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TMCNet:  The Anniston Star, Ala., Dan Whisenhunt column: EVO console is lacking [The Anniston Star, Ala.]

[May 14, 2009]

The Anniston Star, Ala., Dan Whisenhunt column: EVO console is lacking [The Anniston Star, Ala.]

(Anniston Star (AL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) May 14--This is hard for me to do. I'm a supporter of home-grown businesses, and Envizions is a company full of bright, young, local talent. The EVO console, however, needs work before it can live up to the company's promises.


Wednesday company CEO Derrick Samuels informed me the version I tried is a beta version that lacks some of the advertised features; he said buyers will receive a free upgrade when the company releases new computer codes for the system. That should resolve the problems I describe here, he says.

The designers are touting the EVO as the first open-source console based on Linux software. Linux is an open-source operating system, meaning users can modify and improve the software's design. Other video game systems use their own proprietary operating systems.

First, a few caveats. Many of the features of EVO, such as its social networking site, were unavailable to me because I never could get the Internet hooked up to the console. This is partly the fault of Envizions; I primarily use high-definition equipment at home, and Envizions' HD connection was not working properly, a fact not disclosed to me at the time they dropped off the console. Company officials were very nice about this when I contacted them, but there were no units with HD connections available to me.

If the HD doesn't work, Envizions shouldn't be selling this product. Period. It's a waste of their time and the consumer's.

I did have an old SD monitor at the house, but I really had no place to put it and the gaming system. (We live in a small house and I didn't feel like rearranging all of our furniture to accommodate something I would have for about a week. Sorry.) Not wanting to abandon efforts to review the console, I took it to The Star office. For reasons too long to explain here, we could not access the Internet on the EVO. Therefore, my review is limited to the non-Internet components of the system, and I can offer no fair opinion on the Internet-based features such as the phone and video services. I welcome the opportunity to do so if I can receive a unit with functional HD connections.

That aside, there are several obvious issues with the hardware that the company needs to address. I realize the system was likely a labor of love for the developers, but it shouldn't be work for the players. The EVO was complicated to set up, with many accessories that tended to defeat their own purpose. A wireless keyboard and controller required separate sensors that were hooked up to the EVO externally; the PS3 has these features built into the system.

The instruction booklet was not very helpful. It said the system came with an HDMI cable needed to show the system in high-def. It wasn't included because the HD didn't work, something I figured out by using the cable for my PS3.

The instructions seemed out of sequence. Before the book clearly explained how I could get the wireless components working, it was telling me how to add more memory to the system. We were getting ahead of ourselves.

Once I was able to get the system running, it took entirely too long to load (about a full minute by my count.) Most gaming systems load up instantly, but EVO runs a bit more like a computer in this regard.

The DVD player did not work. The disk tray would not eject when I pushed the button, and the instruction book did not explain why this would be the case. Not that I needed a DVD player, but if I did, it would've been disappointing to not get a working one with the system.

Gaming was by far the largest letdown. Envizions included no secure digital card games, which left me unable to really assess the system's power. The demo I saw and the advertising that's been on our local airwaves showed several games that looked nice, such as first person shooters and racing games. What I got were two games already on the system.

One was "Kobo Deluxe," a game that closely resembled "Space Invaders" and "Galaga." That really didn't hold my attention. The other was "Super Tux," which was a knockoff of Super Mario Brothers starring a penguin. I was not impressed.

The Envizions company touts its new console as the "system of tomorrow." Unfortunately, it feels more like the system of the 1990s. I have to give the company some credit. Their advertising blitz and media demonstration got my attention and a big headline in The Star. The box is packaged professionally and the company knows how to put a nice gloss over what is an otherwise inexpensive Linux computer system.

I'm reluctant to write such things about a local company. Maybe this is bias on my part, but I want to see a technology-based business succeed in Anniston. I want it to prosper and grow and provide high-paying jobs for smart young people.

But that won't happen when the company is selling a $379 system that has parts that don't work correctly. That's why I hope the developers will take this review as a challenge instead of a put down. I challenge them to develop a system that is clearly an improvement over the other consoles out there, to put out a product that works as advertised at launch time and to simplify their design.

I ask them to develop a system with a broader appeal than the one they're selling. Open-source gaming will appeal to people who are programmers and hardcore tech junkies, but to the average person who is looking for entertainment, this system will feel like a chore.

Most of all, I urge them to not give up. Go back to the drawing board and design something that will truly blow us away. And don't come back until it's done.

Dan Whisenhunt was raised in Mobile and is a graduate of the University of Alabama. When he's not staying on top of current trends in gaming, he covers Oxford, Lincoln and Munford for The Star.

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