Ozone Gaming Roundup
Published: 3rd March 2010 | Source: Ozone Gaming | Price: £10.90, £39.90 & £54.90 |
Software and Testing
Smog Mouse & Ground Level Mousepad
Before we get to our testing results, the Smog mouse comes with some configuration software that allows the user to create macros and assign them to a profile. This profile can then be assigned a colour so that when you switch the profile the LEDs on the mouse change to the colour you have selected, enabling both an 'at a glance' way of telling which profile you have currently enabled and also to give yet another layer of customisation.
The software itself suffers from two main issues. Firstly a distinct lack of comprehensive documentation. There is some, but it doesn't go into sufficient depth. For too long manufacturers have provided amazing hardware and paltry or even entirely absent documentation. Of course this wouldn't be an issue if the software is so user-friendly and intuitive that resorting the manual isn't required. Unfortunately with the Ozone Smog it is.
Imagine if you will you want to assign a button to F5, so you can refresh in an instant. You would imagine, as did we, that you'd simply select the button, scroll down a list of available keys, pick the one you want and that's that. However, you actually need to create a macro, record the keystroke, name and save it, then pick it from the drop down list. This is of course wholly natural if you are creating a complex macro that would switch to grenades, throw one, switch back to your main weapon and reload, but for a simple keyboard button? Hmmm. Not a feature we like very much.
Once you've got around this hurdle the software works very well. It didn't crash or hang once during our testing. Just it either needs to be more intuitive or have better documentation.
In actual testing we used the Smog mouse along with the Ground Level pad and it was a combination that really felt nice. The ceramic feet on the mouse work in excellent combination with the slight texture on the pad to give a very silky glide. At no point did we feel the pad was resisting our movements in any way and the 3mm depth gave a lovely cushioning to our wrist.
The mouse performed excellently. We used it as our main mouse for around a week and whether we were browsing the net, mining Tiberium or fragging our enemies it was always accurate and comfortable. Indeed special mention needs to be made about how comfortable the mouse is to use. At first glance it looks slightly cheap with the very glossy top surface and the ergonomics appear to be a little strange with a pronounced hump. However the glossy surface didn't once impede us, nor pool the sweat that can occur under particularly heavy sessions. The extra height really helped keep our palm comfortable and any initial worries the hump would cause wrist strain after a days use were easily dispelled.
We very much liked the volume of buttons available that was neither too paltry or, and certain RPG mice can bow their heads in shame, overwhelming. They have a wonderfully tactile feel when pressed requiring neither so much pressure it affects your accuracy, or so little you accidentally TK everyone.
Strato 5.1 USB Headset
Unsurprisingly the Strato software was much easier to use as it mirrors almost every other audio software we've seen. Everything is where it should be and works how you'd expect.
The Strato Headset provides incredible audio clarity at this price, let down by a few niggles. One of the primary things that is difficult to obtain in almost any pair of headphones that don't require you to sell your grandmother is the combination of good thumping bass and still audible mid and highs. Either the bass is a little weedy or once you dial it in you lose clarity throughout the rest of the audio spectrum. No so here. Whilst they aren't a high fidelity pair for the audiophiles, they are definitely much better than most gaming headsets and provide good performance regardless of whether you are watching a film, listening to music or tearing around Silverstone. The surround is also very good and the use of multiple speakers in a uniquely designed can certainly pays off here. Of course it's not as spacious as a dedicated speaker set, but nobody would expect it to be.
On the downside is comfort. Unlike most headphones/headsets the cups don't actually fit over your ears and they kind of sit on them. Some of you may like this but we definitely do not. It might not be so problematic for a quick LAN session but for those of us who use headphones all the time, either for neighbour or partner reasons this is a huge drawback. Also as they don't cover the ears there is more external noise leakage which again almost negates the point of having your own self-contained audio system.
The remote volume control is excellent, but it does have a light that just wont stop flashing. We tried everything and it was so annoying we covered it in tape in the end. Something to be aware of. We all like a little flash and flair but not at the expense of concentration.
Finally the microphone itself is excellent. Even at low volumes it easily picks up the speech and eliminates a lot of background noise. The ability to position the microphone and it remain in place is a boon as often they are placed so you can't say "Souixsie Sue plays and performs with aplomb" without your conversational partner having their eardrums blown out. Not so with the Ozone Strato.
Phew. Let's wrap this up.