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By Thomas Wheeler

With the arrival of toys based on the live-action TRANSFORMERS movie, which started appearing in early June 2007 -- an unusual new branch of Transformers emerged. Along with the standard toys for the various Autobots and Decepticons, which were small versions of the full-sized vehicles in the movie, came the new REAL GEAR ROBOTS!

The Real Gear Robots seem to have a basic origin story on the backs of their cards that reads as follows: "Congratulations on purchasing this fine Real Gear Robots product! With this purchase, you've uncovered one of the most closely held secrets on Earth, known to only a very few humans. The power of the Allspark has been unleashed and machines all over the world have come alive. Unlock their secrets, and join the battle!"

Interesting how this explanation actually addresses the buyer of the toy. That's pretty unusual.

The Real Gear Robots are a series of six Transformers that convert into various handheld electronic items. Most of them are close, but somewhat smaller, than what their actual, real-world, functional counterparts would be. And, need it be stated, with a $6.99 price tag in most stores, they're not actual functional electronic items. However, they are very cool Transformers.

I'm not sure where the idea for these came from, although it's worth noting that Tomy/Takara in Japan has been producing a number of Transformers lately that convert into close facsimiles if not actual working versions of real-world products, everything from half-scale officially-licensed Nike sneakers (in which the robots, once transformed, are also wearing sneakers...) to electronic music players. These are not connected to the movie, however.

There are, as I said, six of these Real Gear Robots in the series, so let's review the group one at a time, starting with the most brightly colored one of the lot, and one of my personal favorites of the group -- LONGVIEW!

Each of the Real Gear Robots has three "keywords", for lack of a better phrase, printed beneath his name on the package. In Longview's case, those words are "Observe - Anticipate - Defend."

Longview looks like a fancy pair of miniature binoculars. He is mostly bright yellow, with some black trim. He measures about 2-1/2" in length, and about 3-1/2" across. He has the Autobot logo on his surace, as well as his name. Nice touch. Trying to keep track of all the Transformers' names over the years would require a memory course.

Although Longview is not actually a functional pair of binoculars, it is possible to look through his lenses, although it would likely require the head proportions of quite a small child to be able to look through both of them at once. The lenses do not, however, magnify, and for that matter, the image isn't very clear.

Design-wise, I'm not sure how plausible Longview is. He looks like a very high-tech pair of binoculars, and it's probably well within the realm of possibility that something like him truly exists in the real world. However, I'll readily admit to not being that up-to-date on modern technology, certainly not when it comes to binoculars.

Given the decently authentic look of the other Transformers in the Real Gear Robots line, I think it's well within reason to believe that Longview probably does have some real world counterparts out there -- even if they're perhaps not bright yellow. Although they might be, for all I know.

Transforming Longview is not quite as easy as one might expect. I suppose there's a general feeling out there that -- the smaller the Transformer, the easier the change. On a "Skill Level" scale of 0 to 4, printed on the back, Longview is rated "2", listed as a "Quick Conversion". Okay, he's no Alternator. He's also not exactly one of those little mini-cars from the mid-1980's like the original Bumblebee or Gears, either.

The trickiest part, honestly, are Longview's feet. They hand to be folded out and down very carefully, or they'll snap off. Fortunately, they can be snapped right back on again, but it's a little disconcerting to have this happen to a brand new toy right out of the package. There's also a little twist-around of the legs once you have the head up and in position. What you think is going to be the front of the robot, isn't.

Interestingly enough, there's a printed panel on the inside of Longview's chest panel, which is of an alien spacecraft. One might assume this is some sort of immediate scan or even playback feature that Longview has within the concept. If someone else wants to see what he's seen when he's in robot form, he opens the panel.

In robot form, Longview stands about 4-1/4" from head to tow, but his upper arms have a significant upswept feature -- they're the front lenses in his binoculars form -- and so his total height is just a little over 5". His head design is a nice one, yellow in color, with, appropriately, a wide visor across the front. The top of the head has been molded in transparent blue for the benefit of the visor, with most of it very neatly painted yellow.

Longview's articulation in robot form is superb, although the upper leg swivel is also necessary for his transformation. Even so, Longview is articulated at the head, arms, elbows, wrists (sort of), legs, including an upper leg swivel, and knees. Very nicely poseable.

Longview's profile on his package reads as follows: "Longview is impossible to surprise. It's not only because his vision is so incredible, either: Thanks to highly sophisticated quantum processors, he can predict every possible outcome of any action within seconds. If he can see you, he knows what you're going to fo even beore you do. It's his job to keep an eye on the Decepticons and let Optimus Prime and the others know what they're planning."

His various rankings in certain ability areas are also interesting. He scores highest in Skill (10) and Intelligence (9), but lowest in Speed (2). It sounds like Longview is the Autobots surveillance expert, and that would require patience more than speed.

One small detail of note. Although Longview of course has a Hasbro copyright, the toy has a Takara copyright, while the package reads Tomy. I knew that merger was going to cause chaos.

Let's continue on with a review of the one called SPY SHOT 6.

Spy Shot 6 is an Autobot, and an amazingly effective-looking little digital camera. At 3" long, 2" high, and barely half an inch deep, he's less than half the size of the digital camera which I use for my reviews. But I do wonder just a bit if there's a real-world digital camera out there that approaches Spy Shot 6 as far as size is concerned. I don't really know, but it wouldn't surprise me if there is.

Spy Shot 6's package keywords words are "Shoot - Save - Protect."

In camera mode, Spy Shot 6 does have a "shutter" button that can be pressed down. It clicks and then comes back up, essentially identical to an actual camera button. There is a "screen" on Spy Shot 6's back, which shows a simulated picture of a Transformers' head -- no one I recognize offhand, but he looks more like he's from one of the animated series than a movie. There are several additional buttons on Sky Shot 6's camera back, but these do not function in any way.

Spy Shot 6's transformation is easily one of the strangest I have ever encountered on any Transformer. Virtually everything pivots around the central lens. None of it is all that difficult, but it certainly is unusual. About the only part that I had any trouble with at all was getting what becomes the left foot to fold out. It's a little stubborn, and it's hard to get any sort of grim on to get it to cooperate. Apart from that, though, he's not too difficult to transform into a robot -- just very -- odd.

Really odd is once you get through seemingly turning this robot every way around imaginable is you can look on his back, and the photo image from his camera mode is still right side up.

In robot mode, Spy Shot 6 stands about 4-1/4" from head to toe, but part of his structure in camera mode makes his upper left arm larger than his upper right arm, and this part extends over his head, so his full height is closer to 4-3/4".

One of the most unusual features of Spy Shot 6 is how asymmetrical his arms are. The right arm appears to originally have been the viewfinder on the top of the camera, and his left arm appears to have been the flash and one entire side of the camera. Their only real common points are actually another rather odd feature, these little pincer-like hands. Even these are assembled somewhat differently, and the one on the right hand, assembled with a metal rod articulation joint, is a good bit stronger than the one on the left hand, and I suspect could even be used to hold small, lightweight objects.

Spy Shot 6 has a nicely designed head, with these two round, red eyes that are linked to a transparent panel in the back of the head. This creates the often used feature of making it look as though the eyes are glowing if light hits the figure from behind, but on Spy Shot 6, for whatever reason, it works better than usual, and it doesn't take much light to make his eyes look like they're glowing.

Articulation in robot mode is excellent, including the head, arms, elbows, hands, legs, and knees -- with swivels at the elbows and knees.

Spy Shot 6 is an Autobot. His character profile reads as follows: "Spy Shot 6 doesn't talk a lot, preferring to remain in camera mode as an observer in the background. It's probably from years of spying on the Decepticons. He's got a perfect memory, able to produce a description of anything he's ever seen or heard. He prefers not to fight, but when it comes down to it, he can fire focused beams of laser-intensity light through his lens."

Among his various ability rankings, Spy Shot 6 gets high marks in Courage (10) and Intelligence (9), as well as Skill (8).

Let's review POWER UP VT6 next.

Power Up VT6 is a Decepticon that transforms into a hand-held video-game unit. I'll admit, I've never been terribly good at video games. Born in the wrong generation for that, I suppose.

Power Up VT6 actually reminds me a little of the Sega Game gear. He's fancier-looking, and certainly smaller, but there's a vague structural resemblance, which I suppose isn't uncommon for a hand-held video game unit.

In game unit mode, Power Up VT6 is about 4-1/2" in length, 2" high, and a bit over half an inch deep. He's mostly a sort of silver grey, with black details. He's not quite as well disguised in robot mode as some of the other Real Gears. His head, although recessed, is still pretty evident in the top of the unit.

In game unit mode, Power Up VT6 has a series of four colored buttons on his right front side, and a single large button, a directional contoller, on his left. It is possible to operate these, although all four of the colored buttons press together. Obviously they don't actually operate anything, but it is cool to have some "moving parts" in the non-robot mode like this.

The center game screen of Power Up VT6 shows an image of what could be Cybertron, with an aircraft launching missiles at a target. Clearly the player is in a second vessel, as there is a targeting icon on the screen, along with a score, power level indicator, and the traditional Decepticon logo.

Let me pause here and say something about that. A very slightly revised Decepticon logo has been worked out for the movie toys. Apparently they just missed it here. The differences are subtle, but they are there. The new Decepticon logo is very slightly narrower, and the placement of the eyes is somewhat different. Honestly, it's NOT an improvement, and it strikes me as a rather pointless alteration to have made. The Autobot insignia has also been subtly altered, with slightly different eyes, but the difference is so negligible that unless you compare the two logos side by side you'll never see it. The Decepticon logo is somewhat more apparent. I can't think why any change was made at all. There just wasn't any reason.

Anyway, back to Power Up VT6. His transformation is almost ridiculously easy. The sides of the game fold down to become the legs. But then there is the one tricky part. The arms have to be pulled out in order to raise the head. And it's not easy to get the head to extend up all the way, or get the arms to move all the way out. You can see inside the figure, and see that there's a system of gears inside that allow this to work. It just doesn't work quite as well as one might like it to. I do not recommend forcing it. That's only likely to result in a broken robot. The best way is to bring the arms out as far as they'll go, and then turn the arms forward at the shoulder. This will make them click that last little gear point to bring the head up the rest of the way, as well as allow Power Up VT6 to have his full articulation.

In robot mode, Power Up VT6 isn't too bad. He's sort of a broad and flat robot, with a somewhat ugly head that nevertheless has the "make the eyes glow with light from behind" feature. His upper arms are almost painfully thin, and his hands look a bit like a cross between pincers and tweezers.

Some additional color comes through when Power Up VT6 is in robot mode. In game mode, he's pretty much silver-grey and black. Get him into robot mode and some purple and bright green shows up. Good Decepticon colors.

His articulation in robot mode is excellent if you can get the figure's arms and head up all the way. The figure is poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, legs, and knees, with some swivels along the way. Really an excellent range of motion.

Unlike most of the Real Gear Robots' three "keywords", Power Up VT6's package has a sentence, which reads, "Gaming the System".

Power Up VT6's character profile reads as follows: "As dangerous as he is slick-looking, Power Up VT6 is a master of manipulation. Able to connect to any data source within range, he specializes in deleting important information. Few Decepticons are as frustrating to have around. Be careful when interacting with him: special receptors in his screen can scramble your brain right through your eyeballs."

I'm also not convinced that "slick-looking" entirely applies in this case, but Power Up VT6 is still cool. Now, let's consider SPEED DIAL 800.

SPEED DIAL 800 is a non-working cellular telephone. Granted, he looks enough like a cel phone. He's about the right size -- About 3-1/2" long, 1-3/4" wide, and about 1" thick. I know there's probably smaller cel phones out there, but if the darn things get much smaller, they're going to be mistaken for action figure accessories -- for 3-3/4" G.I. Joe and Star Wars figures.

Speed Dial 800 is mostly dark grey in color. There's a little screen on Speed Dial 800's "closed" surface, which is printed to look like a glowing blue Autobot logo, and a fixed time of 7:47. This is a bit of a "play on numbers" of the release date of the Transformers movie, which was 07/04/07.

The cel phone flips open, and shows a larger screen with the Autobot logo in red, the time, again, the little row of bars typical to most cel phones, and some other information. On the other surface is a series of numbered buttons as one would find on a phone. These are non-functional, however. Some other Real Gear Robots have buttons that can be pressed in, even if they don't do anything. That's not the case here.

You know, assuming these buttons are a correct replica, at least in basic principle, to those of an actual cel phone, maybe the darn things have accomplished one useful thing -- they've gotten the letters "Q" and "Z" onto the telephone. That always bugged me as a kid. And if you need that explained to you, go find your parents...

Speed Dial 800 isn't too difficult to transform. Basically you flip and pivot the flip-top of the phone, and fold it over backwards. The legs fold out and turn. Getting the little feet out is a bit tricky. There's not much way to get a good grip on them. There are two covers over the face that need to be folded out, and two fairly narrow, but exceptionally well-detailed and very robotic-looking arms pop out from the side.

The end result is a sort of peculiar-looking robot that still has a lot of his cel phone characteristics even in robot mode, not the least of which is that his number-buttons comprise the lower half of the front of his body as well as the insides of his legs. He looks like he'd be horribly back-heavy, but he actually stands very well. The very mechanical-looking arms are a little odd in appearance given the fairly- smooth look of the rest of the robot, but they're not as strange as the head, which the way ir's designed appears to have just one huge circular eye in the middle of it -- shades of Shockwave even if that's as far the resemblance goes -- with a silver humanoid nose and mouth beneath it.

In robot mode, Speed Dial 800 stands just a little taller than 4-1/2" in height. He is very well articulated. The head does not move, but he is poseable at the arms, elbows, wrists, legs, knees, and feet, with some swivels involved as well. Granted, the knee articulation is really only going to be effective if the leg is moved forward, since the flipped- over half of his cel phone body extends down far enough to prevent his knees from bending too far back. Not a big deal.

The paint detailing on Speed Dial 800, especially with rehard to the stamped-on letters and numbers, is very well done. He also has a decent amount of silver trim.

In Speed Dial 800's case, those ever-present keywords on his package are "Connect - Record - Inform." All of the Real Gear Robots also have a little fine print that says, "Not a working..." whatever. Just in case someone can't figure out that they're not going to get a digital camera or portable video game unit for about seven bucks. In Speed Dial 800's case, of course, this says "Not a working phone".

Speed Dial 800's character profile reads as follows: "Your new robotic companion Speed Dial 800 is a hyperspace fast-talker, the sort of guy who just can't help but be friendly to everyone. Superior hypersonics allow him to playback a signal on local wireless connections in order to transmit sensitive info to his allies. He sure you've got a lot of time if you go online at night though; he's sure to text you with a lot to say."

Okay, so he's not a Decepticon. He still sounds annoying as heck... Still, I'm finding these Real Gear Robots to be a fascinating entry in the world of Transformers. Whether you're interested in the movie or its toys or not, these REAL GEAR ROBOTS are a very cool Transformers product line that has my distinct and enthusiastic recommendation, and certainly SPEED DIAL 800 shares that recommendation, even if he's easily the most peculiar of the lot, and represents a piece of technology that I want nothing to do with in real life.

Moving away from that, let's review BOOSTER X10 at this point.

You know, of all the modern technological devices that are so prevalent in the world today -- most of which I've tried to avoid -- I think the one I would be least likely to own would be a portable music player. Whether it's an iPod, an MP3, or whatever else is out there that downloads, stores, and plays songs. I just don't see the need for one. I can even conceive, reluctantly, of a situation where I might need a cel phone. But not a music player.

Supposedly these things can store dozens if not hundreds of songs. It hurts my head just to try to think of that many songs offhand -- and then let's pare that list down to the ones I actually would want to listen to. Then pare it down further to the ones that I'd actually want to carry around with me. This is one area of technology where I really haven't kept up. Meanwhile, I've seen commercials for some new contraption where if you just hear a song in a store or something, you point the device at it, and it'll track it down in cyberspace and save it on itself for you. The anti-piracy mavens must love that, although I am assuming there's some means of keeping a stunt like that legal.

And then we come to Booster X10. This is the only two-piece item in the Real Gear Robots line, including the unit itself and what I assume to be a wireless earpiece. To what degree this all resembles any actual portable music player I'm really not sure, since I don't pay much attention to such devices, but it looks authentic enough.

Booster X10 is mostly a fairly deep orange in color. The main unit is rectangular with a circular end, with black and silver trim. There's a transparent orange screen with some fairly ornate sculpted details. This I do know to be fairly in keeping with the design of such devices, especially the screen detail. The earpiece is round and mostly orange, with a rubbery ear clip and a silver antenna coming out of it. Both pieces have the new, slightly modified Decepticon logo on them. Personally, I'm not too crazy about the modification.

In music player form, Booster X10 is about 3" in length, and just shy of 2" wide, which I believ is about in keeping with the size of these devices these days. Transforming him isn't all that complicated, but interestingly, Booster X10 is the only one of the Real Gear Robots that does not transform into a relatively humanoid robot. And what he does transform into comes pretty close to being a very cool blast from the past.

Think back to Generation One. One of the most notable Decepticons was named Soundwave, who could transform into a tape player. He also used Decepticons who could transform into cassettes as his immediate associates. Two of these, Laserbeak and Buzzsaw, could transform from cassettes into robotic birds.

Now, one of the reasons Soundwave didn't make it into the Transformers live-action movie is because -- well, cassette tape players are pretty outmoded these days. But these iPod and MP3 things aren't. And Booster X10 transforms into a robotic bird that looks a whole lot like the logical descendant of either Lazerbeak or Buzzsaw. Those sculpted details on his screen in music player mode actually become the "feathers" of his wings in bird mode. He's not an especially difficult transformation, although getting the feet down can be a little tricky. But I think this is due as much as anything to the fact that these Transformers are designed for somewhat smaller hands than mine.

The earpiece becomes a weapon that is mounted on Booster X-10's back. It is held in place by a small plastic clip that emerges from the antenna on the earpiece.

It's a little difficult to make a fair articulation analysis, since Booster X10 is not humanoid in his robot form. However, he is decently poseable, even if a lot of that articulation was mandated by his transformation needs. Even so, his neck can rotate, the wings are poseable along several points, as is the tail, and his little legs are poseable at the hip, knees, and feet.

Arguably, Booster X-10 transforms into the largest of the Real Gear Robots, with a somewhat variable wingspan, depending on how he's posed, of around 7". However, he's somewhat narrower in body than most of the others, as well. Again, I'm not sure this is a particularly fair comparison.

Each of the Real Gear Robots has three "keywords", for lack of a better phrase, printed beneath his name on the package. In Booster X10's case, those words are "Download - Distribute - Destroy."

Booster X10 is a Decepticon. His character profile on the package reads as follows: "Booster X10 is a mean-spirited trickster with a talent for toying with people. Sophisticated hypersonics allow him to distort any audio signal, even simple speech. His favorite trick is to wait in his victim's pocket and alter incoming sounds to cause accidents and arguments. He loves seeing how much trouble he can cause just be changing the sound of a word here, or making a racing ambulance sound like a barking dog."

Finally, let's review ZOOM OUT 25X.

Zoom Out 25x takes the form of a miniature video camera. Now, I've seen cameras like this, although I don't own one myself. The last time I used a video camera, it was a large, bulky thing that actually had to have a videocassette put into it. I had this idea of strapping it to the radio- controlled G.I. Joe vehicle called the "Crossfire" and getting a "car's eye view" of it racing across a "battlefield".

Between that and an attempt to do a sort-of documentary about my toy collection in general, and being resoundingly disappointed with the results, I realized that while I may be a good writer, a capable graphic artist, and an excellent photographer, for whatever reason, I'm a really lousy cinematographer. I've pretty well stayed away from video cameras ever since.

That having been said, I've certainly seen small video cameras that look like this, if not quite THIS mini, I don't believe. Zoom Out 25x is just over 3" long at his longest point, about 2-1/4" high, and with his viewscreen folded down, just slightly over half an inch wide. Now, maybe there are actual video cameras that small. I haven't seen them though.

Zoom Out 25x does a good job of resembling these modern day video cameras. He has all of the necessary buttons and such, including playback, rewind, and other little buttons, as well as what I assume is a trigger switch right up front. On some Real Gear Robots, their buttons have "worked", even if they don't activate anything, but on Zoom Out 25x, they're just painted on. There's a viewfinder scope on the top, and you can actually look through it, although it doesn't magnify anything or really do any more than reflect whatever light source is in front of it.

There's also a flip up viewscreen which shows the time -- listed as 7:47 in a "play on numbers" of the release date of the Transformers movie, which was 07/04/07, but has been listed as 7.4.7 in a lot of the advertisements. The viewscreen also shows the "REC" sign, a battery power logo, a few other symbols, and the image on the screen is of a Transformer. Nobody I recognize offhand.

Zoom Out 25x actually is very effectively disguised in his video camera mode. There's nothing to really give away his robotic origin except the Decepticon logo, and on one side you can see the back of his head.

Interestingly enough, that's the first part of the transformation. The circular viewfinder scope at the top of the camera is actually the main point for the head as well as the arms. Zoom Out 25x is not a particularly complicated Transformer, but the end result is quite interesting, and except for the scope, which essentially ends up looking like round "shoulder pads", it's a little difficult to see where the video camera went and the robot came from.

In robot mode, Zoom Out 25x stands about 4-1/4" in height, making him seem just a little bit smaller than some of the other Real Gear Robots. He's mostly several shades of dark grey, although there is some dark blue on his head and arms. His face is a sort of dark lavender, and his head has been designed to make it look like he's wearing a dark blue helmet with a large red lens over one eye.

The viewscreen folds down over Zoom Out 25x's back, but then part of it splits in two and more or less looks like small wings. Whether this is enough to allow Zoom Out 25x to fly will have to be left up to the imagination of the owner, since this isn't specified one way or the other on the character's profile. It is interesting, though, seeing as how this wasn't really something they HAD to do with the toy's design.

Zoom Out 25x is poseable at the head, arms, elbows, legs, and knees, with swivels in the arms and legs. I really appreciate how well articulated in robot form most Transformers are these days. If modern Transformers have one massive improvement over their Generation One predecessors, it must be this. The original Transformers were and always will be an immensely cool concept deserving of all respect and admiration, and will not likely ever be surpassed by any Transformers concept to follow. But the toys weren't especially well articulated in robot form, and I always regarded that as a serious deficiency.

Zoom Out 25x's character profile reads as follows: "Zoom Out 25x is inhumanly patient. He'll wait for days or weeks in his camera mode without moving or making a sound, just to get the perfect shot of you doing something you shouldn't. Then, using his editing features, he'll alter the video to be as embarrassing as possible. He doesn't do this because it's his mission or anything - he just likes ot cause trouble."

Well, if things with the Decepticons don't work out, he can probably get work with some Hollywood dirt sheet without any real difficulty. Nasty habits aside, though, this is one of the cooler-looking Real Gear Robots. He's a little plain-looking in camera mode, in my opinion, but he has an excellent robot mode, one of the best in the group, really.

Overall, I'm finding these Real Gear Robots to be a fascinating entry in the world of Transformers. Whether you're interested in the movie or its toys or not, these REAL GEAR ROBOTS are a very cool Transformers product line that has my distinct and enthusiastic recommendation!