Saturday, 4 January 2014

Happy New Year! Welcome 2014...

Well, here we are. Another year. For any of you that do pop by and read Milgeek I want to wish you all the best for the coming year. Thanks for popping in.

It's been a funny year and although these are very early days I'm very optimistic about what 2014 has in store for me. In particular there are lots of interesting projects and Milgeek related amusements on the horizon. There'll be plenty of computer gaming of course, but I will be also fully intend to get some airsoft in and I want to rewrite or update some of my posts from the old Milgeek site.

To kick the New Year off I have been a very lucky chap and have had a brace for computer gaming presents this Christmas and they will set me up for the coming year...

I'm still using a single screen - and just 24 inches at that - but I simply don't have the space or the money to kit myself with a fancy cutting edge triple-screen set-up. Maybe next year.

Aside from my actual rig, which I have given a bit of a mid-life make-over with a new quad-core engine, my new gaming tools are:

A set of Turtle Beach X12 gaming headphone, with mic and in-line volume module...

This really allows me to crank up the volume, hear and speak to my team-mates over VOIP and finally end their constant complaints about the feedback I used to get using my normal speakers and USB mic set-up! I did a lot of research and at £39 they are really one of the best value for money but still have excellent sound quality. Plus they work with my XBox too.

Then I had to replace a bust gaming mouse, I tend to go through these at a fair rate - they do get some stick! In the end I got a very good deal at PC World for a Logitech G500s for £39. I do like wired, I just don't feel right about wireless rechargeable gaming mice...

Another thing is that I have quite big hands and many of the modern gaming mice are just too tidgey for my big paws. The Logitech 'G' series have always been a slightly larger and ergonomic mouse and I've had several over the years. The G500s doesn't fix wot's not broke but just adds extra dpi resolution, up to 8500. All the buttons are easily accessible and the mouse comes with it's own set of weights so you can customise the amount of friction that you get while moving your mouse. I like a particularly heavy feel to my mouse, so this feature is very welcome.

The next two items are sort of related, a Razer Orbweaver gaming keypad and a Koolertron back-lit keyboard. One of my gaming team-mates has just invested in a Corsair Vengeance K90 mechanical keyboard, at about £120 and - I know - this sounds a lot of money, but considering the heavy wear and tear gaming keyboards get (particularly when things are go badly) this keyboard is designed to cope with the hammering that's dishes out by the serious gamer. Put it this way, I have bought cheap keyboards before and had to replace them within a relatively short space of time - these costs add up!

Cherry Blue mechanical keys
However, the real key - excuse the pun - to the cost of this pro-gamer board is the Cherry mechanical keys. Or if you wish, good old fashioned 'clicky keys'! These key have a very positive feel and are designed to take a lot of bashing. Really there is nothing worse than when a game keypad starts to loose it's responsiveness, unless a key stops working altogether that is. And this is what happened to me...

For years now I have used Belkins wonderful Nostromo series of gaming keypads. The basic idea is that it gets rid of all the superfluous keys of a normal keyboard and gives you just what you need and what you can use with one hand. The trick is muscle memory, using a limited number of keys repeatedly until their use becomes second nature and not having to move your hand - or fingers - from their designated position on the pad. This all encourages a quicker reaction or response when the action begins, before long you bag the right key almost without thinking about it.

My last two Nostromo N52 keypads, with the last Belkin model on the left
(the N52-te). I just can't conceive of  playing games using anything else.

Sadly, my latest Nostromo - the N52-TE version - finally gave up the ghost just before Christmas which is why I was interested in my mate's purchase of the Corsair Vengence. The main fault with Belkin's Nostromo is two fold, the membrane keys are quite spongy and lose their responsiveness with long use. I have found that my Nostromos have lasted about two years.

Additionally, I couldn't help but feel that I needed just one more row of keys! Well, when Razer took over the manufacture of the Nostromo pad from Belkin they decided to improve the basic version and produced the Orbweaver. They Orbweaver is like Razer asked me personally exactly what I wanted in an new version of the Nostromo, it really is a dream come true for Nostromo users.

My old Nostromo - left - showing the signs of heavy wear and tear.

To cut a long story short (I will be writing a full review later in the month) the main features that Razor has added to Belkin's gaming keypad is Cherry mechanical keys - just like the Vengeance - and made the keypad adjustable so that it better fits the variety of shapes of hands that we all have.

The Orbweaver is expensive, bizarrely although it has only about a third as many keys as the full Corsair Vengence keyboard it is almost the same price (RRP £120). However, I did some searching around the web and eventually found an online store in Hong Kong that sells the Orbweaver for £80 (inc. shipping).

Now, having spent so much on a gaming keypad I didn't want to splash out a lot on a new keyboard as well. All I needed was a reasonably priced membrane board, but it had to be back-lit as I like to play in low lighting.

So, there you have it. My gaming tools for 2014. It all seems a lot of expense (a big thanks goes to my lovely missus for these treats) but when this is your main source of entertainment you do develop a attitude of everything having to be just right. And I personally find that things not being just so has a very real effect on my overall gaming experience. Right now I am a very happy gamer!

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