Creative SoundBlaster X Pro-Gaming H5 Headset Review

Introduction


Creative are on of the most iconic and instantly recognisable brands on the market when it comes to audio. Having created some of the most popular and best-performing consumer audio products for the PC market over the last few decades, I’m sure many of you, if not all of you, have owned or used a Creative product at one point or another. So when I heard that Creative felt they had one of the best gaming headsets on the market and that it would cost less than £100, I simply had to try it out.

CLEARER, LOUDER, HARDER, BETTER!

“The Sound BlasterX H5 radiates with comfort in every element of the design. It’s made up of reinforced steel headband and aluminium architecture. Sound BlasterX H5 features an ergonomically-tested design that guarantees comfort over long stretches of gaming sessions, and withstand the rigours of gameplay. Specifically designed for our pro-gaming teams, the H5 Special Edition is distinctly branded with a BlasterX label on both side-plates. Fans could use this chance to take their loyalty to a whole new level. Every time they put them on, it’s a way of showing their appreciation for great sound and comfort, and what they consider as the ultimate weapon for their gameplay!” – Creative

There are a few key design aspects that are going to be important with this headset, such as the fact it was designed for eSports. This means you can expect leather ear pads and a semi-closed back design, helping block out all that unwanted, game distracting, ambient crowd noise. We’ll also be expecting the detachable noise-reduction microphone to be pretty robust and focused on your voice, not the voices of the crowd.

 

“Experience your game the way it’s meant to be heard. The Sound BlasterX H5 is equipped with large, responsive 50mm FullSpectrum drivers that deliver astounding sound. Rated at 118dB/mW, the Sound BlasterX H5 is among the loudest gaming headsets of its class. Feel the tremor of every bone-shattering explosion and hear the rattle of gunfire in your gameplay, like no other.” – Creative

The packaging for the H5 is pretty stylish, with a clear bowl-shaped lid on the top showing us a fairly uncompromised view of the actual headset.

Around the back, there’s a little run down of some of the features, as well as the included accessories.

In the box, you’ll find the headset, obviously, as well as a detachable microphone, 3.5mm 4-pole to dual 3.5mm 3-pole extension cable and a 3.5mm 4-pole in-line controller cable.

QPAD MK-90 RGB Pro Gaming Mechanical Keyboard Review

Introduction


The mechanical keyboard market is fiercely competitive, even more so when it comes to the high-end ranges, where prices can often be around £150 for a fully equipped RGB unit, especially if you’re looking for something with a lot of gaming-focused features. QPAD have a solid reputation for creating great gaming peripherals are competitive prices, at least in terms of spec vs spec on their rivals products. Today, we’ll be taking a look at their new MK-90, a well equipped mechanical gaming keyboard that comes in a £109 here in the UK; about £30-40 cheaper than their rivals similar specification keyboards.

“The MK-90 is built with superior quality, durability, well-conceived design and layout. It features an exciting new RGB LED concept with a multitude of lighting options and a white plate built into a strengthened keyboard to enhance the clarity and impact of the lighting. The new RGB LED allows gamers to individualize their experience by choosing any color in the spectrum and displaying them in a variety of modes. For example, you can choose breathing, trigger, explosion, rainbow, audio beat, wave or random in any of 16.8 million colors! ” – QPAD

  • High-end mechanical keyboard with superior quality
  • Exciting new RGB LED concept with a multitude of lighting options
  • Ultra-durable, programmable keys, designed to last 60 million strokes
  • Full N-Key rollover anti-ghosting technology via USB
  • Media keys for volume control, play, pause and skip tracks

The MK-90 packs all the features you would want in a gaming keyboard, with Full N-Key rollover, on-the-fly macro recording, adjustable repeat rates, multimedia controls, audio pass-through, and USB pass-through. There’s a few extra bonuses too, such as per-key RGB lighting, with plenty of effects to go with it, a long braided cable and a detachable wrist rest.

The box is very nicely designed, showing us a stylish image of the keyboards RGB lighting, as well as detailed all the main specifications on the front. It also details that we have linear switches; better known as Kailh Red.

Around the back, all the technical details broken into multiple languages for different markets.

In the box, you’ll find a detachable wrist rest, which looks pretty neat and tidy, and we’ll see that mounted to the keyboard shortly.

It uses plastic clips to mount to the keyboard, not the best, but it’s still a nice little extra to have.

You’ll also find a simple keycap puller, handy for cleaning and maintaining your keyboard.

QPAD DX-20 Mouse & CT PRO Mouse Pad Competition!

Ready to take your gaming to the next level? We’ve teamed up with the awesome people at QPAD to give one lucky winner the chance to win their award winning DX-20 Pro Gaming Mouse, as well as their lovely CT Pro Mouse Pad.

Having just won our Editors Choice award here at eTeknix, we’re very happy to have a brand new DX-20 gaming mouse for our readers, and with performance suitable for eSports and competitive gaming, we’re sure the winner is going to love their prize.

Flawless sensor performance, exceptional build quality, customisable RGB lighting, high-quality Omron switches and more, are just some of the features we loved about this mouse and if you want to find out more, you can check out our full review right here.

If you’re interested in knowing more about QPAD, you can check out the official DX-20 product page here, or pick one up from Overclockers UK for a very reasonable £49.99. You can also find more information on the CT Pro here.

Thank you QPAD for providing us with these awesome prizes. Now, all you have to do is follow the steps in the box below, and you’ll be in with a chance of winning some new gaming gear. Good luck!

QPAD DX-20 Mouse & CT PRO Mouse Pad Competition!

Astro A40 TR + Mix Amp Pro & Mod Kit Multi-Format Pro Gaming Headset Review

Introduction


We’re big fans of Astro here at eTeknix, time and time again they’ve delivered absolutely jaw dropping products, and for me personally, the best of the best when it comes to gaming headsets. Their latest headset, the Astro A40 TR is their latest and greatest wired headset, while also coming paired with their premium grade MixAmp Pro TR, offering a huge amount of features and performance enhancements that will no doubt please the gaming masses, eSports teams, Twitch streamers and so many others.

“Immerse yourself in Call of Duty: Black Ops III on Xbox One with the new A40 TR + MixAmp Pro TR and the Call of Duty: Black Ops III Mod Kit. We’ve worked with both professional gamers and top audio designers to deliver pristine Dolby Headphone Surround Sound. Transform the A40 TR Headset from open-back to closed-back in moments with noise-cancelling ear cushions, a voice isolating microphone, and closed-back Speaker Tags. The MixAmp Pro TR takes absolute control, allowing you to adjust your Game:Voice balance, or use the stream output to capture your audio for livestreaming.”

To get the full Astro experience, they’ve been kind enough to supply us with one of their fantastic mod kits too. This is a completely optional addition, but it’s a prime example of how you can really make each Astro product your own. You can change backplates on the drivers, have your own made to match your team logos, or pick from the selection available on the Astro site. The Mod Kit goes one further, however, adding a new microphone, head support, ear pads and backplates, giving you a very different look for your headset of choice.

Equipped with the Mix Amp Pro, the Astro A40 TR comes with a vast amount of cool features. You can customise every input every output, the EQ, tweak streaming audio to suit your needs and your audience’s needs, and best of all, you can link multiple Astro headsets for high-quality team chat, with zero lag!

“Free ASTRO Command Center software for PC and Mac users allows the customization of every input and output, as well as the creation of your own EQ settings.” “Control what your stream audience hears, including chat and game audio levels. Broadcast in 2-channel Dolby Surround Sound.” Reads the Astro website. “Faster than the speed of sound, this fully digital connection enables interference and lag-free local voice communications.”

With high-quality components throughout, this is certainly a well spec’d headset, let’s go take a closer look at what it has to offer.

First, here’s Astro to take you through some of the innovative features of the A40 TR, Mix Amp Pro and their new Mod Kits.

The packaging is really nicely designed, with clear images of the headset and mix amp, giving off a nice premium product vibe already.

Around the back of the box, a quick breakdown of all the major features and component specifications, but we’ll take a closer look at those ourselves in a moment.

As I said before, Astro also included their completely optional, but seriously cool Mod Kit for the A40 TR. This includes a new headband padding, backplates, microphone and driver padding.

In the box, you’ll find all the usual documentation covering warranty and the setup process, although there’s also some very handy videos on the Astro YouTube channel for this, which we’ll take a look at shortly.

All of the included cables are finished to a high standard, with soft rubber tangle free coatings. There’s a long optical cable (TosLink), 4-pole 3.5mm for the headset, with in-line controller, a propriatory link cable for daisy chaining multiple Astro headsets for team chat, and a long USB cable for primary power to the Mix Amp Pro.

There’s a fully detachable microphone, with a flexible boom.

It’s finished with a very durable metal housing around the gold jack-lug, as well as a metal finish on the head.

Mad Catz F.R.E.Q. TE 7.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset Now Available

Competitive gaming is big business, as like any other sport, having the right equipment can help you perform better and also just improve the experience for you personally. Mad Catz has been working closely with pro gamers for years now, so it comes as no surprise that their latest headset is tailored to be suitable for that market.

“The F.R.E.Q. TE 7.1 is a new tournament quality 7.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset optimized for competitive multiplayer gamers with an unrivaled level of audio personalization and an advanced dual microphone system for precision communication with teammates.” Said Mad Catz.

The name is a bit of a mouthful, it looks like a bad pick from the bag while playing Scrabble, but I don’t doubt the performance of this headset. Having used the F.R.E.Q.5 and the F.R.E.Q.7 over the last couple of years as part of (one of) my gaming setups, they’ve proven they can last a long time, sound great and provide a comfortable fit and the new TE looks to follow the same design cues as its predecessors.

“Connecting via standard USB, the F.R.E.Q. TE 7.1 delivers highly immersive 7.1 surround sound via state-of-the-art audio customization software, placing the gamer in the heart of the action and in full control over their audio landscape. High quality 50mm audio drivers present the audio with precision clarity, providing the gamer with a full 360 degrees of positional awareness. In addition, the removable boom microphone with dual-chat mic system work in unison to actively cancel out environmental background noise and boost the clarity of the gamer’s voice to teammates.” Added Mad Catz

“As the next generation in our award-winning F.R.E.Q. line of high performance gaming audio headsets, the F.R.E.Q. TE 7.1 exemplifies Mad Catz’ commitment to delivering products tailored to needs of today’s competitive gamers,” said Darren Richardson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Mad Catz. “In-game audio is vital to the performance of the player, and we believe that our F.R.E.Q. TE 7.1 will offer the competitive edge eSports and competitive gamers require to stay ahead of the competition. We’re confident that our strong line up of products spanning multiple gaming formats will see us build considerable momentum as we move towards the Holiday’s and into 2016.”

For more information, or to order your own F.R.E.Q. TE 7.1, check out the official Mad Catz store.

 

ASUS Z170I PRO GAMING (LGA 1151) Motherboard Review

Introduction


The capabilities of ITX motherboards have progressed at an exponential rate and easily provides the overclocking prowess, connectivity and stability required without making too many concessions compared to their ATX counterparts. Furthermore, the huge popularity of small form-factor LAN cases like the BitFenix Prodigy have made ITX systems a more viable proposition. However. feature-laden ITX motherboards traditionally incur a significant price increase as consumers pay for the convenience of more compact PCB designs.

ASUS has bucked this market trend and launched the aesthetically pleasing Z170i PRO GAMING motherboard around the £130 mark. This is an alluring price, given the SupremeFX audio, excellent software package and intuitive UEFI BIOS. Additionally, the 1151 chipset allows for large frequency overclocks and massive DDR4 memory speeds. When the single PCIe x16 slot is populated with a premium graphics card, you should be able to create a stunning portable gaming system which ekes out every inch of performance. Size isn’t a contributing factor during synthetic benchmarks and I expect the Z170I PRO GAMING to be quite competitive when compared against its ATX-based larger brother.

Packing and Accessories

The Z170I PRO GAMING packaging coincides with a World of Warships promotion and includes an exclusive invite code and 15-day premium account. From a visual standpoint, the box’s red and black theme fits with ASUS’ PRO GAMING branding.

On the rear, there is a brief synopsis of the motherboard’s flagship components, back I/O and main specification. The clear diagrams explain each notable feature in a clear and concise manner.

The Z170I PRO GAMING includes an I/O Shield, Cable Labels, user guide, driver disk, M.2 mounting hardware and WiFi antennas.

There is also an LGA1155 CPU holder and ample supply of SATA cables. The CPU holder is an ingenious tool which ensures the end-user avoids prolonged contact with the CPU. This reduces the chance of pin damage and offers a virtually foolproof installation procedure.

Scuf Gaming 4PS Professional PlayStation 4 Controller Review

Introduction


It has been a few years since we reviewed a product from Scuf. We last saw their Scuf Xbox 360 Controller, which was pretty amazing, but let’s be honest, it’s a little out of date now and with new-er consoles already on the market, we figured we’d take a look at something a little more modern. We have in the eTeknix office today, the Scuf Gaming 4PS, a heavily modded PlayStation 4 controller designed for the competitive gamer, be that a pro gaer, or someone who just likes to give their friends a good thrashing.

I’m really looking forward to testing this, I loved the last Scuf controller we tested, so I have high hopes for this new one, so let’s just jump right in and take a look at what you get for your money.

Please note that Scuf controllers are customizable to a great extent, the design and features of this controller were pre-picked by ourselves to represent a typical Scuf controller, while also showing all the available options you may want on your own. The controllers aren’t cheap, as this is a stock controller, extra hardware, time taken by a skilled craftsman to create the controller and a few extra bonuses. However, you know the saying “you get what you pay for”.

Our controller came with an added surprise, the Scuf Gaming Player’s Pack. Think of it like an add-on accessory kit of bonus goodies, because that’s exactly what it is. The controller box is nicely designed, a far cry from the box that the old Scuf controller came in!

Inside the box, you’ll find a quick run down of the features, such as the extra grips, custom handles, precision thumbsticks and more.

Under that, you’ll find the controller is carefully protected in a custom cut foam padding; an expensive controller deserves good packaging.

In the bottom of the box, I found some Scuf Fangs, these stick onto the rear triggers for extra reach and there’s also a clip/strap.

Frist impressions of the controller are extremely promising and its design is very unique; no doubt about that. The blue digital camo appearance looks stunning and also has a light grip texture to it that feels very comfortable to the touch, especially compared to the standard plastic feel of the stock controller.

Here you can see how the design is printed onto the top part of the controller, not the bottom. All the standard stuff is still here too, so you’ll find your headset connectors located on the bottom edge.

There’s an extra grip on the left and right bottom sides of the controller.

Things are pretty standard around the back.

On the underside, there are some major changes going on. First we’ve got those very tough rubber grips on the back, so there’s virtually no chance of this thing slipping from your grip. Then, of course, the Scuf Pro paddles on the back. These are customizable on the Scuf website to your favourite button configurations, you could have jump or melee for example, meaning you never have to take your thumbs off the sticks while gaming. The small logo between the paddles can be used to remap the paddles with the EMR feature and the tag that came included in the box.

Their custom shape makes them easy to control and they sit comfortably behind your finger tips.

There’s also a little grip texture on their tips, adding even more control and stability to the extra buttons.

There are a few stick configurations available from Scuf, we’ve gone for a Concave long on the left and a Dome Long on the right. You can also choose to keep the stock sticks if you want, or short, medium and long stem versions of the two types we have installed here. We’ve also gone for the all black buttons, which look pretty slick.

Both sticks are really nice quality, feel stunning and really smooth to control.

So what about that extra box of goodies we received? In that, you’ll find a new cable, carry case, nd a tube of Gamer Grip.

 

the cable is of a very high quality, with a thick braiding, durable connectors and it’s nice and long at 10ft, perfect for those who like to sit back from their system.

Gamer Grip is an interesting extra, it’s antiperspirant for your hands! I don’t suffer from sweaty hands while gaming, so this isn’t much use to me, but I know people who do and it certainly couldn’t hurt to have it in your gaming tool kit.

The carry case is stunning, perfectly crafted to fit the 4PS controller and keep all the buttons nice and safe.

The custom shape provides a snug house for your new premium grade (and priced) controller.

The soft interior should also help protect against scratches.

Kingston Cloud II Gaming Headset Review

Introduction


Kingston is one of the biggest names in the PC industry, they’ve got a rock-solid reputation for creating some of the best and most popular storage devices on the market, such as their HyperX range of DDR memory and SSDs. They took the gaming world by storm with the release of their incredible Cloud gaming headset and while we suspected they couldn’t possibly make the original Cloud even better, Kingston seems to think otherwise.

“HyperX® Cloud II features a newly designed USB sound card audio control box that amplifies audio and voice for an optimal Hi-Fi gaming experience, so you can hear what you’ve been missing. Open up a world of detail other gamers will never know – the rustle of a camper’s boot, the scuttle in a distant vent. Its independent audio and microphone volume control lets you adjust not only sound volume but also mic volume and easily toggle Surround Sound 7.1 or the mic sound on and off. This next-generation headset generates virtual 7.1 surround sound with distance and depth to enhance your gaming, movie or music experience. Pinpoint your opponents’ location in the game and strike before he sees you coming.”

The Cloud II is the latest incarnation of their Cloud series pro gaming headsets. It promises improved performance and a very competitive price tag. It offers support for PC, Mac and PlayStation 4, with added bonus features such as virtual 7.1 surround. It certainly ticks a lot of boxes, so let’s stop beating around the bush and take a close look at what it has to offer.

Features

  • Advanced USB audio control box with built-in DSP sound card
  • Hi-Fi capable with 53mm drivers for supreme audio quality
  • Hardware-driven virtual 7.1 surround sound
  • Comfortable, 100% memory foam on headband and leatherette cushions
  • Pro-Gaming optimized with closed cup design for passive noise cancellation
  • Compatible – USB connectivity for PC & Mac. Stereo compatible with PS4, Xbox One1 and mobile

In the box, you’ll find everything you need to get you started, as well as a few bonus extras such as the protective bag, soft fabric ear pads, detachable microphone and the 2-to-1 3.5mm adapter.

The in-line controller comes fitted with a gold-plated USB connection on one end and a 3.5mm connector port on the other. It’s not the most complicated controller ever, but it does give you quick command over game and chat volumes, as well as the virtual surround functions.

The microphone boom is fully flexible and adjustable, with a sturdy 3.5mm jack plug and a large foam windshield.

The headset its self is pretty understated in terms of design. You’ve got the matte finish on the ear cups, with a brushed aluminium back plate; aside from a few silver highlights it’s a fairly basic design overall.

The ear cups can be angle adjusted slightly to allow a better fit over your ears.

The sturdy headband adjustment slider has a good range to it, so user compatibility should be pretty high.

The ear cups are quite large and designed to fit over the ear. The soft leather pads come pre-fitted, but they can be removed and swapped out for the soft fabric covers that were included in the box.

The basic 3.5mm cable comes hard-wired into the bottom of the headset and there’s a small protective cover over the microphone connector, perfect for when you just want to use the headset as headphones.

The headband comes with a stitched HyperX logo and is really nicely finished, it’s also in keeping with the smart and understated design of the rest of the headset.

The microphone fits in easy enough and the thick mould around the 3.5mm jack plug helps lock it firmly into place.

StarCraft Subject to Further Allegations of Match-Fixing and Illegal Betting

Three weeks ago, Pinnacle sports, a betting website, voided all bets on a StarCraft II proleague match after noticing suspicious betting patterns that suggested foreknowledge of the match outcome. Now, Olivia Wong, assistant manager of Axiom eSports, has complained on Twitter that match-fixing is rife within the Korean StarCraft community.

Axiom eSports is the StarCraft team owned by John Bain, aka game critic TotalBiscuit. Bain released a statement, supporting Wong’s complaints, and elucidating further on the endemic match-fixing culture within the game:

A lot of these smaller tournaments online are getting mysterious sponsors from Korea. They almost never list a company or product that’s sponsoring the event, but they have prizepools of $1-2k that come from a mysterious benefactor. More often than not these are Korean betters and they give the money in return to access to the game. These events often require that an “admin” will be in the game. That admin is either a better himself or is feeding information to a selection of betters, bypassing the stream delay. How deep this goes remains to be seen. It’s entirely feasible that these people are also approaching players to fix matches.

Tournament organiser SC2Improve.net has announced that it has severed all ties with its sponsor, confirming that the deal appeared suspicious in the wake of these allegations:

The set-up is very similar to what others have described for the illegal betting. He asked to observe in-game, which is something I knew they previously did for the Connecting Slovenia tournaments, and asked for a five minute delay to be set (which is less than what other tournaments have been running on, apparently.) Personally I found both requests fairly reasonable, though I didn’t really know why they wanted to be in the game I assumed they just wanted to be around should something happen or perhaps they were collecting the replays. The delay I found to be perfectly reasonable as well. Usually I run SC2ITL broadcasts with a 2-3 minute delay, but a 5 minute delay for a larger tournament with a higher prize pool at stake seemed fair.

No professional StarCraft players have yet been implicated in match-fixing or suspicious betting, but the Korean eSports Association (KeSPA) has announced (thanks to a translation by Team Liquid) that it will be vetting all future online tournaments before approving them.

Source: PC Games N

Roccat Ryos TKL Pro Gaming Keyboard Revealed

Roccat has just revealed the latest entry to their popular Ryos range; the Ryos TKL Pro gaming keyboard. The new keyboard has been designed with a focus on the eSports and pro gaming communities. It comes equipped with a tenkeyless design that makes it LAN friendly, as this is easier to transport and it also allows a lot more space on your desk to maneuver your mouse.

“I’m in it to win it, so you’ll never see us put gear in our eSports team’s hands that don’t give them an edge. Team ROCCAT uses the Ryos TKL in competition because it optimizes their play. They have to demonstrate the talent, we have to provide the quality tested gear to help them show that talent. From HyuN to our League of Legends Jungler Jankos and the rest of our amazing team, the Ryos TKL gives them that tool, and now our fans can have it too.” – Says René Korte, CEO and founder of ROCCAT Studios.

Equipped with Cherry MX switches, Roccat Talk, a 32-Bit ARM Cortex processors, 2MB of flash memory, per-key illuminations and Lighting Engine 2.0; the Ryos TKL Pro is incredibly well equipped.

The new Ryos TKL Pro is launching immediately and will already be in most major retailers both online and offline from today. Prices should be in the region of 139.90 EUR.

Thank you TechPowerUp for providing us with this information.

Images courtesy of TechPowerUp.

eSports “Not a Sport” Says ESPN Boss

ESPN President John Skipper was asked about the recent Twitch acquisition by Amazon, as well as the general rise of eSports and the gaming scene, his reply will no doubt shock to the wider gaming community.

“It’s not a sport — it’s a competition. Chess is a competition. Checkers is a competition….Mostly, I’m interested in doing real sports,” he said, according to Re/code.

His words make no sense to me, I’m personally not fussed about eSports, I’d rather play a game than watch it, but there are millions of others who will happily fill an arena to see the DOTA II finals, and I think that is freaking awesome! I’ve never been much of a sports fan, but I see no difference from 50,000 people sitting and watching Star Craft II as there is people watching a snooker final. Both look like sports to me.

ESPN recently partnered with DOTA 2 to broadcast a preshow for The International on ESPN2, so for John to say this isn’t a sport, why on earth are they showing it on sports TV? With services such as Twitch and countless other streaming services, gaming events and everything else, I don’t know what benefit something like ESPN has for eSports anyway.

Why do you think Skipper is being so dismissive? Surely it would be within his interests to promote eSports as a fully fledged sporting event.

Thank you Forbes for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Forbes.

Ozone Onda Pro X-Surround Pro Gaming Headset Review

Introduction


Today I get to take the latest headset from gaming peripheral experts Ozone, the Onda Pro X-Surround Pro Gaming Headset. It’s been a long time since I reviewed an Ozone headset, in fact the only Ozone headset I’ve reviewed prior to this one would be my first ever review here at eTeknix around two years ago, which was the Ozone Onda 3HX, so it will be interesting to see how much Ozone have changed in that time.

eSports is a big industry these days, it doesn’t matter if you’re competing in a pro team and big events, or just working your way up the ladder by playing games at home, it never hurts to have a range of good peripherals at your disposal. A new headset might not make you world #1, but being able to hear everything on the battlefield, or having clear chat audio with your team can make a big difference.

Targeted at the pro gaming market the new Onda Pro is packed full of features such as DSP to help improve / tweak audio performance , a detachable omni directional microphone, powerful drivers, comfortable padding and support for both PlayStation 4 and PC. Pro or not, it’s sub £70 price tag also makes it reasonably affordable too, so it does have a lot of appeal to a wider gaming audience.

The box is really nicely designed, with a clear image of the headset on the front as well as a quick rundown of the major features, these include the advanced X-surround sound, dynamic bass technology, vocal environment noise cancellation and ultra lightweight materials used in its design.

Around the back we have a more detailed run down of some of the features, including the comfortable headband, powerful drivers, detachable microphone and the in-line remote control.

The box is actually a slip cover, inside which you’ll find a sturdy presentation style box.

Inside that box you’ll find a lovely zip-up hard case, perfect for transporting your new headset to LAN events.

Underneath the hard case you’ll find a full colour user manual that talks you through many of the DSP features and the general setup procedure.

Coolermaster Quickfire XT Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Review

Introduction


Mechanical keyboards are more popular than ever with the gaming community, their high precision and high quality make them well suited to many things, but their prowess in gaming is where they really shine. Cooler Master have crafted many of the best mechanical gaming keyboards on the market and their latest effort, the Quick Fire XT looks set to expand on their already exciting range.

Packed full of features that make it an ideal choice for gaming, as well as general day-to-day use, the Quite Fire XT looks like a great product, but the most exciting thing of all has to be the price tag. Available for just under £72 including shipping, which is obviously expensive, but still representative of cheap for a mechanical gaming keyboard, many of which cost in excess for £100. The cost is often a reflection of the switches used, Cherry MX are not cheap, but in terms of quality and performance, you get what you pay for.

The Quick Fire XT comes in a choice of popular Cherry MX switches, Red, Green, Brown, or Blue. The model we have in the office today is the MX Blue variant, but keep in mind that availability of certain switches will vary depending on region. MX Blue are a pretty specialist choice for keyboards, they’re often quite loud as they offer a strong tactile “click” when pressed, this gives a satisfying tactile sensation while typing, but is often regarded as noisy switch as the click is certainly audible as well as physical.

The Quick Fire XT comes nicely packaged in the usual CM Storm colours and features a stylish picture of the keyboard on the front of the box as well as a small picture that details the switch type (MX Blue).

Around the back you’ll find a quick run down of the major features of the keyboard, but we’ll take a close look at those in a moment.

Everything you need to get you started is included in the box, a simple user guide, a key cap removal tool, some custom key caps, a braided USB cable and a USB to PS2 adaptor.

MLG Fall Invitational at Full Sail University This Weekend

Major League Gaming is heading to Winter Park, Florida for the MLG Fall Invitational on October 18 & 19 at Full Sail University. This weekend (Friday 18th) four of the top NA Dota 2 teams will compete for $15,000 and a spot in the International tournament at the MLG Championship in Columbus, Ohio. On Saturday, October 19, the top four teams in Call of Duty: Black Ops II will compete for $15,000 in prizes. Fans can purchase VIP and general admission spectator passes online to watch in person or catch all the action broadcast live on MLG.tv starting Friday at 1pm ET.

The Games and Teams

MLG Fall Invitational – Dota 2 – Friday, October 18 at Full Sail Live

Dignitas, Typical Mistakes (formerly Pretty Boy Swag), noM (formerly Shadowfiend Eats Cake) and The Joikernaught will compete LIVE for $15,000 in prizes. The first place finisher will receive $10,000 and an invitation to compete in the International Tournament at the MLG Championship in Columbus, Ohio, from November 22-24. The second place finisher will receive $5,000.

MLG Fall Invitational – Call of Duty: Black Ops II – Saturday, October 19 at Full Sail Live

Complexity, Optic, 8-12 UNiTE, and FaZe – the top four Call of Duty: Black Ops II teams based on the MLG NA Xbox 360 Pro Points Rankings as of September 16 – will go head to head for $15,000 in prizes. The competition will be the last time teams will compete playing Call of Duty: Black Ops II at an MLG Pro Circuit event before the switch to Call of Duty: Ghosts at the upcoming MLG Championship in Columbus. First place will receive $10,000, second place will receive $5,000 and all teams will earn at least 1800 Pro Points.

How to Watch in Person:

The tournament is being held at Full Sail Live at Full Sail University, 141 University Park Dr. Winter Park, Florida 32792. Fans can buy a General Admission or VIP Spectator Pass online in the MLG Store to watch in person. General admission passes are available for each day for only $15 or upgrade to a VIP pass to watch both days of competition with reserved seating, a behind the scenes tour and an MLG hoodie.

Broadcast Info – How to Watch Online at MLG.tv:

The MLG Fall Invitational will be broadcast live on www.mlg.tv. Dota 2 fans can also purchase the In-Game Ticket for full spectator-mode access and live commentary in the Dota 2 client. Tickets are available now for only $4.99 directly in the Dota 2 store in-game and online.

The Dota 2 broadcast starts Friday, October 18 at 1pm ET with the Dr Pepper Pre-Game show and tournament at 1:30pm with commentary by the Beyond the Summit team (@BeyondtheSummit) and floor reporting by Alex “Jax” Conroy.

The Call of Duty: Black Ops II broadcast kicks off Saturday, October 19 at 3pm ET with the Dr Pepper Pre-Game Show, and matches at 3:30pm ET with commentary by Chris Puckett (@MLGPuckett) and John “Revan” Boble (@RevanJB) and floor reporting by Alex “Jax” Conroy.

Broadcast schedule available at www.mlg.tv/schedule.

Thank you MLG for providing us with this information.

Astro A50 Multi-Format Wireless Gaming Headset Review

Today we have some gaming royalty in the eTeknix office, the Astro a50 wireless gaming headset. Ever since we reviewed the Astro A40 headset a while back I’ve been dying to get my hands on the high end wireless edition. The Astro A40 simply blew me away with its incredible sound reproduction, build quality and comfort, so naturally I wanted to see what Astro could do with an even more ambitious and expensive headset!

The A50 is remarkably well equipped, featuring plenty of high end features that set it apart from the competition, as you can see from the spec sheet below there’s everything from a long life Li-Ion battery, 5.8 Ghz wireless tech, powerful drivers and more. Of course this kind of capability comes at a price and I’m sorry to say that the price is a staggering £250. This puts it out of the reach of your average gamer and into enthusiast territory, so while that may be a lot of money for a peripheral, the real question is “is it worth it?”

Due to the high price were going to be looking for nothing short of perfection, sure there are more expensive dedicated solutions on the market but this is still the upper price range for general gaming hardware, falling nicely in line with the highest price offerings from brands such as Turtle Beach. We’ll be looking for faultless performance, build quality and functionality and if they’re at least as good as the Astro A40 headset was, then we’ll be off to a great start, so lets get right into the action and see what this headset has to offer.

The A50 Wireless come in a really nicely designed box with a slip cover, on the front we see that it features Wireless technology as well as support for Xbox, PS3 and PC.

Around the back of the box we have a nice breakdown of some of the major features of the headset, such as the built in controls, wireless receiver, boom microphone etc.

Behind the slip cover we see more funky designs, lots of digital artwork and graffiti.

The box opens out in the middle, with the headset mounted on a clear plastic mould and the wireless receiver in the centre, first impressions are good and just opening the box feels a little special, lots of care and attention has been taken to get the presentation right.

Lifting out the headset we find another compartment that houses the extra components.

Aside from the headset we found three bits of plastic that can be clipped together to make a fancy stand (well see that later), the Wireless receiver, two USB cables, a 3m optical cable (Toslink) and an Xbox 360 controller chat cable. All cables feel of really nice quality, with good coatings and high quality connections.

MLG Breaks Attendee Records With Largest Competitive Gaming Event In MLG History

Major League Gaming (MLG) has shattered previous records with more than 21,000 competitors and fans attending the three-day Spring Championship in Anaheim, CA. From June 28-30, hundreds of the world’s best players competed for $105,000 in prizes with FXOpen eSports (League of Legends), CompLexity (Call of Duty: Black Ops II) and Polt (StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm) taking home the first place titles. During the event, MLG announced the next Pro Circuit Championship will take place in Columbus, Ohio, from November 22 – 24. Additional details will be announced soon.

In an MLG first, top professional athletes joined video game players on Saturday to showcase their skills in an All Star Showdown. Dwight Howard – Los Angeles Lakers, Dez Bryant – Dallas Cowboys, Ty Lawson – Denver Nuggets and DeJuan Blair –San Antonio Spurs competed in front of thousands. Howard also joined MLG’s Chris Puckett and Mike “Hastro” Rufail in the casting booth to help commentate.
VOD of the MLG Spring Championship can be accessed at MLG.tv and photos are available online.

MLG Spring Championship Winners

League of Legends :

  • 1st – FXOpen eSports – $20,000 and a spot in the LCS Season 4 Spring Promotion Tournament
  • 2nd – Complexity – $5,000
  • 3rd/4th – Curse Academy, Aware Gaming – $2,500

Call of Duty: Black Ops II on Xbox 360:

  • 1st – CompLexity – $20,000
  • 2nd – Icons Impact – $12,000
  • 3rd – OpTic Gaming- $7,000
  • 4th – Curse – $4,000
  • 5th/6th – FaZe – $2,300
  • 5th/6th – Unite Gaming – $2,300
  • 7th/8th – IcoNs ConqueR – $1,200
  • 7th/8th – vVv Gaming – $1,200

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm:

  • 1st – CMStorm Polt – $10,000
  • 2nd – Quantic HyuN- $6,000
  • 3rd/4th – Liquid Hero – $3,000
  • 3rd/4th – Alliance Naniwa – $3,000
  • 5th/6th – StarTale Sound – $1,000
  • 5th/6th – STX Soul Dear – $1,000
  • 7th/8th – EG Jaedong – $500
  • 7th/8th – ROOT Sage – $500

MLG is growing at an incredible rate, as too are many other of the major gaming events around the world from Multiplay, Intel and MLG to name but a few. Even for those that don’t compete, it’s clear that pro gaming is currently top of its game. The next MLG Pro Circuit Championship – November 22-24 in Columbus, Ohio and if you’ve never been to one and you’re a gaming fan, it might be worth checking out the show.

Thank you MLG for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of Team Dignitas.

Intel Extreme Masters Pro Gaming Tour To Wow Fans In Shanghai and New York City

The ESL has announced that the elite global pro gaming tour will stage two of its live finals for the upcoming Season VIII in Shanghai, China and New York City, USA. Fans of gaming will be able to see a host of stars live and in person as they battle one of the most coveted awards in esports: the Intel Extreme Masters Champion’s Trophy. They will be joined by millions that tune in live via streaming on Twitch TV and video-on-demand.

Preparations for the upcoming Intel Extreme Masters Season VIII are well underway and confirming the global eSports tour’s stops in Shanghai and New York City emphasizes the uniqueness of the Intel Extreme Masters tour: its global aspect. On July 25-28, 2013, we will see the world’s best gamers gather in Shanghai, China to open the tour’s season at China’s most important game show ChinaJoy.

The second stop will take place in New York City, USA on October 10-13, 2013 at New York Comic Con. It will be the 6th ever Intel Extreme Masters event on US soil and the third one at the New York Comic Con. The game titles for both stops will be announced at a later date but will include an RTS (real time strategy) and a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) title.

George Woo, Event & Sponsorship Programs Marketing Manager at Intel said “I am very excited that we are announcing our eighth season so we can continue to provide a global platform for the best players around to compete in. Our goal is to continue to be a leader in gaming community and to provide the best PC gaming technology for all gamers to experience and to enjoy!”

Michal Blicharz, Director of Pro Gaming at Turtle Entertainment added “New York and Shanghai both really represent what we are creating with the Intel Extreme Masters: diversity and a truly multi continent approach to the eSport phenomenon.”

The dates for Shanghai are: July 25-28, 2013 and the dates for New York Comic Con are: October 10-13, 2013

Thank you Intelextrememasters.com for providing us with this information.

Astro A40 Audio System 2013 Edition Xbox, PS3 and PC Headset Review

This week I’ve been testing out something a little bit special, the very cool A40 multi format gaming headset from Astro. The brand might not leap out at you and I too hadn’t heard of them until earlier this year. So who are Astro gaming and what have they been doing?

Astro Gaming makes high-end pro gaming equipment, the sort of products you will see targeted at pro gamers, eSports and hardcore enthusiasts who simply want the best of the best to help them enjoy doing what they do best, play computer games. Astro Studios are already a well established design powerhouse and Astro Gaming was spawned as a separate company using private funding and a passion for gaming. Essentially they took talented designers, enthusiast gamers and a pile of money and threw them all into a room, the Astro Gaming brand was created and from what I’ve seen of their product range, they’re doing some incredible work.

“Our company lives at the epicenter of technology, lifestyle and design” claims Astro founder, Brett Lovelady. “For years we’ve been involved in the design of many forms of consumer electronics, particularly in the video gaming arena. And now that video gaming has become a leading form of entertainment, with “gaming lifestyle” quickly taking root, we decided to leverage our experience and give people an authentic gaming brand to rally around at the heart of this culture. Our products are specifically designed for the underserved hardcore gaming professionals and core gaming enthusiasts. Our overarching commitment is to improve the sport of video gaming.”

In short, Astro are confident in their brand and even more so around the A40, which is highly regarded by fans and Astro themselves to be one of their greatest products, but with price tag of around $199.99 / £199.99 and all this talk about pro gaming and more, I am literally expecting nothing less than perfection from this headset today, nothing else will satisfy me for a headset that costs nearly £200.

The A40 sports an impressive specification list and with 7.1 Dolby Surround Sound, multi platform support, game to voice balancing, EQ modes, multiple connectivity options and even line-out for live streaming your audio. So lets move along and take a closer look at what the Astro has to offer.

First thing that really stands out is the packaging, a sizeable and fairly heavy presentation box with a nicely designed slip cover. The box features a really nice picture of both the headset and the controller.

Around the back is a little breakdown of some of the other features, such as surround sound, optical cable connection, detachable microphone and the ability to daisy chain multiple Astro headset.

The box folds out to display the headset, the controller and on the right we have a box stuffed full of components and cables.

Somehow I don’t think that connectivity is going to be an issue for the Astro A40, but given that it supports two consoles and PC’s, it needs to come with plenty of cables. From left to right we have USB, 3.5mm splitter, Xbox headset cable, boom mic, 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable, 4pin 3.5mm to 3.5mm with in-line mic, and at the top right we also has a Toslink optical cable.

The controller is really nicely finished and I for one wouldn’t mind having this on my desktop. A large control wheel at the top for volume and a smaller control wheel for the Game/Voice channel mixer take up the main features. But you’ll also find a power button, EQ pre-set and surround sound on/off toggle. There are four ports at the front, two for daisy chaining the A40 to other A40 headsets, one for the headphones and a line out to hook up your Xbox 360 controller for Xbox chat.

The controller feels heavy and this helps it stay firmly on your desk, it’s also got a high quality soft touch rubber coating around the outside that looks great against the glossy finish top panel. The back of the device features four more ports (bringing the total to 8) and these are optical line in, mp3 line in (or AUX line in) stream line out and USB in.

The headset is really nicely designed, with plenty of sleek curves and straight edges giving a very stylish look to the set. The headband is expandable thanks to two sliding arms on the left and right side that look more like a hydraulic system than anything else and it’s a nice change from the usual slide and click clips that you see on most headsets / headphones. The boom mic is attached to the left earphone here but since the covers can be removed from the headset you can in fact swap it around and have the microphone on the other side, which is a nice feature.

There is a small 3.5mm jack plug on the underside of the left earphone for hooking the headset up to the mixer / control unit.

One of the cooler features, as simple as it may be, is the headband, which is suspended between two strong support bars and the central bar moves around, this helps keep a really comfortable, but close fit on your head and ample padding here also adds even more comfort.

Here you can better see the height adjusters, which use friction rather than notches to lock into place, but they’re definitely robust and offer plenty of support.

The ear cups are finished in a super soft padding and fabric, even the covers for the drivers feature a light bit of padding, overall the ear cups feel soft as a kitten and should stay super comfortable after long gaming sessions.

The back of each ear cup features a magnetic cover that features the Astro logo.

There can be taken off and replaced with custom covers and its a great way to add a little personalization to the set, personally I think the headset looks cool even with the covers removed.

Setup & Installation

Adding the headset to my PC was incredibly easy, just hook up the USB cable, plug the headset into the base unit and I was up and running in less than one minute! Software can be downloaded from the Astro site, but all this does is patch the headset to fix any old bugs or issues, this process took about 30 seconds and the software was only 4.5mb, so overall I’m very impressed with PC setup.

The Xbox and PlayStation were easy too, assuming of course you have the correct connection points. I opted for a mixture of Optical and HDMI as this is the most practical method for my setup. The only difference is you need the USB cable for the PlayStation 3 and the controller to base unit cable for the Xbox 360, but again, setup was setup easy and straightforward. The only thing to keep in mind is that this is designed for pro gaming, a setup where your typically sat near your console or computer, not 20ft away with your feet up on the couch, so the cables are not typically very long on the A40.

General Audio Performance

I put the Astro through its paces on my PC first, picking out a selection of high quality FLAC audio files from my favourite albums and it didn’t seem to matter what I threw at the drivers on this set, I couldn’t find anything I didn’t love about the tone. The bass, mid ranges and high all feel independent and the set offers some incredible distance and depth to the sound scape that was well suited to heavy rock music. The lower death metal growls of bands like Bloodbath came through without distortion and the classical folk music high notes of Blackmores Night were blissful. Most importantly for me however are the mid tones, something often ignored on many gaming headsets in favour of heavy bass and screaming high tones, there is a warmth to the sound that just screams quality and it’s perfect for those who really love classic rock / prog rock.

Gaming Audio Performance

Games like Battlefield 3 tend to push the EQ way above normal, favouring heavily distorted bass tones that rattle your teeth, high notes of bullets ripping past you and very little in between and this often causes a lot of headsets to sound muddy and distorted, especially at higher volumes. That isn’t the case here however and you’ll go plenty deaf before you find distortion becomes an issue here. Even in the real thick of things you can still pick out the finer details of the sound scape and more impressive than anything else, you can still hold a conversation with your team mates, almost as if there are a second set of headphones giving you clear audio for voice chat over the carnage filled audio of the gameplay. There is of course a dial to alter the mix between game and voice chat, perfect for when you really need to ignore your friends, or block out the action.

PlayStation gaming audio sounded fantastic, as too did the voice chat but the headset really came into its own on the Xbox and this is likely due to the fact we have cross-game chat and voice chat is one of the A40’s strong points and both the microphones gave a loud and clear reading on all gaming formats.

Final Thoughts

Overall the A40 are nothing short of one of the finest headset on the market, although juding by the price tag, marketing and feature set, I think Astro already know this. The headset isn’t new either, it’s been on the market for  a good while and has already proven its self immensely popular with the well-funded end of eSports and enthusiast gaming scene, it would likely be even more popular if it wasn’t such an expensive set, but when it comes to high-end equipment, you have to expect to pay a premium for quality.

Build quality on this set is really nice too and while it does still have some plastic moulding on it, it should survive a few knocks and bumps if your travel around a lot. It does come with a decent packaging box that double as a protective hardware though and while it’s a little big and heavy to chuck in a backpack, at least it will keep the headset safe and sound to a certain extent.

Design is best in class too and I’ll be damned if this isn’t one of the best looking headsets on the market. Sure style is a subjective quality and there are plenty of great looking headsets on the market, but when you look for one that suits your style preference, the build quality and performance don’t always match up, in my opinion the A40 has all three.

The finally and most important feature of the A40’s however isn’t their sound, it isn’t the build quality and it’s certainly not their price either, its how comfortable they are. The headset sits on your head with so much grace and it’s got the biggest adjustment range I’ve ever seen on a headset too, ideal for those with tiny heads (or very high ears?!), or those with a big bobble head like myself, either way it’s headband is extremely comfortable and the lust padding on the ear cups is as soft as earmuffs.

It may not be cheap, but there is no doubt that this is one of the best headsets on the market and it’s going up against some tough competition in this price range too, but while you can spend £200 on a headset from few rival brands that may match the performance, you’ll have a hard time finding one that is anywhere near as comfortable, let alone one that works on three major platforms.

RaidCall EMS One CS:GO Spring Finalists Meet In Cologne April 13th

ESL’s new premier gaming competition RaidCall EMS One in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive to have live event finals on April 13th – 35,000 US Dollars prize purse distributed between best eight teams in Europe

Cologne, April 5th 2013 – The best eight European teams in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive will travel to Cologne (Germany) to define the winner of the RaidCall EMS One Spring 2013 season – 35,000 US Dollars will be on the line. The finalists will come prepared and very willing to dethrone Ninjas in Pyjamas as the best team in the world, and yet the Swedish favorites feel confident to add this prestigious title to their impressive achievement portfolio. The event will commence on April 13th in ESL TV’s own TV Studio in Cologne (Germany) at 11:00 CET and will be streamed live to the community via Twitch.tv, the global leading streaming platform for video gamers.

These best eight teams have had a hard time qualifying for the live event finals. Overall, more than 400 teams fought to qualify for this brand new premier gaming competition. The RaidCall EMS One had four weekly online cups where teams had to gather enough points to move on to the second phase, the group stage. Sixteen of Europe’s best successfully made it into the group stage and were divided by four. In a classic Round Robin format, the teams of five played each other, and the best two qualified for the live event finals in Cologne (Germany). And now, one of them will be crowned the European Champion.

Tickets are currently being sold to attend the event as part of the live audience who will be able to see the best Counter-Strike: Global Offensive teams in Europe play against one another: emsone-spring2013csgo.eventbrite.com

RaidCall EMS One CS:GO Spring Finals Participants

  • Ninjas in Pyjamas (Sweden)
  • Anexis eSports (United Kingdom)
  • AbsoluteLegends (Sweden)
  • ESC ICY BOX (Poland)
  • Imaginary Gaming (France)
  • n!faculty (Germany)
  • Team VeryGames (France)
  • Fnatic (Denmark)

Prize Purse Distribution
1) 12,000 US Dollars
2) 7,000 US Dollars
3-4) 4,000 US Dollars
5-8) 2,000 US Dollars

You can find more information about the RaidCall EMS One CS:GO Spring Finals at its website www.raidcall-emsone.com