with a bit of protection hovering over it. The design resembles a lot of Linksys's past models like WAG series. Overall, it looks like it could be a solid piece of networking device aimed at all-round to high end users.

Next is the E1200 wireless-n router!

Model: Linksys E1200
Technology: Wireless-N
Bands: 2.4 GHz
Transmit / receive: 2 x 2
Antennas: 2 internal
Ethernet ports x speed: 4 x Ethernet
Package Contents:
  • Linksys E1200 Wireless-N Router
  • Quick start guide
  • CD-ROM with setup software and resources
  • Ethernet cable
  • Power adapter

The E1200 is a basic Wireless-N router, giving you the ability to connect multiple computers and devices to your network and giving you high speed wireless access. The router is extremely easy to setup and start sharing your internet across the house or business wirelessly. The unit itself is packaged much similarly to the X3000. Once you open the package you'll find it just sitting there. The unit does look nice and shiny and modern but is an absolute smudge and finger print magnet!
So if you need to share your internet wirelessly and got a crappy unit from your ISP, the E1200 could be a good solution for your wireless plans!