In the Season 2 premiere of Always On, the Google Nexus 7 takes a beating. Well, it wouldn't be fair to say it takes a beating. It receives a beating, and frankly, doesn't handle it very well. It's one of our more dramatic Torture Tests, and I think it points out that sometimes, you do get what you pay for when it comes to quality and durability. The Nexus 7 is a great tablet in many respects but, well. It's not the toughest little thing. You'll see what I mean.
We'll find out in a couple of weeks whether the same can be said for this week's Unboxing device, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook. It's definitely slightly business oriented, but I'm thinking it could be a good back-to-school option if it's as tough as its specs suggest. It's certainly pretty.
Also in this week's episode, the first of several pieces to come out of a great road trip to Detroit earlier this summer. The first is a Future Tech segment on connected cars: we all knew cars were getting smarter, the computers were getting more complicated, and the interfaces were getting more sophisticated. But I got a first-hand look at how close cars are coming to smartphones, at how those onboard computers control every single element of the vehicle's performance, and even more interestingly, how much thinking automakers are doing about our in-car experiences.
The most telling part of the visit for me was seeing how Ford's user experience labs are studying everything about our behavior in cars these days, from how we fit inside vehicles to how our heart rate and breathing patterns could affect what alerts our cars serve up. And on the GM side, I met behavior researchers who do nothing but interview drivers day after day and study their reactions in dozens of driving situations, so they can create intelligent in-car systems that accurately predict how you're going to behave, even before you've had a conscious thought about how to behave. In a word, it's cool.
And finally, speaking of cool, I absolutely love Sharon Vaknin's DIY this week, on making a macro lens for your iPhone (or any smart phone camera, really). Our phones are, increasingly, our only point-and-shoot cameras, and this is a cute, clever, and most importantly cheap tip for making those camera phones even more functional. That girl is so smart.
I hope you enjoy this week's episode and, as usual, please let me know what you think in the comments or by sending email or video email to always on at cnet dot com. We got our first video mail this week! Oh, and did I mention that we're going to start an Always On Giveaway to, yes, give you, dear viewers, the gadgets that we have "lightly used" on the show--that is, tortured. We're starting with the most unscathed gadget of all: the iPad. Details coming soon!