CNET Tech Review
Don't mess with NexusThis week on the CNET Tech Review: Samsung's Galaxy Nexus is a little flimsy, but Ice Cream Sandwich sure is tasty; the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet offer readers true tablet functionality; and get to know Google Music.
-This week on the CNET tech review. It's all android all the time, almost. We got a taste of ice cream sandwich running on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, 2 new tablets from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and how to make Google Music work for you plus Brian Cooley's favorite cars of the year so far. 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 our own unique tech wisdom in the form of the bottom line. Let's start things off with the good. Smartphone and android fans have been waiting a long time for arrival of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, although the phone itself isn't as exciting as the OS running it. Kent German has our first look at this hotly anticipated handset. Hi, I'm Kent German, Section Editor here at CNET.com. Today, we're gonna take a first look at the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Now, if you're an Android fan, and even if you're not, you probably know about this phone. This is an Unlocked GSM version. We're using it on T-Mobile. This is the first phone to offer Ice Cream Sandwich, which is Google's newest operating system or the newest update of its operating system. Now, Ice Cream Sandwich has a whole lot of stuff in it. I'm gonna concentrate on the phone for this video though. When you take away Ice Cream Sandwich, you're left with actually a pretty standard Android device. It does look like the Nexus S and a lot of the Galaxy S phones before it. So, you notice it has that same really thin profile, the dark color. It has that contour design, which is designed to mimic the shape of your head. It is pretty big. It has a 4.65 Super AMOLED display. The funny thing though is because you have this bar down here at the bottom that has icons to keep you rotated in and out, not all of the screen is useable. It's pretty big for a smartphone, not so big for Ice Cream Sandwich, which Jessica will talk about, but this display is bright. It's colorful. It's vivid. You get 5 home screens. You can populate them as you like. You can cycle through a couple of pages here between widgets and apps. If you go over here, you'll see a big tray of widgets and then you can drag these to the home screens. Down at the bottom, you have 3 controls. There's Back; there is one that will take you home; and there's a button that will open the screens that you've seen recently. On the back, you have a little bit of a texture material. It is a nice change over the sleek exterior here. I have to say that like a lot of Samsung Galaxy devices and like the Nexus S, it does feel very light in the hand. It almost feels a little too fragile, but it just feels just a little wispy and I really would be afraid of dropping it even once on a hard surface. I just feel that it would break and sometimes I even get the feeling like it could snap in halve. So, that's something Samsung has always done, just their devices don't seem that rugged or sturdy. Internal features that don't have to do with Ice Cream Sandwich, you'll find everything there that you're used to. You'll get Messaging. You'll get the Organizer apps. You'll get access to the Android Market, all the Google apps. There is a 5-megapixel camera. It does have a camcorder. Everything you like about Google will be in this phone. Of course since it is a Nexus device, it is a pure Google experience, so there's no sort of manufacturer overlay or any kind of carrier overlay, so you don't have to deal with HTC Sense or Motoblur or anything like that. I do like the design of this phone. I like the features, but of course just remember when you take out Ice Cream Sandwich, you don't have a whole lot there. Ice Cream Sandwich is really what this phone is about. I'm Kent German, and this is the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. -Gosh, Kent, please do be careful with that phone. It's the only one with gyro around here. I guess, he was able to keep from breaking it long enough for Jessica Dolcourt to get her hand on it as Kent promised, here's your first look at the latest version of android Ice Cream Sandwich. -It is finally here, the next version of android, which is better known as Ice Cream Sandwich, and guess what, it is enormous. I'm Jessica Dolcourt for CNET and I'm gonna show you around. Okay, well, I can show everything because we don't have half an hour, but I will hit the high points. First of all, there is the interface. Google has pretty much rework, almost every single element making it look really fresh, but also familiar. Since one of the goals was creating one single operating system for tablets and smartphones, there are lot of element from the tablet focused honeycomb OS in here like the on screen navigational controls. Ice cream sandwich loses the search and menu navigation buttons, but it gave the button to see most recent programs just like on Honeycomb. Search is definitely more prominent as well, and Google has tried to do a way with meeting a menu. You can launch voice controls from the microphone button and the search bar. Menu button by the way now look like 3.: Folders are another new feature. As an iOS, you just drag and drop icons on top of one another to creat a new folder. There are 5 icons on the bottom of the home screens and you can customize these 2 just by dragging and dropping them off and on. The notifications tray looks really beautiful now, and you can swipe away notifications that you no longer want to see, that sort of a new hidden feature. The app tray looks pretty similar as before, but now it also holds widgets that you can drag and drop to the home screens and even resize. I personally think that the widgets portion looks a little bit cluttered and the grid indicators are really confusing if you don't know what they are there for. I do like the android market button that you can access from any screen with an app tray. Google has also completely re-worked out it handles contacts. The entire look and feel of the app is new and so as how you use it. The key is to tap your buddy's contact image to call, text, or e-mail. When you dial, the phone goes into full screen mode, which looks cool, but it doesn't really fit into static of the home screens and when you get an incoming cool, you can drag the ring over one or 2 icons to either answer, hang up, send to text. G-Mail gets some really need enhancements as well. There are new graphics of course, but also some neat touches and really clean and logical interface. For example, when start typing a name, Google will auto suggest the address and include your friend's photos as well. The menu bar makes it really easy to add attachments and get to settings and there are some really great spell check features too plus you can simple drag and drop selected text now. Not just press buttons to cut and paste. The camera app also got a makeover and the biggest change is that panorama mode is now front and center. I'm not really sure that this is necessary, but it is a nice feature to have regardless. It works smoothly in my test too, but even better in my opinion is the gallery, which gets new icons for easily sharing photos and it gets a full suit of editing tools and those come reduced eye, sharpen, straighten, crop, correct filler, and also add a text. The video tool, let's you do time lapse now, which is very cool, and it also add some silly effect, which are fun, but also frankly very creepy. There are also some wacky in sort of impractical backgrounds that you can superimpose into your videos for an extra life. The one thing I don't like about the gallery is how cluttered and visually busy the tiles are when you're looking at your pictures or screen shots, and I wish there was more space between them because my eyes are frankly just going a little bit nuts trying to find the photo I want in midst to all of these. Now, I know that what you really wanna know about is unlocking the phone with your face. Google admits that face unlock isn't the most secure especially a doppelganger of yours or a photo of you will also unlock the phone, but it is cool to see facial recognition implemented in android, but seriously it's more of a conversational piece than anything else. I'm sure that you also want to know about android being, which uses of radio frequency standard called NFC to pass information from one compatible phone to another. Since all I have is the one phone right here, I have not been able to test this feature at the moment. So, overall, Ice Cream Sandwich is a really huge update that touches almost all of the attributes of the android. It's powerful and yes, it succeeds any many, many areas. However, there is a little bit of discord when it comes to some of the graphical themes that I think can be a little confusing, and honestly, it shouldn't be there as part of a polished immature operating system. I also think that Ice Cream Sandwich will look even better on a tablet than it does on the phone. So, Google has little bit of work to do, but this really is serious stuff up into android adulthood. I'm Jessica Dolcourt, you can read the full review of Ice Cream Sandwich and the Galaxy Nexus Smartphone on cnet.com. -Ice Cream Sandwich seems to be following the general android trend, pretty amazing, but not all the way baked, so pretty good start. In other android news, the last couple of weeks, we have seen the arrival of 2 new full pledged tablets from 2 major e-Book retailers. First up, Scott Stein is here to show up the latest from Barnes & Noble, the simply named Nook Tablet. Hi, I'm Scott Stein, senior editor at CNET.com and last year the Nook color changed the tablet landscape for a lot of people by introducing an affordable $250 7-inch color tablet that actually was writable and was android device and can compete with the iPad and a price that nobody had really thought about before. This holiday, it's up beyond to you because the Amazon has the Kindle Fire, which is a 7-inch android tablet to compete with the Nook Color. Barnes and Noble has fired back by introducing the Nook tablet. Now, this is sort of the iPhone 4S to iPhone 4 of Nook products because from the outside, this looks a lot like the Nook Color. Now, there are some definite design changes in terms of the finish and the feel, also get Teflon type soft touch on the sides here, but it really does look like a nook color, but the inwards are changed to dual core processor. There is 1 gig of RAM and this has an improved screen. There is an IPS display made by LG. Now, the storage options are also improved. There are 16 gigabytes of on board storage with a micro SD card slot that's upgradable to an extra 32 gigabytes of storage. That's a big deal because the Kindle Fire has only 8 gigabytes of board storage of which only about 6 gigabytes are accessible. So, there is a big leap in terms of what you can store on Barnes and Noble's Nook tablet, but what the nook lacks is a cloud ecosystem that's comparable what Amazon gives you. Amazon has a cloud music player. They have video on demand that's really great and a real turn up to iTunes, and of course they have their book assortment, and there are wide variety of color magazines that also allows subscriptions if you already have the print versions. There is also a large app library, but it's not the same. There's an android gingerbread tablet, but it doesn't taste like gingerbread because it's developed using its closed system that has a curated selection of apps. You will get some of the big hits like Pandora, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Angry Birds, but you're not gonna be able to get that large variety unless you start playing Rudy, Tudy, Fresh and Fruity and root your tablet, then you could play around with some other features, but for everybody else you're gonna get a close environment. Still, it's gonna provide most of those big basic features and a nice web browsing experience, but maybe not quite as refined as what we saw on the kindle fire. Now, what really boils down is how much of a side loader are you, and what I mean side load, I mean loading in media from your computer as opposed to streaming it on your device. If you're that type of person and that ranges from MP3 files to with video, probably that stuff that's not DRM, then the Nook tablet is gonna be that type of device for you. In fact, they are counting on you to make it that type of device with that type of storage. It doesn't mean you can use cloud video of a sort. In fact, Netflix and Hulu plus look fantastic on the screen. In fact, it looked a little bit better than it did on the Kindle Fire, and the IPS display has really nice viewing angles, nice sharp colors, and good definition. So, it seems like a video experience that really holds up in streaming to what you get on iPad. It feels not that dense, but definitely holdable in 1 hand and something maybe you could take out on the town with you, take on a trip a little bit easier than an iPad, but the limitations of that display especially with web browsing don't quite feel the same as what you get on a large 10-inch screen like an iPad, but they are different devices. This is a $250 device that is half the price of what you pay for an iPad and gives a lot of people a really nice feature set of what they look for and what they think of as a tablet. Now, if you're shopping for the holidays and looking at the Nook Tablet versus the kindle fire, which a lot of people are that extra $50 is getting twice the storage, and expandable card slot. Arguably, it's nicer looking screen and performance details, maybe a little bit zippier, but you're giving up those services and if you're using a kindle already where there are a lot of books and hey if you're prime subscriber and you're paying $79 a year, there's a lot of free content that Amazon is angling to you as an incentive to with the Kindle Fire. Now, while the Nook color still out there and it's 50 bucks less, and has a few improvements over the last year's model. If you're buying a Nook product this year, spend the extra $50, go with the Nook Tablet and be glad for its improved specs and storage. I'm Scott Stein and that's a look at the Barnes and Noble Nook tablet. -Biggest selling point there, the extra storage especially if you are big down loader and we'll have more on the second big tablet of the week the amazon kindle fire later in the show, so you can compare. Now, even though Google Music isn't totally android centric, it's really android users who could potentially benefit most from the new service. Google Music officially came out of beta this week and Donald Bell has a first look. - Hey, I'm Donald Bell and this is a First Look at Google Music. This is Google's music store and Cloud locker and a real competitor to iTunes and Amazon. On the web, you can access the Google Music store by heading to market.android.com/music, and here you're gonna find a curated selection of songs and albums along with top songs and a free song of the day. When you dive into an album page, you'll see album info and pricing along with track listings that offer 90-second song previews. You also notice a section here for similar artists down here on the left for discovering more music. After purchasing a song or an album, the music gets instantly transferred over to your online Google Music library in a high-quality 320 kbps MP3 format. You also have a Share button here that will show your music purchase to your friends on Google's social network and allow them to listen to the full track once for free. Now unlike most music stores, your purchased music doesn't automatically download to your computer. If you really want the file, you'll need to find it on Google's Music library and select the Save to Computer option. This option is only here for music you purchased from Google. You can upload up to 20,000 additional songs from your own computer and stream them at no charge, but you can't download them back down like you can with purchased tracks. The real payoff here is for Android phone users. The music store is also accessible for the mobile version of Android market and your purchased and uploaded music tracks can be streamed back down to you using Google's music app. Now, it's worth noting that the Google Music app is a different app than what probably came installed on your phone. It's a free download, but if it doesn't have this black headphone icon, you've got the wrong app. iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users can also access and stream their music collection by heading to music.google.com on their Safari web browser. So there you go, that's Google Music in a nutshell. It's a clean-looking, well-priced music store with some smart Cloud innovation and convenient features for Android smartphone users. For CNET.com, I'm Donald Bell. -I got to say, I was hoping for a little bit more like slightly better integration with the existing android music app, understand, but androidies will be happy I'm sure, and with that let's take a brake. We'll be back with more android outlets, I mean CNET 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, Brian Cooley was in Los Angeles this week for the 2011 LA Auto Show adding to the amazing tally of cars that he sees and drives every year. Now, the can all be winners in his eyes, but in this week's Top 5, Brian is counting down the cars that he might just consider spending his own money on. - I check out a lot of new cars every year, about 100 that we showed here at CNET, almost that many at the world's big auto shows. But if you think I look at every one and want it, you're very wrong. I'm Brian Cooley with the Top 5, now really the only 5, cars I shot in 2011 that I ever looked into buying for myself. Number 5, the Ford Transit Connect. Yeah, I see you there looking at me like I have two heads, but I love the idea of a stand-up height van that isn't some huge, ponderous pain in the ass to drive and keep fueled. It's based on the Ford Focus, so things begin economical and stay that way. It has basically no tech, which is fine by me in something like this. I've got a smartphone, a window mount, and a AUX cable. We're good. Let's go haul some stuff. Number 4 was another Ford, the Mustang GT. I would have ranked it higher if it was the model wit the V6, which I think is the sweet spot in the Mustang line. Since that's a power train, you can drive at 7/10 in the real world unlike this affordable V8 monster which has a superb new 5.0-liter engine, one of the best interiors in the U.S. car business, great lines, I think, and Ford SYNC, though the interface needs a refresh. Number 3, the Kia Optima. This is actually my go-to car right now, all this year, really, when anyone ask me what car they should buy. It has handsome lines courtesy of ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer, an interior no car in this price class has a right to offer, plentiful and usable center stack technology, and real responsive drivability which is often overlooked in favor of performance stuff like HP and 0-60 stuff that you don't really care about. Number 2, the Fiat 500C. Now, I'm a Fiat partisan from way back as you may know, but that notwithstanding. I love how the Fiat leads the brand's return to the U.S. with stylish looks, a great modern version of the old retro ragtop, adequate tech and fun if underpowered drivability and all under 20 grand for a convertible. Step up to the more powerful Abarth version, we'll be testing soon and the car's story comes full circle. Before I get you to the number 1 car that I thought about for me this year , here are the three cars that I recall hating without having to even look back at my notes. The Mini Countryman; it costs too much, the stick is tired, and the one they sent us died and had to be hauled away. The Smart Fortwo; I had such high hopes for this little piece of crap. But Mercedes is gonna relaunch it in 2012 and I think it has about one more chance to come up a winner. And the Volkswagen EOS; first car we ever rebadged, not said. Okay, the number 1 car I configured and pencilled out for myself in a long, lovely 'what if' was the 911 Carrera GTS. Believe me, I'm as allergic to the whole 911 cliche as I bit you are, and they even sent us a yellow one, [unk], but on the road the GTS reminds you why this car is a classic. It's maybe the only car this year, maybe in the history of CNET Car Tech that I can say feels like an 'extension of the driver' and keep a straight face. It's light, it's responsive, it's built like an ingot of steel, but it's got serious power, right now power, but it's totally livable day to day. Lots of tech, yes, but they still tray a BMW and Audi in that respect, but that's not the point. No car I drove all the 2011 succeeded so well at delivering what it set out to do. Okay, you can find all my car videos include those of cars you love and I don't at CNETTV.com. Just pull down Car Tech under Tech Shows tab and find more Top 5's like this at top5.cnet.com. I'm Brian Cooley. Thanks for watching. -Of course, don't [unk] Cooley to actually add any of those cars to his sleeve any time soon, as regular car tech fans know, he's still pretty partial to that Ford Country Squire. Me though, I definitely would not mind seeing that Porsche in my driveway with the big red bow on it this Christmas. I love those big red bows, but I can't say the same thing about the TV that's coming up next in the back. It may feel like we are picking on TV manufacturers in this section lately, but let's face it. If you can't put out a TV with decent picture quality, what else is it good for? In the example we're about to see, It seems as if Vizio has forgotten the main reason that people by a TV in the first place. -David Katzmaier here and I'm sitting next to the Vizio E3D0VX Series. This is the 42-inch member of the series. There's also a 32 and a 47-incher. This is the least expensive 3D TV on the market. Vizio actually includes 2 pairs of 3D glasses here which makes the TV a better overall value than the cheaper 3D plasmas that are available. We'll get to that in a little bit. But first, let's take a look at the other features on this TV and its styling. Styling is not really a great point. It has a sort of dimple here in the middle underneath the screen. It kind of interrupts the speaker grille altogether; a pretty chunky look of the stand that doesn't swivel. On the flip side, design-wise, we really did like this flipper remote. Vizio does include a full QWERTY keyboard on the back side of its remote which is really cool for navigating apps and typing in passwords, doing searches, stuff like that. So, it's a real help. We wish more manufacturers would include it because obviously this TV is pretty darn inexpensive and to throw in that remote didn't add all that much of a price. The downside comparing to the flipper found on some Samsung TVs is that this TV doesn't have Bluetooth, so you have to actually keep the remote aimed at the TV while you're typing. So, unless you have something interrupting your line of sight that shouldn't be too difficult. TV also includes built-in Wi-Fi to access all those internet features, so we really like that. You don't have to run a wire to this TV and the Wi-Fi worked very well in our testing. Of course, speaking of internet, it does include Vizio's VIA applications platform which includes Netflix, Amazon Video on Demand, Vudu and all the major services. There's also Pandora. There isn't YouTube however, but that's not really a big deal in our opinion. We did like the Rhapsody app which, of course, only works for Rhapsody subscribers that allow you to stream unlimited music and also with few other apps. The interface, however, wasn't all that great. It includes this sort of strip along the bottom here. You can only see 4 at once so you gotta scroll a lot of if you have a lot of apps. Also, Application Discovery is not quite as advanced as a lot of the other TVs on the market. The connectivity on the Vizio is pretty darn good. Around back, you'll find 2 HDMI. There's also a third on the side. We also like that the inputs are labeled Good, Better, Best for people who are not too familiar with input quality. So, basically just plug in HDMI and it'll be fine. So as you can see, the Vizio is very well-featured but on the downside, its picture quality is not all that great in 2D. Its biggest flaws are relatively light black levels which wash out the darker parts of the picture and make the entire image look a little bit flatter and with less pop than some of the competing entry-level TVs. Video processing was also a weak point. The Vizio doesn't handle 1080p/24 source as well as some of the other TV we've tested. On the flip side, its color accuracy was very good and we did appreciate the matte screen which reject the ambient light well. Finally, it does have better uniformity than many of the other LED TVs we've seen. 3D picture quality on the Vizio was a mixed bag. It does have passive 3D which is brighter and has less crosstalk than an active 3D in general, and that's very good. On the down side, there is some visible line structure in text and some flat fields. We also saw that images are a little bit softer than some of the other TVs on the market. But again, 3D was pretty darn sharp all told. That's a quick look at the Vizio E3D0VX Series, and I'm David Katzmaier. -I know 3D is the hot new trend in TVs, but 99% of the stuff we're watching still 2D kind got to nail that, come on guys. Alright, let's keep on moving right on down to the bottom line. The much awaited Kindle Fire made its debut this week facing stiff competition from the Nook Tablet and of course the iPad. So, does it deliver? Let's find out. - Hey, I'm Donald Bell and this is a first look at the Kindle Fire, Amazon's $199 7-inch tablet. With 199 bucks [unk] here is a dead simple way to access digital entertainment. At the here, you will see categories for news stand, books, music, videos, docs, acts, and the web browser. With the exception of docs and the browser, each of those categories are going to toggle between the collection and Amazon's digital store for that content. Another interesting feature is that when you're looking at your collection, you get another toggle here between what stored on the device and the stuff you bought in the past that backed up to the cloud. This is really dramatic and the music views since amazon allows you to upload you entire music library to their cloud where you can stream your music and select songs our albums download. All the navigation is done on the screen, and when you're in app or menu, you'll see controls on the bottom. Settings are accessible at the top of the screen around the main menu beneath the categories. You get a nice big view of your recently used apps and files along with the shelf of your favorite stuff. This can be your favorite apps, books, albums or websites and add them by just holding down the icon up here. Beyond entertainment, you also get an e-mail client and a web browser. E-mails fairly straightforward and get some help from Amazon's own custom keyboard, which I personally liked. The web browser is typical for 7-inch android tablet, page load time is swift and I'm glad to see that there's a setting here that will force the browser into loading standard webpages instead of those smaller mobile versions made for cellphones. Still, in general, I'm not a big fan of browsing the web on a 7-inch screen. It's better than a smart phone, but still leaves you doing more zooming and scrolling than you would on a larger tablet like the iPad. As for what's missing, well, there is no GPS, no maps, no Bluetooth, no cameras, no microphone, no video output, no calendar, no card slot for extra memory, and I'm probably forgetting a few things, but let's go back to my original point. It's $199. At that price, I think it's a slum dunk. You're getting more entertainment options that on Barnes and Nobles' Nook tablet, more screen than Apple's $199 iPad touch, and an ease of use you really not gonna find at any price. Would I rather have an iPad, absolutely, but for $300 less, the Kindle Fire is a good enough option for those who are mostly looking entertainment or workable way to e-mail and browse the web from the couch. So, that's the kindle fire. It's all the fun stuff on a simple tablet with the great price, CNET.com, I'm Donald bell. -The bottom line this week, $199, sold. That price is about irresistible for all the little tablet can do especially if you're already a fan of everything Amazon. It is a horse race between the Fire and the Nook, but I think that 50 bucks could be all the different to me. Of course, if you don't need all those tablet features and you just want a solid e-Reader, the newest version of the Kindle touch is out now too for just $99, so many choices, and that's gonna do it for this week's show, but come back next time for an all new 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.