The good: Fully loaded, the 2011 Kia Optima SX offers cabin appointments equaling those of much more expensive cars. The engine uses direct injection and a turbocharger to produce 274 horsepower. The Infinity audio system produces very satisfying music.
The bad: The navigation system does not include perspective view maps. The turbo makes dropping below the EPA fuel economy range easy.
The bottom line: The 2011 Kia Optima SX makes the midsize sedan interesting through fine cabin appointments, plenty of power, and unique exterior styling.
The good: An active suspension system helps the 2011 Porsche 911 Carrera GTS dance around corners, while its direct-injection engine achieves excellent efficiency and power. The Bose audio system makes for excellent sound.
The bad: Even with the suspension in normal mode, the 911 GTS' ride isn't particularly comfortable. Voice command is a separate option from the main cabin electronics suite.
The bottom line: The Porsche 911 Carrera GTS delivers very exciting performance as a premium sports car. Cabin electronics are generally good, but not cutting edge.
The good: The Yamaha RX-V671 has excellent sound quality and six HDMI inputs, including a handy front-panel input. It has a solid collection of built-in streaming-music apps including Pandora, Rhapsody, and Sirius XM. And while the user interface isn't great compared with other home theater components, it's one of the best available on AV receivers.
The bad: There's no built-in AirPlay support. Also, the similar Onkyo TX-NR609 costs about $100 less, although it doesn't sound quite as good. No Wi-Fi dongle is available, either, although there are plenty of solid workarounds.
The bottom line: The Yamaha RX-V671 sounds excellent and supports several high-quality streaming-music services, but it lacks built-in AirPlay support.
The good: The Acer Aspire Ethos AS8951G has a huge 1080p 18-inch display, and gets points for inventiveness for its detachable touch-pad remote control. Battery life was also excellent for such a large laptop.
The bad: While it's a clever idea, the pop-out touch pad was frustrating to use at times.
The bottom line: The 18-inch Acer Aspire Ethos AS8951G is a huge multimedia powerhouse laptop with a unique removable touch-pad remote control. It's a clever idea, but one that might be ahead of its time.
The good: The LG Cosmos is a compact messaging phone with a sharp display and roomy keyboard. You get slight improvements over the original, like a 3.5mm headset jack and a music player. Features include a 1.3-megapixel camera, Bluetooth, Bing search, and a wireless Web browser. Call quality is fantastic and the price can't be beaten.
The bad: The LG Cosmos 2's social-networking functions are simply text-messaging shortcuts. Overall design and features aren't dramatically different from the predecessor. It does not have EV-DO.
The bottom line: As long as you don't have high expectations, the LG Cosmos 2 makes for a well-built entry-level messaging phone for the budget-conscious Verizon customer.
The good: The Pantech Pursuit II is a solid and attractive messaging phone with a roomy slide-out keyboard. Features include GPS, 3G, Bluetooth, a 2-megapixel camera, an HTML browser, and social-networking apps.
The bad: The Pantech Pursuit II doesn't offer many improvements over the original Pursuit, with a slightly more generic design. The HTML browser is pretty bare-bones, and we would've liked better 3G speeds. Mobile e-mail requires a subscription fee.
The bottom line: The Pantech Pursuit II is not much better than its predecessor, but if all you want is an affordable and functional messaging phone from AT&T, the Pursuit II gets the job done.