I'm glad I didn't stop then and there. Its cheesecake fixation aside, Sync lives up to its advance billing as the definitive guide to the tech-happy lifestyle. Rather than merely doing what 638 magazines before it have done--review every gizmo under the sun, throwing in a few easy pop-culture references so as to suggest the barest inkling of hipness--Sync attacks, evaluates, and celebrates technology from a vastly different perspective.
Nowhere is this new take on tech more evident than in the June/July issue's features. "The Bionic Man Updated" explains how artificial muscles and beneath-the-skin GPS chips aren't merely fodder for nerd daydreams. Even better is the ten-page spread on "How America Uses Tech," which checks in with a doctor who uses his iPod to display X-ray images, a blind man who spent months learning how to play "Mike Tyson's Punch-Out," and a porn star who receives photos of the, um, "gear" of potential costars via her cell phone (boobie alert! boobie alert!). Inherent--but left unsaid--is that technology has long since transcended hobby status in the eyes of most Americans. As such, both features come across as considerably more useful and diverting than the usual "we test-drive eight new laptops!!" dreck.
Even when Sync veers toward cliché, the magazine offers a quirky slant. As is constitutionally mandated in every edition of every men's rag, the June/July issue presents a story on poker. Sync, however, approaches it in a decidedly non-glamorous manner, offering ten straightforward tips for newbie online players.
And yes, Sync includes the requisite product tests and photo spreads--but, again, with a twist. For the product tests, the mag evaluates a handful of goodies under so-called "extreme" conditions: it sticks a Bushnell digital outdoor camera in a garbage bin along with 4,000 Wolfpack firecrackers and the Delphi MyFi XM portable handset in a mine shaft. The results might not be especially telling, but the concept is quite entertaining.
As for the photo spreads, the mag offers up six high-end gadgets amid a cake fight between models (boobies, etc.). Then there's the plainly presented look at nine "gangsta gadgets," the twist being that none of the products (such as the "universal firearm remote" and the "laptop lowrider") actually exist. The accompanying blurbs hit precisely the right note between hype and smarm. Under the way-too-real depiction of a "boombox sneaker," the mag writes: "Classic Sports Illustrated shoe phone? You been served!" Great stuff.
Not all of the humor in Sync works quite as well. For every clever image (the anime-like renderings on the contributors page, a dog sniffing at a plate housing a mustard-lined cell phone in a hot dog bun), there are two that don't work (a "rejected" Sync cover featuring a pic of a bony Olsen twin and the headline "Gearexia!"). I also question the mag's decision to include non-tech-focused Q&As with celebs like Kevin Dillon and Gabrielle Union (predictably, the pull quote prominently features the word "lesbian") as well as reviews of cars and baseball bats. In those few moments, it's as if the mag is admitting that there isn't enough to cover in the world of technology--which flies in the face of nearly every other item in the issue.
When Sync shouted out for writers and editors about 15 months ago, I eagerly submitted a résumé. I was bummed out that I wasn't deemed Sync-worthy--that is, until I saw the first cheesecake cover, at which point I let out a hearty sigh of relief and went back to stalking the HR staff at Cat Fancy. A year later, I'm equally bummed that I didn't give Sync more of a chance at the outset--I probably missed some good stuff along the way. It's a sharp concept executed sharply, and worthy of serious consideration.