By BlazeHedgehog 18 Comments
So I just had a near death experience.
There were two major things on my list of "PC hardware I need to replace": My mouse, and my headset. I had bought a super cheap replacement mouse almost a year ago, figuring it didn't really matter if I only spent $10 or $15 on a mouse, because I didn't need extra buttons or higher resolution. It just needed to click and I'd be fine. Of course, within 11 months, the left mouse button was acting up - 50% of the time I'd click, it would register as a double click. This made editing video or doing level design in a game pretty challenging. I decided that next time around, I'd buy something more expensive, and after three weeks of bashing my head against a wall as to why Newegg wasn't letting me complete a Paypal transaction, I finally ordered a Logitech G400. In a twist of fate, the very same day, I would discover I won a Razer gaming headset from 1up.com. My old headset was starting to have connection problems - moving my head a certain way would result in my earpiece being blasted with static, and anybody hearing me speak could hear it come through on the mic, too. Winning a $130 headset not only solved that problem, but provided me with a significant upgrade over my $25 Microsoft Lifechat.
The mouse installed without issue, save for the fact that it's way, way, way more sensitive than my old mouse. I've been tweaking settings since installing it last night, trying to find a sweet spot that feels like my old mouse did. The downside is, of course, that I've now gotten a taste for a high resolution mouse - if this one breaks, I'll never be able to go back to a cheaper mouse ever again. I have permanently upgraded to a $50 mouse for the rest of my life.
I was, obviously, most excited for the headset. I've never experienced surround-sound headphones before, and I was eager to see just how clear the microphone was.Taking it out of the box, I was impressed with the look and feel of the headset. It feels very sturdy, the earphones are plush and very comfortable, and the USB cable appears to be some kind of braided fiber instead of a plastic cord. It looks expensive, it feels expensive, it even smells expensive. It even comes with a 20 page, full-color "quick start guide" manual. It also comes with a little cardboard slip, declaring:
The note ends with a signature in neon green ink by one "RazerGuy". I'm not joking. That's not a pseudonym or some kind of nickname he goes by in addition to his "real name". The only name provided on this card is for "RazerGuy".
Congratulations, there is no turning back.
We are the Cult of Razer, and our membership includes some of the greatest players the world has ever seen.
Installing the headset was the first crazy ordeal - there's no less than seven individual drivers for this thing, and I don't even know what half of them are for. I'd assume there's separate drivers for audio out (earphones) and audio in (microphone), and probably drivers for the colored lights, but beyond that, I have no idea. The second crazy ordeal is that this headset does not appear to function without the Razer Synapse 2.0 software running at all times, and, even after you install the headset drivers, Synapse has to download a whole mess of other definition files for your headset. Even crazier: Razer Synapse 2.0 requires a username and password to Razer's online service. The program starts up with Windows and logs you in over the internet just like an instant messenger client would, except it's just there to provide you with device settings. Apparently this is because Razer lets you store your peripheral config in the cloud, but it still seems absolutely bizarre to me. If I don't have a connection to the internet, can I still use my headset? The other downside to this is that if you unplug your Razer headset, a huge Synapse window will immediately pop up and whine, "TO USE RAZER SYNAPSE 2.0 PLEASE CONNECT A SYNAPSE CERTIFIED DEVICE.". The whole thing seems really unnecessary.
As for the headset itself, sound quality is, as to be expected, very good. Sound is so crisp it almost feels like it hurts my ears at times - which lead me to turn off the built-in equalizer in the Synapse software. Surround-sound wasn't quite as revolutionary as I expected it to be; it's practically unnoticeable in most games. Out of four or so games I tried ( Sonic Generations, Serious Sam: The First Encounter HD, Mirror's Edge and The Crysis Singleplayer Demo), the only one I noticed surround sound effects in was Sam, and those were very subtle (in a stage with a waterfall, there was a subtle change in the way the flowing water sounded depending on whether or not I was facing it). I unfortunately never got to try the microphone out, because the last game I tried - Crysis - started the circus that has become the last hour of my life, and it's all thanks to this $130 headset.
Once the EA logo on the Crysis demo went away, the headset completely stopped receiving sound. Closing Crysis, I discovered that all of Windows was now complaining that there was no sound devices available to receive audio. Though the Synapse software was still technically functional, the headset itself appeared to have crashed, so I unplugged the gold-plated USB connector and plugged it back in.
I wait. And wait. And wait some more. Shouldn't you be detecting it already?
TO USE RAZER SYNAPSE 2.0 PLEASE CONNECT A SYNAPSE CERTIFIED DEVICE.
Uh oh. Unplugging my gamepad, I put the headset in to USB Port 1. Synapse recognizes it!
Windows has detected an unknown device connected to PORT 2. This device is not functioning properly. If reconnecting the device does not work, please replace the device.
But won't let me move the volume past 0%. I force the Synapse task to terminate, unplug and re-plug the headset back in again. At the very least, Windows isn't complaining about a lack of sound devices anymore, but there's no audio going to anything, anywhere. I pop open the Control Panel to see where Windows is sending this audio, when the next crazy ordeal starts.
Um. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Rundll32.exe is a pretty critical part of Windows. And I know for a fact that the control panel was working just fine before installing the headset and Razer Synapse, because as I stated before: I've been fiddling with mouse sensitivity options for the last 48 hours. I know exactly what I installed between the last time I used the Control Panel earlier this afternoon and now, and it was the headset. I send Razer Tech Support a calm, reasonable email explaining my problem.
Windows cannot find C:\Windows\Rundll32.exe
Make sure you typed the name correctly and try again.
Well, mostly reasonable. I replaced Rundll32.exe with one located in another folder in Windows and found the control panel seemed to be working just fine again.
To: Razer Tech Support
Subject: WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU GUYS DONE TO MY SYSTEM
But the cavalcade of comedy doesn't stop there. Before Synapse 2.0 installed, it smartly created a System Restore Point. Whether this is because the only way to uninstall it would be a system restore (as is the case with Windows Media Player, etc.) or not I did not discover - but what I did discover is that trying to restore to the point made by Synapse simply caused Windows to freeze. I've never used Windows System Restore before, so as one could imagine, I figured my system was hosed. Thankfully, Windows booted up just fine, though it did notify me that the restore failed.
Also? Rundll32.exe was missing. Again. Even though I had replaced it.
Thankfully, Windows makes a system restore point once a night, every night, and keeps those restore points up to 90 days. I simply restored to the point made last night, after installing my mouse. And it worked! But Rundll32.exe was STILL missing. If there was one silver lining, I copied Rundll32.exe in to the correct folder a third time, and after a couple of reboots it FINALLY seems to be staying put - but I have no idea why it wouldn't be restored with the restore point.
Obviously, one can imagine I'm hesitant to re-install this headset again. I'll wait and see what Razer tech support has to say about the issue, and then see what else I can do with it. It is, after all, technically brand new. It was used for maybe all of 45 minutes. The "Limited Edition Lightsaber" code for The Old Republic hasn't even been redeemed yet.
Even though I technically got the headset for free, I can't help but feel a little crushed that my experience with it had to be THIS awful. Imagine if somebody actually paid the appropriate amount of money for this thing and went through all the troubles I have - I'd be furious. Instead, I simply get to be sad.