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E3 2013: Mad Catz brings the M.O.J.O. with a new console and gaming gear

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The Xbox One and PS4 may have grabbed all the console-related glory at E3 2013, but PC and console peripheral maker Mad Catz is making a new bid to take over your living room as well, potentially taking a bite out of Kickstarter darling Ouya and perhaps Nvidia’s Project Shield in the process.

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Enter the Mad Catz M.O.J.O., and whole new ways to continue abusing periods.

The M.O.J.O. is a small box sporting Mad Catz’s distinctive, stylized angular shape, although it’s still barely bigger than a typical wallet. The model at E3 featured an HDMI output port, a headset connector, 3 standard sized USB connectors, and 1 micro USB connector. The prototype at E3 was connected wirelessly (B/N/G), but according to Mad Catz front man Alex Verrey, “we are almost certainly adding a hard wired Ethernet port to the final spec.”

The M.O.J.O. will ship with 16GB of storage space, and it has an SD expansion card slot on the back of the unit for additional storage.

Unlike the Ouya, Roku boxes, and similar devices, the M.O.J.O. doesn’t lock you into yet another Android-based ecosystem. The M.O.J.O. runs the stock Android operating system, so you’ll be able to use it right away with any and all apps and games you may have already purchased from Google Play, the Amazon App store, or any others. Basically, anything you can run on a high-end Android smartphone, you can run on the M.O.J.O.—including media streaming, music, watching Netflix, etc.

Granted, closed ecosystems can generally offer more quality control than open ones like Google Play, but I suspect many or even most Android consumers are willing to forgo that measure of quality control to avoid repurchasing games.

The M.O.J.O. also holds interesting potential as a productivity device. Connect a keyboard and mouse, and you could kickback on your couch, open a document on your google drive, and then edit it on your big screen TV. At E3, the M.O.J.O. was simultaneously connected to a keyboard, a mouse, and its companion game controller.

Mad Catz is keeping the exact technical specifications and pricing of the M.O.J.O. under wraps, but our favorite Mad Catz front man Alex Verrey virtually guaranteed it will be “the most powerful android-based console available at the time of launch”. This means we can expect a high-end quad-core processor like Nvidia’s Tegra 4, but Mad Catz isn’t saying just yet—and no one I tried to weasel information out of at Nvidia’s booth seemed to know anything either.

The M.O.J.O. is expected to ship for the holiday 2013 season. Pricing has not been announced.

Take C.T.R.L. of your M.O.J.O.

What good is playing an Android game on a 60” big screen if the game is only programmed for touch controls? Thankfully, the M.O.J.O. also comes with a Bluetooth 2.0/4.0 compatible game controller called the C.T.R.L.R that addresses the problem.

The C.T.R.L.R uses technology Mad Catz is calling GameSmart, which enables the controller to work seamlessly with all Android games by basically ‘translating’ touch screen and/or motion-sensor dependent controls (when necessary) to standard HID (human interface device) controls.

This means you should be able to use the C.T.R.L.R for virtually any Android app or game, even if it was only designed for touch controls. The C.T.R.L.R can be set to Mouse Mode for touch screen games, or a PC Mode so it works as a standard PC game pad controller (for Android games that natively support game pads). This won’t always make any particular game playable (Fruit Ninja, for example), but games such as Plants vs. Zombies could be.

The C.T.R.L.R also supports Bluetooth 4.0, which reduces wireless latency. Whereas Bluetooth 2.0 adds about 100ms latency, Bluetooth 4.0 reduces this to around 7ms. This also improves the battery life of the C.T.R.L.R as well, which can run about 40 hours continuously on a 2xAAA batteries.

With the increasing number of mobile-based gamepads from a variety of manufacturers becoming available, there’s probably a good bet we’ll see more Android games support controllers—but if you absolutely must play a game that doesn’t support a gamepad on your 60” screen, the C.T.R.L.R should have you covered.

The only minor downside at this point in time—albeit one that could be addressed by future versions of Android—is that you can’t connect two C.T.R.L.R controllers to the M.O.J.O. at the same time for multiplayer gaming. But according to Verrey this could also change. “If Android opens this up, M.O.J.O. will be able to cope.”

The C.T.R.L.R will also be available for purchase separately, and you can add a cradle to it so you can mount any smartphone on it and use it in a manner similar to Nvidia’s Shield.

The C.T.R.L.R is expected to be available summer 2013. Pricing has not been announced (for the standalone model).

Console Alternative

Even as a PC gamer, tech enthusiast and someone interested in the next generation of consoles, my parental, casual gaming, and media-streaming self finds devices like the M.O.J.O. far more compelling for the living room.

For one, I am an Android user who already owns more than a few apps courtesy of Google Play and the Amazon App store. I am also among the increasing number of people that have replaced cable TV with media streaming boxes and use services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu for all my TV-related needs.

But I can easily envision the M.O.J.O. as a competitive and (potentially) more versatile, open alternative to the Ouya ecosystem and/or the Roku boxes powering my media. Not only can the M.O.J.O. replace a ROKU box, it can work as a game console, Internet app device, and gaming platform for me and the kids.

The only potential (and fairly minor) issue I can see is the M.O.J.O.’s that the stock Android interface and the C.T.R.L.R may not provide the best living-room experience compared to the simplicity of a typical remote and more purpose-designed operating system.

Regardless, within just a short while of playing a couple games on a large screen TV and toying with an Android-based word processor, my reaction was immediate: I want one. And for this reason, I am awarding the M.O.J.O. my own personal Best of E3 award: Best new Tech.

The M.O.J.O. arrives this holiday season. Pricing is unannounced.

But Wait! There’s MO!

Mad Catz is clearly excited for its M.O.J.O. console, but they had a few other new toys on display at E3 2013that I also got to play with. Here’s a brief rundown of some new toys we’ll be seeing soon

The S.T.R.I.K.E. keyboard series gets an entry level edition

The S.T.R.I.K.E. 3 gaming keyboard is the entry level version of the S.T.R.I.K.E.5 and S.T.R.I.K.E.7. It’s a fairly straightforward backlit, non-mechanical keyboard with a total of 12 programmable macro keys and storage for 3 profiles. The LED color is customizable, and you can assign a different color to each profile. The S.T.R.I.K.E. 3 will be available fall 2013 in glossy Red, White, and Black. Pricing has not been announced.

The F.R.E.Q. headsets get a new dimension

The F.R.E.Q. 4D headset is similar to its siblings, but features Vivitouch 4D sound, which can best be described as “rumble” effects to provide a little more ear-shaking, vibrating thump to your music and/or explosions. The F.R.E.Q. 4D has both ear cup-mounted controls and an inline controller, so it can connect via USB (for PC) or a 3.5mm connector for mobile use. The F.R.E.Q. 4D will be available fall 2013.

Tritton makes a 3-pronged attack with 3 new headsets

The Tritton brand will see 3 new, full-sized headsets: The Tritton Kunai Universal, the Tritton 5.1 Pro+, and the Tritton Kunai for PC/Mac. Briefly:

The Kunai Universal is a stereo headset designed to work with virtually any device: all major consoles, PC, handhelds, smartphones, etc. and features 40mm drivers an inline controller. It will be available fall 2013. Pricing is unannounced.

The Tritton Kunai for PC/Mac is a stereo PC headset aimed at the entry level market, with an inline controller and 40mm drivers. It will be available summer 2013. Pricing is unannounced.

The Tritton Pro+ True 5.1 Surround Sound headset is a high-end headset with 8 drivers (4 in each ear cup) and analog connectors for better 5.1 surround sound reproduction—but you’ll need to have a 5.1 sound card installed in your PC or Mac for the best experience. It’s expected to ship summer 2013. Pricing is unannounced.

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