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Category: Reviews

Trackball Reviews and Ergonomics

by redshift

I’m a programmer and a gamer, so I spend most of my day using a keyboard and mouse.  I haven’t had serious issues with repetitive strain injury, but my hands and forearms do get tired and uncomfortable after a long day on the computer or a number of days without a break.  I’ve tried a lot of things to head off the risk.

computer_workstation_variables

“Computer Workstation Variables” by Berkeley Lab

First and easiest was switching to an ergonomic keyboard.  Some people are afraid of split keyboard layouts, but you get used to it very quickly and it allows your arms to remain at your sides where they belong.  You could start out with a cheap Microsoft Natural 4000, which also allows for negative tilt – you don’t want your wrists bent upward.

The next step to keyboard bliss is ditching the staggered layout, which requires you to twist your wrists at unnatural and asymmetric angles.  Good options here include the Truly Ergonomic Keyboard or an ErgoDox, either in kit form or prebuilt.  (Try the kit – I had a blast soldering it together.)  One great benefit of the ErgoDox over the TEK is that you can “tent” the keyboard, meaning to raise the center so that your wrists don’t have to twist to lie unnaturally flat.

If you use a laptop keyboard consistently, you’re at greater risk of RSI because you’re contorting your wrist in multiple dimensions whenever you type.  I recommend hooking up a keyboard, even for travel – you can get 40% or 60% keyboards or a compact split keyboard to take with you.  And, if possible, don’t actually use your laptop on your lap where you’ll have to look down at a sharp angle for long periods.


Ok.  Mice!

Mice have a lot of problems.  One is that you generally either have to squeeze the mouse or move your whole arm to move the pointer, depending on your grip.  Another is that you have to torque your wrist over to lay your hand flat on top of the mouse.  Ergonomic mice tend to be right-handed only, and “solve” the problem by having the left side of the mouse be taller so that your hand can lie on it at a bit of an angle.

vm4r-sm

Evoluent VerticalMouse 4, also available for lefties!

The logical extension to this is the vertical mouse – a type of mouse that lets your hand sit perpendicular to the desk.  One good example of this is the Evoluent VerticalMouse 4, which I used for almost two years.  It’s much more comfortable (at first) and doesn’t take much adjustment.  The biggest adjustment for me was due to the fact that it’s taller than a regular mouse, so you have to lift your hand a bit more when switching between keyboard and mouse.  I got over that and thought I had found mousing nirvana.

I’m still typing, so obviously it wasn’t nirvana.

The problem, which I only found after repetitive strain over the course of a year or so – you no longer have the benefit of the desk pushing up against your finger when you click.  You have to squeeze your thumb against the mouse to keep it still when clicking.  Essentially, you’re squeezing your whole hand to click, every time.  I click a lot.  My thumb is sore.  I wasn’t expecting that.

The VerticalMouse also started missing a significant portion of my clicks after a year or so, and this happened with two of them, so there may be quality issues in the switch.


I decided it was time to try something different.  An underappreciated classic.  The trackball.

Sadly, there aren’t a lot of trackballs being made these days.  I assume that’s because “gaming mice” have taken over the market and people don’t think trackballs can be used for gaming.  (Not true!)  In any case, I did a lot of research on what’s available.

m570

Logitech M570

My first stop was the cheap, well-reviewed Logitech M570.  It’s got four buttons and a clickable wheel to go along with its thumb-controlled trackball.  (Many trackballs lack extra buttons or a wheel, features I don’t think I could go without.)  It’s wireless; I prefer wired, but Logitech’s solution works well and didn’t have any noticeable lag.

I used the M570 for about a week.  It’s well made and comfortable to hold, being sculpted to fit a (small) hand.  What a bargain, too!  The trouble for me is that the thumb-controlled trackball doesn’t solve my problem from the vertical mouse – my thumb is overworked.  I found my thumb getting rather tired after a day with the M570.  Plus, thumbs aren’t as nimble as fingers, so you’re necessarily limited in how precise you can be with this style of trackball.


I decided I wanted to try the classic finger-controlled style of trackball.  I looked into the top contenders today, models from Kensington, LogitechClearly Superior Technologies, and Elecom.  (Elecom doesn’t have a great English site for their trackballs, sorry.)

41fiv4zt5bl-_sx300_

Kensington Expert

A common recommendation is the Kensington Expert, which is now available in a wireless model as well.  (It used to come in a “pro” model with extra buttons at the top; sadly, that’s discontinued.)

I didn’t buy this one, but I have played with it briefly and read a lot of reviews.  You get a lot more precision with its large, finger-controlled trackball, and the buttons are still easy to reach.  There’s a ring around the ball that you turn to scroll.  Overall, I think it’s a good choice if you like the layout of its four buttons.  (I’ll get back to the layout in a minute, since it’s the same for the Slimblade.)

One downside is the construction of the scroll ring, which grates a bit as it spins; they would do well to make it spin more smoothly.  Another issue is the positive tilt, which forces you to bend your wrist upward; they do include a wrist rest, but it seems like you could avoid the problem altogether by making the surface level.  Enter the Slimblade…


slimblade

Kensington Slimblade

The Kensington Slimblade is similar to the Expert, but looks a bit classier, and trades the scroll ring for the ability to twist the ball to scroll.  It’s also got a level base, which I consider a nice plus – you can choose a wrist rest if you want one, but it’s less likely to be required.

I bought the Slimblade and used it for a couple days.  The construction is pretty good, and it’s comfortable to hold.  It’s got the same basic button layout as the Expert, but the buttons are part of the single piece of plastic that makes up the body; the practical effect is that it takes very little effort to push the buttons near the ball and progressively more effort to push them away from the ball.  I don’t like this, because it means you either need to use your pointer finger to push the primary button on the left, near the ball, or you use your thumb to press further away from the ball and have to push pretty hard.  This gets tiring quickly.

I had a couple mechanical issues with the Slimblade.  One is that twisting the ball made an annoying grating sound, plus a generated clicking sound.  Another is that the top right button felt different than the others; you could feel two clicks before it activated.  These are common complaints for the product.

My main complaint with the Kensingtons, however, is their button layout.  I don’t want to stress my thumb, but the button placement almost demands it.  You can’t comfortably press the bottom left button with your index finger unless you twist your hand, so you’re limited in terms of hand placement and button configuration.  Hence my final two options…


elecom

Elecom M-DT2URBK

The Elecom M-DT2URBK looks a lot more like a standard mouse, but has a finger trackball where the primary buttons would be.  The primary button and wheel are moved to the thumb, off on the left, along with back/forward buttons.  There’s a slim button to the right of the ball for right clicking, and a few programmable buttons on the left.

I haven’t tried the Elecom in person, but I really like the design, and it’s unique in the field today.  You’re not giving up any useful controls.  (It’s reminiscent of the beloved, discontinued Microsoft Trackball Explorer, which can now sell for over $600.)  Even though the primary button is under your thumb, and I’m wary of tiring out my thumb, it’s activated by a squeeze rather than a lateral downward push.  If I had to pick one, I’d pick the squeeze, since that’s a more natural movement.

Still, in the end, I was turned off by all the controls on the thumb.  Worse, though, is the size of the trackball – it’s the same as the M570, a smaller ball meant for the thumb.  You’re intended to use it with just your index finger, with your middle finger on the right button and your ring and pinky fingers in the grooves on the side.  I wasn’t willing to trade a tired thumb for a tired index finger, while getting less precision than a typical finger trackball.


Ok, the grand reveal… my new trackball!

cst2545-5w

The Clearly Superior Technologies CST2545-5W.  It’s a beast, made to last, with replaceable parts.  It feels solid on the desk.  It uses steel rollers, rather than the tiny jewels in the Kensington trackballs, and rolling the trackball around feels smoother to me.  I love the precision of rolling around the large, smooth trackball.  It’s just fun, and I was quickly able to tell it was more comfortable.

In terms of configuration, it’s trivial – no drivers needed.  I set the DPI to medium (just hold the right mouse button and press the left to switch) and added some acceleration on the cursor, and I can hit a single pixel or glide across the screen, all without lifting my hand.

I like the button layout.  The left and right buttons are long – they span the full height of the trackball and then some.  This means you can press them with your index finger at the top, or your thumb at the bottom, and they’re pretty easy to push in either spot.  Having that flexibility reduces the chance of stressing out any one muscle.  The middle button is above the wheel, easy to find with a little bump.

The scroll wheel sits above the middle button.  It’s very smooth and feels nice to operate.  It doesn’t spin freely, but doesn’t resist either.  It may be a little hard to reach if you have small hands, but mine are average and I’ve found a comfortable spot where I can move the trackball or operate the wheel without moving my hand.

ripster-cst-switches

Ripster’s lego switch mod

The “5W” in “CST2545-5W” indicates that this model supports 5 buttons.  See those two jacks on the back?  You can plug in extra buttons and place them wherever you like.  You can buy them if you want, but they’re also trivial to make; I’m building my own out of Lego and keyboard switches with inspiration from this guide by ripster.

(Ripster is also a prominent figure in /r/trackballs and /r/mechanicalkeyboards, two great sources of information.  He’s posted a number of other guides to modifying the CST, since it’s well designed for modding and repair.)

One downside to the CST, similar to the Kensington Expert, is the angle of the base.  It encourages upward tilt of the wrists.  I’d prefer the whole body be shorter, but I use a wrist rest for comfort anyway and it raises up my hand enough to avoid the issue.

There are a number of available models; one without a wheel, one with switch jacks that replace the primary buttons instead of complementing them (the SAW model), one without switch jacks, and a couple with glowing trackballs.


I hope this helps.  Even if you’re not interested in a trackball, please consider the strain you’re putting on your hands if you use a computer all day.  Make sure to take breaks, and stretch regularly.

One easy stretch you can do is to spread all of your fingers apart, like you were showing someone the number 5.  Hold them there for a few seconds, and gradually use your hand muscles to spread your fingers further so you feel a slight tension.  I feel my skin stretch a bit when I do this.  Afterward, I can feel the tendons relax a bit.  I think it counteracts my tendency to curl my fingers onto the keyboard all day long.

Don’t use your other hand or anything else to force your fingers to stretch, or you could hurt yourself.  It should feel natural.  If anything hurts even remotely, stop.  I’m not a doctor, I’m just saying what helps me.  Take care of yourself.

How To Fix a Fedora Bug, Plus Free Mini-Review

by redshift

In the spirit of my previous Exherbo review and guide to fixing an Ubuntu crash, let’s do the same for Fedora!

I was growing a bit tired of the development lag in Crunchbang Linux and needed a new distribution. I want a well-built system that doesn’t take too much administration so I can focus on other things. (As you may know, I have a tendency to set up and administer machines for fun, forgetting to do any “real” work on top of it.)

Fedora sounded good. All free software with fairly frequent updates. RPM hell is avoided with Yum. I particularly appreciate the use of the free Nouveau driver for my Nvidia card, and Kernel Mode Setting for a smoother start and fewer hassles.

When it works, Fedora is slick. They’re a bit ahead of Ubuntu in terms of features, with default SELinux, KMS, and better video drivers. Another thing I appreciate is that one of Fedora’s goals is to stay close to upstream. They don’t want to apply 10 patches to every package, preferring to send patches upstream and get down to zero distribution-specific patches if possible.

It’s quick to boot, particularly with KMS. The battery life is about 10-15% longer than with Crunchbang, even with more daemons running.

Read the rest of this entry »

Energy Drink Reviews – Part 5

by redshift

This is a continuation of part 4 of my energy drink reviews, a special on ABB.

  • Adrenalyn Stack – Berry Energizing: 7/10

    First you get a strong blast of berry flavor, but unfortunately it doesn’t last very long. It fades to a general fruity flavor, similar to the Subzero Red, but has a slightly chalkier texture. I didn’t get an aftertaste, though, so it’s not bad overall.

  • Ripped Force – Fruit Punch: 8/10

    This is a good option if you want a strong energy boost. The Ripped Force drinks have 200mg of caffeine along with some blend called Adrenergic Catalyst Technology. I have no idea what that means, but it gives me a bit of the jitters. The Fruit Punch variety is an interesting beast – it has a nice (though very sweet) fruity flavor at first, and then completely disappears, as if you didn’t have a drink at all. Then, there’s a bit of chalky texture, but no real aftertaste. I haven’t had that experience before, but it’s not too bad – a little better than the Berry Energizing flavor.

  • Speed Stack – Lemon Lime: 9/10

    I love the flavor on this one. That means something because I normally hate lemon-lime flavors. In this one, the citrus is toned down and it’s fairly sweet – not overly bright. The energy level is fairly strong, as in other Speed Stacks, but not as strong as a Ripped Force. There’s a bit of aftertaste, but not of chemicals, just a slightly sweet flavor.

Read the rest of this entry »

Energy Drink Reviews – Part 4

by redshift

American Body Building was nice enough to send over a case of their energy drinks to review. I guess I’m an “authority” on energy drinks now. (Sweet.) See part 1, part 2, and part 3 of my energy drink reviews for non-ABB products.

Note that free products are great, but they don’t affect the ratings. ABB did well overall, and there are a couple great drinks, but there were still a couple let-downs. I’ll have some suggestions for ABB at the end.

I tried five types of drinks:

  • Speed Stack – No sugar, 250mg caffeine total.

    A couple ingredients you can pronounce, a few you can’t. This gives a moderately strong energy boost, and doesn’t seem to affect the flavor much.

  • Ripped Force – 350mg of their Adrenergic Catalyst mix, i.e. a bunch of things you can’t pronounce.

    This gives a strong energy boost, but affects the flavor slightly more than Speed Stack. Some of these still got very good scores.

  • Diet Turbo Tea – No sugar, 90mg of caffeine and guarana, plus some ginseng.

    A nice light energy boost. Doesn’t affect the flavor.

  • Adrenalyn Stack – 200mg caffeine and a whole pile of things you can’t pronounce.

    The most additives, the strongest energy boost. Unfortunately, it really affects the texture and flavor of the drinks. These got some of the lower scores.

  • Speed Shot Intensity – No sugar, but a lot of things you can’t pronounce.

    One of the more potent energy mixes. It doesn’t affect flavor consistently – sometimes it’s not noticeable, sometimes it is. See the individual reviews below.

There are a number of flavors for each of the above types. Originally, I was going to review the types and the flavors separately, but they affect each other more than I expected.

So, you get 15 reviews for the price of one!

  • Speed Shot Intensity – Subzero Red: 8/10

    This reminds me of a red Hug (the little barrel-drinks) but not as overpoweringly sweet. It’s sugar-free, so I’m not sure how they managed this without getting a chemical aftertaste. The energy boost was noticeable but it didn’t keep me up all night – just what I wanted. I can’t pretend I know what all of the energy supplements in this drink are, but they work well.

  • Diet Turbo Tea – Lemon: 9/10

    Tasty, natural tea with added guarana for energy. There’s only 90mg of caffeine total, so if your only goal is energy, try one of the stronger alternatives. The lemon flavor is balanced correctly for my taste. There’s a bit of tang from something – either the ginseng or the sucralose, I think. No chemical aftertaste. The tea flavor could be a bit more pronounced, but overall it’s quite tasty.

  • Speed Stack – Lemon Tea: 8/10

    The flavor base is the same as the Turbo Tea, but this one has a much more potent energy mix. It masks the tea flavor slightly, but it still doesn’t taste like chemicals. There’s a slight sticky, sweet aftertaste. I’m impressed that they’re able to make these drinks powerful without the strong overtones of common energy drinks.

  • Ripped Force – Grape: 7/10

    Similar to the Subzero Red, this flavor reminds me of a Hug. If you remember Hugs from when you were a kid, you can imagine these drinks. Sweet, slightly artificial fruity flavor. Not quite as sweet as a true Hug, which is a good thing. The energy boost is similar to the Speed Shot and Speed Stack, but a bit stronger. I’m a little jittery.

  • Speed Shot Intensity – Purple Frost: 6/10

    Tastes like the Grape flavor of Ripped Force, but you can taste the added chemicals in this concentrated form. It’s not too strong, but since it’s noticeable, it detracts a little bit. The energy boost is on the strong side.

Stay tuned for part 5, the conclusion of the ABB reviews!

Energy Drink Review: Inko’s White Tea Energy

by redshift

Mini-review: Inko’s White Tea Energy. 7/10. I appreciate that it’s all-natural, but it’s slightly too bitter for me. You definitely won’t get jitters from its tea caffeine, but you won’t be fully alert, either.

ABB Energy Drinks

by redshift

American Body Building sent me a case of energy drinks to try out because of my prior reviews. So far – very impressed. I’ll post a series of reviews as I work through the different varieties.

Energy Drink Reviews – Part 3

by redshift

This is a continuation of parts one and two of my energy drink reviews. I’m trying to find an energy drink to keep me productive at work without too much sugar.

Sobe Power: 8/10

This is a nice break from the artificial tastes of typical energy drinks. It’s a standard fruit punch flavor but there’s no aftertaste or any hint of additives. It’s a little on the sweet side, but at least that comes from natural sugar. Don’t rely on it for an energy spike because the additives are relatively minor and you’ll have a slight sugar crash. High marks for taste and natural ingredients.

Steaz Orange: 8/10

Steaz is going for an earthier approach to orange flavor with the addition of yerba mate. If you’ve had yerba mate you’ll know what I mean. I don’t like pure yerba mate (or some other green teas) because it tastes a little like grass. However, adding a touch of it to orange juice is a nice combination and balances the sweetness. There’s also a hint of acai, and it’s lightly carbonated. If you want something a little sweeter, Kaboom Orange doesn’t have any tea and tastes more like pure juice. Steaz is good for a change if you like yerba mate.

Emergen-C Health and Energy Water – Dragon Fruit: 7/10

Emergen-C is the strange cousin of Vitamin Water that’s quiet at the family reunions. It’s definitely more of an enhanced water than an energy drink, so if you need a powerful kick, look elsewhere. There are a few things you have to look past – it has a disconcerting pale yellow color, it smells a bit off, and it’s a little thicker than water should be. If you ignore that, it has a nice, subtle fruit flavor and 16 times the vitamins. Seriously – up to 1660% of the daily value of some vitamins like Vitamin C, hence its name. It also has “Okinawa Deep Sea Minerals,” whatever that means. (They might be the culprit for the thickness.) A bottle was pretty cheap and it’s one of the healthiest options I’ve reviewed, while still offering a little sweetness. Worth a shot.

Sobe Energy: 8/10

There’s a hint of creaminess to go with the citrus flavor. The citrus is mostly orange but you can taste some others that add a bit of depth. (The label says lemon, cherry, and elderberry.) It’s definitely on the sweet side since they added sugar to the fruit juice – 66g per bottle total. That’s usually not necessary if you’re using good juice. Otherwise, it’s good – mostly natural, smooth, and the creaminess is a great addition.

Red Bull Sugar Free: 4/10

Tastes like Rockstar Sugar Free, but a little less sweet, so it’s not like being hit in the face with a five pound bag of Smarties. That’s a good thing, and it gains a whole point for it, but this is still very run of the mill. I suppose I should have expected that with Red Bull being one of the original energy drinks. If you want to imagine the taste, just water down some sour Smarties. On the plus side, they carve a bull out of the can’s tab. (Not worth it.)

Rockstar Juiced – Guava: 6/10

So close and yet so far away. This could be really good if it weren’t so carbonated and sticky. The flavor is nice – the guava itself is soothing – but the artificial texture throws it off. It also tastes worse and worse as it warms up. I have to give this drink some credit – it’s much better than the other Juiced flavor, mango/orange/passionfruit. I’ll save that for another review, to be written when I’m depressed.

Vitamin Water 10 – Energy: 8/10

Very light and refreshing citrus flavor. The difference between Vitamin Water and Vitamin Water 10 is that the newer 10 version uses stevia as a sweetener instead of sugar. This gives it less calories, a sweeter taste, and (unfortunately) a little bit of sweet aftertaste. High marks for taste and health benefit, but I have to take away a couple points because of the slight aftertaste and because I wish the citrus were a bit more pronounced.

Energy Drink Reviews – Part 2

by redshift

This is a continuation of part one of my energy drink reviews. I’m trying to find an energy drink to keep me productive at work without too much sugar.

  • Arizona Green Tea Energy Drink: 2/10

    Tastes like honey. Honey that just fell out of a bee’s ass. A homeless bee that hasn’t showered in a year. Add in a little spoiled cough syrup. Tea could be a great base for an energy drink, but this is not the right tea, nor was it sweetened properly.

  • Monster M-80: 6/10

    80% juice. Tastes like passion fruit, pineapple, and guava. Not bad, but a little too tangy from the pineapple. Tastes a little like cough syrup. In fact, I just had some cough syrup, and it mixes well.

  • Sobe Essential – Berry Pomegranate: 8/10

    Only 7% juice, but very tasty. Raspberry and pomegranate flavor, lightly carbonated. It does have a hint of tanginess, whether from the fruit or the additives I can’t tell. A little too much sugar to be considered one of the “natural” alternatives, but it’s a great option.

  • Rockstar Sugar Free: 3/10

    Tastes like carbonated Smarties. Drinks shouldn’t taste like Smarties. I really don’t know what else to say about this one, except that Smarties are a lot better.

  • Full Throttle Zero: 7/10

    Citrusy, but it doesn’t hit you over the head. Overall it’s pretty nice, but it does have a little bit of funny taste from the additives, and I don’t know who needs so many additives in the first place. Each of the mainstream energy drink brands has a “standard flavor”, and this is probably the best of that lot.

  • No Fear Sugar Free: 7/10

    Mostly grape, a little blueberry taste. Tastes similar to the Full Throttle Zero except for the choice of fruit. A good option but a little artificial.

  • Amp Sugar Free: 7/10

    Tastes like bubble gum. Actually pleasant if you like the idea of drinking bubble gum. Not as many additives as some of the other energy drinks, and has no unpleasant aftertaste. Just bubble gum!

  • Rockstar Zero Carb: 5/10

    Slightly bitter, moderate carbonation. I can’t pick out the fruit flavors because it’s a bit medicinal, and they don’t list which fruits make up the “natural flavors.” I appreciate the lack of aftertaste, but it’s still a bit sticky and artificial. The No Fear Sugar Free has a similar fruity taste but it’s definitely a step up from this.

  • Lo-Carb Monster: 5/10

    Tastes incredibly similar to Rockstar Zero Carb. Really – just reread the last entry. Same artificiality and almost the same taste. I suspect they come from the same original manufacturer. It does add a few extra vitamins, but this is another one you could skip. Mixxd is the best of the Monsters so far.

  • Amp with Black Tea: 4/10

    This doesn’t taste as spoiled as the Amp with Green Tea, but it does have the unpleasant tea/syrup combination of the Arizona Green Tea energy drink. It leaves you with an awful aftertaste for quite a while. The only saving grace is that the honey flavor isn’t as strong as the Arizona, which makes the overall flavor a bit more like a regular Amp… but why not just drink something else?

Energy Drink Reviews

by redshift

This is the next entry in my series of short reviews. Today: energy drinks.

The goal: I want a drink that will keep me conscious and productive at work, without having too much sugar. I’m not a health nut, I’m just afraid of the diabetus. So, I found all of the natural/sugar-free energy drinks I could and slurped them down over the last three weeks. So you don’t have to.

  • Bawls Exxtra: 7/10

    Slightly fruity flavor. If you like the Bawls taste, you’ll like this; it’s similar but more powerful. It has slightly less impact than Bawls because of the change in sweetener.

  • Bawls Cherry: 8/10

    One of the best cherry sodas I’ve ever had. Doesn’t taste like an energy drink, just a good cherry soda (even though it’s artificial.) If that’s your thing, definitely try it out.

  • Kaboom Orange Buzzzz: 9/10

    Excellent – tastes very much like orange juice. No detectable flavor from the energy components. Has a lot of vitamins and is organic. My favorite so far.

  • Rumba energy juice: 8/10

    Not quite as good a taste as Kaboom Orange, but still good and 100% juice. Tastes like canned OJ – slightly watered down and lacking punch, but still refreshing and you can’t taste the energy additives at all. Other fruit flavors are faint.

  • Red Bull Cola: 8/10

    The cola flavor tastes like Coke but more natural. Uses real sugar and no chemicals at all. Much lighter in color than normal cola. Has caffeine and no other energy additives – fine by me. Basically a really good cola with a bit more pep. Very slight (natural) aftertaste.

  • Monster Mixxd: 7/10

    30% juice. The ingredients say the fruit juice comes from apples and grapes, which is pretty accurate if you can imagine the combination. Pretty tasty. A bit healthier than a straight energy drink but still has all the sugar and chemicals.

  • Monster Khaos: 5/10

    50% juice. This time there are more fruit juices combined, but they don’t add up. The strongest fruit flavor for me is the peach. It comes across as medicinal, and I don’t want carbonated medicine. The juice can’t save this from mediocrity.

  • Amp with Green Tea: 3/10

    This is not natural. It tastes like spoiled grapes and rotten herbs. There is absolutely no green tea flavor whatsoever, and by “yuzu” I think they meant “motor oil.” This has very few redeeming qualities – they added a few extra vitamins, and I’ve had a drink or two in my life that tasted worse.

  • Mountain Dew Voltage: 5/10

    So highly carbonated it’s screaming to get out of the bottle. Try to avoid getting any in your mouth when it does come out of the bottle – you’ll thank me later. It tastes like a blue raspberry freezer pop. I like freezer pops, but the blue raspberry ones are the worst in the box, and I wouldn’t want to drink it.

  • Rockstar Punched – Acai berry: 8/10

    Surprisingly nice. I wasn’t expecting much but it’s actually very fruity (in a good way) from the acai berry. I think the “citrus” name is a bit inaccurate; it’s more subtle and flavorful. Still has a bit of energy drink aftertaste so it can’t get the highest marks, but it’s definitely tasty.

Update: Here’s part two!

Clif Bar Reviews

by redshift

I prefer a lot of small reviews to a few big reviews. So, I’m reviewing seven types of Clif Bars in the same vein as the batches of Wii game reviews I did earlier.

My goal: a tasty, reasonably healthy snack for breakfast that’s easily transported to work and doesn’t require preparation.

  • Chocolate Chip – 5/10

    Not very chocolaty; they taste more like a chemically processed health food bar. No actual chocolate chips – or they’re too small to see. If you’re after chocolate flavor, try something else.

  • Chocolate Brownie – 8/10

    Much more chocolaty than the Chocolate Chip. Tastes less like health food and more like a snack. And yet it’s still healthy… Worth a shot for anyone.

  • Oatmeal Raisin Walnut – 6/10

    There’s a hint of walnut in this one but hardly any raisin. The oatmeal flavor is very weak – it tastes more like the standard Clif mix. These bars really need something to cover up the default Clif flavor because I’m not finding it pleasant.

  • Chocolate Almond Fudge – 5/10

    I’m noticing a trend with some of the bars – they smell stronger than they taste. This one smells strongly of almond but there’s only a slight hint of almond in the taste. There’s not much fudge flavor at all – nothing like the chocolate brownie. Slightly better than the Chocolate Chip because of the extra flavor, but otherwise the same.

  • Banana Nut Bread – 6/10

    Strong smell of banana, but the taste isn’t authentic. It has small bits of chocolate to try to help the flavor along, but it either needs more chocolate bits or better banana flavor. It fades into standard (strange, tangy) Clif flavor while chewing.

  • Blueberry Crisp – 7/10

    “Blueberry” doesn’t belong in the title, but “Crisp” is it’s strong point. It doesn’t have the faintest hint of blueberry. It does add some larger nuts to the basic Clif formula, which help to add crunch and mask some of the regular Clif flavor.

  • Carrot Cake – 8/10

    They actually got the the texture right – it’s reminiscent of real carrot cake. I’m not sure how they did that in a plastic-wrapped product, but it was a nice surprise. The taste is pleasant and fairly subtle, and doesn’t have as much of the standard Clif flavor, even without another strong flavor to mask it.

My favorites were definitely the Chocolate Brownie and the Carrot Cake. They had the most authentic flavors and textures, and I could probably eat them every morning for a while without getting bored. The others were forgettable because the base Clif formula is pretty gross and they didn’t do anything to separate themselves from it.

Note: I wasn’t able to test any peanut butter-flavored bars because of the peanut butter recall. When more flavors come in, I’ll make another post with my impressions.