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    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: SA Keycap Profile

    Mechanical keyboards themselves are something of a throwback to an earlier era. Decades ago, all keyboards were mechanical, and they tended to have very high-quality keycaps. You've probably seen old keyboards and typewriters with tall, shiny keycaps. That style is very "in" again thanks to the popular SA keycap profile. These retro-style caps are made by just two manufacturers right now, and the production queues can be brutally long. Still, people snap up SA keysets every time they go on sale.

    The SA profile was created by Signature Plastics, a manufacturer based in Washington state. The term "SA" stands for "spherical all rows," but that's something of a misnomer now. The "all rows" bit means that all the rows are the same, which used to be the case. Most sets produced now are sculpted, so the rows above and below the home row curve to meet your fingers at a more comfortable angle. It's like GMK's Cherry profile, but taller and more aggressive. Check the image below for a comparison between the top row for Cherry and SA.

    Nintendo Labo Variety and Robot Kit Review!

    We assemble and review the new Nintendo Labo Variety Kit and Robot Kit! With the help of Tested-alum Will Smith, we put the kits together in under 4 hours to show you how each game works and what we think of each Toy-Con accessory. Building with cardboard is a lot of fun, and Labo utilizes computer vision and Switch sensors in some very clever ways.

    Episode 446 - Thanos Beckons - 4/26/18
    On the day before Infinity War's release, the gang gathers to recount the past 10 years of Marvel cinematic universe movies, learn the origin of Kishore's love of Thanos, and hear about some highlights from the Replica Prop Forum showcase. Plus, the VR Minute and thoughts on Nintendo Labo. (Apologies for the bad audio for the 30 minutes of the podcast--our audio recorder stopped recording so we only had camera microphone audio.)
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    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: Zilent Switches

    Some keyboard switches are louder than others, and sometimes that' son purpose. A clicky switch includes mechanisms that make noise to reinforce the feel, but even non-clicky switches can make a lot of racket as you're tapping away.

    There are several remedies to keyboard noise, the most common being o-rings. These are easy to add to an existing keyboard, but some switches have built-in silencing. As long as you know you're going to want a quieter keyboard, you can use these instead of a standard switch. One of the newest silent switch options is the Zilent, which is a modification of the popular Zealio switch from Zeal PC.

    Like Zealios, Zilents are based on a Cherry-style design from Gateron. The housings are fully transparent, making them compatible with per-switch RGB lighting as well as standard in-switch LEDs. You can tell Zilents from the very similar Zealios by the stem color. Whereas Zealios use various shades of purple to indicate different weights, Zilents use blue hues.

    Zilents are tactile switches, and they're available in the same weights as Zealios—62g, 65g, 67g, and 78g. Those are bottom-out weights, so the lightest Zilents are similar in weight to a Cherry Brown switch, and the heaviest is a bit lighter than a Cherry Clear. The tactile bump, however, is more pronounced than most other switches (just like Zealios).

    This is probably all sounding somewhat similar to Zealios so far, but the Zilent stems are designed with sound in mind. Zilent switches are superior to o-rings in two ways: they're quieter, and they feel nicer. An o-ring goes on the stem insert on the underside of your keycap. This reduces the noise from bottom-out, but the switch tends to feel "mushy." O-rings can't do anything about the sound of the stem returning and hitting the housing, either. Zilent stems dampen both parts of the press.

    PROJECTIONS, Episode 46: Vacation Simulator and Rec Room!

    We catch up on our conversations with developers from this year's Game Developers Conference, including checking in with Owlchemy Labs and their new game Vacation Simulator. Plus, Jeremy geeks out with developer Against Gravity about the design of their Rec Room quests!

    Testing the Tilta Gravity G2 Handheld Camera Gimbal

    Tested's Joey Fameli tests the Tilta Gravity G2 camera stabilizer, made for DSLRs and other handheld cameras. Using it with his GH5, Joey shows how he's used it in studio and on location and what kind of interesting shots you can get with a gimbaled stabilizer.

    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: HUB Keycap Profile

    Finding the perfect keyboard isn't just about switches—the profile of the keycaps can also make a considerable difference both aesthetically and practically. We've talked about GMK's Cherry profile caps, which are my personal favorite. There's a new contender that has me quite excited, though. TheVan Keyboards is working on a new keycap profile called HUB that combines the shape of DSA with the sculpting of Cherry. There's a Kickstarter live right now to get the project off the ground.

    Okay, there's a bit to unpack here for those of you unfamiliar with keycaps. DSA profile (which I'll explain in greater detail at a later date) is low and flat with spherical tops (i.e. gently rounded). They are not sculpted differently by row like Cherry caps. Many keyboard enthusiasts like the shape of DSA, but some miss the comfortable sculpting of other profiles. That's what HUB aims to address.

    HUB keycaps are shorter than OEM keycaps, and even a little shorter than Cherry. You get the spherical shape like DSA, but the rows are sculpted to feel more natural under your fingers. You can see in the image below how the sculpting compares to DSA and Cherry—it's sort of a hybrid of the two.

    I've had the chance to try a prototype set of HUB caps on a Minivan 40% and a 60% keyboard. The typing experience has been satisfying, even with the rough 3D printing. The way my fingers land on the keys feels cleaner than on flat DSA caps, particularly on the rows above and below the home row. It does remind me a little of Cherry profile caps, but with more surface area and no sharp edges.

    Hands-On with VR OmniDirectional Treadmill!

    We step onto the Infinadeck, the omnidirectional treadmill seen in the movie Ready Player One. This treadmill lets you walk freely in virtual reality, in any direction. We learn about how it works and give our impressions on the state of the technology today. Plus, a preview of the new Oculus Studios game Defector--an action spy thriller from the developers of Wilson's Heart.

    Panasonic GH5 vs. GH5S Camera Review

    Tested's senior producer Joey Fameli tests the Panasonic GH5 and GH5S cameras! Using both of these for various video productions, Joey shows how these micro four thirds cameras perform in studio and on location, operating handheld. Here's why Joey love using these cameras to shoot Tested videos!

    Testing Xbox One X and The "Hovis Method"

    With the design of the Xbox One X, Microsoft paid a lot of attention to the delicate balance of processing power and power consumption in its latest game console. One of the more interesting in Scorpio's technical design is the Hovis Method, a hardware design process that customizes the amount of power needed for each individual One X console. Now that the console has been out for a few months, I've had time to test multiple units and see the results of Microsoft's engineering efforts.

    When CPUs and GPUs are manufactured, it's impossible to get a yield of 100%. No process for making silicon parts is infallible. For companies like Intel, AMD, and Nvidia they've adapted their product lines to accommodate for the imperfect manufacturing process. Processors are organized, or "binned", based on how much of the CPU is actually usable. For example, AMD's Ryzen 5 1600 has 6 usable CPU cores, but it's actually an 8-core chip with two of those cores deactivated. AMD didn't specifically design and manufacture a 6-core CPU. Instead they took 8-core chips that couldn't reach required clock frequencies, maintain certain voltage levels, and/or operate within desired temperatures and "binned" them for a lower tier computer product. Even then, not all of the same parts are made equal. You'll often hear the term "silicon lottery" in the overclocking community. This refers to the imperfections in the manufacturing process. An Intel Core i7 8700K with fewer imperfections needs less voltage to overclock to a certain frequency than another 8700K with more imperfections, even though on paper they're the same.

    The processors put into video game consoles are subject to the same imperfections as desktop and laptop processors. However, Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo typically make their consoles to a single, one size fits all specification and the hardware isn't as flexible as a desktop computer. One of these specifications is power consumption. Measure the power draw of any original Xbox One console and you'll get the same value. The Xbox One X bucks this trend though, and Microsoft's implementation of the Hovis Method means that different One X consoles can consume significantly different amounts of power. The variance in power draw also has implications for how the cooling system performs.

    Rather than have a single power profile for all consoles manufactured, which would result in some generating excess heat by taking more power than components require, each Scorpio Engine processor has a custom power profile programmed onto the motherboard it's paired with in the factory. This process is referred to as the Hovis Method, named after Xbox engineer Bill Hovis. This means that Microsoft is able to net better yields of chips as opposed to a standard building process. Every system is highly power efficient, and the processors that require just a little more extra juice are now usable. For the consumer, this means that any two Xbox One X consoles quite literally aren't the same. Yes, they will all of course hit the same clock frequencies, data speeds, and everything else needed to run games identically. Some consoles however will draw more power than others, including my own.

    Tested: Insta360 One Camera with Stabilization and Tracking

    We're not convinced that 360-degree video shooting makes sense for people watching content on their phones, but the latest update for the Insta360 One camera has us giving it another chance. Their new stabilization algorithm is impressive, and subject tracking in the app makes this a viable alternative to a mechanical gimbal.

    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: Novelkeys Box Royal Switches

    Some of the most popular keyboard switches are tactile like the Cherry MX Browns and Clears. That means there's a "bump" as you press the key, but no clicking mechanism. As you dig deeper into the custom keyboard community, you'll come across tactile switches with varying properties like Zealios and the Input Club Hako series. Some of these are pretty tactile, but new Box Royal switch from Novelkeys and Kailh is probably the most tactile switch I've ever used. It might not be for everyone, but it's fascinating nonetheless.

    On the outside, the Box Royal looks like similar Kailh-manufactured switches we've seen recently. The stem has a square shape with a standard Cherry-style cross in the middle. Thus, it'll work with all Cherry-compatible keycaps. The opening in the housing makes it compatible with in-switch LEDs as well as SMD LEDs on the circuit board. The stem color is dark purple, rather like Zealios.

    Inside, the Royal has the usual Box assembly protecting the metal contacts. When the stem moves down, it presses a plastic nub that actually moves the contacts inside the Box portion. See below for what the switch looks like disassembled. The shape of the internal stem and the spring weight give the Royal its unique properties.

    As you press a Box Royal, the force required to get over the tactile bump is extremely high—65 grams. That's right up there with the MX Clear, but the tactile bump is less round on the Box Royal. It sort of "steps down" through several smaller bumps before the spring force ramps back up as you get closer to the bottom of the switch. However, it bottoms out at just 55g. That's lighter than the tactile peak.

    HTC Vive Pro VR Headset Review!

    We test and review the new HTC Vive Pro virtual reality headset! Two years after the release of the original Vive, HTC has upgraded the display, ergonomics, and camera system of their flagship HMD. We discuss how adding 70% more pixels affects gaming and other VR experiences, and who should get this headset. Plus, a bonus game review as we gush over Wipeout on PSVR!

    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: Input Club Kira Keyboard

    You will almost never see a custom keyboard with a full 104-key layout. That's something that exists as the "default" simply because it's been around for so long. It's not very efficient, though. There are several custom boards that have almost as many keys but with a much more compact layout. Input Club, makers of the WhiteFox and K-Type boards, has just launched a Kickstarter for the long-awaited Kira. It's a full-sized keyboard with full programmability that won't take up as much space on your desk.

    The Kira has a 99-key layout, which provides single-layer access to virtually every standard keyboard function. The arrow cluster has moved in closer to the alpha keys, clipping the right shift key a bit. The group of keys that usually lives above the arrows has moved to the space above the number pad—yes, there's a full number pad. It sits right up against the modifiers on the right. You also have a full F-key row directly above the number row.

    With less wasted space, the Kira reduces the distance your hands have to move to access everything. You can also have your mouse closer than if you had a clunky full-sized board. That's not to say the Kira is a lightweight. It'll probably be a hefty board with the option for an aluminum case. If you want to save a few bucks, the injection molded plastic case is cheaper and lighter. No matter which case you choose, it'll be a "high-profile" design. That means the board is permanently sloped. Many inexpensive keyboards have feet that you can use or not, but not the Kira.

    On the bottom of the case, you get a transparent panel the show off the RGB underglow. There's even more RGB to be had, too. Just like the K-Type, this board has per-key RGB backlighting. You'll need switches that support underglow properly, and Input Club has you covered there. If you want an assembled Kira, you can choose from various switch options including the Hako Clear, True, and Violet. There are also Kaihl-manufactured switches from Novelkeys and a few Cherry RGB switch variants. They should all work with the SMD lighting components.

    The Kira will run Input Club's KLL firmware with an online configuration tool. That means you can change the layout and function layers to whatever you want. Once your layout is flashed, you can plug the Kira into any system, and it will work exactly the same.

    Hands-On with HTC Vive Wireless Adapter!

    We test untethered virtual reality with the upcoming HTC Vive wireless adapter. To learn how it works with the demanding visual throughput of desktop VR, we chat with DisplayLink, the makers of the chip inside the wireless adapter. Plus, we go over some more games we saw at this year's GDC from Survios and Stress Level Zero.

    Custom Keyboard Spotlight: Hako Violet Switches

    The keyboard and switch designers from Input Club launched a new series of switches a few months back under the "Hako" brand. At the time, there were two switches in the series known as Hako Clear and True. Now, there's a third Hako switch, and this one will probably have wider appeal than the first two. The Hako Violet is a much lighter switch, which has some things in common with the classic Cherry MX Brown. The details are pure Hako, though.

    Like the other Hako switches, this one is based on the BOX design from switch manufacturer Kailh. That means it's got a square stem with a standard Cherry-style cross connector in the middle. All regular Cherry keycaps should fit on a Hako Violet just fine. It's also IP56 rated for water and dust-resistance—it's "self-cleaning" via holes in the bottom of the switch, and the metal contacts are tucked away in the "box" compartment inside the switch.

    The Hako Violet is a tactile switch, but it's much lighter than the Clear and True versions. It's in the same general range as the Cherry Brown (the Violet bottoms out at about 50g). If you've used a Brown switch, the Hako Violet won't be a shock. The force curve—the way the switch feels—is very different, though.

    Hako switches are designed in such a way that it's easier to type without bottoming out. They put the tactile bump closer to the top and ramp up force as you get to the bottom. The Violet has these same properties, but everything about it is lighter. Right near the top is the tactile bump with a force of around 39g and just past that is actuation at 28g. Then, you have a long ramp up before you reach the bottom with a force of 50g. The gap between actuation and bottom out is supposed to give you time to release the switch and move on.