Back in June of this year we ran into the folks at Project GAEMS and their G155 console case. After a few minutes we realized that there was a genius to this design and idea that lent itself very well to our particular audience of military gamers and whats even better, the guy at the helm was a prior service US Marine!
For most people your XBOX or PS3 gets stationed at its place at your home/apartment and then stays there. Minor moves for furniture or TV upgrades aside, they stay put and never really wander off. There are enough pieces and parts that you likely dont even give taking your console with you a second thought, it’s just not how we use them but military (active especially) gamers are not ‘most people’.
Deployments, life in the barracks, duty station changes etc all make ‘portable’ a much more common word and with that in mind we pressed for a review unit so we could tell our military friends how they can be ‘mobile’ console gamers.
If you’ve ever packed up your console and taken it anywhere you know that these things are designed to get setup at home and then left there. There are cords, wires, sensitive electronics, controllers and any number of games and accessories. With two teens Ive had cause to cart a unit of two off to grandma’s house when the kids are off for a long visit and need the mental break. It was quick work to push most of the items into a backpack or Walmart shopping bag and repeat ‘BE CAREFUL’ 100 times before and after the trip.
I will mention that while this case does a great job helping to get your console and required items to your favorite destination, if you have a Kinect, Move or extra controllers you are still going to default to backpack or grocery bag for the extras. The case doesnt offer much additional space and the bigger items just wont go in it. Game discs themselves can go in the case if you pick up a CD carrier (not included in our review units but apparently available or in the works) but not with the cases so slip the discs into a cheap CD car visor carrier and you can offload that duty to the GAEMS unit too.
Setup is so simple you could teach a pre-teen to manage it and have little or no trouble. Open the case, hook up the Mini HDMI cable (provided) from the console to the monitor and then run power to the monitor and your console and you are powering up in a few moments.
With such a immense amount of apparent thought into the design of this case we wondered why there wasn’t an option to pull power from the main console adapter to power the monitor and save us some space and require one less outlet. When we asked we were logically told
Legally, placing anything between the console unit and the power that didn’t come with the console places GAEMS into a liability situation should there be a power issue that damaged the console and voided your warranty or worse cause damage to anyone or anything. To maintain the warranty and insure safety, you need to keep power separate.
After a quick thought about all the legal mumbo jumbo you get with your console we agreed that it was a small price to pay to insure safe gaming that maintained that life saving warranty. I will say this, it sounds like the team at Project GAEMS was in talks with engineers for the consoles to see if at some point in the future they could eliminate this requirement.
The unit is solid when closed and traveled well over our field tests. From home to car to office it was always easy to manage and never came open. As with any electronic gear, you’ll handle with a deliberate care but we felt confident that our hard earned dollars in gaming console goodness were safe and secure.
The closure system is a two stage offering on each side. even with the first stage open (if you didnt close all the way) the case remained closed. The secondary closure holds the case shut tight and feels secure and able to keep out the elements.
When the unit is open, obviously the solid design has some twist points that if someone knocked it over or fell over it you might raise some concerns but this is to be expected and in all fairness that same situation would be the case if we had… well, no case. While the unit is open, the design of the case near the handle creates a bit of an overhang above the monitor which works well to keep the glare off your screen, offer a little darker space for depth and clarity and takes the focus off the edges of the monitor which led to a ‘floating’ feel in moderately lit spaces.
Be mindful here, while the case is designed to be MOBILE it is not wireless and one shortfall we ran into was the length of the two power cables. While plenty long enough at home, your console cable length starts to make you rethink your GAEMS usage strategy when the unit and the monitor are linked to each other. This means that you need to find a surface you can game from comfortably that has a wall outlet within a few scant feet OR you need to consider a power strip with a few extra feet. This might be a good option if you’re not moving far or you’re planning ahead for a weekend at a friends playing your favorite games.
If you’re looking to get a more customized look to fit your favorite game you’ll find that GAEMS is offering more and more customized versions. We were told that owners will be able to order the ‘skins’ and apply them at home. We looked at these and thought they certainly are great looking and make outstanding marketing prize materials for game companies but as we know, games come and games go so maybe we should wait to see how hard they are go cover or remove.
One element missing from the unit that we felt is an addition that would appeal to the military gamer is a locking system. Kensington lock systems for securing laptops are found all over and being able to secure the case to something large enough to prevent walk offs is a big deal. We did discuss this with the team at Project GAEMS and they are actively reviewing how to get it done. There are some design challenges and the case IS made of plastic so there is much to address but they seem up to the challenge.
We took this out on the road both in the civilian world and the military world.
For the civilian world we carted the a PS3 to work at the office for two weeks and used it at lunch. The unit functioned as expected, was quick and easy to setup and put away and got plenty of looks and ‘hey, can I take a turn’. The whole time a headset kept it private and we never had any crashes or issues that were not merely part of the console experience normally.
We showcased this case for a few friends and got a whole lot of curious looks which ended with an amazed interest in telling other friends about it. It seemed everyone had a friend who moves around and hates PC but would love to game on the go easier. The setups and breakdowns at various friends houses and places of work went without incident and we gamed happily in all places.
On a recent trip down to Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina, the GAEMS G155 was introduced to several members of my Squadron in an office setting. The system was met with oohs and ahhs from both the Enlisted and the Officer ranks. One junior enlisted member SRA Cody R., was practically salivating at the mouth to give the GAEMS a shot.
Set up was completed within two minutes, and following boot up, Cody was playing the new Ace Combat Assault Horizon. I must say that the young man is a good stick and was quite familiar with the PS3 used in the demo. After allowing Cody his allotted game time, I asked one of the officers Lieutenant Colonel Dave M., to give it a shot. Camera shy, Dave wouldn’t allow his picture to be used in the article. But, as an avid gamer Dave said after playing this he would definitely purchase one. Interestingly enough had I had several to sell, I could have easily sold five just to the folks in my squadron. The building contains three flying squadrons and who knows how many could be sold at the Charleston Air Base Exchange.
One thing was asked consistently. Is Black the only color this thing comes in?? Hopefully GAEMs is listening to the reviews and field feedback and will produce this hardware in something other than Black. Favorite color suggestions from my military compatriots included, Olive Drab (Seriously? I would have never thought of that one!), Coyote Brown, Air Force Blue (figures….), and for the female gamers, Pink. Shocking yes I know, but even the military gals like their Pinks and Purples….oh yeah and Purple!
Cody pointed out the fact that not having storage spaces for actual discs would force him to have to put his games on the system memories. He likes to have discs on hand as a backup. He suggested that a neoprene sleeve that could hold six maybe eight games be included. If included, the sleeve could be laid flat on top of the game console for transport.
Another trip to Charleston and beyond has been planned for mid-December where the GAEMs will be taken on an actual military aircraft and used in various deployed locations. Troop feedback will be gathered and added to an additional article later in the month.
A side bar. The PS3 used in the demo was removed and placed back next to its usual resting spot by the television. My xBox 360 will reside permanently in the GAEMs for future trips. The PS3 needed to be reset in order to get it to work back together with the television. I haven’t tried that with my xBox, but you may just want to keep that in the back of your head if you swap between your television and the GAEMs G155.
The unit is solid, can take the bumps and offers the protection a case implies. It’s TSA approved and neatly fits in an overhead bin if you were taking it on a commercial flight or stores nicely vertically or flat.
The monitor is crisp and clear. The image is bright and will remind PC gamers of gaming on a laptop where you trade screen size for portability but without sacrificing the quality of the image. A few minutes into playing out of reach of some big screen where you normally wouldn’t be able to play a game and you’ll forget all about the size.
The unit offers small speakers which for the size still offer a solid detail without sounding like the speaker on your cell phone. For those who want to really hit the depth of the audio experience you’ll grab your favorite head set and jack into the standard audio headset jack offered in the on board monitor base.
The value of this item is greatest for those who intend on moving around more than normal. The occasional use types might find the $299 price tag a bit much (oh we hear that if you let them know you’re military you get a military discount) but the value is in the ROI. If you’re a troop in the barracks where keeping your area clear, clean and secured is important you’ll appreciate being able to button it up and lock your system away in your wall locker or slide it under your bed.
It might also make you wince if you mistakenly think about the price point for a ‘case’ rather than a protective case AND a 15″ HD LCD monitor. If you go shop for both you’ll quickly realize where your costs are and you’ll appreciate the simplicity of the design.
For those troops who want to grab your games and go over to another area of the barracks rather than be shackled to your room, this is a great way to go. If you’re going downrange (that means deployment for our civilian readers) then this case offers a great option for hauling your gear and keeping it out of the elements while away.
For our primary audience we call this one a WIN for the console gamers out there. The benefits of portability, ease of securing and protecting your investment are compliments to the looks you’ll get when your military friends wonder what you have in the fancy ‘gun case’. Just tell them you’ve got ALL KINDS of guns in this case as you fire up your favorite shooter.