It's been a while since we had some PC-centric reviews for the "hard core" out there, so without further ado let's wade right in. This month we have a veritable gaggle of peripheral goodness with products from CoolIT and Cyber Snipa.
CoolIT RAM Fan
MyGamer Reviw Score: 8.0/10
OK, so this isn't rocket science… If you overclock your RAM timing, then the chips will generate more heat. Make too much heat and the RAM starts to throw errors. "Oh, if only there were a way to dissipate that heat more efficiently!" you say.
Sure, you could plunk down a hundred bucks (probably lots more) for a good water cooling system, but what about the rest of us without bottomless pocketbooks and/or the nerves of steel required to bolt a water reservoir into our electronics? Enter the CoolIT RAM Fan.
The RAM Fan clips directly to your RAM DIMMS, then spins at 4200 RPM, moving extra air across your hot chips. Power is supplied by plugging the fan into one of your MOBO's auxiliary fan ports. The RAM Fan also features a bit o' bling in the form of a blue LED.
Did it work? Sure – when activated, we could definitely feel additional air being pulled across the RAM chips. It didn't even add any appreciable noise to our system, once we buttoned up the case. We did encounter a problem installing the device, however – the supplied power leads were far too short to reach from the RAM all the way to the fan accessory plug on a year-old Asus motherboard and we had to do a bit of "creative wire splicing" to add additional length.
CoolIT's web site claims that the RAM Fan "…eliminates any risk of your RAM overheating." We're not sure about that – even with the additional air flow the fan provides, any cooling solution is only as good as the weakest component, and proper air flow across the motherboard must be provided for the RAM Fan to work at peak capacity. Still, for only a fraction of the cost of a proper water-cooled system, the RAM Fan is a good way for novice overclockers to get their feet wet.
Pros: Easy to install. Inexpensive. Adds a touch of bling without much noise.
Cons: Accent LED is not concealed and shines in your face – may be annoying to some. Power supply leads are not long enough for all motherboards.
Cyber Snipa Dog Tags
MSRP: $69.99 (for the 1GB model we tested, varies)
MyGamer Reviw Score: 7.7/10
OK, so a bajillion manufacturers make USB thumb drives – the obvious question is: how to stand out from the crowd? With their Dog Tags, Cyber Snipa seems to be onto a way to do just that. The flash drive itself is nothing special – available in various capacities from 512MB all the way up to 4GB with adequate throughput. Loads easily using the default Windows drivers – basically everything we'd expect.
Where the Dog Tags separate themselves form the pack is with their clever design and the accessory toolkit included with the drive. The flash unit clips into an oval holder made of brushed aluminum and trimmed with matte black plastic. This design is carried over to the toolkit, which includes a fold-out screwdriver, pliers, can opener and tiny LED flashlight. The construction of both pieces is pleasingly solid and we have to admit that the toolkit pod is handy (we used it within 15 minutes of unpacking it on a tricky, concealed screw in our PC case).
If the unit has a flaw it's in Cyber Snipa's choice to use a military-style chain to secure the tags – they're simply too bulky and heavy to wear both units around your neck for any extended period of time. Also, we clipped the tool pod to a set of keys and they looked great there but the chain is too flimsy for everyday use in a cluttered coat pocket – the pod kept falling off in the car and in our pocket and almost got lost.
Pros: Attractive and functional – the tool pod has the things you need for small repairs and the thumb drive works great. Privacy software is included with the flash drive.
Cons: Chains are flimsy – we recommend lashing the units to a proper nylon cord, looks be damned. Privacy software is not free and must be paid for after a trial period. Costly – our 1GB test unit retails for $70.
Cyber Snipa S.W.A.T. Gaming Mouse
MyGamer Reviw Score: 7.0/10
The S.W.A.T. Gaming mouse certainly checks all the right "features" boxes. Switch-on-the-fly pointer sensitivity? Check. Ergonomic shape? Check. Laser engine? Check, check. Spiffy blue LEDs, even? Yeppers. It even has onboard memory, which stores the users DPI preferences, user-made macros and key assignment preferences directly inside the mouse, making them available on any PC the S.W.A.T. is plugged into. The mouse even has a button that allows the user to swap between "gaming" and "web browsing" modes, something this reviewer has been wishing a manufacturer would implement for quite a while.
And yet, at the end of the day and after numerous hours using the S.W.A.T as a gaming and web browsing tool, we were left wanting. Maybe it was the way that the mouse failed to glide effortlessly over our mousing surface – surely other products we've reviewed had a more frictionless feel. Or maybe it was the way that the laser engine failed to track precisely on all mousing surfaces – the S.W.A.T. has a real problem with the black, plastic "high performance" mousing surfaces we as hardcore gamers prefer. Maybe it was the funky ergonomic shape, which put the side buttons beneath a little "shelf" that our thumbs kept hitching up on.
Either way, the bottom line is that we wanted to like the S.W.A.T better than we ended up doing. At $35 the price is definitely in line with other similar products, and we do love the use of on-board memory to save the mouse settings. Just be sure to test the device on several mousing surfaces before entering into a heated multiplayer game of F.E.A.R.
Pros: On-board memory saves your settings and even assigned macros, recorded with included software. DPI switch button is easy to get to in a heated firefight. Price isn't bad.
Cons: Overall flimsy feel in the hand. Feet don't "glide" as well as we expect for a product targeted at serious gamers. Too lightweight for long FPS sessions. Doesn't work well with all mousing surfaces (a problem we saw when laser mice first came out but which we though had been fixed by now).
Cyber Snipa Game Pad v.2.0
MyGamer Review Score: 8.2/10
Like other devices that have come before it (the Wolf Claw Devour, the Saitek Pro Gamer's Command Pad, etc.), the Cyber Snipa Game Pad attempts to give players a set of simplified game play keys in a package smaller than a full-sized keyboard. Laptop gamers, frequent travelers, or anyone wishing for a bit more desk real-estate when they play will appreciate this idea (I know we love them, particularly on the road).
The Cyber Snipa unit does lots of things right: USB connectivity requiring no special drivers, a control scheme that employs standard letter keys as opposed to custom keys requiring configuration software and profiles, cool blue LED lighting; even oversized movement keys for the FPS crowd. All this is wonderful stuff.
However, despite the unit's many advantages, it does have shortcomings. Players of FPS shooters will likely appreciate the Game Pad's ergonomics – every needed key is right where you'd expect it to be, so the device carries a very shallow learning curve – however players of MMOs or Real-Time Strategy titles will almost certainly be frustrated by the Pad's teensy-weensy number keys. Don't expect to smoothly key your power attack chains in World of Warcraft or City of Heroes without extensive practice and many initial mis-keys.
Pros: No special drivers or configuration software required – just plug n' play into any USB port. Oversized move keys are easy to find with fingertips alone. Other keys are logically placed and are easy to locate. Looks great. Portable.
Cons: While the Pad does feature a complete set of number keys (heavily used in MMOs and RTS titles), they are so puny and small that it is hard to consistently avoid mis-keys.