Cheaper VR Gaming

If like me, you’re looking to experience the intrigue of VR gaming, but you don’t want to invest in the short term solution of an Oculus Rift developer kit then I may have the solution for you! For a while now I’ve been following VR, especially when it comes to gaming. I love the idea of immersing myself in a game, but the VR headsets out there aren’t built for the consumer yet and they come at a price.

We either need to fork out our hard earned cash and pick up a developer kit, which will get a consumer release at some point in the near future, making our purchase almost redundant, or we can try a different route. Now I need to point out that this isn’t going to supply you with the perfect VR solution, but what I have to tell you does give you a pretty good idea of the future of gaming!

For this to work you’re going to need a few things:

  • Android Handset
  • Google Cardboard type headset
  • Trinus VR
  • Limelight Streaming
  • Nvidia GPU

So how does it all work? Well I picked up a relatively cheap Google Cardboard equivalent from Amazon and combined this with my Google Nexus 6. With these two devices alone you can have some good fun with apps downloaded from the Play Store, but the real fun comes when you download Trinus VR.

Trinus VR is an app that you download for both your gaming PC and your Android handset. The app allows you to customise how your PC and Android handset communicate, giving you different levels of connection options, e.g. wifi direct, USB etc. It will also give you a number of different options so you can chose how your games are streamed to your device, either in VR or non VR.

The great thing that Trinus VR offers is the ability to work alongside Limelight. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Limelight it’s basically a reverse engineered version of Nvidia’s Gamestream software. Limelight turns any Android device into an Nvidia Shield and allows you to stream your games from PC to your phone or tablet. Trinus VR takes this and turns it into VR.

The ultimate result is your Android device becomes the screen, that when inserted into your VR goggles gives you a pretty good virtual reality experience. As I mentioned, it’s not perfect, but it’s an awful lot of fun. While you’re stuck waiting for the final consumer versions of VR to hit the market this is a pretty good solution.

So why not check it out? You’re in for a lot of fun, and maybe some motion sickness, but hey, it’s worth it!

First Impressions: Half Life 2 Android Nvidia Shield

Recently I picked up a new Nvidia Shield Tablet and so far I love it. Obviously one of the first things I did was redeem my free copy of Half Life 2 and take it for a spin. So how does this amazing game hold up on an Android device? Are we anywhere near the stage of being able to use tablets for serious gaming?

Well the answer to the above is that it plays surprisingly well. Feel free to check out my gameplay videos that have all been recorded directly from my Nvidia Shield Tablet. The game handles well and I’ve only encountered a few slow downs in my 5 hours of gameplay so far. It tends to struggle a little when I blow everything on screen up or go a little mad with the gravity gun, but apart from that the device plays Half Life 2 amazingly smoothly.

If you really want to have a good time you’ll need a gamepad, in fact Half Life won’t run without one. Even if you hook a mouse and keyboard up to your device Half Life still won’t run. A minor issue but it works well enough with a decent games controller.

But what about that small screen? Well for starters it’s pretty much next to my face so it doesn’t really limit the experience. On top of that the display looks fantastic and really helps to bring the game to life. No issues with the screen size here! Although if I were to play on the Nvidia Shield Portable I’m not so sure I’d find it as enjoyable.

The 8 inch display on the Shield Tablet is just about perfect for gaming at the coach. My perfect set up is my Shield Tablet on the arm of the chair as I kick back and relax.

I’ve taken the game for a test run in console mode and I’m pleased to say it runs just as smoothly. Outputting onto my TV allowed for a true console like experience playing the game which again left me exceptionally surprised. The game looks awesome on a larger display and you can easily forget that you’re running it from a tablet.

I think it’s quite incredible to think how far Tablets and other mobile devices have come in such a short amount of time. It wasn’t that long ago that Half Life 2 was running on a current gen console! Within the year I honestly believe that Tablets will begin to really find a place in the gaming market, especially if they continue to get the support from developers such as Valve.

So is it worth playing? Definitely! If you’re a fan of Half Life and you happen to own an Nvidia Shield Tablet then why on earth are you not playing this game?

 

 

 

 

 

My Top 10 Gadgets 2013

Below is a list of my top 10 favourite gadgets that I used throughout 2013. I got to play with a whole load of different toys and enjoyed most of those. Check out my thoughts below and click the links for more details in Amazon.

1: Macbook Pro Retina 13 inch 

 

Recently I took the plunge and upgraded from my 11 inch Macbook Air and I’m very glad I did. The Macbook Pro is a stunning machine. Its fast, responsive and above all the screen is beautiful.  

I’m no Apple fan boy, far from it in fact, but I’ve got a place in my heart reserved for MacBooks. So far my pro has served me well and is a fantastic step up from my Macbook Air. I love the larger screen size and the retina display is to die for. 

The device just feels premium and is everything I could ask for. For what I need, the Macbook Pro Retina is perfect and I would recommend it above everything else. True love has been found in 2013. 

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The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 was my personal phone for the best part of 2013 and I loved it. I recently changed to the Sony Xperia Z1 and find that I miss the screen size and stylus from my Note. Even it’s cheaper plastic finish isn’t enough to put me off, in fact its a bonus, making the device light weight. The Note 2 is easily my favourite phone that I used in 2013. 

Sony hit a niche market with this product. The camera on my phone is one of the biggest features I use and now with the QX10 lens I don’t really need to worry about the camera quality onboard my chosen phone. The device has god battery, is small and compact and relatively easy to use even for an amateur like myself.  

The zoom is absolutely fantastic and snapping pics in low light conditions is amazing. The lens far exceeds any dedicated camera built into a smart phone that I have used so far and that includes the Nokia Lumia 1020. 

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So I felt it was time to upgrade my graphics card in 2013 and I’m glad I did. This was the first year that I played some big name single player games from start to finish and actually enjoyed them. Games like Bioshock Infinite ran like a dead dog on my previous card but after installing my GTX 680 it ran like a dream. 

Nvidias physx also added a little spice compared to my previous AMD card. Its nothing to really shout about but there were a few noticeable differences in certain games that caught my eye, the biggest being in Planet Side 2 with its oddly beautiful teleporter effects. 

2013 was the year that I returned to dedicated portable gaming hardware thanks to Pokemon’s lure. I had always used a tablet or phone for casual gaming, singing the devices praises and condemning portable gaming hardware, saying how redundant it was. It wasn’t until I returned to true hardware controls that I realised how wrong I had been. 

The 3DS is a lovely size and very comfortable to hold. Its got a great sized screen and has a pretty good catalogue of games. I’m glad I made the move back to a portable console and couldn’t be more impressed with this device. 

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I have a love hate relationship with Sony. I want to love their products but I’ve always been unlucky in the past with all my Sony branded products going faulty. So with great reluctance I gave up my note 2 and got myself an Xperia Z1. 

Am I glad I did? Kind of. The camera is hit and miss, half of the time it takes better quality photos than I’ve ever taken before, the other half it captures horrid blurs. It feels so solid and premium unlike most Android devices which is a welcome change and the waterproof feature actually works! Its beyond fast, responding like lightning and very rarely lagging. 

The downside is its huge and my device is already faulty which is a real shame. I’ve had it exchanged and the second unit was faulty so it appears my bad luck with Sony has continued. 

The Nexus 7 is my tablet of choice at the moment. Its a relatively low cost, yet powerful device. Sporting pure Android with no manufacturer interference leaves the Nexus running blazingly fast. 

Its light weight and feels great in the hand, its rubberised back and sides stopping it from sliding all over the place and making it easier to grip. The screen size is both a positive and a negative, small enough for light browsing, gaming and work but too small for anything more. 

Overall I’m impressed with the Nexus and have so far enjoyed using it on the train to work.  

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Ah the iPad mini. This would easily be my device of the year if it wasnt for a certain software update. The iPad mini feels and looks fantastic. The screen size is perfect for on the go work and gaming. Its not too big and not too small, the best tablet size I have used. The battery life was good and it ran smoothly, never skipping a beat. 

So what changed? iOS 7 landed, turning my iPad mini into a horribly slow device. My iPad was so slow it had become unbearable to use. I understand that older Apple hardware begins to run terribly slow as new software updates land but the iPad Mini was still a current device at the time of iOS 7. In my opinion this was a terrible move by Apple. 

I miss my iPad mini as it was easily the best tablet I have ever used. After the way Apple destroyed my device I don’t think I’ll be taking the plunge and updating to the latest model. 

My first Windows 8 tablet. There is huge potential from these hybrid devices but I still don’t feel like any manufacture has gotten dit right so far. I really enjoyed my time with the Ativ Smart PC Pro but it ultimately felt like a jack of all trades. As a tablet it was average and as a laptop it was average. 

The keyboard dock was plagued with disconnection issues and as tablet the device was just too big and bulky. The thing that really killed my experience was Windows 8 which offered a very jarring experience. Modern UI and desktop mode just don’t fit together at all killing any seamless experience you would expect from a device such as this. 

The concept is sound and the potential is massive but I can’t help but feel that these hybrid devices are just lacking. 

So I mentioned already that I have a love hate relationship with Sony and the same applies with the Xperia Tablet Z. I loved the feel of it. Its so slim, with a beautiful screen and gorgeous matte finish. Its probably the nicest looking Android tablet out there. 

However its incredibly slow. Almost everything I did on the device was laggy unless I installed a custom launcher. Web browsing was poor and just navigating menus was slow. I’m not entirely sure what Sony did to this device to make it respond so poorly! Needless to say my time was short lived with this device.