I've always been an earbud guy, despite the fact that over-the-ear headphones can offer a more comfy and higher-quality listening experience. Why? I travel a lot for work, and I like to travel lean -- the thought of a bulky headset taking up precious cargo space in my tote bag is, shall we say, less than appealing. After spending a brief time with Skullcandy's Crusher headphones back at CES, however, I was ready to see what they could do to enhance my listening experience on the hour-plus train rides between Mountain View and San Francisco I regularly endure.
Hip-hop comprises a considerable portion of my music collection, which is why the Crushers, with their bass vibration system, held particular appeal to me. At face value, the rumble feature seems a gimmick, but it really does round out the low end of music in a way that no earbuds (or headphones costing less than $100) I've ever used can. And, you can increase or reduce the effect with the slider on the left earcup -- which is crucial, because while it's a boon listening to Lloyd Banks, it becomes obnoxious when taking a phone call or listening to a podcast. My only quibble with the feature: the slider's too snugly fitted and takes more effort to adjust than it should.
As for wearing the Crushers, well, they're about as comfortable as such headphones can be. The faux-leather earcups are soft and supple, but I couldn't get through more than a couple hours of listening before needing to give my lobes a break. While the plastic construction isn't the most luxurious look, it does keep the Crusher lightweight, and it handles the rigors of travel well (read: these things can take a beating). Will I be replacing my earbuds with them? No, simply because they're still too cumbersome on many occasions, but when I've got room in my bag, I'll be taking them along for the ride.
-- Michael Gorman
After seeing my old, overmatched laptop suffer the electronics equivalent of a myocardial infarction when I tried viewing a 1080p video, one truth became self-evident. Mr. Hidalgo -- no relation to Viggo Mortensen's horse -- needed a new computer. Given my work demands and personal preferences, I had some hard and fast requirements. Naturally, one was running 1080p video without looking like it needed the Heimlich maneuver. It also had to be portable so I could take it on the go or easily move it around my house when I want to work on the kitchen table or hook it up to my Mitsubishi WD-82740 TV. It had to be able to run photo- and video-editing software at the same time. Lastly, it had to run PC games using relatively good settings.
A few weeks later, I became the owner of an ASUS G74SX-3DE "Republic of Gamers" laptop. The tacky ROG name aside, there's a lot to like about the G74SX-3DE. The dark, stealth-fighter-style design looks cool, but is still subdued unlike the Technicolor Dreamcoat approach of some competitors. Having the huge fans vent from the back also keeps the bottom nice and cool. Another plus is that the G74SX-3DE is easily upgradeable for a laptop. I had the original 12GB of RAM replaced with 16GB, for example. The dual-hard-drive configuration also gives added flexibility, allowing me to swap out, say, one of the drives for an SSD if I want to. Meanwhile, the 1080p matte display does a good job of cutting back reflections (I don't really use the 3D feature, though) and also gets a lot of positive comments from onlookers when I'm playing games. So far, I've been able to play everything I've thrown at it in either medium or high settings. The G74SX-3DE is also great with multitasking. It easily handles multiple Adobe Creative Suite programs at the same time even without Mercury Playback GPU acceleration enabled.
Downsides include one of the most annoying collections of bloatware I've seen in a laptop. ASUS Live Update is especially horrible and I uninstalled that sucker pronto. The touchpad can be wonky as well, and it's easy to hit by accident when you're typing unless you disable it. The keyboard, meanwhile, feels a bit shallow and the laptop also lacks a slot for a FireWire ExpressCard, which I normally use to grab footage from my tape-based Canon HV20. Battery life is laughable, but this thing is meant to be plugged in at all times so that's fine. It's freaking heavy, though, and requires a large bag. Still, I'm quite happy with the G74SX-3DE overall. I can take it with me to play local sessions with friends and relatives, and it handles pretty much anything I throw at it with aplomb. In short, I really like it.
-- Jason Hidalgo