July 21, 2014

Review: Mionix Nash 20

The Nash 20 gaming headset is one of Mionix’s newest addition to their line up of products and is their first audio product. Since this is their first heatset, they have a lot to compete with such as the likes of Thermaltake, Razer, Sennheiser, and Steelseries to name a few.

The Nash 20 comes in the regular minimalistic Mionix packaging where the product slides out of the slipcover outer box. You can find a list of technical specifications listed on the back of the box as well. The headset is well protected from damages that may occur during transit and the plastic has a felt coating on it to prevent scratches to the soft touch coating on the headset. A tiny user manual and Mionix sticker are also included in the box.

The Nash 20 features impressive 32Ω 50mm drivers surrounded by thick faux leather padding. The headset also sports a high quality boom microphone and many well implemented features. Starting with the headset itself, it is an analog stereo headset with semi-closed back circumaural earcups with two 3.5mm gold plated jacks for audio and microphone connections. It does have a braided cable which prevents it from getting caught on edges and gives it a more premium feel. 

The ear cushions are 22mm thick while the headband cushions are 18mm thick - ample padding for long gaming sessions. The cable is 2m long which is more than enough to reach to the back of your computer if needed, such as when your front ones don’t work. The volume control is done through a scroll wheel found on the back of the left ear cup, something I find easier to use than the volume controls that are on the cable itself. Instead of having to find buttons on the cable that is always moving around, the wheel is always behind your left ear, making it extremely easy to find without drawing your attention away from the game. 

The 50mm neodymium drivers have a 32Ω ± 15% at 20kHz impedance with a 103dB sound pressure level. They have a frequency response of 20Hz – 20KHz and have a recommended input power of 40mW with a maximum input of 80mW.

It has a built-in unidirectional microphone which is mounted on a flexible boom on the right ear cup, which can be muted by flipping it into the upright position. It has a frequency response of 20Hz – 20KHz and a sound to noise level of 58dB.

Taking a look at the headset itself, the first thing you see if the large Mionix logo pressed into the back of each ear cup. The headset has a soft touch coating which hopefully withstand the wear and tear over time and won’t start peeling after a few years (or months). It has the same 4-layer rubber coating as their mice so it will still be quite durable. The design of the headset stays with Mionix’s sleek minimalistic design. The headset doesn’t have flashy features such as LEDs or bright colours to draw attention to itself and scream its presence. 

Although the headset itself doesn’t offer any pivoting adjustment, the earcups are free moving to fit comfortably around your ear. There are extensions on both sides of the headset to allow it to fit around your head better. Although the extensions may look plastic, they are actually a wide metal band with plastic in the middle to guide them. 

Setting up the Nash 20 is as simple as plugging in new speakers or headphones. There is no software to deal with since this is an analog headset and can even be used with a phone or MP3 players. Since this uses two 3.5mm jacks instead of a TRRS 3.5 jack, you won’t be able to use the mic on your phone or anything that requires a TRRS jack for audio/mic connections.

The drivers are what sets the Nash 20 apart from many of the other gaming headsets on the market. The provide an even balance between clear mids, crisp highs, and clean bass. Mionix strays away from what many other companies try to do and back away from loud booming bass. The Nash 20 provides a great gaming experience, with clear vocals to head dialog from the game and the voices of teammates. They are clear and provide awareness of your surroundings in games, with clear footsteps and gunfire. The headset provides clean deep bass that is not overwhelming, explosions still sound great and you can hear the rumble of car engines. The toned down bass prevents drowning out the midtones or voices in game and does not become overwhelming. The headset provided ample noise suppression with the semi-closed earcup design, and the mic was able to cut out loud YouTube videos in the background or people yelling. From a music side, they provide clear mids and highs, with bass that does not take away from the mids. Many people may not like this sound signature and may prefer a more bass heavy sound signature like the one found in Beats headphones, but I find the presence of clean mids more pleasing than loud bass, something that isn’t common in gaming headsets or even regular headphones.

The Nash 20 is priced higher than it’s competitors at $163.11 competing with the Corsair Vengeance 2100, MadCatz FREQ5, and Sennheiser PC 330. The Nash 20 performs better than many of the gaming headsets on the market including the ones listed above. The Mionix Nash 20 has exceptional build quality, Great sound, a stealthy design that does not draw attention towards itself, and compatibility with many devices without the need for drivers and no negatives from me. If you are in the market for a new headset, look no further than the Nash 20. You can pick one up from Mionix here.

July 8, 2014

The New Google Drive

About two years ago, Google provided us with a service called Google Drive that allows the user to access files from our phones, tablets, or computers. With its success in the past, Google has decided to update Drive, making it faster and easier to use.

Accessing files on the mobile app will be easier with the ability to change views from list to thumbnail icons. Also, with fast background syncing, opening and finding files will be simple and quick. On the computer, Google Drive provides new ways to organize and move files allowing us to easily access them. You can use the same functions as you use on your computer to select and move files or use a menu to perform the desired task.

In this new update of Drive, Google wants to make every user happy. It allows the user to choose over 70 languages and will be accessible to the blind and visually impaired users.

The update provides zooming and high contrast mode, enhanced keyboard accessibility, and better compatibility with screen readers.

You can try out the new and improved Google Drive on Android, iOS, and on the web.

Source: googledrive.blogspot.ca

July 5, 2014

Review: Mionix Avior 7000

Mionix, a Swedish gaming peripheral manufacturer founded in 2007, has released the Avior series of mice. The Avior 7000 is an ambidextrous optical sensor gaming mouse. Its sister mouse, the Avior 8200, is identical on the exterior but boasts a laser sensor system. The Avior’s ambidextrous design features 9 buttons programmable through the Avior7000 software. This mouse offers left-handed gamers a full featured gaming mouse. Left-handed gamers either have to learn to game with their right hands or cope with the poor selection of ambidextrous products on the market. It is nice to see that right and left handed gamers can have the same experience. The mouse comes with a 1-year warranty and the following disclaimer, “If you should "accidently" throw the mouse into a brick wall after losing a game - warranty will not cover damages to neither mouse nor wall.”

The mouse comes in the traditional Mionix packaging, with only a slip cover like out shell and a plstic cover over the mouse. It comes with a piece of paper which is the instruction manual, and the reason why you bought the mouse, the Mionix sticker. Which unfortunately was missing from our review sample.

The mouse is very good looking and minimalistic. With a 4-layer rubber coating, it not only provides great grip, it also allows for a very aesthetically pleasing matte black exterior. While it is matte black, the mouse is not a fingerprint magnet and is quite the opposite. It also boasts a 16.8 million colour LED lighting system also controlled by the Avior 7000 software. The logo and the scroll wheel light up to any colour that is desired and can match any colour scheme. For example, to match the Razer Tartarus I was using, I selected the preset green colour in the software and they matched perfectly. The software provides a few preset colours but any RGB colour can be selected. The mouse also supports a colour shift function that cycles through the colours. The software provides the option to have different colours for the scroll wheel and the logo. Interestingly, at the time of writing, only the preset colours can be chosen if different colours are desired but this seems like it can be fixed in a future software update. There are also a few lighting effects to choose from including solid, blinking, pulsating, and breathing. I find myself admiring the mouse at times because it does look very nice.

The long and slim design of the mouse is quite comfortable. It does not fill the palm of the hand (I do have large hands) so for palm-grip gamers that play for long lengths at a time, sweaty-ness is not a problem and it is also great for claw-grip gamers. It does however provide full support to my entire hand unlike some shorter and wider mice which is nice.

On the bottom of the mouse, there are two large PTFE mouse feet for easy gliding on flat surfaces. There are also two stickers on the bottom, one with the product information and the other is their logo with the sensor in the middle. This is also a light mouse at 146 g with the braided cable and 100 g without.

The cable also includes a ferrite choke near the gold plated USB connector. The combination of the exterior shape, the large feet, and the weight make for a comfortable mouse to game hours on end with. The build quality seems quite good, much better than some of its competitors, but only time will truly tell. It also makes this a great candidate for travel as it is light, slim, and comfortable which would be perfect for LAN tournaments.

 The 9 programmable buttons are placed on the mouse symmetrically because it is ambidextrous but this basically makes the two side buttons on the right side (if you are right handed and vice versa if you are left handed) useless as it is very difficult to articulate the ring and pinky fingers to actuate those buttons. This also explains why those two buttons are disabled by default. This means you basically have 7 programmable buttons. Also by default, the left side buttons are set to forward and back, respectively, and the two buttons behind the scroll wheel are the DPI controls. The left and right click buttons are slightly concave to improve grip and control. Every button is programmable so it can be changed to almost any preference. Unfortunately, unlike other manufacturers like Razer and Logitech, Mionix did not include media controls in the software for people who will use this mouse other than solely for gaming. Volume up and down would be perfect for the buttons near the ring and pinky fingers as they would not need to be accessed often.

The Avior 7000 can reach 7000 DPI, as the name suggests. This is because it features the gaming-grade ADNS 3310 infrared LED-based optical sensor. It allows for a maximum speed of 5.45m/s or 215 IPS at 7000 DPI. The sensor also has no positive or negative hardware acceleration and it allows for an adjustable lift off distance for optimal tracking. The software provides fine tuning of the DPI allowing the adjustment of the X and Y axis independently as well as an adjustable polling rate and angle tuning to counter the natural sweep angle when the mouse is moved to further improve accuracy. This is the pinnacle for optical sensor fans that would like the higher DPIs of laser-based mice. Inside, the Avior uses a 32-bit ARM processor at 32 MHz to handle the features of the mouse without any lag. The mouse also has 128 kb of built-in memory to keep up to 5 different profiles of settings and recorded macros so the software is only needed for initial configuration. This is a nice option for the gamers who do not fancy systems like Razer Synapse 2.0 where all your settings are stored in the cloud but the software must be used to get to those settings. This is great if you will use the mouse on multiple computers The combination of the sensor and the processing backbone, the mouse offers a smooth and accurate experience.

The software offers some nice features. As well as features mentioned above, the software, downloadable on the Mionix website, features a lift off distance calibration tool as well as a surface quality analyzer tool to optimize accuracy with the gaming environment. A cheap cloth mouse pad got a 60% while my IKEA Malm desk received a 70%.

Overall, this mouse exceeded my expectations. While this mouse may look lackluster compared to the likes of the Razer Ouroborous, it is only due to the minimalistic design. The comfort level is great with the rubber coating and the shape of the mouse. The performance is great with the high-end gaming components inside of the mouse. The software is very useful and provides a great deal of customization. Finally, the design and weight of the mouse makes it great for traveling with and since the settings are stored on-board, it is truly plug and play. This mouse is not sold by many retailers so it may be difficult to find. At one retailer, NCIX, it is $79.99. This price is high for this mouse if you are a right handed gamer. Right handed gamers may like the Mionix Naos series (also available with optical or laser sensors) which is available at the same price. For left handed gamers, this mouse is worth way more than the retail price. With the poor selection of mice for left handed gamers, this feature rich mouse is amazing and provides a great mouse for a small market. The Avior 7000 receives an Editor's Choice for its ambidextrous design, ease of use, and flexibility. It is nice to see smaller companies coming into the market with great designs and I am excited to see Mionix products in the future.

June 28, 2014

What is the CASL?

Spam is an increasingly large issue.
Have you been recently receiving requests from your subscription emails asking for your permission to continue sending emails? Well, this is because Bill C-28, better known as the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), comes into effect on July 1, 2014.

According to the government, this bill will curb unwelcome and unwanted electronic messages out of Canadians’ inboxes, while still allowing businesses and consumers to have a mutually beneficial business relationship. Not only that, but the government also contends that with the implementation of the act, spyware and online fraud will also decrease, as these often use spam emails as a vehicle to get to victims. Because of this, Canada is ranked fourth on the list of countries producing the most spam.

But what exactly is the CASL, and how does it affect people? Well in short, it first forces all commercial businesses in Canada to obtain either direct or implied consent from their recipients before being able to send them commercial electronic messages (CEMs). This obviously applies to emails, but also applies to certain types of social media messaging, as well as MMS and text messaging as well. Secondly, pre-checked in boxes asking for consent or asking users to agree with certain terms and conditions will be banned. Lastly, these CEMs must clearly identify the sender (in this case the business), as well as provide a clear unsubscribe option within each message.

While these rules don’t seem out of the ordinary, the punishments enacted by this piece of legislation are anything but ordinary. With fines up to $10 million, punishments involving civil litigation and charges under the Criminal Code of Canada, and even levying personal responsibility upon the owners of these companies, this piece of legislation is one of the most severe in the world.

In any case, it is likely because of these fines that your online subscriptions have been scrambling to confirm your consent before sending you more messages. And it is also likely that many consumers will be as well, because their inboxes will theoretically be free of a lot less junk. However, this is proving to be quite the annoyance for legitimate companies, as they will have to regain the consent of many of its customers. This is even worse for small businesses, an important part of the Canadian economy due to their lack of manpower to regain that consent.

Probably most importantly, the CASL does not apply to non-commercial activities. As such, charities, Political Parties, and interest groups and the like aren’t subject to the law or its punishments if they aren’t promoting or selling a product.

In the end however, will the CASL actually even be effective at curbing the amount of spam that enters Canadians’ inboxes? Previous experiences with the Do Not Call List (DNCL) and the failure of that legislation in curbing the amount of telemarketing calls has raised questions on whether or not fines are effective, not to mention a lack of policing and enforcement of those punishments. Compared to the telephone, the internet is definitely harder to police and monitor. Not only that but Canada ranks only fourth in the list of countries producing spam while the internet itself remains global – who’s to say that Canadians’ inboxes won’t be filling up with spam from China or the United States? It remains to be seen whether or not this law – armed to the teeth with heavy fines, will actually clean up the inboxes of Canadians.

In the end however, whether or not this legislation will be effective remains to be seen, it officially comes into effect on July 1st, 2014. But regardless, it is definitely a step in the right direction for a government and country in the electronic age we live in today - with the implementation of CASL, Canada puts itself ahead of most of the world in defending its people from online spam.

Google Cardboard: A cheap, DIY 3D viewer

Virtual reality is a fascinating advancement in computing which has clearly taken a leap because of invention of devices like the Oculus Rift. However, the access to most virtual reality devices is limited because of hefty price tags of the products and the code complexity.

Cardboard ingredients

Google created the Cardboard project to solve this problem and make VR available to everyone in a "simple, fun, and inexpensive way". The do-it-yourself project allows people to construct their own VR device to use with their smartphones. The complete cost of one of these viewers is no more than $30; a fraction of the cost of VR devices out today. Google has even provided an experiment toolkit for developers to create their own virtual reality projects.

This project uses your Android device to act as the two screens in the viewer. It also uses a magnet on the side to trigger sensors in your phone to confirm that you selected an option. A very similar product would be the Durovis Dive. The Dive is a 3D printed viewer for smartphones and retails for about $83. In fact, Google Cardboard suggests the use of the DIY Lens Kit from Durovis.

This is a step in the right direction and opens up the possibility of easily attainable 3D viewing. Google is releasing Cardboard only as an experimental API and it will not receive the amount of support a regular API receives. If you have made a Cardboard or you are just interested in seeing the app, it is available now on the Google Play Store and as a Chrome experiment.

More information about the Google Cardboard project including how to build one yourself can be found here.