Ideazon Fang Gamepad

robgs - 2007-04-08 21:54:22 in Input Devices
Category: Input Devices
Reviewed by: robgs   
Reviewed on: April 9, 2007
Ideazon
Ideazon
Price: 34.99 USD

Introduction:


    There have been many times I have been online, playing my favorite game against other like minded enthusiasts (fanatics for short), where I’ve often thought as I was being pummeled, “These guys must be HACKERS!!!”  In reality though, I’ve found, through asking around in the lobby after the matches, that most of these guys are normal everyday shmoes like myself, except they happen to have a secret advantage.  Their advantage is the gaming equipment they use.  While my frustration level is building and I’m clamoring to hit the right combination of keystrokes on my outdated keyboard, they, with the use of highly precise, well thought out macros, beat me to the brass ring every time.  In the market of gaming controllers, there are only a handful of manufacturers who cater to our obsession for better, faster, more precise control.  As of late, Ideazon has introduced a few new players to the peripheral arena.  Recently, I reviewed the Merc Gaming Keyboard that had a built in gaming pad with the “butterfly” key layout to optimize the position and size of the WASD key layout.  Similarly, the Fang Gamepad utilizes this same “butterfly” key layout except that it is an ambidextrous, free ranging gamepad.  The keys on this gamepad are highly programmable and Ideazon has also included some handy features like multimedia control.  In this review, I will scrutinize the Fang Gamepad in fine detail to see how it stacks up.


In case you’re wondering, this isn’t Ideazon’s first rodeo.  Ideazon came into being in the year 2000, and soon thereafter, released its first contender into the gaming market, the Zboard.  The Zboard is a modular style keyboard with interchangeable, game specific keypads.  Ideazon’s success with this peripheral has spurred the creation and release of these newer game controllers, which showcase comfort and programmability.

 

Closer Look:


    The packaging the Fang Gamepad came in was very neat in appearance.  Again, Ideazon has stuck with its silvery black coloring with the name surrounded by a fiery background.  This does much in adding to the attractive qualities of this gamepad and gives it a ferocious, ominous look.  The back of the box displays many of the core attributes that the Fang incorporates.




The contents of the box are the gamepad, an install CD, a quick start guide, and a plate that attaches to the bottom of the Fang for wrist support.  The attachment is a very nice touch as it gives you an option to use it or not, besides the fact that it clips on very easily.




The front of the Fang is laden with 41 customizable keys along with a full set of multimedia buttons.  Sounds like the start of an action packed night of gaming.





The underside of the Fang is much like a keyboard with extendable legs that adjust the height.  It also has rubber feet to help keep it in place during game play.





You may have noticed the fold out tab at the top of the Fang and the plastic bracket in the middle while looking at the underside.  At first I didn’t understand the use for these, but after reading the user manual, I was enlightened.  The fold out tab is a carrying handle and the bracket in the middle is to manage the USB cable when transporting the Fang.





If you happen to be a lefty, that’s no problem as the Fang is ambidextrous.  The button layout is almost completely symmetrical so, together with the ability to program the buttons, any comfort level should be achievable.




So far the Fang looks impressive on the outside and seems to incorporate a lot of features.  Let’s hope the installation is just as nice.

Installation:


    Installing the Fang was a snap.  Just plug the USB connector into a spare USB port and Windows immediately recognizes it and installs a basic driver.  At this point, the Fang is usable as each of the keys is also labeled with its default keystroke counterpart.  For example, the forward or up button on the Fang is also labeled with the “w”, which is its default keystroke.





So realistically, you could just stop right here and go right into playing your favorite game, but of course there is a huge loss in functionality.  So spin up the installation CD and complete the installation.  There is one major thing to note here. As with the Merc keyboard, the software version that came with the Fang is outdated and should be updated via download from Ideazon’s website.  The software that shipped with the Fang, in my case, installed without a problem.  However, the “update” function didn’t work and some of the mod files were out of date.  The download size is about 64MB and is well worth the effort, and is highly recommended.


Once downloaded, I clicked on the executable file to commence the software installation.





Another point that comes up during the software installation is this little message to ensure that you have the peripheral plugged into a USB port before installing the software.  Plug in the Fang and click “install”.





The software install is now complete.  Click the finish button, and now we can find out how easy or hard it is to program the Fang.


Configuration:


    There are a number of different ways to start the Z Engine software.  On the top left hand side of the Fang, right next to the multimedia keys, you’ll find a button with a “Z” symbol on it.  This button is a quick launch button for the Z engine software.  Also, you can start the software by navigating to “Start/Programs/Ideazon Z Engine/Z Engine” in your start menu.  Finally, once you’ve installed the software, a green “Z” symbol should now reside on your task bar which you can double click, or right click, and select “Z Engine”.  If you see a yellow or red “Z” symbol, there may be a problem with the install and you should consult the Fang install guide to troubleshoot.  I didn't encounter any problems, so as you can see, the symbol is green.




Once initialized, the Z Engine software or graphical user interface (GUI) displays a representation of the Fang on the right hand window and a listing of what it calls “Mod” files on the left pane.  Mod files are preconfigured button layouts made for specific games.  The mod files are arranged by game genre, which includes action, role playing, and shooter. 





Before we begin the actual configuration of the Fang, we’ll first update the software.  In the drop down menu at the top, select “Tools”.  In this menu, select “Check for Z Engine updates”.  The software will contact the Ideazon website and download any updates that are available for the software.  Since we just downloaded the latest version of Z Engine, there probably won’t be any updates available but just to make sure check anyway.





Next, select “Check for Ideazon Mod/Device updates”.  This check will compare the list of mod files that exist on your computer to the list of mod files that exist on Ideazon’s website.  If it finds any updates, the software will alert you with a dialog box with some of the check boxes selected.  If you click a game genre that has a check mark beside it, the menu expands to show the mod file that is new (green font) or out of date (red font).  In this case, there are only new mod files available so the font is green.





Once you check the mods you want to update, click on the “Get Selected” button.  The mod files are immediately downloaded and applied to your current list.  Now that I have a complete listing of mod files, I can configure them for my favorite games.





For this example I will choose Dark Messiah.  Dark Messiah is a relatively new role playing game and is, of course, located in the role playing section.  I double click the mod file for this game and instantly the buttons on the Fang are configured for use in game.





If the supplied mod file doesn’t quite suit your tastes, no problem.  Just modify the buttons to what you would like.  At the bottom of the right pane there are two buttons, one labeled “Preview Mode” and the other “Edit Mode”.  Click on the edit mode button.





This action drags up two special tool bars.  At the bottom, there is an edit tool bar that displays all the information of a certain button that you might want to see.  On the far right hand side of the pane there is a button tool bar that will allow you to easily drag and drop a chosen action to any one of the buttons in the Fang GUI.





There is a really cool little feature that I found.  If you want to trade two different button positions, just click on the button in the GUI, drag and drop it to the new position and the software intuitively switches the buttons.  Nice touch…





If you just want to create a button from scratch or create a macro, it’s almost as easy.  For the most part, the bottom tool bar will be used to do this.  First, create a name for the new key and enter it in the “Key Text” box.  This will display the name on the button in the GUI.  Next, enter information about the button in the “Tool Tip” box.  The tool tip is the little script that runs when your mouse cursor hovers over the button.  The tip usually displays some additional information about the object.  Then, input the action key(s) that will give your desired keystroke(s) in the “Action String” box.  Also, you can check off the box marked “Record delay” if you would like to build a macro.  Finally, select the color for your new button and also the color for the font and press “apply to key”. 


Once you have completed these steps, be sure to save your new configuration.  You can rearrange or reconfigure the layout as much as you want until you are satisfied that you have achieved the ultimate configuration.  For me, I always like to use the default settings first, and then make small adjustments as required to suit my own tastes.  Of course, the only way to know if this is a winning configuration is to test it out.

Specifications:



Features:


Testing:


Test Setup:


Game used in testing:
Dark Messiah Might and Magic

    During the testing of the Fang gamepad, I found the comfort to be immediately evident. I thought the jump button located on the side of the controller was going to be a problem as the gamepad is very light weight.  I thought I would end up moving the gamepad around as I played, but this just wasn’t the case.  It didn’t take much to get used to the button being there, and it actually felt more natural than hitting the spacebar.  I didn’t change much from the original configuration as the layout was pretty close to what I am used to.





The more I played, the less I found myself looking down at the keypad to make sure I was hitting the right key.  The same as with the Merc, the Fang incorporates the use of convex or concave buttons for touch recognition and, just as before, this helps out tremendously compared to an ordinary keyboard.  The ability to feel that I am touching the right button before I push it helps increase the accuracy of my actions as well as reduces the frequency of hitting the wrong button.


The more I use the “butterfly” keypad layout (which replaces the WASD keys), the more I find that I am getting more and more accustomed to it.  It takes some getting used to, but once you reach that point, it's smooth sailing.  The size of these buttons is another advantage and also helps to reduce the error frequency.





In intense battle situations, I could really see the effectiveness of the phantom key elimination.  I could press up to 5 keys simultaneously with no ill effects.  This is yet another feature that helps to reduce the probability of input error, which in turn should increase accuracy and score.


Conclusion:


    Ideazon has put out a number of new peripherals in the last little while.  The number of products it has recently released is impressive, though it may point toward a premature release in the area of software optimization.  The only drawback that I’ve seen with the Fang is the outdated software that shipped with it.  The software that shipped with the Fang wasn’t fully functional in that some key features couldn’t be activated until the latest version of software was downloaded and installed.


The folks at Ideazon continue to try to optimize and perfect the gamepad peripheral platform, and with the release of the Fang Gamepad, I think they’ve definitely struck a chord among gamers.  The ergonomic design, coupled with the sheer number of keys on this gamepad are sure to please.  The placement of the keys is well thought out and echoes the possibility that a hardcore gamer was at the wheel in its design.  The Z Engine software is intuitive and very easy to configure and master.  There is a comprehensive list of preconfigured mod files available, and the list keeps growing in step with new game releases.  There is almost no learning curve associated with the configuration and setup of this gamepad, making it practical for almost everyone.



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Cons: