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CNET Tech Review: I can feel it in the Air tonight

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CNET Tech Review: I can feel it in the Air tonight

27:31 /

This week on the CNET Tech Review: Apple's new cutting-edge MacBook Air; an Editors' Choice Gateway fit for the living room; FaceTime for the Mac is not for the vain; and the 2010 Dodge Challenger is bad...to the bone.

-This week on the CNET Tech Review: There's something in the air as Apple tries to get back to the Mac; become a real guitar pro playing Rock Band 3; Gateway's little PC that could; and why you won't be seeing me on FaceTime. It's all coming up right now. Hi, everyone. I'm Molly Wood, and welcome to the CNET Tech Review where we collect our hottest videos of the week and tell you what's good and what's bad in the world of tech, and offer some unique tech wisdom in the form of The Bottom Line. Let's start with the good. Apple said it was time to go back to the Mac on Wednesday, and anyone who's ever heard of OS X Tiger, or Leopard, or Snow Leopard, could have guessed what this new version of the operating system was gonna be called. And no, it's not Liger. -We have these 4 cool inventions or things we do in Mac OS X: Expos, a great way to find your windows and do window management when you have lots of windows open; Dashboard, a great way to get to widgets instantly; full-screen apps, which we've talked about; and Spaces, if you wanna create more than one workspace and move between them rapidly. And this is great, but as we've added full-screen apps now, we said, you know, we have 4 of these things. Wouldn't it be great to unify them all? And so we've done that in something we call Mission Control. It's a way to view everything running on your Mac and instantly navigate to anywhere. -With the App Store, we've taken everything that users love about the App Store for the iPad, and we brought it to the Mac. I can get to the App Store right here on my dock. See on the featured page? I've accessed to the new and noteworthy applications on the store. I see what's hot, staff favorites----great way to track what's going on. Across the top, I also have top charts. Here, I can see the top paid and the top free apps currently on the store. And I like to install Pages. I don't have Pages on this machine right now. So, I'm gonna go to the product overview page. You see I get this great description. I get these gorgeous screen shots----help me make sure I'm buying the right thing. I get these customer ratings and reviews. It's really helpful to make sure I'm making the right decision. And when I'm ready to purchase, it's just one click on the buy button. You'll see the app icon actually lifts up and flies out of the App Store down to my dock. Now, this is a real App Store app speaking a real protocol to a real server, and downloading a real copy of Pages to my machine, and you see installation has never been easier. Launchpad is a super convenient way to organize and launch all the apps you have on your Mac. See it right here in my dock. With a click, Launchpad leaps forward to this beautiful full-screen grid in my apps. If I wanna launch something, let's say, Dictionary, it's just a click. And, Launchpad fades back, my app fades forward. You can also organize really conveniently here in Launchpad. You see, we have iPad-style Pages. So, with a multi-touch gesture on my mouse or trackpad, I can just flick my way to other applications, for instance, my productivity apps, my games, so forth. Now, of course, as a Mac user, I also love working with windows. So I'm gonna bring----I mean windows, not Windows. So, I'm gonna open up some windows with App Store. I'm gonna open up the App Store, Safari, iCal, iTunes, and let's say, a Pages document here. So I can, of course, flick between these different experiences here like this, and that's really convenient. But we've made it even better. What we've done is unified windows, full-screen apps, Dashboard, and even Spaces into a single place----a place where you can get at anything on your Mac from wherever you are. And we call that place Mission Control. I'm gonna take you there right know. With a gesture on my trackpad, I enter Mission Control. We see I have a beautiful Expos view of all of my windows. Across the top here, I get my full-screen apps, my Dashboard, and my desktop. And along the bottom, my dock, so get at all my apps. With a click I can get to anywhere. If I wanna get to iPhoto, I just click, and I'm taken right there. With a gesture, excuse me. With a gesture, I'm back in Mission Control. And that's your sneak peek of just a few features coming in OS X Lion. -You could find more details and demos of some of the new features in Lion over at cnettv.com and coming up later in the show. But what Apple event would be complete without one of Steve's patented "one more thing" moments? This time, the "one more thing" was 2 new MacBook Air updates. They're smaller, they're lighter, and they take advantage of a new merger between OS X and iOS. Dan Ackerman got his paws on one. Here's his first take. -Hi, I'm Dan Ackerman, and we're here with the new 11.6-inch version of the MacBook Air. We've gotten a little bit of time to play around with it now. So, we've got a feel for it. You know, it kinda feels like a mix between a traditional MacBook Pro and the sort of premium netbook-style 11-inch systems we've seen this year. Obviously, very thin, very light, starts at about 0.68 inches in the back, tapers down very narrow in the front. The 13-inch version actually has the same thickness. You don't really get a big discount on that area by moving to the 11-inch version, but they're still both very slim. There's a couple of interesting notes about the 11-inch version. It is the first MacBook that we've ever seen with a 16:9 display. This is actually a 1366 X 768 native resolution display. That's pretty much the laptop standard now for anything between, you know, 11 and, like, 15 inches. You've also got a very familiar, you know, flat, widely spaced key keyboard. If you have any other, you know, MacBook experience, you'll recognize this, and of course, the same large multi-touch touch pad, and of course, it uses the same sort of multi-finger, you know, gestures that the other MacBooks all use. If you're familiar with the original MacBook Air, you'll be pleased that instead of just 1 USB port, there are now 2 USB ports----one on each side. There's no SD card slot on this 11-inch model however. Internally, this is actually a lot closer to the white $999 basic MacBook than anything else. It's got an Intel Core 2 Duo processor from that older line, along with NVIDIA's 320M graphics rather than something from the newer Intel Core i3, i5, i7 line. It's the ultra-low voltage version of that processor, but it still seemed pretty zippy in our anecdotal use. And the NVIDIA graphics are at least as good as what you'd find on the white basic MacBook, which is perfectly adequate for basic gaming. Inside is basically all battery. They've taken the hard drive. It's an SSD drive, but it's the flash components inside the SSD drive. They've just kind of soldered those right on to the motherboard rather than having it in the traditional hard drive case, so there's more room inside for batteries. And, you should get about 5 hours of use on this and Apple claims, if you just close the lid and leave it alone, it has up to 30 days of standby time, which is actually kind of similar to what you get from an iPad. And one more iPad-like feature that Apple is eager to point out is what they call "instant-on." So, if we take the laptop and we shut it down, as you know, when you boot up your Windows PC, your laptop, your desktop, there's definitely, you know, 45 and 90 seconds, maybe even more, to get it to boot up. And Macs are a little bit quicker, but really not that much. So, with this new "instant-on", once the laptop is powered off like it is now, if I just hit the power button, let's see how long it takes to turn on. If I have one or two design issues with the new MacBook Air, is that there's no backlit keyboard, which we've kinda gotten used to from a lot of MacBooks and even other laptops. In fact, there's a big blank spot right here on the F5 key where the backlighting button is on other MacBooks. And we also miss the edge-to-edge glass over the display, and that on a lot of other MacBooks. Instead, you have this big, thick, silver bezel that just doesn't look as good. Other than that, you know, we've heard people asking for 2 big things from Apple over the last couple of years: one, a smaller MacBook; and two, a less expensive version of the MacBook Air. And this guy starts at $999. So Apple has pretty much combined those 2 wish-list items into one system. I'm Dan Ackerman, and that's the new 11.6-inch MacBook Air. -Well, at least they didn't pull them out of a Manila envelope this time. I mean, we get it. They're thin. Actually, they look kinda dangerous. That edge is sharp. Anyway, be sure to keep an eye out for our follow-up reviews once we get the MacBook Air into our labs for some proper testing. Now, we all know Dan is one of our premier laptop experts. But did you know he's also a musician on the side? That's true. So who else could be better suited to try out the latest Rock Band guitar controller? Hit it, Dan. -I'm Dan Ackerman, and we're here taking a look at the most exciting thing, I think, to come to music games since probably The Beatles game last year, and that is the new PRO-Level Controller for Rock Band 3. This is actually made by Mad Catz. You have to buy it separately. And unlike traditional guitar controllers that have 5 big colored buttons on them, this guy has 102 buttons. That's one individual button for each string at each fret, making it look and feel and play at least a little bit more like a real guitar. For example, I've got Fender Telecaster right here. This is actually a model, the Fender Mustang. But just as I can finger chords out here across all 6 strings, I can do the same thing here on the Mad Catz controller. Now, I've setup a little demo section here in Rock Band 3, and you're gonna see the regular Rock Band notation flow down the screen. Except since we're playing on hard mode, it's gonna let us play real chords on this guitar controller. Now, I have no idea what this notation they used in the game means. I've been playing guitar for 20 years, I can't figure it out. But, if you just look at the name of the chord next to it and you finger that chord as if you're playing a real guitar, then miraculously, it actually works. So now, we're gonna take a look at the very same section, except for I'm gonna play it on the Telecaster. But I'm gonna use exactly the same fingering that I used on the Mad Catz PRO-Level Guitar Controller. And that's about it in a nutshell. I played a very simple verse here just to illustrate the point, and also because I'm kind of rusty, but it also works for soloing and more complicated songs. You know, for years, people have thought that being able to play music games would somehow magically translate to being able to play real guitars. And people who could really play a guitar thought they'd be really good at music games. In reality, neither case was really true. Now that we've got a guitar controller, the 102-button guitar controller, that more closely mimics how an actually fret works, the skills actually become more interchangeable, and that's really interesting. Bear in mind you've got to play the game on either the hard or expert difficulty in order to get those real chords that you have to use on the guitar neck rather than sort of the truncated easy guitar-game-style chords. So, have music games finally crossed the line into real music? Not 100% yet, but we're definitely a big step closer. I'm Dan Ackerman, and that is the Rock Band 3 PRO-Guitar Controller. -Well, Dan did say that he's a little rusty. But I think that song just looks hard to play. Now, if you prefer to experience music in a more passive capacity, feast your ears on this new iPod speaker system from Philips courtesy of Donald Bell. -Hey, I'm Donald Bell, and today, we're taking a first look at the Fidelio DS8500 speaker dock. At first glance, there's not much to it. You get a place to dock your iPhone or your iPod, a volume rocker right below it, and ports for power and AUX input on the back. The front is covered in a gray cloth, and the back is constructed from a single piece of curved white plastic. But I gotta say, for as simple and mundane as this thing looks, it's actually one of the better iPod systems I've seen from Philips. Little design details help, like the volume buttons that light up when you get close to them, or a dock connection that can deal with the fact that you might have a case on your iPod or your iPhone. You also get a full-feature remote control that can navigate through menus. The remote doesn't have great range, but it is useful and the design is big and bright, making it hard to lose. But the big deal here is the sound. For a system priced just under $200, you're getting a loud, deep sound with lots of headroom. Compared to similar-priced systems from Altec Lansing or Logitech, you're getting much more bass in this system, which I credit to 2 things. First, the Fidelio is relatively thick with a ported enclosure that puts a lot of mass directly between the two 2-inch drivers. The second point is Philips' secret weapon, which is an internal DSP that they're branding as pure digital. It takes the digital signal from your iPhone or your iPod instead of the analog output, and optimizes that audio for this specific enclosure. Better yet, if you're using an iOS device like an iPhone or an iPod Touch, you can download the Fidelio app that gives you custom control over the hardware EQ. It's a unique feature and it's more than a gimmick since it actually results in great sound quality. So, that's the Fidelio from Philips. It's one of the best-sounding options out there for under $200, although it lacks the portability of something like the Logitech S715i. For CNET.com, I'm Donald Bell. -I was really hoping that Donald would go for it, fall right out of his chair. We haven't had a good prop fall around here for a while, or do. Don't look at me. But while I got drum up some banana peels for my colleagues, let's take a break. We'll be back with more CNET Tech Review right after this. And welcome back to the CNET Tech Review, our weekly video digest of all things good and bad we've seen here at CNET TV. Continuing on in the good, between Apple TV, Roku, and Google TV, everyone seems to be trying to put the internet on your television. But if you wanna do any actual computing on your big screen, this little box from Gateway would be an excellent option. -Hi, I'm Rich Brown, Senior Editor for CNET.com. Today, we're gonna take a look at the Editor's Choice-winning Gateway SX2850-33. This is a $549 PC. It's a fixed configuration model and you'll find it at retail and online. It comes with a Core i3 CPU, wireless internet, as well as 640 gigabyte hard drive. Between all that and its HDMI output, this is actually a very versatile little computer. It works well as a straightforward budget PC, but because of its size, its HDMI out, and its Wi-Fi, it makes a great living room system as well. We tested it with the various online video streaming services with Hulu, Netflix, HD content from YouTube and Apple, it worked great. It was able to handle any video content we threw at it. We tried the game Portal from Valve's Steam game download service center. It actually worked pretty well. It wasn't totally perfect, so, for more advanced games, it might have a little bit of a hard time. But you could still get basic game play out of the system, which is pretty impressive for a $550 system. Now, aside from those core features, this system is actually pretty spare. It does come with a DVD-burning drive. And down here, you get a media card reader. But on the back of the system, you'll see the inputs are kinda limited. So, we mentioned the Wi-Fi networking and here's the card right here. It's got an input if you wanna put an antenna on there. There's an HDMI port down here, and here's a VGA output if you wanna output to the standard computer monitor. You've got a handful of USB ports as well as Ethernet, basic analog audio, and that's about it. There's no eSATA, there's no FireWire, and we've seen both of those on older SX models. You'll also notice there's not a lot of room to upgrade inside the case. You get a single free expansion slot and some PCI Express 16 slot that can actually take a graphics card. But because this is a slim tower case, it's very narrow. So, you're stuck with half-pint cards, which tend to be slower and lower-powered. You can see the memory slots here and you do get room to add a couple more. You can't really see the hard drive though. It's up here underneath the DVD burner, and there is only room for one of them. So, unless you wanna go with some sort of external data solution, you're pretty much stuck with the 640 gig drive that comes with the system. If you look in Gateway's website, you'll see about 10 to 12 different versions of the SX line. We reviewed a few of those other models, but this actually the first we've seen with a Wi-Fi card, and that's actually kind of surprising considering how well the system seems to fit in the living room. So, between the Wi-Fi, the HDMI out, as well as the very fast CPU, this system is perfectly suited to go in your living room. It's also a pretty good budget PC as well. So, I'm Rich Brown, and this is the Editor's Choice-winning Gateway SX2850-33. -Nice one, Rich. Thanks for that. But they can't all be winners, which we'll find out as we move along to the bad. The good news is that the 2010 Dodge Challenger is fast, fun to drive, it looks great, and it has a great tech package. The bad news is that apparently, no one buys the Challenger, and the gas mileage is abysmal. I got to drive one. Let's have a look. It's big, brash, loud, and bright red. It is the opposite of subtle. It screams big hair, loud music, and irresponsible driving. Any cop worth his salt should see this car coming and pull you over for probable cause of trouble making. In some, it's just about the most fun you can have with your clothes on. It's the 2010 Dodge Challenger SRT8. What, you were expecting someone else? Back in 2009, the Dodge Challenger was our CNET Editor's Choice Muscle Car. Good tech, great handling, plenty of power, great throwback looks----those things are all still true. But fast forward a year, and the Mustang and the Camaro each outsell this car by 2 to 1. So, what's missing here? I'm Molly Wood. Let's get inside and check the tech. It certainly isn't missing any power. The SRT8 option adds $10,000 to price of a Dodge Challenger RT, but it bumps you up from a 5.7-liter V8 hemi to a 6.1-liter V8 hemi. You also get hotter cams, revised heads, and a free air-flowing intake and exhaust. That gives you more horsepower because you have more air to burn in this big old combustion engine. It's a thirsty engine, though, and to be honest, it's questionable whether the horsepower is worth the hit in fuel economy. Now, let's get back to that transmission and the first thing I notice when I got into this car is that it's a good old fashioned 6-speed manual. Not Tiptronic, no paddles on the steering wheel here----an actual clutch and an actual shifter. But you know that times have changed because this manual transmission is an option. In fact, it's a $700 option. But it makes this car so much fun to drive that I would say get it. In fact, skip the $900 sunroof and get the manual instead. Now, the other thing I love about this car is that free air-flowing exhaust that we mentioned because I'm pretty sure that's what's responsible for this. Now, the SRT8 package adds the 6.5-inch touchscreen LCD for media controls and navigation. You also upgrade the stereo to add DVD, plus you get a built-in 30 gig hard drive, which will hold over 6,700 songs. You got an AUX jack here, a USB connector, and Sirius Satellite Radio. Add the $590 media system package, and then you'll get GPS navigation with integrated Sirius traffic control. More on that a little bit later. You'll also get the Bluetooth voice control features for both dialing and media controls, and these are great. Plus, you'll get an iPod adapter here. The real star here is the voice system. If you have that option, the UConnect voice control, you have not only Bluetooth voice dialing for your phone, but you have an entire suite of voice controls for whatever system you're using. Now, but one of our big complaints about this system in the 2009 model was that the voice control button is not on the steering wheel. Instead, it's way over here on the right side of the console. So you can imagine that when you're driving, this takes your hand off the wheel and potentially your eyes of the road when you're trying to find the right button. That was a big quibble we had and I'm surprised they didn't fix it. Okay, but let's talk about what we're really here for: the driving. Like I said, the 6-speed manual makes the Challenger a joy to drive, but it's not just the manual. The Challenger may be packing 425 horsepower, but it's a very accessible daily driver. It's just jumpy. It's not jittery. It's not hard to handle. This isn't the most technical term, but the Challenger is just flat out fun to drive. And all that power is available just about every time you need it. And, oh, did I mention that exhaust note, just one more time? Possibly the best part about it is that extra bark you get whenever you shift into a new gear. I love driving this car. It makes every other car seem kind of bland. Now, an SRT8 is $41,980 after that big old gas guzzler charge. And if you wanna do it up CNET style with the media center package that gives you navigation and voice controller, that's another $590. And if you want that big bump in stereo, you need the SRT group II for $695. So why aren't people buying the Challenger? It's unbelievably fun to drive. It has a great tech package for a muscle car or any other car for that matter. If you price this thing as an impulse buy, it is going to fly out of showrooms, and you are gonna fly down the street loudly and having a lot of fun. The other bad news? I don't have it anymore. Those are just some of the highlights from the Challenger. There are many more. So be sure to check out the whole video over at cnettv.com. And I miss that car. But I am glad I don't have to buy gas for it. And now, let's turn our attention to The Bottom Line. As we saw in Steve Jobs' preview of Apple's OS X Lion, many features from the iOS will soon be coming to Macs. One of those features is video calling via FaceTime. And Scott Stein didn't waste a minute before setting up a couple of tests. -Hi, I'm Scott Stein, Senior Associate Editor at CNET.com, and we've got a first look at FaceTime for Mac OS X. Now, when Apple unveiled the iPhone 4 and the new iPod Touches, the FaceTime video chat feature was very exciting. We were wondering when exactly it will be available for communication with Macs. Well, now it's out there. FaceTime is available as a beta download. What you need is Snow Leopard. You need the latest version of Snow Leopard installed on your Mac, and then you're set to go. The way it connects is either via your iPhone phone number or your Apple ID, the same way you would on your iPhone or on your iPod Touch. We've got Jessica Dolcourt in San Francisco, and we're gonna connect with her via FaceTime chat. So, all you have to do to launch FaceTime is click the icon below on your dock, and it'll launch up just like iChat does. It shows you in portrait mode. It also brings up all of your contacts automatically on the side from your address book. It also has room for Favorites and Recents like on an iPhone 4 or an iPod Touch. So, we're gonna give Jessica a call in San Francisco, and it takes a few minutes to connect, much like an iPhone. You know, it has to wait to receive the signal on the other end, see what happens here. Hey! -Hey, Scott! -How are you doing, Jessica? -I'm pretty good. -So how does it look on your end? -Definitely [unk]. You're not quite as clear as you could be, I mean, you know, using other things. But that's probably---- well, I don't know what kind of camera you've got actually on your Mac. -Well, we're using the---- -You're using---- -Yeah, we're using the built-in iMac camera. And so, right now, it's coming on a little choppy on your end also, certainly more so than on an iChat. -Uh huh. -We can also switch to landscape mode if I hit "command + R", and you can flip your camera also. If you want to go into landscape, it automatically adjusts. So, I should be in landscape, too. -Uh huh. Uh huh. -And you can also go into full screen mode from the menu, which blows it up even more and you can definitely see the resolution limitations. Okay, it was good talking to you. -Okay, [unk]. -Take care out there. You just hit "end" at the bottom. So that's how FaceTime works from an iPhone 4 to a Mac. We still had a few more questions we wanted to address. First of all, how does it work across Macs? Well, we tested it on an iMac, but we also decided to connect to a Mac Mini, and we used a third-party USB camera to boot. Now, to our great surprise and happiness, it works! We got it to connect to our Samsung HDTV and we're able to video chat on it. Now, we're also curious how it differentiates between your Apple ID and your phone number in case you've got your iPhone 4 in your pocket. Well, it's very cool. If you make a phone call to my phone number on FaceTime, it connected to my iPhone 4. Now, when we tried placing a phone call to my Apple ID, it connected through to all Macs that I was logged into with that Apple ID. So actually, both the iMac and the Mac Mini rang at the same time. I picked which one I wanted to connect with. So, that's FaceTime right now. It's a pretty simple and pretty good program. Steve Jobs says there are 19 million FaceTime users currently on iPhone 4 and iPod Touch. We expect that number's gonna grow quite substantially as it is available now across Macs as well. I'm Scott Stein, and this has been a first look at FaceTime for Mac OS X. -The Bottom Line this week: Keep that thing away from me! FaceTime may be fun and all, but there is nothing flattering about the camera angle when you use it on an iPhone 4. It is not doing anyone any favors. Jessica, you are gorgeous in real life. Okay folks, it is time for me to go. Join us next week when we'll check out some of our favorite zombie games. They're scary good. Until then, there are tons of great videos available everyday at cnettv.com. See you next time and thank you for watching.
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