Tech

As avid gamers, we always want to be ahead of the game (awful pun intended) by having the latest gadgets that enable us to play all the best games, either on the big screen or on the go. Y’see, games aren’t just played on consoles or handhelds nowadays: gaming is now a ubiquitous enough hobby that one can enjoy on any piece of tech with a screen. For instance, here’s my personal list of gadgets that I enjoy playing games on!

IMG_26171. HP Envy 15″ and Macbook Pro Retina 13″ laptops – I only play Diablo III Reaper of Souls and a bunch of Steam games on PC so I fire one of these two from time to time. I use the HP when I’m docked as it is heavier but it’s where I mostly play because of the bigger screen,  hard disk and a fuller keyboard. I use the Macbook when I’m stuck outside and more for work, but I also have a limited number games installed on that machine (like yep, Diablo III; if you haven’t figured out, I’m a D3 addict).

2. PS Vita and Nintendo 3DS – If I have to go out and I know I have to wait long for something (pay for a bill, or wait for someone to arrive), I almost always carry one of these babies depending on what I am currently playing. The titles are pretty diverse in each so you can always find a few games that will sit on your GOTY of the forever (for me it was Persona 4 Golden and Fire Emblem Awakening).

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3. iPhone 5 – If I have a spare minute (or thirty), I fire up Clash of Clans or one of my favorite Kairosoft titles (now being Ninja Village) to get my gaming fix. LINE also has a bunch of games like Puzzle Bobble (who hasn’t played or got addicted to that game though) but it gets pretty limited because of the fatigue-based mechanic (5 stages at a time, then you have to wait 30 minutes to replenish one stage turn). It’s pretty lightweight as a gaming platform but with millions of users, even Square Enix has picked up the pace and ported some of its most popular titles on iTunes.

4. PlayStation 3, XBOX 360 and Wii U – Exclusive titles and things more epic go to one of these consoles. Admittedly, I haven’t fired up anything recently (probably Wind Waker U from a few months back), but I still have a few discs lying around that I should look into finishing before I get a…

5. PlayStation 4Dragon Age: Inquisition comes out in a few months; I happen to be a big DA fan so this is the title that will make me break the bank to get a unit. Priced competitively and having supported off-screen play through the PS Vita, this is definitely the next step to my gaming progression.

From upgrades to new models to competing brands, deciphering what’s worth the splurge is an exhausting, confusing feat. So, SM Supermalls is making it easy for you as they celebrate Cyber Month for the whole month of August.

Get a gadget upgrade and join in the geeky fun with SM Supermalls’ exciting line-up of activities that will make all tech lovers go crazy:

  • Tech Sale – Stock up on the latest gadgets at discounted prices in the biggest technology sale of the year.
  • Cybervasion – Discover and experience the latest gadgets at their interactive tech displays.
  • Game Station – Check the hottest gaming consoles and videogames of the season.
  • Cosplay Parade – Catch your favorite characters and the most outrageous costumes at their exciting cosplay parade.

Even more surprises await online with SM Supermalls’ #31HappyCyberDays promo:

  • DigiTalk – Answer Cyber Month-related questions on the SM Supermalls Facebook page and win cool prizes.
  • Cyber Rave – Listen to what your favorite blogger has to say about their favorite gadgets of 2014.
  • Tech Throwback – Send in a pic of your “antique” gadget together with a clever caption or funny story and win its modern-day counterpart.

Be the first on scene with the newest gizmos as SM Supermalls celebrates Cyber Month until August 31. For more details, like SM Supermalls on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@smsupermalls), and use the hashtag #EverythingForTheTechieInYou. You can also like their SM Cyberzone Facebook Fanpage at https://www.facebook.com/smcyberzone. Contact these numbers for queries: (02) 876-1111 (Metro Manila) / 0917 876-1111 (Globe) / 0908 876-1111 (Smart) / 0922 876-1111 (Sun).

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

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In possibly one of the most surreal CES keynote speeches ever presented in the event’s history, the WWE (read: decrepit wrestling company) today announced a rather forward-thinking initiative, the WWE Network. Going live on tablets and streaming devices (including the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PS4!) on February 24th, the service will cost $9.99 and will feature a fair amount of programming from past and present wrasslin’ organizations that have been absorbed into the company’s umbrella. More importantly, your monthly charge lets you stream every pay-per-view event the company puts out going forward.

Kind of a bold move from the company who pretty much created pay-per-view television. Unlike similar networks from other sports organizations (cue the irony of implying that professional wrestling is a sport), you get a lot for what you pay for: on top of first-run, original programming running 24/7, you get a Netflix-like archive of past events to wade through; almost 150,000 hours have been digitized for the Network’s purpose so far.

 

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“Microconsoles,” by their nature, are budget consoles that are gimped—whether intentionally or not—in one way or another to accommodate the low asking price. We’re seeing a resurgence of sorts for these feature-filled little set-top boxes aimed at the casual: with devices such as the Ouya, Game Pop, Gamestick, Madcatz’ MOJO—and even rumored boxes coming from Apple and Amazon—there’s no shortage of options for this already-fragmented new market.

Unassumingly announced as an afterthought during Sony’s pre-TGS press conference, the PlayStation Vita TV is the Japanese conglomerate’s take on the microconsole concept, one that—with enough tweaking and the right kind of marketing—should be far and away the most successful out of this sordid lot of Android hand-me-downs.

ps-vita-tvIt caught everyone by surprise, and seemed like an awful idea at first. A consolized version of a failing handheld? Surely Sony’s R&D department didn’t waste millions researching this? Yet upon further inspection, the PS Vita TV appears more and more to be a very savvy and smart move responding to current market trends; and I’m sure the joke about Sony being the electronics industry equivalent of a senile, out-of-touch old man writes itself at this point.

Hardware manufacturers and even content creators have an immense hard-on for locking the consumer in to their own “ecosystems.” Google has its Play Store (of which derivatives exist such as the Ouya Store, Nvidia’s Tegra Zone or Amazon’s App Store), Microsoft owns a myriad of Xbox-related services, and even Sony is coming into the game fairly late with its “Sony Entertainment Network” sphere of multimedia services. In essence, the PlayStation Vita TV is Sony’s shot at getting the casual hooked into their ecosystem. Its a trojan horse in every sense of the word: the entire look (apart from the fact that it can be controlled by a Dual Shock 3) screams AV rather than VG and at 10,000 Yen (approx. $100) the price is unheard of. No console hardware manufacturer has released anything even remotely resembling that price point, one that immediately entices the mainstream consumer as a “no brainer” purchase. The fact that Amazon Japan already sold out of their first shipment after one day of taking preorders solidifies this fact.

ps_vita_tv_8However even marketing it as an all-rounder device rather than a consolized handheld, Sony is making no qualms about injecting the “PlayStation” and “Vita” brands simultaneously into the mix. Why would they? This isn’t 1985’s Nintendo of America quandary; the word “video games” mean way more to the general public now than it did before. Instead of the usual “oh it’s a toy with a robot… no wait it’s actually a computer!” runaround we’ve gotten in the past, the PS Vita TV is marketed as something it actually is: a pared-down, cheaper version of a $400 console experience that doubles as a good addition to your home video system.

Set beside its contemporaries in the field, the PS Vita TV offers so much more: while I’m more interested personally in its remote-play capabilities (the ability to offload and output my PS4 experience to a remote bedroom TV already sold me), the more discerning mainstream customer may see it as an alternative to the Apple TV: another way to play the myriad of streaming services that are out there such as Hulu, Netflix, or even NicoNico Douga. Parents will appreciate the fact that it also happens to pull double-duty as a cheap console with a variety of games for Junior to screw around with. Heck, lapsed gamers will probably elect to pick it up as a convenient way to play old PSX classics with minimal hassle.

In execution, the outlook will probably look a lot less rosy than the picture that I’m painting: I can see this thing disrupting the marketplace in all the wrong ways; with confused consumers wondering if it’s an add-on to the PlayStation 4, or if it actually is the PlayStation 4. The hardcore market will of course scoff at its limited capabilities and balk at the price of games compared to App Store or Play Store offerings.

Regardless of its relative measures of success though, I firmly believe that in Sony’s eyes the PlayStation Vita TV will never be a failure: after all, if they can even get several hundred thousand of these things in cramped Tokyo apartments, that’s a few hundred thousand new SEN subscribers. To all the consumer outlets whining about its relative uselessness in comparison to Sony’s other console systems: deal with it, this product is not for you.

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It was just a matter of time. Microsoft just announced through the press wire that they are acquiring Nokia’s devices and services business for $7 billion—$5 billion going towards the actual business while $2.18 billion going towards its patent portfolio. This, in turn leads to a pretty interesting three-way staredown between Apple, Google and Microsoft in the very lucrative “who’s suing who” game of mobile device patents.

The two companies have pretty much been in bed with each other for the past few years, with Microsoft approaching them as their prime vendor for their flagship Windows Mobile phones, as well as recently partnering up with them in producing the next-generation Surface RT tablet. The Finnish phone maker has been recently displaced in the market its helped build over the past decade, so I am seeing this as a good, if not predictable, move on both parties.

Press release follows after the cut!

Microsoft Corporation and Nokia Corporation today announced that the Boards of Directors for both companies have decided to enter into a transaction whereby Microsoft will purchase substantially all of Nokia’s Devices & Services business, license Nokia’s patents, and license and use Nokia’s mapping services.

Under the terms of the agreement, Microsoft will pay EUR 3.79 billion to purchase substantially all of Nokia’s Devices & Services business, and EUR 1.65 billion to license Nokia’s patents, for a total transaction price of EUR 5.44 billion in cash. Microsoft will draw upon its overseas cash resources to fund the transaction. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2014, subject to approval by Nokia’s shareholders, regulatory approvals and other closing conditions.

Building on the partnership with Nokia announced in February 2011 and the increasing success of Nokia’s Lumia smartphones, Microsoft aims to accelerate the growth of its share and profit in mobile devices through faster innovation, increased synergies, and unified branding and marketing. For Nokia, this transaction is expected to be significantly accretive to earnings, strengthen its financial position, and provide a solid basis for future investment in its continuing businesses.

“It’s a bold step into the future – a win-win for employees, shareholders and consumers of both companies. Bringing these great teams together will accelerate Microsoft’s share and profits in phones, and strengthen the overall opportunities for both Microsoft and our partners across our entire family of devices and services,” said Steve Ballmer, Microsoft chief executive officer. “In addition to their innovation and strength in phones at all price points, Nokia brings proven capability and talent in critical areas such as hardware design and engineering, supply chain and manufacturing management, and hardware sales, marketing and distribution.”

“We are excited and honored to be bringing Nokia’s incredible people, technologies and assets into our Microsoft family. Given our long partnership with Nokia and the many key Nokia leaders that are joining Microsoft, we anticipate a smooth transition and great execution,” Ballmer said. “With ongoing share growth and the synergies across marketing, branding and advertising, we expect this acquisition to be accretive to our adjusted earnings per share starting in FY15, and we see significant long-term revenue and profit opportunities for our shareholders.”

“For Nokia, this is an important moment of reinvention and from a position of financial strength, we can build our next chapter,” said Risto Siilasmaa, Chairman of the Nokia Board of Directors and, following today’s announcement, Nokia Interim CEO. “After a thorough assessment of how to maximize shareholder value, including consideration of a variety of alternatives, we believe this transaction is the best path forward for Nokia and its shareholders. Additionally, the deal offers future opportunities for many Nokia employees as part of a company with the strategy, financial resources and determination to succeed in the mobile space.”

“Building on our successful partnership, we can now bring together the best of Microsoft’s software engineering with the best of Nokia’s product engineering, award-winning design, and global sales, marketing and manufacturing,” said Stephen Elop, who following today’s announcement is stepping aside as Nokia President and CEO to become Nokia Executive Vice President of Devices & Services. “With this combination of talented people, we have the opportunity to accelerate the current momentum and cutting-edge innovation of both our smart devices and mobile phone products.”

Nokia has outlined its expected focus upon the closing of the transaction in a separate press release published today.

TERMS OF THE AGREEMENT

Under the terms of the agreement, Microsoft will acquire substantially all of Nokia’s Devices and Services business, including the Mobile Phones and Smart Devices business units as well as an industry-leading design team, operations including all Nokia Devices & Services-related production facilities, Devices & Services-related sales and marketing activities, and related support functions. At closing, approximately 32,000 people are expected to transfer to Microsoft, including 4,700 people in Finland and 18,300 employees directly involved in manufacturing, assembly and packaging of products worldwide. The operations that are planned to be transferred to Microsoft generated an estimated EUR 14.9 billion, or almost 50 percent of Nokia’s net sales for the full year 2012.

Microsoft is acquiring Nokia’s Smart Devices business unit, including the Lumia brand and products. Lumia handsets have won numerous awards and have grown in sales in each of the last three quarters, with sales reaching 7.4 million units in the second quarter of 2013.

As part of the transaction, Nokia is assigning to Microsoft its long-term patent licensing agreement with Qualcomm, as well as other licensing agreements.

Microsoft is also acquiring Nokia’s Mobile Phones business unit, which serves hundreds of millions of customers worldwide, and had sales of 53.7 million units in the second quarter of 2013. Microsoft will acquire the Asha brand and will license the Nokia brand for use with current Nokia mobile phone products. Nokia will continue to own and manage the Nokia brand. This element provides Microsoft with the opportunity to extend its service offerings to a far wider group around the world while allowing Nokia’s mobile phones to serve as an on-ramp to Windows Phone.

Nokia will retain its patent portfolio and will grant Microsoft a 10-year non-exclusive license to its patents at the time of the closing. Microsoft will grant Nokia reciprocal rights to use Microsoft patents in its HERE services. In addition, Nokia will grant Microsoft an option to extend this mutual patent agreement in perpetuity.

In addition, Microsoft will become a strategic licensee of the HERE platform, and will separately pay Nokia for a four-year license.

Microsoft will also immediately make available to Nokia EUR 1.5 billion of financing in the form of three EUR 500 million tranches of convertible notes that Microsoft would fund from overseas resources. If Nokia decides to draw down on this financing option, Nokia would pay back these notes to Microsoft from the proceeds of the deal upon closing. The financing is not conditional on the transaction closing.

Microsoft also announced that it has selected Finland as the home for a new data center that will serve Microsoft consumers in Europe. The company said it would invest more than a quarter-billion dollars in capital and operation of the new data center over the next few years, with the potential for further expansion over time.

NOKIA LEADERSHIP CHANGES

Nokia expects that Stephen Elop, Jo Harlow, Juha Putkiranta, Timo Toikkanen, and Chris Weber would transfer to Microsoft at the anticipated closing of the transaction. Nokia has outlined these changes in more detail in a separate release issued today.

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“Skins,” protective layers of vinyl for small electronics, are a dime a dozen nowadays. Almost everyone’s jumping on this manufacturing bandwagon, and unfortunately, the production values on most manufacturers’ skins are uniformly awful: applying the skins is an ill-documented, bubble-filled malady; and removing the skins is an even worse experience—good luck not leaving semi-permanent gunk on your gadget on the way out. Moreover, skin manufacturers offer the tackiest designs ever. I mean, really, who wants to cover their devices with terrible fractal designs straight out of Kai’s Power Tools circa 1998?

Skinomi’s Techskin miraculously solves all of the complaints I previously had with similar products. I’ve been getting their transparent skins for pretty much every tech device I own (their product range covers quite a gamut of gadgets), and I recently decided to slap their very tasteful Natural Wood skin on my laptop.

Applying the skin was a breeze. Though it’s a bit unfair to assume that given my zen-like skill at applying screen protectors and whatnot to my devices, I didn’t have to wrestle with surface bubbles post-application: a quick swipe with the end of a credit card took care of everything. And though I initially aligned one of the bigger skin chunks on the sides of the device incorrectly, to my surprise, the skin peeled off fairly easily and I was able to reapply it without much fuss.

I found the vinyl covering on the Natural Wood Skins to be more than satisfactory. As Skinomi’s marketing material suggests, three kinds of film make up the Snake Skins’ vinyl facade. There’s a waterproof top layer, followed by two more layers that prevent residue from building up inside, beneath, and around the skin. I performed a couple of cursory tests on the skins to see if they were indeed up to snuff, and they all performed admirably. Keying the skins produced nary a nick on the transparent top layer, and leaving a fine spray of water on the unit for a couple of hours didn’t cause the skin to peel off or slip away.

I don’t think there’s much more to say about this particular product, other than the fact that these guys are my personal favorite out of the bevy of companies that make similar cling-on skin products. They don’t look tacky, leave any residue, and peel away easily; and really, that’s all you need to know. Skinomi currently supports a growing line of gadgets, and the skins are available at brick-and-mortar stores and online starting at $5.

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As if Ouya wasn’t in enough trouble. According to a rumor blip we found via GameInformer, it appears that the online retail giant has ambitions of invading the home console/set-top space by the end of this year by releasing their own, Amazon-branded Android console which we’re guessing will be in the same family as its wildly successful Kindle Fire line of Android-based tablets. GameInformer claims that they have sources close to the project, spilling some details about the console leveraging its current “App Store” offerings.

Though the Ouya has been our perpetual whipping-boy ever since its release a few months ago (and for good reason), I still feel that the set-top box space is both oversaturated and untapped. In between the myriad of offerings from different manufacturers out there, there hasn’t been a solid box that “does it all.” Google TV—with its cable box integration/overlays and HDMI passthrough design—comes the closest, but fails by not allowing publishers on the platform to use the NDK on Google TV apps (which I believe they are rectifying), which kills the potential for more complex apps and games. Roku and Apple TV’s closed implementations are dead-ends, with neither manufacturer willing to open up their boxes for third-party apps.

I would buy a decently-equipped, quad-core Amazon box in a heartbeat. I’m already well-invested in the Amazon ecosystem, and unlike Ouya’s shaky, rocky, half-arsed marketplace, I at least know that Amazon will do a good job curating and giving incentives to developers to target their future platform.

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It goes without saying that the Ouya was a terrible disappointment to all of us; most particularly myself who was looking for a silent, tiny box to simply play my stash of retro games, emulated and upscaled on my big screen television. Having the ability to run my media files via XBMC was also a nice, expected bonus — I truly had no desire to mess around with unoptimized Android ports. Three months out, and the thing still doesn’t have a stable branch of XBMC out for it, third-party support is dead, and what emulators exist on it seem unoptimized and rushed.

Finally decided that I had enough and picked up an Intel NUC barebones kit, particularly the unfortunately-named BOXDC3217IYE. From what I understand, NUC is a formfactor standard, so third-party OEMs may also have their own takes on the hardware; I know Gigabyte sells the Brix kit as well, which is pretty similar.

intel nuc 3Though the great unwashed masses of the PC gaming milieu have long harped at HTPCs being the “fourth console,” their relatively prohibitive pricing and difficulty to set up (seriously—even as someone who used to work in IT, I can say with full confidence that those mini-ITX cases will murder your hands) have proven to be quite the proverbial barriers to entry for mass-market adoption. Consoles, for the most part are cheap, plug-and-play set-top boxes that eschew needless functionality for a more streamlined experience. Bridging the gap between HTPCs and consoles (or perhaps even supplanting the former), Intel’s NUC looks to be quite the value proposition for people wanting that extra bit of multimedia flexibility in their living rooms.

I purchased the barebones kit (which consists of a nice glossy black enclosure bundling an i3 3217U chip clocked at 1.8GHz and soldered on to a tiny motherboard) alongside an mSATA SSD drive, a mini-PCIe wireless card, and 8GB of DDR3 SO-DIMM RAM. Though I had some apprehensions about the onboard HD4000 graphics, both the CPU and GPU performed quite admirably in the few jobs I’ve thrown at it so far.

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I loaded the NUC up with Windows 8 Professional; which chugs along just fine with basic multimedia tasks. Windows Media Center worked fine and played every video I threw at it (of course, I didn’t have any of those crazy HD x264 videos handy, but WMV HD checked out fine). XBMC ran like a dream on this little treat, and — having used the software on various pieces of hardware ranging from the original Xbox to a Raspberry Pi — is probably the best platform I’ve ever seen it run on. Will it play your Gwiyomi fan videos? Yes it will; unfortunately for the rest of us it won’t purge every single video of it from the Internet and launch its participants on a catapult straight into the sun.

The NUC is small enough to be clipped on to a monitor or TV's VESA mount.
The NUC is small enough to be clipped on to a monitor or TV’s VESA mount.

But I’m getting too ahead of myself. We are a gaming periodical first and foremost, so I of course had to test how this tiny rig flew, gaming-wise. MAME coupled with the Hyperspin frontend was just gorgeous on the NUC; I had quite a blast just lounging on my couch, clutching my Sega Saturn USB pad whilst Bucky o’ Hare blasted on my big-screen TV. With simple, freely-available hacks, I was able to use my Wii remote as a stand-in air mouse, making adventure games like Monkey Island a breeze to play. Less-intense traditional PC games like Diablo 3, Fallout: New Vegas and Half Life 2 ran admirably on mid-range settings. That’s honestly all I have to say about performance — if you want meaningless charts and numbers to dictate your purchasing experience, head on over to Anandtech; this clearly is not the site for you.

But here’s the kicker: when you actually price out all of the components you’ll need to build out a good NUC rig, you’ll probably end up being really close to the price of a Mac Mini. Understandably, you gain more portability and a little bit more flexibility with Intel’s offering; but Apple’s little box has slightly better hardware and build quality than a fully decked-out NUC.

To cap this review off, you can consider me a fan of the Intel NUC initiative. Let this review serve as an introduction to the fun little form-factor PC, as I’m probably going to write more about my adventures with the little x86 box that could in the next few months.

 

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Ubuntu founders Canonical have always had this weird aspiration of making your mobile phone function as your primary computer. Though Motorola’s done something fairly similar with their Atrix line of phones, Ubuntu for Android took that idea one step further by actually running pretty much a full-blown version of desktop Ubuntu off your HDMI-enabled phone, sharing documents, files and such in the same filesystem. It’s an interesting idea, albeit something that absolutely nobody wanted or asked for.

Still marching forward with this idea, Canonical have brought it to themselves to actually release—through (surprise) a crowdfunding channel—their end-game vision of what an Ubuntu-equipped smartphone should be. Backed by a fairly ambitious and impressive set of specs, the Ubuntu Edge may very well be the smartphone that you’ll want to use as a desktop replacement. Planned specifications include a quad-core CPU, 128GB SSD storage, 4GB of RAM and a “one-hand friendly” (hold the jokes, peanut gallery) 4.5-inch 720p display. Connectivity and media options include MHL HDMI support, dual-band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC and an 8MP rear/2MP front set of cameras.

Though 30lives is probably the last place (or the first place, depending on how much of a cagey, jaded douche you are) you should be looking for tech-related advice—tempting as these target specs may be—you won’t see me dropping my iPhone for this anytime soon. It’s all about the ecosystem, and the jokes simply write themselves when you hear Android and Linux mentioned in the same breath. Unless things change drastically by the time this device releases next May, you’re looking at a first-rate device filled to the brim with only the sloppy seconds of the software world.

Still, if this is somehow an interesting idea to you, you can elect to drop $600 (only for the next few hours) or $830 for the privilege of pre-ordering your very own Ubuntu Edge smartphone. Don’t hold your breath either way: the project won’t get funded until it reaches its lofty $32,000,000 goal. Yeah…

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Some late tech news, but something bound to make a few of you happy: as not everyone can be a human compass and know every nook and cranny of our crowded metropolis, the addition of the Philippines to the list of countries receiving live turn-by-turn navigation should be a Godsend.

The update was actually part of Google’s new Maps update from a few days ago, promising to unify the desktop and mobile UIs of the already-rad application. Google Maps already supported overhead directions on local destinations, but turn-by-turn navigation brings forward a few more benefits such as “live traffic updates, incident reports, and dynamic rerouting;” new updates brought about by their recent purchase of the crowdsourced navigation app, Waze.

Here is the list of new countries for navigation confirmed by Google:

  • Cameroon
  • Costa Rica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Ethiopia
  • Guatemala
  • Indonesia
  • Malaysia
  • Nigeria
  • Oman
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Rwanda
  • Slovenia
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Uganda
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela

Expansion of Navigation from limited coverage to full in the following:

  • Algeria
  • Bahrain

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The Virtuix Omni is basically an omni-directional treadmill designed for use with the Oculus Rift VR Headset —  allowing the gamer to stand up and traverse the game’s virtual worlds with the natural use of their own feet.

Kickstarter campaign went live today with a goal of $150,000, but it has earned more than double that, almost one thousand backers pledged $368,987 running total.

The money from the campaign will be used improving the prototype. One of the main goals is to make a more streamlined design for mass production. Looks pretty neat, to say the least.

Hit the source link for more details on the Omni.

Source: Virtuix Omni Kickstarter Page

 

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snapviewmultitaskingSo the embargo has lifted on Windows 8.1 previews and all of the big tech sites have previews up on their respective outlets today. Now, I know a lot of you come to 30lives to read about the down n’ dirty side of tech news, so we’ll cut through the BS and give you the real skinny on Microsoft’s next big step for the fledgling operating system.

From what we’ve seen so far, it looks like Windows 8.1 will be a good bridge between the holdouts that still have Windows 7 on their systems (myself included) and Microsoft’s new cloud-based M.O. Contrary to what rumors have suggested, the Start Menu won’t make a comeback, but the Start Screen will act as more of an “overlay,” to make the transition between the desktop and start menu less jarring. I suppose if that’s still an annoyance, one can pony up the $4.99 and install Start8, a piece of software that unobtrusively adds a more traditional Windows 7-style Start Menu among other tweaks, including booting direct to the desktop (something Windows 8.1 actually fixes).

More welcome tweaks to the Start Screen include making “All Apps” the default view instead of the live tiles, which is a good compromise for power users. Other welcome tweaks for power users include disabling “hot corners,” which was a personal annoyance as I would always overshoot the corner window to hit the “close” button on apps. Users with multi-monitor setups can also elect to keep the start screen open on one screen while doing work on the other, which is a feature exactly zero people asked for, according to recent surveys.

skydriveMore importantly, it looks like Microsoft is going for Dropbox’ jugular by including 100GB of SkyDrive support out of the box, fully integrated with the OS, with full thumbnail search capabilities. From what Microsoft has shown off so far, it’s pretty seamless: files on the cloud can be used by local applications as it “streams” direct to your machine per use. Of course, with the pathetic internet speeds we all have in the Philippines, this usefulness does come into question, but it’s still a neat feature for those with fat broadband pipes.

Windows 8.1 will debut at the BUILD conference next month. As the first in a series of incremental, OS X-style yearly updates, lots of speculation has been posited about how Microsoft will price this update. Could be free, could also be a low-cost, $30 update for existing users. We’ll have to see this June!

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Own an Xperia Play? Our condolences. After a strong marketing push two years ago, it looks like Sony Ericsson (or is it just Sony these days?) all but abandoned the cellphone/handheld gaming combo device. It’s a shame, too—despite some glaring flaws (the “imaginary” analog sticks being the crux of most peoples’ problems), I found it to be a really well-built Android device, one that can be found for way below the MSRP at this point, thanks to the ever-evolving Android mobile market. It’s a far cry from Nokia’s much-maligned N-Gage (which, coincidentally I also owned and loved) as the underlying OS is much more flexible and the hardware is several orders of magnitude more capable than that experiment.

Just for fun, I bought a half-functioning (“software-bricked,” as the technical term dictates) Xperia Play off eBay for mere pennies and decided to “revive” it and use it as an Android gaming/emulation device (after months of hemming and hawing on the JXD S7300). It also happens to work as a phone, so I am currently utilizing it as a backup handset. I decided to jot down my experiences with the device to help current owners unlock the device’s true potential.

So after dousing the thing in Lysol (seriously, hygiene: if you’re going to buy second-hand electronics make sure you sanitize first), I went ahead and skimmed Lord Google to see what my options were. A full firmware wipe was in order, and luckily for Xperia phones there’s this tool called Flashtool that lets you wipe and re-flash any factory firmware that’s out there. After going through the necessary steps, the phone was fully functional and ready to be tinkered with.

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One handheld cannot live on so many bad EA mobile ports alone.

As an aside, I was really impressed with the amount of hardware you get for your money. Ignoring the obvious gaming aspect and convenience of having real controls slide out from underneath your phone, without doing any real research beforehand, I was kind of taken aback at how relevant the phone’s hardware still is, two years after its launch. The phone is equipped with two cameras, a Wireless-N chip, a fairly decent dual-core processor, and a fairly decent screen packing an 480 x 854 pixel resolution. On paper, the Xperia Play runs neck-and-neck with current mid-range Android handsets.

I’m going to say this once, and say this slowly: Android—especially the earlier, 2.3.x version the Xperia Play comes pre-installed with—is a bad operating system. It is a bloated mess of an OS with an inexplicably awful thread scheduler model (which only got fixed on the Jellybean release, if I’m not mistaken). However, this is where its awesome homebrew community always comes in and saves the day. I’ve never had a good out of the box experience with any Android device I’ve ever owned; so flashing a custom ROM (and potentially invalidating my warranty, oops) has always been an inconvenience I’ve come to expect with purchasing an Android gadget.

What I’m trying to get at is, you must root your Xperia Play for it to even run at an acceptable clip. I’ve never understood peoples’ hesitations to root their Android devices (mostly stemming from ignorance), but it seriously takes thirty seconds to root the damn thing. Once you’re rooted, the first thing you need to do is some cleanup: install Link2SD and uninstall system apps that you don’t need. Once you’re on “rooted stock,” you should be okay, but being experimental with this device pays out in dividends.

Installing Custom ROMs

ClockworkMod should be your first destination before installing custom “ROMs,” or user-created modifications to the phone’s stock firmware. Xparts and RecoverX are the two apps I’ve seen to install CWM on the device (I personally went with RecoverX), but the steps should be the same for both apps; there’s literally a big red button that says “Install ClockworkMod” that installs the CWM software to your phone’s recovery partition, allowing you to access the CWM Recovery menu by hitting a key combination when the phone boots. You’re on your own at this point—there are so many guides and threads out there, so I’m not going to waste my time with my pithy explanations on how to flash custom ROMs on the Play. As a personal recommendation, I flashed the Gin2JellyBean ROM on my handset, but other options do exist.

The Games!
Even though the Google Market descriptions don’t explicitly say it, a lot of games out there actually support the Xperia Play’s native hardware controls out of the box. Thanks to the way Sony mapped the buttons, pretty much any game that supports on-screen controls will work; and for the select few that won’t (Grand Theft Auto: Vice City being a stellar example), you can always install GameKeyBoard, which allows you to map on-screen controls to hardware presses.

And if you’re tired of Android games altogether and have a fairly speedy broadband connection and a Wireless-N network, OnLive is another option. The app is admittedly a little laggy, but I played through an hour of Deus Ex: Human Revolution without much difficulty.

ppssppEmulation
I’ve always sworn by the .EMU emulators across the different platforms I’ve used (iOS, Android, heck even on WebOS!), but from what I’ve been hearing, the *oid emulators from Yongz seem to be better-optimized for the platform, despite not being actively updated anymore. That should cover the basics (NES, Genesis, SNES, Game Gear/Master System, GBA, GBC, Atari 2600 and Nintendo 64), but there are a few alternative options for the more adventurous out there. There’s SCUMMVM and Dosbox Turbo for older PC classics, an alpha version of nullDC floating around for the Dreamcast crowd, and even a PSP (!) HLE emulator, PPSSPP. And don’t forget—this thing can also run PSone games out of the box!

In Closing
Welp, that should cover this makeshift guide. It’s in no way complete or comprehensive, but that’s the beauty of doing research on your own! I’ll be spinning this off into an Android emulation series if I can drum up enough interest and share my experiences with emulating retro games on Android handhelds, as well as consoles like the OUYA.

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104_0822One of my fondest childhood memories was being able to play a (really dumbed down) version of Super Mario Bros. 3 on my watch. It was far from an accurate port; constrained to how many characters an LCD screen could print on a silkscreen at the time. Taking off the nostalgia glasses for a second, the game itself was terrible—a single-screened platformer experience that even the proper Game & Watch games could easily trump; this had nothing on the real thing. Still, that fact could not stop my watch from being the talk of the playground.

Growing up, I found myself obssessed with trying to play Super Mario Bros. on every piece of hardware that I owned. I considered this my personal “Doom Test” when buying new hardware, regardless of the function—I consider a tech purchase a good buy if I could run Super Mario Bros. on it. Check out that picture to the left from a few years ago—I took that using an old Minolta digital camera that (you guessed it) had the ability to run Super Mario Bros.

So when my girlfriend bought me a Motorola MOTOACTV fitness watch last month (seriously guys, it’s awesome; I can review the hardware if I get enough requests to), I didn’t take it as a subtle hint that I needed to stop being a fat slob for once. Rather, it was an opportunity to revisit this obsession with playing Super Mario Bros. on hardware that has no business running games. So today’s project—if you happen to own a MOTOACTV or are planning to pick one up—is to customize the underlying Android operating system and flash a different ROM to enable things like alternative app launchers and mapping the hardware keys to different functions.

ISONY DSCf you’ve been dorking around with Android hardware for awhile, you already know that developers like to release their own “flavors” of each device’s OS, sometimes customized for functionality, or perhaps stripping down unnecessary services that slow down the hardware. I like keeping my devices as stock as possible (which is why tacky resource hogs like Facebook Home displease me), so I went with a ROM called “DPRom for Motoactv” to flash on my MOTOACTV.

Pre-Requisites:

  • You need to have Fastboot/ADB installed on your computer; here’s a good tutorial on how to set this up.
  • Your device needs to be fully charged. Yeah you can live on the edge and flash things without being fully charged, but why risk it?

The Steps:

  1. Extract the contents of that DPRom file I linked to.
  2. Switch off your MOTOACTV and boot it up again while holding the volume down and power keys to boot into recovery mode.
  3. Plug the microUSB cable that came with your MOTOACTV to the computer. You should see a few device install prompts pop in and out; if you installed ADB on your computer this should take care of any required driver installs.
  4. Open a command line window—hit Win+R, type in cmd, hit enter—and navigate to the folder where you extracted the files in Step 1. If you don’t know how to do this; seriously kids, lrn2 command line.
  5. Issue these commands in order. Obviously hit enter after each command to send them over to the watch:
     fastboot -w
     fastboot flash boot boot.img
     fastboot flash system system.img
     fastboot flash preinstall preinstall.img
     fastboot -w
     fastboot reboot
  6. You should be good to go after this! After the watch reboots, you’ll be able to select your launcher. Simply hitting “Launcher” will send you to Motorola’s default app selector; while going to Zeam Launcher will get you to a more familiar (albeit scaled-down) Android experience. You can go back to either launcher by hitting the power button twice.

SONY DSCEmulators!

Time to feast. You can either sideload Android apps or install them via the Play Store, which will be a little bit of a challenge given the screen’s miniscule resolution. Either way, I’d recommend grabbing one of Robert Brogolia’s excellent .emu apps for your emulation fix. You can either use the on-screen controls to fumble through the action, or you can be a cool guy like me and use a Bluetooth controller such as a Wii Remote or the excellent iCade 8-bitty, which I originally recommended in this overview article. And trust me—nothing gets a chick’s panties wetter than someone busting out Super Mario Bros. on his frickin’ watch during a party.

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Screenshot_2013-04-12-17-38-47Rumors have always been kicking around regarding Facebook’s desires to enter the Smartphone market. Those rumors died for a while after their first uneventful partnership with HTC which birthed the HTC ChaCha (or HTC Status here in the US).

The ChaCha was an entry-level Android phone that’s notable for two things: its odd screen resolution/aspect ratio, and the “Facebook button,” which was nothing more than a hardware shortcut that would launch Facebook’s sharing prompt when pressed. After the ChaCha was released, the social media conglomerate went back to the proverbial drawing board and the idea of a Facebook phone seemingly went into hibernation.

Today, Facebook released their new iteration on the “Facebook Phone” concept. But instead of releasing a physical device, Facebook is banking on being able to piggyback on a pre-existing Android user base with its release of Facebook Home, essentially a launcher/software overlay that turns your homescreen into a full-screen friend feed. That’s right – if you’ve always wanted to see the inane thoughts of people that you’ve been forced to be “friends” with on Facebook because of societal pressures take up all your phone’s screen real estate, then you are in luck.

Out of pure, morbid curosity, I installed Facebook Home on a spare Android phone that I had lying around (what, you don’t have five hanging out in your nightstand?). Turns out Facebook only whitelisted a scant amount of devices to be able to use the app – including their flagship phone, the HTC First. After some sideloading hoops, I was able to install Facebook Home as well as the updated Facebook client on my obscure little smartphone.

Screenshot_2013-04-12-17-35-17After installing the two requisite pieces of the app and plugging in my Facebook credentials, I was whisked away to my new home screen. The Cover Feed simply takes your existing News Feed m Facebook and displays it in a somewhat visually-pleasing slideshow that moves on to the next story every few seconds. My first impression of the feed validated what I thought when I saw the first teaser videos of the interface. There’s no way my feed will look that good. Ironically, the prevalence of cheap Android phones with sub-par cameras is what destroys Facebook’s illusion. It’s garbage in, garbage out; and unless you only follow people that exclusively post professional photography, all you’ll be looking at are full-screen versions of your friends’ low-resolution photos, regurgitated memes from 9gag, and whatever embarrassing cover photos they decide to put up (see: Borge).

When you’re looking at a well-formatted post though, the interface is beautiful. Your friends’ posts are labeled in stark, white fonts while the associated image (the software will either pull an image from the post if it exists, or simply grab your friend’s cover photo if it doesn’t) slowly zooms by with a faux-Ken Burns effect. It’s a cool-looking alternative to the News Feed, but then again Flipboard kinda does the same thing already. But then again, what’s the point when 90% of what your friends post is drivel that you scroll past by anyway? My, what a charmer I am.

Playing around with the interface even more, there’s a little divot with your cover picture that represents the “bobble” you use to interface with and reach Facebook Home’s different areas: Messenger, which is simply a shortcut for the fully-integrated Facebook Messenger (more on that later); Apps, which launches a simple app drawer with a grid-based list of all your apps; and a “Back” button which — from what I understand — accesses the last app that you used before heading back to the home screen. I can see how this simple interface can appeal to smartphone novices; but as a power user I found the lack of shortcuts confusing. One more complaint: it’s far too easy for your fingers to wander and accidentally “like” someone’s post — it’s as if the UI was intentionally designed that way. Sneaky.

FacebookChatAlthough the actual Facebook Home launcher is fairly underwhelming, it’s almost completely redeemed by Facebook’s genius answer to smartphone users having to juggle multiple chat conversations while actually trying to do something productive. They’re calling this solution “chat heads,” and at the core it’s such a simple idea.

More pixelization than a Japanese woman's hoo-haIf you’re a social butterfly like me, you’re probably consistently struggling with having to switch apps every time someone texts or tries to chat with you. Thanks to the Android operating system’s flexibility and  Facebook’s tight integration with the launcher, Chat Heads let you have an overlay of up to four conversations appearing on top of any app that you’re running. It’s great because I can text or instant message someone while reading an article or watching a video, for example. Instead of having to stop what you’re doing to answer a message, you click on the little Chat Head and it lays the current conversation over whatever you’re doing. One major problem I’ve had with it is that I couldn’t get it to work with group Facebook chats; sadly our long-running Facebook thread with the rest of the 30lives staff sends over a regular Android system notification instead of a Chat Head. Pretty annoying.

Still, I don’t see why Facebook Home even exists. Much like PlayStation Home, it’s an entirely forgettable waste of assets that nobody really asked for; and something that definitely sounded better on paper than in execution. Chat Heads are a genius idea, but couldn’t they have done that without the Home overlay? Not to sound like a complete jerk, but there’s nothing compelling about my Facebook feed that would make me like staring at it after unlocking my phone.

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Like all “when-the-world-ends” gear, these are only relevant when you survive the initial impact of whatever  disaster of cataclysmic proportion occurs on Earth or just simply your country or city. What this special series of gadget/survival gear reviews aims to do is to find relevant and not overpriced products you probably want around you should the world collapse tomorrow. Our first product for surviving the apocalypse is the Pensonic USB-Copy Star radio as seen on Lazada.com.ph .

Features:

For P749.00 the Pensonic Copy Star is pretty loaded with FM/AM/SW1/SW2 radio frequency receivers, MP3/WMA playback via USB or SD Card, direct to USB or SD Card recording, multiple power sources (built in rechargeable battery, DC power plug, and battery powered by 3 Heavy D size batteries), LED Flashlight, siren alarm button, and a jack for headphones.

Overview:

Peen 7
That’s a handful.

The Pensonic Copy Star is quite a big device compared to what people are used to these days. As a matter of fact, it’s actually larger than an actual brick. This is no state-of-the-art device either. Rather, it’s a mix of legacy technology with more modern features such as the USB/SD Card recording, music playback, rechargeable battery, and the LED flashlight… because LED flashlights did not exist back in the 80’s where this device would have been mind-blowing.

While the entire device is made from a plastic material, it has good weight on it and seems durable enough to withstand travel or an occasional improvisation as a blunt weapon. Sadly, it will only work to stun or daze humans or animals. It is quite useless against the walking dead or robots controlled by Skynet. With this, bear in mind that the Pensonic Copy Star is a support device so any sort of offensive power rating is moot.

Radio Signal Reception:

Like most legacy devices, radio reception isn’t exactly good at least for those who have never used a radio back in the day. You’ll have to search for a good spot to set the radio down and adjust the antenna to get good reception… yes kids, there was a time when there were these abominable attachments even on cell phones that totally ruined a gadget’s form factor. Luckily, radios normally had retractable antennae.  The quality of the radio programs really depend on how strong their signal and your geographical location but overall, I was able to find decent signal for any radio station.

Digital Music Playback and Recording: Peen 8

The Copy Star is able to play MP3 and WMA file formats. Unfortunately, it is unable to play MP4 files so migrating your songs from iTunes is going to take an extra step in your apocalypse prepping. The recording function of the radio is actually just a record from (built-in) microphone so if you’re recording  something from the radio and a vendor passes by your house shouting “TAHOOOOO!”, that’s probably going to come out in the playback. All files are recorded in a layered MP3 format.

There is no LED/LCD panel to navigate your files on the USB and the instruction manual is pretty straight forward about it: when recording multiple tracks on your thumb drive or SD card, the copy star follows a last-in, first-out process. Meaning your playlist will always play the last track you recorded first and bump the older ones down. This play order can be rearranged on a computer, something you probably won’t have post-apocalypse. This is certainly a drag but then again, I think it’s safe to say that your Pensonic radio is going to be immune from Skynet.

I do have to point out that USB 3.0 thumb drives DO NOT work on this device. But any type of USB 2.0 thumb drive works just fine.

Peen 3Recharging and Battery Life:

On average we’re looking at 12-18 hours of function for the radio and approximately 8-12 hours of music playback via USB or SD card. It’s worth noting that there is no warning light indicating low battery life. The best signs are the following: radio reception and volume becomes weak, and your music playback via flash storage just stops working (one of our reviewers lamented that the device broke down so quickly, but it was just at the end of it’s battery life.)  You will not be able to use the flashlight as well when it is already low on juice.

Sound Quality:

Being quite a bit of an audiophile, to me the sound is really plain and for the price of the product it’s to be expected. What I can tell you is the sound is audible and quite clear at low volumes. Jacking up the volume turns it into an exploding nightmare of distortion though. Sticking in a good set of headphones barely helps in improving sound quality. Don’t expect to be able to kick out some jams and get people to bob their heads and groove to your digital mix tape… at least until you end up with the last working music playing device in the world.

So how is this relevant in a post-apocalyptic event?

In the event society breaks down, the basic commodities we take for granted such as electricity will become scarce. Following that is an immediate communication breakdown at least in terms of anything online and possibly telecommunications via land line and cellular phones eventually. You will need some sort of access to public information and radio will be one of the last forms of mass communication standing because you technically just need one person to operate it. Being able to receive short wave frequencies is also a plus as it is the most portable form of radio broadcasting and will likely be the last bastion of  mass communication and you will want to be in the know of what’s happening around you. Without the radio, John Connor wouldn’t have been able to gather the remaining human survivors to rise up against Skynet and its terminators.

When the power runs out on all your modern Li-ion powered gadgets it will be nice to have something battery powered around. You can at least make supply runs for batteries to extend the functional life of a radio, music player, back-up flashlight, and even an early warning device or decoy to lure zombies away from you ( remember the siren / alarm button). Should it ever come to your untimely demise *knock on wood* you can with your last breath leave a note or even a journal for people to remember you by (if there are any other survivors that is) by recording you exploits, day to day activities, or last stand with a preemptive epitaph.

However, should the world fall into the crapper with a worldwide EMP outburst, the Pensonic Copy Star will be nothing more than a brick, a fairly hazardous blunt weapon.

So the world didn’t end, what do I do with this now?

The Pensonic Copy Star is still a great travel radio and music player for those nights at the beach or just simply getting smashed in a remote location without any power outlet and places where expensive gadgets have a high probability of being stolen. You can also be a “hipster” and ironically re-live the days of the mixed tape where you painstakingly wait for good songs on the radio and record them. While highly impractical because people can (be filthy pirates and) just download songs online, spontaneity still has it’s own charm. It’s also possible to record the occasional funny radio ad or annoying DJ’s program and spread it among your peers and friends in your social network. Who knows, it might even go viral.

Pensonic devices have a service center in Manila located at the G-Max Service Center. #606 Evangelista corner G. Puyat street, Quiapo, Manila and their service hotline is (02) 733-2851 should you actually have problems with your Copy Star (we had none so far in a week of non-stop testing.)

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For those unfamiliar with the company Razer, they started out as a PC gaming peripheral manufacturer (mice, keyboards, mouse pads, and earphones/plugs) catering to the “hardcore” PC gamer and sponsoring professional e-Sport teams. They have always claimed to be innovators and in recent years, they have started putting their money where their mouth is at by moving into manufacturing PC devices starting with the Razer Blade a slim REAL gaming laptop which was unheard of until last year. In the CES 2013 last January, Razer unveiled the Razer Edge, a Windows tablet meant to play PC games  and pre-orders for the device is on-going this month.

You’ll be able to read up on the full tech specs, first-impressions of actually holding a device, and benchmarks (in the near future) by searching for “Razer Edge” with Lord Google so I’ll just talk about the specs in a nutshell. There will be two SKUs for this device, namely the Razer Edge and the Razer Edge Pro:

Razer Edge: SRP $999.99

  • CPU: Intel i5 Dual Core at 1.7 ghz boosts up to 2.65 ghz
  • RAM: 4 GB DDR 3
  • GPU: 1 GB DDR3 Nvidia 640 M LE
  • SSD: 64 GB

Razer Edge Pro: SRP $1,299.99 – 1,449.99

  • CPU: Intel i7 Quad Core w/ Hyper Threading Base at 1.9 ghz boosts up to 3.0 ghz
  • RAM: 8 GB DDR3
  • GPU: 2 GB DDR 3 Nvidia 640 M LE
  • SSD: 128/256 GB

Both have a 10.1 IPS display with a 1366×768 resolution and will come with the Windows 8 OS. There are several additional peripherals for the Razer Edge namely: a docking station (comes with the HDMI slot, and additional USB ports), a keyboard with additional battery pack (not available at the moment), and the game pad controller which turns the Razer Edge into a handheld console. Just the docking station and game pad contoller will set you back $350 and the keyboard peripheral is bound to cost even more.

It’s obvious that you can build a computer with much higher specs with a thousand dollars. The latest iPad has retina display which pumps out 2048 x 1536 screen resolution which makes all other tablet displays (like this one) look gimped. Yes, as is without a battery pack, you can expect the Razer Edge to give you about an hour of gaming before you need to recharge the device. The iPad has games, so do Android Tablets. You can do more with other tablets which also have longer battery life. There are handheld consoles which cost much cheaper and have a rich library of games! In my opinion, all these arguments are moot when you talk about innovation and portable PC gaming.

It excites me that a PC manufacturer, albeit a new one, is making more powerful machines in smaller packages. Technology has come a long way from giant clubs of a cellphones reduced to tiny anorexic bricks with more computing power than NASA computers during the space race era. Along the way, there have been failed devices such as several iterations of a tablet computer which culminated with the iPhone and iPad but without these risk takers, where would the technology we enjoy now be in the present? I have always relished the idea of being able to play full PC games anytime and anywhere on a device that won’t break my back when I carry it around and the existence of the Razer Edge i just a pat on my back saying “we hear you bro (NOW SHUT UP AND GIVE ME YOUR MONEY!)”

When I mentioned portable PC gaming, it’s not just about being able to play full PC games on a long ride or commute, it’s about carrying my library of games around my home (and play in all sort of lazy positions), to my friends’ homes or even in public places. It’s about bringing the potential to break out the PC gaming experience anywhere without having to lug around heavy hardware or huge devices. You can even hook it up to a monitor or HDTV for a bigger display. The Razer Edge is as advertised, a PC, a tablet, and a console.

As it is, the Razer Edge is not the perfect device but for me it is shaping into my ideal device for a versatile PC computer. I still love my consoles and I still appreciate gaming on a full desktop but I sure am excited about the prospect of carrying the power of a high-end desktop in the palm of my hand, hopefully within my lifetime.

Now excuse me while I think about how to get my hands on one of these devices half way around the world without being subject to Customs officials wallet raping.