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TopSpeed Heading to TAWA's Auto Roundup

TopSpeed Heading to TAWA’s Auto Roundup

Evaluating dozens of cars at the Circuit of The Americas racetrack

The Texas Auto Writers Association’s annual Springtime Auto Roundup is taking place this weekend, May 7 through 8, at Austin’s Circuit of The Americas. The famed Formula 1 racetrack will host journalists from across the country, including myself, for a weekend of vehicle evaluations. Categories range from full-size luxury sedans to performance coupes.

Back-to-back wheel time on the same road course allows journalists to experience each vehicle in a controlled environment, free from traffic and threats of speeding tickets. Each vehicle will be judged against criteria and compete against contenders in its category. Last year, 51 vehicles competed in 15 categories, with the 2016 Ford Shelby GT350R taking top honors as the 2016 Car of Texas. The second most important category, the Family Car of Texas, was won by the 2016 Chrysler Pacifica.

We will be at COTA starting the morning of Sunday, May 7. Live video streaming on TopSpeed’s Facebook page will happen throughout the day, along with photos of the competition. Be sure to interact with us on Facebook, as we’ll be answering questions and doing vehicle walk-arounds. Festivities continue on Monday, May 8 and conclude with the awards ceremony taking place around 1:00 p.m. Central Time. So, follow our Facebook page and expect to see some high-dollar hardware hitting the track.

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3M Trizact Kit Proves Stuff Does Buff Out

3M Trizact Kit Proves Stuff Does Buff Out

We try 3M’s Precision Scratch Kit

You know the old saying, “That’ll buff out.” It’s usually found in the comment section, said in jest when talking about caved in body panels or the smoldering shell of a crispy Italian exotic. Well the idiom can return to its roots of honest paint repair thanks to an easy, do-it-yourself kit found at most automotive parts shops and big-box retailers. It’s the Trizact Precision Scratch Kit from 3M.

It involves a three-step process that uses a household power drill and water to remove light scratches and paint imperfections. It’s designed to be simple enough to use for everyday people with little to no experience of paint repair.

Like most folks, my daily driver’s paint has seen better days. Small scuffs and scratches can be found on several body panels, making my 2004 Chevrolet Trailblazer look like, well, a 12-year-old SUV. So you can imagine my excitement when 3M reached out about trying the new Trizact kit. I gladly let them send me a few samples. Here’s my experience using 3M’s newest system.

Continue reading for the full 3M Trizact review.

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I Tortured Cooper Winter Tires

I Tortured Cooper Winter Tires

I am testing a set of winter tires from Cooper Tire to see how much benefit a driver in the snow belt will receive, and so far I have learned a lot. With lots of ice, slush and just plain freezing temps on clear roads, I have discovered why winter tires are a smart purchase. That said, I really can’t give a full review of these tires unless I get a chance to test them in real heavy winter conditions. As it happens, Cooper was holding a winter-tire testing event in Canada, and our tires were on the list of included products.

I asked if I could follow the team up to Canada to give the tires a good flogging on ice and snow, and they were more than happy to oblige. As a bonus I got a chance to test out a new all-season tire that is supposed to be nearly as good as winter rubber in the snow, I was able to test a more performance-oriented SUV winter tire, and I even learned how to drift a BMW on ice. If you remember the mayhem that happened the last time I got to be a tire tester, well, it happened again. This time we killed a Jeep though, not a Corvette.

Continue reading to find out more about the Cooper Tire Winter Tire Testing Program

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Product Review: Empire Covers Titan 5L Car Cover

Product Review: Empire Covers Titan 5L Car Cover

We put the Titan 5L car cover from Empire Covers to the test. Made with five layers of waterproof material and lined with fleece, this car cover is designed to protect against the elements.

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Product Review: Empire Covers Titan 5L Car Cover

Product Review: Empire Covers Titan 5L Car Cover

With press cars rolling across my driveway each week for testing, my personal vehicle has found itself sitting neglected. There have been months on end when my trusty Chevrolet Trailblazer doesn’t move from its home under the carport. While it’s technically covered, its right rear flank is exposed to the elements – not to mention the endless Florida pollen that piles all over the maroon paint. I had often though about getting a car cover, but had never made the move.

Luckily Empire Covers contacted me about trying their Titan 5L car cover. Turns out, the Titan 5L is designed to be an all-weather, 100 percent waterproof cover that’s backed by a seven year warranty. It might be a bit overkill for my carport, but its rugged design would mean I wouldn’t have to worry about strong winds ripping it off.

The cover arrived a few days later via the big brown van. Inside the box was everything needed to attach the cover, along with a storage bag made of the same five-layer material as the cover. After treating the Trailblazer to a well-deserved wash and a few hours of drying, it was time to install.

Click ‘Continue Reading’ for the installation process

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TopSpeed Tested - Lemur BlueDriver Bluetooth OBD-II Tester

TopSpeed Tested - Lemur BlueDriver Bluetooth OBD-II Tester

We’ve all been there. You get up to head to work, or your driving down the highway when suddenly your car dings and there is a lovely check-engine light on the dash. This is soon followed by a trip to a local parts store to have the code checked for free, followed by a lengthy discussion with some mechanic somewhere about the problem with your car. Unfortunately many shops, especially dealers, don’t want to take your word for it and demand to run the codes themselves, at a cost to you.

If you are a fan of doing things yourself, and you want to put an end to annoying scenarios like this, maybe you should check out this nifty little device from Lemur. It’s called the BlueDriver, and it’s a Bluetooth-enabled OBD-II scanner that pairs to your smartphone. Not only is it a tiny tool that is always connected to your car, it lets you show your diagnostic codes to any mechanic on the spot. No more arguing about what the code reader at the parts store said. We have seen tools like this before, but Lemur thinks theirs is one of the best.

I’ve been testing one for a few months now. I’ve had it in everything from my Volkswagen Golf to a Porsche 911, and I have a lot to say about this little thing.

Read on to learn more about the Lemur BlueDriver OBD-II reader.

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One Month With The Cooper Tire WM-SA2

One Month With The Cooper Tire WM-SA2

A few weeks ago I asked if you should use winter tires on your car, even if you don’t see that much snow. Well I have since slapped a set of winter rubber from Cooper Tire on my daily driver and have spent a few weeks trekking through the gray, wet and slushy mess that is winter in East Tennessee. So far the tires have seen rain storms that turned to ice storms, snow in the Appalachian mountains, clear roads but with temperatures in the single digits, and even a few random warm days with temps near 60.

Overall in the last month or so, I have experienced three of the four seasons with my winter tires and I have lived to tell the tale. But more than that, I have learned a lot about what makes my tire choice a smart decision in this climate, and what makes it seem less intelligent.

Continue reading to learn more about the Cooper Tire WM-SA2

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TopSpeed Tested - MXGP: The Official Motocross Video Game

TopSpeed Tested - MXGP: The Official Motocross Video Game

If you love cars, you are pretty well catered-for in the world of video games. With long-standing franchises like Need for Speed, Forza Motorsports, Grid, and Gran Turismo, and more coming every year, it is very easy to get your four-wheeled fix in a digital space. If you prefer the two-wheeled world of motorcycles though, you are left a little wanting. There are some great games out there, like the Moto GP series and Trials HD, but the pickings are much more slim. Well, gaming developer Milestone is looking to bolster the market a bit with the new game MXGP. MXGP is the officially licensed game for Motocross, and as such it features tracks and riders from the current championship series.

That means you get 60 riders, 60 bikes, and 14 different tracks.

What makes MXGP interesting is a focus on the special characteristics that make Motocross interesting and exciting. While car sims focus on tire physics, MXGP has a dirt physics system that sees the tracks get molded, altered and formed by the bikes, just as you would see in a real race. Couple this with a fun and advanced control scheme that takes driver balance into consideration, and you end up with a game that doesn’t really feel or play like anything else on the market.

Being different is not enough to make a game great though. I spent a few weeks digging through the various racing series, modes and features that MXGP has on offer to decide if its worth a buy, or if it’s little more than some fancy features wrapped around a boring game.

Read on to learn more about MXGP: The Official Motocross Video Game

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Noco GB30 Genius Boost - TopSpeed Tested

Noco GB30 Genius Boost - TopSpeed Tested

Whether it is the freezing temperatures of winter, or simple forgetfulness regarding your parking lights, dead batteries can happen to all of us. The classic way to handle the issue with a helpful friend and pair of jumper cables, but recent years have seen a rise in “jumper boxes" or large battery packs that can jump start a car. The problem with these packs is that they are large, quite heavy and thanks to their battery technology, had a bad habit of going dead if they sat in the back of a car. Well, using new lithium technology like that found in the batteries of a Tesla Model S, the company Noco has created a new and more user-friendly way to jump start a dead car. While Noco sells many jumper boxes and battery chargers, their new GB30 Genius Boost is one of the newest and best products they make.

Recently Noco reached out to see if I would be interested in giving this multi-use device a test to see what I thought about it. The company claims you can jump just about anything from a Ford Fiesta to a Chevrolet Silverado, and I was eager to try it out. After a few months of playing with it, it has become one of the most useful items I own. It does much more than just jump start car. Find out what all the Genius Boost can do after the break, and learn why I love it. As a bonus, we have a whole collection of videos showing this cool product in use.

Continue reading to find out more about the Noco GB30 Genius Boost.

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Moto GP 2014 - TopSpeed Tested

Moto GP 2014 - TopSpeed Tested

If you are a gamer and a car fan, there are literally dozens of games out there for your enjoyment. Just this year alone we have already tested Forza Motorsports 5, Forza Horizon 2, F1 2014, Grid Autosport, and The Crew. If you enjoy your motorized fun when it happens on two wheels, games that follow your passion are much more scarce. When I was offered the chance to review the latest installment of the Moto GP racing game, I couldn’t turn it down.

In reality, Moto GP is one of the most exciting forms of motorsport. Apart from potentially rally racing, I don’t think any other professional motorsport focuses on driver skill for success. The racing is fast, dangerous and incredibly technical. This will be my first experience with any motorcycle racing sim, and I am excited to see if MotoGP 14 can channel the excitement and suspense of bike racing in the same way that games like Forza channel the thrill of driving a car.

What I found was a game with some great features and few nagging issues, but did the good outweigh the bad? Read on to find out.

Read on to learn more about MotoGP 14

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 Is Winter Rubber Worth It, Even If You Don't Have Snow?

Is Winter Rubber Worth It, Even If You Don’t Have Snow?

Winter tires seems to be a collection voodoo and marketing claims to most normal people in the world, but in the cold-weather compounds have been seeing a rise in popularity. With that increase in public awareness, there has been a large collection of myths and misunderstandings spread about them as well. I have met people think that winter tires only work in the snow, while others think that using them will hurt your fuel economy and NVH.

Living at the base of the Smokey Mountains, I find my car has to endure a wide collection of various weather scenarios in the winter, and I wanted to see if a good set of winter tires would have a positive effect in such a transitional area. Thanks to my proximity to the mountains, and the wild weather of Tennessee, there have already been weeks wear I was driving in sunny 60-degree weather on Monday, only to have snow falling on Wednesday.

With rubber compounds that are created to not only handle snow and ice, but to generally improve traction and drivability on clear roads when the weather drops, I felt like maybe I should give winter tires a chance to see how they affected my car. My Volkswagen Golf was in need of new tires anyways, so I felt this was the perfect opportunity. I gave the cool kids over at Cooper Tires a call to see if they had any suggestions for me, and they were kind enough to send me a new set of shoes for my VW.

Over the next several months I will be reporting back on my thoughts about how they feel, how they handle, and how they wear during a wild winter in TN. With ice storms, random snowfall, random warm swings and lots of rain in temps just above freezing, it’s the perfect chance to see if winter rubber really is a better option than a set of all-seasons.

Read on to learn more about our new tires, and why winter rubber is a good idea

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Deck Out Your New Christmas Console With These Racing Games and Accessories

Deck Out Your New Christmas Console With These Racing Games and Accessories

SSo when all the chaos of the holiday morning has come and gone, you are sitting there in a pile of discarded paper, tape and bows. In front of you sits the shiny box to a brand new video game console. You must have been very good this year. But now that you have a brand new Xbox One or PlayStation 4, you are going to need the right racing games and accessories to get the most out of it.

We decided to make you a big list of every great racing game, and every necessary accessory to have the most automotive fun with your new gaming machine. We have broken it up by console, and then further separated it into games and accessories to make it easy to find what you need.

As a bonus, there are a few little extra items at the bottom for owners of PS3 and Xbox 360 systems who want to get themselves a little something with their holiday cash.

Don’t forget; after you make it through the list, be sure to comment with what you got for Christmas, and list which item on this list is your favorite.

Continue reading to see our list for best racing games and accessories for your new console.

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The Crew - TopSpeed Tested

The Crew - TopSpeed Tested

The Crew is the latest and greatest racing game from Ubisoft for the new generation of consoles. It leverages the power of new gaming consoles to create a massive world that is filled with dozens of live online players that you can interact and race with. The map itself is a condensed version of the contiguous United States. The scope and ambition of this game is beyond any other that has even been released.

The Crew takes the recipe of fun driving dynamics and police chases form games like Need for Speed, but it mixes it with an open and living world like that found in Forza Horizon 2.

I fell in love with the world and gameplay of Forza Horizon 2, but does The Crew have what it takes to get me to leave the European countryside of Forza for the sprawling U.S.? I have spent the last week racing, tuning, running from cops and nailing massive jumps in an attempt to figure out if this new game is worth your money.

Read on to find out more about The Crew

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GoPro Hero 4 Silver - TopSpeed Tested

GoPro Hero 4 Silver - TopSpeed Tested

What started as a bulky and barely waterproof 35mm camera has been morphed into a billion-dollar camera company and one of the most well-known brand names in the entire world. GoPro has humble beginnings, but now the cameras are technological marvels that have helped in creating some of the greatest video footage the world has seen in the last fifty years. Every year or so GoPro manages to improve on its iconic camera and make it better in almost every way. That trend continued this year with the new GoPro Hero 4.

Available in two models, Silver and Black, the new Hero 4 is lighter, faster and more powerful than any model to come before it. With this new camera also came a $100 price hike over the outgoing Hero 3+.

Is that $100 worth the amount of improvements made, or should you run out and grab the cheaper Hero 3+ while you still can? I happen to have both models and I decided to give them a solid run down to find out which is the better buy. Read on to find out if the newest GoPro really is the best camera the company has ever created.

Read on to learn more about the GoPro Hero 4 camera.

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The Crew Beta - TopSpeed Tested

The Crew Beta - TopSpeed Tested

This year is shaping up to be an incredible one for fans of racing games. Not only did we have another arrival of yearly franchise driving games like the newly released F1 2014, but titles like Forza Horizon 2, Grid Autosport, DriveClub and even Mario Kart 8 have been coming full force to provide racing fans with some of the best content in years.

Now Ubisoft is jumping into the fray with the upcoming game The Crew that promises to let you run around the entire U.S. with a group of friends, creating havoc and racing mayhem wherever you go. The game doesn’t come out for a few more weeks, but this last weekend Ubisoft held a closed beta for the console version of the game. I fired up my Xbox One, and spent some quality time with the new game to see if it is worth the hype.

This is still a beta, and the game is far from finished, but there are some solid bones under this game.

Continue reading to find out more about our time with Ubisoft’s The Crew Beta

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F1 2014 - TopSpeed Review

F1 2014 - TopSpeed Review

The team at Codemasters gaming studio made some waves when they announced that their latest iteration of the yearly racing series, F1 2014 would only be released for the old consoles, leaving next-gen gamers sitting out in the cold. After more than a week of playing the new game, I can understand why the choice was made, and it’s not really a good one.

A common practice in Formula One for losing teams is to give up on the year, and start working on their car for the next season. Rather than dump more money into a non-competitive car that has no chance of making any serious headway in the championship, teams will start focusing all their money and effort into making a better car for the upcoming season. Rather than sink tons of money into F1 2014, Codemasters seems to have given up on current generation of consoles to focus their efforts on the upcoming F1 2015 game. What that means is that F1 2014 is little more than a re-skinned version of the 2013 edition, but with less content, and less reason to continually play.

Continue reading to find out our full thoughts on this latest game

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Forza Horizon 2 Review

Forza Horizon 2 Review

Forza Horizon 2 is the latest game in the Forza franchise, and it is a sequel to the 2012 game, Forza Horizon. The Horizon games are indirect sequels to the Forza Motorsports
franchise, and more of a separate set of “spin-off” games. The creators use much of the same technology for creating the Horizon games, but they have different style of play that is more catered than pure fun and excitement instead of pure realism. Think of it more as a Michael Bay film.

The new Horizon 2 is based around the idea of a massive exotic road trip, not unlike the Gumball 3000 or Bullrun. You and a massive group of wealthy auto enthusiasts who are getting to spend the next several days bombing around the coast of Southern Europe in all manner of machines that range from exotic like the Lambroghini Huracán to the classics like the a Volkswagen Bus. During your adventure, you are constantly upgrading to different cars and going on bigger adventures.

The first game promised a similar level of thrills and excitement, but it fell short in its scope. Whether it was design decisions or simple restrictions of the old hardware of the previous-generation consoles, Horizon promised a lot, but delivered much less. Now with the new powerful Xbox One system at their disposal, Turn 10 and Playground Games are promising that Horizon 2 rights all the wrongs of the first game, while adding even more content and exciting racing.

Did they succeed?

Continue to read our full review of Forza Horizon 2 for the Xbox One

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Exploring the Future of Racing Sims and Gaming with 4K

Exploring the Future of Racing Sims and Gaming with 4K

It appears that the future of gaming may be upon us and it wears the name “4K.” With four times the numbers of pixels on the screen, all your games are supposed to look extra crisp and all those little details will stand out in the distance. Imagine how much better a game like Forza Motorsports or Gran Turismo would be if they looked even better.

Two of the latest and greatest racing games out right now, Grid Autosport and Next Car Game, both are 4K ready, and I wanted to see if there really was a big difference in how it feels to play a racing game with a setup like this.

I was able to snag a 4K resolution monitor from the fine folks at Asus, and I got to work. With the cost of 4K monitors still high, is this something anyone should consider?

Check out the future of gaming in 4K after the break.

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Put Driving Science on Your Face With Unity Lens Sunglasses

Put Driving Science on Your Face With Unity Lens Sunglasses

When it comes to driving, there are two things I can’t live without. A nice pair of lightweight shoes and my sunglasses. The shoes are there to assist with speed and feeling when driving a car quickly, and the sunglasses are there for basically everything else.

Your eyes are easily your most important sense for driving, and with large collections of LCD screens everywhere in the cabin, ultra-gloss metallic paints reflecting glare at every chance, your eyes are constantly being attacked. Rather than simply use a standard tint to help protect your eyes, a new premium lens has been released called Unity. Unity lenses promise the best of polarization technology, along with new performance features like outdoor, blue-light protection.

Unity says that their lenses block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays, provide enhanced clarity and contrast, plus they will reduce eye fatigue. Thanks to that fancy blue-light filter, they will apparently also help prevent macular degeneration over time.

I have spent the last several years wearing a set of polarized Oakleys and felt like nothing in the world could beat them. Unity took up that gauntlet and set me up with a few glasses in different styles with slightly different tints so I could test their claims against my go-to Oakley sunglasses.

Are all these fancy buzz words and medical claims legitimate, or is Unity just one more name cast into the world of sunglasses trying to grab your attention?

Read on to see if the Unity lenses stand up to their marketing claims.

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Review: Car Mechanic Simulator 2014

Review: Car Mechanic Simulator 2014

Are you interested in the wild and wooly world of car repair, but you are a little bit afraid of breaking the things you are trying to fix? Well a new video game has been released for the PC, and it looks to help. Titled Car Mechanic Simulator 2014, this game is designed to help people learn their way around general car mechanic work.

When I first heard about this game I was interested to see how they would tackle the issue of every car being built slightly different. Would this game be impossibly detailed and difficult, or would it be a generic game that would teach nothing to a novice?

The game promised a collection of cars to work on from SUVs and compact cars to vans and even off-road vehicles. I was intrigued.

I was lucky enough to grab a copy of the game and try it out. Did it teach me to be a better mechanic, or did I just get bored and delete the whole thing? Well you are going to have to keep reading to find out all my thoughts.

Read the full review of Car Mechanic Simulator 2014 after the break.

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Cooper Tires CS5 Review

Cooper Tires CS5 Review

When Cooper set out to make the CS5 Touring line of car tires, it didn’t want to create just another tire. It wanted to celebrate what it has built and grown into over the last 100 years. It wanted to create one of its best tires ever. More than that, the company wanted to prove that it could create tires that are world-beating, and every bit as impressive as those from companies like Michelin and Pirelli.

Cooper invited a collection of journalists including myself to come to its tire testing facility in Texas to give these tires a real test. We spent time doing laps in wet and dry to push these slabs of rubber to the breaking point. As there are two models in the lineup, Grand Touring and Ultra Touring, Cooper was even kind enough to round up cars wearing competitor rubber from Pirelli and Hankook to prove just how good the new tire really was.

Cooper threw the gauntlet, handed us the keys to some BMWs and Mustangs, and let us decide who the winner was. Does the CS5 live up to all the hype?

Read on to learn more about the Cooper Tire CS5.

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TopSpeed Review: Grid Autosport Preview

TopSpeed Review: Grid Autosport Preview

Yes, that headline is correct. I have a preview build of the new Grid Autosport game, and I am here to tell you about it. Before I go too much into detail on how the game looks, feels and plays, I need to clarify that this is pre-release code and it is not final. Codemasters has promised that they are still working on making everything crisper, faster and bug-free.

As it is, all things written here are subject to change.

If you have been sleeping under a rock and are unfamiliar with Grid Autosport, it is the new game from the team at Codemasters who among the previous Grid games, is responsible for creating the F1 franchise racing games and the Dirt series of rally games. The Grid franchise itself looks to cut a path between the sometimes brutal realism of Gran Turismo and the laughably fake physics of Need for Speed.

This new game takes the lessons learned from Grid 2’s more approachable gameplay, then tightens things up a bit to be more realistic and adds in a handful of new driving modes and cars. Rather than pure street racing, Grid Autosport adds things like open-wheel racing and drift matches to the mix.

Is it any fun, and should it be on your purchasing radar? Hit the jump to find out.

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What a Top-Of-The-Line Car Cover Can Do For You

What a Top-Of-The-Line Car Cover Can Do For You

Car junkies know how hard it is keeping a car clean from pollen, bird crap, rain and the occasional cat prints across the hood. Using a car cover seems like a logical idea, but can be worthless if you’re using the wrong type of covering. Turns out, there’s more to buying a cover than just finding one that fits your car.

It all depends on what elements you’re trying to keep away from your car and where it’s stored at. Manufacturers make covers designed for specific uses like indoor dust covers, outdoor protective covers, waterproof covers that guard against moister and mildew growth, and even sun-proof covers. They’re all designed to protect from different threats and all have their pros and cons.

Click past the jump to see the cover in action.

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