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Joseph Sayre "Venom Computing" RSS Feed (Chemung NY)
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Forza Horizon 2 for Xbox One
Forza Horizon 2 for Xbox One
Offered by Stellatechs
Price: Click here to see our price
34 used & new from $43.99

58 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The first real racing experience on the Xbox One, September 30, 2014
!-Note this review is long, The last paragraph is a summary of all i've stated, Enjoy.-!

When someone asks me about Forza Horizon I'm overjoyed and apprehensive all at once. On one hand, I think it was a very fun game, a game I thoroughly enjoyed, the graphics, map, car selection and driving were all engaging, dare I say fun. It was all spoiled a bit by the monetization (seriously, pay to unlock where the barn finds and signs were?), the rather annoying trope of all racer guys being annoying rich bratty people that are generally irritating, and the rather small list actual cars to drive in comparison to Forza 4 at the time, and the inability to tune them. Of course, for a new IP, it was exceptional. Graphically speaking, somebody managed to perform witchcraft to make it look as good as it did, and the gameplay sort of just made itself fun on it's own. As in Forza 4, each car felt unique due to the import of the forza 4 engine for the physics, and this made playing fun on its own before you began challenges, races and exploration. It was a nice package. So how is FH2? Well, it'd be hard to mess up, remove what the public disliked and give us more of what we did like. Did playground games listen? Surprisingly, in this weird 1 in a million chance, they actually did.

From the get go with the countdown, you know this game is different, the countdown scene is eerie to me, it's like this disconnect from the game, and it feels out of place, yet, it somehow gives you this idea of what this is about, The imagery used, the way she's talking, trancelike, serious, very dreamlike. Horizon 2 then injects you into its world via the Lamborghini Huracan, The replacement for the Gallardo, and you're off to the festival.

Here's the moment where it should happen to you, it did for me, the point when everything comes together, the point where you start acclimating yourself to the interface, the bonding point, and Horizon just does a great job of doing it. The default settings give you help by default, but you can jump into the menu to adjust everything if you want allowing all of the settings available in the menus to your own personal liking. I chose harder difficulty and most of my assists off, because I like the sim feel. As you drive away from the dock and to the festival, the game gives you coastal roads, hills, craggy cliffs, tunnels, twists, straights and actual need for braking. It gives you a complete idea of what you just loaded up. How the AI drives, what races are like, how cars react and function, everything. It's an excellent tutorial, without the tutorial spoon-feeding you information you really don't need.

When you get to the festival, you get to choose one of three cars, The BMW Z4, The Chevy Camaro (the Oldie ), and the Toyota Supra. Taking a nod from it's predecessor Forza 5, who graciously lended its physics engine to the game, Horizon has separated cars into groups such as classic Muscle, Modern Supercar, Hot Hatch, the list goes on, and here's where the game gets pretty nifty in how you play. Choosing your first car is kind of important, because it sort of directs how you'll be playing the game for the first few hours. The Z4 is a tight wound, beautifully balanced little thing as per BMW's pedigree, while the American V8 tailhappy Camaro will give you a rougher time through the corners with great acceleration and speed, while the Supra, while no slouch can slice through turns, holding to the pavement like a scared toddler. All in all, all 3 are good beginner cars in their own right and it comes down to your favorite of the 3, it's not like you can't buy one later. But, be warned, you have to unlock the showroom and the garage, and your level up bar through racing, so if you really hate your first choice, you're going to have to stick with it for a few races before you can get another one. Thankfully, Forza's tradition of accessible cars and Trophy Models returns, so you can be in a new car in a jiffy if you don't like the one you bought. There is a minor ding here in that you can't sell your cars back, nor sell parts, but, it's very VERY easy to make money in this game, so it shouldn't be a problem.

After your races, the showroom, and the garage become available, and after a few more, you'll unlock online, and after even more you'll unlock the Promo's These do what you would expect they do, let you buy cars, lets you access promotions, and upgrade and tune your cars. I'm going to go over each aspect here and describe the progression of the game.

Progression:

The story is more of a road trip than "gotta complete it all" you and a group of drivers partake in a journey across Europe where you race and compete in challenges and different things to do, amongst these things are:

-The bucket list: the bucket list is a set of 30 challenges which work kind of like the add on for Forza Horizon called the 1000 Club, where each car there had a set of challenges you could complete to get medals. It was mostly just something to do, and it was a bit tedious, but it was fun and it makes its return in this way. Scattered around Europe, there are 30 cars, each has its own event such as a time trial or a speed trap which you get a certain amount of time to do. These challenges range from easy to very difficult, and are entertaining in their own way. It's nice to have access to the special cars in the game very early, as the game doesn't rope you off in the beginning, once you're given free roam, you can pretty much do as you please. Finding cars and completing the Bucket List is a nice addition.

-Signs: Scattered about horizon there are XP signs and signs to reduce costs of quick travel, there are 100 xp signs, and 50 quick travel reducers. Find them all for levels and price reductions.

-Speed Traps: These come in two varieties, Average speed cameras where you set a leaderboard time for fastest average speed through two points, and The traps themselves where you're monitored for speed hit at that point. Both are compared to the leaderboards online.

-Rivals: Like in the last game whenever you beat an event, you can choose to rival race to beat their time. It's a good way to race your friends.

-Barn finds: As before finding these barns with rusty decrepit old rides nets you a free car, which is always cool.

-Events: These are the cool events like the one featured at the end of the demo, where you race the Tricolore Flight team in a Mustang, In the full game it's a bit different. The prizes here are usually pretty cool.

-Championships: These are the bread and butter of the game, each time you do a Championship, you'll road trip to a new area, but the really cool thing about the championships is that though you'll be doing about 14 of them, there are a heck of a lot more than that. The game actually lets you decide what championship you want to participate in based on what you're driving. Remember how I said that the game has a bunch of classes? That how it works, you can participate in tournaments in a given location in cars that qualify for the events while you're there. In actuality, there are over 700 races to complete total, so there's miles of content after you've become the winner of the festival. I really like the fact you can drive what you want to beat the game, instead of being forced to race a particular class to progress. It's all about the driving, the cars, and you, and it goes a really long way to making the game both accessible, and fun.

-Lastly, Leveling up, prizes, and Perks: As you drive you'll earn XP from just about everything you do. As you earn XP, you'll level up. As you level up, you'll get the chance to spin the wheel for prizes, and choose perks. The prizes range from money to cars, and will net you that prize at random for each spin. You don't have to claim, you just get that prize. Perks are a set of tweaks for the XP system, unlocking new abilities, or modifying how XP is gained. High level Perks take more skill points to get, while low ones take less. Ultimately its up to you which ones you want, and how to get to them.

Returning are drivatars, which I actually don't mind, they seem less... lets say mentally gimped here, dare I say a bit, reserved, but they're quick, so there is that. In general the system seems to work on the courses, but I've seen drivatars make some really weird decisions in head to head which completely lose them the race. Either way, the drivatar system is welcome and it adds racing element to a game that could be trivialized by incompetent AI.

Game modes in Multiplayer include events in tours which allow racers to tour much like the main game, or just jump in the action, or free roam with their friends as they wish, with the Forza typical game modes available, with the new ones for horizon, which may have been slightly influenced by the original horizon's rally expansion.Multiplayer is now seamless and accessible from the main world instead of the main screen.

Forza Horizon 2 features over 200 cars, with many ported from Forza 5, but some newbies injected too. Some even brand new for the franchise entirely. Each car can be painted, liveried, customized, aeroed, and tuned to make it exactly how you want. With the addition of adjustable tuning, we'll see online become more competitive as well.

Physics - Because this game uses the Forza 5 engine, the physics are bang on from that game, making cars handle very intituively, and using those vibrating triggers to great effect. I have to say that bonding monent I talked about made me so happy. I haven't played a game where I've had the ability to just romp around in cars like these with such an intuitive and realistic way of feeling connected to them. The controller never gets in the way of your commands, and due to design, when you mess up, it is on you. Speaking of mess up, rewind makes a return if you choose to keep it on so you can reverse and correct your mistakes.

Weather and day/night - With the new map we get new weather, it can now rain, which does actually affect handling, and vision, not to mention makes your car and the road look awesome. With the weather, events can become harder or easier, and the day night cycle does the same. It fleshes out the racing experience more, and is a very nice touch, it's nice to finally have this in a Forza game.

Europe itself is enormous, there's lots of stuff to do, roads to find, cars to drive, events to partake in and wonders to behold (and own). There's weather, epic looking cars and views, hundreds of races, lots of collectibles, and mini events or challenges to do, and best of all you can experience all of this with almost no real effort to get online with a friend. On top of that the game is beautiful with good voice work, snappy menus and incredibly intuitive driving physics. In short, Forza Horizon 2 is a wonderful game, and I'm happy to say feels next gen. I have to give it a recommend and a 5*. See you in the festival.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 23, 2014 10:31 AM PDT


Samsung Galaxy Tab USB Charging Data Cable (ECC1DP0UBEG ECC1DP0UBEGSTA)
Samsung Galaxy Tab USB Charging Data Cable (ECC1DP0UBEG ECC1DP0UBEGSTA)
Offered by Blue Point
Price: $6.70
12 used & new from $1.00

1.0 out of 5 stars Useless., August 23, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Failed in less than a month.

Tell you what I do, I have my charger attached to a power strip that sits below my bed. To take all of the flex out of the cable, I fished an extension cord through the frame and just outside the mattress, I plug in the Samsung OEM usb adapter. Then this comes out of it and into the tablet. I make sure that I use the stand I bought for it in landscape, and always have the samsung power port facing the end of the bed where the usb plug comes from to keep the USB cable under as little stress as possible. In this way, I've managed to make the original equipment from samsung last over 2 years.

This lasted exactly 23 days.The cord was never mistreated, it was never dropped, and it was transported in top of a car seat to a card shop by itself with the adapter not plugged into it (that was in my pocket) ONE time.

This isn't the first one of these type of cable i've bought. It seems all of the cables you can buy on amazon that say they're "The real thing" and are replacements, are reproductions with a samsung sticker. Unless they really are Samsung Cables, in which case, Samsung has no idea how to construct a decent cable.

I ended up getting this: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007I5VKYU/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

This, so far has been a good replacement for my plug in cable. But it isn't USB based so you can't charge with a computer etc.

Any money you would use, would be better spent on something else.


Magic: the Gathering - Sliver Hivelord (211/269) - Magic 2015
Magic: the Gathering - Sliver Hivelord (211/269) - Magic 2015
Offered by Happy Viking Games
Price: $5.65
22 used & new from $3.56

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes Slivers just that much more rediculous, August 8, 2014
Ah Slivers, Tribal Perfection at it's finest.

I have a Sliver commander (EDH) I run, let me give you a Taste of why the Hivelord is probably the Best Sliver Card ever.

Every single board wipe card in EDH or any other format except an enormously small number of very specific cards cannot touch your slivers after this card is played.

Slivers have absolutely no need to be buffed with this guy in your deck, if you play him, they have access to deathtouch in all formats meaning even your 1/1 Silvers can chump block and kill any threat, With access to Lifelink, again, even with obscene trample damage, you can mitigate your life drain, and because you can give your slivers Vigilance or flying so easily, They'll often be at the ready to work for you. This frees up your deck to run the Cheap slivers like muscle sliver or sinew sliver instead of the 5 drop megantic, and use more strategic ways to make slivers deadly, (for instance running Psionic Sliver which makes all your delightful creatures have tap do 2 damage to creature or player, 3 damage to itself, BUT IT'S INDESTRUCTIBLE) or poison, whatever, the possibilities are rediculous.

Manaweft from M14 makes this monster easily droppable, Gemhide does too if you're playing modern or later. If you're in commander or legacy, you've got options in Crystalline Sliver (Shroud), and Root Sliver, (Prevents countering slivers)

With Sliver Hivelord, Slivers can become practically invincible, To be honest, if you've got your deck set up well, this guy isn't even hard to get out. He's epic, if you have Slivers, he's just required.


OXO Good Grips Toothbrush Organizer, Brushed Stainless
OXO Good Grips Toothbrush Organizer, Brushed Stainless
Price: $27.65
6 used & new from $19.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice little container., August 8, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Neat little thing, its about 3" in diameter, and a good 10" tall (I didn't measure)

Either way, I really like it, the center part for your toothpaste keeps it out of the way, and if you know someone with long hair that does use the sink, you might notice that hair gets stuck in the cap of the toothpaste sometimes (or maybe I was just really unlucky growing up)

Because the toothpaste goes into container, gets used, and gets reinserted, it stays clean, it's also really spacious, I use sensodyne for my sensitive front teeth, and the tubes are pretty weird, screw on cap, but as wide as the tube itself. (Think as wide as a crest or colgate tube, about 1.5" diameter) Still fits in there nicely.

Then there are the little.cavities for the toothbrushes, there are 4, and each COULD hold more than one brush, but most people aren't fond of their brushes touching, so lets assume its for 4 people. About an inch down the cavity, there is a bunch of supple rubber hands that hold the brush firmly in place.

The top folds open 90 degrees, and closes easily it all looks very clean and pretty when closed, which is nice, and it keeps stuff off the sink.
It even has a weighted bottom so it doesn't really move when you open the top.

The only complaint I have, is if you have a really small sink, it really doesn't fit on the sink well I'd like to think it's mostly made for a sink counter. Still, it keeps everything nice and clean, and out of the way. Also, looks nice. Really hard to complain.


AT&T EL52100 DECT 6.0 Digital Cordless Answering System
AT&T EL52100 DECT 6.0 Digital Cordless Answering System
Price: $29.99
18 used & new from $19.00

5.0 out of 5 stars it pretty much does everything, August 8, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This phone is a peach.

The phone itself has full call waiting/caller ID functionality, contacts, and wireless message retrieval, with full interactivity with the messaging system operations. It also has a customizable ringtone for the handset, it also has Speakerphone on the hand unit. Honestly, it pretty much does everything.

I enjoy the color, The menus are easy to navigate and read, the display is informative, and using Caller ID keeps a nice list of everyone you've been contacted by, so even if they don't leave a message you know what you missed. Super Nice.

The Answering machine support custom or non identifying messages prior to people leaving you a line, and supports you calling home to get your messages, I'll repeat, you can call from anywhere to get messages left at your house. That, is pretty awesome.

How much for all of this? I actually spent $30 on a sale, normal price at time of this review is $40, I have yet to find a product that does what this does for close to that price. Not only that, after a month, I have no issues with battery life, either unit breaking down, poor reception, or poor range which worked about 40 feet away in my car, OUTSIDE of my home.

If you need a combination unit, if you don't need a combination unit. Replacement, whatever, if you've got a jack somewhere that needs a phone line in it and you'd like to fill it, This unit fits the bill majestically. Crazy value, and attractive to boot.


Stanley 68-010 Multibit Ratcheting Screwdriver with 10 Assorted Bits
Stanley 68-010 Multibit Ratcheting Screwdriver with 10 Assorted Bits
Price: $10.88
51 used & new from $3.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I really don't love this screwdriver, July 23, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I really don't love this screwdriver, I should by all means, because it works really well as a screwdriver, the ratcheting action is good, it's firm, and works EXACTLY like I feel a Ratcheting Screwdriver should. It's a good width, it's easy to find, it's comfortable to use, and I love the compartments at the base of the bit shaft.

The back however has a rotating cap. This cap just sucks, it is a terrible thing, and it should reside in the dominion of fire and screaming for the rest of its days.

When you're using the screwdriver, you'll often loosen the cap, this is an annoyance. However if you open it, you'll notice it has six convenient slots for bits on it and surely enough you being the handy person you are, you grab six more bits to carry with your screwdriver, because more bits is better no matter who you are.

The thing is, the cap doesn't hold these bits too snugly, and this is whare you start to have issues. See, if the bits you have in there aren't very wide, such as a flathead, or a torx, or a box end bit, or a small phillips, or well, any really small diameter bit (which i'll say are often the most useful on a screwdriver like this, you just often don't get the torque you need from mini screwdriver sets). If the bit were to become dislodged, it will come out of its slot enough to wedge itself in the ring in the grip. The ring in the grip I THINK is there to prevent bits from falling into the endless void of the screwdriver handle, where it will surely be stolen by goblins and used to create traps to overthrow humanity at a later date, as opposed to you simply turning the driver over and fetching your fallen bit. Honestly, my money's on the goblins.

Once it's wedged, it isn't going anywhere, it stops the screwdriver cap from moving counterclockwise or clockwise, and at this point it becomes... "Do I wan't to free my bits?" Since they were useful enough to be in there, my bet is yes. The choice becomes turning the cap hard enough to open it, which will involve pliers, which ends up destroying the inner part of the cap, and chewing up the sides of the cap as well, or simply giving up and not using the screwdriver's bits, knowing full well there's a bunch of starving, less fortunate bits inside of the screwdriver that can barely breathe, stuck inside a horrifyingly yellow or black container. This little thought will burn the back of your mind, and most likely you'll think about it every time you'll use the screwdriver. I vote people don't think about helpless starving little bits trapped in a jar every time they go to fix something.

So how do these bits come out? comes down to flimsy plastic and G-Forces, dropping the screwdriver, spinning it, putting it in your pocket and walking or running, throwing it into the dirt when you're mad, the usual stuff, all has the ability to cause this angst.

In short, good screwdriver, DO NOT PUT BITS IN THE CAP AT THE BACK. The end.


[Rhino] Black Heavy Duty rugged impact Hybrid Case with Kickstand For Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0 Inch) tablet
[Rhino] Black Heavy Duty rugged impact Hybrid Case with Kickstand For Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0 Inch) tablet
Offered by rhino wireless
Price: $9.88
3 used & new from $9.88

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Alright, depending on your uses., March 29, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This item is actually quite nice.

The case itself comes apart after you remove the rubber-esque glove, and like the glove is fairly sturdy. It comes apart in two halves which will wrap around the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0. Then reassemble the case completely by using the rubber-esque overlay to hold the halves together. At this point, there are a couple of issues I noticed.

Using power and volume buttons aren't very easy or obvious. In the dark, it was difficult to feel where these buttons were, in addition, its hard to tell where the buttons start or end, so you might accidentally turn things off, down or up when you try to use any of those buttons respectively. The other issues include difficult access to the power port, which feels a bit too tight on the Samsung adapter. That is a bit of an opinion, but all the same, I find the power solution a bit... lacking. This is pretty much the status quot for most of the interactivity, Could be better, but functions with a workaround or with a little extra effort.

It's a small price to pay for protection, but I'm unsure how well this really protects the device, First off there's no protection for the screen at all, not that I expected one, BUT all the same, this choice of protection will prevent you from using anything other than a clear protective screen, which is not going to really protect the device if it falls face down, which lets face it, you have a 50% chance of it doing. Then there is the cost of the screen to protect it, which is 8-15 bucks. So you are protecting the device with some shock damage, but even so it really gives the impression you'll get that protection possibly once before the case has had it. It doesn't feel flimsy, but I wouldn't trust the thing to stay together over multiple repeated drops. on a hard floor.

The main reason it gets two stars for me though is the flimsy stand. Mine broke in 2 weeks. Since I watch a lot of videos with my tablet, it spends a lot of time propped up on the kickstand. The stand is comprised to a main lever and a slide lever that connects to it and also the tablet case. Upon opening the large lever, the little slide moves down the tablet case side until it's perpendicular to the tablet part of the case, making a stand which will work either landscape or portrait. Its clever design, but the plastic used for these parts is about 1mm thick, it's pretty flimsy. Worse, the hinges are held onto the unit are small, and despite them working well, they're very easy to chip off resulting in your stand simply coming disconnected from the tablet (providing the large lever is the one that broke which is the likely scenario) whenever you go to use it. Breaking this part is very, very easy, reducing the functionality of the case by quite a bit. Drop it while the stand is open, you'll almost surely break it. Heck, it might break out of fatigue from using the hinge as you do pull on the lever a bit due to the fact it snaps into the rear of the case flush.

So in summation, the case does protect the device, but not the screen at all, nor is there an option for the case to use with a clip on screen protector of some kind. It makes some features more difficult to use from stock, in a way I think could have been easily solved with a bit more insight from the makers of the rubber mold, by making pseudo buttons to press. Finally, The stand it offers is flimsy and you'll break it pretty easily. Is it good for 13 bucks? I guess. The thing is, the protection it offers I don't think justifies its price tag, dropping something in the equivalent otter box, which is 40 bucks and has a screen film protector will result in less damage to your device, if any, and far less damage to the case itself. The otter box is harder and the rubber exterior is harder too. Plus The otter box is far more likely to protect the screen while you have the stand clipped to the front during transport. Also, the base hinge on that is tough thick plastic. Dropping the rhino 4 times and breaking it 4 times is more expensive and wasteful than buying the otter box once.

Ultimately, if you're protecting the device, I think you'd want to protect it more than once for 13 bucks, and this device might deliver a few lucky times at best before the weak kickstand gets broken. I'd recommend something better than this product to protect your tablet.


No Title Available

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars All-Around-Poor, December 30, 2013
This keyboard is not very good, here's why:

First off it's not complete junk, it has some nice features.

The usb cable is study and its wrapped in fabric, very nice and sturdy with the added benefit of that binding being distinguishable under a desk with low lighting, making it easy to locate and plug in. No machete required to get through the thick USB undergrowth to find the cable.

The Ability to change the color however you want is cool, and doesn't have to be reset each time you restart, provided you install and use the controller in the driver.

Macro keys and special bindings using the software allow hundreds of customization macros, awesome for games.

So what's wrong with it?

Put simply it feels very cheap.

The keyboard itself is nice and feels sturdy, but the keys don't work well if you press them slightly off center. What I mean is the key won't depress without some serious effort unless you use the center of the key. This seems fine until you realize the bottom row specifically noting the left lower shift key is not something under normal keyboarding to hit dead on. You'll hit it towards the top of the key. I play a game called Warframe, To sprint you press Shift. To slide you press Ctrl. alternating you can get a lot of speed and save stamina (running drains it) I constantly was fighting hitting Ctrl as the key would get stuck and not want to go down till I pushed harder. Course it being a slide, I'd also smack into lasers and other stuff because I had to fight with the key for 1/2 a second. In a GAMING keyboard this is bad, and when any basic run of the mill 5 dollar job has better response from the keys, I find it hard to consider it an upgrade. In addition the entire keyboard did this for me. WASD, the arrows, if any were pressed in a corner it became much harder to press the keys. So it wasn't a fluke.

The software install process never indicated a restart was neccesary, so I fumbled around looking for the keyboard options a long time before I restarted and the options were in my taskbar. So there is a reboot necessary after install then you can mess with your keyboard.

The settings to mess with the board are in my opinion very lacking as far as lighting, pure white is NOT possible, only a very light blue, the keys are a bit dull as well (dimly lit) And despite the fact you can customize the Perixx Logo and the keys, you can't adjust ANYTHING else. Which means certain parts of the board will always be blue, which is a bit disappointing,

The board is also fairly loud on keystrokes and even with a fairly insensitive MIC your friends will likely hear you typing.

The board also cannot on the fly macro a key and has no dedicated macro based keys for customization, instead, each key can be customized in "Gaming Mode" activated by hitting the center top button on the board. After setting macros in the driver menu, you can hit gaming mode to allow you to use them. This is kind of a double edged sword since you can have infinite layouts, but only get normal functionality by switching back to another mode. This could I think cause unintended behavior if you don't remember to switch gaming mode off.

Finally the audio adjustment wheel does not work well, it does not raise the volume on each tick of the wheel, and it feels like its loose or something. It feels broken, its NOT broken as it works every 2 ticks (sometimes 3) but it just feels tacked on and junky.

So in conclusion The keyboard is built well, looks nice, is customizable, and has some cool features. Unfortunately its difficult to use and get up and running, has poorly designed keys, the customization options do not extend to the whole board, the lighting is dim, the Macro keys aren't really that usable on the fly, the Audio wheel is poorly implemented, it feels cheap and Perixx makes a far better option: The PX-1100.

Honestly, I'd have that, and after I used this PX-3000 for 3 gaming sessions, I did.

Perixx PX 1100 Backlit Keyboard Illuminated


Xbox One + Kinect
Xbox One + Kinect
Offered by Direct Distributor
Price: $493.99
117 used & new from $323.99

6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Kinectless review of the Xbox One, December 4, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Xbox One + Kinect (Console)
This review is not for everyone, this is a review for how usable the console is without one of its key features, the Kinect.

The Xbox one utilizes the Kinect for gestures and voice, My room is about the size of a closet, and I personally hate voice and motion controls because they would literally cause me injury where this console will be used, and because I can input commands faster with my fingers than with my voice.

That said this review is for how well I feel the overall performance of the console is handled, but without the use of Kinect, which as I've stated, I cannot effectively test, nor do I want to, and to be honest for games I play I'd rarely use the device anyway.

The console is bundled with a headset, the power cords, a hefty HDMI, the Kinect, a controller, and documentation, I'll review each as I come to it.

The headset has a flash of green but really the quality is no better than the old 360 headset, it's still wired, and it's still cheap, but it does work, and provides a good alternative to the Kinect Microphone if you don't have it connected.

The power cord is pretty much word for word the 360's, it's an in line, external power supply, and given the console is ENORMOUS I really cannot figure out why they had to have the power supply outside of the console, the one is over an inch wider than the ORIGINAL XBOX, and that thing was huge. So no bonus points there for convenience unless the power supply toasts itself.

This is the first console I've purchased with HDMI bundled in the box, and it works as expected.

The Kinect is larger than the 360 version, and as I've said, I didn't want to install it so I am reviewing the console sans Kinect.

The controller I really like, That's a really good thing since that's my main interface with the screen, the D-Pad is massively improved over the xbox 360 counterpart in my opinion on both a concept and execution level.

The controller is smaller by a little bit than the 360 controller, reaching size to about the S controller of the original Xbox. In fact it really feels a lot like if the Xbox and Xbox 360 controllers were melded together almost to create this, and those two being amongst my favorites, that's an excellent thing. The plastic isn't hard and smooth, much like the 360 controller giving it a soft feel, while providing grip. The sticks themselves are supple rubber that's ridged around the edges to prevent sweaty fingers from slipping, and the buttons are all within easy reach for your fingers or thumbs. All buttons depress easily and are quick to depress and rise giving good response and the triggers have been revamped to include their own set of vibration motors to provide feedback directly to the finger providing action.

An example is that in Forza 5 you can feel wheelspin caused by acceleration through the right trigger, giving you an idea of how much push you're giving in a corner, while you can feel ABS and brake lock up through the left trigger. This changes how quickly you can understand and gauge throttle or braking in the game, giving you feedback faster and more efficiently.

This is coupled with body of the controller vibration which provides the feedback you already received last generation, and it does help the experience of games that utilize it,

The controller unfortunately still takes batteries, this is 2013 microsoft, come on include, a NiMh or a NiCd battery pack. I have to admit the location and profile is improved with the battery situation, but launching with these battery powered controllers and saying "Hey you can buy our play and charge" for 30 bucks is ridiculous. I don't love Sony, but the PS3 controller is much more convenient for users. Gamers like me don't have 8,000,000 batteries in their rooms anymore, because almost all devices include a rechargeable battery. It really does seem MS knows this which makes the money grub for a little, insignificant rechargeable battery for an exorbitant $30 all the more transparent because no one wants to pack rat a dozen batteries. The controllers don't even have a dongle to be used tethered to the console for use if your batteries die mid game, you either have spares, and you're ok, or you don't and your game ends. That's not a fun, fair, or intelligent way to force someone to stop playing.

That being said they do include a couple of copper tops for you to use and the controller seems to get very good life out of them, so battery life is good at least.

Finally to the main event The console:

The Console itself:

Besides looking like a Betamax from the early 80's, there is nothing nostalgic, sleek, impressive, or beautiful about the design. The console is essentially a big block with a disc drive in the front of it, aligned to the left and a bunch of slots in the roof to prevent it going nuclear. It does have a glowing Xbox logo you can poke on the right side of the console to turn it on or off, as well as a pokey bit next to the BD drive to make it ingest or regurgitate a Disc with either a movie or a game on it, possibly music if you're one of those people who still listens to CD's. The console is pure functionality, no heart, no soul, just Bauhaus design with a bit of chrome. Its quite ugly and I'm a bit sad I have to put it next to an Xbox 360 Slim, which is absolutely gorgeous.

The U.I.:

Unfortunately things don't get a lot better once you're staring at the screen instead of the console, the Xbox needs to update out of the box or it won't work properly, (this was communicated by MS thanks to all the crazy revisions to the Terms of Service and OS changes) But once that's done its a straightforward setup to create or use an Xbox Live account and then choose your color for the user interface, which is very Windows 8. If you've never used W8, think lots of tiles, each representing a clickable and interactive option in the unit.

There are 3 screens, using the controller, you can navigate these screens but using the bumpers (for you PS2,3 people that's R1/L1) The left most screen contains apps such as Skype, IE, and Netflix. The center screen is the business end containing your profile info, the app you're using, the snap feature, the guts of the OS (options and accounts on the console) and the last 5 things you did. in a renewing ticker tape that updates as you use apps or games. The Right screen is the shop essentially containing the live store movies, music, and other items related to entertainment that allow you to purchase or rent multimedia for listening or viewing pleasure.

The center screen is far more trouble than its worth in my opinion, while the center title defaults to games or whatever you were last doing and is very easy to use and interact with, the tile next to it containing your account information is largely wasted. It tells you who you are, your gamer score and how many friends are on. But you have to click it to see WHO is on. and there is more than enough room to display a few friends in that tile, it's a big tile and it's not used to a good effect in my opinion. The app though contains a lot of info about what your friends are doing, when they logged on, and who's on right now, but it's hard to get an idea straight from the menu like it was on 360 on boot. The 360 had an entire page dedicated to your friends, which showed them snoring offline or a speech bubble showing what they were doing if they weren't offline as well as their avatar and achievements. At a GLANCE. This is an excellent show of more is more, the condensed menu has an air of rushed and incomplete about it.

The right side includes locations like your account, avatars and account management, this is the place to go find your Wi-Fi settings, if you're not anal about bandwidth like me and aren't concerned about the minor drop in performance from a wireless vs. wired connection. This is also the place to go looking for the way to activate your online codes from games such as your car pass from Forza. (Took me a long while to find this little gem)

Snap in is a hugely touted feature, and on a controller, what may be a good app to use with voice is turned into complete crap. On the controller, you can hit the guide from in game, choose snap, select a dockable program, interact with it, and then hit the guide button, reselect your game, and finally choose to play that again. It may be good for video, but for anything else, its cumbersome, intrusive, and there is no way to adjust the snap in ratio so everything is either docked and small, or not docked at all, and I prefer the second one.

All in all this menu is usable, but it feels rushed, incomplete, and clunky on a controller, and I know its supposed to be used with Kinect, but I don't think that's an excuse to make the controller so sluggish through the menus. But there is I'm afraid even more wrong with it. Playing a game and returning to the menu via the guide button results in a serious drop of frame rate in the menu and its very obvious. It doesn't ruin anything, it just looks unattractive.

Applications still sit behind a membership fee I'm also disappointed to admit, applications like Hulu Plus, Netflix, and Amazon Movies still require an Xbox live gold membership which is normal price, $60. In addition to the fees you're racking up on those website's billing structure, MS wants their own cut to even access them, and they really should be free to use as they are free to use on the net, windows 8, android, Wii, PS3, Apple anything, and all kinds of internet ready devices and TV's. Again this is 2013, this app lockdown stuff isn't something buyers should have to circumvent to access their content they're already paying for, they're used to being able to access their content from anywhere and a device that's designed to lock them out unless they pay is not seen as a gateway, its seen as a hindrance, and it is.

Cable route through works and is usable as long as you have the supplies to connect it, but again, see above, there may be a device that you already own, that might manage all of this stuff better.

So the final rating sits at very very average. The console has a lot of potential, but the launch leaves a lot to be desired, Microsoft, if its to gain any ground needs to realize their system can't be a full entertainment center with all the lockdowns and focus on making the UI more usable to people without Kinect if they do not want to use it, as well as improving social plug ins and social gaming input. Xbox live can't stay at the forefront of gaming as a large charge for service without some serious injection of new stuff, and right now, the social features, and social interaction options are not in place, or accessible enough for a gaming machine of 2013/2014. The console may improve, but for 500 dollars, I have to say the old "wait and see" might be the very best stand you can take.


Forza Motorsport 5 Day One Edition
Forza Motorsport 5 Day One Edition
Offered by O' MY GAMES
Price: $63.99
39 used & new from $27.98

11 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Turn 10 Creates More With Less, November 25, 2013
Well ladies and gentlemen, grab your helmets, your racing gear and some earplugs because you're in it for the long haul this time, Forza is back. The question is, have Turn 10 created another masterpiece, or made a horrible hash of things?

The answer is a surprising mix of both.

Upon booting Forza 5 you'll be greeted with an update, this update is 6GB and contains most of Forza 5's huge drop from 500 cars. Likewise, while the game installs you won't be able to access anything other than the first season. But that aside, you get a wonderful introduction to the game by Jeremy Clarkson, the first of many intros by the men of Top Gear, who play a much larger role in the game than simply providing a snippet of a review for a small set of cars. May, Hammond and Clarkson walk you through tiers and series races with their own unique flair, Top Gear antics completely intact, and whether you like the cast or not, the passion and the voice work is there, and only adds to the already impressive strengths Forza 5 demonstrates.

So, after the games all installed, depending on your connection that could be hours, and if this was a launch title for you, I do pity you, you poor soul, enduring two long waits to game is no small matter. But once the game is ready to go you'll notice immediately one of those things the Gran Turismo crowd is always going on about, Graphics.

This game is stunning, the leather has bumps, the flake is evident in the paint, the digital bugs spatter the paint, the sun is every bit as annoying and gorgeous as it is in real life, and the cars whether matte or wet looking gloss look so real it's like you could reach into the game and touch them expecting to hear the familiar slight screech rubbing noise your fingers make as you slide them across a real car. I do not joke, the graphics here are insanely detailed, and for once in my life I have seen a computer accurately reflect surroundings on the car paint, which adds a whole new level to immersion and detail. The beauty doesn't stop there, the bodies running about before a race are modeled well enough to be believable, the driver fidgets on the steering wheel after long corners and shifting and the tracks and roads in the game are amazingly beautiful. Prague itself is stunning, and something even a critic, a massive bag of cynicism like myself is FORCED to find wonderful. Each track in the game, a smaller number than the previous game, has this spit-shined beauty, this incredible attention to detail, and I found myself drinking it all in at 140 mph as I battled for the lead. The graphics and mannerisms are just wonderful, but its nothing compared to the sound.

Forza has always had good sound, but Turn ten has done something truly incredible here with this work, from the spitting fireballs from V6's, 8's, 10's, 12's and flat 6's, 4's to inline 4's and 6's, the sound is bang on and incredible, immersing the player in an exquisite symphony of gasoline and testosterone from the greasy, oil fed monsters of motorsport. It's all set to a high beats per minute orchestral music, a score to keep your blood pumping, and something you'd expect to hear watching the last lap of an epic race where the hero of the movie makes 4 or 5 miraculous passes and emerges the victor. Something else you might imagine is the car chases of old movies like Bullitt or Ronin, just epic, beautiful heart and pure driving set to edge of your seat, tactful and warming, spirited music delivered like only an orchestra can. The game makes you feel in the moment, and simultaneously fun, while issuing a great challenge.

Forza hands its challenge out a la carte' like it always has. Yes I'll take a dollop of hard AI with a bit of no traction control and a dessert of a bit of ABS, followed by a swig of the old racing line to wash it down. Allowing you to experience the cars and AI as you're ready and it does it exactly like it did before, no surprises, but how it hand out AI difficulty is vastly different than old generations.

Say all you want Drivatar sounds stupid or it's a lost cause, but until you've tried it out there's nothing in the world that could prepare you for what it does for racing. Imagine you are racing and drivers around you seem to want to win, that they jostle for position, that they attack each and every corner with an unmitigated vigor and fight tooth and nail to every foot they can grab, and you'll have a real race in your head. Forza 5 really does bring that to life. It grabs your driving style, your weird quirky stuff and bundles that into an AI file that gets downloaded by other people. Your Drivatar does its best to act like you, unless you just go backwards or spin people out all of the time, then it ignores those. Then the game emulates you in someone else's game. This not only is cool, it makes the AI seem less like AI, it makes the races more interesting, it makes the opponents seem real. It adds a massive amount of immersion to the game, and it makes you a better driver for it. Such a change in AI is so thoughtful and so game changing you'll wonder why it took this long for someone to do it, no internet? Don't fret they programmed plenty of on disc Drivatar AI for you too from their own testers, how do you like that?

The physics have been improved greatly, surface physics in particular as well as the "feel" for the different types of car layouts. Trust me you can definitely feel differences in FWD vs RWD now, they're completely different animals. No longer will cars behave mostly differently in just the beginning of the race. Power and handling plays a much greater role in racing and driving on the raggedy edge feels better than ever. The menus are more clean and generally more streamlined and I like the ability to customize wile in Forza Vista, a feature showing off cars like Auto Vista from Forza 4 but less personalized from a car standpoint in favor of a blanket for manufacturer, while still allowing all cars to be completely checked out tire tread to hatch cover. But all of this I'm afraid does get tarnished by the rusty body panels bubbling their virus through the otherwise immaculate paint.

Deep down though Forza 5 really is Forza 4 with a lick of nice paint and a lot of shiny bits removed, many cars have been slashed to meet the One's launch deadline and the 50 dollar tab to get the car pass to raise that amount 60 more seems unfair to fans that have been with the series since the XBOX, like me. However well the cars look and feel does seem like a big trade off to lose possibly someone's favorite car. Thank fully all my favorites made it back in, but I did miss some of the new cars recently brought in to the series such as the New Fiat Punto. The loss of several tracks bringing the total down to 14 is also sad as well, again sacrificed for the perfect nature of the tracks included. All content is laser scanned and meticulously created, and again I'm so happy about it, but I feel for the people who's favorite cars were slashed for this.

But I can't dock the score for it, the money grub, the missing cars and tracks, all of it doesn't matter, its simply a spectacular game, and it's an excellent simulator the game contains an amazing number of races, and will give you your 60 dollars' worth and some, just like Forza 4 before it. When you're done with that the online features carry it further with online racing and other fun stuff.

If you enjoy racing games, if you enjoy cars, this game is wondrous to behold and experience and with all of its difficulty mods, it can be enjoyed by anyone who has any passion for racing, it's a hard game to not recommend, even with the shaky financial situation, and the strong drop in tracks and cars from the previous game. Forza 5 really does prove that its quality, not quantity that matters, and it's a 4 star game for me.


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