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CNET Tech Review
New TiVo remote slides into homesThis week on the CNET Tech Review, TiVo unveils the Slide Remote; how to turn off Facebook Places; track down your missing iPhone voice mails; and a gaming console Prizefight rematch.
-This week on the CNET Tech Review, how to make phone calls from your GMail inbox, a gaming console prizefight rematch, we count down the top 5 movies on Blu-ray, and TiVo's new remote slides its way into our hearts. 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, plus offer some life changing tech wisdom in the form of the bottom line. Let's start with the good. First up this week is a brand spanking new TV from Vizio, that I want. Here's David Katzmeier with a few reasons why you may also want to make it the centerpiece of your home entertainment system. -Hi, I'm David Katzmeier, senior editor at CNET and this is the Vizio XVT3SV series. It's the 55-inch version right here. They also have a 47 and a 42 in the series. This review will apply to all the screen sizes. This is Vizio's flagship 2D TV for 2010 and it has oodles of features. We'll get to those in a little bit but I first wanna point out Vizio has redesigned this TV. Got rid of that silver speaker bar found on previous models. This one is all black including the bottom where the speakers are subtly blended in along with the rest of the black. It's also a lot thinner if you look at it from the side. It's about 3 inches deep which isn't quite as thin as some of those other LED-based LCD TVs out there but it's still pretty slim. This TV does use LED technology with local dimming. Again, we'll talk about that in the performance section but feature-wise, the real thing to talk about here is the VIA, Vizio Internet Apps System. The system includes the usual suspects such as Netflix, Amazon Video-on-Demand, Voodoo, all those things can be streamed live to the TV. There's also a Rhapsody music subscription service which is exclusive to Vizio. It also includes Pandora and a host of other non-streaming apps including Wikipedia Search. There is Facebook, eBay, and a bunch of other things you could do with this TV including play games, et cetera, et cetera. New apps are downloaded into the bar. You get a little notification icon which is pretty cool. There is also the bar that appears along the bottom of the screen here. It does also appear over other apps so, for example, you can check out Facebook or write a tweet while you're watching a Netflix stream which is pretty much exclusive to Vizio as well, that sort of multitasking. The TV has built-in Wi-Fi so if you don't have Ethernet right at your TV, you can use your Wi-Fi connection. It does work pretty darn well, although, you know, we do prefer Ethernet for the most robust connection. The other exclusive to this TV is the remote control. It opens up here and it has a full QWERTY keyboard so you can actually type and do search terms and passwords and that sort of stuff a lot easier than you would with a typical TV that requires you to use a virtual keypad in the TV's remote control so this remote's a real step up for this thing. The TV also has Bluetooth so you don't have to aim the remote directly at the TV and it also should interface with some Bluetooth devices such as headphones and some other stuff in the future. Vizio will be adding that functionality. It will also be having the functionality to stream from the USB and your home network, although ti doesn't do that. Most other TVs in this league do. Inputs are extensive on the Vizio. You've got five total HDMI, four in the back and one in the side as well as one component video input and a PC input. In terms of other features, the picture settings on this TV are relatively sparse for a very high end TV. It has a simple grayscale adjustment, although we found it has plenty of adjustments for most people and oodles of picture settings. There's actually nine different picture presets you can play around with. One other cool thing about the picture settings is that it is integrated directly into the apps interface so you get that nice, slick one menu system where everything is pretty much accessible from one button and it all makes it really easy to find. In our lab test, the Vizio performed very well. It does have nice deep black levels. Again, thanks to that LED with local dimming technology. It does produce a nice deep shade of black that's especially visible in dark rooms and dark scenes. It does have a little bit of blooming where the light leaks into black areas in some scenes but that's really not that distracting and relatively rare. Another strength of this TV is the color accuracy. It's accurate both up and down the grayscale in dark and light areas. It also has very good color points and solid saturation so, all told, some of the best color we've seen this year. We've seen from off angle the Vizio does tend to wash out a little bit and that blooming does intensify. The Vizio's screen is also excellent for bright rooms so if you're in a room with a lot of lights that hit the screen, the matte does a very good job of cutting that down and reducing glare. It also preserves black levels relatively well so for bright rooms, the Vizio is a solid choice. Anyway, that's a quick look at the Vizio XVT3SV series and I'm David Katzmeier. -Once you've got your new TV all set up, one of the best ways to enjoy it is to pop in a Blu-ray movie, but which one? Brian Cooley's here with this week's top 5 to help you decide. -Let's face it. When a Blu-ray disc is a poor transfer, or just a crappy movie to begin with, it really isn't worth the money. I'm Brian Cooley, and in this episode of Top 5, we're going to run down the Blu-ray titles that will make you glad you decided to buy yet another set of silver discs. These guys are worth it. According to the savvy eyes of CNET's David Carnoy and the home video editors in New York, and they're ranked by sales figures from Amazon.com as of this early August 2010. Number 5 is Close Encounters. It's been 30 years. Wow. That long? That means this is now a bona fide classic, and I need to start getting my prostate checked. Anyway, this 30th edition on Blu-ray includes all three Spielberg cuts, has been remastered within an inch of its life, and it's going cheap, like 12 bucks. Just please, please don't make the sound your ringtone. I said please, didn't I? Number 4, Escape from New York. This one was semi-low budget back in '81 so, no, it doesn't exactly max out the abilities of high definition but we liked that it rescues the tale of New York as a giant super max prison from the realm of mediocre DVD editions that came before this. And it may be coincidence that the CNET editors who nominated it are based in our New York office, or they're trying to telegraph something to our HR department. Number 3 is Life, from the BBC. An incredible HD look at the lengths that living creatures go to to evade death, procreate, and obtain nourishment. Sounds like a pretty good weekend to me. Take our tip on this one. Get the original version narrated by Sir David Attenborough, not the US version voiced by Oprah. No offense, O. Number 2, here's an old one--2001: A Space Odyssey, shot back in 1968. Now, I still don't really understand it but that doesn't matter. You can score this Blu-ray disc for under $10 and get a really nice transfer with the only downsides being that it will absolutely kick your TV's ass, especially on black levels, and you'll probably run around at work the next day talking like hell, until someone says, "Stop it!" By the way, if you're watching this episode and feeling like some kind of loser for not having a Blu-ray deck, don't. Instant Research tells us even out to the year 2013, Blu-ray players sales are still gonna lag some 10 million units a year behind standard DVD players, and about 18% of folks in the US say they would like a Blu-ray deck but that costs still remains a big hurdle, both the cost of the player and buying all those new discs. Like our number 1 choice. Our number 1 Blu-ray pick is Avatar. This one needs no introduction. We are actually cool with the 2D version, so good is its visual quality. Perfectly formatted to fill an HDTV screen without bars or any weird ratio mashing, this disc is probably the one you're gonna put on to impress your friends with your home theater--if you're that kind of a dork. Just enjoy the movie. By the way, check out our CNET Editors' entire list of top 40 Blu-ray discs where this list was pulled from. You can find the link to that at the top 5 blog. I'm Brian Cooley, thanks for watching. See you next time. -Of course, you can only watch those movies so many times so you'll need to find something else to do with your big sweet TV, like play video games. Now that the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 have both dropped down a weight class, can the PS3 hold on to its title in a prizefight rematch? Let's check in with Brian Tong and find out. -What's up, prizefight fans? I'm Brian Tong and we're bringing you an epic battle that has stood the test of time. It's a throw down showdown for game console supremacy between Microsoft's Xbox 360 Slim and Sony's PS3 Slim. Our judges for this fight are CNET senior associate editor Scott "The Bottom Line" Stein, associate editor Jeff "Never Backs Down" Bakalar, and you-know-who, Ring-A-Ling-A-Ding Tom. We'll take all three judges' blind scores and average them out to the nearest 10th. The final prizefight score will be an average of all scores within the same decimal system. We're going six rounds deep for this face off. Round 1 is design. Both consoles are bringing their slim and svelte streamlined designs to the prizefight ring. The Xbox 360 is sleeker, slimmer, and improved in every way over the original. We liked the glossy piano black finish and its new edgy style, but you still have that sizable AC adaptor. The PS3 Slim is the sleeker of the two and more travel friendly, but its matte finish takes away some of the sexy and it still kinda resembles a George Foreman Grill and it feels a lot more generic compared to the new Xbox Slim. Sometimes, makeovers really make a difference and the 360 Slim takes this design round for the first time with a 4 and the PS3 Slim gets a 3. Next round is features. The standard Xbox 360 Slim rocks a larger 250-gig hard drive, finally brings built-in Wi-Fi, you'll get HDMI and wireless controls, but its proprietary hard drive is still a head scratcher. Now, the biggest difference between these two consoles is Blu-ray. The PS3 Slim has been rated one of CNET's top Blu-ray players and it's now a real advantage, plus you also have a user-replaceable hard drive. Its 160 gigs gives you a little less storage. It has built-in Wi-Fi, HDMI, and its Bluetooth capability allows you to connect many third party accessories, including almost any Bluetooth headset. Plus, the system is already 3D ready for movies and games through software updates. The PS3 throws its first haymaker with a perfect 5 and the Xbox 360 gets a 3.7. So, after average two rounds, Sony leads by 1/10th of a point, but there is plenty of fight left. Round 3 is online services. Microsoft's Xbox Live service is the gold standard for online gaming on a console. It's going to cost you $50 per year, but its ease of use, the size of the community, and access to integrated services like Netflix, Last.fm, Facebook, and Twitter and more make it the total package. Sony's Playstation Network is absolutely free, and you really have to give them credit for that, but it's not nearly as developed and after all this time, I'm still waiting for cross-game chatting. Playstation Plus is a new $50 annual service but you're really paying for exclusive content instead of new online features. Using Netflix still requires a disk. Its built-in web browser does allow you to watch YouTube content and Playstation Home still isn't a place where I spend my time. Microsoft strikes back with a perfect 5 of its own and Sony gets a 3.3. Round 4 is up next and it's the only reason we're all here--for the game. Both consoles are packed with franchise titles that each side wishes they could have. The 360 can brag about the bloody battlefields of Gears of War, the unlimited adventure that is Fable, and the world of Halo and Master Chief, but it's lost some of its momentum. The PS3 arguably boasts a stronger and more diverse exclusive franchise library with their modern day Indiana Jones in the Uncharted series, God of War's epic story and scale, Little Big Planet's creative community, Heavy Rain's unique control system, and so many more. Now, when it comes down to downloadable games, the Xbox Live Arcade has a much deeper and diverse library of games from the past and it continues to release awesome new exclusives like Limbo. The Playstation Network isn't on the same level with its downloadable game library but it can still hold its own with offerings like Flower, but there just aren't enough of them. You can still play most of your original Xbox titles on the 360 Slim, but backwards compatibility on the PS3 Slim is nonexistent. Both consoles have games that make each one just as drool-worthy as the other and the judges called this round a tie at 4 points a piece. So, after 4 rounds, the Xbox is taking control, leading by 4/10ths of a point, but we've still got two more to go. Round 5 is graphics performance. The 360 Elite and PS3 both have titles that showcase their graphical prowess. Even if its subtle, the 360 Slim has shown to have a slight advantage when comparing the same third party titles, but then, when it comes to console exclusive titles, the PS3 really flexes its technical muscle. Now, Jeff and Scott called this round even but if we're talking about the best graphics available, why don't you sit down and play God of War 3 or Uncharted 2 and show me an Xbox game that can best them. The PS3 gets a slight edge with a 4.3 and the Xbox gets a 4. Now, this is still anyone's prizefight. The sixth and final round that decides it all is value. Both of these consoles are $299 at their entry level and you guys can argue all you want about who has the better games and who has the better graphics but when you're talking about value, it really comes down to one thing and it's the PS3's Blu-ray player that will support 3D content into the future and makes the PS3 Slim more than just a gaming console. And if you wanna play online with your Xbox, you'll still have to pay 50 more dollars per year. In the final round, the PS3 Slim gets a perfect 5 and the Xbox 360 gets a 3.7. So, let's average out the scores for all six rounds and after a back and forth battle where both sides held the lead, we are tied--tied!--at 4.1 points a piece. Now, you know, we can't walk away like this and this prizefight has to have a winner so we're gonna break this down by hundredths of a point. So do the match for yourselves, people, but after a six-round throw down, the Sony PS3 Slim holds on with a 4.10 to 4.06 in the closest prizefight in CNET history and is your prizefight winner. You can't go wrong with either of these consoles and if you're lucky enough, get both of them, but Sony's Blu-ray player that used to seem like a gimmick in the past is now the difference maker. I'm Brian Tong. Thanks for watching and we'll catch you guys next time for another prizefight. -Dudes, that was a nail biter, but I have to agree that Blu-ray player is always gonna give PS3 the edge. What are you waiting for, Microsoft? HD DVD is dead. It's time to let go. Okay, folks, it's time for us to take a quick break but stick around, we'll be back with a batch of handy how-to tips right after this. Welcome back to the CNET Tech Review, our weekly digest of all things good and bad we've seen here at CNET TV this week. Let's continue on with the good. On Wednesday, Google announced a new service that lets GMail users make phone calls directly from their inbox, no phone necessary. Here's Jessica Dolcourt to show you how it all works. -Hello, everyone. I'm Jessica Dolcourt with CNET, here to show you how to get started making phone calls from right within GMail.com. If you're a GMail user in the US, the first thing you'll do is look to see that the service has been added into your account. Check the left side bar where your Google Chat app sits, and make sure you see the "Call Phone" link right under your name and status field. After you click it, Google may ask you to install a chat and video plugin first. Just follow the prompts. If the plugin is installed, click that "Call Phone" link and you'll see a dial pad pop up in the bottom right corner of your screen. Next, start typing the phone number you'd like to call. Since the calling feature is also integrated with your Google Address Book, you can also type a person's name to search for your caller. We recommend having a headset with a microphone attached to make your calls. If you don't have a mic on your computer or your headset, your callers won't be able to hear you. To check through your call history, just click the tab to the right of the dial pad and scroll through your history of calls. Calls are currently free to the US and Canada, but to make an international call, you'll need to buy credits. To add more credit, click the blue monetary amount that's on the top right of the dial pad and select "Add Credit." Note that you will need a free Google Voice account to buy credit for international calls. There's more good news. You can also receive calls on your computer but you will need that Google Voice account to do so. Here's how you set up Google Voice to receive phone calls in GMail. Log in to Google Voice, or sign up for a free account by typing voice.google.com into your browser. Then click "Settings" in the upper right of your screen and select "Voice Settings." In the "Phone" tab, cast your eyes to the bottom of the list of forwarding phones where you should see Google Chat as an option. Click the checkbox next to the Google Chat listing and then look for the confirmation message at the top of your screen. Google Voice treats the phone call feature in Google Talk just like another number where you'd forward your incoming calls. After that, you should be able to accept incoming calls in GMail. "Hi, Mom. How's it going?" Now, keep in mind that this is currently on for US GMail users and be sure to also check out our how-to videos on using Google Voice. That's it for this how-to. I'm Jessica Dolcourt showing you how to place and receive calls from your GMail inbox. Catch you next time. -Free calls to land lines in the US? Where do I sign up? Oh, wait, she just told me. Never mind. Let's go ahead and move on to the bad. This week in the bad we've got a couple of good how-to videos to help you fix some bad problems. In a minute, I'll show you how to make Facebook Places a little less stalker friendly, but first, if you've been leaving voicemail messages for Brian Tong and you're wondering why he hasn't been calling you back, he has a pretty good reason. - What's up, guys? Brian Tong here with CNET.com, and if you're just like me, which you aren't, you're having problems receiving voicemails on your iPhone lately. Now, the last one I received was about a month ago in July, and I can assure you my mom leaves plenty of voicemails for me on my phone. Now, if you suspect your visual voicemail isn't working, dial into your voicemail directly by holding the number "1" on your dial pad and you'll hear a status update. -You have 16 unheard messages. -Now, that's a lot of booty calls you don't wanna miss so let's show you how to retrieve your missing voicemails. Go into your settings, then "General," scroll to the bottom to find "Reset," and you'll want to select "Reset Network Settings." If you have a pass code lock, which you should, enter it in, press the magic button and your phone will restart. This method can potentially help if your phone is having trouble accessing network data for things like surfing the web and downloading e-mail or retrieving your voicemails. It will also reset all the Wi-Fi networks your phone automatically connects to so you'll have to reenter those passwords as well. If this doesn't work, select the "Reset All Settings" which has also worked for me but you'll have to reenter things like your iTunes password but it will not erase any content on your phone. Now, let's give it a few moments and, voila, there are my voicemails ready for me to listen to...one month later. -Hey, Brian. I've been waiting for half an hour. Where are you? I'll be waiting. -I'm Brian Tong with your how-to for retrieving your missing iPhone voicemails. Use it wisely. -Hi, I'm Molly Wood from CNET.com here to show you how to disable Facebook Places. By now, I'm sure you've heard about places which lets you share your location with your Facebook friends by checking in when you go somewhere. Not surprisingly, not everyone is a fan. For one thing, you've been opted in by default which is what Facebook always does, and for another thing, it's possible that your friends could be checking you in places even if you don't. So, let's check in to your new places privacy settings and figure out how to find out what you're broadcasting and how to turn it off. Under "Account," click "Privacy Settings," and now click "Customize Settings" down here. You'll see new options for "Places I Check In" which should be defaulted to friends only. Hey, I mean, at least it's not everyone. Also, there's a checkbox here labelled "Include Me In People Here Now After I Check In." Now, in small type, it tells you that your check in will be visible to both your friends and strangers who happen to be checked in nearby. This box is checked by default, so if you don't want strangers seeing that you're in the restaurant with them, uncheck it. If you don't wanna broadcast your location to anyone, next to "Places I Check In," click the dropdown menu and choose "Customize." Under "Custom Privacy," you can click the dropdown again and choose "Only Me," and, yes, that is way more steps than it should take. Next, make sure your friends aren't broadcasting your location. Under "Things Others Share," there's an option that says "Friends Can Check Me Into Places." Now, on my account, the default was "Select One," but some people said that it was enabled by default for them. Either way, you can enable that option or, since we're not actually sure what "Select One" defaults to, just specifically choose "Disable." And there you go. Now, don't get me wrong. I think Facebook Places is a potentially useful and fun feature, but as with all things Facebook does, I just really want them to ask me first. For CNET how-to, I'm Molly Wood and you're welcome. Hey, Facebook. Ever heard of opt in? Why is it that every time you implement a new feature that shares our info with the world, it's up to us to go through the settings with a fine tooth comb to figure out how to turn it off? Not cool. And now, it's time for this week's Bottom Line. Besides my son and maybe Angry Birds, there are few things I love in life more than my TiVo, so let me say that I was nearly beside myself when I heard about this latest announcement from TiVo, the Slide Remote. -Hi, I'm John Falcone for CNET and this is the TiVo Slide Remote Control. This remote is specifically designed for use with TiVo Series 3 and Series 4 DVRs. At first glance, it just appears to be a shortened version of the classic TiVo peanut remote. But, as the name indicates, you can slide open the top to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard. The keyboard comes in handy on a TiVo for doing tech searches of upcoming TV shows, movies, and online media. It's far more convenient and faster than using the cumbersome onscreen keyboard for text input, and anyone who's used a smartphone keyboard will find it easy to use. All the keys in the remote are hard plastic, not the mushy rubber buttons you sometimes find on similar remotes. Keys have a satisfying click when you depress them and they're spaced far enough apart that even someone with larger fingers won't have trouble typing. The keyboard even has a dedicated 10-digit number pad and a five-way directional pad for navigating menus. On the top of the remote, we were impressed that TiVo was able to include all of the buttons found on the larger standard remote. All of the keys on the top and on the keyboard are backlit as well. When using open or closed, the TiVo Slide feels great in your hand and all the topside buttons are within range, even for those with smaller fingers. Even better than the keyboard and the overall ergonomics of the TiVo Slide is the fact that it's a Bluetooth remote. A USB dongle is supplied that fits into your TiVo DVR and there was, for us, anyway, no setup required. It was truly plug and play. Since Bluetooth is an Rf or radio frequency technology, that means all of the remote's TiVo control functions work without the need for line of sight, which you'd otherwise need for infrared remotes. In other words, as long as you're within 30 feet of your TiVo, you can control it regardless of where or whether you're pointing the remote directly at it. So go ahead and hide your TiVo away in a cabinet, you'll still be able to control it. Unfortunately, that Bluetooth functionality doesn't extend to other devices that the TiVo Slide can control, a TV and an audio receiver. The remote can be programmed using a help screen on the TiVo to control nearly any brand of TV or audio receiver. Unfortunately, there's only one power button and one input toggle. The system works fine if you only need to control the TV but if you wanna control the TV and an AV receiver, you've gotta split the difference. In other words, you're probably still going to need another remote on hand. The TiVo Slide remote is powered by 2 AA batteries which are included and it's compatible with TiVo Series 3 and Series 4 models. The price is $90. That's not cheap, to be sure, and we really wish it was included with the current Premiere models or at least the Premiere XL. That said, if you're already a devoted TiVo owner who's sticking with the DVR for the foreseeable future, the TiVo Slide remote is a must-have accessory. I'm John Falcone for CNET and this is the TiVo Slide remote. -The bottom line this week, must-have accessory. That should have been included in the box. Come on, TiVo. Vizio's doing it. Alright. That's our show for this week, everyone. Join us next week on the CNET Tech Review when we'll have all the news from Apple's September 1st music event. Until then, there are tons of great videos available everyday at CNETtv.com. See you next time and thank you for watching.