Friday, May 30, 2008

Vibram FiveFingers: Sprint

I love my Vibram FiveFingers Surge model shoes (read about them here and here) and ever since last autumn I have wanted to get a lighter pair of FF's for warmer weather, especially since the heat generated by my foot muscles (insulated by the Surge's neoprene) can make my feet pretty sweaty. This spring they actually did away with the old Surge model and added two new models, one of which replaced my previous desire for a pair of Sprints: the new KSO model (short for "Keep Stuff Out"), which is a lot like the Sprint except the whole foot is covered in order to, well, keep stuff out.

Unfortunately, the KSOs have proven to be so popular as to make them difficult to obtain so it was back to the Sprints. I decided this was fine since the Sprints come in more jovial colors anyhow. Maybe by the time I have money to get another pair of FFs next summer, new KSOs will be out in more vibrant color schemes. ;)

I ordered a pair of red Sprints. Now, let me tell you, the 'red' on the vibram site looks rather orange but in reality the shoes are cherry-hotrod RED. I was bummed about this, particularly since I tend to avoid wearing red but in the end said to heck with it and kept them. (Too much of a hassle to return things through the mail from Alaska). I also ordered a pair of Injini toe socks from the Vibrams site to help insulate my foot and keep grit out.

Whoa, this was a big surprise. Before I ever got a pair of FFs I recall reading about how all these people had all these problems getting their toes in the slots but I never have any such problems with my Surges. Of course, the Surge model was made of thicker stuff - these thinner Sprints are TOUGH to get your toes into! And my toes were prepared! Not a big deal - the time it takes to sort out my toes is time that would of been taken by tying the laces on my running shoes. The heel is much more spacious than on the Surge - and I don't need the extra room (who has heels this bulbous?) and some of the material in the inside back of the heel rubs a bit. I read about this; I may have to tape them (wearing the Injini socks takes care of this as well). Otherwise, the fit is great, the straps are well placed and I can't see the main top strap ever chafing.

Comparison to the Surge
I am blown away by the difference between these and the Surge model. The Sprints are SO much thinner than the Surges - and I already thought the Surges were thin and tactile. Gravel hurt more than 'usual' with these; textures and edges were even easier to feel and to grip than in the Surges. Enhanced gripping was particularly notable while walking the rails of a train track. There is much more flex for individual toes, too. The material itself is a great change; my feet actually breathe! Worn with the Injini socks, my feet still overheated on this, a cool day in the 50's, but they did not get clammy with sweat like in the Surges.

I haven't worn these in water yet or done any serious hiking but I look forward to putting them through the paces and temperature tests. Overall I am happy about the lighter, thinner, more flexible nature of these shoes, though there are some rough edges here and there that aren't existing in the Surges (the Surges envelop the foot like a perfect glove). Don't get me wrong - I still love my Surges but they simply either need to be worn in water or in cooler weather.

I see with the Sprints that FiveFingers are not for everyone. The KSOs may have taken out some of the rough edges, looking more shoe-like for one, and perhaps being a tad more comfortable. However, if you are at all interested, I highly recommend looking into trying out a pair of any model.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wii Pro Gamer's Case

As seen here at

I take my Wii around a bit and looked into the many different case and bag options for hauling the console around. I eventually went with Intec's Wii Pro Gamer Case for several reasons:
• Hard side case
• Inexpensive at $25
• Compartmentalized
• Built specifically for the Wii
• Looks good

Construction - In appearance, the case is a blank, metal suitcase that does not say "wii" anywhere, making it an anonymous container, which can be a pro for keeping would-be thieves second-guessing the contents. Every other case I saw was a soft case or bag emblazoned with "Wii" that, other than the material the enclosure was made of, offered little protection from crushing forces. The Pro Gamer Case is a hard-sided aluminum case. You can stand on it and your Wii is not going to get crushed, nor are any of the more fragile elements, like the thin sensor bar. The inside is lined with some sort of black suede-like materal that won't scratch anything and the partitions themselves are sturdy. I read somewhere a complaint about the hinges; they only open to 90°, much like a musical instrument case, but I find no problems with this. It would take a lot of force to break the hinges.

Compartments - To me, this is the next biggest selling point. No other case has quite the compartmentalization that the Pro Gamer Case has. The slot for the Wii itself includes velcro straps to hold the Wii down but these are barely needed. The console fits SO snugly it can actually be difficult to remove. Inside the lid are two elastic bands made especially for the sensor bar, holding it securely in probably the safest configuration of any setup thus far. The rest of the organization made possible by the case varies due to its one flaw, which is seen as a major flaw by many people: the lack of room for the power block.

In the main area of the box, there's a long, skinny compartment above the one for the Wii. This is the perfect size and shape for the Wii stand. The other, smaller compartments to the side are good for Nunchucks and for the audio/video cable, but none are wide enough to accommodate the cables protruding from the power block. The only way to do it is to put the block in at an angle in the largest of the side compartments and then carefully stuff the cables in around it, a far from ideal situation. However, the Wii does not need its stand to run properly, so if you are willing to leave the stand at home, the power block can be fitted into its slot comfortably, leaving ample room for up to 4 Nunchucks and the audio/video cable.

The lid not only has the slot for the sensor bar, but two more loops the perfect width for Wii game boxes, game manuals, or two Wiimotes side-by-side in each band for a total of 4 Wiimotes. If you place the Wiimotes so that the band runs between the buttons, then there isn't as much chance of the buttons being pushed by the lid partition and thus draining the batteries.

Price - at the time I bought my Pro Gamer Case, the next best choice, the G-Pak, was over $100 in price. The G-Pak is notable for its VERY spacious main compartment, game disc holders in the lid, and the ability to leave the Wii strapped in the case with its cables plugged in so that once you get where you are going, you simply unzip the bottom of the case to reveal the cables and then plug in the Wii without having to unpack it. The one flaw with this (other than initial price) is that, like most other cases and bags, there is no compartmentalizing. Everything gets tossed in, free to move about.

Conclusion - There are a lot of cool options for the Wii (including a cute bowling-ball bag style setup) but for the protection of the Wii and its components, despite the lack of forethought in designing room for the stand and the power block, this is by far the best way to go for the Wii.