Thermaltake is not a name we associate with bashful, simple or plain, so the Level 10 Mouse came as no surprise. Take something as simple as a mouse, mix in Thermaltake and the folks at BMW Design Works and the Level 0 Mouse is what you get.
The box is actually kind of bare in design but it shows a nice side shot of the mouse and immediately makes it clear you are getting something different. Inside the box, we have the mouse, a nice carrying bag as well as the adjustment tool for the mouse. (more on this in a minute) The bag is, as with all the Thermaltake travel bags, a felt like material and is super high quality. The quick start guide has some information in it, but no actual software. You get the software from the Thermaltake site, this means when you load up your mouse you always have the latest software. Not putting the software in the box has an appeal to me as it forces you to be up to date but at the same time if you have internet issues and want to do a quick install it could be a pain. Considering the target audience of this mouse I think it is a safe assumption that they will have internet access.
The mouse itself is without a doubt a very unique design. The model we received for review is White, but the mouse can also be gotten in a military Green and a nice hotrod red. The cable on the mouse has a really well done braided material over it making it very strong and ends in a large USB connection. For travel, as added protection, there is a cap for the USB end.
The mouse is constructed around an aluminum base with some high quality plastic as well, all done in an excellent finish. The top of the mouse as two large buttons as well as the scroll wheel. The left button has a lit square, sort of a power light and the right button has lights to show which of up to 4 profiles is active. The LED colors can be altered to make it easy to notice what profile is in use at a glance. Behind the buttons is a honeycomb cutout area that is fed air by open frame design to allow ventilation to your hand. This is supposed to keep your hand cool and dry over long gaming sessions.
The right and left side of the mouse each sport two thumb buttons with the left side also having a hat-style controller. All of these buttons are mapable to give you a lot of flexibility in the use of various macro options. The on the fly DPI levels are adjusted using the hat switch by default. The downloadable software is what you use to map the various buttons as well as make color changes to the lighting to fit your own preferences.
While the first thing to catch your eye might be the way the mouse looks, it will not take long for the way it feels to be what you are obsessing over. The mouse has very very sleek and elongated shape that creates a very distinctive feel to this mouse. When I first started using this mouse it felt awkward and uncomfortable to me. Even after extended use the shape was not something I could get used to, I felt like my hand was being stretched out. My fingers did not hit the two main buttons at an angle I was comfortable with and the side buttons were a nightmare for me, even more so the hat button. In fact it’s position was so out of place for my grip that I was constantly switching sensitivity in daily use.
After further testing however I found the issue was not with the mouse design but the grip. You see when using a mouse there are actually three different recognized grips. first there is the palm grip which is were the user rests the whole and on the mouse, palming it and in essence making it an extension of their arm. This is the grip I sue and have used for as long as I have used a mouse, it feels natural to me. However what is natural to me might not be to you. The second grip is known as the claw grip, the user has the back of the mouse resting right against the back of the hand but the fingers are curled and the hand does not rest on the mouse. The third grip is the finger tip grip, in this grip only the fingers actually touch the mouse, the hand sits back off the mouse and the fingers do all the work.
Once I stopped using the Level 10 and gave it to Jason, our show engineer, it came alive under his fingertip grip. Thermaltake has never been bashful about designing a product for a set target audience and it appears they did this with the Level 10 M. In the hands of a fingertip mouse user the level 10 has amazing feel and the button placement is almost perfect, according to Jason. His assessment must be spot on because when I used the mouse I could not wait to get back to my old mouse, he on the other hand cannot stand the feel of his old mouse now.
If the fit is close for you but still a bit off the mouse comes with the ability to adjust the tail of the mouse to the left or right a few degrees as well as raise or lower the tail. This is useful for letting you tweak in the feel of the mouse as well as making adjustments to allow the mouse fit better for left handed users. The adjustment is done using a tool, included with the mouse on two different access points. The adjust system is tight and holds it’s adjustment once done. While not as adjustable as some on the market the subtle adjustment it does allow can make a difference in the way the mouse feels in your grip.
The open frame design might sound like a gimmick but I have to tell you that I did notice a small difference. I presumed it was a small fan like the Challenger pro but it is not, this is pure natural airflow achieved by the design. While it might not seem to make a difference at first you will notice it if you stop using it after prolonged use. It is a very subtle effect that you get used to without realizing you have noticed it.
From a pure look point of view this mouse is amazing, it is arguably the best looking mouse I have ever seen. The construction is outstanding, from the solid body construction, to the braided cable and the adjustment system that is tight and holds well. If I had any complaint I wish the software would have been up to the quality of the mouse. Were the mouse is almost a work of art not just in design but quality, the software feels like an after thought that was thrown together in 10 minutes. It is functional but really does so with no style and considering the effort that went into making the mouse have a distinct style, this is disappointing.
Available on NewEgg for around $80, this is an expensive mouse but that is the cost for high style, price seems to vary based on the color you choose and can be as high as $100. If you want a mouse that is specifically designed for a fingertip grip and has a style that is nothing short of beautiful then this is the mouse for you. This is an amazing mouse no doubt and worthy of the Level 10 name. This is a mouse that like the Level 10 GT case we reviewed a while back, is made for gamers with champaign wishes and caviar dreams!
What makes a PC Gamer and what makes a computer part a gaming component? This is question I think the industry needs to take a serious look at, especially after a few recent conversations. You see a I know a lot of PC gamers, they range in age from 70 to 8 and play every type of game you can imagine. In the past few weeks I have noticed something that seems to be underlying in all the conversations I have had, a lot of them feel that the computer world does not truly represent them or know who they are. After taking an objective look around I find I have to agree.
You see back in the early days of the PC, two groups drove PC hardware forward. First we had the hardware geeks, the tinkers that loved to play with new hardware toys and discover it’s limits. The gamers made the second set and included a lot of the first set in their numbers. Early PCs were advancing fast, as was gaming software and they had to learn to tinker in an effort to play the games they desired. The industry was able to cater to both due to the huge overlap, giving us new hardware that was super tweak-able and could push performance limits of their generation.
Now lets look at today, we still have the same two groups but something had happened. As the gamer group has swollen and continues to grow the techie hardware geek group has not. Okay that’s not fair, it has grown in pure numbers but it’s percentage of the gamer crowd has drastically shrunk. Were at one time the techie and gamer overlap was likely as much as 80% for the gamer sphere, the techies now account for only about 15% of the same sphere today. The reason for this is simple, tech has outpaced software to a degree that you no longer need the ability to tweak your PC to have great gaming.
The problem is that when you look online for help with your PC and you are gamer, you find techie sites. Oh there are gamer sites for sure but go ask for help in them and you get the hardware geeks offering the suggestions. They spend time talking about overclocking and the latest high end parts. One gamer I spoke with expressed a though I have had for months. He told me how he is tired of going to tech forums because the build forums are all the same, a bunch of people putting together upper tier system and then asking others to pat them on the back for their part choices. When he looked for gaming help the number of responses were next to none existent and none of them were really about how to solve a minor issue he eventually figured out on his own.
With new perspective in my mind I went exploring forums and was amazed. Part suggestion seemed to mostly be based on what people read someplace else. They consisted of higher cost, higher end components that we have proven on our show make no real difference in day to day use than the next level down. In fact the recommendations tended to float around the same basic mantra for chips and GPUs, only three models were commonly suggested and anyone pointing out other options were generally considered not knowledgeable based on many of the replies I saw. BTW all of the suggestions were based on overclock ability, a trend that pervades the “enthusiast” world despite the fact that more data is constantly appearing that shows it impact is less significant on daily use with each new generation.
Todays gamers do not want to be techies, they do not want to tweak a BIOS or learn advanced overclocking techniques. They want to load up their game of choice and tear through it. When you present this position on a typical tech forum however you are called a name usually based around a console and told to go buy a gaming console. This is a DUMB response. PC gaming needs more gamers, we should be encouraging these new prospects not attacking the fact they want to just use their PC like 99% of the world. The PC is a more versatile platform, offers more horse power and in the end the chance for a richer gaming experience than the console. There is data that shows the trend is for many people to move from consoles to the PC for gaming.
The argument used in the “enthusiast” communities when then people arrive, is that a true PC Gamer learns how their system works. They are falling back on the history that exists between the tweaker and the game. This is laughable to me since a large percentage of todays “tweakers” buy their way to the horsepower they have rather than tweak. I am one of those old school, I was there when we first started overclocking the CPU, I was there for the first 3D cards. I saw the birth and death of 3DFX the god father of all PC gaming as we know it today. Tweakers back then were not a bunch of guys that spent the most money they could to gain bragging rights over others. Back then we worked within limited budgets and needed to find some way to get more performance. When we achieved that extra umph to our system we did not brag, we explained to our compatriots what we did and worked together to see if there was a better way. Overclocking and computer building was not a race to see who had the biggest E-Peen like it is today.
Another area they felt the industry has left them behind in is one that really caught me off guard, it was in aesthetics. Look at the various boutique gaming PCs you can buy. They are full of LEDs, bright colors and aggressive designs. Look in the industry at parts that are labeled as being “for gamers”. Headsets with blinking lights, fans with various light patterns, keyboards with a ton of extra buttons, lights and access ports, mice with enough buttons to build three mice and the list goes on. Somewhere along the way someone in the tech industry decided gamer meant gaudy, flashy or strange looking.
One gamer I spoke with explained to me that he had to rebuild his system because of the looks. The friends would come over and actually spend time staring at his PC build, and not in a good way. The PC became a focal point of the living room. He loves to game and he has a small home, the living room is the only place that has room for the PC. As we talked I offered him some case options that are a bit more subdued and he is in the process of building his first PC just so it does not stand out in the room.
Now lets be fair there are a lot of people of that want the aggressive styling that is so common, on so called gamer components. There is nothing wrong with having a case that makes a fashion statement, but the truth is simpler designs out there are the minority when you look for parts that claim they are designed for gamers.
Now the industry is working to redefine the PC gamer, new PC designs are getting smaller and slowly the DIY community is beginning to embrace these none tweakers. In fact one of the larger trends in DIY right now is the move to mITX systems. These systems are smaller and usually the case design is less gaudy than larger systems. The good news is that a lot of the new designs allow for standard components so that means these do not have to be underpowered, as often happened in the past.
The time has come however for us to stop trying to put square pegs in round holes. The DIY world has diversified and it no longer the sole domain of the uber-tweaker, they are in fact the minority. The gaming world is no longer the fiefdom of hardware geek but today is run by the people, the gamers, the hardware elite have been pushed to the fringes. Hardware geeks still have a lot to offer but they need to stop trying to force every gamer into their mold. The truth is the gamer is becoming the predominate force in the PC world. The hardware geeks are slowly being forced back and take a lesser seat at the PC gaming table every day. No more can the industry think of a PC gamer as just another geek, now they are their own entity and force in the market.
Everything we do today seems to have some kind of password associated with, from our email and social media accounts to our banking, video services and even our computers. Passwords are becoming a way of life for us and our first line of defense in protecting our privacy. Yet with all the importance placed on our choice of passwords, people still skimp, cheat or use super simple solutions. We do not take the time to truly secure what we want secured. Lets face facts, most of us have crappy passwords and we need to do something about it.
This year on Computer Ed radio we are putting a bit more focus on protecting yourself online and what better place to start than with picking a good password. In fact this is the perfect time to pick a good password. Oh I know you already have passwords for the things you want to protect but Password 101 teaches us that we should change our passwords every so often to ensure our data is secure. The first of the year is a great time to do this.
Now before we begin lets look at why people have such poor password practices. You might think I am going to come up with a long list of reasons but you would be wrong, for 99% of us the reason for picking a simple password is easy. We are scared we will forget it. We pick a password because we want our lives to be easy so we pick what is quick and easy for us to remember and type. However I am going to give you some ideas to make picking a password that is easy to remember and secure easier.
Passwords for most of todays accounts can range from 8 to 20 letters. However do not stop there, learn to use the various special symbols as well as capitalization and numbers. This means we have a lot of potential options with our passwords.
The first step we need to take is to make sure we are not using simple passwords. By simple I mean obvious things like family names, various important dates, single words and so on. These are actually much easier to hack than you can possible imagine and a lot of the information needed to hack these can be very easy to find.
Look for a phrase, group of words and possibly numbers that might have a meaning to you that is very obscure or might even not be meaningful to you but easy for your to remember. For example lets say you are a Football fan and love the Bears we could create phrases around that to create a password.
For example we could use some reference to the Super Bowl Shuffle. Now the obvious would be to use the Super Bowl number or the year in the password. However what if we wanted to be a bit more obscure, say we use the creator’s name (Randy Weigand) and perhaps for our number we put in the number of loses the Bears had that season, 1. I can already imagine a number of combinations off the top of my head. Including using info from the various players that participated.
We can make this more obscure however by shifting the focus from your favorite teams to your arch rivals, the team you hate, in this example the Packers. Referencing their record that same year or maybe a well known player form that team, I could go obscure and reference Jim Zorn.
The point is that for a true Bears fan this kind of information is easy to remember and can create a fairly complex and obscure password. The idea is to find something you like and then use material from it you are will never forget. For example I am a huge fan of the Big Bang Theory. Now most people would think of think I would pick a character name or some catch phrase. What about though some great lines. Such as Raj saying, “We are lost boys” or Amy with, “gop roppy a top”? I recall these as well as other phrases because they just made me laugh so hard but they also make great passwords. With some character replacement and capitalization spread out these would be pretty obscure and hard to crack.
I hope you are starting to get the idea, find a scheme or theme that means something to you, has some place in your mind that it never leaves, this makes it much easier to create a password you do not forget. I know a person that creates every password based on the TV series The Seeker. By using various one liners, or obscure references that only a true fan of the series knows, she is able to create some really solid passwords. She then takes these and adds something personal to herself in real life. The result has been a pool of potential passwords she has pulled from for a few years and never once forgotten her password.
Now you will notice that I have only suggested ways to make it easy for you to remember the password, I have not talked about password managers. The reason why id this is because I do not trust them. If you have the program crash you suddenly do not have access to your passwords. If you use an online option that data comes under risk. Passwords are meant to be secret and personal, make them such to protect your accounts.
What about the new image password system that has been introduced in Windows 8. The idea sounds really cool so I decided to test it. I went to a local store and had a number of very nice people help me with my experiment. Using a touch screen devices and a keyboard moue setup I asked the people to pick from a group of pictures, a few landscapes, a few of what looks like a family, some sports, video games, a good solid mix. They picked a picture and then created the image password. Of 20 different people I was able to crack 18 within 5 minutes. The season for this is simple, people tend to respond to the same elements on a picture. There are always predominate elements that stand out and people will make use of these. Of the 18 I was able to get 5 of them on the first try and 3 more on the second try. The system sounds really neat but does not secure you near as well as you think. Can it, sure it can but you have forgo human nature and work hard to be deliberately obscure. There is the advantage that you cannot use a computers processing to brute force out a password faster but I feel it is still offset by the easy with which a password can be predicted.
I hope you have found this brief article helpful and you will go into 2013 with a new, secure password. If you have some questions or ideas we would love to hear about them, post comments below, head over to our Facebook page or email your comments to us.
First as you know this year we will be doing a give away every month. To help us with that Thermaltake has committed to giving away a different item each month, beginning the month of January with a Level 10 Mouse. This is their entry into the high end gaming mouse market and we current have one in testing right now.
We also are joined by Kingston who has decided that this will be the year of the Flash Drive. Every month different model Flash Drive will be in the spotlight and given away. They have decided to start this with the DataTraveler SE9, specifically an 8 gig model.
We reviewed this drive shortly after the first of the year and I can tell both Doug and I love it. The drive is very small and fits on a key ring easily. Because the drive is all steel in it’s construction the key ring will not break through the drive and make it fall off. This drive is super durable and combined with the size makes it perfect to be in every geeks pocket.
We closed out 2012 with an interview with Sarah Downey, a lawyer that specializes in online privacy and works for Abine. With this interview we have set the tone for a number of show segments over the next few months discussing how to secure your PC experience and protect your self not just from malware, but also protect your privacy.
Beginning in February we bring back our Build A PC series. This is a series of how segments each week were we take you through the choosing of computer parts to build a PC on your own. Each year we have done this in the past we have chosen a theme and this year our theme is a mini-ITX gaming rig. Small is the new black in the PC world so it only makes sense we take a stab at building a small gaming rig.
As you can see we are busy around the office here b=putting together material and making sure 21013 is an even more exciting year than 2012 was for our listeners. If you have some show segment ideas, products you would like us to review, questions about anything computer related or just comments on segments we have done be sure to email them to the show, email@example.com or join us on Facebook and post comments there.