reviews stories

 
If you took a look at Nerf's 2012 blaster lineup and felt it was a step back from last year's bold new disc-based Vortex guns, I'm right there with you. Hasbro's back to redeem itself before the summer is over with the Vortex Pyragon — a pump-action blaster that's capable of firing 40 discs in succession from its drum. Get ready for disc-ageddon!
 
It's long been every geek's dream to become a Jedi Knight and wield a lightsaber and manipulate the power of the Force to take down armies of evil-doers. A Star Wars experience that lets you literally wield a lightsaber with a clenched fist or summon up the Force by lifting up your palm has never been done before. LucasArts' Kinect Star Wars (henceforth dubbed KSW) is not your typical story-driven Star Wars game. It's not as expansive as Bioware's seminal Knights of the Old Republic or its massively multiplayer successor, Star Wars: The Old Republic or as insidious as The Force Unleashed series. It's a Kinect game, and as one, it's limited to the hardware of Kinect's sometimes-but-not-always responsive skeletal tracking. Motion gaming seemed the perfect answer to tackling the challenge of making lightsaber dueling feel more precise than any Star Wars game has ever been before, but sadly we'll have to wait a bit longer. Read on to find out why KSW falls short on being the ultimate Star Wars video game.
 
You'd be hard pressed to find a canister vacuum in American households. It's exceedingly rare, making up only one in nine full-size vacuum sales in 2011, according to NPD Group. In contrast, canisters are still a favorite in international markets. 98 percent of vacuum sales in France were canister models, for example. This leads me to wonder: Is there something wrong with the canister, or with the American perception of what makes a good vacuum? In short, it's both. Though they dominate European homes, canister vacuums are incredibly clumsy. They're awkward to store. They're bested by corners and furniture. They fall over. Bottom line: They're a hassle. It'd make sense that James Dyson — famous for his well-engineered, pricey eponymous machines — would introduce the iconic ball design found in his uprights to the canister. The popular design solves the steering problem, but has Dyson found a way to make this convenient for storage? Read on to find out if this is the canister vacuum for you.
 
Almost everything that can be said about the new third-generation iPad has already been said. Its 2048x1536 resolution Retina Display is crisp — and more advanced than even the largest and sharpest HDTVs. The 4G LTE is so fast that it's sometimes even speedier than Wi-Fi. Retina-ready apps look unbelievable — even better than printed paper — and the rear camera finally produces pictures that aren't horrible. It's for all of those reasons that I (and the millions of people who waited in line outside Apple Stores) love the new iPad. I'm coming up from a first-gen iPad, myself. But I've been using the third-gen iPad for four straight days and "resolutionary" (Apple's copy, not mine) as the tablet is, there's always room for improvement and here we present the areas where the new iPad can still grow. If you want to read a more positive take on the new iPad, you can check out Stewart's take on it from last Friday. Otherwise, get ready for some criticism on Apple's latest.
 
As of today, the PS Vita is officially available in North America and Europe (not just for consumers who bought the First Edition 3G model). Backed with a $50 million advertising campaign — the largest for any PlayStation system — Sony is letting the world know that its still very serious about portable gaming. On a technical engineering level, the PS Vita is unmatched. As we've said before, the PS Vita's graphical prowess nearly rivals that of the powerful PlayStation 3. But beautiful graphics aren't the only thing that that makes the PS Vita attractive. The magic all comes together with a gorgeous 5-inch OLED touchscreen, dual-analog sticks, rear touchpad (the first on any gaming device), dual-cameras and library of launch games that cater to everybody, from the casual to the hardcore. I've been playing with the PS Vita for nearly two weeks. To find out if the PS Vita really is the "best PlayStation ever" or not, read on for my full review.
 
There's no shortage of 3D displays and TVs available for purchase these days. To many, the extra couple hundred — or sometimes thousand — bucks isn't worth the extra "D," but prices are slowly coming down from a year ago. Sony isn't giving up the 3D dream, though. The company is gambling hard on 3D tech, this year releasing the 3D TVs you'd expect, as well as some crazier options in the Personal 3D Viewer or 3D binocular camcorder or 3D cameras. Now with store shelves full of 3D-enabled PlayStation 3 games, so something like this only makes sense. The PlayStation 3D Display is Sony's latest 3D consumer goodie and it's aimed squarely at college dorm rooms. Think of it as the startup kit to suck non-believers into the 3D vortex. So, will it claim you, too?
 
Nokia's Lumia 800 leaves a solid first impression. I had a few minutes to play with it when the phone was first unveiled, and I came away from that thinking that this was finally it. The Nokia Lumia 800 was Windows Phone 7's killer smartphone. That prototype Lumia 800 felt great in the hand, ran the latest Windows Phone 7.5 Mango and was lightning fast, even without any fancy dual-core processors. The Lumia 800 felt like the best Windows Phone 7 device to ever arrive. I finally had a chance to use it for a few weeks (this review would have arrived sooner if not for a battery charging-related software update that couldn't be done manually and Wi-Fi issues that required us to get a replacement) and I'm sadder than I was that brisk October morning. Read on to find out what happened.
 
Motion control gaming really has grown into its own shoes over the last couple of years. Nintendo's Wii jump-started the trend and Sony and Microsoft arguably improved on the formula with their own solutions: the more accurate PlayStation Move, and controller-less Kinect. Released quietly with little marketing blitz, Microsoft's Wireless Speed Wheel (WSW) is a motion controller that most people have never even heard of. If Move is an advanced version of the Wii Remote, then the WSW is a turbo-charged Wii Wheel. Does the WSW one-up the Wii Wheel, or is it just another piece of plastic that nobody asked for, but Microsoft's selling anyway? Find out in our test-drive.
 
Last month, GM decided that it would be kinda fun to send some journalists from Vermont to Maine in a squad of Chevy Volts. For some reason, they decided that I would be one of those journalists. They couldn't have known that I've been following the Volt for years, from the introduction of the original, awesome concept to the toned-down production model through all the powertrain and battery controversy to the ultimate commercial release. So now that you can actually go out and buy a Chevy Volt, should you? It's a unique type of car: not quite gas, and not quite electric. Or maybe it's both. Either way, we'll be taking you through all 500 miles of our impressions, so let's get started.
 
Building a tablet in today's climate is hard. You'll either be called out for being a copycat by consumers or officially called out by Apple — the leading tablet maker — for blatantly ripping off its vague design patents. Since Apple set the precedent for what a modern tablet (not one of those bulky tablet PCs that Bill Gates dreamed up a decade ago), there's an expectation that a finger-friendly touchscreen tablet should be thin, light and start at $500 (or less if you're not an iPad). And even though Samsung is still knee-deep in some lawsuits that span courtrooms around the globe with its larger Galaxy Tab 10.1, it still fired up the factories to pump out the smaller Galaxy Tab 8.9 to sell in the U.S. To rival the iPad 2 is a tough task. Motorola's Xoom tried. RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook tried. A sea of cheap Android tablets tried. The only one who seems prepared to bring the entire ecosystem of content and hardware is Amazon and its Kindle Fire next month. Is the Galaxy 8.9 the tablet that finally gives the iPad 2 a run for its money? Maybe, maybe not.

Pages