By Doug Berner
Back in January while at CES, Ed and I had a chance to sit down with the folks from Corsair. Among the cool stuff they had to show us, were the Vengeance K60 keyboard and M60 mouse. I was struck by the style and feel of both of them at the time but did not have a lot of hands on time at the show to put them through their paces. When Ed called a couple of weeks later to let me know we had gotten a set in for review I jumped at the chance.
The K60 and M60 are billed as FPS (first person shooter) gaming items and so one would expect them to be both rugged and reliable.
When I got my hands on the set, the first thing that struck me was the same thing that had leapt out at me when we saw them at CES. Both the K60 and M60 have a one of a kind aggressive design that looks distinctly military. A solid, no-nonsense chassis built from brushed aluminum peeks out from the edges of the M60 mouse. There is a plastic mouse body attached to it but there can be no doubt that the heart of this thing is a solid metal brute. Even the scroll is made out of a solid piece of aluminum, extra wide in appearance with a notched black rubber center. The K60 takes this level of solid and aggressive styling one step higher. Black matt keys rise up from the surface of an upper deck crafted from one solid piece of brushed aluminum. Unlike virtually every other keyboard out there the upper deck does not rise up around the outside edges of the keys. The result is a look and feel that make the K60 and M60 stand out in a crowd.
Plug and play performance for both the K60 and M60 was flawless right out of the box. The K60 is a mechanical keyboard but I noticed right away that it has a very light feel to the keys. This is surprised me since this is a mechanical keyboard. The reason is that Corsair has chosen to use cherry red MX switches in the K60. Compared to the cherry black switches I had been used to in other keyboards the cherry reds in the K60 have a much lighter touch. One of my very few complaints about mechanical keyboards was that if you are not used to them you can experience some finger fatigue with extensive typing. The K60 eliminates this concern because the cherry red switches are both light and crisp. I have always found typing on a mechanical keyboard to be a joy and the K60 takes that joy to the next level. The K60 offers the great solid and responsive feel that I expect from a mechanical keyboard but with no finger fatigue even after hours of constant use.
I’m all about innovation and thinking outside of the box, and Corsair has scored points with me by doing several innovative things in the K60. First, they set the multimedia keys down at a lower level than the other keys on the keyboard. Since they are not used nearly as much as the typing or even the numpad keys this make sense, it keeps them out of the way while still being accessible . Also the volume control is an analog knurled aluminum wheel. At first glance this type of control seems out of place on a modern digital device but in practice it gave me a faster way to ramp my volume up or down than holding a up or down button for the adjustment. It also lends itself to the military styling of the K60.
Corsair knows that a FPS gamer lives on the WASD keys and to accommodate players and make our lives a little easier they include a contoured removable wrist rest just for the left wrist. I found this to be very comfortable helpful while gaming and easily removable while using the K60 for the more mundane hours of my life which require typing. The wrist rest is not just a wrist rest though for it also houses a set of bright red rubberized replacement keys for the WASD and the numbers 1-6 keys, again for the benefit of the gamers. (this is after all a FPS gaming keyboard) also contained in the wrist rest is a key puller to make changing they keys over a snap. After installing the replacement keys I have left them in full time because they do not distract from typing but they have a texture on the top which makes the easily identifiable in the dark. You will need something to find them if you game in the dark as one of the few shortcomings of the K60 is that it does not come with backlighting of any kind. I am fond of back lighting and if I could change one thing about the K60 it would be to add it. However at 109.00 there is just no way you could expect all the things you get in the K60 PLUS backlighting. I am hopeful that the future holds a ”K60 plus” that would offer everything that makes the K6 great and adds backlighting.
Speaking of keys; here is where the K60 had a hiccup and I stress a hiccup because while is has been a problem in early models it is being addressed as we speak. Some of the lettering on the keys wears off prematurely and by prematurely I mean in like a week. Apparently there was a problem at the manufacturer that resulted in poor etching of the letter area and the ink sticks to them only slightly better than an egg to a Teflon skillet. Corsair is aware of the problem and is offering replacement keys to anyone who has the issue and requests a new set. Future versions will not have this problem. In fact they are even moving to a different type of key labeling system.
I mentioned earlier that the K60 deck does not rise up to enclose the keys but leaves them standing starkly above the brushed aluminum deck which gives the whole thing a very aggressive military look. While evaluating the K60 I inadvertently discovered another more practical effect of this design. Spills don’t go down into the body of the K60 the way they would a typical keyboard. Instead they run between the keys and slide down to the bottom of the keyboard where they are easily mopped up without making the keys all stick together in a mess like you get with most other keyboards. I’m not sure if this is a case of form following function or of the result was a fortunate side effect of the design. Either way I am impressed by the fact that for the first time I have a keyboard on my desk that does not eat more chips and soda than I do. Thank you Corsair!
Now on to the M60; as I stated in the introduction I was immediately blown away by the styling of the M60. Seeing that aluminum frame peeking out at me from under the matt back body, with that fat aluminum mouse wheel bedecked with a flat heavily lugged rubber center came near to giving me a physical response that I probably should not have from looking at a computer input device. Add to that a solid heavy feel, some subtle backlighting and this thing looks like it could have been designed by a well know American motorcycle maker.
Performance wise I could not ask for more from a mouse. The M60 takes a beating and does not stop, it looks rugged and it is rugged. The button response is crisp and precise and if you want you can use the downloadable software to customize this performance in about every imaginable way.
The DPI is adjustable from 100 – 5700 through the software, which allows you to set up multiple profiles and adjust the report rate and lift height. Here you can also adjust the DPI of something they call the Sniper Button. Located on the right side under the normal forward and reverse buttons you would expect.
The Sniper button allows you to instantly drop your DPS with a press of your thumb for that micro fine feel you want when you are trying to place that perfect head shot in your favorite FPS. This is another example of a great idea from Corsair, because while many mice let you adjust your DPI on the fly you normally need to use one of your mouse fingers to do it. Problem is that finger is also probably your trigger or your zoom finger. Allowing players to instantly drop that DPI down to say 600 snap off the shot and return to the normal DPI this way means faster response and better accuracy and in a FPS that’s the difference between bringing home the bacon or being the bacon.
Additionally in one of those more mundane hours of my life spent editing text I found that the Sniper Button was useful when I was highlighting text to be copies. With my normal DPI settings I sometimes have to be careful not to highlight way too much text. The Sniper Button let me instantly drop to the lower DPI for the highlight faster than using the normal method of hitting the DPI switch with my index finger, highlighting they switching back. So there you have the justification for buying this great mouse to make you more productive at editing text which just happens to also let you score more precision shots in games!
I have only one small bone to pick with the M60. That Sniper Button that I loved so much comes with a scope crosshair marking on it which I was able to wear off in about 3 weeks. Yeah it’s not noticeable unless you are looking for it but hey I figure if you are going to put it on there, it should be on to stay.
Oh I mentioned above that the M60 has a great beefy feel to it. I love this in a mouse, while I want them to glide effortlessly across any surface I chose I also want to know I am moving something and at 4 5/8 ounces the M60 is the heftiest mouse to come across my desk. The average for a gaming mouse seems to be about 3 7/8 ounces and while that may not sound like a huge difference it makes all the difference in the way it feels when I’m using it. If however you like a lighter touch to a mouse never fear, the M60 allows you to quickly adjust that weight by removal of up to 3 weights from the bottom. You don’t even need a screwdriver to do it as the heads are slotted to accept a coin for easy removal for the “tool challenged” among us. Each of those weights is 1/8 of an ounce and I suppose you could even leave the screws out that hold them in to save another 1/4 ounce overall of you want to get the M60 down to a bantam weight contender.
I could add more information on both the K60 and M60 here but being a combination review this has already gotten pretty lengthy. So lets get down to the part I always jump to when reading other people’s reviews. 8 > )
Conclusion: The K60 gives you the the durability and response you expect from a mechanical keyboard with crisp and lighter key touch than most. It brings to the table an aggressive military styling that any FPS gamer will love and an innovative volume control that is faster and more precise than buttons. The price is very reasonable for a mechanical keyboard and both typing and gaming on the K60 is a dream. Defiantly check this out if you are in the market for a new keyboard even if you are not a gamer. It performs as good as it looks. Lack of backlighting may be a deal breaker for some but not for me.
The M60 is a winner in every aspect. The styling and heft of the thing remind me of a sportster, and its performance and customization make it a top notch choice for hard core gaming or day to day professional use. Remember the Sniper Button has more uses than just awesome headshots! Its solid construction and dead sexy looks make it stand out in a crowded room and the price is spot on, you can spend a lot more money and get a lot less mouse from other companies.
I have been using the same keyboard for over a year and as much as I love it the K60 will now be on my desk for my everyday use and gaming. And the M60 is going to fill a void I have had for a while now, I have gone through at least 6 mice in the last year and while many of them were noteworthy none captured my heart and fill my mouse needs the way the M60 has.
Great work Corsair these two are a match made in geek heaven!
Review of the Corsair K60 and M60 as aired live 31 March 2012
Headsets hold a special place in our hearts on Computer Ed Radio. As radio show hosts we use headphones a lot for working with the show and various other aspects of radio. In addition as we are both avid gamers we use headphones for our recreation as well. To give you an idea of how big a deal headphones are to us, I figured out that I wear a headset roughly 45 hours a week. That’s a lot of time to be in a headset so not only does it need to sound good, it needs to be comfortable as well. We spoke with the folks at Corsair about our passion for headsets and so they decided to step up and asked us to take a look at the Vengeance 1500.
The Vengeance line is Corsairs line of high end, professional, gaming gear and the 1500 is their premier headset. The 1500 uses a USB connection to give you 7.1 surround sound as well as Dolby Pro Logic. The 7.1 sound is simulated and not multiple speakers per cup.
Four our sound testing we picked some of our usually music choices, specifically two songs I now use all the time, Unskinny Bop and The Race is On. Both songs have strong base range and this is something I look for in a headset. For movies I chose I use Ironman, a great movie BTW and then for gaming I chose some games I am active in right now, Skyrim, Reckoning and Arkham City.
Opening the box I was amazed with how littler there was in the package. The only think in the package was literally a couple of pieces of paper for registration information and the headset, that was it. I expected a driver CD but the enclosed papers told me to download the drivers from the Corsair website. This is actually a good idea as this allows Corsair to make sure a new customer is always getting the latest driver with their purchase.
The 1500 comes with a nice long USB connection that has a volume control in line. Instead of a scrolling wheel as so many headsets use, Corsair has opted for a volume up and down button along with a mute button. When the headset is in use the volume buttons are surrounded by an LED that is blue when the mike is on and red when it is muted.
The headset itself uses a clamp style band that is very stylish with a nice soft, padded top and the sides are brushed aluminum to match the rest of the Vengeance peripheral lineup. The ear cups each hold a 50mm driver for great sound quality and is padded with a fabric material with memory foam. The mike is a stiff arm design that lifts out of the way when not in use and the ear cups can rotate 90 degrees for easy storage. The cups themselves are larger and deeper than most headsets meaning it should fit nicely over anyone’s ears.
My wife can be seen modeling the headset for us to show you the nice aluminum side and the mike extended for use. The styling is really nice with a light hint of blue trim and the black and aluminum giving this a very classy look. The cabling is very high quality with a nice heavy braid. The construction is very solid and Corsair is backing it with a 2 year warranty, very nice for a headset.
The software, as we mentioned needs to be downloaded for the headset to be used. The software is outstanding in it’s simplicity and ease of use. The software allows you to choose between three base settings;
- Bypass which is the basic headphone settings.
- Dolby which lets you adjust environmental size and type
- 7.1 which simulates surround sound and adjust the parameters to give you the experience you will most enjoy.
All three settings also allow you to use the software’s EQ which comes with a great collection of created profiles; Default, Music+Bass, Music Reference, Movie Mod +, FPS Gaming and MMO Gaming. Each of these has been created by Corsair to work with the sound dynamics of the headset and try to optimize for the use intended. You have to be a real sound buff to tell the difference but this is still a nice feature to offer. You can of course also create custom profiles.
Okay so the 1500 looks good, is well built and has cool software but how does it sound? For music the bass sound reproduction was outstanding. The sound quality was really spot on and just great to listen to. What was really surprising was that this USB headset actually sounded BETTER than a good analog headset on a stock setting X-Fi sound card. Now with some tweaking the X-Fi was able to regain a small lead but the USB sound system created by Corsair really delivered the goods.
Movies delivered the same great base, you feel the sound as much as hear it and the reproduction was well done. Also I was really impressed with the 7.1 sound these recreated. I understand logically that this was not true 7.1 but just a simulation with 2 drivers but the simulation is so well done that the difference was to small to matter.
For gaming the combination of the 7.1 sound with the nice base made gaming a really great experience, the sound was very immersive and makes me glad I game in a headset. Speakers are okay but I still believe that nothing beats the immersion of a good headset, I can say the 1500 really shows that immersion at it’s finest.
Finally we turn to the microphone, something we are really picky about here. Microphones often seem like an afterthought with many gaming headsets. Now that is not to say they are generally bad but it seems like they are never at the same quality as the sound components. Like I said I am really picky about my mikes so I was not expecting a lot from the Vengeance, however that did not stop it from delivering. The Vengeance 1500 had the BEST mike I have found yet in a gaming headset. The input was very clean, excellent noise cancelling and was noticeably clearing than any other mike we have put through the ringer.
While we loved using the 1500 all was not perfect. The cloth ear padding cover made my ears warm up under extended use a great deal more than a leatherette design. The material was also a little coarse for my taste. The clamp style headband lived up to it’s clamp name, there was more pressure on me head than was comfortable for long use. After about an hour or so I actually was a bit uncomfortable and could not imagine wearing these for a long gaming session. Finally I encountered a few glitches with the software, basically when a game would turn of it’s sound while sitting idle, like when I stepped away from the game for a bit, the headset would not pick up the sound again when I returned unless I restarted the game.
The issues however I have mentioned are very much personal choice in the case of comfort and the software glitch is actually minor, only happened in two games, and only under very specific circumstances. In actual active game play, listening to music or movies the headset performed flawlessly. Priced on Newegg at around $85 the Vengeance 1500 is priced as you would expect a high end gaming headset. Corsair has shown that when they making a gaming component they take it to the next level and the 1500 has done that. The sound quality is outstanding and the mike is the best I have seen on any gaming headset. The software makes this headset easy to tweak to suite your particular audio tastes. It is a definitely a headset worth of the Corsair name and should be on your short list if looking for a great gaming headset.
Corsair Vengeance 1500 USB Headset Reviewed Live 24 March 2012
In December we saw AMD release their new lineup of video cards, first with the 7900 series. This was their high end high performance and sadly high priced lineup. The price point was higher than many expected and generally higher than most reviews thought it should be. In February AMD brought round two of the new card lineup to us with the 7700 series. These cards are meant for budget minded gamers and again on release many thought the pricing was a bit high to the performance offered. So how will AMD fair with round 3?
For the third round AMD is aiming squarely at the performance gaming market with the release of the 7800 series. For this review we were supplied by Sapphire with a 7850 based card, specifically their overclocked division. The 7850 is targeted right at the nVidia GTX 560 ti with a price point that should show up around $250.
Four our testing we put this card into a 2500K based and 3820 based system for testing. We started with our normal round of games, this time working with Skyrim, Reckoning, Supreme Commander II, Dirt 3, Batman Arkham City and Civilization V. All of our testing was done at 1080 resolutions with the in game settings put to the highest offered.
The overall game play experience was pretty much the same for the 6950 and 560 Ti we used for testing. However this is something we have come to expect, the leap from one generation to the next in the mainstream seldom makes a noticeable bump. So next we move to benchmarking to see if there is a difference.
As we began benchmarking the 7850 began to shine as it repeatedly showed on average an almost 20% boost in performance. In fact the performance numbers were so good we pulled another card into the mix, the GTX 570. Priced higher than the expected price of the 7850 this was nice to see, the card was running right with and often besting the 570. We turn to synthetic benchmarks such as 3dMark 11 and Heaven and again saw this card pushing the 570 hard.
Now in fairness the card to sent to us by Sapphire is an overclocked card, the normal clock speed of the 7850 is 860 MHz and this card is out of box running at 920 MHz. This extra boost pushed the performance up over stock for sure but that does not change the fact that this card is running head to head with a more expensive card. However it is not just that the 7850 is less expensive.
When you first look at this card and release the graphic power it brings to the table your first reaction is, WOW this is small. As you can see from this comparison with a 6950 the 7850 is a very small card.
It is however not just the size of the card that is small, so is the power consumption. The total system power of the test system using the 7850 was almost a full 75 watts lower than a 560ti and around 50 watts lower than a 6950, over 100 watts lower than the 570. That’s some pretty impressive load reduction over cards that are about the same speed or slower.
When we move to noise level things get even better. The Sapphire 7850 OC uses a custom dual fan cooling solution. The result is a very quiet card. During gaming on headphones, if you were not on the headphones you could noticeably heard the 560ti, 6950 and 570 all kick up to higher fans speeds. Despite even longer gaming session I never have heard the 7850 kick up the fans audibly.
The combination of a lower power package and an excellent cooling system has resulted in a card that just does not seem to ramp up much when it heats up. The reason is that cooling solution tied with that lower power usage translates into less heat. At no time, in our Level 10 GT case could we push the 7850 over 55C while gaming. All three of the other cards pushed to near or over 70C in the same case.
Sapphire has once again stepped up to the plate with the 7850 OC. The build quality and the great custom cooling solution are something we have come to expect from Sapphire over the years. The card comes with a solid set of connection options including HDMIO, DVI, Displayport, VGA adapter, HMDI to DVI adapter and mini Displayport to full size Display Port. The card makes use of a single PICe 6 pin connector for power.
While this card is overclocked out of the gate it still has a lot of headroom. I was able to hit the limits imposed in the drivers for both the GPU and Memory for the card with no issues. The card still ran perfect and the temps never crested 60C when gaming. Even better, even with the overclock the card still using less power than the 560ti, 6950 or 570 at stock speeds. At these speeds it was beginning to push at 580 stock benchmarks.
While this card performs well it has a few obstacles to overcome. First this card is put into one of the hardest segments of the GPU sales to be in, the mainstream. The reason this segment is so hard is that it is full of cards that despite being older, all still deliver amazing gaming experiences.
Additionally since the card is not yet on the shelves we are still not 100% sure on the pricing. The claims out of AMD are we should see this near the $250 price point but that seems a bit steep. Especially when you realize the next card down on the AMD chart is at $150 to $160. That is a large gap in the pricing structure and we hope to see that gap close over the next few months.
Having looked at the 7700 series and now the 7800 series, I can tell you the card I like the best is the 7850. The $250 price point is a bit steep but not outrageous when you take all factors into account. The card will easily give any gamer on a 1080 display enough horsepower for an amazing gaming experience in any game they want to play. Sapphire has taken the base design and one upped it with an excellent cooling solution that will let you push the potential even farther on this card making it an even bigger value for it’s performance.
In the press deck AMD gave us during our briefing for this release we told serious gaming began with the 7850. Normally I ignore marketing hype but in this case they are correct, this is a great place with the current cards on the market for serious gaming to begin. However I would go one step further, if you gaming rig is going to be a single 1080 monitor then this is were it ends as well. Anything past this will not push the gaming experience enough to surpass this card with the current market. This single card is the real sweet spot for gamers right now.
Sapphire HD 7850 OC Review Aired 17 March 2012
The idea of an entertainment PC has been something we have looked at on this show before. We have built systems before based on this ide and are looking at doing so again but these are traditionally fairly large boxes. Sure you can get them down in size and even make them look like entertainment center components but in the end they are still not what you would call tiny.
Sapphire decided to take a stab at building a super small form factor PC, the idea however was to not be limited to just an HTPC role, they wanted a fully functional uber small form factor PC. The result of this effort is the Sapphire Edge HD3.
Now let me make clear this system is a fully functional PC. The computer has a dual core Fusion based processor and video, 4 gigs of DDR3 RAM and a 320 Gig HD. The system has dual USB2 ports in the back and dual USB3 ports in the front for connectivity as well as a wired network card and built in wireless. For video output the syst5em comes with the ability to connect via a standard VGA connector or HDMI and comes with an adapter to convert the HDMI to DVI if needed.
Sapphire actually lists this on their website as a Paperback PC and that description is not far off the mark. The computer is TINY, weighs next to nothing and takes up only a tiny amount of space. This small form factor makes this full PC able to fit into quite a few areas and not just the HTPC arena. The small size means this could fit well in a work place as it can hide behind monitors and other devices. It can also use this size to effect in a home or dorm room were space is at a premium.
With this small size however some tradeoffs had to be made. The HD3 is powered by a Fusion CPU, the E-450. This is a low cost Fusion processor designed for netbooks and low cost notebooks. This dual core processor has onboard graphics using the HD6320 and has a very small power signature. At no time during ANY level of testing did the power draw go above 40 watts, yes even under full load or a WoW session.
As a Family PC the idea would be for this to be a small form factor second PC and as use as a general family PC for people looking to basically browse the web and steam entertainment options. In this capacity I set this PC down for my family on our 46” Plasma and let flay. My family members found the wireless internet was more than up to the task of allow easy internet access and worked well for streaming video from YouTube, Hulu and Netflix as well as audio from Pandora. We also found that the wireless worked well for streaming audio and video from the wife’s machine, such as my large CD collection that has been put on the wife’s machine in WMA format.
As a small business workstation this PC again worked really well. The small form factor let it set pretty much anywhere there was open desk space. We fired up a full office suite and the Edge did not even blink an eye, easily handling the various documents we threw at the system ranging from simple Word files to complicated Publisher files and Excel spreadsheets of various sizes.
When we hit the Gamer we began to see some limitations to this mighty mite. I was able to load up WoW and play at 720 resolution with some pretty good detail level. While I was not getting blazing frame rates the game play was smooth enough to be playable. I tried to throw Champions online at the Edge and it just was not up to the task, at 720 resolutions the system just did not have the power. I fired up Reckoning and Skyrim and again the system lacked the horsepower to really make these games happen, however older titles faired better.
As I was about to finish testing the gamer side of this computer I had a thought, I was testing an online game streaming service, Onlive, I wondered how it would work. I quickly installed Onlive and fired away. Within minutes I was playing Arkham City at 720 resolutions on high detail butter smooth, something the system could not do if I installed the game directly.
As I looked back over our experiences with using the Edge I realized that this was a system built to use the Stream as it is beginning to grow on the internet. What I mean is this is a system built for making the most of streaming services. With this system not having an optical drive the ability to stream shows is how this will be most effective, even with a decent size HD in it. The same goes for music and thanks to streaming services like Onlive even gaming. These streaming services allow the PC to not need high powered hardware to enjoy high end entertainment and this is were the Edge excels. The small form factor means it will fit anywhere and the system might be not be a power house of processing power but it sips electricity even at full load. I mean seriously I played Arkham City for 2 hours non stop at good resolution and detail and only used about 75 watts power the whole time. My big PC uses that just sitting there.
Now this is not a simple plug and play PC, there is some work required. The system comes with no optical drive or OS. This means you will either need to buy and external optical drive or put your OS on a flash drive for install. Also this does not come with a keyboard and mouse, so these will need to be purchased as well.
The device design is very well thought out with the cooling handled by a small fan on the CPU and the use of natural thermal motion. The air intakes are at the bottom on the case and the exhaust at the top. Despite the readings showing a warm CPU temp of around 50C I can tell you the top of the box never got above anything but a little warm. The case is coated in a rubbery compound that feels very durable. The power the HD activity lights are actually very subdued and did not glare at me during use in a dark room.
The dual USB3 ports in the front of the computer are hidden behind a small panel. The panel in this case a small rubber cover that is held on by a rubber hinge. I can tell you I personally do not like this design as you have to hold it open to plug in USB devices. However it does hide well when it closed.
I cannot spend enough time talking about how small this PC is. In the picture here you see it next to a Wii, a very small game console. As you can see this thing is really small, this makes it easy to put it on any entertainment cent or PC cart in an office and not feel like you had to cram it into a space.
When you understand the design of this PC and what it is targeted at then this is actually a very attractive device. The small form factor, good solid basic PC function and a device that seems built to stream everything it can makes the Edge a really neat little PC.
If you are looking for a general family PC for someone that does a lot Facebook and net browsing then this is a great choice. If you need a small workstation to access internet application or do basic office work this is a great option. If you gaming is limited to older games, simple games, social games or the games you want to play can be found on a streaming service like Onlive then this is a solid buy.
This is not your ordinary PC and is not for everyone but in it’s nitch this PC has a definite Edge.
Sapphire Edge HD3 Review as aired live 10 March 2012
Nero is a company that pretty much anyone using a computer has heard of. They have been around almost 17 years and during that time have established themselves as one of the premium media content creation companies for consumers. Nero’s CD burning software has become the defacto standard by which all other CD burning packages are judged. However with the coming of the Cloud and the sudden rise in the use of mobile devices the use of CDs and even DVDs to pass media around the family or even backup data has begun to decline.
The people at Nero have not been sitting around though, riding the wave of their success, they are looking to the future and want to stay on top. This forward vision has made them see the new direction that content sharing and creation is heading so they created Nero Kwik Media. Kwiki Media builds on the tolls Nero already does well and offers the ability to create CDs and DVDs, then goes a step farther. It introduces a full feature photo management program as well as features to make organizing your music and video libraries very easy and all under one interface. The people at Nero then go a step further and give you the tools to make it easy to transfer your media between various mobile devices and provide the transfer puts the media into the correct format for optimal use of the device viewing it.
As I began exploring Kwik Media I was drawn to the photo organization aspects of the program. I have a lot of photos to keep organized ranging from the various pictures I take of products we review, to family pictures and then of course I am responsible for helping the rest of the family organize their photos with stuff such as our wedding photos, our Alaskan cruise and my mother in laws genealogy work. Needless to say ANY software that will make my life easier in doing this is most welcome.
The open screen gives you some quick easy options for moving media between devices, making and copying optical disks and then an option for creating Photo Products. Okay I know I should have worked with the basics first but the Create Photo Products grabbed my attention and I just had to take a look.
The program has the ability to help you create greeting cards, calendars and even high quality photobooks. Now in fairness all of these are high quality products. These are not simple walk throughs that you send to your printer, these are professionally printed products that you get to design. Looking at my options I was drawn to the photobook. It was only two years ago that I got married to Lisa and so the though of dealing with all those pictures is still fresh in my mind.
The options you are presented with are for the cover, and yes this goes all the way to leather covers, and then the style, the background of the picture pages. Now this is not a taped in scrap book but rather a printed and bound table top photobook, the really nice ones married couples usually get. After you have picked your cover and style you pick what pictures you want in the book and then can manipulate them as you wish to create the book you want. Once you are finished this is sent off via the program and you will received a printed finished product.
Now none of these offerings are free, the photobook I put together had premium features throughout and cost $35, but for what you get that price is very reasonable. The photo cards and calendars are created in a very similar fashion and of course come with a cost but the quality of product you get is not something most of us could do in our homes.
I delved deeper into the photo options and found facial recognition was available. The idea is simple, you can tell the software who someone is in a picture and after you do this a few times the software will begin to match other photos to the face and thus let you quickly find people you want within the photo library you have created. This is really useful if you are like me and do not spend a lot of time creating a good catalog of your photos. With a couple of clicks I can find pictures that have my kids in them. This is even cooler when you realize that as the program gets more data the facial recognition becomes almost automatic. Now the recognition is not perfect and the program does need time to build up data but I was surprised at how accurate it was.
Of course Kwik Media also has the basic photo management functions we come to expect and does basic photo editing like red eye removal, cropping and even basic photo enhancements to color, brightness and so on.
However photos are not all it does, the program also, through the same interface, allows you to manage your music and audio files as well as your video files. You can also use your video, photos and music to create slide shows that you can quickly burn to a DVD or put on a number of social media sites for everyone to enjoy. It also has the ability to let you move your music, videos and pictures freely between various devices such as your smart phone, again all from within a single program interface.
Now in the end this is a pretty cool program but what if I told you that the basics of this program is FREE! You heard me right, Nero is giving away the basic functions of Kwik Media and embracing a pricing model that looks a like like the gaming F2P model, there are various add-ons you can buy at reasonable pricing, allowing you to have the features you need and not bother with the ones you don’t.
There are a lot of programs out there that do the various jobs this program does and even a little better but none of them do all that this does and not at this quality for the price point Nero has put into place for Kwik Media. This is a great program to simplify the media management for a typical home PC and not require a number of different programs or an understand of advanced programming functions. You can be a true geek or an utter noob and jump into Kwik Media and within a few minutes being enjoying the ability to do some really neat things with your media.
What takes this though way over the top is the support Nero is planning for Kwik Media. New features will be added on a fairly regular basis and I have already seen one update since we began testing. This is a none generational program, what this means is if you buy a feature for this program today, even newer versions tomorrow of the same feature are yours, you only buy features once for life.
You know Doug and I get a lot of chances to see a lot of uber high tech, ultra geek programs and hardware. However I can honestly say some of the things we have seen that have gotten us the most excited are products like this that are targeted at the every day user of any tech level and yet gives all levels features they will love. While the base program is free there are various al a carte additions that are really worth the cost. My advice would be to try out the free version and see if you like it, if you do, and I am pretty sure most of you will then drop the price of $9.99 and get Kwik Media Unlimited. This small price will get you ALL of the current add-ons with the exception of the Blu-Ray player at once.
If you are like most people I know you have some photos to organize and maybe some music as well. This is amazing program that makes things a little easier and comes at a price that is within anyone’s budget. A definite must buy for the family PC.
Interview with Martin Stein from Nero and Review of Nero Kwik Media as aired live 3 March 2012