By Tin Salamunic Posted On Thursday, October 20, 2016
The gaming headset market is over-saturated with choices across every price range. Choosing the right model isn’t easy, especially when seeking a basic headset that won’t destroy the wallet while still delivering an immersive experience. Fifty bucks doesn’t typically equate to top quality, but Cougar seems determined to offer exceptional performance within a rather low price range. Their latest IMMERSA headset can easily pass for a pricier model thanks to its excellent design, sturdy built quality and solid audio performance. It’s the perfect choice for gamers on a budget, and it’s quite possibly one of the best fifty-dollar headsets that I’ve ever tested.
Cougar hasn’t skimped on style despite the absurdly low pricing. The Cougar IMMERSA is a real looker, and some of its sleek lines and design accents resemble SteelSeries’ more expensive Siberia line. The IMMERSA is a large, albeit light and comfortable, headset that’s mostly made up of hard plastic and a pleather-like material for the earcups and headband. The orange/black color combo is an attractive choice that fits nicely within a gaming setup. Cougar’s stylish logo is presented as a silvery crest on the earcups, which really gives the IMMERSA that E-Sports feel.
"It’s the perfect choice for gamers on a budget, and it’s quite possibly one of the best fifty-dollar headsets that I’ve ever tested."
Comfort is one of IMMERSA’s most notable features. Despite its bulky body, IMMERSA’s ergonomic design is adaptable to any head size. I’ve used the headset nonstop for a few weeks now, and I never encountered discomfort regardless of how many hours I spent with the headset.
The IMMERSA continues to impress beyond its looks with high adaptability thanks to the 4-pole connector. The headset can be used on tablets, laptops, phones, PCs and consoles. The headset may be a little too bulky for on-the-go gaming, but as far as general versatility and compatibility, the IMMERSA covers the whole audio device spectrum.
The 40mm Neodymium magnet driver gives IMMERSA great clarity and depth regardless of content. I’ve spend most of my time testing titles like Gears of War 4, Mafia III, Overwatch and the newly released Battlefield 1. For a fifty dollar headset, the IMMERSA remains surprisingly balanced, even at high volume with sudden shifts in frequency. Battlefield 1 is filled with crunchy sounding explosions, debris scattering all over the environment and a strong dose of character screams echoing in the backgrounds. There’s a lot going on at all times in this game, and the IMMERSA manages to capture all the minute details extremely well.
"The headset is beautifully designed, extremely comfortable and delivers superb audio performance in most games."
If there’s one downside to the sound, it’d be the lack of bass. Don’t get me wrong, the IMMERSA sounds deep and engrossing, but it does lack the punchiness normally seen in pricier models. Fortunately, the light bass isn’t an issue with most content. It’s only during certain scenarios, like an orchestral score for example, that the lack of bass is even noticeable. I also wouldn’t recommend these headphones for music. I’m well aware that gaming headsets aren’t a primary choice for other media, and in the case of the IMMERSA, anything but video games is a big no-no.
Conclusion: Cougar’s IMMERSA is a basic, budget-priced gaming headset that delivers great gaming sound for the price range. The headset is beautifully designed, extremely comfortable and delivers superb audio performance in most games. Its lack of bass is more apparent in atmospheric titles with orchestral scores, and music doesn’t perform particularly well either, but for everyday gaming usage, it’s hard to find anything better for a mere fifty bucks.
By Tin Salamunic Posted On Tuesday, October 11, 2016
I’ve been covering waterproof speakers for a while now, but Creative Labs’ latest MUVO 2 is unlike anything I tested before. Its superb audio performance pierces through environmental noise when outside, providing an unexpectedly encompassing experience. Whether you’re out in the middle of the woods, or you’re just looking for some quality sound while relaxing at the pool, I can’t think of another waterproof speaker that provides such exceptional sound.
The Creative MUVO 2 is like an audiophile’s side-kick, a little powerhouse that’s practical, while delivering rich audio typically found in Creative Labs’ very own iRoar series. Well, it may not be quite as impressive, but for a tiny $79.99 wireless speaker, it certainly holds its own. Over the last two weeks, I’ve taken the MUVO 2 on several outdoor trips. The MUVO 2 got tossed around, it got soaked in water, it was used during heavy rain...basically, I’ve taken the little guy through some rough testing to see how well it handles extreme outdoor conditions. I’m happy to say that the MUVO 2 may be the only waterproof speaker you’ll ever need. This tiny speaker was practically laughing back at me as I desperately tried to place it in difficult situations.
"The Creative MUVO 2 is like an audiophile’s side-kick, a little powerhouse that’s practical, while delivering rich audio typically found in Creative Labs’ very own iRoar series."
As with other wireless Creative speakers, you can pair two MUVO 2 units for a full stereo experience. I didn't have a chance to test two units simultaneously, but it’s expected that it performs equally to all other Creative speakers - which I’ve always found to be excellent.
The MUVO 2 has an IP66-rating, which based on the Enclosure Charts is defined as the following: Able to protect against powerful water jets, water projected in powerful jets (12.5 mm nozzle) against the enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effects. (To view the full enclosure chart for reference purposes, please view this chart.) This basically means the MUVO 2 is designed to withstand severe conditions without skipping a beat, and based on my personal testing, it unquestionably delivers on this promise!
The MUVO 2 is small and light, measuring at 67 x 190 x 38 mm, with the USB cable measuring approximately 0.6m. The speaker weighs only 340g (12.0oz), and the battery life can last a solid 10 hours when in constant use. Despite its size and simplicity in design, the MUVO 2 is an attractive looking piece of tech, and it comes in four different colors: blue, red, black and grey. Creative’s attractive logo sits nicely in the center of the speaker with the control buttons neatly tucked away on the upper half for easy eaccess. The MUVO 2 boasts Bluetooth 4.2, so it connects super fast to other devices. On the back side, there is a small rubbery strip that covers and protects the inputs, one of which is a microSD slot that lets you use MUVO’s built-in MP3 player. The MUVO also supports high-quality lossless FLAC and WAV, WMA (up to 320kbps) and MP3 formats, so you can enjoy music at maximum quality.
"As it stands, the MUVO 2 is one of the best, if not the best, waterproof speaker on the market. For a mere eighty bucks, nothing comes even close in performance for the price."
Music on the MUVO 2 sounds absolutely fantastic. It’s amazing that a mere 340g of hardware can have so much muscle. There is a nice balance between high and low frequencies, resulting in a very even listening experience regardless of media. The bass isn’t particularly strong, which is expected considering the size and specs, but there is more than enough depth to bring out the richness of bass in punchier music. It’s also worth noting that the MUVO 2 can get very loud for its size.
Conclusion: The Creative MUVO 2 is a tiny powerhouse that delivers exceptional audio performance. Its resistance to water and severe weather conditions is remarkable, and its Bluetooth 4.2 compatibility makes it a perfect speaker for on-the-go usage. As it stands, the MUVO 2 is one of the best, if not the best, waterproof speaker on the market. For a mere eighty bucks, nothing comes even close in performance for the price.
By Tin Salamunic Posted On Friday, October 07, 2016
The average cost of a high-fidelity headset typically sits somewhere in the thousands. This kind of price point may seem absurd to the average user, but audiophiles who seek perfection understand that true quality doesn’t come cheap. Having said that, HiFiMAN Electronics’ HE400S are flipping the audio industry on its head. This excellent $299.99 headset delivers such exquisite audio performance, the price seems like a mistake.
The HE400S is the finest headset under $500 that I’ve ever tested. Using the HE400S for the first time is equivalent to comparing Blu Ray over VHS in clarity and detail, and after the recommended 150hr break-in period, things only get better!
The HiFiMAN HE400S radiates luxury in both its performance and design. This is a gorgeously crafted piece of tech that doesn’t shy away from calling attention to its sleek aesthetic. The body is mainly constructed out of hard plastic and a steel frame for support, which makes the headset light and comfortable. I’ve been using the HiFiMAN HE400S on a daily basis for two weeks nonstop, and there hasn’t been a single moment of discomfort. Weighing it at only 350g, you can barely feel its presence.
The HiFiMAN HE400S ships with the following accessories: a ¼” (6.35 mm) headphone adapter, a Headphone Cable (1.5 meter or 4.9 Feet; 3.5mm plug) and one pair of stock velour ear pads. My only gripe is the cable. It’s sturdy and well constructed, but it’s a little too tough resulting in the cable frequently twisting when in use - but hey, this is seriously just me nitpicking! The stock ear pads could also be a little better, but they’re easily upgradable if you’re unhappy with how they feel on your ears.
"Using the HE400S for the first time is equivalent to comparing Blu Ray over VHS in clarity and detail, and after the recommended 150hr break-in period, things only get better!"
HiFiMAN has crammed the headset with impressive specs: a frequency response of 20Hz – 35KHz, 98dB of sensitivity and 22 Ohms of impedance. A headset like this needs to be used with an amp in order to fully appreciate everything it has to offer. For my tests, I used Creative Labs’ Sound Blaster X7, as well as their Sound Blaster E5. With the gain switch set to high, the HE400S provides a transformative experience. It’s also important to note that the HE400S is an open type headset, and the sound leakage is expectedly high. The headset isn’t meant to be used in an office or public place where others can easily hear everything you’re listening to, so keep that in mind prior to making your purchasing decision.
I’ve gone through 200+ hours of testing since receiving the headset, and I’m continuously impressed by the HE400S’ quality. The audio leans towards warm and neutral without ever losing detail. The mid-ranges are spectacular, giving vocals and instrumentals unprecedented clarity free of distortions. Bass isn’t overpowering and beautifully complements the wide audio stage. Some audiophiles may prefer a stronger kick from the bass, but personally, I like the HE400S’ more balanced performance.
"The folks at HiFiMAN have created something truly special here. If you’re someone who’s always wondered about high-quality audiophile gear but never felt like committing to the brutal pricing, there’s no better option than the HE400S."
Angel Haze’s “Back to the Woods” album serves as an excellent testing ground for varying tonal shifts. A song like “Moonrise Kingdom” mixes acoustics, beats, rap and acapella beautifully, and the HE400S handles the variance like a champ. Angel’s vocals remain sharp and energetic and the accompanying beats deliver punchiness and depth without overshadowing the performer’s spotlight. Coeur De Pirate is another great artist whose incredible vocals and piano performances truly shine on this headset. Even at low volume, the auditory clarity is truly remarkable.
Until recently, the Beyerdynamic DT-990-Pro-250 have been my go-to headphones for daily usage, but the HiFiMAN HE400S annihilate the Beyerdynamic in terms of performance and comfort. I think it’s safe to say that a headset like this can last a lifetime, and for a lot of people (including myself), the HE400S may be the be all and end all headset until HiFiMAN conjure up another masterpiece.
The folks at HiFiMAN have created something truly special here. If you’re someone who’s always wondered about high-quality audiophile gear but never felt like committing to the brutal pricing, there’s no better option than the HE400S. The HE400S receives our highest possible score for delivering quality beyond what was thought was possible in this price range. As it stands, this is the best budget audiophile headset on the market.
By Tin Salamunic Posted On Thursday, September 29, 2016
I’m personally not a big sports fan, nor do I follow sports games, but I’ve always had an affinity for soccer and basketball. Both sports require quick thinking, fast reflexes, and most importantly, they emphasize teamwork. PES has been my favorite sports series since the Playstation 2 era, and Konami’s latest entry outshines its predecessors in just about every way. From the hyper-realistic player animations to the plethora of rich content, PES 2017 currently stands as the definitive soccer simulation, and may be the most authentic soccer entry to date.
PES and Fifa have always competed neck to neck, and while both franchises have their own strengths and weaknesses, Fifa has matured little in the gameplay department. Even with the inclusion of a new story mode, Fifa’s changes come off as desperate efforts to imbue an old dish with fresh seasoning. Maybe that’s a little too harsh, but as great as the story mode is, it seems to distract from the fact that Fifa hasn’t changed much where it matters most: on the field. On the other hand, Konami’s failure to include women’s teams is truly disappointing.
"From the hyper-realistic player animations to the plethora of rich content, PES 2017 currently stands as the definitive soccer simulation, and may be the most authentic soccer entry to date."
While we’re talking about disappointments, let’s get the negatives out of the way. Visually, PES 2017 is still struggling to reach Fifa’s polish. The Fox Engine may a drastic improvement over previous iterations, but PES 2017 still doesn’t look like a 2016 title. Player models look great, but when their mouths open, they look like morphed waxed statues that have come to life. Framerate also seems to be switching to 30fps during cutscenes, and it’s especially bothersome when trying to view replays. On a positive note, plays animations are superb. Characters behave so realistically, it’s easy to mistake the game in action to the real thing.
Since I don’t follow the sport or its teams, I’m not here to judge the title on its licensing shortcomings. Instead, I want to focus on how PES 2017 plays as a pure soccer simulation. When it comes to dribbling, passing and strategizing on-the-fly, PES 2017 offers unprecedented realism. The AI improvements are substantial, and they became apparent the moment you attempt your first pass.
"But even with its shortcoming, PES 2017 remains the best playing soccer title on the market."
Your teammates behave in a more realistic manner, re-positioning themselves constantly, and making better independent decisions when following through with the offense. It’s no longer enough to simply aim the direction of your teammate and press X. You have to keep an eye on the ball and player behavior, making sure they won’t stumble if you make quick directional shifts. Just like in a real match of soccer, there is a sense of unpredictability that encourages are more technical and strategic approach to playing the game. As someone who knows very little about sports, PES 2017 is the first sports game that genuinely makes me feel like a virtual athlete.
Content wise there’s plenty of modes to keep seasoned fans busy for a really long time. But, it’s also here where Konami could’ve pushed things further. The omission of female teams alienates an entire audience of soccer fans, and thus, makes PES a lesser title when compared to Fifa’s more diverse offering.
But even with its shortcoming, PES 2017 remains the best playing soccer title on the market. Fifa remains more polished and offers more content for veteran soccer fans, but it can’t match Konami’s unrivaled realism.
By Tin Salamunic Posted On Monday, September 19, 2016
HyperX is getting serious about their gamer audience. Before I knew any better, I scoffed at the possibility of high-quality headphones coming from a company traditionally known for computer memory, but here I am, proven to have been completely wrong by two excellent models: the recently reviewed HyperX CloudX Pro and the HyperX CLOUD REVOLVER. Like the wonderful HyperX CloudX Pro, the CLOUD REVOLVER doesn’t come with any bells and whistles, instead it delivers crisp and raw audio performance for competitive gamers. It’s not going to please audiophiles or gamers who want full control over their sound performance, but if you’re looking for a hassle-free, rock-solid stereo performance, the REVOLVER is an excellent choice for gamers on a budget.
The HyperX CLOUD REVOLVER and the CloudX Pro are very similar in what they offer feature-wise, but their audio performance delivers different advantages depending on user needs. The CloudX Pro has a definite bass advantage. There is more depth to explosions and sound effects in action-packed titles. The REVOLVER, on the other hand, excels at delivering richer treble. It makes it easier to make out minute sounds when enveloped by varying frequency shifts in multiplayer matches. Personally, I can’t pick a favorite. I switch between the two models regularly, and your purchasing decision should be based on whether you prefer more depth or more clarity in headsets.
Driver: Dynamic, 50mm with neodymium magnets
Type: Circumaural, closed back
Frequency response: 12Hz–28,000 Hz
Impedance: 30 Ω
Sound pressure level: 104.5dBSPL/mW at 1kHz THD: < 2%
Input power: Rated 30mW, maximum 500mW
Weight: 360g Weight w/ mic: 376g
Cable length and type: Headset (1m) + audio control Box (2m)
Connection: Headset - 3.5mm plug (4 pole) + Audio Control Box - 3.5mm stereo and mic plugs
Element: Electret condenser microphone
Polar pattern: Uni-directional, Noise-cancelling
Frequency response: 50Hz-18,000 Hz
Sensitivity: -40dBV (0dB=1V/Pa,1kHz)
The REVOLVER boasts an impressive design and surprisingly sturdy build quality. The red logo and pattern highlights on the ear cups are an attractive aesthetic touch. Pictures don’t really do the REVOLVER justice, because the headset has a very premium feel in person. There’s a sense of solidity in its structure that’s normally seen in much pricier models. The industrial feel is nicely contrasted by the soft earcup cushions that provide endless comfort. This is the kind of headset that you can use for hours and forget it’s even there. One of the REVOLVER’s biggest advantages over the CloudX Pro is the volume dial. This may seem like a small thing, but the counter intuitive control unit on the CloudX Pro was its biggest downfall.
I’ve spent most of my time testing the headset with games like Overwatch, the Battlefield 1 Beta, PES 2017 and the Bioshock Collection. Each title has a distinct tone with notably different audio performances. Battlefield is all about realism, Bioshock emphasizes mood and atmosphere, PES 2017 is more akin to Live TV and Overwatch, well Overwatch is just a treasure trove of audio goodies. With each game, the REVOLVER delivers flawless performance. I love its crisp and clean sound delivery. You really get to appreciate the fine details the sound designers have put into their work. The REVOLVER’s bass is equally impressive. It’s punchy when the action gets heavy, but it never becomes overbearing. The overall sound delivery is perfectly balanced.
Conclusion: The HyperX CLOUD REVOLVER is another excellent headset from HyperX that deserves your attention. For gamers who want simple, but powerful tech at a very competitive price, you can’t go wrong with HyperX’s excellent REVOLVER!
By Tin Salamunic Posted On Thursday, September 08, 2016
Back in January, we covered Lenovo's IdeaCentre Y900, an excellent gaming desktop from a company who's never marketed much towards gamers. Things are continuing to look bright for Lenovo, as their latest Y900 delivers a serious punch. The new IdeaCentre Y900 model boasts an impressive GTX GeForce 1080, an Intel i7-6700K (4 Ghz), 16 GB of memory and an attractive price of $2099.99. As far as pre-built gaming PCs go, this is a solid deal.
Visually, the new IdeaCentre Y900 looks identical to its predecessor. Lenovo has kept the sleek red/black color combo, which I personally feel works wonderfully with the brand. The design is simple and confident, but it doesn't shy away from expressing personality with subtle hints of color from the logo glow and a pair of OLED strips on the lower half of the case. I've always been a fan of simplistic design, and the IdeaCentre Y900 fits wonderfully next to my entertainment setup.
The entire case is matte, with only a few parts exhibiting hints of shiny material, so you don't have to worry about fingerprints and dust collecting on the surface. The case construction and quality may not be as exceptional as the custom casing from Origin PC or Falcon Northwest, but the overall aesthetic isn't too shabby considering Lenovo had to cut corners to keep pricing low.
"Things are continuing to look bright for Lenovo, as their latest Y900 delivers a serious punch."
Another area where Lenovo took a few shortcuts is the included mouse/keyboard combo. It's a much cheaper version of both peripherals, but I think this was a wise strategy for maintaining even lower costs. This isn't really a criticism since keyboards and mice are easily upgradable, but some shoppers expecting a complete combo package may be let down in that department.
The IdeaCentre Y900 excels where it matters most: performance. I’m not going to delve into benchmark specifics since there are countless tech articles analyzing both the 1080 and the i7 under a microscope. I’m here to evaluate how Lenovo has put it all together, and whether the package as a whole is worthy of the asking price.
The answer largely depends on what kind of customer you are. If you’re a seasoned PC gamer, you’re better off building your own rig or getting one through one of the many, prestigious boutique builders like Origin PC, Falcon Northwest, Xidax or Velocity Micro. There are more than a handful, and better, options. Having said that, Lenovo offers an excellent package for someone new to the PC gaming scene. They offer a hassle-free package that delivers high-end gaming at a relatively balanced price to performance ratio.
"Bloatware aside, the IdeaCentre Y900 1080 is a worthy upgrade to its predecessor, and its attractive price point makes it an excellent option for gamers new to the PC platform."
The IdeaCentre Y900 performs as well as you’d expect from a system carrying such superb hardware. The 1080 is a true powerhouse, and combined with the i7-6700K and the ability to overclock both, and you got yourself a system that can max out pretty much anything at 1440p, and does an amazing job at even 4K resolutions. The Y900 is assembled well, with all parts neatly installed for easy access. Cables are a little tough to reach, so it's definitely not designed to be fiddled with unless you know what you're doing. The system isn’t exactly designed for upgrading, and not everything is as easy to remove. But, like I mentioned earlier, this model is mainly for PC gaming newcomers, so the interior assembly isn’t going to affect the purchasing decision much.
The biggest problem with the IdeaCentre Y900, which is a common problem with all Lenovo systems, is the inclusion of intrusive bloatware. There is so much bloatware, it impacts both the boot times and overall performance . It’s all useless junk too. I can’t believe McAfee is still being installed on systems in 2016. There’s an endless list of other other Lenovo-specific bloatware that serves no real purpose but to eat system resources. It’s shocking that Lenovo would even include all this disruptive junk, yet market to an audience that typically goes out of their way to avoid these type of forced software installations.
Bloatware aside, the IdeaCentre Y900 1080 is a worthy upgrade to its predecessor, and its attractive price point makes it an excellent option for gamers new to the PC platform. It’s definitely not the go-to system for veteran PC users due to a severe lack of customization options. The best way to describe the IdeaCentre Y900 is predictable. You know exactly what you’re getting, which is, again, a big benefit for the less experienced users.
Lenovo isn’t messing around when it comes to their expansion towards gaming. The IdeaCentre Y900 is a truly powerful system, and I’d personally recommend it in a heartbeat to anyone shopping around for gaming PCs for the first time. If Lenovo could just strip all the useless software, or at least let users decide what to keep and what to discard prior to purchasing, they’d have a real winner across the board. As it stands, the Y900 is perfect for newcomers, but too restrictive for those seeking more customization options.
Evolutions, Prevolutions and Eeveelutions – How Your Gen I Pokémon Will Change When Pokémon Go Releases Gen II
By Tin Salamunic Posted On Thursday, September 08, 2016
There are a few things players of Pokémon Go are very vocally calling on Niantic to add to the game as soon as possible: the ability to trade Pokémon, PVP battles, and perhaps most importantly, new Pokémon. There has never been any doubt that the Pokémon from later generations would be making their way into the game over time, however now that most serious players are well over half way to completing their Pokedex and several players already have, it seems that now would be a good time to bring in that extra variety. Most fans would rather they put the effort into this than into shutting down third party helper sites and tools like Pokevision – especially considering how avidly people have been looking for new ways to track Pokémon on game cheat sites like iwantcheats.net.
Anticipating Gen II
With the initial hype having dwindled and usage in decline, it is very likely that Niantic will be looking to implement new features, mechanics and of course Pokémon as soon as they realistically can to keep the remaining player base engaged and try and win back some of the people who got bored of the pidgeys and zubats and quit it. No release date has been set as of yet, but this doesn't seem to be a developer who gives players huge amounts of notice about exciting updates so it really could happen at any time.
One of the best things about the second generation of Pokémon, or 'gen II' as it is usually known within the fandom, is that as well as entirely new Pokémon it also introduces new ways to evolve Pokémon you already own from gen I. Here are some of the gen II Pokémon that fall into lineages from gen I:
New Evolutions for Existing Pokémon
Some of the coolest Pokémon currently in the game don't evolve into anything in gen I, but when gen II comes in we will be able to evolve onix into steelix, scyther into scizor, chansey into blissey, and porygon into porygon 2.0. As well as these single stage Pokémon finally getting an evolution, some lines get a third evolution – horsea and seadra gain a third evolution in kingdra, and zubat and golbat gain crobat as a third form. Stock up on candies for all of these wherever you can!
Alternate Evolutions and Eevees
In gen I, the only Pokémon with alternate evolutions is eevee. In gen II, there are not only two additional 'eeveelutions' in the form of umbreon and espeon, but there will also be an alternate evolution for gloom called bellossom (which is much prettier than vileplume), and for poliwhirl in the form of politoed.
Another feature of the second generation is 'baby' Pokémon, that is, stages of evolution that actually come before the Pokémon in gen I, like pichu, which evolves into pikachu and igglybuff which is the 'baby' form of jigglypuff.
These changes are sure to make the Pokémon you already have more interesting prospects moving forward with the game.