Take Control with the Netduma R1 Router

British Inventors ProjectThese days it’s not unusual for a household to be consume considerable amounts of bandwidth. Someone can be gaming, someone can be streaming an HD movie and and someone else can be on a video call. Who’s hogging the broadband? Who takes priority? The Netduma R1 router answers these questions and takes control back with easy-to-use software for gamers and demanding families.

Netduma R1

On show at the Gadget Show Live as part of the British Inventors’ Project, the Netduma R1 sits between the cable modem and the rest of the network. It provides a raft of features for gamers including geo-filtering, anti-flood, player & server denial and ping stats. For bandwidth hogging households, there’s graphical network monitoring and device prioritisation. Everything can be done via web-based interface and no technical knowledge is needed; to prioritise one device over another, simply drag the device out.

Netduma Control Software

Speaking to the Netduma team after the interview, I was impressed at what they have managed to achieve. I’m not a gamer but some of their plans for family-friendly enhancements sounded really interesting. Priced at £149 / $199 it’s not cheap but for gamers it’s definitely worth having a look.

Creative SB Inferno Gaming Headset Review

Creative Logo

Earlier in the month on GNC, I reviewed Creative’s E1 Portable Amplifier, which improved the listening experience for headphone wearers. To go with the E1, I have the Creative SB Inferno Gaming Headset, aimed squarely at gamers with a detachable flex mic and in-line controls. Priced at a penny under GB£40, the Inferno sits at the lower end of Creative’s range so expectations need to be set appropriately. With all this in mind, let’s take a look.

The Inferno headset comes inside a mainly black and red box with a transparent window on one side, showing off the goods inside, all held neatly in place with a lightweight plastic moulding.

Creative Inferno Box

Inside the box, there’s the red-infused SB Inferno headset. From the outer shells to the inner driver covers and the audio lead, it’s all red. It’s a good strong red which may not come across in the photos.

Creative SB Inferno in Red

The Inferno has a TRRS 3.5 mm jack (that’s the one with three black bands) and works out of the box with smartphones and tablets. For more old school devices with separate sockets for headphones and microphone, then there’s a splitter in the box too. Sadly, this doesn’t carry the red colouring and is boring black but on the plus side, the Inferno works with Sony’s PS4, connecting into the controllers.

Interrupting the red cable is the in-line control for adjusting the volume and turning the microphone on and off. With no controls for pause / play or FWD / RWD, it reminds us that the Inferno is primarily a headset for gaming rather than music listening.

Inferno Inline Remote

The flexible boom mic plugs into a socket on the left had ear cup and there’s a little shim to ensure correct insertion. It’s easily detached when not required – just pull.

Inferno Flexible Mic

But enough of the features….what is the Creative SB Inferno HyperX like to use? To start with, the headphones are very comfortable to wear. The headband is a little bit too plastic for my taste but it does make the Inferno lightweight and doesn’t exert too much sideways pressure on the head. The cloth padding on the band and the ear cups is good and I wore the Inferno for several extended sessions without ear soreness. The Inferno has what I would describe as “snug” closed cups, meaning that the cups fit neatly over the ears and there’s not much movement inside the cup. I like this but it obviously depends on the relative size of your ears.

Sonically, I used the headphones for gaming, music and IP telephony. Overall, I thought that the Inferno provided even, balanced sound to the extent of being unexciting but the Creative headset is a clear step up from the average junk out there. With music listening, much of the sound came through but it certainly could have been a bit richer – it simply didn’t have the “wow” factor and was too flat for real appreciation. A little bit more bass and more depth across the board would be a big improvement.

As I’ve said in reviews before, these headsets are great in office. One minute you are listening to music, the next minute you are taking a phone call with no need to fumble around taking the headset off while picking up the phone. Voices were clear and callers could hear me well.

For games playing, the headset was good with the action coming across clearly from bullets to bombs. Machinery clanked away and steel screeched against concrete. Again a bit more oomph in the bass department would have been an improvement but there’s enough clarity to hear noises off. For the gamer, this can mean the difference between fragging or being fragged.

Overall, the Creative SB Inferno is right on the money. At an RRP of £39.99, the Inferno delivers nicely to the price point giving a decent gaming headset. It’s not for audiophiles but it doesn’t set out to be sonically superior, so I think the Inferno would have a good claim to be the best entry-level gaming headset.

Thanks to Creative for providing the review headset.

Maingear DRIFT is an Ultra Compact PC and Steam Gaming System

Maingear logoWhen people think of gaming systems, they often imagine large beige or black boxes overflowing with cables and accessories. And while these types of rigs may be fine with a certain class of gamer, there are many who’d prefer something compact and sleek to take them into their preferred virtual worlds of play. For those who’d like to devote a little less real estate to diodes and PC boards, Maingear offers its new DRIFT gaming system.

DRIFT is compact but speedy with an F-1 engine featuring a stylish unibody aluminum chassis that is whisper quiet thanks to an Epic 120 liquid cooling system and superbly engineered airflow. Powered by the latest in gaming technology, including Intel Core i7-4790K CPU and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 or AMD Radeon R9 290X GPUs, the DRIFT may look small but it’s definitely a might machine.

4K gaming is possible with DRIFT and its compact design is versatile enough that it can be placed either vertically or horizontally. It supports up to 16 GB of DDR memory, can hold 2 1TB SSD’s and a 6TB HDD, and can be fully upgraded and customized with Maingear’s automotive paint finish available in many colors and combinations.

DRIFT can be configured to boot directly into STEAM big picture mode with Windows and the system is now available for purchase directly from Maingear. Pricing begins at $949.00 without an operating system.

MSI Bridges the Performance and Affordability Gap with New Gaming PC’s

MSI laptopIt’s the eternal struggle. You need a powerful PC to maximize your gaming experience. And while high-end systems bring premium features and performance, they often demand an equally premium price. PC manufacturer MSI Computer Corp is making the divide between pricing and performance ever smaller with its new line of laptops and all-in-ones.

One qualification for a high-performance system is a quality graphics processor. MSI delivers here as the company’s Gaming 24GE AIOs, GE60/GE70 Apache and GP60/GP70 Leopard series gaming laptops will be outfitted with NVIDIA’s GTX 960M, 950M and 940M GPU’s. Designed to bring desktop graphics to a laptop, NVIDIA’s latest GTX GPUs deliver impressive gameplay at 1080p resolutions, allowing gamers to experience even the smallest particles of digital dust. The new GTX 960M, 950M and 940M GPUs also decrease energy consumption when compared to previous models, enabling longer play time without having to find a wall outlet.

Of course, high-quality video is nothing without a matching level of audio. That’s why MSI’c systems supply 3-D sound by Nahimic, an audio performance technology that offers virtual 7.1 sound in immersive high definition. Designed to work with standard stereo equipment, Nahimic technology transports gamers into the action, allowing them to sense every footstep, hear each bullet whizzing past, and feel every explosion around them. Nahimic technology highlights even the smallest sounds, intensifies gameplay by boosting bass, and reducing noise for optimum in-game voice clarity and comprehension. It also features a high definition audio recorder to easily capture studio quality sound. This new technology currently is available for the GE60 / GE70 Apache gaming notebooks and the Gaming 24GE AIO.

[Read more…]

Snail Games Leverages the Power of Android at CES

Snail logoThe video game market is ready for some real disruption. For years, gamers have been tied to consoles, PC’s or mobile devices, all of which have their limitations. Snail Games is a technology company that got its start in software and game design. Now, the company is moving into the hardware space and its employing the Android operating system in some impressive ways.

Nick and Jamie had a conversation with Tim from Snail Games. Tim brought two of his company’s newest devices with him. The first is the W3D mobile gaming platform. The W3D runs Android and it has specific game-centric controls built right into the device. And if that’s not enough, the W3D is also a full-fledged Android phone. Next up is the OBox, a game console that also runs Android. The OBox is modular in design and its GPU, CPU, RAM, and storage can all be upgraded. Also, the W3D and OBox can interact in some very useful ways. For example, the OBox controller can be used as a controller for the W3D or the W3D’s screen can be streamed to the OBox where it can be fed to a large-screen display.

Interview by Jamie Davis of Health Tech Weekly and Nick DiMeo of F5 Live: Refreshing Technology for the Tech PodCasts Network.

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Kingston HyperX Cloud Headset Review

Kingston LogoKingston have long been a brand of choice for gaming professionals, expecially when overclocking the HyperX range of memory modules to within a megahertz of their life. Not content with the inside of the PC, Kingston has put the performance brand on the outside with the HyperX Cloud headset. Sensibly they’ve not tried to start from scratch but partnered with Swedish pro gamers Qpad to get into the market. Let’s take a look.

Kingston HyperX Cloud Box

Initial impressions are good. The HyperX Cloud headset comes in a solid well-finished box that pulls smoothly apart to reveal the headset and accessories. There’s a slightly cheesy marketing message from the HyperX Gaming Manager in silver on the inside of the lid, but it’s a nice touch.

Kingston HyperX Cloud in Box

As you’ll see from the pics, the version on review is the white with black edition; there’s a black with red version if you want to look a bit tougher. Taking the headphones out of the box, they feel pretty good and well-made for the price point. There are no rough edges, the headband stitching looks good and the embroidery is neat. The audio lead is braided rather than bare PVC and that alone helps with the tangles. It’s the end of the lead that gives away the fact that the HyperX Cloud isn’t only for listening to music as rather than a single 3.5mm jack, there’s a pair; one for audio in (the headphones) and the other for audio out (the microphone).

Kingston HyperX Cloud Headset

The detachable boom mic is on the left hand side of the box and plugs cleanly into a socket on the left hand ear cup. A small insert covers the socket when the microphone’s not needed to keep things neat. The boom is flexible and can be positioned to suit.

Kingston HyperX Cloud Headset with Mic

In the box there’s a comprehensive selection of accessories including an extension lead, in-line mic set and an adaptor to take the two 3.5mm stereo jacks into a single TRRS connector, as used in mobile phones. There’s even one of the adaptors needed for annoying aircraft seats, so whether it’s a PC, tablet, phone or plane, the HyperX Cloud can jack in.

But enough of the features….what is the HyperX Cloud like to use? To start with, the headphones are very comfortable to wear, especially when the leather-style pads are swapped for the included velour ones. I wore the headphones for several multi-album sessions without any soreness and would definitely recommend them for extended gaming sessions too. Obviously the preference between enclosed and on-ear cups is a personal one but for comfort, I think these are hard to beat.

Sonically, I used the headphones for gaming, music and IP telephony with Microsoft’s Lync. In the office, the headset is great. One minute you are listening to music, the next minute you are taking a phone call with no need to fumble around taking the headset off while picking up the phone. Voices were clear and callers could hear me well. Moving on to music listening, it’s always hard to critique without sounding critical. I thought the HyperX Cloud headset reproduced sound well with good clarity across the range. The sound could have been richer and more exciting but I was perfectly happy listening to the HyperX Cloud all day. Playing games, the headset was great with gunshots and explosions blowing up in your ears. Car engines came across well, so this headset was made for GTA. As with phone calls, abuse, sorry, conversation with fellow gamers was clear.

Overall, there’s not much to dislike and a great deal to enjoy with the Kingston HyperX Cloud headset. It’s well made and comfortable to wear, and comes with everything needed to plug-in. Audio quality is good without being outstanding. The Kingston HyperX Cloud has a list price of GB£79.99 but can be found on-line for less.  Stick it on your Christmas list.

Thanks to Kingston for providing the review headset.

Rovio announces layoffs, calls it a ‘simplified organiztion’

angry birds

Rovio, a game studio based in Finland, is known best for its Angry Birds titles. The games have been a runaway success and run on multiple platforms. However the news coming out of the company isn’t all good. The latest news has nothing do with the games, but instead focuses on some bad things.

Rovio plans to streamline the company, which in effect means a dowsizing. The studio will be laying off as many as 130 employees, which it claims is about 16 percent of its workforce.

In a new statement from CEO Mike Hed, it reads that “We are an entrepreneurial company and have been exploring multiple areas. We have been building our team on assumptions of faster growth than have materialized. As a result, we announced today that we plan to simplify our organization around our three key businesses with the highest growth potential: games, media, and consumer products”.

This is never an easy decision to make, and is even worse for those affected by it. Hopefully, while it’s a shame for the folks involved, it will help the company do better.

Angry Birds Stella debuts on Android, iOS, Blackberry, Amazon and Nook

Rovio has become synonymous with mobile gaming, thanks to the wildly popular Angry Birds franchise. The Finnish company has released multiple versions of the title, covering everything from Rio to Space, and even Star Wars. Now the long-awaited new one is here, with Angry Birds Stella debuting across multiple platforms — sorry Windows Phone users, but you were left out.

The new game adds a different dimension to Angry Birds (as each has managed to do). “Angry Birds Stella offers a new take on slingshot action. There are stunning visuals and animations, as well as an all-new flock of feisty characters with amazing superpowers. And they all live a previously unseen corner of the Angry Birds universe: Golden Island”, the studio explains.

The game is free on all of platforms, including Android, iOS, Blackberry and Amazon. It’s a fun little time-waster that will likely get the company even more revenue, but time will tell on that one.

stella_Key_Art_C_landscape

 

Will we see a stand-alone Kinect for Xbox One in October?

XBox One Game Console

XBox One Game Console

When the Xbox One debuted in the latter part of last year it came with a Kinect by default. There are many good reasons to have that feature, as well. It brings voice control and facial recognition to the gaming console, not to mention enhanced play on some games.

However, Microsoft relented under the weight of  a ew, but loud, naysayers and released a version of the box that doesn’t include the Kinect. There was a reason — it also saves buyers $100, which isn’t small change when you’re shopping.

Now, for those who chose to spare their wallets and purchase the console without the Kinect, Microsoft may have a solution, just in case you regretted the decision. A stand-alone Xbox One Kinect is rumored to be going up for sale in October of this year. According to CVG the device will be priced at $149, meaning it will set you back a bit more in the long run than if you had just bought the bundle.

The rumor, which is likely a possibility, brings Kinect to those who somehow thought they didn’t need it, only to discover that the device actually makes the console, and the games, more useful.

DDoS Attacks Shut Down Online Gaming Servers

Sony Playstation LogoWas your favorite online video game difficult to access over the weekend? There is a reason for that. A group decided to use a DDoS attack against several of the big gaming companies servers. I’ve no idea what the motivation of this group was, and choose not to speculate as to what they may have been thinking. If you were on Twitter this weekend you may have seen a lot of confused and frustrated tweets from gamers who were just trying to have fun playing some online video games.

The group targeted Blizzard Entertainment’s servers. This caused difficulties for those trying to access Battle Net, World of Warcraft, Diablo III, Hearthstone and other Blizzard games. Riot Games’ League of Legends was attacked and so was Grinding Gear Game’s Path of Exile.

Blizzard was keeping people informed about the outage through their @BlizzardCS account on Twitter. They did not directly mention a DDos attack, and instead tweeted things like “We’re investigating issues where players are unable to connect or log into their characters.” Updates about the situation were provided through that Twitter account.

Sony’s PlayStation Network (PSN) was attacked, too. The PlayStation Blog has a post that gives some details.

The original post started with Like other major networks around the world, the PlayStation Network and Sony Entertainment Network have been impacted by an attempt to overwhelm our network with artificially high traffic. The blog was later updated to say: The PlayStation Network and Sony Entertainment Network are back online and people can now enjoy the services on their PlayStation devices. The networks were taken offline due to a distributed denial of service attack.

Grinding Gear Games sent out a Tweet on their @PathofExile Twitter account about it.

From what I saw via Twitter, it appeared that some of these gaming companies had their servers go down more than once. I am of the impression that stability has been restored to the affected servers now. Hopefully, that is the end of the problem.