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Nick S.

Nick S.

Joined on 02/16/05

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Product Reviews
product reviews
  • 46
Most Favorable Review

Nice product, but needs bug-fixing

Creative ZEN 2.5" Black 16GB MP3 / MP4 Player
Creative ZEN 2.5" Black 16GB MP3 / MP4 Player

Pros: It plays MP3's at any sampling rate or bit rate very well, even a rather low 12 KHz 17 Kbps ABR. The display is very crisp. Videos are great, but better without sound (see cons). Photos are wonderful at or below about 512x384. The earphones provide great sound with a superior blend of treble and bass (I like midtones best). I also like the shortcut button feature since it makes it fast to access common areas (like the EQ). I managed to exceed the advertised 30-hour battery life through extensive testing and experimenting to squeeze out the most possible, getting 33 hours, 21 minutes, and 41 seconds at my longest to date. The capacity is very good and transfering files is easy (just use an ounce of copy paste).

Cons: Videos become a random mess if the width is not 320. In addition, the audio is way out of sync. Initially, it's ahead by 300 ms or so. After some time, it increases by 300 ms suddenly after every 2.5 or so minutes and becomes distracting. This happens with both the provided video converter or an XviD-compressed AVI in Virtual Dub. Videos stop earlier than expected, a likely cause. Photos (any JPG image) could use greater zoom (800x600 is downsized to around 512x384 as I can see the pixel-blending with sharp-edged areas). The 13 KHz equalizer band is glitched as each 1 dB change up or down causes random fading to occur and the effect varies depending on the source's sampling rate. The earphones tend to fall off easily, even with slight movements. I don't like the way it gets charged either - plugging it into the USB port of the computer. I had to get a wall-plug adapter to counter this. Transferring is also slow - just 2-3 MB per second.

Overall Review: I don't know about the radio feature as I never listen to radio. I haven't tried the voice-recording feature either. Since I listen to video game music at different speeds (writing a program to do this), I adjust the sampling rate accordingly. Slow speeds mean a lower sampling rate (since 15 KHz at true speed becomes 9 KHz at 60%, I can reduce the sampling rate (and thus the bit rate) and still get the same quality. I primarily use it for music while I sleep though sometimes I take it with me. I gave it 4 stars due to all the bugs. The video one is the worst followed by the 13 KHz EQ band. When I first got it, I began running experiments on it, to maximize battery life. The EQ and bass boost decrease battery life by about 7 to 8% (from 13 1/3 hours to around 12 1/4. Using lock mode increases it by 150% (33 1/3 hours versus 13 1/3). Bit rate has a minuscule effect, 3% for 32 KHz 38 Kbps over 12 KHz 17 Kbps, all ABR mono.

Most Critical Review

Great sound, but has buggy drivers

Creative Sound Blaster Audigy2 ZS SB0350 5.1 Channels 24-bit 192KHz PCI Interface Sound Card
Creative Sound Blaster Audigy2 ZS SB0350 5.1 Channels 24-bit 192KHz PCI Interface Sound Card

Pros: Great sound quality and it makes my old 8-bit WAV files play back more crisp. Recording at 24-bit at 96KHz makes sound very clear, even low-amplitude recording. The card was easy to install as well, short of finding a screw (this is typical of OEM products).

Cons: The sound drivers are buggy. After anywhere from 3 to 5 hours of continuous play, the sound all of a sudden cuts out and stops. All playing has to be terminated and restarted, but it'll happen again after another 3 to 5 hours. When the sound cuts out, there's a fairly loud very low-pitched sound (about 70 Hz) that fades away. The audio programs play just fine, but without any sound produced. After 12 hours of operation for one day, this occurred 3 times.

Overall Review: The 600 MB hard disk space requirement is wrong. Even a full installation doesn't pass half that, more around 250 MB, and you have the option to install just the driver only, which shouldn't be much more than 2 MB. My installation method, where I took out unwanted or unneccessary things, used only 180-some MB, less than 1/3 of what is stated.

Not bad, but very low -30 dB volume at 2-foot distance

Logitech 980186-0403 Silver USB Connector USB Desktop Microphone
Logitech 980186-0403 Silver USB Connector USB Desktop Microphone

Pros: This is just a regular microphone, except with one key advantage. Even if your sound card can only record input from one source at a time (you're forced to choose between "wave" or "auxiliary", and "microphone"), you can, with the right software, still simultaneously record your narration and any audio your computer is playing, very useful to include live commentary or narration of game play as you record a video of your amazing gaming feats. Of course, some audio editing skills would be needed, though nothing advanced (unless something in the recording is out of sync). The microphone's drivers seem to be included in the microphone itself - just plug it in and you're ready to record - no driver CD required!

Cons: There's no "microphone +20dB boost" option. This means, at my typical 2-foot distance from the microphone, aimed in the right direction, I get an average volume of -25 to -35dB, so faint that recording in 8-bit only results in pure silence. Even 16-bit is quite distorted after normalizing the waveform (approximating 4-bit quality). Recording in 24-bit and amplifying after recording or keeping within a puny (and uncomfortable) 4 inches is the only way to get reasonable quality.

Overall Review: I originally got this so I can work around my sound card's single-recording-input-source-only limitation so I can include narration while I stream my game play. With the volume as low as it is, lossy compression and 16-bit quality, this microphone is unusable for that purpose. However, it is very useful for recording narration as you record a video for later posting on YouTube as you can simply edit the waveform to correct the volume issue (just make sure you can record in 24-bit first). I work with waveforms quite often so I know how to interpret them well. At my usual 2-foot distance with my other Logitech microphone, I typically average -5 to -15 dB. With this USB microphone, I average -25 to -35 dB. Cut the distance to 6 inches (already uncomfortable to keep that), and I overflow the waveform with my original but get -12 to -22 dB (still a bit low). If this microphone had the oh-so-badly-needed "microphone +20dB boost" option, it would get the full 5 eggs.

Awesome fan, but poor manual and requires some construction

Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus - CPU Cooler with 4 Direct Contact Heatpipes
Cooler Master Hyper 212 Plus - CPU Cooler with 4 Direct Contact Heatpipes

Pros: Compared to the stock fan, this fan is really effective! With only moderate load (one core maxing), I was approaching 65C with my i7-2600K processor at stock clock (3.4 GHz) with the stock fan. With nearly maximum load (from video encoding; 80-90% typically), and even a moderate overclock (4 GHz) to boot, I've never seen my temps go above 63C, even cooler than moderate load and stock speed! I was surprised on that (note: 63C is 37C above ambient)! Even with idling (just uncompressed WAV music playing at least, a task requiring virtually no CPU usage), I see temps only about 9C above ambient versus 14C like I was getting with the stock fan. The price is also very nice, making this fan a perfect accessory for any overclocking wannabe.

Cons: The biggest con is the poorly written instruction manual. I had to closely study the way things worked and fit in, using the clues from the very vague instruction manual in order to figure out how things went together, experimenting a little with the parts that came with the fan. Do not install this fan after having installed a motherboard as it requires you to pull the motherboard out if you already have (of which I needed to do).

Overall Review: Wanting to overclock my already awesome i7-2600K processor (from all the video editing I do), I wanted a fan that would keep my CPU cool with heavy load. For the price, I'm amazed as to how well this fan performs. The construction part and having to pull out the motherboard just to install it almost made me tempted to return it, but I held on, doing all the disconnecting and stuff, installed it, and reconnecting everything again. In the end, all that hassle was well worth it. I may even push 4.2 GHz for my clock. Thus, I would strongly recommend getting this fan for a new build, rather than an existing one unless you're willing to pull the motherboard out.

Not bad, but not for AVI and a long learning curve

SONY Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 11
SONY Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 11

Pros: This program is a good program to accompany a Sony HD camcorder, from those M2TS files it records into. I like how it supports nonnative codecs (I've heard some programs don't). There are plenty of effects you can apply to both video and audio.

Cons: AVI playback is horrible! I can easily play back 1280x960 AVI video at 30 fps in other programs perfectly fine, but this program can't even handle playing 640x448 video at 29.97 fps in real time as the video stops because it oddly can't decompress fast enough or something. At least it compresses to AVI without any problems of which another video editing program I actively use reads perfectly fine. Oddly, the "Lame MP3" audio codec won't work forcing me to use uncompressed audio and compressing it in another video editing program. Audio effects are hard to apply - it took 3 hours to figure out how to silence a specific part of a video's audio track as there are no native effects for that. The effects interface takes a long time to get used to. Except for the AVI case, the other issues are fairly minor.

Overall Review: I got this program because my primary video editing program is unable to keep up with playback (60% speed with my 4 GHz i7-2600K processor) for X264-encoded 1080i video. Thus, I got this program and it works well for the editing I do with my Sony-brand HD camcorder that I'm using more often now.

Good RAM, but it's 1600, not 1866

G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 1866 (PC3 14900) Desktop Memory Model F3-14900CL9D-4GBXM
G.SKILL Ripjaws X Series 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 1866 (PC3 14900) Desktop Memory Model F3-14900CL9D-4GBXM

Pros: This is a good set of RAM. I can't make the most of it though due to using a 32-bit OS (XP).

Cons: The memory is advertised as being 1866, of which my motherboard (the GA-Z68P-DS3) natively supports, but I can't get it above 1600 or I get a system crash stating of overclocking failing and it got undone so I'm stuck with 1600.

Overall Review: I got this RAM in an attempt to make overclocking for my first time more effective. It's great RAM for moderate overclocking.