Razer Turret Review: A Wonderfully Chunky Solution for Living Room Gaming

The Razer Turret keyboard and mouse.
The Razer Turret is an expensive and, sometimes, unwieldy mouse-keyboard combo, but it might be worth it for the right gamer. Michael Crider

How do you use a mouse and keyboard while you’re on the couch? The question has plagued PC gamers who want to play in the living room for years, but Razer thinks it has the best solution.

And it might be right.

The Turret is ostensibly for the Xbox One, but it’s compatible with just about anything that takes a mouse and keyboard input. It combines a “tenkeyless” mechanical keyboard, a typical Razer mouse in the Mamba/Deathadder style, and a huge and heavy metal frame that sits comfortably on your lap. It’s all connected via a super-fast wireless dongle and, naturally, it’ll light up like a Christmas tree.

Razer wants $250 for this massive package. And for a certain kind of gamer, it might be worth it.

This Thing Is a Chonk

That’s what I thought when I first opened the Turret package. At 7.6 inches deep x 15.4 inches wide x 1.5 inches high, it’s big for a tenkeyless mechanical board. But when you pick it up, you realize it weighs more than four pounds—heavier than most laptops.

A close-up side view of the metal deck on the Turret keyboard
The massive metal deck of the Turret helps keep it on your lap. Michael Crider

It feels like it could stop bullets. It’s a massive (literally) improvement over the original mobile-style Razer Turret, a shocking disappointment that warrants no further discussion.

The weight is intentional. Combined with the extremely “grippy” rubber underside of the unit, it keeps the Turret firmly planted on your lap when you’re using it on the couch. Nothing short of a leaping dog will wrest this thing from your vegetative pose. And the extended, angled wrist rest makes it the most comfortable keyboard I’ve ever used in the living room. The only challenge is finding a spot for it on my coffee table.

A close-up of the Turret slide-out mousepad and mouse.
The small mousepad slides out of the right side of the keyboard housing. Michael Crider

Included are a mouse and mousepad, the latter of which slides out of the right side of the metallic housing in a very satisfying way. Its rough, plastic finish makes the most of the relatively small pad area: 8.3 x 7 inches. This area is made even smaller by the full-sized mouse, which borrows the shape and buttons of the Razer Mamba.

A close-up of the power switch on the Turret keyboard.
Power switches on the mouse and keyboard allow the user to save power. Michael Crider

Both the keyboard and mouse include power switches, to help save battery when not in use, and charging ports. Oddly, the keyboard recharges via USB-C while the mouse has to make do with MicroUSB. I’m assuming this is so that Razer didn’t have to come up with a new body mold or PCB. Both can be recharged individually, but the mouse can also connect directly to the keyboard via a proprietary cable for an on-the-fly battery boost. It’s too bad this cable is so short because it makes actually playing difficult.

Mousepads: How Do They Work?

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Mark of the Ninja Deserves a Spot in Your Nintendo Switch Library

Mark of the Ninja Start Game screen.

The Switch has become a home for two things: a smattering of great Nintendo first-party releases and a landing zone for ports from other digital services. Arguably, the latter is what makes it a highly desirable portable game machine.

One such game is Klei’s Mark of the Ninja, first released way back in 2012. If you haven’t played it yet, the Switch remaster is the perfect excuse to pick it up. While the game released to quiet acclaim seven years ago, it deserves a victory lap as, perhaps, the perfect stealth-platformer.

game screen from Mark of the Ninja
The game’s hand-drawn visuals and dark atmosphere are appealing.

The setup for Mark of the Ninja isn’t all that remarkable: you’re a ninja, you just got your magic tattoo, and a bunch of mercenaries has attacked your ninja clan. It’s your job to sneak through a series of levels and slit as many throats as you can on your way to taking out several bosses. It’s the way that MOTN allows you to carefully and methodically accomplish this that makes it fun.

Calling this game a “platformer” is, appropriately, a bit of a misdirection. While you do control a single character, who runs back and forth in classic 2D fashion, the setup is more like an extended series of puzzles. And the way to solve those puzzles is, in keeping with the theme, murdering a bunch of bad guys. You’re given various techniques and tools to accomplish this, including classic darts, a grappling hook, smoke bombs, flares, and your sword.

game screen from Mark of the Ninja
You could also view the Ninja as an uninvited freelance surgeon.

Technically, the sword isn’t necessary. Aside from a few bosses, you can go through the entire game without killing anyone. That sort of creative freedom is pervasive in this game. There’s rarely a situation that isn’t solvable via several means—lethal, or otherwise. The game encourages you to try this, with optional equipment, armor, as well as weapon loadouts and bonuses in every level you get through without being detected or resorting to lethal force.

The whole thing is reminiscent of a side-scrolling Metal Gear Solid. Mark of the Ninja is undoubtedly aware of this: poke around its levels enough, and you’ll find at least one obvious allusion to the stealth genre’s heavy hitter.

game screen from Mark of the Ninja
The game’s puzzles will utilize all of your available equipment.

Mark of the Ninja’s 2D presentation is eye-popping, as you’d expect from Klei, a developer still shunning trendy pixel art in favor of hand-drawn animation. But it’s the overall design that leaves a lasting impression. Light and darkness change the level, the Ninja, and his enemies, and the sound (as perceived by the guards) is clearly communicated visually. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another game that so seamlessly blends visual design and gameplay.

The game isn’t perfect. It tends to miss a killing strike unless you’re at the perfect distance. But some smart design decisions—like frequent save points—help completionists master Mark of the Ninja’s more self-imposed challenges. The Switch port could use some tweaking, too—playing in portable mode with the nearly all-black visual design is hard. The camera stays zoomed out as if you’re playing on a TV. To be fair, this is a common problem with Switch ports and even Nintendo’s first-party titles. And the story, while diverting, is nothing to write home about.

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DisplayFusion is the Windows Tool Your Multi-Monitor Setup Craves

DisplayFusion is a perfect Windows tool for multiple monitors.
DisplayFusion is a perfect Windows tool for multiple monitors. Viktoriia Hnatiuk/Shutterstock

I’ve been a fan of multi-monitor setups for over a decade, and I’ve been thrilled to see Windows expand its support for them as the releases progress. But if you’re serious about getting productive with your monitor array, DisplayFusion is a must-have addition to your setup.

This isn’t anything new, but consider this a heartfelt endorsement for the power user software. DisplayFusion packs more features and tools in its low-overhead program than I can cover in one sitting. But suffice it to say, if there’s something you wish you could do to manage windows, wallpaper, and general interface tweaks for two or more screens, DisplayFusion probably does it.

Briefly: DisplayFusion is a collection of tools that run in the background of Windows, making multiple monitors more user-friendly. The tool can properly format wallpaper, add extra toolbar buttons for moving windows to different monitors, save and retrieve the position of windows or desktop icons, or even fade out secondary monitors to let you focus on your task. Some of these tools Windows has added in 8 and 10, and some it hasn’t, but the one I want to talk about is unique and incredibly useful.

Believe it or not, there's a desktop computer in between all those toys.

Believe it or not, there’s a desktop computer in between all those toys. Michael Crider

The tool I use most often is the “split” virtual windowing system and the monitor profiles tool that lets me manage it. This creates user-defined window zones, sort of like the default half- and quarter-screen windowing seen in most modern operating systems (WIN key plus arrow keys by default in Windows). But while Windows alone has fairly restrictive interpretations of this idea, DisplayFusion allows the user to set as many of these defined window zones as you like, across multiple displays, with horizontal and vertical splits down to the pixel level.

Let me give you an example in my default work setup. Across my three screens, I keep the center one open, while the right monitor is what I think of as my “communication zone.” Windows maximized on this screen go to DisplayFusion splits on the left or right, with the former generally reserved for the How-To Geek Slack and the right one for TweetDeck. TweetDeck gets particular use from that pixel-perfect split, as I give it just enough room for my main Twitter feed and one news list.

DisplayFusion breaks up my huge desktop into six easy-to-manage zones.
DisplayFusion breaks up my huge desktop into six easy-to-manage zones. Michael Crider

Over on the left monitor, I keep a wide split on the left for general browsing or email, then a similar vertical split on the right. This split is split again into small top and bottom sections: the top for Pandora, YouTube, or Spotify (whichever I’m listening to at the time) and the bottom for Google Keep, where I have my to-do list. The primary monitor is usually either a fullscreen Chrome window or two split evenly as I’m writing and researching.

DisplayFusion's interface for designing zones and splits.
DisplayFusion’s interface for designing zones and splits. Michael Crider

This means there are six distinct window zones across my three monitors, each carefully defined. Whenever I need a window to go beyond these virtual zones and get fully maximized on the monitor, I just hold Shift and click Maximize. If the desktop formatting is broken—like when one of my monitors is powered off—I can get this setup back in a couple of clicks from the taskbar menu.

Pre-set profiles can be applied via the taskbar or hotkeys.
Pre-set profiles can be applied via the taskbar or hotkeys. Michael Crider

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Smartphones Are Boring Now, and That’s Okay

This woman is annoyed at her boring phone. Or something else, I dunno. It's a stock image.
Borysevych/Shutterstock

Remember when folding phones were going to be the next big thing…and then the party for a new era of phones seemed a bit premature? It’s caused something of a lament for the lack of ambition and innovation in smartphones.

But there’s another way to look at the current era of phone releases, seemingly endless iterations on glass rectangles: it’s actually okay. It’s better than okay, in fact—it’s a good thing. While we’ve more or less settled on a form factor for the vast majority of phones, we’ve also reached a point where even the cheapest phones out there are at least good. Some of them are even great!

And now that constant access to the web and applications has become a nearly indispensable part of modern life, having great, affordable electronics available to everyone isn’t just good, it’s necessary. We’re at a Model T moment in the smartphone world: most people can afford one, benefit from one, and genuinely enjoy one, even if they’re not ready to drop four figures on the latest model.

RELATED: OnePlus 7 Pro Review: The Benchmark

Alright, so maybe multiplying cameras and a pop-up selfie cam are the biggest innovations we’re getting this year, and 5G is a mess that won’t be useful for some time. Maybe we’re not getting phones that look like sci-fi props before the end of the decade. All things considered, we don’t have much to complain about.

Glass Rectangles All the Way Down

This time of year is ripe for smartphone leaks—the bread and butter of technology news. And since Samsung is still hesitant to commit to a release date for its Galaxy Fold, and Huawei is pushing back its Mate X (for a variety of reasons), reactions to new glimpses of phones like the Pixel 4 or iPhone 11 are decidedly muted.

Google's so bored with the smartphone industry that they're leaking their own phones.
Google’s so bored with the smartphone industry that it’s leaking its own phones. Google

Oh, another barely-notable update to a tired formula,” say the pundits. Okay, so that’s a bit of a strawman, but we can’t deny that it’s hard to get excited about another notch variation or a square-shaped camera module. Samsung briefly considered getting rid of a few buttons on the Galaxy Note 10, and it could have been the most notable change in the company’s phone design since they accidentally sold small glass-covered grenades. The most significant leap forward at the moment, assuming the whole “folding phone” fad doesn’t take off, is a pop-up selfie cam module that finally lets us get back to…unbroken rectangular screens that we had before the iPhone X came around.

You can see how this chorus goes. “Phones are boring now.” And compared to ten years ago, when smartphones were exploding into new markets and segments, they are. You can’t go into a carrier store and see iPhones, Blackberries, Palms, and a dozen different flavors of Androids with slide-out keyboards and built-in gamepads and e-readers glued to the back. It’s glass rectangles all the way down, in roughly two sizes: big and very big.

The Xperia Play from 2011, complete with PlayStation-style game controls. They don't make 'em like this anymore.
The Xperia Play from 2011, complete with PlayStation-style game controls. They don’t make ’em like this anymore. Sony Ericsson

It’s telling that the biggest point of differentiation, and thus innovation, is cameras. Both optical and image processing technology is leaping forward quickly—perhaps because manufacturers have found that they can’t do much more in terms of screens, batteries, or straight-up silicon power at the moment. It’s not as if screen and power tech is frozen in time, but progress is going to be slow for a few years, with new fabrication and material technology currently in various experimental stages.

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HyperX Cloud Stinger Review: A Comfy Gaming Headset, No Bells nor Whistles

The HyperX Cloud Stinger is a lightweight, comfy, but somewhat limited headeset.
Michael Crider

HyperX’s Cloud Stinger is a simple wireless headset built with gamers in mind. But “simple” isn’t the same as “bad,” and this one gets a tentative recommendation through ease of use and comfort.

There isn’t much to the Cloud Stinger Wireless—no hardware-based surround sound, detachable microphone, not even a configuration tool for Windows. But that simplicity might be precisely what you’re looking for: just plug the receiver into your PC (or as it might be, your Nintendo Switch or PS4) and you’re ready to go.

Light On Weight (and Extras)

The Cloud Stinger’s looks are plain but in a refreshing sort of way. This all-black, plastic headset won’t look out of place in an office, though its large USB-A dongle means it doesn’t travel particularly well. Aside from an embossed “X” logo on either around-the-ear cup, it’s completely unadorned. Even the rotating microphone has a flexible, practical boom that emphasizes function over form.

The Cloud Stinger has only two controls: the volume wheel and a power button.
The Cloud Stinger has only two controls: the volume wheel and a power button. Michael Crider

Which isn’t to say that the design is entirely utilitarian. Big, comfy faux leather pads will cup your ears while the padded band is easy to keep on for a few hours without discomfort. The headset is also surprisingly light at just 9.4 ounces—easily the lightest I’ve used, and considerably lighter than my Anker Souncore Bluetooth headset, despite lasting longer on a charge.

Controls are limited: just a power button on the left ear and a volume knob on the right. I appreciate HyperX keeping things simple here. Too many designs try to get fancy with touch-sensitive controls or buttons integrated into the styling. While there aren’t any programmable buttons, it’s easy enough just to put the thing on and use it. The only thing missing is a dedicated mute/unmute button for the microphone.

The cups can be rotated by 90 degrees, and the foam cups removed.
The cups can be rotated by 90 degrees, and the foam cups removed. Michael Crider

One last physical design tough is appreciated: the ear cups rotate ninety degrees for easily laying the Cloud Stinger on a table or hanging flat on a wall. It doesn’t make the headset any easier to pack up, like some folding designs, but it’s more than might be expected. Combined with smooth telescoping action on the band, the hinges keep the thing very comfortable on my oversized Charlie Brown head.

Software: There Isn’t Any. Next!

Okay, so we do need to talk about the software for the Cloud Stinger, or indeed, the lack thereof. Plugging the headset into my PC, I was surprised to see that Windows 10 didn’t ask me to download a designated driver application, as is usually the case with almost any “gaming” accessory from an established brand. Instead, it merely switched the audio input over and started playing sound immediately.

USB-RF, compatible with PC, Mac, Switch, and PS4, is the only connection.
USB-RF, compatible with PC, Mac, Switch, and PS4, is the only connection. Michael Crider

This could be good or bad, depending upon your expectations. It means that finer audio equalizer control is up to Windows or the game or application you’re using at the moment, and you can’t get specific audio profiles based on the hardware. But it also means that, if you’re not inclined to deal with any of that stuff, you don’t have to. And I’ve come to appreciate any PC accessory that doesn’t demand its own spot in my Windows taskbar.

HyperX advertises the Cloud Stinger as compatible with the PlayStation 4 and PS4 Pro. Though I didn’t have an opportunity to test this functionality, I have no reason to doubt it, since the headset also worked fine when I plugged it into my Nintendo Switch dock. That wasn’t the case with the Xbox One—no points off there since Kingston didn’t advertise that as a feature.

The battery lasts for 15 hours, and recharges via MicroUSB.
The battery lasts for 15 hours and recharges via MicroUSB. Michael Crider

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