Chess has always been a popular game. It is easy to learn, but very difficult to master. Only those with lots of time and patience ever get very good. The main problem with chess is that in order to take it with you, you have to pack a big board and lots of pieces. This makes it very inconvenient to whip it out for a quick game. With the Maestro travel Chess computer you can play a round of chess anywhere you want.
- 100 Playing Levels: 60 Fun and 40 Competition
- Hints and Tips and Coach Mode available
- Most major opening systems to learn
- 64 Study Positions – see how the experts do it
- Take Back and replay over 200 moves – experiment and learn
- Setup Option – try out new positions and moves
- Touch Sensor Screen – all on-screen action; no small pieces to move
- Backlit blue LCD display – clear visibility in all light conditions (with option to turn off to conserve battery power)
- Built-in Chess Clock
In the box of the Maestro, you won’t find much. It is a self-contained unit and it does not need much to run. You will get the Device itself, a case to protect it while traveling, and an instruction manual. The instruction manual explains just about everything, except the rules of the game.
The design of the Maestro Travel Chess Computer is good. It is just slightly larger than your average PDA and weighs about twice as much. It does seem a little heavy for its size but that may be because of the 3 AAA batteries that you must put in it. Either way you will probably not carry it in your pocket because of its size and weight. With the included case, it just barely fit in my pocket and was too bulky to be comfortable. The screen is about 2 1/4″ x 2 1/2″, this size seems to fit well with this device. The case is nice. It has a flip cover and a small clasp that holds it shut. The clasp is interesting. It seems like a magnet, but it is attracted to a small clear plastic strip that is on the bottom portion of the case. I personally didn’t know magnets were attracted to plastic. Maybe it has some metal in it. The Maestro Travel Chess Computer also has a stylus which is stored on the right side in the back.
There are 3 buttons just below the screen which can control a lot of the abilities of the Maestro. The left most button is the new game key. If you quickly press it twice, you will reset the computer. The right most button is the Hint/Info button. If you press it during your move it will give you a hint. If you press it repeatedly you can cycle through the main info displays. The middle button is a multi-purpose button. If you are in Levels/Study modes and you press it up or down you will cycle through the levels and study positions. If you are in Options/Info mode and you press it up or down you will cycle through the Options and Info displays. If you are in takeback mode and you press it up or down then you can take back or replay a move. When you press the button to the right, then you clear out of any menu you are in. You can also press it right to resume play after a takeback or to resume scrolling after a pause. Pressing the button to the left will take you to the menu. Finally, just pressing the button in will either change sides with the computer, force the computer to move while it is thinking, select a menu item or exit setup mode with a new position.
There are 2 more buttons on the left side. The top most one turns on the device with one press and turns off the device with two presses. The bottom button on the left side adjusts the background blue light. You can turn it off, on low and on high.
There is not much to say about the performance since I cannot perform any benchmarks. So I will instead talk about the game play and graphics. The Chess board is actually the background of the screen, so you will always see it even when it is turned off. The pieces seem to float on top of the board because of this. Each piece can best be described as a single icon or glyph that resembles a real chess piece. You move the pieces by first clicking on the piece you want to move and then click where you want it to go. The computer will not allow you to make illegal moves, so it is helpful to have all the moves memorized.
Just below the chess board is the information line. This is where you will see your clock and all the menus. It is very small and blocky so you may have a hard time reading it. The menus only show one item at a time, so to get to some of the deeper menus you may have to click the middle button a few times. The menus are all talked about in more detail in the user manual.
There is sound with this device. But there are only two sounds. One is a loud obnoxious beep. Since there is no volume, you must either deal with it or turn it off. The beep is activated by every button press or screen tap and it gets old fast. The other sound is off by default but you can turn it on. It is the sound of a ticking clock that goes off when it is your turn. It is meant to help you keep track of time without having to look at the timer.
If you are a real fan of chess, and you hate lugging around a big board and all the pieces then this is the device for you. Whether you are a beginner or expert, with 100 levels you are sure to find one that fits your expertise. With a 2 year warranty you can have worry free fun, and if it breaks because of a manufacturer defect, then they will fix or replace your Maestro. Be sure to keep your receipt as they required a dated proof of purchase.
If I could offer a couple of suggestions to Saitek I would recommend that they work on making this a little lighter and thinner. Maybe even have a battery pack that is rechargeable like a PDA. Along with the rechargeable battery pack they could include a wall plug. It would also be nice if there was a variety of sounds that played for different events like capturing an opponents piece or winning a game. With the extra sounds the device really needs a volume.
Other than those suggestions it is a great device and perfect for the traveling chess lover in your family. At the time of this review you could find this device online for about $64.95. It may take a little searching, but I found it and so can you. Good luck and have a lot of fun. If that is still a problem for your budget then Saitek sell a variety of chess products at lower prices.
|JusTech'n editors' rating|