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    The Art of Custom Mechanical Keyboard Keycaps

    We meet a 3D artist who models and 3D prints custom keycaps for mechanical keyboards! Robert, who runs Clackeys, explains to us how he designs unique keycaps inspired by video games and pop culture, treating the surface of a key as his canvas. We about talk his approach to printing these designs and the amount of complexity he can get from an SLA print.

    Quick Look at LG's 43-Inch 4K Monitor

    How big is too big for a desktop computer monitor? Norm lives with LG's 43-inch 4K monitor for a month, and shares his experience using it for daily web browsing, photo editing, and gaming. The extra screen real estate of the 43UD79-B takes getting used to, but there are some tradeoffs.

    Tested: HTC Vive Deluxe Audio Strap

    Jeremy reviews HTC's new Deluxe Audio Strap for the Vive virtual reality headset. We think it's an essential upgrade for HTC Vive users, improving the fit and comfort of the headset and adding good built-in audio. This is what we wish the Vive shipped with last year!

    Show and Tell: RIVER Mobile Power Station

    Simone and Norm have a new gadget at the Tested office--a massive mobile power pack by EcoFlow. The RIVER has a capacity of over 400Wh, and can output 500 watts over AC and DC. We put it to the test by plugging in some heavy duty electronics and tools from around the office!

    The Best Gaming Mouse for Most Gamers

    The right mouse can make the difference between a won or lost game where valuable skill points are on the line.

    After spending over 15 hours scouring the internet for gaming mouse reviews and with over a decade of competitive gaming experience, we feel comfortable recommending the Logitech G403 as the best gaming mouse for most people.

    The mouse has the best sensor on the market, solid buttons suited for MOBAs and FPS, a wired and an actually good wireless version, and a size and shape that will fit most hands. At $62 bucks for the wired and $80 for wireless, we feel the mouse is worth the higher-end price.

    Another great mouse that works for a large variety of games is the Razer DeathAdder Elite. The DeathAdder features an iconic ergonomic design, a responsive sensor and buttons also suited for MOBAs and FPS.

    The DeathAdder isn't the pick for a couple of reasons. The mouse is a little too large for the average hands and Razer has had a few build quality issues. Those two things put it just short of a recommendation in comparison to the solid Logitech G403.

    We felt comfortable picking a right handed mouse when factoring that 90% of the population is right-handed. A lot of left-handers use right handed mice anyway.

    No mouse is perfect — there's no such thing as one mouse fits all, so we've written a guide on what to look for and provided some alternatives for different priorities.

    Everything You Need to Know About Custom Mechanical Keyboards

    Mechanical keyboards come in all shapes and sizes, many of which you can find on Amazon or via some other retailer. If you need a new board, buying a pre-built one is the cheapest and easiest way. However, building a custom keyboard gives you the chance to choose everything from the case material, to the switches, to the keycaps.

    A WhiteFox with GMK Hyperfuse caps

    The popularity of custom keyboards has exploded in the last few years, making it a confusing and intimidating hobby to pick up. Let's break it all down.

    Layouts and firmware

    One of the things you'll notice about custom keyboards rather quickly is they tend to have unusual layouts, and they're often tiny compared to the standard full-sized 104-key layout. There are tenkeyless (80%) boards that lack a number pad, but also 65%, 60%, and smaller. A 60% is fairly common these days—these boards have only the main alphas, number row, and modifiers. The arrows and other keys are accessible via a function layer. A 65% board adds back the arrows and a few extra keys, but 40% boards go the other way with the alpha keys and a just a few modifiers. Then there are various split and ergonomic boards, like the Ergodox.

    Some of these are available as niche pre-built keyboards, but there's one main difference between those and a truly custom board. A custom board is programmable, meaning you can have any of the keys do whatever you want. This is extremely important when you're dealing with fewer physical keys because you will need at least one robust function layer to fit in all the standard keyboard commands.

    A RedScarf II with DSA Overwatch caps

    The firmware on a custom keyboard offers much more power than the desktop clients many fancy "gamer" keyboards use. After a board is programmed with your preferred layout, it doesn't rely on any software on a computer. It works exactly the same no matter which device you plug it into. The things you can do are also much more advanced. Some boards include advanced macro support or the option to control the mouse cursor.

    A smaller keyboard layout can be much more efficient than a full sized one. By relegating some commands to a function layer, your hands don't have to move as far while typing, and your mouse stays closer to your hands. True, some people can't get by without a full layout and number pad, but most people who think they do are wrong. It's much easier to scale back the size of your board than you think.

    Tested: UE Wonderboom Bluetooth Speaker Review

    Here's a short and sweet review--we test the newest Bluetooth speaker from Ultimate Ears, the makers of the Roll 2 and Mini Boom. This new Wonderboom speaker is waterproof, sounds great for its size, and pretty durable.

    First Look at Dell's Canvas 27-Inch Display

    We get up close to Dell's Canvas, a 27-inch touchscreen and Wacom-pen enabled display that's meant to be used in place of your desktop keyboard. Here's how Dell expects artists to use the device in Windows 10, how it works with their rotating dial, and why they think it's different than a Wacom Cintiq.

    Tested: Tactic Wrist Monitor for FPV Systems

    I love interesting gadgets and the Tactic FPV Wrist Monitor ($50) certainly qualifies. It looks like a smart watch, or maybe something Dick Tracy would wear. When you flip out the folding antenna, it's easy to imagine that you're a high-tech spy sending an urgent status update to your secret underground headquarters. The actual functionality of the wrist monitor isn't so clandestine. Its primary function is to receive and display video signals from RC models with a FPV system.

    The Tactic FPV Wrist Monitor integrates a 2" screen and 5.8GHz receiver into a tiny wearable package. What applications can you think of?

    What It Is

    The heart of the wrist monitor is a 2" (51mm) LCD screen. It displays in full color with a resolution of 480x240. Overall dimensions of the monitor housing are 2.2" x 1.9" x .5" (56 x 49 x 12mm). Weight with the wrist band is 2.2 ounces (61.5g).

    The unit has an integrated 5.8GHz receiver with the aforementioned folding antenna. Most FPV activities currently use 5.8GHz signals, so there are plenty of compatible video transmitters available. The receiver can pick up 32 different channels divided among 4 bands (A, B, E, and F). A button on the side of the monitor allows you to choose your desired band and channel. There is no provision to input a wired video signal. Nor can you record or export the receiver's feed.

    Its primary function is to receive and display video signals from RC models with a FPV system.

    A built-in 300mAh LiPo battery provides power for the monitor. A full charge will provide about an hour of operation. Unfortunately, there is no battery status indicator anywhere. You'll know the battery is dead when the monitor shuts itself off. The battery is charged via a micro-USB port.

    The included wrist band is a simple rubber unit with a metal buckle. Like the footprint of the monitor itself, the band is wide and beefy. The band is obviously sized for larger wrists. I think I'm an average guy I use one of the smallest settings on the band. Anyone with smaller wrists may have trouble getting a comfortable fit. Even if you poke extra holes in the band, the girth of the monitor could become a factor at some point.

    Show and Tell: SixKeyBoard Custom Keyboard

    For this week's Show and Tell, Patrick stops by (our old office!) to share this custom keyboard set by TechKeys. The SixKeyBoard is a programmable keyboard with yep, just six keys. But instead of requiring desktop software, macros and shortcuts can be saved right to the keyboard to work on any system.

    In Brief: Pebble Announces New Watches, Core Accessory

    Even though Apple reportedly corners half of the smart watch market, Pebble is pushing forward its lineup with new watches and an interesting accessory on the horizon. The Pebble 2 and Pebble Time 2 are the logical follow-ups to the low-power watches, adding heart-rate monitors, extending battery life, and expanding the screen size by 50% in the color model. But the more interesting product looks to be the $70 Pebble Core, a display-free pocketable puck that has GPS tracking, Spotify streaming, audio out (including Bluetooth), and even 3G sim card support. Steven Levy examines why the Core may be a smart move for Pebble on Backchannel. Pebble is also once again turning to Kickstarter for early bird pricing pre-orders--pay in 35 days and you'll get a new watch by the end of the year.

    Norman
    Tested: Mechanical Gaming Keyboards

    What makes a good mechanical keyboard? And why are peripheral companies releasing new gaming keyboards so frequently? Patrick and Norm discuss the state of this essential accessory, and how the switches in new keyboards from Corsair, Razer, and Logitech compare. Which type of switch do you prefer?

    Tested: Amazon Echo Dot Review

    One of our favorite devices from last year was Amazon's Echo, a Bluetooth speaker with Amazon's Alexa digital assistant. At half the price of the Echo, the Dot offers the best of Alexa at a fraction of the size and cost. Here's why we think this is an essential gadget if you have connected hubs like Nest, SmartThings, or Hue.

    Oculus Rift Virtual Pinball Cabinet Mod!

    Our virtual reality correspondent Jeremy Williams is also a huge pinball enthusiast. So when he first played Pinball FX 2 VR on the Oculus Rift, he knew he had to build a custom cabinet to play the game. Here's his "PinSim", a cabinet controller to play VR pinball with tactile controls and even an acclerometer-based nudge system!

    The State of Monitors in the Age of VR

    With all the hype surrounding virtual and augmented reality, we'll still be using monitors as our primary visual tool for using our PCs going forward. Given that, I thought a quick update on what's going on in the world of PC displays might be useful.

    First, the good news: IPS and other high quality panels (SVA, etc.) are getting less expensive by the day. You can find 25-inch, 2560 x 1440 pixel (WQHD) displays for under $300 now, if you're willing to forego amenities such as adjustable stands and VESA mounts. I picked up an Acer G257HU for $258 recently. While the stand is terrible, the display itself, complete with ultra-thin bezel, looks pretty good. Color rendition isn't all that accurate, but for an inexpensive display, it looks pretty good.

    If you want something a bit larger, you can find 27-inch WQHD IPS, MVA, or SVA panels for under $500. So unless you're on a super-tight budget, you can avoid those terrible TN panels.

    PC gaming monitors continue a trend towards higher refresh rate, but remain locked in a war between Nvidia's G-Sync and AMD's FreeSync. The VESA standards body adopted FreeSync as an optional feature for DisplayPort, but until a universal standard exists, users will need to commit to one brand of video card to exploit the full capabilities of these high-refresh rate displays. G-Sync and FreeSync aren't just about higher refresh rates, but instead adapts the refresh rate of the display rate to the frame rate of the game. They also incorporate techniques to minimize frame collision, reducing stutter. This standards battle also comes with another problem: most of these displays are pretty pricey compared to standard 60Hz panels, commanding a 25-100% price premium, depending on manufacturer.

    However, if the displays EDID (extended display identification data) exposes the higher refresh rate, you can at least get that higher refresh rate, even if your graphics card can't take advantage of the more advanced features.

    Behind the Scenes: How We Light Our Videos!

    Tested producers Joey and Adam Isaak give you a behind-the-scenes look at our lighting setup in the Tested studio and on location. Here's how our videos are lit using a combination of fluorescent, tungsten, and LED sources. Plus, Joey and Adam discuss the Fotodiox Pro FlapJack, a new bi-color studio light that we've been liking a lot!

    Tested: Avegant Glyph Personal Theater Headset

    Norm reviews the Avegant Glyph, a headset that uses tiny DLP projectors to put a personal video theater on your face. It's not a virtual reality headset, but has sensors for head-tracking for 3D and 360-degree video from your phone. But the best use of it may be with camera-equipped quadcopters.

    In Brief: The Science of Making Keyboards Feel Great

    When we test gear, we look beyond the specifications listed by manufacturers to compare a product with its competitors. Each product has both quantitative and qualitative attributes that require testing--some which are not clearly apparent and others that are difficult to measure. "Squishiness" and "clickyness" aren't the most scientific of terms. Popular Mechanics posted this great exploration into the measurable attributes of keyboard feel. Attributes like travel and snap are clearly important, but there's also discoverability, pitch, and dish of the keys.

    Norman 1
    Meet Dell's New 30-Inch OLED Monitor

    We meet up with Patrick Norton while at CES to check out Dell's new 30-inch OLED monitor. This is only of the most beautiful desktop displays we've ever seen--a prestige product priced at a whopping $5000. Plus, we quickly check out Dell's new 2-in-1 Core-M notebook.