Product Review Follow-Up : 5 Time-Tested Winners

I get a lot of stuff to review and I try to put things to the test before I complete a review, but the best test of a product is to use it over a longer period of time. Will it stand up to real life testing beyond the review? Some products are given away and others sit around in a box, only used occasionally. Below are five six products that I have continued to use over and over again.

1. LED Lenser P7 Flashlight

LED Lenser P7 Flashlight
This flashlight is the best one I’ve owned personally. I still might find it hard to spend $90 on a flashlight, but it sure seems worth the price. Since I posted the LED Lenser P7 Flashlight review nearly three years ago, I have taken it to several states, and used it hundreds of times. When it’s stormy out, my wife goes for the candles and I find my P7. It always ends up back in its case and I still haven’t had to replace the 4 AAA batteries that came with it. I’m sure this thing will serve me well for many more years.

2. XShot iPhone 4 Case

A little more recently, I completed an XShot iPhone 4 Case review, in which I demonstrated its ability to hold my iPhone 4 snugly at the end of an XShot camera extender to get some unique video and photo perspectives. Since then, I’ve used the case several more times, combined with a tripod, for steady video. Like the Lenser P7, I know where this is at all times in case I need it.

3. LA Besace Lime Drop Laptop Bag

LA besace Laptop Bag
After my LA Besace Lime Drop review, I decided to keep this good-looking case for myself and what a great choice. Tomorrow, as I have done for every flight in the past two years, I will pack my laptop, crossword books, pens, gadgets, and a couple magazines into my Lime Drop bag to take on the plane with me. It’s unique and fashionable and there isn’t a trip I go on without it.

4. NZXT Avatar Gaming Mouse

Avatar Gaming Mouse
I can’t tell you how many hours I spend on my computer every day, but I’ll bet it’s unhealthy. Since I posted my Avatar mouse review over a year ago, I have used this mouse somewhere around 4,600 hours. It’s precise, feels great in my hand, and looks incredible. I have one at home and another at the office.

5. id America’s Brushed Aluminum Gasket iPhone Case

id America - Gasket
iPhone cases don’t get much cooler than id America’s brushed aluminum gasket case. Just a picture of it on my Facebook wall inspired a friend to buy one for himself, but it was more than looks that got it on this list long after my id America review last November. It protected my iPhone for the first time when it was dropped in October, before the review was published. Since then, it has taken the fall for my iPhone many times while still looking incredible. It was after I dropped my phone again the other day that I decided to write this follow-up for items that continue to prove themselves.

Bonus: iBoo

My wife wanted the iBoo iPod sound system from the moment she saw it so, after completing my iBoo review, I handed it over and it vanished to it’s new home at her office, where it has remained for three years. Without mentioning why, I asked my wife if she still uses the iBoo. Without hesitation, she replied, “Every day. It rocks!”. She loves iBoo and says she gets asked about it all the time. That excitement about this product made it the bonus sixth item on the list.

I like a lot of the products sent to me for review and there are some that just don’t work well at all, but there are products like the ones listed above that prove to be more than expected and get regular use. Those products truly deserved another mention.

NZXT Avatar – A Beautiful 2600 DPI Gaming Mouse

I’m not much of a gamer, but it didn’t stop me from getting excited about reviewing the NZXT Avatar Gaming Mouse. Part of my excitement was the anticipation of trying out lots of features I, a non-gamer, may never use again, but I was also excited because I love beautiful tech products.

Avatar Gaming Mouse

OK. It’s a thing of beauty, and we’ll get back to that, but gaming mice don’t make it on looks, alone.

A Comfortable Power Mouse

I decided to use this mouse for a while for gaming and everything else I do on my computer. I wanted to put it to the test for a week. You know what they say about time and flying. I’ve been using the Avatar mouse for an average of 10 hours a day for much longer than a week and I’m loving almost everything about it. I say “almost” because I was annoyed at first. I dove in and started using it right out of the box, disregarding the install CD. Out of the box, the side buttons already perform various actions and are so conveniently situated for clicking that I found myself doing unexpected things with unintended side button clicks. Of course, for gaming, you’ll want to pop in the CD and program all seven buttons to your liking right after you plug it in. The other item of annoyance is the rubber grip on the sides, most specifically that it seems to collect dirt quickly. I’m thinking a simple wash cloth will remedy this.

The rubber grip was also one of the things I really liked about the Avatar mouse. Fast-paced gaming for any notable period of time generates palm sweat and even a little bit makes most mice slippery. Try dodging baddies when the mouse slips. The traction provided gets you to safety quickly. The ergonomic design makes it almost cuddle right up into your hand, so getting to feel right at home with it is a quick process. What I hadn’t planned on using longer than for the review quickly planted its flag on my desktop, even though I sometimes feel like I’m taking a Ferrari to grocery shop.

Features And Specs

When you pay about $60+ for a mouse, you want features. It’s priced well for a gaming mouse as long as it delivers and the Avatar’s features fully justify the price.

Avatar Gaming Mouse

With seven programmable buttons, Avatar does all the work while you just have to remember which button does what. In addition, you can customize some of the more common mouse functions like the scroll wheel and the optical sensor. Let’s talk about that sensor for a second. I comes in at a crazy 2600 DPI for precision accuracy. Not only that, but the 4 Speed DPI switch enables you to go from slow sniper movement to quick attack movement in a matter of seconds and the LED lights on the side show you the current DPI. And you thought the lights were just to look cool.

For the fans of the numbers, here’s the specs:
Max Speed
– 40 Inches/Second
Max Acceleration
– 15g
Max Frame Rate
– 6469 Frames/Second
– 650-2600 DPI
Image Processing
– 5.8 Mega Pixels/Second
USB Reports
– Up to 1000 Reports/Second
– 7 Buttons, 5 Million Clicks

Did I Say Beautiful?

I’ve mentioned it already, but I’ll say it again… This is one sexy piece of hardware, especially for something as normally mundane and boring as a mouse. The best part is that most of what makes it look better also makes it work better. From the sleek ergonomics to the Tron-like DPI LEDs, the Avatar mouse catches the attention of everyone who’s near my desk for more than a minute.

Avatar Gaming Mouse

And just look at it in with the lights off. ‘Nuff said.

Should You Buy It?

I can go on and on about how neat a product may be, but it really comes down to weighing the value against the price and factoring in “neat” last. That said, this is not a mouse I would personally buy normally. Given how rarely I play any games that require this level of sophistication, its coolness alone doesn’t squeeze it into my budget (not that I would dare part with it now that it’s on my desk). Avid gamers, on the other hand, should take a second look as this is a smart mouse that would look great with any desktop setup and just might give your kill count a boost.

Second Life Competition? Google’s Lively is Coming to Life

For quite some time, there’s been a parallel universe online with a ton of users and no real competition. Second Life was, well, your second life… a place to get away from the “meat world” and be someone else for a while. It still is, but now they have something to worry about. There’s only a few possible companies that have the resources and expendable cash to throw their hat into the ring. Google is one of those few and they’ve tossed their hat in with their own virtual world, Lively. It’s not much of a surprise that they’d play in this still very open arena. What did catch me off guard is the lack of publicity from a company positioned to turn the virtual worlds crowd upside down.

Google Lively - stanceI’ll be honest, I haven’t really tried Second Life, but it’s not for lack of trying. I actually thought it looked pretty cool (and still do), but I couldn’t get it to install. Not only would it crash over and over again, but I found myself more frustrated just trying to get through to their support. Ultimately, I never got a response and gave up. Lively has its own problems, which I will get to, but it’s also still just in its infancy.

Get your new virtual life
What do you need to get started? Not much, really. One of the great ideas that makes me like Lively right off the bat is that it runs right in your web browser. The advantage of this is that it doesn’t suck up all your computer’s memory or require a powerful machine to play. Aside from a modern web browser, all you really need is a Google account and some free time. The Google account isn’t a bad idea, anyway. If you don’t have one already, you will be prompted to create one.

Google Lively - choose avatarWhen you sign up, you create your Lively username that people will see and enter a couple other boring details. Then you get to dive right in and create your second you. This process begins with the selection of an avatar to represent you. The pickin’s are still pretty slim, but not horrible. One thing I found pretty interesting here was the ability to become male, female, or have your choice of a few different animals. If you ever wanted to live life as a pig, now is your chance.
Google Lively - customize avatarOnce you’ve chosen your avatar type, you need to refine it with some details. Start with a hair style and move on to your choice of pants, shirt, shoes, etc. When you’re all done, you’ve got this fully dressed avatar, ready to mingle with the crowd – or walk around aimlessly, clicking on things. The avatar options and finer detail choices still leave a lot to be desired. The selection process is pretty simple and the option variety is OK for the initial launch, but I really hope Google is working on rolling out more options as this thing grows. It’s still pretty new and too many of us look alike.

Walking, talking, dancing and fighting
Lively, just like any richly interactive experience, takes a bit of learning and some getting used to. Some things are intuitive and others aren’t. For example, to interact with a person or object, you just click on it. Simple enough. Try looking around and simple may not be the first word that enters your mind unless you enjoy flight simulators. Eventually, you get used to it, but it still doesn’t feel natural. What is pretty simple is the ability to drag yourself around. Click on your avatar, hold the mouse button down, and drag in the direction you want to go. Take it slow, though. You’re walking, not teleporting.

Once you’ve got your moves down, find a quiet corner and practice your animations. You can dance, applaud, body slam someone, flirt, you name it. Just right-click on your avatar and you are presented with a pretty healthy list of options.

Meet others and make friends (or enemies)
I met someone right away in Lively. I didn’t catch his name, but he beat the hell out of me while I was choosing pants. Rude, sure, but definitely not surprising. Any time you enter an environment in which anonymity is commonplace and even encouraged, you can expect to find people who never aged past 12 years old. The beating wasn’t as bad as the general demeanor of a lot of the people. In my first visit, Lively was only days old and it was full of these types of people. When I went back tonight, there were more rooms (including one called “Fight Club”) and a lot more people, most of whom were acting much more mature.

Google Lively - chatting

Getting to know people is pretty easy. Just walk right up, click on someone, and start chatting. You can send a private message by “whispering”, or you take a completely different approach and just start dancing with them. One thing I hope they add is the ability to ignore everyone else for a bit while I discover items, dance with someone, etc.

So far, I like Lively. While I may not have a lot of time for it, I can see myself relaxing in a new environment for a while after a long day. The installation process was very simple and impressed me after Second Live let me down, but in the few times I’ve played with it, it crashed twice after I closed the Lively tab in Firefox. There’s a lot more to learn and a lot for Google to add and improve upon, but it’s a nice start.

Try out Lively for yourself and let me know what you think or share things you’ve discovered that I haven’t found yet.