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Hardware Report - CES

Carolyn Koh Posted:
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Hardware Report - CES

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The Sandio 3D mouse was an interesting critter. It took me some getting used to, but I can see the advantages it will have for MMOGs. With just a mouse, you can move forwards, backwards, sideways, pitch, yaw and roll. They even have an illustration of a sample set up in WoW on their site.

Another company with a line of gaming accessories I encountered at CES2008 was European company Trust. The peripherals are unfortunately only available online at this time, so gamers can’t “touch and feel” but they have good looking mice with the usual gaming specs – 7 buttons, 2400/3200 DPI, change resolution on the fly, etc. and they claim that they will come in at 20% lower in price then their competition.

This was the year of Gamer Headsets. Comfortable headsets with built-in boom microphone, many of them removable and replaceable. Tritton was one. Sharp looking in black and a brushed metallic green and orange, these circumaural headsets were comfortable with over the ear, ear cups and adjustable headrail In 5.1 surround, and with controls for individual sound fields (front, center, rear and subs), I tested it on the show floor and found within the sphere of a show, sharp and clear voices with good imaging for figuring out where that pesky sniper was. They also boast a “rumble technology” which was not demo’ed, and were price in that sweet spot of $89.99 for gamer peripherals.

Another was a foray into the Gamer world by Sennheiser from the world of Pro Audio. Maker of headsets for recording studios and the like, their PC350 model is the first with a boom mic that we MMOG players want for use on voice chat. Beautiful design, comfortable, another circumaural design cupping the ears rather then pressing on them, and extremely light, they boast noise filtering – not noise cancellation so you’ll still be able to hear little Susie yelling her brother is teasing her, but I cringed at the price of $349.99. Are they that good? No way to tell without a review set.

Gaming Peripheral company Razer continues to innovate and improve their lines. Their latest headset offering is the Pirana, an on-ear headset with noise canceling mic for gamers wanting a lighter headset, the Lachesis mouse – which had a slimmer profile than the Habu but had the characteristic high hump, the Destructor mousepad boasting 37% better tracking (which I’m totally enjoying) and the Lycosa – a small footprint gamer keyboard which allows every single key to be programmed. The keys also have a smooth “laptop” action, a tactile feel I enjoy, backlit keys – not keyboard, the keys symbols themselves are lit. Three modes are available. Back light off, entire keyboard lit and WASD keys lit.

They also demo’ed their Mako 2.1 THX, omni-directional speakers. For a small speaker set, the speakers were substantive. That wasn’t something I could have walked away with at the show and gotten home in my luggage with ease. The speakers make use of the downward-firing design of the THX Ground Plane™ - that is to say, they use the ground or whatever they are placed on to deliver sound, which again in show conditions, sounded pretty darned good. Bass was solid, voices were clear, image resolution was there as we listened to a motorcycle rev, then take off across the room. By the way, that little round thing in the picture with blue and red lights? That’s the bling – it’s a touch control. A frequency range of 25-20,000Hz in a speaker system this small isn’t to be sneezed at, and I look forward to reviewing this speaker system.

Eye-candy time. MyVu was there with their video eyewear, the Myvu Crystal and the Myvu Shades, Sure, they look cool and they could be used for gaming, but at the top of their lines, the highest resolution supported is 640 x 480.

Vuzix– formerly known as Icuiti had a new model to show this year, the VR920, which included built-in headphones, a microphone and twin high-res displays. Targeted towards the Xbox Live players, using this video eyewear meant that you would be viewing your own playing field instead of a split screen on their TV. It also features head tracking technology which is also pretty nifty, although still only 640 x 480 resolution.

Any gamers here still game at that 640 x 480? I wouldn’t rate these as ideal for playing MMOGs. Cell phone / Ipod games, yeah. Pretty cool. This made me wonder where Headplay was this year. I met up with them last CES and was happy to introduce our readers to their video eyewear which had native 800 x 600 and supports resolutions up to 1024 x 768 pixels. Not as cool looking perhaps, but substantially more hardware. Prices scale up accordingly. From the $199.99 Myvu to the $349.99 Vuzix to the $499.99 Headplay.

For you Flight Sim and Space Sim lovers, here’s the Dream Flyer. Working off a system of weights and controls, this toy is sweet. It responds to your motion of the joystick – forwards, backwards and side to side. With roll and pitch at +/- 15 degrees, you aren’t going to fall off this contraption. Sure, there isn’t any G-force, but with a force feedback joystick, you’ll get your shooting jollies in. The unit demo’ed with MS Flight simulator included the triple monitor assembly and the Saitek Pro flight control system. At $2,800 for the base unit, this is one expensive toy, but man… imagine playing Starcraft Online (if it ever comes out) on this rig.

As for the entire PC, the usual big boys like Dell and Gateway were there, but here’s a shout out for War Machine PC even if they did say “Bah, you MMOG players don’t need this kind of power!” while pointing me away from their liquid cooled Nvidia 780i 3-Way SLI machine to their dual SLI machine. “Of course we’ll sell you whatever you want, but you really don’t need to be spending that kind of money if you are playing MMOGs,” they said sincerely. How refreshing eh? Someone who doesn’t try to up-sell you into hardware you don’t need.

That’s it for my hardware Wrap-Up. One thing I did make sure to do was to ask where all these products were currently available as the CES is a tradeshow, not a retail show and I wanted to make sure that all products were currently available in the USA, and particularly, in a retail store as gaming peripherals are very personally ergonomic accessories. You want to make sure the mouse fits your hand, the headphone is comfortable and that you like the feel of the keyboard before you buy it. Not after. All the products I’ve talked about here are available through your usual game hardware retail stores as well as online retailers. Well, except for the 3rd space vest and the Dreamflyer which you aren’t going to find by walking into your local BestBuy, but those were a little too cool to leave out of this hardware wrap-up.

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Carolyn Koh

Carolyn Koh / Carolyn Koh has been writing for MMORPG.com since 2004 and about the MMO genre since 1999. These days she plays mobile RTS games more, but MMOs will always remain near and dear to her heart.