CNET Tech Review
3D in your pocketThis week on the CNET Tech Review: new phones, tablets, and more phones from CTIA 2011; meet the headphones your Walkman always dreamed of; and we can't say enough about the Nintendo 3DS.
-This week on the CNET Tech Review, we have a host of new handsets and tablets from CTIA 2011. Do these retro headphones recall the '80s or the otts? And everything you wanted to know and more about the Nintendo 3DS. 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, we offer some unique tech wisdom in the form of The Bottom Line. Let's get started with the good. Spring is in the air or at least it's supposed to be. So, people from all over country packed up their sunblock and headed down to sunny Florida to show off their mobile devices at CTIA 2011. God, people! This year, the big stories at the show are 4G, 3D, and, of course, tablets. Let's start things off with a pair of 4G phones, including an old favorite that's making a comeback. -Hi, I'm Kent German, Senior Editor at CNET.com. I'm here at CTIA 2011 in Orlando, Florida. I wanna show you the Samsung Nexus S. This is the new version for Sprint. They're calling it the Samsung Nexus S 4G. Two interesting things about this Nexus S: it is the first Nexus device to come to a CDMA carrier; it also is the first Nexus phone to be on a 4G network, whereas this is Sprint, so it runs on WiMAX--so, two firsts really about this phone. Now, this looks exactly like the T-Mobile device we saw last year. It's pretty thin, feels a little bit fragile in the hand like we saw last year, but I think it's a nice-looking phone. It is very slim. It does have that contoured display, so that means you'll see a very, very slight curve. It is a Super AMOLED display, so it's really bright, it's really colorful. A couple of negative things about this phone is there's no LED notification. So, when you get a message or a voicemail and if the screen is dark, there's not gonna be any sort of light that pops up here. You see that on a lot of Android phones. Also, the phone does not have a mirco SD card slot. It does have several gigs of internal storage, so that should be fine. But, we do like an external card slot just for extra. Also, it has a personal organizer. It does have a wireless hotspot. Of course, if you use that feature, you will have to sign up for the extra $29.99 Sprint plan. That's $29.99 a month. Also, you'll have to get the extra $10 a month for this 4G service, and that's all on top of at least a $69.99 Sprint Everything Plan. So, a little bit of investment when you get this phone as far as the monthly plan goes. It's gonna be available on April, $199 with a 2-year contract. But still, if you like that stock Android experience, luckily Sprint hasn't ruined that. Gingerbread, stock Android, so if you're an Android purist, definitely a good phone for you. I'm Kent German at CTIA 2011 with the Samsung Nexus S 4G. -Hey, everyone. I'm Bonnie Cha, Senior Editor at CNET.com, and we're here in Orlando for CTIA 2011 taking a first look at the T-Mobile Sidekick 4G. This is the new Sidekick and it's made by Samsung this time around. They've kept some of the old along with the new. Some of the old features that will be familiar to Sidekick users are these 4 buttons around here, and it has a slide-up screen now. But you get this great keyboard, five-row keyboard, with dedicated number keys and an emoticon key. I really like the keyboard. It's very spacious. Even though the buttons look small, they're-- they're really easy to use and tactile. The Sidekick 4G is the first Sidekick to have a touchscreen. It measures 3.5 inches diagonally. So, it's nice that you can also use the touchscreen to navigate the phone in addition to the shortcut keys, as well as this joystick. On back, you've got a 3-megapixel camera and there is also a VGA camera on front for video calls, so that's a great new feature. Of course, the big change here is that the Sidekick 4G is now running the Android operating system. They've made some tweaks to make it more Sidekick-ish, such as the dedicated wallpaper. It also has enhanced messaging features including Group Text so you can text message a group of people, as well as Cloud Text, which is the Web app that allows you to text and receive messages from your computer. Overall, the Sidekick 4G looks like a great device. I know some people were a little bit wary when they said they were discontinuing the Sidekick service. But I think the move to Android is a good one and it's gonna be available coming in the spring. The pricing is $99.99 with a 2-year contract with unlimited data. So, this is a very fair price. They will also offer it for $149.99 if you want to get the $10 data plan, which gives you about 250 megabytes of data. So, we're looking forward to bringing the T-Mobile Sidekick 4G in for testing and see if it lives up to the Sidekick name. I'm Bonnie Cha and this has been your first look at the T-Mobile Sidekick 4G. -It is such a relief to see that the Sidekick isn't gone forever and nice update. As I mentioned, 3D phones are a big deal at CTIA this year and, no, that doesn't mean you'll have to strap on a pair of goofy glasses to use your new 3D phone, but you probably won't find yourself ducking to avoid flying angry birds either. Take a look. -I'm Nicole Lee, Senior Associate Editor for CNET.com, and this is a first look at the LG Thrill 4G--the first-ever 3D smartphone to come to the US. This is essentially AT&T's version of the LG Optimus 3D. As you can see on the front, it has a very attractive 4.3-inch WVGA display, and it's 3D; when you press the 3D button on the side here to enter into the 3D app mode that lets you get access to a variety of 3D apps. That includes a variety of 3D games and apps, and you can also upload 3D videos to YouTube. The 3D on the Thrill 4G looks amazing. Even though you can't really see on the camera here, it does really pop out in real life. You don't need any glasses to view the 3D effects. Just your own eyes will do. On the back of the phone are two 5-megapixel cameras that can record in 3D. It can record 3D in 720p and 2D in 1080p. The OS is Android 2.2 Froyo, but AT&T has said that it will be upgradable to Android 2.3 Gingerbread. The LG Thrill 4G, as the name suggests, is compatible with AT&T's HSPA Plus or 4G network. The LG Thrill 4G is available later this year. We don't yet know the pricing and availability however. The LG Thrill 4G has a very speedy, dual-core processor. I'm Nicole Lee and this has been a first look at the LG Thrill 4G. -Hi, I'm Kent German, Senior Editor here at CNET.com. I'm here at CTIA 2011 in Orlando, Florida, and I wanna show you one of Sprint's new phones they're announcing at the show. This is the HTC EVO 3D. So, of course, this is an upgrade to the EVO line. It's the latest in that series. A few-- a few unique things about this phone is it does record and play 3D video, and that's without the aid of glasses. Now, we've seen a phone like this before. We saw one at Mobile World Congress from LG. It was the LG Optimus 3D. This is-- they're very much the same concept. Here in the back, you see those two 5-megapixel cameras. And on the front, you'll have that 1.3-megapixel camera that can be used for video chat. Also, you can take self portraits with it as well. But, it's really those 2 cameras on the back that are the real star here. On the side, there's a switch for changing between 3D video and 2D video. You'll also see a camera control here on the top. It comes with an 8-gig card. It will hold up to 32 gigs, and there's 4 gigs of memory on the phone. Now, the handset does run Gingerbread, so that's a nice sign; nice to see more phones coming out with Gingerbread. But, of course, since it does that 3D, I wanna give you a little demonstration of that. So, we'll just choose-- we'll just choose the gallery here. So, the effect is gonna be pretty subtle here. It won't really jump out at you. I mean, of course, 3D is supposed to do that. It's gonna be very much like the Optimus 3D. It's gonna be-- the things will kinda float off the screen. You will see some depth. Of course, you-- you don't need glasses as I said. So, you just need a minute to watch. So, I'll switch between photos, and you see it still looks likes a still photo at first, and then we see that 3D effect pop in. I think it is kinda cool. It's definitely something that I can imagine myself using. I can't imagine myself using it a lot. I don't think that it really provides an experience that-- that's just gonna blow me away and just gonna change my smartphone experience. But I do think it's a pretty cool thing. It is really nice to have. I mean, it's good to see some innovation in that way. The phone has a 1.2 gigahertz processor, so it will be running pretty fast. It has all the Android applications you'd expect from Google. It has a personal organizer; of course, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, messaging, e-mail, instant messaging--so, all of those things you'd expect on a smartphone are gonna be here. This really is about that 3D shooting video. So, as I've said, you shoot video on the back with a 3D camera, you don't have to shoot 3D, and you can take the 3D photos with those lenses on the back. I do like the effect of switching between home screens. It's sorta like a cube. See? You can go like that. You can see that they sort of rotate around. It is running HTC Sense in addition to Gingerbread. Of course, that also means that if you pinch, you get the Leap feature, which shows you every-- all the home screens you have (you get up to 7), and you can just then go directly to the one you want by clicking it. So, it's a pretty nice feature I think. I'm here at CTIA 2011. I'm Kent German with the HTC EVO 3D. -Now, yes, some of the 3D effects might seem a little gimmicky, but I do remember people saying the same thing when regular old cameras started showing up in phones. In fact, I was one of them because I'm old. Anyway, before we bid CTIA adieu, let's check out some tablets as Jessica shows us a trio of 7-inchers from ZTE, and Bonnie has her hands full with a pair of Galaxy Tabs. -Hi, this is Jessica Dolcourt from CNET here at CTIA taking a first look at the ZTE Light. Now, this is a family of three 7-inch tablets. They're all running Android 2.2 Froyo right now, but they may be upgradeable to Honeycomb in the future. There are 3 models. They go from basic, basic plus 4G, and also a more upscale model. We're looking right now at the LTE Light Basic model. This has a 3-megapixel camera on the back, a VGA camera on the front, and a 600 megahertz processor. The LTE Light 2, the more upscale model, has a 1 gigahertz processor plus DLNA support, and a much, much better screen. The model that I'm holding right now has this glossy black front and a sort of metallic backing. It feels pretty good in the hand, pretty smooth, not too heavy, and it's fairly thin. So, this is definitely looking like some of the other tablets that we've seen and it does have that portability. Although all 3 of these tablets have been launched globally, there is no pricing or carrier information yet in the US, so stay tuned. I'm Jessica Dolcourt and this is the ZTE Light family of tablets. - Hey, everyone. I'm Bonnie Cha, Senior Editor at CNET.com, and we're here in Orlando for CTIA 2011 where Samsung unveiled 2 new tablets: the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. Unfortunately, the devices don't turn on, but we wanted to show you the-- the tablet because they are the world's thinnest tablets. They both measure 8.6 mm thin. So, that makes it thinner than the iPad 2, which comes in at 8.8 mm. These really beautifully-designed tablets has rounded edges, so it's really comfortable to hold, and it has a nice weight to it, and it has a nice premium feel unlike the 7-inch Galaxy Tab which I thought felt a little bit plasticky. I tend to like my devices a little smaller, so the 8.9-inch tablet really suits me. I'm-- I'm really loving the design on this. Both tablets will be running Android 3.0 Honeycomb, but on top of that, they are gonna be using Samsung's TouchWiz UX user interface, which is the first customizable user interface on top of Android. Some of the features include live panels where you add widgets and shortcuts, as well as an app tray that will help with multitasking. Also, it will have a dual-core processor, so you should get some good performance out of these tablets. They will be available this summer in the US as a Wi-Fi version. There will be a 16-gigabyte model and a 32-gigabyte model. HSPA Plus version will also come out this summer, and we are told that LTE and WiMAX will come out later this year. I'm really looking forward to checking out these tablets. Again, this is the Galaxy Tab 8.9 and the Galaxy Tab 10.1, and I'm Bonnie Cha from CNET.com. -Rest assured, I can confidently guarantee that future versions of the Galaxy Tab will, in fact, turn on eventually. I'm pretty sure. I would hope. All right, that's enough CTIA news for one day. For our complete coverage from the show, head over to cnettv.com. And let's take a break, but come right back for more Tech Review right after this. 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, it's time to leave Florida behind and head to New York City for the second half of this week's show. First up, Justin Yu tends to be a pretty hip guy. So, it's no surprise that he's a fan of this set of Editor's Choice-winning headphones that just scream retro cool. -Hi, I'm Justin Yu with CNET.com with the first look at the Koss PortaPro Headphones. With so many headphones coming out these days, it is hard to commit to just one pair without listening to them first. But, why not choose one that's withstood over 20 years of competition? The Koss PortaPros actually came out in 1984, and they've since become a cult favorite for their unique design and their excellent fidelity, and they also have a lifetime warranty that makes their $50 price tag even more appealing. So, first off, there's no mystery about what decade inspired these headphones. Their retro-looking ear cups may look weird to you, but they do actually serve a purpose. The main earbuds here are secured by this extra padding up top by your temple, and there's even a comfort zone switch on the side that lets you adjust the tension against your temple. Now, our single complaint with the physical build is that these 2 floating piece headbands don't have a lock to keep it in place. So, Koss intended this piece to cut out the complicated adjustment process every time you put them on your head. It's kind of automatic when you stick them on. But it's also easy for hair to get stuck in the metal sliders, and it doesn't happen that often, but just enough to where we can't quite overlook it. Now, the PortaPros also fold up and clip together for convenient storage and this tiny clip in the middle here keeps the 2 sides bound together and organized. Looks aside, the reason why the PortaPros are still being sold is because of their upper-tier fidelity. The retro look is a hit or miss, but you can't really argue with their ability to pump out a ton of bass. Koss also managed to find the recipe for an impressively well-balanced headphone that's suitable across all genres. That's with excellent clarity and overall sound that weighs slightly heavier in the low end. And although they're not specifically designed for sound isolation, the over-the-ear or circumaural design does an excellent job of blocking out ambient noise without leaking your music to everyone else around you. Best of all, Koss backs the $50 PortaPros with a no-questions-asked lifetime warranty. We actually tested this out for ourselves with a broken pair. All it takes is $6 to cover shipping and 2 weeks later, we received a brand new set of PortaPros with a thank you note from Koss. All things considered, you can certainly spend quadruple the amount of a nice set of custom earphones or a pair of headphones designed to compliment your home theater. But, if you don't wanna spend a lot and just need a set of durable, dependable headphones and listen to on the go or at work, the versatile Koss PortaPros are in our solid CNET Editor's Choice Award and are sure to impress you as well. You can read the full review on CNET.com, but that's gonna do it for me. I'm Justin Yu. These are the Koss PortaPro Headphones and that sounds good to me. -In fact, Justin likes these headphones so much they've been on the Editor's Choice list since he first reviewed them 3 years ago. That's like a lifetime in the tech world. Sadly, I don't think we'll be able to say the same thing about the laptop in our next video. It's time for Dan Ackerman and this week's entry in the bad. -I'm Dan Ackerman and we are here taking a look at the Gateway NV 51B. Now, listen. We don't really like cheap laptops, probably like inexpensive laptops. The difference is a cheap laptop is made of cheap components and really underperforms; an inexpensive laptop spends its budget wisely using reasonably-priced components, selling a few for a reasonable price, and keeping your expectations in check. This is one of the first handful of laptops to use AMD's new Fusion platform, which combines a CPU and a discrete GPU. Usually, we've seen these in 11-inch ultraportables where they're sort of nice step up from that old Intel Atom model: better performance, better built-in graphics, decent battery life. Putting that kind of low power chip however in a bigger 15-inch laptop is potentially a recipe for disaster. We saw a Toshiba not too long ago that used the slower E-250 version of this AMD CPU and that was a complete disaster. This system however uses the faster E-350 version, so it passes that bar, remains a pretty usable 15-inch budget-priced laptop. It's not gonna knock out. As long as you keep your expectations modest, it's going to do pretty well. The first thing we noticed, even though it's made completely of plastic, looks and feels like a plastic laptop, there's kind of this weird wood grain pattern built right into it. You can see it here in the wrist rest and also on the back of the lid. It adds a little visual flare, not truthfully super necessary. You get the same sort of flat key keyboard that you find on a lot of Gateway laptops these days. There's room for a number pad because the chassis is nice and wide. But you've got this little rinky dink touchpad right here with a rocker bar instead of separate buttons. That's always a no-no in our book. We would've liked to see a much bigger touchpad because this is a fairly large screen laptop. Performance wise, as long as you keep in mind this is an under-$500 15-inch laptop, you shouldn't be too disappointed. The multitasking was a little bit slow, but those AMD built-in graphics were good enough for some basic casual gaming and even streaming HD full-screen video. We checked out some Netflix, we checked out some YouTube trailers, and it played HD video pretty well, which is not something you can say about every sub-$500 15-inch laptop. As long as you keep your expectations modest and you don't mind getting a little bit of an odd wood grain pattern in your plastic, this is one of the cooler budget 15-inch laptops in a category where there are not too many entries in these days that we've seen in a while. I'm Dan Ackerman and that is the Gateway NV 51B. -It's nice to know that Dan can appreciate a nice, wide chassis. But the takeaway here seems to be keep your expectations modest--hardly a ringing endorsement. All right, with that, let's go ahead and check out this week's Bottom Line. Is it just me or does it feel like we've been talking about the Nintendo 3DS for ages? We have. But as much as we've covered it already, it finally goes on sale this weekend, and now Jeff Bakalar can have his final word. Please settle in for Jeff's definitive review of the new handheld. -What's going on everyone? I'm Jeff Bakalar for CNET.com and today, it is our final first look at the Nintendo 3DS portable gaming system. Now, as you all know, the 3DS is the follow-up to the DS which, believe it or not, is the best selling portable gaming console of all time. They've sold 145 million units of this thing. So, Nintendo had a lot of work cut out in designing the 3DS. The 3DS is the first portable console to ever display a 3D image without the need for special glasses. Now, the big question is, does it actually work? And yeah, it does, and it works really well actually. The best way I've been able to describe the illusion for people is to imagine those old Magic Eye images where you sorta had to cross your eyes to see the 3D image. There's no eye crossing needed for the 3DS, but it does work and it works really well. Now, will it make you sick? Maybe, it depends on how sensitive you are to 3D. There's a 3D slider up here on the top screen, which allows you to adjust the intensity of the 3D effect. So, if you're feeling a bit nauseous, maybe you have a headache and you're not really digging the 3D, just turn this off and the image will go into 2D and you can play fine, no problem. The 3D doesn't give you any advantage over 2D. You can't look around corners or anything like that. It just enhances the experience. So, on the outside of the 3DS, it looks a lot like the DS Lite. On the front lid are the 2 cameras. They're 0.3-megapixel cameras, the same cameras you had on the DSi and the DSi XL. Kinda bummed out, wish they would go a little bigger with that, but they didn't. These 2 lenses, side by side, are what allow you to take 3D photos; also has a gyroscope and a motion sensor, which is pretty cool. On the back you'll see the stylus, the game card port, an infra-red port, left and right buttons. On one side is the wireless switch, and on the other side are the volume slider and the SD card slot. On the inside, once again, looking a lot like a Nintendo DS Lite, except this time around, we've got an analog stick on the left side and the unit, which is really cool. There's a select, home, and start button at the bottom below the touchscreen, and the power button is in a new location and it looks a little different now, too. Overall, aesthetically speaking, that's all there is different in this model. It also comes with a charging dock, which allows you to place the 3DS in a dock and charge, which is pretty cool. Online functionality isn't really enabled yet. But in May, it's coming and it'll come with a virtual console that's gonna let you play Game Boy games, Game Boy Advance games, and classics that Nintendo will redo in 3D. Also, there's gonna be support for Netflix. Not sure about 3D video but the 3DS can play 3D video, so we would expect some sort of marketplace for studios who are offering content, and you'll probably pay a price and download the videos you wanna watch. Also, there'll be the 3DS eShop, so no more Nintendo points. They're going for straight cash pay service. What we really like is connecting to the Internet, with the 3DS, is easier than ever. You pick your wireless ID, you enter your password, you're connected. It can save up to a couple SSIDs. So, if you leave your house where it's connected to Wi-Fi and you come to some place else where you have inputed the information, it'll know to switch right over and you'll be connected all the time. And we really like what they did with friend codes. Even though they're annoying and you will have to enter them, they're a 12-digit code, you only have to enter them once. So, once you have a friend's friend code, you enter it into your friend's list, and you're done. You'll never have to enter it again. What we really like about the system software is this home button down below. It lets you suspend any app or game you're using, and you can go and-- and check out some of the features that are-- are available in the home screen, like your friend's list and something they're calling Game Notes, which essentially allows you to take notes while you're playing a game. So, if there's something you don't really have pen and paper for you wanna write down about a specific game, you pop it in the game notes and you can access that at any time. The 3DS' launch line-up isn't amazing. It's about 16 games not including the ones that come bundled in. We really like the "Pilotwings Resort" game and also the "Super Street Fighter IV 3D Edition." That's a lot of fun to play as well. Now, some games you'll be playing in 3D and you're gonna be button mashing, and you'll realize that you accidentally synced out the 3D effect. That's the problem. The 3D viewing angle on the 3DS is very sensitive. So, if you're moving it around, which some games do require because of the gyroscope and the motion sensor, you're gonna sometimes take yourself out of that 3D effect, which is kind of upsetting. Everyone knows the old Nintendo DS games came in sort of a brown box. The new 3DS games come in a slimmer, white box. So, just side by side, the new 3DS game cartridge, as opposed to the old DS one, the new one is gray and it's got a little nub at the top. That's really the only different. Overall, the 3DS is a worthy successor to the DS franchise. But as we all know, the gaming market continues to evolve and we're just not sure how much longer Nintendo will be able to get away with offering a device that focuses on gaming only. There's really not too much other functionality here, some music player and stuff like that. But it's not making phone calls anytime soon. So, it'll be interesting to see what the 3DS does in the mobile gaming market now that it's become such a popular franchise. We're just not sure how long Nintendo's gonna be able to get away with offering a gaming-centric device, especially considering there's a lot of competition, and they all seem to be making all-in-one devices. So, Nintendo certainly has an interesting road ahead. I'm Jeff Bakalar for CNET.com and this has been the Nintendo 3DS. -The Bottom Line this week, will it make you sick? Maybe. Congratulations, Jeff! I think you just found Nintendo's new slogan for the 3DS, and maybe all those 3D phones coming out of Florida. Good times. All right, folks. That's our show for this week. We'll be back next week with a brand new edition of CNET Tech Review. Until then, there are tons of great videos available everyday at cnettv.com. See you next time and thank you for watching.