Archive for Reviews

Zalman ZM-RS6F USB Surround Sound Headphones – Review

I picked these headphones up at Memory Express today on sale for $20 (Regular $80). It was hard to pass up a deal like that. I don’t wear headphones a lot but they’re nice to have once in awhile. These had to be better than the $5 clearance bin pair I was replacing.

The Good

  • The $20 price was right though I don’t know if it’s fair to review based on that because they were on sale. They aren’t worth $80 regular.
  • To my average untrained ear they sound great.
  • The USB is very handy. I don’t have to plug into the back of my PC anymore.
  • I like that they stand up like robot legs with big feet. It’s just cute.

The Bad

  • They aren’t really 5.1 as advertised. The .1 in 5.1 is supposed to be the sub channel which isn’t present in these. It doesn’t really matter that much. I don’t really want a sub to break my poor skull open.
  • They’re a little heavy.
  • They’re a little warm around the ears but that’s ok.
  • They catch my peripheral vision which could be annoying after awhile.

Official Product Page: For Drivers and a Better look.

Alice: Madness Returns: Review

Alice: Madness Returns is the follow up to American McGee’s Alice from 2001. The theme is much darker than the original classic book/Disney movie. The games are essentially a sequel. In both games, an adolescent Alice is essentially doing battle with her own mind after her family is wiped out in a house fire. I can’t remember if I just spoiled the first game or not.

The Good

  • The environments in Wonderland as well as in London are just gorgeous. I was getting yelled at by my wife who started playing it shortly after me because I was standing around and staring the environment instead of playing.
  • The story was pretty compelling for a video game. I’m a fan of anything Alice really (Note my nick and the domain name) so really, I just ate it up.
  • The game comes with a free download code for the original game which I’m sure most console gamers haven’t played since it was a PC game.
  • Very hard to put down. My wife and I both raced through this fairly long game in record time. We haven’t done that since Red Dead Redemption last winter.
  • The DLC pack is only $1.99. You get a bunch of outfits and weapons in it. No big additions to the story or anything. Please please play through the game once before you get the DLC. The weapons and outfits give you abilities that are pretty much the same as cheat codes.

The Bad

  • It wasn’t very challenging but then again it’s a console game. Even in nightmare, all that changes is the enemies do a lot more damage as far as I could tell. The original was pretty freaking difficult by comparison.
  • Much of the environment begs to be explored but many invisible walls prevent it.
  • The free download of the original Alice wasn’t designed to be played on console so it’s very very difficult. I stopped playing but I will dig out my PC version one of these days.

All in all, the game was pure nerdy goodness for the Alice in Wonderland fan in me. It deviates from the story just enough to keep it fresh.

Motorola Xoom Wifi Tablet Review

This is strictly a quick review of the Xoom hardware. I won’t go into how awesome Honeycomb is because I could write a book on that. It’s exciting and beautiful.

This isn’t a device for everyone. Like the iPad and other tablets, it’s mainly a media consumption device. Don’t expect to do any major programming or graphics work on it without wanting to smash it against the wall. I’m not saying that that’s a bad thing though. The device has a focus as opposed to trying to do everything and please everyone all at once.

I bought the Android Xoom primarily to read comics with. I do a bit of web surfing and chatting with it but that’s about it. Originally, I thought I could get away with a cheaper tablet Android 2.1 (Velocity Cruz Reader) tablet but it was an utter failure.

I’ll cut to the chase here.

The Good

  • The processor is a true power house compared to it’s predecessors. Load times are quick and input is extremely responsive.
  • The Xoom is just light enough that I can read comfortably in bed or throw it in a bag without really noticing the weight.
  • The battery does just fine for a couple of days of random use here and there. I don’t listen a lot of music with it or watch many videos but it holes up fine. I can’t recall ever having to restart the tablet because the battery went completely dead on standby.
  • Charge time is incredibly quick. It takes about an hour to reach a full charge from being reline. The compromise with this is that it won’t charge via usb. So far the trade off has been worthy as long as I don’t go out of town and forget to bring the a/c adapter.
  • The build quality is very solid. The plastic doesn’t feel plastic though it is. The screen is very tough too.
  • As far as I can tell, the Xoom is free to use anything in the Google Android Market. I found this was not the case with other less expensive tablets. Unfortunately, no ever app in the market is designed with the tablet screen size in mind but that is no fault to the tablet.

The Bad

  • The glossy screen is terrible in daylight. It becomes difficult to see the screen through all the finger prints it attracts.
  • It takes a long time to figure out where exactly where the power button is on the back of the device. I wish they would put it on the front or the side. This is more annoying than anything.
  • The $600 price tag is a little too steep. If I was more patient I would have bought an Asus Transformer for just about the same price but it comes with a keyboard that doubles as a docking station. Too bad it hit the market a month later than the Xoom. The Samsung Galaxy tab has just about the same hardware specs as the Xoom but for quite a bit cheaper too.
  • Motorola is playing games with it’s customers by selectively releasing the Honeycomb 3.1 update to US Verison customers only and forcing everyone else to wait an unknown length of time. This is a huge thumbs down for Motorola.

In conclusion, if you can get your hands on an Asus EEE Transformer, seriously consider that while as the same time considering the Xoom.

Anyway, that’s my review. I hope it helps.

Irrelevant ramblings…

The Xoom is my fourth Android device now. I’ve had two Android phones (HTC Dream and HTC Magic) and a cheap Velocity Cruz Reader but it broke so I returned it. The operating system has really grown on me and Honeycomb 3.0 is no exception. It’s smooth and easy and has that science fiction feeling in the touch screen that I love. It’s also exciting to use a completely new kind of operating system on a new kind of hardware to boot. This is like the early days of windows in that sense. It’s a very exciting time for portable hardware.

Cavalia Calgary Review

Cavalia is essentially, a Cirque du Soleil performance with horses. I don’t go out of my way to attend this sort of thing but my wife insisted so this is my review.

Before my wife demanded that we attend this event, I had never heard of Cavalia. A minute or two of googling video clips and I was pretty well informed. My wife managed to book our tickets before the show was widely advertised. She read about it in a horse magazine. As a result, we had front row center on the premiere night in Calgary. They call them Rendezvous tickets and come with a hefty $200 price tag but so worth it.

Once in awhile you get front row seats to something and you find yourself wishing you were further back just to see the whole show. This was not the case. These had to have been the best seats in the house. The performers were literally ten feet in front of us with a perfect unobstructed view of the entire staging area. I was getting dirt on my pants and shoes. It was just incredible.

Included with the passes was access to the Rendezvous lounge before, during intermission, and after the show. There was an open bar with wine and other beverages. We had no trouble finding a table for the four of us either. Lineups were almost nonexistent too. I had read otherwise in another review. There was a decent mixture of h’orderves too. Included as well is a free gift which is a program that costs other attendees $15. I haven’t looked at it yet but it seems nice enough. There was also a gift shop exclusive to the Rendezvous pass holders. No substantial lineups here either. Even the freaking parking was exclusive to us. We were a two minute walk from the door (Free too but only because it was opening night. It’s $20 otherwise). I really eat up this kind of treatment. It was worth every penny.

The performance itself was breathtaking. I traditionally loath circuses but this was completely different. There was no ringmaster taunting any animals to milks some ooohs and ahhhs from the audience. There was no stress at all. This was a showcase of the love. The animals and humans were perfectly in tune with one other as well as with the musicians who performed live.

The horses were incredible. Many of them were bred specifically for the show while others were from animal rescue ranches in Alberta. There was even a mustang in the bunch. I had never seen one up close before.

The show was about two hours in total which was long enough. It was mostly a mixture of dressage, acrobatics and trick riding. My wife is the horse trainer in the family but I was pretty blown away by what I was seeing too. What they were doing with these animals isn’t easy.

We didn’t stay for the after party though we did wander the stables to check out the horses. By the end of the show, we were more than ready to head back to the hotel. My only regret that my unborn baby could only hear the show and not see it.

My conclusion is to get the $200 Rendezvous passes. They made the night so much more fun and stress free.

On a side note, I was pure awesome seeing much of the cast of Heartland there in the front row with us.

Nashbar Daytrekker Panniers Product Review

Installation of the Panniers on my bicycle too about 5 minutes. It’s a one piece deal and it didn’t fit great but I’ll blame my smaller than normal rack on that.
I loaded the left pannier with a 4L jug of motor oil just to see if it fit and it fit perfectly. That’s about the maximum size of container that will fit in there though.
Nashbar Panier Photo Review 1
The 4L jug of motor oil. It’s for my chainsaw, if you’re wondering. Fits snug inside the panniers.
Nashbar Panier Photo Review 2
A pic of the bag wide open. Not a lot of space but it suits its purpose.
I can fit my portable bike pump nicely.
Nashbar Panier Photo Review 3
The Panniers look great on my bike. I really appreciate lower profile but practical bicycle gear like this. I don’t need to look like I’m about to ride coast to coast when I’m just going to the store. Dont’ expect to pick up a lot of groceries but it’ll fit milk and a medium size box of cereal nicely or motoroil!
There’s two long straps on the top to tie down any larger items as well.
Nashbar Panier Photo Review 4
There’s two long straps on the top to tie down any larger items as well.
For the $20 plus $5 shipping I paid, these things are a steal.
Nashbar Product Link
It looks like the black ones are sold out. There’s yellow ones left in stock if you’re into the big safety thing. The black ones do have that reflective silver strap along the side.

Asus EEE PC 4G Surfer Review

The Trouble with Traditional Laptops:
Modern consumer laptops are just too damn big to actually be realistically portable. Secondly, they’re just too expensive to take anywhere without feeling like you’re babysitting it all the time.

Why did I buy an EEE PC instead of a traditional laptop?

The Good

Size matters. Only having to carry around 2 lbs of laptop is a huge selling point. Not to mention that it’s only 125cm wide 90cm long and 15cm thick. It’s just tiny. The trade off is that the screen is even smaller and the keyboard takes some getting used to as well. The 900 model has a slightly larger screen but the jump in price wasn’t worth it. The other nice thing about size is that I can use it in public without everyone gawking at me and my screen. Even at work people will give me that “OMFG U got A Laptopzor! Dya got any games!?”. Nobody will even notice the EEE PC. I can even comfortably turn it on it’s side and read it like a book.

The price. The performance of the EEE PC benchmarks about about half of what a normal consumer grade $1000 laptop can do. The 4G surfer model retails at around $350. The other advantage is that if disintegrates or simply walks away I’m not out a grand or more.

There’s no hard drive. Hard drives are mechanical spinning discs that don’t appreciate being shaken or knocked around. Logic dictates it might be a bad idea to carry such a hard drive around in a laptop. The EEE PC uses static memory like that of an SD card in a digital camera. There isn’t a lot of memory but it won’t crash on you if you slip on the ice while carrying it. Secondly, going back to the disintegration slash walk away factor, if the EEE PC does do this, you won’t be out half a terabyte of your most precious data. I picked up a 16GB usb drive for portable storage I use my desktop at home for primary storage.

I also bought it to plug my gps into but I haven’t gotten that far with it yet. I only bought it a couple days ago. Apparently it works quite well and fits nicely on the dash of my car. I expect it’ll make an excellent mp3 player for the car too. It plays movies well but I still think drivers who watch movies while driving are suicidal.

The Bad

The one thing I don’t trust about reviews by consumers for consumers is that nobody wants to admit that they paid too much money for a piece of crap because that’s just admitting to their own stupidity. As a result, you get all these rave reviews for crap. So to counter that, I’ll should point out the negatives I found about the EEE PC thus far.

The screen resolution is pretty hard to deal with. It’s native resolution is 800×480 but I keep mine at 800×600 and just accept a tiny bit of distortion.

The touch pad is ok but the button attached is really hard to press. It’s just one button where you press the right side for the right mouse button and the left side for the left button. I generally just tap the touch pad for a left click but I’m still stuck using this really stiff button for the right. Before long, I just grabbed a USB mouse and used that instead. I personally miss those eraserheads from old think pads but I’m probably in a minority there.

I realize that Linux Ubuntu helped keep the price low and it’s great and wonderful to use linux like it’s a free range chicken but I’m fairly new to linux myself. I’m not very eager to try and navigate a whole new operating system via this little machine. I confess that I threw Windows XP on it nearly right away. You can buy a slightly more expensive model with windows preinstalled. I recommend that route for novice users. Installing windows via a USB thumb drive is tricky.

The Summary

So in summary, I love this little machine and most of the negatives can be worked around with some tweaking. Even the small screen can be worked around by just plugging it into a normal PC screen. For the price, what do you have to lose? If you don’t like it, give it away as a gift or just return it.