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Jason Evangelho

Review: CrashPlan backs up your life for less

Should you give CrashPlan a few bucks a month for peace of mind? Spoilers: Yes.

As cloud-based storage continues to dominate the way we use and save our files, more and more companies spring up offering automated backup services – and with them, peace of mind. Perhaps the most well-known service is Mozy, but we’ve taken CrashPlan for a spin over the last 6 weeks, and it definitely deserves your attention whether you’re a student needing a “set it and forget it” backup plan, or an entire family with multiple devices.

CrashPlan has a lot going for it, not least of which is its multiplatform support; you can use it for Windows, Mac or Linux. Beyond its availability is the service’s flexibility, enabling anyone from novices to power users to backup and restore an unlimited and customizable amount of data.

We tested the CrashPlan+ Family Unlimited plan, which costs $10 per month if you pay for one year upfront (or $12 month-to-month). Consider that this gives you unlimited cloud storage for up to 10 computers, and you begin to see the value. The service even lets you invite friends to backup their content to your computer. We found this feature especially useful for our parents, allowing them to use our beefy hard drive to quietly backup their laptop without worry. And since we can have CrashPlan subsequently backup their content in a separate set of files, there’s no mess to clean up.

Crashplan Backup Features

We gave CrashPlan – and our internet pipes – a workout, leaving the software running 24/7. It didn’t miss a beat, backing up more than 50GB of music, documents, videos and photos to CrashPlan Central. Obviously your first backup can take days or weeks depending on your upload speeds.
Once your initial backup is complete, though, CrashPlan runs quietly in the background, monitoring any changes and uploading them accordingly. At that point, you can duplicate the backup to another computer, a USB drive, or restore the entire thing from the service’s web interface in the event of a PC meltdown.

To give you an idea of how we use the service, we created three different backup sets: one for our personal documents and photos, one for our music, and one to act as a real-time backup of other website projects. Then, we set the software to automatically send an email with backup alerts, and tweaked the actual backup settings to give us maximum horsepower when in front of our PC. You can tell CrashPlan that a user is “away” after, for example, 10 minutes of no activity. Then it takes full advantage of your CPU to enhance backup scanning and speeds. When you’re trying to game, browse or get work done, you can tell it to only use a certain percentage of your CPU. (Or you can just leave the default settings alone, as they’re configured for most users.)

What we love about CrashPlan is that it just works. So does Mozy, but CrashPlan offers more features at a lower cost (if you want an unlimited plan for just yourself, it’s only $3/month if paying yearly). The CrashPlan website has a good amount of documentation and help, and overall, it was a very seamless experience getting things up and running as well as restoring our data.
Personally, I’m happy to shell out $3 a month for peace of mind – especially unlimited peace of mind!

Find out more at www.CrashPlan.com

Turn your tablet into a productivity powerhouse

Get more done with your tablet, without breaking the bank

Tablet ownership among the college crowd has tripled over the last 12 months, and for good reason: They’re powerful, affordable, portable, and have features ideal for serving their content-hungry owners. But the biggest bummer of tablet ownership is their lack of productivity; no one wants to bang out term papers or even lengthy emails with their thumbs. We want to keep our awesome multitouch screens and games without paying loads of cash for a touch-screen enabled laptop. Is it possible to have the best of both worlds? You bet!

We’ve rounded up some of the best accessories for turning your tablet into a productivity powerhouse, without making your bank account scream for mercy.

Satechi R1 Tablet/Smartphone Stand

We tried several, but there was one clear winner balancing features, design and price. Compatible with just about any 7″ or 10″ tablet you throw on it, Satechi’s R1 is our ideal choice for a versatile stand. Its solid aluminum build makes it durable, and  its small form-factor and sleek design make it discrete and idea for cramped quarters. It’ll even fold away neatly. The padding on the base prevents slippage, and the padding on the stand itself prevents scratches and holds your tablet in place during normal (stationary) use.

Best of all, the arm hinges adjust painlessly to accommodate a huge variety of angles and heights, making it perfect for video chatting, TV watching, or serious work.

  • Price: $44.99
  • Available at Amazon.com and Satechi.net

 

Verbatim: Bluetooth Mobile Folding Keyboard

Verbatim’s bluetooth keyboard has more going for it than just its compact size. The foldable bluetooth device comes in white or black, and ships with its own carrying case and a built-in kickstand for your iPhone or other similarly sized smartphone.

While it’s volume and media buttons are targeted at iOS owners, it’s perfectly compatible with Android, and can remember up to six different devices, pairing automatically with the one you’ve got powered up.

A discrete lock button prevents it from folding while resting on your lap, and we found the the keyboard easy to type; despite its thin design the keys have a nice give to them.

Author’s Note: We loved the white version, but its carrying case is a bit feminine. Nothing wrong with that, but guys may want to opt for the black version.

 

  • Price: $56
  • Available at Amazon.com

Verbatim: Easy Riser Bluetooth Notebook Laser Mouse

Verbatim also has an affordable Bluetooth mouse which has a nice balance of features, comfort, and price. In addition to it being designed for both lefties and righties, the height of the mouse is adjustable to accommodate all kinds of different hands. It also has a sleep mode to conserve your battery, and the built-in bluetooth also makes it perfect for traveling with your standard Windows PC or Macbook.

  • Price: $29.99
  • Website: www.verbatim.com

iHome iDM5 Bluetooth Workstation

 

If you have a bit more coin, iHome’s bluetooth workstation can solve multiple productivity needs whether you’re working with a 10” tablet or a 4” smartphone. Its main features is the full-sized keyboard with media controls which work with any connected device.

It also rocks stereo speakers with SRS TruBass enhancement, giving you rich audio output for music, games, movies, or telephone calls. Yep, it has a built-in mic for phone calls and video chat, too. But it gets even better.

The iDM5 has two USB charging ports built in, and a 3.5mm audio input jack for connecting another audio device for music playback while you’re working.

It’s a durable piece of kit and functions as a desktop replacement; that being said, bear in mind it costs $149 (which we think is a value when looking at the features), but is meant to be a stationary device as it only functions while plugged into A/C power. Still, with this on your desk, it’s a budget-conscious workstation with everything you need to get serious.

  • Price: $129.99
  • Available at Amazon and www.iHomeAudio.com

Ex-Microsoft employees create algorithm to combat bra sizing problems

2 ex-Microsoft employees have created an algorithm to take the stress out of shopping for ladies undergarments.

Ladies, ever had the joy of going bra shopping or going along on a bra shopping trip? We know it’s no trip to the candy and puppy store, but ex-Microsoft employees have used their geek credentials and created an algorithm to take the stress out of shopping for ladies’ undergarments. Aarthi Ramamurthy and Michelle Lam launched True & Co on Wednesday. The website allows women to choose the best possible bra from the comfort of their own home.

No more shopping trips where you try on dozens of bras to only find one that fits. True & Co uses an algorithm based on unwritten rules that the top lingerie experts use when fitting a bra. No measuring tape or trip to the mall needed. The site asks you to take a quick survey that includes questions about your shape and current undergarments. Based on the answers, you are given customized store to pick three bras from. The other two bras are picked by experts also using your answers.

The bras cost no more than some popular lingerie store’s undergarments. Their selection costs $45, even from some high-end brands. For a deposit of $45, you are sent the five. Don’t like any? Send them all back at no cost. You only pay for those you keep.

There haven’t been any reviews of the service as of this time. It will be interesting to see how well an algorithm works for a variety of women. 

[via NY Daily News]

AViiQ's Portable Charging Station: The travel companion for gadget lovers

Neatly organize and easily charge up to 4 devices

When I travel, I don’t skimp on the gadgets. At the very least, I’m dragging along my PlayStation Vita, Samsung GALAXY Note, and iPad or Transformer Prime. Let’s not forget the wireless bluetooth speakers for the hotel room, and the tangle of cords and chargers needed to keep everything powered up. So, it’s nice to see that accessory company AViiQ has come up with an elegant solution for gadget junkies like me. 

Their Portable Charging Station is actually the 2nd generation of this accessory, but it packs some awesome improvements, like the removable cable rack which provides a solution for all those tangled cables. And the cable winder keeps your cords nice and short when they need to be. 

But one of the key features is the sleeve’s charging capabilities. It will charge up to 4 USB devices with only one outlet port — even tablets like the iPad which typically require higher wattages than most USB power provides. 

Now instead of stuffing everything haphazardly into a backpack, I can secure them, organize them, and zip them up in an attractive folio. 

The AViiQ Charging Station with Cable Rack is available now from AViiQ for $79.99

Review: Sharp AQUOS 60-inch Smart TV (LC-60LE64OU)

Is it possible for an HD TV to look too good? And why are we using literary and robotic terms to review a television? Read on to find out!

The Uncanny Valley. It’s a term used in the field of robotics to explain that uncomfortable feeling people experience when seeing a lifelike robotic version of another human being. The Uncanny Valley was most recently experienced in the mainstream with the release of Rockstar’s “L.A. Noire” video game, a title that boasted such realistic human faces and nuanced emotions, some people found it difficult to become immersed in the actual game; it made the suspension of disbelief tough to achieve.

So what on earth do these robotic and literary terms have to do with a television review? Quite a bit, as it turns out.

First, let’s talk about what Sharp’s massive AQUOS LCD Television packs into its slender frame.

SPECS:
• Screen size: 60” (measured diagonally)
• Display format: 1080p
• Display type: Edge-lit LED backlight
• Resolution: 1920×1080
• Viewing angle: 178 degrees
• Audio: Built-in 10 Watt stereo speakers
• Network: Wi-Fi and Ethernet
• Connections: USB x2, HDMI x4, Composite, VGA, Optical, Component, RCA Audio Line-in x3

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This AQUOS Smart TV from Sharp has enough connections to accommodate audiophiles, hardcore gamers, and everyone in between. It goes without saying that with 4 HDMI connections, it rocks as a computer monitor. (Hook your gaming desktop up to it and play “Diablo III” for 60 inches of awesome.) We were also pleasantly surprised at the television’s light weight (under 70 pounds) meaning any modest entertainment center can support it.

Smart, But Not Brilliant

Getting set up out of the box is a snap, as the menus guide you through basics like adjusting your time zone and adding your wireless network. Once your internet access is established, you have access to Smart Central’s array of apps like Vudu, YouTube, CinemaNow, and Netflix.

Conspicuously missing from that lineup are two apps we consider vital to our television and movie consumption: Amazon Instant Video and Hulu Plus. While Amazon’s app is only available on a few devices (like the PlayStation 3), the absence of Hulu is regrettable. Sure, you can watch it via your Xbox or PS3, but the aim of a Smart TV is to provide a comprehensive suite of services that make watching television convenient. Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Instant (especially for Prime members) are the cornerstones of our television fix. We need all of them!

*Note that these apps could be added down the road via firmware updates

Anyone in the market for a 60” TV likely has or is planning to purchase a surround sound system or Sharp Soundbar to accompany it. The good news here is that if you’re budget-strapped, the AQUOS speakers deliver some powerful, rich sound without distorting. The level of bass was especially impressive — by no means will it replace a Soundbar or subwoofer, but you won’t have any complaints in the audio department. (TechTip: For those of you with an Xbox 360 Kinect, you may want to place the Kinect under the TV and not above it — the rear speaker placement of the TV could bounce audio off the walls and interfere with your voice commands. It’s a minor concern, but one to be aware of.)

The AQUOS menu screens have big icons to steer you in the right direction, with help text explaining each option if you hover over it long enough — something you’ll appreciate for the more advanced picture preferences. Other modern TVs like Sony’s Bravia line have more intuitive interfaces. The menus themselves don’t feel as snappy as they should be, either, with noticeable lag when clicking between each category. Again, a minor complaint that wouldn’t dissuade us from a purchase, but something anyone preparing to drop a significant amount of money should be aware of.

The Uncanny 60” Valley

What follows in this review is strictly a matter of preference and your mileage will certainly vary. We want to emphasize that the following is a wholly subjective opinion. For some, this AQUOS display will simply dazzle you in all the right ways; for others, it will plain creep you out.

Our first true test of the 60” HDMI LCD display was “The Lord of the Rings” on Blu-Ray, played via our PlayStation 3. It went beyond looking lifelike; rather, it gives your brain the impression that the cast was actually acting out the movie in your living room. In part, this can be toned down by turning off the “Motion Enhancement” options, which artificially inserts frames in an attempt to smooth fast-paced sequences or even low-quality YouTube streams. But even with motion enhancement deactivated, viewing the film with default settings looked too good.  (For more about this issue, research Peter Jackson’s decision to film “The Hobbit” in a 48fps format.)

The sad reality, in our experience anyway, is that it removes the suspension of disbelief as your brain struggles to remember that you’re not watching something in the real world — especially with such lifelike depictions of scenery and people. It took us out of the action and detracted from the overall experience.

The flip side to this? This is THE TV for sports fans with HD subscriptions. Animation buffs will also have a field day. Pop in Wall-E on Blu-Ray and your eyes will thank you for a lifetime. Gamers, too, will appreciate the screen real estate and may finally be willing to share it for some “Gears of War” or “Borderlands” couch co-op.

In an odd way, we were relieved to ship the AQUOS back to Sharp and downgrade back to our 4 year old Westinghouse 37” TV. We’ll miss the Sharp’s slender frame and its gorgeous 60” screen; we’ll miss the instant-on web apps and the surprisingly awesome sound. We’ll especially miss how lifelike an HD basketball playoff game looks.

But sometimes your brain needs an escape from reality — it needs to be safe in the assumption that The Lord of the Rings isn’t a story that takes place in New Zealand, but rather in Middle Earth.

Review statement: A loaner unit of this TV was provided by Sharp for the purpose of this review. This TV retails for $1,499, but you can usually find it much cheaper on places like Amazon.com

Tablet rundown

The next generation

Once a luxury, then a necessity, laptops are quickly becoming obsolete; replaced by a thinner, leaner and sexier alternative: tablets. In fact, during the last year tablet ownership has tripled among the college crowd.

Technology evolves at a breakneck pace. Though we featured a tablet breakdown in last summer’s issue, your choices this year are twice as good, for considerably less coin.

Tablets were popularized by Apple’s original iPad, but the geeks at Cupertino are no longer the only game in town (Apple fanboys and fangirls, cover your ears now) — and they’re certainly no longer the best game in town. From Transforming tablets to “phablets” and eReaders on steroids, there’s something out there to suit just about anyone.

While there’s no denying the iPad dominates the tablet arena, a fascinating competitor has snuck up on Apple. Amazon’s Kindle Fire is 3 inches smaller and not remotely as powerful. Yet Amazon is taking deep bites into Apple’s sales. Why? For most people, the iPad is used primarily for consuming content and playing games; something the Fire is allows you to do for an average of $300 less. Now even the Fire has worthy alternatives, so read on for our recommendations!

THE SEVEN INCHERS

Toshiba Excite 7.7

Toshiba’s 10″ Thrive was well received, and now they’re getting into the 7-inch game. Available by the time this issue goes to print, Toshiba’s Excite 7.7 is a powerhouse. The AMOLED display will put the best laptop screens to shame, with deep contrast and amazing color. Truly, it’s a dazzling display; you won’t want to turn your eyes away. It also packs near-console quality graphics with a quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor. It’s not going to disappoint TV junkies or movie lovers either, with its HD output. The only thing that won’t get you excited about the Excite 7.7 is the price: $499.

Another 7-inch contender deserves your attention, and it’s only half the price:

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0)

In late April, Samsung did something that is making Amazon, Apple, and every tablet maker in the world sweat bullets: They released a 7″ tablet with incredible specs, Ice Cream Sandwich (aka Android 4.0), front and rear cameras, 8GB of built in storage, expandable MicroSD storage, and a snappy dual-core processor. And they did it for $250.

If Amazon’s 7-inch $200 Kindle Fire is eating away at iPad sales, you can expect Samsung’s new 7-incher to eat away at Kindle Fire sales, considering it costs $50 more and gives you a more open, robust experience. Like the Amazon ecosystem? Just install the Amazon App Store on top of the Android Market (now called Google Play) and you have the best of both worlds. Perfect for mobile gaming, HD movies, reading, web browsing, tweeting, and if you want to get serious, just sync a Bluetooth keyboard with it and use it for hammering out those lengthier emails and reports using Google Docs or the free Polaris Office.

THE TEN INCHERS

ASUS Transformer TF300

We’ve spent extensive time with the Transformer line, and it blows away the iPad in the features department, and does so at a tantalizing price: $380. HDMI out? Check. Expandable storage? Check. USB connectivity? Check. The latest version of Android? Check. WiFi and GPS? Of course. And with the optional $149 keyboard dock, you not only turn this sexy tablet into a slim laptop, but also juice it up with an extra 6 hours of battery life, giving you between 14-18 hours depending on usage. Oh, and you can plug a USB gamepad into it and play a variety of console-quality games.

We could spend 1000 more words explaining why the ASUS Transformer trumps the iPad, but trust us when we say that if you’re not married to Apple’s ecosystem, this is the first 10″ tablet to consider.

Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet

We’re not gonna lie: Lenovo’s Thinkpad Tablet isn’t going to turn heads, but it will stand up to abuse. The IPS screen has Corning Gorilla Glass, and this is one rugged, durable slate. The Thinkpad Pen lets you annotate docs or take shorthand notes. The optional (but essential) folio case wraps the tablet in leather and adds a fully functional keyboard and optical trackpoint to the mix. And as all tablets should (we’re glaring at you, iPad) it has mini HDMI, micro USB, and a 3-in-1 media card reader.

Here’s the thing: This one is marketed toward the business professional, but after our time with it, we confidently recommend it for the serious student. It puts productivity front and center, and its lack of fragility means it’s a reliable computing companion.

THE E-READERS

The modern e-Reader isn’t just for reading books. Amazon and Barnes & Noble both offer 7” tablets at $199. They’re designed to purely consume content, and both excel at it. Which one you decide to buy may come down to brand loyalty and personal preference. We’ve spent a month with each, and here’s a rundown of their pros and cons:

Barnes & Noble NOOK Tablet

PROS:  Amplified Editions of eBooks give the Nook Tablet a decidedly awesome edge. Listening to William Shatner wax nostalgic inside the virtual pages of Shatner Rules or watching Kevin Smith be his hilarious, raunchy, transparently honest self before each chapter in Tough Sh*t is delightful, and nearly addictive. The video playback and display quality is better than the Kindle Fire, and it has 2 important features the Fire lacks: expandable storage and actual volume and home buttons.

CONS: The NOOK Shop has a limited selection of apps and games compared to Amazon’s App Store, and anyone who already loves the Amazon ecosystem is best served choosing the Fire.  

Amazon Kindle Fire

PROS: The Fire ships with your Amazon account built-in, which is both awesome and diabolically evil. If you love the Amazon ecosystem, then buying movies, books and music with 1-click makes the experience a breeze.

CONS: The Fire has an uninspired, chunky design, and the screen isn’t as vivid as the Nook Tablet’s. It also lacks any physical buttons which means extra clicks to do something as simple as adjust volume or brightness. 

RISE OF THE PHABLET

What the heck is a phablet? You can thank Samsung for that term, even though it’s snarky tech journalists who coined the phrase. The GALAXY Note is Samsung’s newest AT&T 4G LTE phone, and it’s been our constant companion on the road. It’s $299 with a 2-year contract and worth every penny. The 5.3” HD AMOLED screen is massive for a phone and has insane pixel density (translation: it’s gorgeous), but after you grow accustomed to it, we’d wager you’ll have a bit less love for the iPhone. It also has a stylus, giving you an edge during sessions of “Draw Something!” or shorthand note-taking.

Like the ASUS Transformer line, we could spend 1000 words convincing why it’s amazing, but all you have to do is cruise into your local AT&T store or a Best Buy, hold it in your hands for 60 seconds, and the truth will slap you in the face.

Beyond that, it has an 8MP camera, microSD slot, super-snappy dual-core processor, and is large enough to do just about anything you want, while being compact enough to stay your mobile companion. Expect other phone manufacturers to start adopting this “phablet” design soon!

iHome iDM5 | Bluetooth Tablet Workstation

iHome’s iDM5 won iLounge.com’s Best of Show 2012 for good reason: It offers a complete solution for turning your tablet into a productivity workhorse. It boasts a stand that will accommodate any tablet from your 10” iPad to the “phablet” sized Samsung GALAXY Note, and a chimp-simple bluetooth system. Via Bluetooth, the iDM5 provides a full sized keyboard, microphone, speakerphone, and surprisingly loud, rich audio that can be pumped in through any bluetooth device, or the included auxiliary line-in jack.  It even sports two USB ports for charging your iPhone or other USB powered devices.

Essentially, it’s an affordable gateway to your favorite tablet becoming your desktop replacement.
Our only gripe with the iDM5 is the lack of any securing mechanism to hold your tablet in place beyond the raised shelf, though to be fair it is meant to stay stationary. Outside of that minor complaint, you can’t go wrong with the iDM5, especially at a suggested retail price of $129.99.

eGlide XL Pro 2 10” Tablet

A 10” tablet for $219 sounds like a pipe dream, but that’s exactly what Ematic is delivering with their newly announced eGlide XL Pro 2. Let’s be clear from the onset: This budget offering isn’t for the gamers in the house, as its modest 1GHz CPU and 400MHz GPU won’t be competing with the New iPad for eyecandy. What it does provide is exceptional value: 4GB of built-in storage (expandable to 32GB with a cheap MicroSD card), built in WiFi, a front-facing camera, gyroscope, and “Ice Cream Sandwich,” the newest version of Android.

It even packs in something to compete with SIRI: The Ematic Digital Assistant & Navigator. EDAN for short, this personal voice-operated assistant comes pre-installed, and allows users to use only their voice to compose emails, post Facebook and Twitter updates, and find local restuarants and movie times.

All of this for $20 more than a Kindle Fire sounds like a bargain to us.

Musubo brings their unique iPhone 4 cases to US

From retro to rubber bands, Musubo’s iPhone cases ooze awesomess

Inspired by Toyko street fashion, Musabo’s iPhone 4/4S cases just landed in the US, and it looks anything but ordinary. The moment the company shared them with us, we had to share them with you guys.

Our favorite by far is the “Retro,” which reminds us of those classic vocal “grill” microphones, except with modern curves and great grip. It even includes a folding stand for watching vids on the go. 

The second model that stood out was the Rubber Band case, a bright throwback which drips 1980s style and should certainly appeal to the ladies. 

Third on our favorites list is the MatchBook Pro, which is so original and sleek looking it’s borderline ridiculous (in a good way). The matchsticks are silicon-tipped and act as both sturdy grip and kickstand for media viewing. 

All three are available now on Amazon.com for between $29.99 and $34.99 MSRP. 

You can check out Musubo’s other iPhone accessories at http://www.musubo.com.hk/

Third Rail's iPhone 4 system delivers slim case, smart battery

Comes with super slim case, and a universal, stackable smart battery

There’s no denying the market for iPhone accessories is crowded, to put it mildly. But Third Rail Mobility recently introduced a slim case and smart battery for iPhone 4S that’s worth your consideration. 

Not only is it the thinnest battery-enabled case on the market, but the backup battery that comes with it is universal (it can literally charge 100s of other devices as well), hot-swappable, and stackable! Basically, this means that you can stack the batteries (sold separately) and charge everything from the micro-USB on your case. 

The most important aspect to us is that the smart batteries are future proof. They will be compatible with all existing and future Third Rail cases, which means you’ll likely be buying a new iPhone more often than you buy a new battery 😉

The Third Rail Mobility system for iPhone 4S is available for 89.99 on their website, and you can read a recent hands-on review of the product here

Protect your gear with iSafe's Collegiate Laptop Backpack

Pump thieves full of 120dB of regret

Picture this scenario: You’re walking through your campus, backpack stuffed with your iPad, smartphone, laptop, textbooks and other valuables slung across one shoulder. Maybe a zipper is partially open, or some nefarious dude just sees an opportunity to strike. With an ordinary backpack, your only option may be to report the thief to campus security and pray your items are returned. 

iSafe has other ideas. Like the ability to instantly and effortlessly trigger an alarm on your shoulder strap the second your valuables get swiped. That alarm, by the way, is 120dB — the equivalent of a rock show or ambulence siren up close and personal. And just in case that doesn’t get people’s attention and stop the thief dead in his tracks, the strobing LED lights probably will. 

On the features side, it also boasts a roomy interior (it’ll hold a laptop with a screen as large as 15.4″), secure compartments for your smaller, mobile gear and a 30 day money back guarantee. 

You can read a full review of the iSafe Collegiate Laptop Backpack here, and our sources say the product could be coming to a campus bookstore near you very soon. 

PlayStation Vita Racing Roundup

Buying advice for PS Vita-owning racing fans

Racing games are a staple of any new videogame system launch, and the PlayStation Vita is no exception. Close to a month after its release, 5+ racers are available for Sony’s new portable console, but not all of them are worthy of your dollars. Here’s a rundown of the best – and worst – racers for the Vita.

Wipeout 2048 | Studio Liverpool

Wipeout 2048’s vibrant color palette will trick your mind into thinking you’re playing on a PlayStation 3. Despite 7 opponents on the track at blistering speeds with weapons flying everywhere, there is no slowdown or hiccups. Cityscapes are detailed, neon billboards crisp, and quite frankly it’s a stunning showcase for the PS Vita’s capabilities.

“Wipeout 2048” is the complete package, and another hit from Studio Liverpool. In fact, it’s worth mentioning that Sony’s internal studios have crafted several top-notch launch titles, which is crucial to the Vita’s success moving forward. With minor exceptions (a lackluster, repetitive soundtrack and a short single player career), this is a complete console-class racer with an astonishing sense of speed, lush graphics, and weeks of competitive gameplay. Don’t be surprised if this stays at the top of your playing rotation. We suggest just buying it digitally so that you can launch it on a whim from the Vita’s home screen without having to hunt down that tiny game card.

Wipeout 2048, courtesy Sony

Ridge Racer | Namco Bandai

Another staple of console launches is “Ridge Racer” – for better or for worse. In the case of the uninspired Vita version, it’s much, much worse. The game gives you 3 courses and 5 machines – machines which are identical except for their appearance. Another “feature” is the complete lack of a single player campaign (with the exception of ghost races), in favor of a bare-bones socially-driven multiplayer mode.

In essence, this boils down to repetitive time-trials on 3 tracks, with the same vehicle. All for the low price of $29.99. “Ridge Racer Vita” is a disgrace to the iconic franchise, and Namco Bandai should be ashamed at charging $29.99 for this game. Our advice? Grab your iPhone and download “Asphalt 6” for $.99 (but avoid “Asphalt Injection” for the Vita – it’s the same game for $28 more). Which brings us to:

Asphalt: Injection | Gameloft

“Asphalt: Injection” is an ever-so-slightly enhanced version (you can use the system’s rear touch screen to imitate paddle shifters, for example) of “Asphalt 6,” a racer that goes for $.99 on the iTunes store. It’s a light-hearted, competent racer, but charging $28 more for the Vita version shouldn’t be legal. That being said, it’s an absolute steal for $.99, so if you have an iDevice, pick it up!

Modnation Racers: Road Trip | SCE San Diego

Modnation Racers, Courtesy Sony

Kart racers are all about arcade-y action, outlandish jumps and flips, wild, imaginative tracks, and collectibles and power-ups that weaponize your kart and add boosts to its speed or shield it from other players’ weapons. “Modnation Racers: Road Trip” has all of these things in its portable version of the popular PS3 title.

Best of all, players can create custom tracks and karts with ease (the touchscreen makes this chore much simpler than a controller would), then share them with other Vita players, or even download existing tracks created by PS3 players, which amounts to literally 1000s of extra courses.

Unfortunately, the game’s multiplayer element is stripped down, offering a variety of sharing options, ghosts, and time trials, but doesn’t deliver true, real-time races. Still, if you’re looking for a fun, whimsical kart racer to pass the time, you can’t go wrong here.

Motorstorm RC | Evolution Studios

A miniaturized version of the bombastic Motorstorm series, “Motorstorm RC” takes the racing action from apocalyptic events with supercharged vehicles, to fun little tracks with remote-controlled cars. Using a top-down view of tracks inspired from previous Motorstorm games on PS3 and PSP, “RC” offers racing fans 12 tracks, a host of RC cars, a reasonable single player campaign, and multiplayer events. But those multiplayer events can also be played online with PS3 owners of the game. It offers substantially more content than Ridge Racer, and how about this: It’s completely free from the PS Vita store for a limited time.

The PlayStation Vita is available now for $249.99. College News highly recommends checking it out. 

Author’s Note: Some of these titles were provided by the game’s publishers.