Blue Microphones Yeti
It's no secret that Blue has a firm grasp on USB mic peripherals. They've long been the choice of podcasters, and now I know why. I've had my Yeti for over a month and have been using it mostly for cameos on the Engadget podcast. After connecting to my '06 iMac, firing up Skype and adjusting a couple of settings, I'm on air within minutes. The kit is more than up to the task and in particular I've found myself using the on-board mute button to make sure no unwanted noise makes it into the final recording. Speaking of which, the Yeti offers some excellent sound quality, and doesn't pick up things like the AC or folks hanging out nearby.
While the mic does offer an audio output for headphone / earbud monitoring (with volume control on the chassis), I find myself using the jack on my computer most of the time. On occasion, I'll make use of that feature while recording voice tracks for a review video in Audacity, but that's not exactly a regular part of my routine. I imagine if I had some vocal chops and were in the habit of recording demos I'd get a lot more mileage out of that capability... but I digress. The built-in pattern and gain controls are a nice touch, too, though using the Yeti predominately for voice recording rarely forces me to tweak those knobs. Also a plus: the included high-quality desktop stand. This USB mic is a beast, and if you're looking to get serious about your podcast or voiceovers it's definitely a solid buy.
Western Digital 2TB My Passport portable HDD
The race to shove 4TB into a palm-sized external drive is officially on. It wasn't too long ago that a drive the size of WD's new My Passport would only hold a few hundred gigabytes, but the outfit's latest USB 3.0 drive manages to contain a staggering two terabytes of information. The HDD itself is surprisingly compact, if not a touch cute, but certainly thicker than the (admittedly less capacious) GoFlex Slim.
Aside from being light and highly portable, it's also USB-powered. At last, 2TB of storage at your disposal without the need for an AC power tether. Oh, and it's also a USB 3.0 drive. Even when using it with a USB 2.0 machine, I consistently saw transfer rates between 28MBps and 31MBps, while USB 3.0 transfers are just under double.
At $250 for 2TB of USB-powered data storage, it's hard to knock the newest My Passport. Once rival storage makers start producing similar units, the pricing that results will likely make it an even bigger no-brainer.
-- Darren Murph
Razer Naga Hex gaming mouse
When you're at a desk as much as I am, you pay attention to your peripherals. My keyboards, mice, headphones and gamepads are all selected for maximum comfort, because if I'm not working at my desk, I'm often gaming at my desk. The latest gadget competing for a little surface area has been Razer's Naga Hex, an ergonomic rodent designed to give gamers an edge in action-RPG titles. It's a slightly simplified variation on the Naga MMO mouse, albeit with six fewer switches hugging its left side.
The unit's bevy of buttons definitely gives my thumb a wider array of toggles than my Rat, with six hexagon shaped triggers on the left side. Having my keyboard's numeric keys within my opposable's reach came in handy during a recent replay of the Mass Effect series, but their hexagonal shape makes them difficult to differentiate by feel alone -- I often find myself clicking the wrong toggle by mistake. Learning the buttons' layout is further complicated by the keys' non-sequential order, counting one, two, three, six, five and four in a circle. I eventually committed this to memory and got my game on mostly unhindered, but I still manage to thumb the wrong button on occasion. Chalk it up to having enormous hands.
Speaking of gargantuan mitts, the Hex fits in mine well enough, comfortably tilting my wrist slightly to the right. The mouse's smooth back and seductive curves offer comfortable purchase for most of my fingers, but leaves my pinky hanging – that's enough to make me miss my Rat's finger rest. The rodent's black and green veneer looks and feels slick, too slick, in fact. The glossy surface feels so smooth that I repeatedly try to wipe a non-existent oil off its back, all the while growing increasingly paranoid that my new peripheral was filthy. The Hex's button layout may be a bit cramped for my enormous thumb, and it may have set off some of my obsessive compulsive tendencies, but I had no trouble using it to take down Geth hordes. Even so, my orphaned pinky and I will be going back to our magical transforming Rat 7, where we can always change what we don't like.