Published on December 16th, 2010 | by Remy Cuesta1
Onlive Micro-Console Hardware Review
It’s not often that you get a new console or service for games. We are accustomed to one set of consoles and PC gaming. Every once and awhile you get a new idea which can either take its business model forward or drop dead in their tracks. Onlive, while not particularly new new, is only a six month old service and is bringing an added addition to their service. For those who don’t know what Onlive is I’ll do a quick run down. Onlive is a videogame streaming service that is launched by their application software on your computer, delivering the highest end PC games from their dedicated PC’s where they can be remotely played in your house on either a windows computer or mac. Our full preview can be found here.
Since the launch have tinkered with new features that pop up for the service. Everything from new games added, wifi support, iPad viewer and new means of functionality. Although the service is what they’re ultimately selling they hope to really turn heads with there addition of the Micro-Console. The Micro-Console or TV Adapter as they call it as well is made up of a small board with ports to take advantage of their high speed gaming service, HDTV’s in your household, and multiple control inputs. While the service has gone from a $15 plan, separate from game purchases, has now become free. Making the only game purchases the necessity. The Micro-Console however will set you back $99, so is the console and this service worth it? In many ways this might be a great alternative for what your lacking or already own. The LVLONE staff has been playing with the thing for about 12 days or so and this is what we think.
The first thing we’ve noticed from the Micro-Console is that it has some really nice packaging design. It comes in a sleek matte black box that contains the console, control and all its components.
Here is an overview of everything it comes with.
Micro USB to USB 2.0 cable
AAA batteries and rechargeable battery
The console itself is the smallest home console I think I’ve ever encountered. Which is about the size of a Nintendo DS or the length of a Pez Dispenser. The back has an HDMI out, optical audio out, mini audio line-out (for stereo speakers or microphone), ethernet jack and extra port for component cable adapter which is sold separately. The front has the power button along with two USB 2.0 ports for controls, keyboards and mouses that are compatible. We tested it with some USB devices said to work including the Xbox 360 wired controller, logitech mouse and keyboard with all working as advertised.
You also get their newly designed controller which is different then the one seen at E3 of this year. To our staff the control looks like a hybrid between the original Xbox S control and the PS3 controller which can be seen above. This one however has dedicated video playback features for the services brag clips that can be recorded directly from the controller. This we found to be a nice touch to the overall design of the control and well thought out. The top port of the controller is a micro USB port to charge the rechargeable battery or sync the control itself.
We had a couple of known problems hardware side but these are more like knit picks and have alternatives incase these become issues for anyone. The Micro-Console when plugged into the power adapter would get considerably hot and this is even when the console is off. It seems the console still draws power as the ethernet port when plugged in is flashing, although we’ve found out the console itself is only said to consume 6 watts. We suggest unplugging the entire thing when not in use. Not all HDMI cables work directly out of the box with the console, you will need to first connect their HDMI cable most of the time until it updates then can plug in your standard if you wish to do so. The mini audio line-out is a 2.5 mm port which would allow you to connect small speakers or a headset that has a compatible jack. We’ve found that plugging a headset directly in would give you an uneven sound if your bandwidth fluctuates. If you connect some sort of mix amp with the console however it eliminates this problem.
The controller’s D-pad is possibly not suited for anything more then quick direction tapping for an item with the game or menu as it’s really rough on the hands. The controller also doesn’t have a line in for a microphone setup as the console will use blue tooth tech for headset chat. This will not favor those who already use a gaming headset with a mix amp as you will be able to listen to the game but will not be able to chat via the microphone. Although we haven’t checked out this exact set up (the service lacks chat at the moment) to confirm this but we wonder if they will let you use the Xbox 360’s control port on the bottom for such chat options.
The hardware means nothing if the software doesn’t work as it should within it, well it does and I’m glad to say better then expected. The console and service is said to produce 1080p which there is no content for yet, however it does boast a 720p-1080p up-converter thats built into the console, we were using a Samsung 46″ LED LCD TV as the test unit. Upon boot up we were prompted to put in our username and password for the service and we were in! It takes about 5-10 seconds depending on your connection which we had about 15 megabit per second to work with. We were able to spectate other players, demo, play games and watch Brag Clips like I was on my iMac except it looked alot better. Colors were crisp, vibrant, games ran at 60fps and easily rivaled any other console we had with the same connection. Since this is dedicated hardware your bandwidth seems to focus better then if you were running it on a computer or laptop.
The service is said to be down to 40 milliseconds of latency between what you push on your control to what is actually happening on screen since it is being signaled remotely to there computers. We did find that some games run with no notice to input lag, while other saw about a half a second delay which isn’t much considering but maneuvering a vehicle in a game like “Just Cause 2” seemed to prove difficult at times when making split second decisions. Some games video quality to was not as perfect as it should have been. Not really sure why but playing a game like Unreal Tournament 3 didn’t hold up as well as Dirt 2 which looked perfect!
For those not sure where they think this kind of product or service is going, they’ve made it clear that this is unlike anything we have seen in the past. The service itself is adding new games all the time but can use some variety. Games like Street Fighter 4, Need for Speed, Battlefield and others would really test some of the services potential. The reality is, is that you are getting to play high end PC games at its best with no downloads or hiccups in framerate and you never upgrading your PC to do so. If you breakdown the hardware side you get the Micro-Console, Controller, cables (with the addition to some that are not even bundled in other consoles) and $50 game voucher on the service. This equals to the console and control ultimately being $25 a piece which is a steal! Games can cost you up to $40 cheaper then on consoles or PC so do the math. Also none of the gripes we mentioned should change anyones mind if they’re on the fence and most can be fixed with software or other means.
The service is rolling out new things all the time like its Play Pack feature which will allow you to pay a $9.99 monthly fee with a ton of already released games which they will keep adding to. Although not here yet, 3D support is said to be already built into the console for the future. We hope the console and the Onlive service does well as its proving to be something that could be a standard in todays gaming industry.