This is hands down my favorite piece of tech gear for the year. Olympus takes a big step, dropping their DSLR Four Thirds line and going all-in with Micro Four Thirds with this impressive, almost-pro mirrorless camera. Aside from all the marketing fluff, though, this little SLR-like camera has rejuvenated my sense of fun with photography. I’ve had to re-learn a lot, and I’ve had a great time playing with my photography and trying to stretch my photographic wings a bit more.
While the EM-1 is capable of taking great photographs, size and bulk also matter. I can now carry around the EM-1 and four lenses, which together weigh less than the Nikon D600 with just the 24-70 f2.8 I used to lug around. And slinging the OM-D on my shoulder makes for fewer aching muscles at the end of a long day.
The other piece of photographic gear I’ve had great fun with this year is a printer. Yes, a printer, one of those anachronistic pieces of tech gear no one uses any more. The Pixma Pro 100 is Canon’s lowest cost professional printer, using eight dye-based ink tanks. Sure, ink can be expensive, but there’s nothing quite like seeing your photographic masterpiece in a 13 x 19 inch matte nestled in a 16 x 24 inch frame. I now have a wall of prints the represent a gallery of my work in my home, and it’s much more fun than having someone else’s art on my wall.
Note that I picked this baby up for just $150. Tossing in rebates, the printer itself was almost free. The more typical price is about $350.
I like the concept of gaming mice, with their high resolution sensors and high speed report rate. I loathe wires, however. I’ve played with a variety of wireless gaming mice, including the pricey MatCatz R.A.T. 9, but eventually settled on the Logitech G700. But how the G700 ate batteries. Sure, I keep a set of rechargeable AA batteries on hand, but having to swap batteries every 2-3 days was a nuisance.
And then Logitech released the G602. It has nearly all the buttons of the G700, but weighs a bit more since it uses a pair of AA batteries. However, Logitech posits a 250 hour battery life in full-on gaming mode and over 1,400 hours in normal use. I’ve yet to swap batteries after four weeks, and Logitech’s battery indicator tells me my battery is still more than half-full. And that’s with several hours of gaming a day plus a full working day.
Corsair Obsidian 550D (Revised Edition)
I like my PC’s fast and loaded for bear. I do not, however, like noise. I had used Corsair’s first version of the Obsidian 550D, and liked everything except the front door panel which was hinged only on the left side, and also had a tendency to simply fall off. When Corsair revised the front panel, they implemented a clever, double-sided hinge arrangement, so the door can open either direction. It’s still tends to pop off when opening it on a carpeted floor, but it’s much easier to pop back on.
The main thing, though, is that it’s quiet and roomy. It’s easy to build a system with this case and, better yet, it’s easy to live with a high performance PC once you’ve built a system with this case, since I almost never hear it running.
Now that Nvidia’s started shipping the ultra-high end GTX 780 Ti, the GTX 780 prices have come down a bit. They’re still not exactly priced for a mainstream audience, but you can find these cards for a little over $500 now. I’ve been playing a variety of games, including Assassin’s Creed IV, Mass Effect 3, Path of Exile and Borderlands 2, all at 2560 x 1600, with great frame rates and superb eye candy. On top of that, I almost never notice the card running, even when it’s going full bore – it’s pretty damned quiet for a card that pushing a clock speed 12% higher than Nvidia’s reference board.
I replaced my iPad 3rd gen with a 128GB iPad Air. Shedding nearly a half-pound over the third gen iPad makes for a very different tablet experience. Others may extoll the virtues of smaller tablets, but at a shade over a pound and a trimmed down bezel, I don’t feel like I’m compromising by sacrificing screen size or carrying around extra weight.
The display is gorgeous, performance is great and I can finally load my entire music collection onto one portable device and have room to spare. And all those iOS board game ports are a bonus, including A Brief History of the World, Lords of Waterdeep, Ticket to Ride and more.
Lords of Waterdeep came out in 2012, but the expansion really fleshes out this entry-level worker placement game, adding a corruption mechanic that adds very powerful options, but at the cost of having to take on negative victory points.
This game comes out in my board game meetup group more often than just about any other game we play. Some may deride the thinly-applied theme, but the game itself works very well for both experience players, and as a way of introducing relatively new gamers to the concepts of worker placement. The choices are just difficult enough to be challenging and the ability to understand how to build your resource engine by clearly delineating what you need using the quest mechanism.
I was predisposed to like this game, and having played it just once, I’m declaring this one of my favorite board games of 2013. I can’t wait to bring it out again.
Eldritch Horror takes the key idea behind the much more weighty Arkham Horror – building a boxed version of a Cthulhu mythos-based RPG experience – and streamlines it substantially. It’s still not a simple game, the game does a great job of keeping things moving, where Arkham Horror would bog players down in minutiae. It’s still a solid three-hour game, but that’s half what a typical Arkham Horror session would be.
My primary workouts these days revolve around bicycling. Let’s be clear: I’m completely uninterested in racing, I’m a middle-aged guy and I love to just ride. Typical rides range from 20 – 25 miles, with longer rides on occasion. The middle-aged guy part means my bones and muscles need a little more forgiving ride.
Enter Trek’s Domane series. The idea behind the Domane is to build an endurance bike that can be used for racing if that’s your thing. In fact, it was designed for long, one day races over rough roads, like the famous Paris-Roubaix race, much of which takes place over cobblestoned roads. As an endurance bike, it’s built with a slightly longer wheelbase and a little more upright position. The carbon frame helps absorb some of the road vibration, but the secret sauce is the Iso Speed Decoupler. The top tube splits and wishbones around the seat tube, and is connected to the seat tube by pivot built with a sealed bearing cartridge. The whole affair translates upward road shock into horizontal swaying of the seat tube. It sounds disconcerting, but works astonishingly well.