Using a microphone to communicate with other players is new to console games. On the other hand, many older pc games have had the ability to use a microphone to talk with your teammates and opponents while playing for quite a while. Because when you are using a computer almost everyone is sitting at a desk there is no real need for a microphone to be attached to your head. Computer microphones can simply be mounted somewhere on the table the computer is on. Because almost nobody playing a console game is going to be sitting at a desk this is a problem for the microphone. Microsoft decided it would be best to mount in on the gamers head. It works great for most people but for some a headset is annoying to wear for a long period of time or when you are trying to concentrate on playing a game. Also, if you have a friend joining in on the Xbox Live action they will have no idea what is being said and it is possible they could miss out on any kind of plans the team has made, or in most cases, just smack talk to one another.
Nyko, a third-party game accessories developer, created the Xbox Live SpeakerCom that solves all of these problems. The SpeakerCom is a simple device that is mounted on the controller instead of on the gamer's head. The device has both a microphone and a speaker, and can perform the same exact functions as the default Xbox Live headset. Nyko's innovative solution to the problem allows for more comfortable gameplay, and allows for other people in the room playing to join in on the action.
Setting up the SpeakerCom is pretty simple minded. The package includes only one piece of hardware, and that of course would be the SpeakerCom. One of the problems is that you have to use your own Xbox Communicator module. So if you lost yours, or your dog ate it, you are going to have to find another one to start using the SpeakerCom. Once you get the module, it fits right into the SpeakerCom like a sandwich. Next all you need to do is insert the device into the memory card slots. The SpeakerCom has springs inside that allow it to fit almost any controller. Both the module and the SpeakerCom take up a memory card slot, so you are not going to have any extra room for a memory card or any other accessories you would want to use while playing with the SpeakerCom.
The appearance of the SpeakerCom is great and goes well with any controller. The front part of the SpeakerCom is a green metallic color that contains the speaker, microphone, and on/off switch. It looks excellent mounted on top of your controller and flows well with the design of the Xbox controller. Everything else besides the front part is plain black plastic but makes the green part stand out even more.
Unlike the appearance of the SpeakerCom there are a few flaws in the design of the SpeakerCom. First off, the SpeakerCom does not have its own LED (light emitting diode (or the light that the module has for those that haven't gotten it yet)). The SpeakerCom simply has a hole for the light on the module to shine through. This saves Nyko some money when manufacturing the product, but when the SpeakerCom is plugged in and working it is a little difficult to tell if the light is actually green or red. This is especially noticeable when you are not holding the SpeakerCom at eye level.
Unlike the Xbox communicator, with the SpeakerCom you have to press a button to begin talking. This is by far the most annoying aspect of the SpeakerCom. There are two triggers on each side of the SpeakerCom that will allow you to start talking. If you are using the normal Xbox triggers at the time and you want to talk to someone else it can get quite complicated. If you are the kind of person that likes to talk to other people online a lot you will be reaching up for that trigger each and every time you want to say something. This gets old fast and takes your focus off the game and off the controls. On top of that, once you press in the trigger, the speaker stops working. This means now that you are actually ready to talk, if anyone says anything else while you are talking, you are not going to hear it. Now, imagine playing a game like Halo 2 where sometimes you have to press the white button if you want to talk to your team. This means you have to press both the SpeakerCom trigger and the white button at the same time. This takes up pretty much your entire right hand. Unless you are extremely talented and have been using the SpeakerCom for a good amount of time, the only thing you will be able to do while talking to your team is walk around and through grenades.
On the other hand, the quality of the speaker and microphone is excellent. Whether you are talking or listening to someone else blabber it is going to come in loud and clear. You will most likely have to adjust the volume down a little because of how loud the speaker actually is. If you are in a room full of other friends they will definitely be able to listen in even if they are talking amongst themselves. The speaker also has excellent quality and everyone should be able to hear you perfectly. The only problem with the microphone is that it can also pick up the noise of the triggers being pressed. Not a huge problem but it will be noticed in game.
Overall, the SpeakerCom is a unique and innovative piece of equipment. Despite its many flaws it is a wonder if you are playing with friends in the room, and even better if the friends are playing along with you on Live. If you are a serious gamer and are looking for a more effective and easy way to communicate to other people, this is probably not the product you are looking for. The trigger pressing gets extremely old fast and the hardware adds extra weight to your controller. However, If you absolutely hate wearing headsets or hate that your friends have no clue what you are talking about, on Xbox Live, and are always asking you what you are talking about then pick up one of these suckers soon and let everyone else join in!
Final Rating: 3 out of 5.
Sunday, December 12, 2004
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