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CNET Tech Review: Top laptop picks

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CNET Tech Review: Top laptop picks

23:21 /

Our best picks for laptops and Netbooks; Acura's car of the future; and how to stream live video to your phone.

>>Molly Wood: This week on the CNET tech review gift ideas for the grads in your life, mobile streaming apps get tapped, our picks for the best laptop guys this spring and Acura goes futuristic. It's all coming up right now. ^M00:00:14 [ Music ] ^M00:00:21 >>Hey everyone, I'm Molly Wood and welcome to the CNET Tech Review, the show where we run down the hottest videos of the week and tell you which are good, which are bad and offer some sage bottom-line advice. Let's get started with the good. In the next few weeks millions of kids will be graduating from high school or college. Now, just imagine how many people have to decide what gifts to buy for them. Here's Tom Merritt with our top five gifts for grads to help you decide. ^M00:00:47 [ Music ] ^M00:00:54 >>Tom Merritt: Welcome to CNET Top Five where we meet we count down another hot CNET list. I'm Tom Merritt. Graduation, it's a time of promise, a time of endless optimism, of hope, a time when rotten gifts ruin a young person's respect for their elders. Don't be that elder. Take our advice. Get them one of these hot tech products. It could change their life or at least keep you in their good graces. Let's count them down. At number 5 the Logitech Squeezebox radio that has been proven that music makes the worker more productive. So, whether you're grad is going to college or the work place, set them up to get the highest quality music from the internet and the stylish Squeezebox will impress their friends, too. Coming in at number 4; the Cannon PowerShot S90. Graduation is all about pictures but the rest of their lives need snapshots too, right, for their Facebook page? The S90 is all the rage in an excellent compact camera for advanced amateurs a.k.a grads. Up to number 3; the Sony PCS3. Now, this just isn't about rewarding their hard work with games. This thing will stream movies and TV shows too, thus, saving money on their cable bill. You're looking out for their future. Be sure to sign them up for that Netflix disk. Sliding in at number 2; the HTC Droid Incredible, our Editor's Choice smartphone and your grad is going to need one to stay connected in this cold, cold world. This phone is sleek and filled with top notch features like Android 2.1 and a 8 megapixel camera. Before we get to number 1, we thought we've give you some guidance on what not to get your grads. These are the top five worst tech gifts for grads. Don't get them these unless you hate them. Alright, let's get to our number 1; the top gift for grads. At number 1 it's the iPad. In fact, you can almost replace all the other gifts on this list with this one. It plays movies, games, music and checks e-mail and surfs the web. It can even do calls over VoIP plus an Apple van they've had their eye on will now speak to them. You have to think of these things. That's it for this edition of CNET Top Five. Don't forget to visit our dads and grads gift guide for more great suggestions at Grads.CNET.com. I'm Tom Merritt. See you next time. >>Molly Wood: Congratulations graduates. Now it's time to take your laptop down to your local coffee shop and use their free Wi-Fi to start looking for a job. What's that? You old laptop got wrecked during your last beer pong tournament. Oh, well, luckily Dan Ackerman is here with a buying guide that will help you find a brand new one. ^M00:03:26 [ Music ] ^M00:03:34 >>Dan Ackerman: I'm Dan Ackerman and there's never a bad time to update basic laptop buying advice but now is an especially good time because even though laptops today pretty much look like they did six months of a year ago, the components inside have really changed a lot in 2010 so it's really a prefect opportunity to update our basic laptop buying advice. Now, Netbooks today are popular as ever and that's because for about $299 you can get pretty easy on-the-go experience. However, the components inside the Netbooks have changed a lot. Starting in 2010 we've got the new Intel Atom N450 processor. Now these new Netbooks that have that N450, there not a heck of a lot faster than last year's models but the battery life is a lot better. We're seeing 6 -- 7 even more hours of battery just from a basic Netbook like this. Now, we're also seeing Netbooks that try to jack up the price a little bit going from $299 to maybe $399 to $499 by adding some premium upscale features. Sometimes like in the case of this Toshiba N3B305 you're going to see a bigger touch pad and a nicer keyboard. Other times you're going to see Windows 7 Premium instead of Windows 7 Starter or you're going to see a higher resolution screen and maybe if you're lucky, some basic graphics options like NVIDIA's ion chip that will let you play HD video and even some basic games on a Netbook. Now, the mainstream laptops, those 14 and 15-inch models that you find in your, you know, your den or your home office, well, those have gotten a pretty good under the hood upgrade as well. They've all got Intel's new series of Core CPUs, the Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 and what you're going to find is improved performance and improved battery life over last year's Core 2 Duo version. In some cases that's pretty dramatic and other cases less so. You're going to find a lot of really good mainstream systems like the Dell Studio 15, basic 15-inch laptop; once you add that Core i5 to it, you're going to get better performance and better battery life over last year. If you try something like the Toshiba E205 it's going to have stuff like Intel's new wireless display technology. What that does is it takes the signal from your laptop screen sends it to your HD TV, just plus a little adapter into the back and it's great for watching movies. There's a bit of a fraction of a second delay so not great for gaming or web surfing but you play a video on here and then you can watch it on your big screen TV. And of course, if you're more business minded, let's say you're running a small business out of your home or you're a freelancer, well then Lenovo, of course, has their ThinkPad line. Those have those Core series chips too and here's a great bargain hunting tip, if you look for something with the Intel Core i3 CPU, you're going to find those in less expensive mainstream models. You're going to get almost the same performance and battery life as you do out of the more expensive Core i5 models but save a couple bucks in the process. Whenever we see the Core i3 listed on the laptop, we think you're probably going to find a pretty good deal. And of course, Apple's MacBook laptop is pretty much in a category by themselves. They actually just did a bunch of updates to the MacBook Pro line. What they did was they added the Core i7 and Core i5 chips to the 15 and 17-inch models. The 13-inch MacBook Pro model didn't get the same level of upgrade but it's still pretty much the same really good system it was last year. You also get in the 15 and 17-inch systems discrete graphics by default now and even better instead of having to go into a menu and switch those discrete graphics off and on. It just turns on automatically when you need it like when you start a game or you started a video editing program. So, you save yourself a little hassle that way and you probably get better battery life because it will turn off the extra graphics when you're not using them just automatically by itself. Of course, these are still super premium laptops. You're definitely going to pay for the privilege of having a MacBook Pro but if you're doing stuff like video editing and photo editing, there are very few other go to choices out there. So, of course, our last category is something that may or may not be a laptop at all. People argue whether it's a Netbook with the keyboard missing or whether it's a portable media player that also does word processing and e-mail. It is Apple's iPad tablet and the reality is it's probably somewhere in between those two but it really is a hybrid device. It plays all those apps obviously and does a lot of movies and games really well but it also does basic word processing. It does really great web surfing and you can even do e-mail on it. Now is this going to replace your regular laptop or desktop? Definitely not. Is it going to replace your Netbook that you take with you on business trips? Well, probably not that either but if you're going to the coffee shop or your taking a plan trip somewhere or going on vacation, you might take the iPad with you instead of a Netbook because you can do web surfing on it and you can do some basic word processing and basic e-mail. Just the basic messages that you want to send back and forth while you're on vacation or something or just out for the day. But no matter what you call it or what category you put it in, there's one thing we figured out and that's people seem pretty crazy about the Apple iPad so far. So, hopefully this guide has given you a good head start on your next laptop purchase. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Do your research and, of course, always checkout the latest laptop reviews on CNET.com. I'm Dan Ackerman. Thanks for watching. >>Molly Wood: So, there you have it. You'll need a laptop, a Netbook and an iPad. Hope you've been saving up. Moving on in the good, we have a new show here at CNET TV that you may not have see, it's called Tap that App where Brian Tong is scouting out the best apps out there on all kinds of mobile devices. This week, video streaming on your phone -- cool stuff. ^M00:08:13 [ Music ] ^M00:08:22 >>Brian Tong: Welcome to Tap that App. I'm Brian Tong and this is the show we cover the hottest apps in the mobile space. Now this week we're showing off apps that enable you to stream live video from your phone and then to your friends anywhere you are. Now, there are really three mobile apps to pay attention to. The first one is Quick live, it's free and it's available on almost platforms but limited to specific phones when it comes to Blackberry's, Symbian phones and Window's mobile phones and there is no Palm Pre support. In fact, Palm's webOS has no live video streaming solution at all. With a quick app you'll need to create an account, press record and your streaming live to the web with an easy to remember link. Now, this is streaming video but the app probably has the best audio and video quality overall. People logged onto the site can interact with a live chat and you'll also be able to share your videos and announce them to the world on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Now, the next app is USTREAM Broadcaster. It's also free but only available on the iPhone and Android platforms for streaming live video. This also requires an account setup but press the Go Live button and your stream is up. The unique feature here is the ability to ask a question on your stream and have a live poll where viewers can respond and you'll see what they think. And like Quick, people can also interact with a live chat that appears on your phone's screen too and you can also share your video with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube friends. The third app is Knocking Live Video. It's free but it only runs on iPhones and Android phones and it's a little different because you need to sign up and your friends need to sign up for you to both use the service. To watch your stream invite a friend that has to be in the app, sure it makes it more private but then there's no audio on the stream and it's only done through phones. It's also linked to Facebook and Twitter to let people know when you're using it but it's really a private way to stream video. So, what do I think about these apps? Well, Quick is the most universal of the group and has the best video quality so I'm giving that a good tap. USTREAM Broadcaster's unique polling feature on top of its ability to match all the features that Quick has, like realtime chat and video uploading, make it tap worthy but Knocking Live Video is only on two platforms. It's a pain to setup, friends need to be in the app and there's no audio. No thanks. Alright, that's it for this week's show. If you guys have any questions, send them to TapthatApp@CNET.com. I'm Brian Tong and we'll see you next week. >>Molly Wood: Brian's producer Ariel sure has been getting a lot screen time lately. Maybe we should give him his own show. Alright, it's time to take a break but when we come back, it's happy stabbing robot time. >>Brian Tong: Hey guys, Brian Tong here and if you're looking to see the top dogs in tech face off, then you need to watch CNET's prize fight. We'll throw touch screen phones in the ring, reignite the console wars, battle web browsers and more so you can find it all at CNET.com/prizefight and I'll see you there. Wah -- hah! >>Molly Wood: Welcome back to the CNET Tech Review. Now, to kick off the bad this week, here's Tom Merritt with a how to on creating custom keyboard shortcuts. ^M00:11:39 [ Music ] ^M00:11:47 >>Tom Merritt: Keyboard shortcuts are fantastic. They make you faster, more productive and can impress your friends and potential mates but even more impressive than knowing things like Control + X and Windows + D is making your own shortcuts that no one else has. Creating shortcuts is easy to do in Windows 7 and they can save you a lot of time you'd otherwise spend hunting for a program's icon. Start by finding the program you want to make a shortcut for. I'm going to make one that will launch Pink.net. Right click on the program icon and select Properties. Then select the shortcut tab. Click in the shortcut key field and type the hot key combination you want. I'm going to use Control + Alt + P. Press OK and now try out your new keyboard shortcut. Just hit Control + Alt + P and there you go. Now, go try and impress your friends. If they're impressed, you have the right friends. Hope that saves you some time at least. I'm Tom Merritt, CNET.com. >>Molly Wood: So, what's so bad about that video? Well, as some of you already know, this is Tom's last week with us here at CNET and that means this will be his last how to video, bad. But don't worry you'll still be able to find all of his great tips from over the years at CNET TV.com. We'll miss you, Tom. And speaking of bad news, this Monday's Loaded was full of it. From new FCC regulations to pesky IM viruses, there was a lot of bad stuff going on. Take a look. >>Natalie Del Conte: The FCC gives Hollywood permission to control your set top box. Sony is updating the VAIO P with the next solarometer and a robot in Germany can stab you with knives and screwdrivers. It's Monday, May 10th, I'm Natalie Del Conte. It's time to get loaded. ^M00:13:34 [ Music ] ^M00:13:39 >>The FCC has given Hollywood the power to remotely disable the analog outputs on your set top box to prevent you from watching newly released movies in an analog format. This control is called "selectable output control." The Motion Picture Association of America said that the studios in the group would not authorize early release of movies until it had this capability because analog syndication can be easily pirated. Understandable, but I'm not at all comfortable with Hollywood reaching in and controlling any part of my home electronics. Nevertheless, the FCC granted this power last Friday. Sony launched a new line of the VAIO P notebooks. These are the small clutch-looking machines that are ultra-thin and portable. The machines are 8 inches. They come with an accelerometer that you can use to navigate websites, pictures or PDFs by tilting them right or left. They will also go into portrait mode when they are tipped on the side. They also have 3G built-in. We don't have information about a U.S. release date but they'll launch in Japan for over $1,000. Be aware of a new virus that's finding its way onto Window machines over Yahoo Instant Messenger or Skype. It arrives as an IM that ask you to look at a photo with a link. The link looks like it leads to a JPG or image file but then it asks you to download a zip file. Don't do that, it's malware. If you download it, it will try to spread itself to other people in your IM contacts. Overseas Apple lovers won't have to wait much longer for the iPad. Preorders for international shipments are available now. The ship date is May 28th for customers in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the U.K. They can buy either the Wi-Fi or the 3G version in 1632 or 64 gigs. Nokia filed a new series of patent infringement suits against Apple for patents on the iPad and the iPad 3G. The patents have to do with the technologies related to enhanced speech and data transmission. Nokia and Apple have been suing each other over patent infringements since last October though, so this is just the latest in that tango. If you're afraid of robots, you're really not going to like this one. It can stab you. A German researcher named Sami Haddadin wanted to see if his collision avoidance program worked so he equipped his robot with a knife, a scalpel and a screw driver. He had it stab at a ham, some silicon and finally, his own arm. The collision avoidance program worked and his arm was unscathed but the point is that he was willing. That's commitment to your research. Those are your headlines for today. I will see you tomorrow with more. Thank you for watching. I'm Natalie Del Conte with CNET TV and you've just been loaded. >>Molly Wood: Stabbing robots? Are you serious. I know there's a rule about robots not injuring humans, but it seems like you're pressing your luck if you actually give them knives. Let's turn our attention to happier thoughts, shall we? Like this weeks bottom line. Cars are changing big time. You know the funny looking concept cars of the future, well, they're the funny looking cars of today now. Let's have a look at the Acura ZDX, shall we? >>It's got the lines of a concept car, buckets of tech and a blind spot big enough to hide the U.S. deficit. Just don't ask me to tell you what type of car it is. It's just a 2010 Acura ZDX Advance. Let's check the tech. So, this is an Acura ZDX. You know, it's one of those coupe UVs that are all the rage these days. Notice the lines and notice the packaging, biggest wheels but more like a coupe that got big than an SUV that got swoopy and I say that because the interior packaging is much more, well, should we say tight or at least sporting and stylish than it is utilitarian. And no where is that more obvious than back here in the cargo bay and I use the word cargo rather generously. This is really small in terms of carrying space for the volume of the vehicle. But you see the point of this thing is not to carry a whole lot of luggage, the point is the carry four people in style with just enough luggage; it's your ultimate weekend, wine country, golf trip vehicle. Now, one other thing I wanted to point out is the very strong carryover of a design theme throughout this vehicle. Back here you've got this kind of descending v-pointed chin. You see it again inside the cabin here. It's the main dominant design of the center stack where the controller is and it's really strong up here in the front where the Mighty Morphin Power Ranger face is the new look for Acura. Now, as you can imagine, we've got an estable amount of tech in this Acura. It's a high-end car. We have the tech package and the advanced package and there's plenty to look at. Starting on the head unit screen, this is the new "ish" Acura Honda unit which has been revised somewhat. It's still a little crunchy looking but its way better than the really stale unit that used to be sticking in their for ages. As you can see, we've got live traffic in there via XM satellite radio. Okay, now moving onto the audio functions, we got a whole lot going on. You got the usual AM/FM but no HD radio, standard or available on the ZDX, that's, you know, contentious at this point in history. XM as I mentioned is our satellite radio flavor. Here's our CD drive. It's right down here, single slot because we have a hard drive and you can rip to that. Now under the USB Aux button comes the fun stuff; here's Bluetooth audio which streams stereo music off of your phone. Our next choice, or course, is the iPad connector. Now, I like this one. It lives here inside the center console. It's actually a USB pigtail into which I can connect my standard white Apple iPod cable, charges, gives me a readout of data and, of course, plays audio. Now, on the output side of this things we've got an ELS system, 435 watts, 10 speakers around the cabin, pretty well geared up, the usual bass, treble balance fader but here you get to your subwoofer, your speed control, Dolby PL2, you've also got DTS read on this guy so a lot of different codings can be read. Our transmission is a one choice only 6 speed automatic with a super stubby shifter down here in the console. You don't shift with this guy. You've got paddles up here on the wheel to do manual shifting. Of course, I've got a backup camera which is going to give me some distance indicators before I go crunch and it's also got a view change. I can look down at what I'm going to hit or I can look back to what I'm going to hit which is a damn good thing because this car gets the Cooley Award for biggest f'n blind spot in automotive production. This is the first year I've granted it but I didn't have to until now. You can't see under the back of this car, period. It's like driving a tank. They should have a periscope on the option sheet. It's actually terrifying to make a lane change in this vehicle. IDS is their adaptive suspension technology and it's got two modes, a comfortable one and a sport mode. Now, the suspension is adaptive at all times and this comes on the advanced package in this car. Well, this doesn't turn adaptivity on or off it just changes the curve and the contour of how it responds. And for those really bad days there's optional collision mitigation breaking system which sounds an alarm, tightens the belts and eventually crams on the breaks when you don't realize you're about to rear end someone. Okay, behind the pointy schnoz on our ZDX lies a relatively garden variety Acura Honda 3.7 liter V6, single overhead cam, nothing really clever going on here, lots of variable valve timing which they've done so well for so long. You're getting 300 horsepower out of this guy, 270 foot pounds of torque -- ah, fine -- 16/23 are your EPA estimates on the mileage. Zero to 60 is about a 6.5 second affair so, you know, it gets out of its own way but it's not going to be in the same class as let's say a BMW X6 of the same type. All ZDXs have super handling all-wheel drive which can bias power to the wheels front and rear and left and right between the rears. There's also Cornering G logic in the transmission to prevent an ungainly up shift when you're powering through a corner. But leave the hood and get on the road and I'm not a huge fan of this powertrain. I like it, I don't love it. Not a lack of power and you've got paddle shifters, you've got a sport mode and I still feel like the car is caught in too high a gear too many times. I've changed this IDS knob from comfort to sport in a lot of different conditions and I don't feel a whole lot of difference. It's pretty subtle. Maybe it's more of an open-road, hard-driving thing and the handling and cornering is quite good in this car. It doesn't feel as tall as it looks from the outside. Okay, let's price a 2010 ZDX and do it CNET style. That means you buy it with the tech package, that's $51,000 but includes basically all the toys in the cabin. Now, what you would add on top of that, your choice would be the advance package, $6,000 more. That gets you adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation breaking system, that IDS adaptive suspension and that adds the blind spot detection system. Don't even drive this car a foot without that. >>Molly Wood: The bottom line this week; it doesn't matter what's behind you man, it's what's ahead of you that counts and that's our show for this week everyone. Tune in next week when we'll have a complete first look at the new HTC Evo 4G from Sprint and a whole lot more. In the meantime, get more great CNET videos at CNET TV.com. See you next time and thank you for watching.

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