When we review something, we assign a verdict based on the strengths and weaknesses of that product relative to the other products in its field. When there are no other products in that field, things get a little weird.
Such is the case with the Cyborg Gaming Lights, the latest member in the rapidly expanding family of Mad Catz PC gaming peripherals. This pair of lights uses amBX ambient technology to enhance gaming. You position the lights so they face the wall behind your monitor, plug them in, and then enjoy a display of colored lights that match the background of whatever game you're playing. So while you're in the Firelands in World of Warcraft, the wall behing your computer will be washed in a fiery orange-red light. The lights change color in real time as you play, they work with almost any game, and they can also be used while watching movies.
The Cyborg Gaming Lights' three LEDs combine to form up to 16 million colors of backlighting.
The lights may be unique, but we've seen the technology before. Back in March 2007, we reviewed a set of funky Philips speakers with the full amBX ambient setup: lights, fans, and vibrating wrist pads. Although the technology was ahead of its time, the main fail was paltry game support (one title to be exact). The Cyborg Gaming Lights suffer no such problem: Because they simply hook into DirectX to receive the color information, they work with almost any game.
It's a little hard to visualize the Gaming Lights without seeing them in action, but the effect is actually surprisingly pleasing. They do next to nothing in a brightly lit room, but once you close the curtains and dim the lights, they add noticeably to your games' immersiveness.
They're not without their downsides, though. There are some glitches in the software that occasionally cause the lights to not turn on with the computer or to not recognize a game that they're supposed to. The software glitches are a bit of a pain, but this is a new product for Mad Catz, and we expect that updated drivers will smooth things out. Less likely to go away are our qualms about the amount of wiring involved in the gaming lights. Each light has a USB and a power cable, adding substantially to the already terrifying wad of cords behing our desks. We shudder to think what it would look like to use more than two lights.
In all, the Gaming Lights' effect is surprisingly cool. After a few weeks of playing games with them installed, we don't want to give them up. At $100, they're not cheap, and there are a couple of drawbacks that keep this from being an unqualified buy recommendation. But if you have the extra money, and you're looking for a novel way to enhance your gaming experience, you won't be disappointed.