My Book World Edition II
Now that disk space goes for a song, it's easy to find plenty of room for your collection of adorable kitten photos or Norwegian slasher films. Backing these precious memories up, though-that's a little more difficult. Enter an external hard drive that kills both birds with one stone, providing continuous and mirrored digital archival, readily safeguarding against data corruption and serving as a warehouse for treasured files. Even cooler, content can also be accessed online, ensuring you'll never have to leave precious info behind.
www.wdc.com / $399.99 (2TB); $699.99 (4TB)
Feel like hitting a race in Tokyo, partying in Los Angeles and raving in Ibiza all in the same week? Don't forget to pack this versatile smartphone, blessed with extensive world calling capability, along for the ride. Lack of WiFi and touchscreen capability aside, the handset also scores with a slick QWERTY keyboard and 2.4-inch display. While built-in GPS and location-tagged photos make nice extras, you'll be most thankful it functions almost anywhere, especially when you desperately need springing from a Tijuana jail.
www.rim.com / $199.99
Fun fact: Blu-ray's our latest vice, thanks to the disc format playing home to jaw-dropping high-def films like Watchmen and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. (Including a few favorites you can only find at the "adult novelty" shop, but we digress . . . ) Get your collection started with this top-notch player, which doesn't just introduce BDLive functionality-allowing you to download bonus content over the Internet-the gizmo's also compatible with garden-variety camcorder formats, making it a suitable companion for home movie watching.
www.jvc.com / $299.95
Why settle for blasting your favorite Eminem (or, better yet, Enya) joints from just any old iPhone dock? Not only does the current contender pack a suave, modern aesthetic, it packs 100 watts of power, and has enough muscle to deliver ear-rattling volume levels, giving nearly any track (OK, maybe not Raffi's "Baby Beluga") an instant turbocharge. Although an admittedly expensive option, units do add noticeable oomph even to familiar tunes, providing a solid fit for the discerning audophile.
www.ihomeaudio.com / $299
Once upon a time, digital picture frames just displayed images of you frolicking with dolphins or missing an eyebrow after falling asleep during pledge week. These days, however, models such as this eight-inch black beauty also offer WiFi connectivity, introducing fresh options like real-time weather updates, sports scores and traffic info. Also included here: Support for WMA/MP3 music playback, and the ability to grab photos from Flickr, Photobucket, Facebook and other online providers, promising an endless grab bag of multimedia distractions.
www.tacp.toshiba.com / $179.99
Left 4 Dead 2
Hungry for brains or good old-fashioned zombie-squishing mayhem? Check yon thumb-numbing masterpiece, which pits hapless human survivors against shambling undead hordes throughout the Southern U.S. Albeit mostly more of the same, if the idea of shredding arms, legs and ribcages in scenic Savannah or New Orleans with a well-placed bullet or shotgun shell doesn't excite, well . . . we're confident that a fresh, more colorful visual makeover, new weapons including chainsaws (hell yeah!) and baseball bats, and array of engaging co-op/competitive multiplayer options will.
www.valvesoftware.com / PC, Xbox 360
Assassin's creed 2
Time to get medieval on someone's codpiece: It's do or die in this adventurous free-form epic, which casts you as Ezio, an acrobatic hitman for hire in Renaissance Italy. Impressive as the game's fluid physics and gripping visuals are, you'll be more floored by the ability to ice opponents in increasingly creative ways. From patiently stalking adversaries to sparking off sword-swinging duels and hopping rides on Da Vinci's flying machine, it's a genuine delight to snuff out adversaries, then gracefully scamper or swim off when screams split the night.
www.ubisoft.com / PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Splinter Cell: Conviction
Join renegade operative Sam Fisher as he investigates his daughter's death the only way he knows how. Specifically, by targeting multiple enemies for quick, bloody takedowns; slamming heads into walls in brutal interrogation sequences; and dangling from window ledges before bursting in to spray entire rooms in a hailstorm of flying lead. Featuring gameplay that splits the difference between tiptoeing about the shadows, using pieces of broken glass to spot hidden enemies, and balls-out gunfights, it strikes just the right balance of tension and trigger-squeezing mayhem.
www.ea.com / PC, Xbox 360
Tony Hawk: Ride
While a pricy outing (units ship with a motion-sensing skateboard controller that you stand on to grind, ollie and execute sick tricks), there's much to love about the Hawkman's latest knee-scraping epic. Hernia-inducing potential aside (players must literally turn, twist and wiggle in order to perform various maneuvers) you can't help but appreciate how well it approximates the real-world activity. As such, it's a welcome refresher for the aging franchise, and hell of a title to bust out at parties.
www.activision.com / PS3, Xbox 360, Wii
Forza Motor Sport3
Bill Gates wants to hold your hand. Or rather, that's the impression we get given the array of nifty auto-assists offered here, allowing even Sunday drivers to compete with veteran wheelmen. Nevertheless, diehard auto buffs won't be disappointed either, given hundreds of vehicles and events (i.e. drag, drift, circuit, oval, and timed competitions) to pick from, plus a stunning hi-def visual presentation. Whether rewinding devastating crashes or uploading custom builds for sharing worldwide, you've got to applaud the stunning showroom model.
www.xbox.com / Xbox 360