Gear Reviews


Reviews
Intuos Creative Stylus

By Jorge Figueiredo - October 21st, 2013

stylus-1

A good drawing tablet is such a great asset if you’re planning on doing any drawing or graphic design on your computer. Wacom arguably has the corner on the market for both consumers and professionals with their various products. From the simple (and relatively affordable) Bamboo line to the amazing (and expensive) Cintiqs, folks have plenty of choice. Of course, with so many people owning iPads and iPad Minis now, will the average consumer actually spend the coin on buying yet another device to play with, even if that device might be useful? Without a stylus of some kind, detailed sketching can be a little more challenging on an iPad. Luckily, Wacom has produced something of a compromise with the Intuos Creative Stylus. At the risk of spoiling the ending of this review: this thing is draw-some!

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Shootout
Bluetooth Headsets

By Jorge Figueiredo - January 6th, 2011

bth-1

I was at Staples in late 2009 and purchased a Bluetooth headset because I needed one for DJ Hero (both to check out how it worked and to gain one of the achievements). I have not really used it for anything since then until very recently, when I was playing co-operative multi-player Assassn’s Creed: Brotherhood with Dana. It was then that I realized that the type of Bluetooth headset you buy really does make a big difference.

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GEAR REVIEW
Mad Catz Wireless Gaming Adapter

By Shaun Hatton - December 20th, 2009

Mad Catz Wireless Gaming Adapter

For years, I have lamented the fact that I could only take my Xbox 360 online by running a long Ethernet cable across my living room floor, which posed a health hazard to anyone else that happened to walk by. As I’m not a fan of having cables stapled up my wall to run along my ceiling and back down another wall to my router, this was the best I could do. The long cable would be hauled out only if I wanted to go online, and I would weigh it down with mats so that the likelihood of someone tripping over it would be minimal.

Microsoft has had its own brand of wireless adapter for the console for years now, and has just also released a Wireless N version of it for about $99. The pricing is a little steep to justify, however, so I shied away from purchasing one. Luckily, Mad Catz has also released a Wireless N adapter at a more affordable $79.

The small adapter comes with a short Ethernet cable, an AC adapter, and some software to help get it up and running. Ironically I’m a bit of a technophobe when it comes to installing and using new software and hardware, and I even get nervous about it. Thankfully setting up the Mad Catz Wireless Gaming Adapter was a fast and simple process. Although it connects to the 360 (or any other wired network-enabled device, for that matter) the actual network information, including any relevant passwords, is stored on the adapter itself. By connecting it directly to a computer, it’s possible to configure the device. A few short minutes later, it was up and running properly with my Xbox 360.

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GEAR REVIEW
SteelSeries Siberia V2 Full-Size Headset

By Shaun Hatton - December 3rd, 2009

SteelSeries Siberia V2 Full-Size Headset

If you game online with friends at all, you know how important it is to have a good, comfortable headset to voice chat with. Unfortunately being frugal when it comes to headsets doesn’t pay off, as they need to be durable, dependable, and most importantly comfortable.

My Xbox 360 came with a wired headset, as did my first Xbox LIVE subscription, as does the Xbox chat pad. Microsoft is willing to give these away with so many other peripherals that I ended up with three of these. I’ve used them from time to time but truthfully the set isn’t that comfortable. Maybe it’s because I have a lot of hair, but the headset just never sits right. It’s always sliding around, the microphone needs constant adjusting, and the sponge earpiece, covering only one ear, feels strange.

Of course, this is a headset that’s included with systems and other peripherals, so I forgive that it’s not of the greatest quality. It certainly gets the job done. Its special plug means I can’t use it with my PC, so for that platform I have yet another headset. It’s a cheap Logitech one that shares many of the same shortcomings as its Xbox counterpart, with the upside that it covers both my ears – when it’s not falling off. Still, for seven bucks, I’m not too worried about it.

It wasn’t until PAX 08 that I realized there are much nicer gaming headsets to be had. I can only blame this ignorance on the fact that I was never on the market looking for them. But there, on the showroom floor, several companies were showing off their wares. Big headsets with retro designs that reminded me of sitting around a record player in kindergarten with giant head clamps on seemed to be the norm. I tried a few on but ultimately shied away because of their price tags (the one pair I fancied was going to cost over $300 with all the necessary “accessories”).

Recently SteelSeries gaming gear became available in Canada, via Best Buy. Among their product offering are several gaming headsets. Better still is that with proper adapters, they’re useable on different platforms. So with this in mind I checked out the SteelSeries Siberia V2 Full-Size Headset (henceforth referred to as “the V2″).

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GEAR REVIEW
M17 Laptop from Alienware

By Shaun Hatton - August 3rd, 2009

M17

Adam and I discussed the pros and cons of Alienware’s M17 latop in S02E07 of this season’s Toronto Thumbs Podcast, but our fancy web stats tell us only a third of repeat visitors check out the Podcast, so here’s an olde-fashioned written review. We get into nerdier talk on the Podcast, though – so check it out if you want more details on the M17.

I’ll assume we’re all familiar with, or have heard of, Alienware products. After all, the company has made a name for itself delivering over-the-top PC gaming products for years, with design conventions laughing in the face of the Apple design aesthetic that other pre-built computer manufacturers have tried so desperately to ape. If you’re looking for sleek, minimalist sensibilities, Alienware computers are not for you.

Recently the company lent us a laptop to check out, put through the paces, and otherwise enjoy. The M17 is a bit of an older model now. In fact, in the PC gaming world, things get outdated ridiculously fast. Still, the not-so-little laptop was capable of some cool stuff, and I am somewhat sad to have to admit it is the nicest computer I’ve ever used. Really – my desktop clunker is a nigh-ancient five years old now.

Considering this, it was great to get to check out some more recent PC games to see what I had been missing all these years. I installed some good standby titles, albeit much older ones, to get things started. Both Battlefront II and Defcon played very nicely with the added bonus that Defcon gets you great looks when played on public transit, especially when played on a giant-ass laptop with glowing keys and its own subwoofer.

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Seven Reasons You’ll Love the DSi
(And Three You Won’t)

By Shaun Hatton - April 25th, 2009

Nintendo DSi

Nintendo recently sent us a DSi to check out. We all clamoured over it for some time before things got ugly quickly – who’d get it? Jorge threatened that he had the hardest punches, I claimed my wiriness, and Jamie playfully flicked his Zippo open and closed, copping his devil-may-care attitude.

Ultimately and eventually we realized no one was getting this particular DSi. It was going to have to go back to Nintendo, so we may as well get along while it was with us. After all, we’d have to work with each other after it left the office. Empowered by this knowledge, we carefully and thoughtfully deconstructed the pros and cons of the device and came to the decision that overall the system is pretty damn cool. Read on for the details.
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REPORT:
Mad Catz Fightstick and Fightpad Effectiveness

By Toronto Thumbs Staff - March 19th, 2009

Mad Catz SFIV FightPad

Although they are hard to come by, particularly in Canada where they are an EB Games/GameStop exclusive, Mad Catz has released new controllers that were design with Street Fighter IV in mind. They come in three flavours: The Mad Catz FightPad is more like a traditional handheld controller but with a six-button layout on its face (Like the Sega Saturn controller). It also has no analogue sticks – all movement is controlled with the D-pad. The Mad Catz Arcade FightStick is a Japanese-style arcade controller featuring a curved eight-button layout. Lastly, we have the Tournament Edition FightStick, which offers up a bigger surface area than the Arcade FightStick and has legit arcade-grade buttons and joystick manufactured by the renowned Sanwa-Denshi (who are known for their superb quality arcade parts). All these controllers are adorned with great Street Fighter IV artwork, with the FightPads coming in various varieties, each showcasing the art of a different fighter.

We were able to get our hands on both the FightPad and the FightStick for the purposes of this review, but were unfortunately unable to track down the elusive Tournament Edition FightStick. We can only assume for the purposes of our following experiment that the TE FightStick would be all of our wildest dreams come true. In the meantime, however, we already had our hands full of controllers. When deciding how to best compare these Mad Catz products to what we’d imagine the majority of Xbox 360 owners to use to play videogames (the standard 360 controller), we ultimately came to the conclusion that the only fair method to gauge the quality of them all was through modern science and controlled (no pun intended) laboratory testing.

Therefore, we dug out our high school Physics notes and looked up how to write Lab Reports. Our apologies in advance if you are in fact one of these so-called “real” scientists. But be assured that we, too, are doing this for the good of mankind. What follows is our complete Lab Report.

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