INPUTS & OUTPUTS

 
 

Microsoft®

Xbox Elite

Wireless Controller

 

The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller is the console equivalent to a high-performance gaming mouse or keyboard for PC. It is without a doubt the slickest and most well engineered controller to date. It scores very high in design, style, and price tag, which has garnered the Elite a reputation as an overpriced commodity rather than a high-performance functional interface that, leads to the point about the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller. If your console controller were your gun then would it not make sense that a better gun would conceivably make you a better gamer? Of course the naysayers out there would say it's not worth it and go on to claim how it's all about talent, and skill, and bla-bla-bla, you know the rest. A better controller like a better gun is just better and its quality is not contingent upon how the operator uses it. That is what makes the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller unique and special. As a controller, it's everything you expect from a high-priced, highly designed consumer product, but as a gamers' primary weapon of choice, it is lethal. The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller in the hands of a competent operator means a serious disadvantage for players with a normal controller simply because that operator has a hardware latency advantage right off the bat. Microsoft designed the Elite Controller for competitive gamers in mind and thanks to the built-in hair trigger locks, interchangeable parts, non-slip rubberized diamond etched grips, and button mapping, those players can employ a tailored interface experience to whatever Xbox title engaged in. The controller's adaptability comes from being able to accommodate varying hand sizes and grip styles thanks to swappable metal thumb-sticks and D-pads. The controller also includes four interchangeable paddles that attach or remove without any tools. Assigning your paddles actions means you never have to change your grip while executing complex mechanics.

 

One exciting feature of the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller is the Hair Trigger Locks. With a quick flip of the switch, you can fire faster and save valuable time with each trigger pull by stopping the trigger movement after the shot and getting you ready for the next one. Simply flip the switch again to get back to full-range trigger motion. If you want, you can really take things to the next level by utilizing the Elite App on your console where you can experience limitless customizations by creating different controller profiles, make button assignments, adjust thumb-stick sensitivities, and set min/max values for the triggers. This kind of customization simply doesn't exist for users of the regular controller. Third party modifications do not come with any control panel software because they cannot be installed to the Xbox One, therefore all configuring has to be done through the hardware itself. This gives the Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller a major advantage over all its competitors currently in the modification space and is why it's worth the investment if you are an avid Xbox One gamer or competitive player.

 

With the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller 2 about to release on November 4th, 2019, does it still make sense to get the first model? It's true that the Elite Wireless 2 is going to come with re-engineered components to address some of the short-comings of the first. Early reviews indicate that these components have to do with an internal battery upgrade and improved grips and not anything mechanical. Additional reporting indicated more stability due to better-balanced internal components but mechanically it is still the same controller. The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller 2 currently has a $179.00 MSRP so if you are considering purchasing the first edition, make sure you are getting a significant discount. I expect to see many more used first editions on the market as well so if you don't mind buying used you may want to check your local GameStop where you could potentially find a first edition for under a hundred bucks.

 
 
 

CORSAIR®

K63 Wireless Mechanical Keyboard

& Gaming Lapboard Combo

Logitech®

G903 LIGHTSPEED & Logitech G Powerplay

Wireless Charging System Bundle

The K63 from Corsair is a compact mechanical gaming keyboard that’s been out for some time now but if you’re not familiar with it – it actually comes in a wireless version which I think is the best under $100 wireless gaming keyboard on the market today and deserves a definite look if you are shopping for wireless solution to your gaming peripheral woes.

 

In my opinion the title of best means that it has to have both form and function and the K63 has both in so many ways. The first thing you notice about it is the ten-keyless design which just means you’re dealing with a truncated keyboard. I think that makes a lot of sense since gamers typically don’t utilize the number pad and the smaller form factor allows the keyboard to be easier to handle and thus better for use by people who like having their keyboard on their lap like when their gaming from the sofa. Add the Corsair Gaming Lapboard for even more comfort and gain functionality with the built in mouse pad.

 

It has a smaller footprint on desks where space is a premium but what I like most about this keyboard is actually its clean design aesthetic. Even though it’s got eight hot buttons at the top for quick controls, it doesn’t feel overdone and too cluttered. Some keyboards can have features that feel gimmicky and impact the design in a negative way, but this keyboard gives you exactly what you need in a streamlined industrial design package. The keys have a very nice concrete feel yet presses are very smooth and responsive thanks to gold contact CHERRY MX Red mechanical switches. CHERRY MX Red is considered to be the best for gaming and makes a lot of sense here because you can really take full advantage of the Anti-Ghosting and Full-Key Rollover features of this keyboard.

The G903 Lightspeed is currently at the top of the food chain as far as Logitech gaming mice go. You might think that once you hit this threshold it would become the automatic default choice for anyone looking for a wireless gaming mouse solution – but not so fast. While the G903 is superior in almost every way to my personal favorite Logitech gaming mouse the G700s, which is a mouse that has been out for nearly eight years now, it does have a weak point. Depending how you game this could be a critical and deciding factor as to whether you choose this mouse or an alternative.

 

First, let get the optics out of the way. The G900s Lightspeed is probably the best looking mouse on the market today. It’s over designed and over engineered with a blazing fast competition-grade 12K DPI gaming sensor which means your movement will be tracked with exquisite precision along the entire DPI spectrum. Basically, this mouse is not for the casual gamer rather the gamer who is serious about putting some virtual bullets into some virtual targets. Many gamers who still doubt the use of wireless gaming mice due to their higher latency may not realize that vast improvements have been made end-to-end to ensure maximum transmission capability. The included Nano receiver can transmit a report rate of 1,000 Hz (1 ms) from the Mouse to your device which means you will have virtually no input lag.

 

The G903 is a very detailed device with every component being optimized for weight reduction, from the thin molding to the spoked mouse wheel design. A lighter mouse means quicker response times and extends playing time by lessening hand fatigue. If great design wasn’t enough the G903 has wireless charging which is just the coolest thing ever to happen to a mouse. Together with the Logitech G PowerPlay Wireless Charging System, you won’t ever have to charge your mouse with a cable ever again, or get a mouse pad.

 

Want more? The G903 has four customizable buttons that can actually be swapped to match the user’s hand preference and that’s the reason we recommend this mouse above all. As a ambidextrous gaming mouse it is by far the best around.

 
 

Thrustmaster®

Hotas Warthog

Flight Stick

 

The Hotas Warthog by Thrustmaster is just awesome. This is an upgrade to the standard Thrustmaster because it is a replica of the U.S. Air Force’s A-10C Thunderbolt A.K.A Warthog. For a long time Jet Head like me, something like this defiantly peaks mine. The Thrustmaster Hotas Warthog is a control system package that comes in two units - the throttle with control panel and the flight stick. Both are precision crafted with quality metal components and quite heavy at around seven pounds apiece which means it’s just hefty enough to sit on a desk without being bolted down however it is highly recommended that you attach them to a wheel stand or desk mount to prevent sliding – don’t worry, we’re all a little heavy on the stick when the adrenaline is flowing.

 

What’s really fascinating is about this particular flight system is that the joystick mechanism employs no electronic gimbals which rely on a series of stabilizing rotors, instead opting for mechanical joints and bearings. The positioning of the flight stick is still captured electronically however through high-speed precision sensors which brings me to the next point about this product. A system like this is only as good as its software. This is a product that has been out for some time now and has received pretty steady support by Thrustmaster to keep the H.E.A.R.T (HallEffect AccuRate Technology) firmware updated and bug free. Coupled together with Thrustmaster’s T.A.R.G.E.T (Thrustmaster Advanced pRogramming Graphical EdiTor) software, you’ll be able to test, program, and configure your control systems. You can do things like sync various Thrustmaster products together, program switches and LED indicators and create presets.

 

So you’ve heard the brief on the Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog flight control system and it’s got you ready to channel your inner Maverick but you’ve got just one problem to answer – at $360.00 US is it worth it? There are certainly other options out there that costs less but I think that’s also where the confusion lies with a product like this. It’s expensive, you may not necessarily need it, but you’d rather it be there in case you do.

 
 
 

Thrustmaster®

Racing Wheel

Servo Base

Thrustmaster®

R374

Sparco Rally Wheel

The Thrustmaster Racing Wheel Servo Base is an absolute necessity for anyone looking to enhance their driving experience through the use of augmented reality additions like this one. If you are not into virtual reality but feel bored using a controller all the time then a product like this can really help add some flavor to your vanilla gaming experience by providing a live, visceral experience.

 

What you might notice right away about this product is that it doesn’t come with a steering wheel. A bit of a bummer when you consider the price since there are bundled systems, complete with steering wheel and even pedals, cheaper than this single base. So why in the world would I spend nearly $250.00 US for this you might ask? Well, it all starts with the idea that Thrustmaster has to create a customizable ecosystem for end users to be able to hot-swap wheels and change presets on the fly. This kind of customization costs more money to deploy but is worth it to the end user because it adds professional car racing specificity and realism to the overall experience.

 

The TX Servo Base is made with an industrial-class dual-belt brushless servomotor which means it’s ultra-smooth, responsive, and allows for realistic force feedback effects with no latency. It uses the same H.E.A.R.T magnetic sensor as can be found in Thrustmaster’s H.O.T.A.S lineup of flight control systems. And like that system this servo base has built-in memory which the user can access to adjust settings like increasing the rotation angle up to a full 900 degrees to better accommodate different car types and tracks. On that note, this servo base does come with a metal attachment for mounting to your desk but I highly recommend you consider mounting to a cockpit stand if you can.

Thrustmaster’s TM Competition Racing Wheel licensed by Sparco is a must have for anyone looking to add authentic AR gear to their VR or static setup. First off let’s get the obvious out of the way. You do not need this steering wheel to play driving games just like you don’t need a flight control system to play flying games. But what you will need to use this steering wheel is a compatible base. Fear not though, because we have the Thrustmaster Servo Base on our list so be sure to check that out. This racing wheel is compatible with many other bases finding a base that works for you won’t be difficult.

 

Like with all Thrustmaster products it’s not about what you need it’s about what you can get to enhance your overall gaming experience and Thrustmaster is on the forefront of that experience. As AR and VR continues to grow as an add-on experience to traditional visual consumption of video games, the likelihood that products like the Racing wheel will become more popular and more in-demand.

 

Let’s get our hands on the wheel and find out what’s so special it. The TM Competition Racing Wheel is a 1:1 scale replica of the highly-coveted Sparco P310 steering wheel that performance auto enthusiasts have used to increase the performance of their drivers and vehicles. The steering wheel is wrapped in black suede with carbon-style button supports which is inspired by real race cars and the overall flat oval shape is intentional in order to optimize handling. The sturdy faceplate and sequential paddle shifters crafted of black brushed aluminum means you are going to get stable and long-term use. Installed onto one of Thrustmaster’s servo bases (not included with the wheel) and there’s no doubt that you’re going to have the best AR racing ecosystem.

 

Thrustmaster®

TH8A

Shifter

Thrustmaster®

TPR

Pedals

The TH8A from Thrustmaster is a realistic gear shifter and is compatible with PC, Playstation, and Xbox. That’s important to note because not all of Thrustmaster’s add-ons are universally compatible so make sure you double check the product before you buy.

 

This premium gear shifter has a 100% metal internal mechanism including the gear set and clamping system so it’s very sturdy and because it does not use a potentiometer or any internal switches, opting instead for a contactless magnetic sensor dubbed H.E.A.R.T (HallEffect AccuRate Technology™) to handle the precision detection and data processing which won’t degrade over time. It also means there are less mechanical points-of-failure internally and thus allows the TH8A to operate with virtually limitless lifespan.

 

The TH8A features a 13cm tall gear stick with detachable knobs which means it can be swapped out. Because the gear stick is scaled to a real-world shifter, you can add any universal vehicle knob like those available at your local car tuning shop. The TH8A also comes with 2 shift-plates allowing you to change between the standard manual “H”-pattern and a sequential pattern (+/-) for a more user-assisted setup.

 

As an add-on this is a must have if you are an avid driver or are looking for the closest thing to a real-world experience. While the shifter does have a clamp for surface mounting, it is strongly recommended that you consider additional supports and/or a stand like the ones we recommend on our Peripherals page.

Thrustmaster’s PR Pedals or otherwise known as TPR is one of the best products in Thrustmaster’s entire lineup. You might think that one of the most important aspects of a driving game is the driver’s interaction with the pedals. If you are driving using a traditional controller than you already know there is no interaction at all. Fear not because Thrustmaster has you covered with their premium PR Pedals designed by the same team behind the H.O.T.A.S Flight Control System. This is something you’ll want to get to complete your flight control or racing setup.

 

The TPR will defiantly NOT solve your heavy-foot issues because these things are badass and your feet feel great on them thanks to customizable springs that can be adjusted for position and amount of resistance. The pedals can be adjusted between five angles from 35 degrees up to 75 degrees allowing your feet to sit comfortably.

 

At first glance you notice the imposing matte black metal base sandwiched between two beautiful, silver brushed metal pedals. These pedals just scream adrenaline and have a realistic dimension nearly 20-inches across and weighs more than 15-pounds so you know you’re getting a very sturdy piece of equipment. As always we recommend you mount your Thrustmaster to a stand or cockpit for maximum results but it can operate free-standing.

 

The base and pedals are fully integrated with Thrustmaster’s revolutionary PENDUL_R technology in which the pedals are suspended on a swinging mechanism as opposed to slide rails that can be found on more typical pedals. This allows for maximum adjustability and versatility. The pedal mechanism lies outside the base and can be easily adjusted with an Allen wrench while inside the base lies the H.E.A.R.T which is a 3D Hall Effect magnetic sensor capable of 16-bit resolution on all 3-axes which means you are going to receive laser like precision with both acceleration and braking.

 

Getting the obvious out of the way, the Thrustmaster PR Pedals are expensive. At over $500.00 US it is a very expensive investment to make however if you have already invested in the H.O.T.A.S. ecosystem or are simply looking for the best-of-the-best then you will want to give this product a closer look.

 

TRAVEL

 
 

North Face®

The Vault

Backpack

 

Most people are familiar with North Face as an outdoor apparel store that specializes in the needs of the rugged explorer type or mountaineer. If you're in college, you've probably seen a North Face backpack strapped to nearly everyone of the students on campus and I doubt most are planning a weekend excursion to Everest. In actuality, most people just like to flaunt it, like a badge of honor (because hey, fast walking from one end of the campus to the other isn't as easy as it seems), while others are ostensibly lugging their entire dorm rooms around inside their backpack. Sorry, not to get too off topic here, but the North Face Vault backpack is unique in North Face's line-up despite everyone under 25 sporting their brand. North Face has always represented them-selves as outdoors and athletic-centric however the truth is their "typical" line-up of backpacks for men and women have an urban edge with a functional yet performance styling about it making them appropriate for the urban jungle as well as the office or library. Surprisingly still is that North Face makes a backpack specifically to carry that one essential item necessary for today's urban explorer/survivalist - a laptop.

 

A first world problem like, how do I transport my precious Macbook Pro, deserves a first rate solution and that is where the North Face Vault backpack comes in. Sure, there are plenty of notebook backpacks and carriers out there for sale and that probably cost half as much but they would not be first rate. The Vault has had a couple of iterations and now features 28-liters of compartmentalized space on a padded air-mesh back panel with a spine channel for maximum support and ventilation. Two shoulder straps made with same FlexVent suspension system found in the back panel. The straps feel super comfortable even when at maximum capacity thanks to the excellent ventilated padding. Additional features include a secondary compartment with internal organization and a secure zippered pocket, a Velcro pocket, and pen pockets. The Vault has light-reflective loops, tabs, and webbing to give you 360-degree reflectivity at night for safety. It has two mesh water bottle pockets and a personal favorite feature - a sternum strap with a whistle buckle for that extra support when you need it. The Vault is woven with 100% polyester meaning it's waterproof and easy to clean.

 

I guess it's time to talk about the main reason why they call it The Vault and that's the 15-inch laptop sleeve located in the main compartment. The sleeve is floating and padded meaning your laptop will be safe from bumps and falls. Some reviewers have been critical of the backpack for falling over because it lacks a hard base so it doesn't stand upright on its own, however I would suggest to those customers to look at a carrier like a briefcase, tote, or shoulder bag rather than a backpack. Nevertheless, I found The Vault perfect for my laptop transportation needs that I bought another one to help carry camera equipment into the field. The Vault is available in many colors and styles for adults and you can currently pick one up for around $55.00 dollars.

 
 
 

2019