TurtleBeach Ear Force Tango Review

December 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews, Spotlight

A new trend in peripheral making is to partner up with a top gaming brand. With every major video game release, you will see manufacturers scattering to roll out their set of branded goodies, each promising a snazzy redesign of one of its existing products. TurtleBeach is quickly catching up to this trend, collaborating with Activision previously for Modern Warfare 3, and this year for Call of Duty: Black Ops II.

The product we are looking at today, the Ear Force Tango, sits at the top of this premium lineup. At AED 1599, the Tango offers an exciting lineup of features, including Dolby Digital Surround Sound, Bluetooth, programmable audio presets, and wireless performance via 2.4/5 GHz dual-band Wi-Fi. But is the Tango fit for the battlefield? Let’s give it a shot.

Design and Comfort

Right out of the box, the Ear Force Tango is an attractive package. Let’s look at the headset first. It’s an out-and-out Black Ops II product no doubt, matching the game box art’s black and white color scheme with a touch of orange. I particularly like the orange threading on the underside of the headrest, which gives it a very smart and sophisticated look.

The headset is ridden with all sorts of buttons. On the left cup you have four, namely Main, Game Presets, Chat/Mic Presets, and the Power button (I will talk about them further down). On the right, you have a slew of Bluetooth functions like volume, pairing and mute. The headset’s Bluetooth functionality enables you to pair it up with a phone to receive calls directly through the headset, so absolutely nothing comes between you and your game.

In terms of comfort, the Tango’s high quality foam-padding holds well during long sessions of gaming, though obviously it gets a little moisty after a few hours. The ear cups creates a suction whenever you put it on, which might cause discomfort to some but hasn’t been a problem for me.

Moving on to the receiver, it matches the headset’s look, with a large Call of Duty: Black Ops II logo emblazoned on the left. It also sports a nifty hanger for the headset, which admittedly is very useful. The receiver runs on USB power. It can be plugged either into a PC or a console, or even into a TV, if it supports USB ports.

When powered on, the receiver will indicate if it’s receiving sound through the optical input, and if the particular media you are playing supports Dolby Surround Sound. It also powers the touted surround sound feature of the headset, and gives you six surround angles to play with. More on this in later sections.

The Major General Sergeant

Wait, what? Let me explain. TurtleBeach has used voice acting talent from Black Ops II to include voice notifications whenever you turn the headset on, off, or when it’s low on power. So whenever the headset is turned on, a voice will ring off saying, “Ear Force Tango Powering On”, and when it’s turned off, it goes “Ear Force Tango Powering Off”. It’s a gimmick alright, and a cool one I will give TurtleBeach that. Have they actually used a voice talent from the game? TurtleBeach hasn’t said who, and I wouldn’t be able figure out from one generic major general sergeant voice to another if my life depended on it. So your guess is as good as mine.

The voice is tolerable for the most part, especially since you can avoid it entirely by powering it up before putting the headset on. What isn’t is the low battery voice notification. A voice will constantly bombard you with a “low battery” message, and will not cease until it’s plugged in for charging. It especially gets on the nerves when it goes off during cut scenes, making you miss important dialogue bits if it catches you off guard.

Battery & Range

It’s wise to keep the headset on charge all the time, alas the devil speaks of the ‘low battery’ again. But jokes apart, the Tango lasts a good 9-10 hours, which is excellent. Recharging takes anywhere between 3-4 hours from a PC; I haven’t tried charging it with a power outlet.

Range is quite good provided the line of path is unobstructed by walls. I moved around my house with the headsets on and it would immediately start breaking when walls came into play. I expected much more from a device sporting 5 Ghz dual-band Wi-Fi, but unfortunately it’s as average as other regular wireless solutions. If you were hoping to use the headset to listen to some music while working your daily chores, then you can forget about it.

Features & Performance

The Ear Force Tango is loaded with a ton of audio features at your disposal. Let’s look at the Game Presets first, a pre-tuned selection of audio settings that enhances sounds in various ways. You have 8 such presets – there is Bass and Treble Boost that let’s you feel the rumble and the highs. There is also Footstep Focus and Superhuman Hearing which enhances footsteps and low volume sounds, a boon no doubt for online play.

Do they work? Quite so. Would I recommend turning them on all the time? Eh, not quite. They do what it says on the tin, but they change the in-game sound so much that they are almost jarring in certain aspects. They are quite useful for multiplayer matches, which I guess are what these presets are meant to be used with, so if you find them helping you play better, then by all means have it on every time.

Such presets are also available for the microphone as well. Preset like Robot “transforms your voice into a metallic sound”, whereas the Hi-Pitch Morph preset morphs “your voice into a high-pitch tone.” Good god, let’s hope no Xbox Live teenager has the budget to afford this one!

Finally, you have the surround sound angles. There are six presets you can choose from, and they are by far the most gimmicky feature in the Ear Force Tango. Nearly indistinguishable, the six presets mimic actual speaker positions in various degrees and angles. It aims to enhance sound positioning, but only ends up making the sound hollow as if the speakers were placed some far off distance above the head.

The Tango works best alone, without any presets to keep company, and surround angles to keep watch. Then, it delivers truly outstanding sound quality, with pitch perfect bass, lows and highs, as well as just the right amount of punch required to make the explosions and gun fire sound better. Sound positing was solid, too. I had no problem spotting enemies in Call of Duty: Black Ops II, and it was especially accurate hunting animals in Far Cry 3. If you have played Ubisoft’s excellent shooter, you would agree that a good sound solution is absolutely required to hunt animals in Path of the Hunter quests, and the Tango had absolutely no problems spotting where that ferocious gold skin tiger was waiting.

Conclusion

Gimmicks aside, the TurtleBeach Ear Force Tango is an otherwise excellent product. Unfortunately, the gimmicks are what is driving the cost upwards to AED 1599, but also of course the Call of Duty branding. Still, if you have the pocket, are a fan of Call of Duty, and absolutely must showcase your fanboyism, you wouldn’t be able to do much better than Tango’s outstanding sound quality, comfort and wireless battery life.

Quick Look: Zotac ZBOX AD06

December 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Media Center PC, Quick Look, Spotlight

Zotac are infamous for their great Zbox HTPCs, and their latest Zotac ZBOX AD06 adds yet another device to their already vast collection of miniature PCs. Sporting an updated chipset from AMD, the ZBOX A06 might not sport too many changes or upgrades, but still remains a great HTPC for anyone looking to pick one up.

Design & Build Quality

The ZBOX hasn’t changed much since the last model, so you still have the familiar and compact square design with the green power-ring glowing on top. Port-wise, the AD06 sports the power button, a USB 2.0, audio, and memory card reader in the front of the device, while more USB ports, HDMI out, Optical out, DVI, and Ethernet can be found around the back of the unit. There’s also a spare USB port at the top of the device if you’re using the device vertically.


While the ZBOX AD06 isn’t as tiny as say the ZBOX nano, it’s still a compact and versatile PC that can easily be hidden away or attached to a standard VESA mount (or to the back of a monitor using the bundled stand).

Getting under the hood of the ZBOX AD06 is extremely easy, thanks to the two thumbscrews that hold the bottom cover in place. Inside you’ll find a 320GB 2.5” drive, as well as the 2GB memory module with space to slot in another one in the future. Swapping either the hard drive or RAM is very easy, and Zotac have to be commended on making this process so easy. Finally, you also get a remote control bundled with the unit for making it easier to navigate applications such as Windows Media player, as well as a support CD containing all the necessary drivers. I really wish that Zotac starts bundling drivers on a USB stick rather than a CD, since the ZBOX doesn’t have an optical drive.

Specifications

The ZBOX series have enough power in them to run basic tasks and video playback, so apart from the updated CPU there won’t be much here to wow you in the specifications. Still, the ZBOX AD06 has enough juice in it to stream HD videos and browse the web without any hassle; you can even try to squeeze a bit of Photoshop in there if you swap in an SSD to make writes to the hard drive go much faster.

Benchmarks & Performance

Performance-wise, the ZBOX AD06 does exactly what it was designed to do, and that is be an all-in one media consumption box. It’s great to stream HD content online or via the network, but apart from that you won’t be running anything major off of this box. Photoshop did install and ran fairly decently, but applying multiple effects or filters brought the program to a crawl.

At first I installed Windows 8 onto the ZBOX AD06, but that proved to be a bit of a mistake. The ZBOX was at first able to swiftly load Windows, but running more than a few apps in the background proved to be a challenge for the ZBOX. Wiping the drive and installing Windows 7 proved to be a much better alternative, or you could try out the XBMCbuntu distro which worked very well on this unit.

Conclusion

The ZBOX AD06 doesn’t offer anything new apart from a spiffy new APU, so if you’ve already got one of these similar boxes, you can hold of on buying this one. But if you’re in the market for a compact, quiet, and hassle-free media box, the ZBOX AD06 will work wonders for your home entertainment needs.

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