Computer Ed Radio

Turning Geek speak into street speak

Thermaltake Level 10 Mouse: A mouse by any other name is not so stylish

2012-11-27_14-11-36_678Thermaltake 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,2012-11-27_14-14-14_281 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.

2012-11-27_14-14-44_720While 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.level 10 mouse (4)

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!

January 26, 2013 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Tt eSports Black Element: This is not a lump of coal.

Digital Doug (Doug Berner) takes the Black Element mouse from Thermaltake for a test spin.

2011-08-14 18.55.15Thermaltake has been busy of late in their efforts to get their Tt eSports line into the mainstream and as we have seen in previous reviews they have delivered some excellent products. So when they asked us to take a look at the Black Element mouse, I practically begged Ed to let me have it. I’ve the Tt eSports Black Element mouse this month, the second Tt eSports gaming mouse I’ve had the chance to review this year, so I had some idea what to expect. But will it live up to those expectations?

The product as with other items from this lineup comes well boxed and upon opening the boxes I found that the mouse wrapped in plastic. The cable is reinforced and made for serious use is also is of generous length of. As with previous Tt eSports products I have seen there is a soft black carrying case for transport and storage. Remember that this line of products pays special consideration to those that travel to game for events like LAN parties and competitions.

The Black Element has that great mat black finished that I was so fond of in the other original Black mouse that I reviewed a few months ago. A generously sized button area gives the user a wide range of grip possibilities without fear of missing a button and the action is positive2011-08-14 18.38.26 weather clicking on the middle or the extreme edges. The Black Element has the same great heft to it that the original Black did and an aggressively notched scroll wheel also acts as a middle button. On first appearance the big difference here seems to be in styling. Where the original Black Mouse is very large and wide at the back, the Black Element starts wide at the front and narrows considerably toward the back.

The Black Element hooks up via that reinforced heavy cable which also includes a Velcro tab to secure the cable when its being stored in its transport bag. The top surface has a great rubberized feel to it giving positive grip regardless of playing conditions. The wheel, Tt logo, and back flanks are back lit in red matching the other Tt eSports item very well. The left side sports three thumb buttons the stock uses of which are a “forward” “back” and middle macro functions.

The included software allows the user to among other things reassign these three buttons to other functions that fit their needs better. In fact the software allows all the buttons on the mouse to be reconfigured to whatever you may want them to be. This same software allows five different profiles to be saved for the mouse so it can switch in a blink between custom setting for various game or character profiles or work and office applications each with its own custom button settings. This is handy not only for one person to switch between these rolls but if as sometimes happens more than one person uses your PC each can have their own custom profile when they sit down to use this mouse.

2011-08-14 18.53.37The Black Element mouse offers quiet solid performance. As expected the rubberized texture and large button areas allow for a wide range of finger placements and dependable performance regardless of where you click. Top buttons allow on the fly resolution adjustment from 800 to 6500 DPI which is enough to make anyone happy. The weight of the Black Element is adjustable with the addition or removal of several 4.5g weights.

Operation of the Black Element is superb and in over a month of use I’ve had not a single performance complaint. No missed or double clicks, no sticking buttons no problems at all weather used for office applications or heavy gaming.

One very nice surprise when I got into the software was the ability to change the color of the internal lighting to any of five different colors. This means no hesitancy about the color of your mouse matching the color of your keyboard or case lights. I know it sounds picky but I like to keep mine all the same. Colors offered are red, light blue, dark blue, green, and even purple.

Pros:

  • Nice heft, rubberized texture and generous button size make this mouse a dream to use.
  • Flawless dependability and rugged construction promise years of use.
  • Programmable buttons, on the fly resolution adjustments and five lighting options give you a great level of customization.

Cons:

  • The only drawback that I found with this mouse is the one that will make me go back to my previous mouse. The back is too narrow and small for my grip.

This is not really a Con so much as a personal preference, I have large hands and use a palm grip for my mouse control. The Black Element seems designed with medium to smaller hands in mind. If you have large hands like I do, you may want to consider the original Black mouse for comfort reasons. For medium sized hands the Black Element is likely to be a great fit. The way you grip the mouse could effect this as well.

In the end I put this mouse down only for its size which was just not comfortable for me in long sessions of more than an hour.

I began this review with high expectations and the Black Element did not disappoint. Its performance and features are right in line with the other excellent products I have seen coming from the Tt esports lineup. If you are looking for a mouse that offers great looks, will stand up to heavy use and offer the customization you want for multiple rolls, I strongly suggest taking a look at the TT esports Black Element, you will be glad you did.

Review as aired live 21 August 2011


August 17, 2011 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , , | 11 Comments

Tt eSPORTS: Meka G1: Old School was the Best School

As you all know I have been around computers a LONG time. I go back well before the PC era and so I recall all sorts of neat things from the early days. Something I have loved and missed the most is the old AT style keyboard. This old brute weighed a ton, it felt solid under your hands and the keys made a nice click when you pressed them. Plus pressing them was not the mushy affair of todays keyboards, they used a mechanical solution called a bucking spring to give a solid return and feel to the key presses.

Todays keyboards do not use the mechanical systems but rather use either full membrane or domed switch design. Both of these system rely on a soft membrane under the key to allow for a softer feel and quieter operation. While these work okay they lack the solid feel we enjoyed back in the day.

Enter the era of the mechanical keyboard. While they have been around for a while actually mechanical keyboards are what you would consider a luxury computer item. They are more durable than the usual fare however they also cost more as the switches are more expensive per key than the other designs.

stuff 002Thermaltake has joined a small group brining this kind of keyboard to the market with the Meka G1. Using Cherry MX Black Switches, one of the heavier switch designs used for keyboards, they have set out to create what they hope is a first class gaming keyboard. The feature goes on to include 2 USB ports on the back as well as a headphone and mic jack.

First let me begin by saying I think we should throw out the gaming keyboard title. Compared to most gaming keyboards this one lacks one serious feature, a macro key set. While I personally do not make use of the macro keys on a “gaming” keyboard, they are a staple feature that sets a keyboard apart from the more basic kinds.  I do however feel that the term luxury keyboard fits, when you look at the pricing and features offered.stuff 004

The keyboard itself has an almost retro look from most keyboards you would buy today. Gone are the various special functions keys, like web or calculator. This is a good thing to me since I see people use these keys for like the first week they get their neat new keyboard and then ignore them after that. The only useful keys in my opinion outside the standard ones are volume control. The G1 puts these in by including a Fn key where the traditional (now) Windows key would go on the left. The multimedia stuff 007functions are accessed by holding down the Fn key and then using F1-F7.

The G1 has dual USB connectors as well as a head phone and mic plug. Rather than have a bunch of flimsy cables that can be easily broken, Thermaltake took all the cables and wrapped them in a tough fabric sheath.  While a bit stiffer than normal this sheath is tough enough to protect your cables from sharp edges under the desk, kids and small pets. In a pinch it could be used as a weapon to beat someone of as a garrote. This is some serious cable sheathing.

At the PC end the cable sheath terminates in a tough plastic end that allows the individual cables to come out for access.  The dual USB plugs allows the USB ports on the back of the keyboard to be powered. This is a step up from other USB hubbed keyboards and shows in stuff 006the fact that I had no devices that would not work correctly when attacked to this board including an external HD. There is also a USB to PS adapter. It seems you need the PS2 port connection to get the full anti ghosting effect that this keyboard offers. However even when plugged into a USB port I never experienced any issues using this keyboard with ghosting.

Okay with the features out of the way the question is how does it work? For testing I pitted the G1 against the two keyboard I current think are the best, the Saitek Eclipse II and the Microsoft Sidewinder X6.

The first think I noticed is the difference in the way the key presses feel. The G1 has a smoother resistance and there was a more noticeable feel of having pressed a key. There was also a more audible click when each key was pressed, you not only felt the key press, you also heard it. The keyboard itself has a much more substantial feel to it. It is heavier and feels more solid under use.

From a gaming point of view I would have to say I am a bit disappointed with the G1. The macro keys for the gamers is what really sets a keyboard apart in gaming. The USB ports are neat but not as big a deal as many make of them because we have had easy front PC access to USB for years. The only real use I have found for them is to use an LED light for low light PC use since this keyboard does not have backlit keys. Headphone and mic jacks in my opinion are USELESS on a keyboard. By plugging them into the back of the computer it means you need to either plug and unplug speakers when you want to use these for headphones or buy an extra switch. Once again we find front headset jacks are standard fare on modern cases making this feature not worth the trouble.

Reading this you might think I do not like this keyboard, you would be wrong. I LOVE this keyboard. For a big heavy handed guy like myself the mechanical keyboard is night and day better in typing experience than the softer stuff out there. My hammering hunt peck style leaves lesser keyboards mush at the end of 6 months but this one should hold up for years.

The problem is selecting a keyboard is not a this is best use it type of thing. It is, along with a mouse and monitor a very personal choice. These are the interfaces between you and your PC, the places you and the PC make contact. As such how they effect your computing experience varies from one person to another.

Is the Meka G1 a great gaming keyboard, no I don’t think so. While it offers the right buzz features I think it is missing a feature that is what sets the gaming keyboard aside, the macro setup. Anti-ghosting and fast polling and great but unless you are an elite gamer, and not just think you are, the odds are you will not notice any difference from keyboards without these features.

Now lets ask a different question, is the Meka G1 a great keyboard period and I would answer yes. The heavy duty feel, the great key responsiveness, the potential durability all combine to make this a great keyboard. As with most luxury type computer parts the pricing is a bit steep for the G1, but then again that is a fault with all mechanical keyboards. If you are looking for the mechanical keyboard then the G1 is not only a great choice, it is my first choice.

As recorded live 22 May 2011


May 22, 2011 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tt esports Sounding Off

SpinAnyone that has listened to this show for any length of time knows that I take my sound seriously. I have a history with audio dating back many years to my running sound for local rock and country bands to my work in radio today. Sound is something that brings things alive to me, be it a game, a mood induced through music or the immersion that sound can bring to a movie. When it comes to my computer gaming I am pretty picky and after years of trying variousShock One brands the headsets I have found best have been those created by Plantronics. With this background in place we enter our second week to Tt esports products reviews with a look at the Shock Spin and Shock One gaming headsets.

I have to admit that when these headsets showed up I was less than truly excited. Like I said I have tested a lot of headsets over the years and when it comes to gaming headsets it seems to be more of the same. For testing purposes I set down with a few games such as Batman Arkham Asylum and Champions Online. (Yes I am in a superhero kick) Next I loaded up the final battle scene of the first Fantastic Four movie and finally some music was played. (Poison Unskinny Bop and Sawyer Brown the Race is On) The games where chosen based on what I was playing at the time, the movie and music where chosen because of specific sound properties each presents. The headsets where compared to a Plantronics GameCon headset that has been my headset of choice since it’s release. The Shock Spin and Gamecon where hooked to an Asus Xonar DX soundcard and the Shock One is a USB set so it is of course hooked to a rear USB port.

Now early testing on the Shock Spin was conducted by Doug and he will give a more in-depth look at it on our live broadcast, the segment for the headsets will be available on this blog entry later today.  What I do want to reveal was a conversation Doug and I had a couple of weeks ago. While doing show prep Doug was telling me how much he had enjoyed using the Shock Spin for just listening to music. As an additional test he had taken the headset to a friends house that is a huge audiophile. Doug said that his friend was so impressed he now felt ruined when going back to is usual headset.

038I have to say that once I began my testing of the Shock Spin I understood. While the Shock Spin may be listed as a gaming headset do not be fooled, this is a full 039sound multipurpose headphone that is as much at home watching a movie, listening to classical music as well as playing computer games. To say I am impressed is an understatement in the way I look at the sound quality these headphones produce. The sound is warm and rich with a base strong enough to feel but not overpowering. The sound separation in this headset is outstanding. So much so that when listening to a heavy drum piece of music I was able to discern the moment the stick hit the drum head and the release.

The headset however goes beyond delivering great sound, it is really comfortable to wear.  The nice large ear pieces fit well on every head size we tested and the material based padding was the perfect compliment. Additionally the Shock Spin using an old style expansion band which allows the headset to fit a bit lighter on the ears and head in general, not making you feel like your head is in a vice.

046While the headphones have won my heart the same cannot be said for the microphone. Since this is billed as a gaming headset it would be expected that the microphone would be attached to the headset. Thermaltake took a different direction and instead used a small clip on mic for sound input.

While the mic is adequate to get the job done it is far from the star performer that the headphones have proven to be. Because it is a clip mic you need to up the gain on the mic input a bit more to get your voice to come over clear. The increased gain however results in more background noise. This added to the fact the mic is not noise cancelling means it is only adequate for the job.

Next up we plugged the Shock One headset into our USB port to see how it would work. At first glance the Shock One is more along the lines of what we traditionally think of when we see a gaming headset. The mic is build right into the headset on a pivoting arm to get it out of the way, fully noise cancelling. The headset comes with a CD for driver software but I034 did not need to use it as the headset was fully functional just by plugging it in. I did test with the including software to try and adjust the sound quality but the effect was minimal and made no difference of note during our testing.

043The headband is very strong and provides a tight fit to the headset. Now after use this loosens a bit and fits your head better, however initially this can be a bit tight.  The headset comes stock with a leather style padding but had a cloth padding to change this out if you prefer. This is a nice feature that I wish all headphones did. In the winter the cloth is kind of nice but the summer brings sweat and they get a bit soggy in feel over long sessions.

Running through our gambit of sounds the headset performed well but was not as exciting to listen with as the Shock Spin. The issue was that the sound was almost to crisp. This is an issue I have had with USB headsets for a long time, they pure digital solution leaves something to be desired in my option. While the sound was okay it did not reach the quality level of the Plantronics I used as a base line and was far behind the Shock Spin.

The headset is foldable for easy transportation and comes with a nice travel bag, a feature we are seeing in all the Tt epsort lineup. We are also seeing on both of these headsets a nice thick fabric braded cable. The Shock Ones put a bit of bling on as the sound control module and even the headphones have red illumination. While it might not make them better for listening it does give a nudge to the cool factor.

The microphone in this headset however did shine. It produced clear and well defined audio input with no detectable background noise. It was able to do this will little gain being added to the input meaning you have a lot of headroom to up the input volume if need be. The mic input was head to head with my Gamecon headset when it came to voice recordings, well ahead of the clip mic on the Shock Spin.

037Finally we come to comfort and the Shock One again fell behind the Shock Spin and my base line Plantronics set. A combination of a strong headband and the small size of the ear pieces just made your head feel gripped way to tightly.In the picture to the right you can see a comparison of the Spin and the One in the size of the ear piece. The larger size and lighter band tension of the Spin just made a huge difference in the comfort level.

When I got the pricing on these two headsets I was “shocked”. The Shock Spin can be had on Newegg for around $60. When you realize the sound quality of this headset is comparable the lower end Senniheiser or even Gato that cost nearly twice as much the Spin becomes a steal. While the mic may be subpar to other gaming headsets in general the sound quality essentially means you are getting a great headphone with a free mic.  While I would not use this set for doing work on the show because of the mic’s input quality, I would use this set for every form of headphone listening I do and never have a regret. The mic is adequate for game communications but the star of the Spin is the headphone.

The Shock One is priced currently on Newegg at $90 and I must say I am surprised and not at the same time. This pricing puts it in the range of other USB gaming headsets from the typical big names. However all of them are about the same in sound quality and they match Plantronics Audio 995 which is lower in price. Now in fairness the Shock One is more portable thanks to the folding and the optional ear cover material is a big plus as well.

When looking at these two headsets to me the one that truly shines is the Shock Spin, the sound quality is just amazing for the money. They are a step apart and offer a lot more than a gaming headset normally offers when it comes to listening. If you want a headset for listening and only occasionally needing voice capabilities for a game then the Shock Spin is a GREAT buy.

If you are attending LAN parties the Shock One gets a win for the folding and easy portability and the bling factor to show off to your buddies. Of the USB headsets it is middle of the pack with the big names and a worthy choice if that is the direction you are leaning.

Tte sports has done it again with these headsets, they have gone after the bigger names in this part of the industry and given them a run for their money.

Now if you will all excuse me I have some music to go enjoy, my family hates it so I will be using the Spins. I also have to find a way to explain to Doug that since my name is the one on the show I am the boss and I am keeping the Spins for myself.

Segement Aired 1 May 2011


May 1, 2011 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , | 5 Comments

Thermaltake Tt esports Challenger Pro Keyboard and Black Mouse

[Computer Ed: With the show growing the time has come for me to get some help and Doug is jumping in with both feet. I am letting him develop his own style so if this material seems formatted differently that is the reason. Give him time and he will be an old pro at this.]

Initial impressions:

The products are well boxed and upon opening the boxes we find that the Keyboard and mouse are as expected, wrapped in plastic and accompanied by the data cables which are very heavy and reinforced. The cable for the keyboard is surprisingly detachable! As with all of the p20100426084822products I have seen from Tt esports there is a soft black carrying case with a Velcro closure included for each item. Those who travel with their PCs to LAN parties will no doubt appreciate this attention to detail which helps protect their investment.

First Look:

The keyboard is moderately thin, angular in design and finished in mat black. A mat black finish will look good on most desks and will not20100429164620 show finger prints. It comes with 10 programmable macro keys (five on each end). There are multimedia keys above the number pad and a few others for adjusting the backlight brightness and changing profiles. It has a good heft to it, feeling solid and well built.

The mouse is finished to match of course, mat black and angular without being too angular, it matches the keyboard very well. It is fairly large as mice go which should be nice as I have trouble finding a mouse that feels comfortable in my hand. Also it has a nice heft giving it an overall feel of being well built and substantial.

Hookup and Setup:

The Challenger Pro connects to the PC via a very heavy 6 foot long, reinforced USB cable which surprisingly to me is detachable. This adds to the portability since you don’t have to do the usual trick of wrapping the cable around the keyboard 10 times and hope it does not come unwrapped while you are carrying it out to the car. This also means that in the event the cable is damaged you can simply replace it without the need to buy a new keyboard. Everyone who has had to buy an entire new device because a pet chewed on a cable will cheer this feature.

A small separate bag contains a key puller and replacement red keys that you can easily install in place of the most popular movement keys used in most games. I chose not to install these as I seldom glance at the keyboard during game play. Also there are dummy replacement keys to disable the windows start menu keys that have killed so many gamers over the years. This feature alone would make me love this keyboard. There is nothing like the sinking feeling of seeing your game minimize and the desktop appear in the middle of an epic battle, and knowing that by the time you tab back in your character will be little more than a smoking hole in the ground and the rest of your team will be yelling “Dude! What are you doing?!”

Lastly there is a CD containing software to allow you to setup multiple profiles for a custom fit in many different programs and games.

The Black mouse is likewise equipped with a generously long and hefty data cable. Strong yet not too stiff, this is nice as stiff cables on mice tend to push them across the desk when not in hand.

The wheel and Tt logo, back lit in red complement the Challenger Pro keyboard to a tee. On the side there are two thumb buttons and two resolution buttons on the top. A rubberized texture and large button areas with high shoulders should insure that fingers don’t miss a click even in the most rigorous gaming session.

As with the keyboard, the visual presentation is well thought out, red and matt black are a nice combination. The Black mouse is angular enough to match the keyboard without feeling blocky in the hand. The overall visual appearance is beefy but not bulky.

How do they work?:

Quiet, solid keys on the keyboard are nice in a room full of gamers and the Challenger Pro does not disappoint here. I can hear my own breathing over the sound of the keys. The keyboard is backlit in red, the brightness of which can be adjusted with the included interface software, or simply changed on the fly with a brightness key in the upper right. It is not infinitely adjustable but with four settings ranging from off to 100% there is adequate adjustment for most people. Additionally the Tt logo is separately backlit at the bottom of the Challenger and can be turned off independent of the rest of the backlighting. A person who plays in a dark environment will like this since the logo can be distractingly bright at times.

The single most unique feature with the Challenger is the cooling fan that is included with it. This at first glance seems a bit gimmicky and I was honestly skeptical. The fan is about the size of a silver dollar and stores in a compartment on the top edge of the keyboard. It can be plugged into either of two power slots at the top on either side and creates a light breeze across the keys. Initially it does not seem like much of a feature. However after a few hours of use with it on I removed it and soon found myself missing the cool breeze across my hands. Odd how you don’t know you like something until you remove it. I now find that I use it almost constantly.

There are two USB 2.0 ports along the top edge if you need to attach a mouse, headphones or the like to them. I have never found a good use for USB ports on a keyboard. I just seem to get tangled up in the additional wires that inevitably find their way on top of the keyboard. But so many companies put these on that I must be missing something.

The profile software is fairly straight forward and easy to use. It allows you to quickly convert the Challenger Pro for a completely custom fit no matter how many games or applications you switch between.

The Black mouse likewise offers quiet solid performance. As predicted the rubberized texture and large button areas allow for a wide range of finger placement while still offering dependable button clicks. The top buttons allow for on the fly resolution adjustment all the way up to 4000 DPI and the rough thumb pad area helps offer positive reinforcement that keeps my thumb from wandering far from where it belongs.

The thumb buttons on the Black are within easy reach and are generously sized front to back so that I don’t miss hitting them. Thumb buttons found on some other mice are easily missed because they are too small.

Operation of the Black is flawless. Over 2 week of use has not produced any false or double clicks and for me that is saying something as I tend be heavy handed and have a lot of unintended clicks. I have gamed and worked for 5 hours at a time and had no fatigue from use. The rubberized texture performed great, my hand never slipped and I never missed a click.

The heft of the mouse is provided by several 4.5g weights which are easily and quickly removable one at a time for a custom weight to accommodate the pickiest user. I left them all in. As I said I like a hefty mouse.

2011-04-22 13.24.52Keyboard Pros:

After early skepticism I was impressed with the fan feature and became quite a . . . . well, a fan! It’s nice to see innovation like this.

The removable cord is nice and come in a generous length to accommodate most setups without having to add an extension cable. It’s heft is considerable, more stout than any other I have seen, and sure to with stand no end of abuse. I honestly think I could swing from the thing.

The layout which places the macro keys at each end gives you speed and flexibility I much prefer this layout than cluttering them at the top of the keyboard like many others do.

Keyboard Cons:

They keys are a bit shallow for my touch, whether gaming or typing I find my fingers drifting and hitting the wrong keys way too often. As a touch typist, I found myself wishing the keys were more indented or that the raised dots on the J and F were more pronounced. Anything to keep my fingers from drifting out of place would be welcome.

The overall brightness of the backlighting could be a little higher. I work and game in an area with a lot of natural light and during the day, even on 100% the backlighting was too subdued. I’m not sure if the lights should be brighter or the letters in the keys larger or more transparent. In the evening with less natural light, it was fine, but a bit more at maximum would have been nice for daytime.

Mouse Pros:2011-04-22 13.23.57

Great size and heft make this a dream to work with for those with medium and large hands. The rubberized texture and large button areas do a great job of keeping your fingers on target. The Phillips laser resulted in outstanding tracking on a multitude of surfaces. I used the Black on wood and plastic desktops, rough grained vinyl and several cloth mouse pads and it never stuttered once. The wheel has a notched rubber band running down its middle which gives great non-slip function to the wheel despite it being a hard plastic to accommodate the backlighting.

Mouse Cons:

It’s hard to find anything about this mouse that I don’t like, but it’s my job so I will try.

Despite its largish size I would like it even better if the right side went out a bit farther. I would like a bit of a shoulder starting at the right edge of the right button and continuing out far enough to rest a finger or two on. I have noticed with virtually every mouse I use that my ring and pinky fingers have a choice of being dragged along beside the mouse or being curled up beside the mouse. After a couple hours of this they tend to get cramps. Having a place for them to ride along would be nice.

I suppose we should be able to turn off the backlighting to match the Challenger keyboard since in every other way they are a matched pair.

There that will have to do for criticism. I really like this mouse and it has become my favorite over the Razer that I normally use.

2011-04-22 13.22.48Overall:

Overall I give the Challenger Pro high marks. Thermaltake has put a lot of thought into what both gamers, and everyday users want and need in a keyboard.

They have not skimped on quality or features, the aesthetics are pleasing to the eye, and should appeal to a large demographic.

The result is a solid keyboard that is feature packed and is both functional and stylish. The price is about right too, in fact it is lower than many that offer no more and often substantially less.

This is a nice, well thought out keyboard. A credit to the Thermaltake reputation and it shows that they are a serious player in the world of E-sports.

I will have no reservations recommending the Challenger Pro to those I know. In fact I already have.

The Black Mouse is a great compliment to the keyboard but should not be considered just that. It stands on its own as one of the best mice I have ever used for gaming or work. Like the keyboard the product shows a great deal of thought about real world use and solid, no compromise construction designed to offer thousands of hours of dependable and enjoyable use.

It’s always nice to review items like these that are not only functional but a pleasure to look at and use, keyboards and mice are our physical interface with our PC and should when possible make that interface not only efficient but enjoyable. These two products from Thermaltake do just that.

Review as aired 24 April 2011


April 24, 2011 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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