Phone/Tablet

Phone & Tablet related reviews

Creative is known amongst the gaming community for their top quality gaming headsets.  Today, I’ll be taking a look at their Sound Blaster ‘Blaze’ gaming headset.  Now, this is a budget gaming headset, available for around £33 at the time of writing this review (on Amazon UK) – will it be worth the buy?

 

 

First up, as always, the packaging, and, what’s in the box.  The box is nicely designed, sporting both, the Creative & Sound Blaster logo’s.  The red and black design works really well, and there is also a transparent plastic window that gives a nice preview of the headset.  On the front and back of the box, is a great deal of information about the Blaze, and is also available in different languages.  When you slide the headset out, it sits nicely in a red plastic housing, secured with a couple of cable ties.

 

 

 

Upon removing the headset from the box and plastic insert, the first thing that I noticed was how light this headset is!  The colour theme works really well – the red SB logo sits nicely on the matt black earcups.  The material on the earcups is a nice velvet material, which is very soft; this material is also found on the underside of the headband, which makes the comfort levels soar.  The left earcup sports a 3.5mm port to plug in the detachable microphone, as well as the cable that runs from the headset to the source you wish to plug it into.  Also found on this cable are the in-line controls.  This allows you to control the volume levels, as well as muting and unmuting the microphone.  At the end of the cable, there are two 3.5mm connectors – green for sound and pink for the microphone.  I had a 3.5mm splitter cable so hooked it up, and I can now use the headset with my Xbox One & PS4 controllers, as well as connecting directly to the PC.  Lastly, the headband.  As mentioned above, the material and padding on the headband is extremely comfortable. On the outer side of the headband is the Creative logo in a silver/grey colour, which is a nice touch.

 

 

The Blaze headset contains precision tuned 40mm drivers, which provide crisp and clear sound.  In games such as Call of Duty and Battlefield, the game sounds are easily distinguishable, especially when it comes to listening out for enemies approaching, weapons reloading, and hearing which direction enemy fire is coming from.  In games such as Forza Horizon 3, the engine sounds really make you feel as if you are actually sitting in the car, the crowds cheering is as you would expect it to sound, almost like they truly cheering you on.  The microphone quality is also spot on.  People who were in party chat while I was using this headset commented on how clear my voice was, and it was coming through at a comfortable volume.

When it comes to other audio sources, such as movies and music, the Blaze does not disappoint.  I tried watching one of the many Transformers movies to see how well the headset handled the bass and volume levels, and I am extremely happy to say that, again, the headset provides quality audio.  The bass, while not as bassy as high-end headsets, there was enough in the bass levels to make the explosions sound as they should, which added to my viewing pleasure.  Listening to music was just the same – enough bass to enjoy the music, yet not too much to make the music sound distorted, even at max volume.

 

 

 

I feel that the Blaze headset is definitely worth the lower end price tag.  It has style, feels very nicely made, and the comfort level is outstanding.  I would happily recommend this headset to anyone who is on the lookout for a decent gaming headset.  It really has exceeded my expectations.

When it comes to choosing a new headset for your gaming needs, there is definitely a lot of choice about.  As well as having a large selection of headsets, there are also many different price ranges to choose from.  Do you buy something cheap and cheerful, something in the middle, or splash out on top of the range gadgets with 5.1 this and 7.1 that? Well, I’m hoping that the Afterglow Prismatic Wireless headset from PDP (Performance Designed Products) will show that you don’t have to spend huge amounts of cash to get decent, all-round quality.

As always, with any product, the first thing you notice is the packaging.  The box for the Prismatic headset is easy on the eye.  The front shows a view of the headset from the side, showing the different colours available for the illuminated earpieces.  It also gives you a list of devices that the headset is compatible with.  In this case, you can use the Prismatic headset with the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii & Wii U, PC, and mobile devices.  It’s worth noting that with the Xbox One chat adapter, you can also use this headset with the Xbox One console, and I’m assuming that it works in the same way for the PS4, although I am unable to try this as I do not own one.  The sides of the box has a feature comparison chart, as well as a run down of the custom audio profiles (see images).  Lastly, the back of the box shows a list of what the headset can do – from extraordinary sound, to the easy slide microphone.

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Now for the box contents.  To state the obvious, there’s a headset in the box!  As well as the headset, there is a large collection of wires – 2.5mm to 2.5mm (chat cable for Xbox 360), 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable, RCA cable with a 3.5mm connector, mini USB cable, and the wireless USB dongle (which is connected by default to the RCA cable via the 3.5.. connector).  As you can see, there is a cable for every occasion!  It is recommended that you charge the headset before using it for the first time, something that I did not do.  I soon charged it once I noticed a low hum while wearing the headset.  To charge, simply hook up the included mini USB cable and watch the lights in the earpieces flash away until the charging is completed, in which case, the flashing stops.

The headset itself seems to be very well built and sturdy.  The earpieces are made of a polyurethane leather type material, which only adds to the comfort of the ‘around the ear’ design.  The earpieces themselves are a decent size, but could possibly be a little bigger for those people with bigger ears.  The headset has a nice amount of flexibility, and is adjustable, although the earpieces do not rotate. The headband is made of plastic and sports the Afterglow branding and when adjusted, you can see the thin metal reinforcement strip that foes through the headband to the earpieces.  Lastly, the inside of the headband has a very nice padding which adds to the comfort factor when in use.  The left ear cup is where all controls can be found.  On the outside of the earpiece itself, there is a transparent plastic design.  Being able to see through to the inside allows you to see the circuit boards, etc, which actually looks quite nice! On the outer side of the earpiece is where the volume wheel is, as well as the mixer slider for voice and game sounds, connections for the 2.5mm Xbox 360 cable input, line in, and the mini USB port.  The front of the left earpiece is where the microphone can be found and pulled out for use, next to which is the Mode button that allows you to choose which lets you select the audio profile that you wish to use.  Lastly, on the outer left earpiece is where you’ll find the power/mute button.

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Now for the fun stuff!  Hooking the headset up to the PC was as simple as it could have been.  Simply plug the USB dongle into a free USB port on the PC itself, and then connect the 3.5mm jack to the speaker/headphone port on the sound card.  Once the drivers have installed themselves, you are good to go!  To turn the headset on, simply press in the button on the left earpiece until it lights up blue and you’re good to go.  Unfortunately, because of the amount of devices I have hooked up to my PC, there is a bit of a hum – this is only present on the PC and with the sound turned down slightly, the hum is not always noticeable.  To set the colour to one that you prefer, simply hold in the Mode button for a few seconds until it starts cycling through the available colours.  When you get to your desired colour, stop pressing the Mode button in and it will stay on the selected colour until the headset is powered off and back on again, or until it is changed manually – if you would rather stay colourless, you can depress the Mode button when you come to the part of the cycle that doesn’t feature a colour. The Mode button also allows you to choose one of the three audio profiles – Pure Audio (blue), Bass Boost (red) and Immersive (purple).  It’s easy to keep track of which profile you have chosen as there is a light at the end of the microphone that changes colour as you cycle through the profiles.

Even though the Prismatic headset is primarily a previous gen headset, I was unable to try it with an Xbox 360 as I sold it literally the day before it arrived.  I did, however, hook up the 3.5mm audio cable to the headset and also to the chat adapter connected to my Xbox One controller and was able to use it for both game audio and chat.  I was informed by friends that my voice came across nice and clear, and it was the same for me whilst listening to them.  I’ve also connected it up to my phone to listen to music, and as previously mentioned, it has been used on the PC.  My partner even likes to take it upstairs at bedtime and hook it up to the TV so that he can watch without disturbing me.

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As far as sound quality goes, I have no gripes with the headset.  Game play was clear and I was able to decipher which location footsteps and gunshots were coming from whilst playing Call of Duty, and hearing the revs of engines in Forza 6 was just mind-blowing.  On the other hand, watching TV and listening to music were both impressive, even more-so with the bass boost audio profile in play – I like to think that the 50mm speakers played a nice role in this!  While on the subject of the bass boost audio profile, the bass levels are more than adequate when in pure audio and immersive profiles – having that bit of extra oomph never hurts though.

Overall, I am very impressed with the Prismatic headset.  The sound quality is great, the build quality is sturdy & makes the headset feel like it can withstand every day uses with ease, and the fact that it can be used across multiple platform makes the whole package worthwhile.  Althought the lights are a cool feature, I can’t see myself sitting here each time I use the headset and scrolling through all of the colours to choose the one I want.  A great headset that won’t break the bank as much as other gaming headsets.  You can currently grab this headset for around £70 on Amazon UK (at time of posting).

Be sure to head over to the PDP website, visit their Facebook, Twitter & Instagram pages!

When it comes to gaming headsets, I’ll be the first to admit that there are more than a few to choose from.  So when it comes to actually splashing the cash, you want something that can withstand regular use, as well as providing outstanding sound quality.  Is this where the ASTRO A40 Gaming Headset + M80  Mixamp comes into its own?  I’ve had a blast finding out!

As soon as the headset arrived, the packaging was the first thing to impress.  It comes packaged in a weighty cardboard box which is mightily impressive.  The box itself has a matching colour scheme so that it goes hand in hand with the headset itself.  The box is held closed by magnets and upon opening the box (after removing the cardboard sleeve), you are greeted by the headset, which is held in place by a moulded plastic casing.  As well as the headset in the box, you have the M80 Mixamp, a 3.5mm audio cable, and all documentation.

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The A40 headset itself, simply put, looks amazing! The eye catching sky blue and grey colour scheme is stunning, and the build quality feels top grade.  The headset feels not only sturdy, but also very well made.  The build quality does not leave the headset feeling overly heavy or as if it would cause discomfort during use – something that I’ll get to a little later.  The ear pads are made of a cushioned, breathable material, which provides not only comfort, but also keeps the sweat at bay!  When you combine the cushioned ear pads with the swiveling ear cups, a good fit is pretty much guaranteed for heads of all shapes and sizes.  The swiveling cups also make it easy to sit back between games, and take some time out from the headset, making it incredibly easy to twist the cups and lower the headset down so you can wear it around your neck without being prodded by them.  Lastly, the ASTRO branded head band has a strip of the same cushioned material, which only adds to the comfort, making long gaming sessions more enjoyable.  While it felt as if the headset was hugging my head, it was in no way uncomfortable.  I felt reassured that the headset would not end up sliding off my head!

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Before hooking up your headset to your controller, make sure to check that your controller is updated via the console so that you are good to go.  ASTRO even provide a Micro USB cable in the box, making it easier for you.  Once that is done, you simply connect the M80 Mixamp to your controller – that’s it!  Now, ASTRO are known for their famous Mixamp which is used by gamers all over the world.  Combining the Mixamp with the chat adapter, the M80 was born – and it’s just as easy on the eye as the headset itself!  On the Mixamp itself, there is a switch on both the left and right side – you use these to balance out the voice chat and game sound to how you like it.  There is also a volume dial which is found on the bottom of the M80 – there is also a button in the middle of the dial that you use to mute the microphone.  This button lights up red when you are muted, which helps eliminate the whole “hello, is this mic on?” phase. Between the two switches on the sides of the M80, there is the button that gives you control of the equalizer.  There are three preset EQ settings that are as follows.

  • Pro: Boosted high frequencies for competitive gameplay
  • Core: Balance for single player gaming
  • Media: Enhanced bass, for movies and music

I will admit that I tend to keep mine set to Pro (I am definitely no pro!) because I tend to play Call of Duty a lot when playing online.  IF I need to change it, it’s a simple button click, with the LED lights across the front of the M80 telling me what I have it set to.  I will also say that distinguishing sound direction, etc, while using the Pro EQ setting, is a breeze, and being able to set the mix between game sound and voice chat is a massive help!  All buttons on the M80 are very well placed and there is not much chance of you hitting the wrong one if trying to change levels without taking your eyes off the screen.  The overall sound quality from the A40 headset is beyond impressive!  I have used my fair share of gaming headsets in the past, and I can quite honestly say that the quality from this headset blows the rest out of the water.  Everything comes through crystal clear, and when watching a video or listening to music, there was no interference or crackling at all!

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Cable wise, you have the cable that runs from the M80 to the headset itself.  This is only detachable from the headset end, and with the cable running into the M80 at a slight angle, you do have to be pretty careful not to damage it as you’d need a whole new unit, not just the cable.  Also included is the 3.5mm audio cable that enables you to use your A40 headset with a smartphone, or other device of your choice.  I do this quite often, usually just through my phone, and I love the fact that ASTRO actually provide a cable for you to do this.  I am a huge fan of how well they worked while listening to music through Spotify on my phone.  Personally, I wouldn’t use them outside for listening to music on the go as they are a bit big for me to walk around with.  Lastly, there is an app available (iOS only as far as I know) that adds to the whole experience.  Since I only have an Android device, I have been unable to see what features are available.

If you are new to ASTRO products, then I doubt you are aware of the customisable speaker tags.  These tags are held on to the outer side of the ear cups by magnets, and you can design your own, or order set designs from the ASTRO website.  The ones provided with this headset match the theme, sticking with the sky blue and grey colours.  Another very handy thing to mention is that not only can you swap out the speaker tags, but also the microphone.  Simply disconnect the microphone, un-snap the tags, choose the side that you want to use the microphone and then replace the speaker tags again.  It really is that simple!

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Whilst on the subject of the microphone… Not only can it be attached to the ear of choice, it is also extremely flexible and can be moved into a position that suits you, with ease.  During my online game sessions, I have been informed numerous times that my voice is coming through nice and clear, and there was an noticeable difference when compared to my previous headset.  There was no annoying noise caused by my breathing – an issue that I did have previously – and it doesn’t even pick up the sound of the oscillating fan that has been used daily since the horrible warm weather began.

When considering all of the factors of this headset, I have to admit that the ASTRO A40 Gaming Headset + M80 Mixamp is by far the best headset I have used.  With its comfort level, mic quality, and other small features like customising the speaker tags and being able to swap the mic from left to right, it all forms a neat package that any gamer would like to have.  The price tag could be what stops many gamers from getting this headset, but you really do get what you pay for!

This headset is also available in orange & grey.

With more and more gadgets coming out to help you track your daily activity progress, having something handy and easy to use is definitely welcomed by some people.  I was provided with one of the latest offerings from Kit: – the Milestone Altitude Activity Tracker – to review.  Now due to bad health, I am not the most active of people, but I was very intrigued to see how well my activity and sleep would be tracked.

First things first – packaging.  I have always been impressed with how well products from Kit: have been packaged.  It is always kept nice and minimal, whilst providing detailed information at the same time.  The box that the Activity Tracker arrived in was no different.  The front of the box gives a clear view of the Tracker itself, especially when you open the cardboard flap on the right side.  On the outside of the flap, you have the Milestone text, while on the inside, you are told that progress can be tracked via the free to download smartphone app.  On the bottom left corner of the packaging, you are shown that the Tracker has a vibrating alarm, is sweat resistant, and tracks your activity.  Lastly, the rear of the box has a brief description of the item, as well as a list of features, specifications, box contents, and smartphone compatibility.

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Removing the Tracker from the box, you have the item itself, a Micro USB to USB 2.0 cable, and a 3.5mm to Micro USB cable.  The Micro to 2.0 cable is used to charge the Tracker, while the 3.5 to USB 2.0 cable can be used to synchronise the data from the Tracker to the smartphone.  The tracker itself sports a nice rubber material wristband that houses the small unit.  In order to charge the unit, you simply pop it out from the wristband so that you can hook it up to a charging source using the provided cable.  It only took a few hours to charge fully, but I was unable to use it until I had done that initial charge as there was no power at all in the unit.  Once charged, inserting the unit back into the strap was as easy as it was to take it out.  It mentions on the box that a single charge should last 5-7 days – I’ve had the Tracker on since I first charged it and have yet to have to recharge it yet (around 2.5 weeks). On the side of the unit is a small button which is used to cycle through the menu – just line this up with the groove on the strap so that you get it back in the correct way round.

Once charged, I will admit that I was a little worried about how simple it was going to be to get things up and running.  There was no need for any worrying as the instruction booklet took me through the process step by step, from getting started to using the smartphone app and understanding the different functions included.  All I needed to do with the app was enter my personal details and what I would like my daily goal to be.  It finishes up with you syncing the Altitude to the smartphone app for the first time.  Now I know that the Tracker comes complete with the 3.5mm to USB 2.0 cable to help with syncing information between the phone and device, but I honestly found connecting and syncing up via Bluetooth not only quicker, but also very straightforward.

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The Altitude tracker has a range of features.  It not only tracks your daily steps taken, but also acts as a watch, tracks your sleep pattern, your distance travelled (km), the amount of calories burned during a 24 hour period, and lastly, what percentage of your daily goal was achieved.  Sleep mode monitors your sleep movement and can record when you are awake, in a light sleep, and in a deep sleep – I found this very handy, myself.  Please note that your sleep activity can only be monitored once you have synced information between the Altitude and your smartphone app.

The app itself (available on iOS 7.0 and above, and Android 4.3 and above) has as many functions as the wristband.  The History menu provides a daily chart of activity (steps, miles, and Kcal burned), as well as the amount of hours slept and how many of those hours were in a light or deep sleep state.  The Activity menu shows an overall percentage of your goals and sleep, as well as simple to understand view of your steps, Kcal, and distance.  Lastly, the Settings menu contains the section where you enter your personal information, workout goal, a reminder setting, and lastly, the alarm clock (with is a nice and steady vibration that comes through the Altitude).

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I found the tracking provided by the Altitude to be pretty precise, although, sometimes just sitting and moving my arm a bit swiftly would register as steps taken.  The sleep monitor is something that I found useful.  I did like being able to see how much of my sleep was light or deep, and from what I could tell, that was all registered as precise as possible.  Syncing was very straightforward both with the provided cable, and via Bluetooth – the latter of which is definitely preferred method of synchronising.

Overall, when you consider the functions provided by the Altitude when compared to other Activity Tracker devices, I don’t really see much difference – except the price!  You can get the Altitude from Amazon UK or Carphone Warehouse for around £39.99 (at time of posting).  It does what you would expect, is easy to operate (even for people who don’t have much experience with tech), and doesn’t cost a fortune.  I haven’t taken mine off since I first put it on a couple of weeks back – apart from when showering – and intend to use it on a very regular basis.  I highly recommend the Milestone Altitude Activity Tracker to both hardcore, and casual, fitness fanatics.

I’d like to thank the kind folk over at Kondor for providing me with the Milestone Altitude Activity Tracker for review.

I think it is safe to assume that people are relying on their mobile devices more and more nowadays.  Whether they be mobile phones, tablets, even MP3 players, they aren’t much use without any charge left in the battery.  Anything that helps keep your devices juiced and ready to use is always a plus to me, and hopefully the MSC MP-S6000 6000 mAh Solar Travel Charger will be up to the job!  A full list of features and specifications can be found at the end of this review.

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The Traveler itself comes in a packaging that is easy on the eye.  You have see-through plastic that enables you to get a good view of the black and orange coloured device, as well as information such as the high 6,000 mAh capacity, the dual USB output, and the smart LED indicator that tells you how much battery life is left.  It also states that the charger is suitable for use with tablets, smartphones, Mp3/MP4 players, and portable game systems such as the NDS and PSP.  Removing the unit from the packaging, I was greeted with the device itself, user manual, and the charger cable.  The good thing about this charger cable is that it is an elasticated rubber material, and it also comes with all of the adapters you could want or need (aside from the lightning adapter used on the newer Apple devices – you can purchase these separately though).  The front of the charger itself has a large solar panel, four power LED indicators to let you know how much charge is remaining, a power button, and two smaller LED solar indicators that give you a rough idea how much solar charge is remaining.  Lastly, along the bottom of the charger is a MicroUSB port that you can use to charge the unit via a wall socket of PC, etc, and also two USB output ports that you use to hook up the devices that you would like to charge.  The USB port on the left is suitable for the iPad, and the one on the right is suitable for the Samsung Galaxy tablet.  I had no issues with my HTC One or Nexus 7 tablet when using either of the ports.

It’s recommended that you fully charge the Traveler prior to first using it, so that’s what I did.  However, when I got everything unpacked and ready to charge, the LED lights indicated that everything was fully charged and ready to go – bargain!  I used the charger to charge my devices constantly to see how long I could get out of it.  Because of the nice weather we have had over the past week, I have not encountered an empty device at all, and the 75% LED indicator is the one that is illuminated.  This is after using the charger for around 7 days with my phone and tablet while sitting both, inside and outside.  Without the lovely weather, you could get around 3 charges  before needing to recharge the unit – that is pretty good in my opinion.  You could quite easily go off on your travels and use this handy little device to keep your gadgets charged.  Once the charger has a full charge, it apparently holds that charge for months – obviously, something I have been unable to check myself as yet, but I’ll definitely give it a go and see.

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Considering the size of the MSC Traveler, I am impressed with how it has performed so far.  It is around the size of most smartphones nowadays, and if charging via USB cable, it fully charges in around the same time as a smartphone, which is handy.  You can get three, maybe four, full charges from it when not in direct sunlight, again, handy.  For the price you pay (around £35 GBP) I think it is well worth the money.  Not only does it provide on the go charging, it also provides peace of mind as far as not being caught with a flat battery, if and when it is really needed.  As far as I am concerned, this can stay in my personal collection and it will be with me when out and about for hours at a time.

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Technical specification

Solar energy transfer efficiency: 17% Solar panel 5v/90mA
Polymer Lithium-ion Battery
Capacity 6000mAh /22.2 wh
Input : Micro micro usb DC5v/1000mA
Output 2x USB 5V/2100mA
Working Temperature -10C to + 55C
Charging time about 5 hours via USB mains
Charging time from solar about 45 hours
Cycle Life >500 cycles
Weight 178g
Dimensions 130 x 76 x 16mm
Compatible with most popular mobile phones, iPhone, Blackberry™, Nokia™, iPad, Digital Cameras, PSP, ND, PDA, Mp3/Mp 4 player, GPS, Bluetooth etc

Product Features

High Capacity 6000mah Lithium-Polymer battery
Multi-charging capabilities: Mains, car charger, USB or Solar
Compatible with most popular mobile phones, iPhone, Blackberry™, Nokia™, iPad, Digital Cameras, PSP, ND, PDA, Mp3/Mp 4 player, GPS, Bluetooth headsets etc.
Robust and stylish rubberised case design
Single Reversable charge/discharge bungy lead.
10 detachable charging tips for the most popular devices
Simple one button operation
DC Input Port
Dual USB Output Ports
Remaining power leds
Solar charging led
Multiple protection charge/discharge and overcharge/undercharge

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Website: http://www.mobilesolarchargers.co.uk/
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