E3 2012 – Razer Booth Spotlight
For the hardcore PC gamer, one of the brands that immediately come to mind when it looking at high end hardware peripherals is Razer. From the original Razer Boomslang mouse that was launched in 1999, Razer has been pushing the high end edge of hardware technology to give gamers the pinnacle experience when playing games on their PC. This year at E3, that sentiment was no different as we got a look and tried out some of the newest tech that Razer is readying for release, and we even got a close up look at a new prototype centered around the free to play game, MechWarrior Online. Of course, after reading this article, you bank account will be screaming at you from the cost of picking up these peripherals, but hey, if you want the best gear, you have to shell out a few bucks.
The first stop in the Razer booth was the new Razer Taipan, the optical mouse that houses a new 4G Dual Sensor System sensor with up to 8200 dpi for sharp, precise control of your on-screen action. The sensor will allow for calibration on any surface, and is ergonomically designed for right or left hand use without compromise in design. Taking the mouse for a test drive, I found the feel of the Taipan in my palm very comfortable, as I normally use a claw grasp on a mouse. I tend to be very sensitive to any mouse that I use on my PC due to some issues with repetitive stress issues in my wrist, but the Razer feels solid in my hand and I could use this for an extended period of time. The layout of the side buttons works out well for both hands, and can all be programmed to your fancy using the Synapse 2.0 software. Surprisingly, the Taipan is priced somewhat aggressively for its stats, coming in at $79.99 when it is released in July 2012. You can check out photos of the Taipan in the photo gallery below.
From the Taipan, we moved over to the new Battlefield 3 branded, Razer Blackshark headset. The new headset uses 40mm neodymium magnets to drive home solid bass notes and crisp and distortion free high frequencies. The padded leatherette ear cups use memory foam to form a solid seal between your ears and the headset, offering noise cancelling of ambient noise from your play area. The Blackshark uses a metal flexing boom microphone that offers solid voice communication with your teammates when in your favorite FPS title. I liked the feel of the Blackshark on my head, as the headset is fairly light, easing any stress on your head when wearing the headset over long periods of time. I also appreciated that the earpieces breathed a little, making a nice seal from the outside world, but not making my ears clammy over time. Playing Battlefield 3, the sounds from the game were solid with no audible distortion. Cranking the volume up, I was pleasantly surprised by the solid thump of my weapon rounds, and the audio chatter of teammates stood out from the game noise. Not sure if there was some sort of algorithm in place for that, but it was a nice touch. The boom microphone can be detached from the headset if you just want to plug into your phone to listen to music, or as I am sure most would do, cue up the latest episode of You Like the Worst Stuff. It might take a stiff upper lip to drop down the $130 list price, but the Blackshark does walk the walk for that price.
The surprise of the Razer booth however, had to be the prototype device they had in the center display. Called the Razer Artemis, it is not an actual in-production device, but a prototype controller designed around MechWarrior Online. The Artemis is a three stage device, with a joystick on the right hand side, keypad with 12 programmable buttons on the left and a small screen in the middle that can display supplemental game information like load outs, and overhead map and other items. The joystick has full z-axis control as well as three hats, all of which are theoretically programmable. It is shaped like a high end flight stick, and looks like it would be comfortable for long term use in a session of MechWarrior Online. One thing that was a bit disappointing was that the controller was a solid device, so you could not swap the position of the keypad and the joystick, so lefties might be left out or just have to get used to the controls as they are laid out. Also, with an LCD screen in the middle (no word on whether it was a touch screen or not), cost could be a big factor, and the design is not exactly friendly to a desk with little room to rest the controller. But these kinds of concept devices are something Razer has a history of putting together, and then radically changing before it finally launches. No idea of a launch date on the Artemis, but I could see those that are seriously into MechWarrior Online, or maybe some hardcore flight sims wanting to plunk down some serious cash to get the final product.
Judging from the new devices at E3, Razer is looking to continue pushing the boundaries of high end technology for PC gamers. Now I just have to figure out what I can do without to pick up some of this new hotness in July.