Holiday Help Desk 2010: LaptopsDan Ackerman offers up his top picks for bargain laptops from Amazon and Wal-Mart. And Best Buy calls in with a Sony TV bundle deal that has Molly drooling.
-Welcome to the Holiday Help Desk everyone. I'm Molly Wood here on the studio with Brian Tong and Natali Morris filling in for Brian Cooley. Actually, I just booted him right out of a chair 'cause she's here in the studio with us. We're very excited. -Too many Brians in the house -Exactly. -And for the next 40- Too many dudes in the house. -Dude. -And for the next 40 minutes, we're gonna be taking your questions, your calls about the best tech gift ideas for the season. We are not here to help you fix your computer. I'm super sorry. Maybe we can do that after the Holidays. But right now, just call us with shopping advice, will ya? -Yeah. We brought in some of your very special guest to help you guys out. First, CNET's own laptop guru extraordinaire, Mr. Dan Ackerman coming all the way from New York City. Dan, thanks for joining us. -[unk] via Skype. -Yes. Anything you need to know about laptops, he is your man. So make sure you guys gives us calls and he'll be able to answer them. Also, at Cheapskate, Rick Broida also checking in with us today. Rick, how are you doin'? -I'm good guys. How are you doin'? -Doing great. We can hear him loud and clear. And also, we'll check in with Best Buy, a little here in the show to hear about all their deals and what's hot and what's not over there. This is show number 3. Every Monday we do it, Holiday Help Desk and you guys wanna call us, right? -Right. If you wanna participate and you're joining us live, call in with your questions because we definitely want to hear them. It's 888-900-CNET or you can join in a whole separate conversation in the chat room. We are watching what you have to say. We'll help you answer your questions. The chat room is at cnet.com/live. You also can e-mail us, email@example.com. -And what's our fax number, guys? Just kidding! Don't fax us please. -Please don't fax us. -We're not gonna lie to you. It's very possible that the chat room will do some of the answering on our back. I just gotta put that out there. But before we get in to your calls and questions, it's time to talk to CNET's very own Cheapskate recorder who's very patiently hanging out in the bunker. How's it goin'? -The Cheapskate lair. -In the Cheapskate- Oh, lair is way cooler than bunker. We're totally [unk] for now. -There's a little mood lighting action going on. -I know. And I know- This is seriously my favorite part of the show because not only is it awesome in the sense that we get great deals, but it's so suspenseful because they sell out so fast. What do you got? What's goin' on on the Cheapskate Blog today? -Everybody loved me because he does like the [unk] on my basement. -I actually really like your basement. -I like the orange tinge walls personally. -Yeah. -And I like how he's got the Wii Fit sitting right behind him, so we can get up- -Oh, [unk]. I got too much going on in the background there. -I don't know. -Really. You had a sweet man cave. If you got kinda frustrated, you can get up and work it out on the Wii Fit. That's right. -That's what I do. -When the deal sells out, you're like [unk]. -Rick, just don't do that hula hoop game 'cause I don't really wanna see that. -There's an image, you build one. -Oh. -Alright. -So what do we got? -Okay. What do we got in deals? Deal [unk]. -Deals. Deals. Yes. So if the deal of the day was a pretty sweet all-in-one HP printer for 20 bucks from Walmart- -No way. -perhaps unsurprisingly it is sold out a couple of hours ago. So that's kaput, I'm afraid. But if you scroll down to the bottom of my Cheapskate post today, you'll see bonus deal number 2. It's pretty awesome in it's own right. As it is a 24-inch AOC LCD desktop monitor for $129.98 ship. I've seen 22-inch monitors and 23-inch monitors that weren't that cheap. This is a 24-inch for $130 out the door plus sales tax in most states and that is fantastic. -That's insane actually. -Yeah. -I'm kinda tempted to order that. -Yeah. -Actually, I'm tempted to order all of them, 129 bucks. -Yeah. And that's crazy. -In general, though, I kinda can't believe. I mean, I know it's sold out but I can't believe how low some of this prices. I mean $20 for an all-in-one printer. It's this like, "Are you shocked by the deals this season because it seems to me they're amazing? -Well, you know, I am and I'm not. I think that what's really interesting about that printer is that that was one of Walmart's doorbuster deals, like Black Friday. And now here it is, a couple of weeks later and anybody can get it or could get it and you don't have to stay in line in the cold at 4 a.m. So, I do think that the deals are awesome all year round. It's just a matter of knowing where to look, and you know where to look, it's at The Cheapskate. -That's right. Definitely. Thank you so much, Rick. We will of course be talking to you again next week, and have fun on Wii Fit there. Alright. -Thanks. -Rocking the yoga. Alright. Actually, though, before we get to your calls, again, let's look at our top pick in the laptop category. A little later, we actually do have our own Dan Ackerman here to talk about laptop picks. They're always a hot holiday gift. Here's Dan Ackerman with his top choice. -I'm Dan Ackerman and as Apple's new 11-inch MacBook Air is one of the snazziest, most popular laptops for the holiday season. We're gonna shine it under the harsh glare of the Product Spotlight. Now, 11-inch laptops have really become very popular in the latter half of 2010. Originally, they were all sorts of 10-inch Intel Atom netbooks, kind of low-power, low-cost systems but now you have 11-inch laptops with dual core ultra-low voltage CPUs that are nearly as powerful or nearly as full featured as regular 14-, 15-inch or even larger laptops. Apple's 11-inch MacBook Air is the latest version of that super thin series from Apple. If you remember the original MacBook Air, it was not rightful itself for only having one USB port. The new version actually doubles that to two. You're still missing basics like an SD card slot on the 11-inch version. There's actually an SD card slot on the 13-inch version of the MacBook Air now. In the 11-inch MacBook Air, you get an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU and Nvidia's basic 320 graphics that's actually very similar to what you'd find in the basic $999 white MacBook, although this is a low voltage version of that processor. What you do get, however, is pretty decent graphics for not truly discrete graphics and enough processing power to do basic tasks like word processing, web surfing, and streaming video, and pretty much what you'd wanna do with your laptop 99% of the time. One of the most interesting things about this new MacBook Air is this is the first MacBook with a 16 X 9 display which is pretty much what you'd find in any other type of laptop. It's a 1366 X 768 display. Actually the 13-inch MacBook Air along with the other MacBooks still has 16 X 10 displays. If this looks very familiar, that's because it's got the same flat key widely spaced keyboard that you see on other MacBooks along with the same large, multitouch trackpad. It's almost as big as the ones on the 13-inch MacBooks and, of course, it's got all those cool multitouch features like using the four-finger swipe here to get to all your windows. Pretty much no PC laptop has a touchpad that is as intuitive and works as smoothly with multitouch gestures. Of course, one of the reasons you really wanna get a MacBook Air is because they're so slim and so sleek. This guy is about 0.68 inches thick in the back, about 0.11 inches in the front, and when you open it up, it wakes up from the sleep state very quickly. In fact, it even turns on from a full stop almost as fast. If you're thinking that this new smaller screen size makes it look a little bit like an iPad just with a keyboard attached, well that actually makes sense. Apple is taking some of that iOS development and moving it into the MacBook line. In the case of the new MacBook Airs, you can actually close the lid, it will go into a super low power standby state and you can leave it for up 30 days without fully draining the battery. I'm Dan Ackerman and that's the new 11-inch MacBook Air. -Alright, welcome back everybody. We do have Dan Ackerman on the line from the New York studio, which is good because I wanna talk to you about this MacBook Air recommendation, really, really? -Video. Oh my god! How long was that video? I don't even remember shooting that. Where did that come from? -You might not know that you have so much to say. -I'm like, "Did I do that?" I guess not. They just keep going stretched and stretched, and I'm like, "Okay." Did I- -[unk] one topic, really? -I'll tell you. First of all, in laptop lid, what else are you gonna pick this holiday season. Secondly, guess you and I were in and dated with this stuff. We are surrounded with very jaded, like, "Oh, we doesn't have this and it's too much." When you walk down the street or sitting in a house or a coffee shop with a regular people who are not exposed of this stuff day in and day out like us, they invariably flipped over this thing. You really have to take yourself out of the CNET mind set and say I'm just a regular Joe. You know, when I see this, what is my reaction? And universally, it is been, "Wow, where do I get one of these?" -I can see that, but that's the same reaction that a regular Joe has to a Bentley but they don't buy it because they cost about a lot of money. It's not a good value. -But- -I would say $99.99 is not too badly. It sits right in the middle there. -Dan, are you saying then that CNET based their review recommendations of how often the common Joe just goes, "Oh my god!" -I have Oh My God! meter in my pocket. I have an iPhone app for that actually. -It's waited, right? -You can get that and grab that. It's waited 1 Oh My God equals about a half star there. We're doing stars, though. -But really, what are some of the specs that you'd really like about the MacBook Air specifically for you? -I mean, it's definitely gonna be the size and the weight and the fact that now this is where the iPad kind of know-how comes in. This is why the iPad is such a great device. Even though on paper, it doesn't seem that fantastic. But in person, it actually works because you get an instant gratification. You just pick it up. You turn on. It's on. Any of the laptop even if it just the sleep and not in hibernated, not off, you still- You open it up. You're waiting. It's waking up. The MacBook Air does that same thing the iPad does. We're just gonna pull on and that's it. And I know that doesn't sound like a big thing, but if somebody uses the laptop all the time, it's a huge thing. -Oh, it's okay. I mean, I have a laptop with a solid state drive and it is glorious. The mere instant wake is like -Uh huh. -it's life changing. What do you think are some other top specs for people who are just shopping around generally, you know, looking for laptops 'cause they're making do so much like, what is it that you really, you know, maybe the top 3 or 4 things you should really be making sure that your laptop has? -I mean, what I always ask people when they say, "Oh, what laptop should I get?," which is one of the more common questions we get on here next to "What to TV should I get? I ask them- This is how I phrase, I go, "How many days per week do you imagine walking around with this laptop?" and that's my way of freaking me out what size laptop they want which is the really big question. Do you want a 13-inch, a 15-inch, a 17-inch, an 11-inch, a 10-inch? If somebody says, I'm taking around everyday. Well, then it's like, you know, like an 11.6-inch laptop. If they say, "3 or 4 times a week," maybe you can get away with a very thin and light 13-inch. If they carry around less than that, then you'd tell them, "Well, you're just gonna be using it at your office or at home most the time," then you want, you know, a 15-inch or 16-inch even a 17-inch if it's gonna get with you. That is the number one question to figure out in your mind. How many days per week do I honestly think I'm gonna put this in a bag and take it with me someway. -Okay. And what is the PC equivalent of your recommendation then for those of you who just can't stomach Mac. There are plenty. -There's an Acer Aspire 11-inch laptop that is roughly the same component-wise as the new MacBook Air. It's actually got more advanced processor in it, but it's in ultralow voltage version of the Intel Core i7 but it doesn't have the cool semi-discrete graphics that the MacBook Air has and it cost about $899 and that's- though it come- roughly come at a price, it doesn't look as nice. Better CPU, not as good in gaming but also gives you 11.6-inch screen which I think it's pretty much everyone's favorite size these days if you're a carry-your-laptop around kind of guy. -Thank you. -I have to say this time last year, I was telling you about the laptop I bought which turned out to be a little bit of a disaster but has since been replaced. -Remind of what that was? -That was the HP- -I know, actually. Yes. -Envy 15 [unk]. -It is the [unk] one? -No. This is- Not [unk]. That was the mini. This was the HP Envy 15 which is a first generation product and I should have known better, and indeed, I got them and then I followed with them for year though and now I have an HP Envy 14 which I understand that both of you and I like. -It's funny you mentioned that. I was gonna say the Envy 14 actually is really great because they took the Envy [unk] most and then they really drop the price by a lot. I think the one you bought was almost $2000, or at least $1500 or $1600, something like that. -Yep. -And the new HP 14, $999. Fantastic. -Right. Nothing like buying a [unk] that doesn't work and then I got replacement at Honda Civic prices. -It is 1/3 off. -[unk] it. There you go. Excellent. If you call HP up and say, "I have a problem with my laptop." I'm surprised they don't put mystery shoe with a mystery pack in a card right from out to you and bring in a new one. -I gotta say that's what I though too, and that's actually why I brought it up because, you know, I mean, it turns- I think laptops probably have a higher failure rate than almost any other technology and I would say like for me, tech support is one of those things you wanna consider when you're laptop shopping. -Uh huh. -That is true. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of good options out there for tech support. On the plus side, if it's a mechanical failure as with any, you know, electronic device, it will probably happen pretty quickly hopefully within like the store return policy 30 days or if you get from Amazon or the store you're getting your laptop from. A lot of times I see, however, that people who have a new laptop and it goes bad, a lot of time that is, I'm not gonna say user error, but people may not exercise a proper caution in installing all their new software right away as soon as they get a new laptop. They don't back it up first in case something doesn't work right. -Right. -Alright Dan, we'll- -They're gonna be freak out. -Dan, we'll gonna keep you on the line because we have callers, and if we have any callers about laptops, you wanna get your feedback and your thoughts about what's going on. But we're gonna jump to the phone lines and we're gonna take Tommy who's been waiting very patiently. Tommy, all the way from Montreal, Canada, how can we help you on Holiday Help Desk today? -Hey guys. So I'm trying to come up with something to add to my old wish list actually. I worked for a major telco and one of the rules that we have is no USB, so no flash drive, no mp3 players, nothing that can plug in into the computer. Hello? -Oh no! -Are you still there? -We didn't hang up on you. Alright, we're gonna go ahead and help him out actually 'cause we happen to know- -He was using- He was using the USB phone. -He was using a USB phone. What he was going to us at least according to our summary was, whether there's an mp3 player out there that is SD card only or at least that he could use as an SD card only player. -Yeah. Now, one of our most popular favorite lines, The Sansa disk line. We have here popped up on our screen. This is the Sansa Fuze and it does have a microSD card slot. A lot of their other players also do the previous Sansa Fuze or the Fuze+, also the Sansa SanDisk Clip Plus which is kind of mini portable player also takes a microSD card slot. There's not too many- There's some Creatives that do that as well. But, overall, obviously if you talking about the iPod line or iPad line and iPod Touch, they won't have any SD card slots. So not only this is a feature-rich phone, but it's also really affordable. You're talking about like, you know, $79 for the 8 gig model for the Sansa Fuze+. -Uh huh. -And with the Sansa Clip+, you're talking about a little clip on mp3 player anywhere between $50 and $29 with 2 gig of storage and you can expand that depending on how you wanna customize it. So, if you're looking for something like that with an SD card slot, I would pretty much say go to SanDisk 'cause they're also really feature-rich as well. -Yeah. These are definitely generally well-reviewed players, and it's probably a good option. -FM radio on it as well. -FM radio, there you go. -Yeah. That's right. -Yeah. With a podcast support, so- -Fits right over. -Really. They always rate well too with sound quality. -Yeah. Definitely. And I see that- -High quality. -Tommy is still in our chat room. So- -Hopefully, Tommy, we helped you. -Hopefully that helps you. [unk] can plug into. -Oh, he says, if it can plug in to the computer it's forbidden. -Right. -So. -This is the SanDisk might be able to plug into this. -If he's able to be- so he needs something that's completely side loadable. -You need to go to eBay and get like a Walkman, an old Walkman. -You kind of get him go back like 5 years go. -That runs on- -CD player. -That runs on. -Yellow sports model. -CDs. -Yeah. Because the trig now is all of them basically are made to at least have some sort of syncing ability from PC. -Some kind of transfer thing. Yeah. I'm thinking eBay as your best bet like you'd really wanna get an older, you know, a [unk]. -Oh wow. -That was a call back, right? That was a throwback. -Oh my gosh. -Yeah. I can rock me some old technology. Alright, so we keep the calls rolling. -Yeah. -We've got Matthew on the line from Maryland. Hello, Matthew. What is your question for the Holiday Help Desk brain trust? -Well, hello and congratulation on getting the feed work and- -You have no idea my friend. -about photo printers. -Okay. Photo printers. -Yeah. -The [unk] I know in this market but basically they want something that they don't a need computer for, just take it right from the camera to the printer and print, no problem. -Uh huh. Well- -Any suggestions. The only model I really found within your reviews as a 2-year-old HP Photosmart. -Uh huh. Okay. -You know- Yeah. You know, what don't you check out one of the lines that I'm really, you know, I got it from my family a few holidays ago and they're still really great is the Epson printer line. It has these things called the Epson PictureMate. -Uh huh. -And it's basically a standalone printer. You do not need to connect it to your computer. It takes all different formats of memory cards like compact flash, SD card. It takes memory stick. Let me see if I can pull up the price but it's called the Epson PictureMate. If we take a look at my screen right now, you can kinda take a look at what this model does it. It has a big LCD screen. You can also edit the photos within it. And so, typically, they run around $199 to $299. I know during the holiday season, there's a lot of deals where you can get it for around $120 and this one is currently, regular price is $299. Right now, Epson is selling it for $149. -And the other thing to look for honestly is a good deal on any photo printer that has an SD card slot because you can then sort of bypass the computers as far as I understand and just take the SD card from the camera, plug it in to the photo and print that way. So most of them these days do have that feature available. That's just something to look for in general if you find one for $20 on The Cheapskate Blog. -Yeah. The thing- -I also believe that some of the HPs have printer with their own e-mail address as well, so that's something. So if you're taking pictures like with your camera phone, -Yeah. -your iPhone or something like that, then you can just e-mail it to that printer and then it prints out right then and there, and again, I believe it's the HP line that does that. -Yeah. -If you write to us, we'll find you. -Yeah. The thing about the PictureMate line is that it's portable too, so you could take this to like a kid's party. Print out pictures when you're there. -Yeah. -This model, currently, the PictureMate with a digital frame has a big LCD to show the picture frame but previous models do not and they'll probably be a little cheap where you might find it for only $99 per models without this big digital LCD screen. -I do love the PictureMate. It has a little handle I call the picture bucket. -Yeah. -I never remember the names, so I always call it the picture bucket 'cause you can just kind of- and I think it even maybe came in colors originally like it's pretty cute. That's a good one to check out. -Now, do they all compare pretty fairly on the quality, picture quality? -Yeah. I can tell you the image quality looks great. -Yeah. -I mean, there's no complaints. You don't see artifacts. You know, as long as your camera, pretty much of what now these days, where just like a 4 x 6 image. If you have a camera that's like 5-megapixels or higher, you're gonna be just fine. -Yep. Absolutely. -Yeah. As long as you're not blowing it up to poster size. In which case, this is not the printer for you anyway. -But the image quality is really great. It's excellent. -There you go. Alright, happy shopping Matthew. Thanks for calling. We're gonna take a quick break. Although, when we come back, we're going to be talking our friends over at Best Buy. In fact, they're coming to us from the Best Buy in Union Square in New York City where things are happening. We'll be right back. -Can you really rid the world of terrorist? Why didn't the government prepare for the worst? Have you ever said to the president, "I think you're wrong?" The story has just breaking. I'm Katie Couric in the heart of New York City in [unk]. In above the oil trench zone. Here in on board [unk]. -A world of difference every evening, the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. -Your TV maybe beautiful, but it only does TV. -Thanks, man. -What if you could control everything you love about TV and the internet all on one screen? Movie, shows, web videos, e-mails, social networks. One of the TV of tomorrow is here today. Say hello to Smart TV. Imagine the possibilities with the performance of Intel inside your TV. -There's a new way to watch 60 Minutes on the iPad. See our stories anytime, anywhere, available in the Apps Store now. -Welcome back to Holiday Help Desk. We are glad you're here. Remember the phone lines are open right this very minute. The phone number is 888-9000-CNET And we hope that you will call us with your questions. -That's right. I think we have one line open right now. But before we get to those calls, on the phone with us now is [unk] and the manager of Best Buy's busiest store there in Union Square. We're gonna check in on some of those deals. Are you there [unk]? Can you hear us? -[unk] can you hear us? -No. He put the phone. -Oh, he put the phone down? -That's to you. -Yeah. He put the phone down, but he's on there. We have him to pick up the call. -Here we go. Can you hear us? -Can you hear us, [unk]? -I can hear you. -There you [unk]. -Hello. -Right on. Right on. -He said you pick your phone, buddy. We're calling you. -Yeah. I was hearing it to the computer and the phone. [unk] has more difficulties. -Alright. So there you are in the busiest Best Buy store in the U.S. as I understand it, right? What are we- -Definitely, there's something up there. We're like in the center of the world here in New York City. -That's for sure. -Yeah. I can imagine. So what's goin' on? What are some the hottest? This is, you know, I'm always curious to know what are the hottest selling items so far? -Well, I think, you know, this holiday season, you know, more than ever, it's all about product, new interesting product, the latest and greatest [unk] our customers connect to their family, and you know, just amazing convenient ways. And I think some of the, you know, greatest selections, you know, we have always existing categories with new product, you know, for example for the e-Reader category we have under one roof at Best Buy. You can get the Sony e-Reader, the Amazon Kindle, and the Barnes & Noble Nook. The only retailer in the world where you can buy all those things under one roof. You know, motion control gaming is another huge, huge high demand line of product for both people buying them as gifts on their own wish list and giving this as well. -Yeah. So, we've been hearing- -The Xbox Kinect. -We've been hearing that the Kinect is like hot cakes- -Like hot cakes. -of the season. Do you actually have them? I don't want to start a stamped to your store but do you actually have them in stock? -Well, the Xbox Kinect Sensor Bar by itself which retails for $150 as well as the Xbox Bundle that comes with the Xbox and the Kinect Sensor for $300. Those are an extremely high demand. -Uh huh. -And they are tough to come by. You know, they come on sort of a touch and go basis a lot. Most Best Buy stores as far as I know don't have like a set replenishment schedule. But when they do come in, they're gonna make sure they get here [unk] but you can call any Best Buy store by looking at our, you know, website or store locator. We'll tell you right away if we have any stock you need and we will hold it for you. -And then when do you see- When do you expect to see the most traffic? I'm sure you had a spike on Black Friday. Do you find that people are waiting? That there's a lot of last minute shopping or you just seen a steady flow? -I mean, I think it's spread out throughout the course of the holiday season. I mean, Black Friday certainly is the official kickoff to the extremely busy holiday shopping season. You know, our weekend traffic flows is especially big afterward. You know, we get- [unk] point, you know, at each stores in New York City, but you know, I remember last year we were open later than we anticipated on Christmas eve selling products all throughout the store, whatever we have left, whatever people can get their hands own for last minute gift. -What are some deals that people should be looking for today and the weeks to come? I know you got some deals up on your side. Can you run through some of those for us? It looks like a pretty decent like photo frame, digital camera kind of deals? -Yeah. Absolutely, I mean, everyday on bestbuy.com now throughout the rest of the season, you're gonna see what's called the Deal of the Day. So for example today, we have a Dynex visual photo frame. It's a digital picture frame that you can put all pictures on to and place anywhere in the house. And you'll have like a [unk] slideshow. That's normally 50 bucks. You can get it, say, perhaps off at $29.99. -That's pretty- -We also have camera that's on sale there for $159 and [unk], a lot of stuff that's on sale on a daily basis as well as a weekly basis. You can look on your flyers or in the newspaper as well as available on our website. -And also, on your iPhone app, right? I know Best Buy has its own app that you can go in and see all the deals that are current. -Yeah. Best Buy has our own- We have our own iPhone application where you can do the same thing you'd be able to do online. Use weekly circulars as well as weekly special. Also, if you come in to a Best Buy store, you'll notice that all of our [unk] use of the paper in front of the products with the price tags on them have kind of a square code that you can scan with using iPhone or Android application and it will tell you all the information about the product, customer reviews, you know, price thing, [unk]. You can hold your phone up to with a camera and it will, you know, give you all that details, info right there which is really, you know, [unk]. -Okay. Real quick. Can we talk about the 46-inch TV with the PlayStation 3 package for $1380 off? Jeez. -Again, like keeping everyone connected to both, you know, in your home and to your family but especially like if your aim is home entertainment, you know, package where you get such a great value for so such money off. I mean, it's just can be the value that's [unk]. That's the most that's going throughout the holiday season where you get different size Sony high definition TVs as well as a PlayStation 3 which is a special limited edition bundle with the copy of the latest Gran Turismo racing game as well as Grown Ups on Blu-ray, the new movie release. -I have to go. -[unk]. -Wait. I have to leave. I have to go and order this right now. -Instead of LED backlit LCD. It's not even like an older generation. This is like the latest and greatest. -Wow. -I am dying right now. Alright, we're gonna take a break. No, I'm just kidding. [Unk] real quick before we let you go, what do you hoping? What's gonna be on your list? -Personally, you. -You mean, other than, white socks. No, as far as [unk]. I'm just [unk] like the new laptop market. You know, hopefully [unk] this year. -Alright. -Very nice. -[unk] the man who loves his socks. Thank you so much and good luck with the rest of the shopping season. -Thanks a lot. Bye. -Bye. Alright and we will be getting to your calls very soon. But first, here's CNET's top gift pick in that portable music player category. - When I started this job nearly four years ago, a $300 iPod would get you something like this: a music player with some photo and video capabilities, and if you're lucky, a handful of games. Now, ff you had asked me then, I would have never predicted that the iPod would evolve into this thin, internet-connected device that handles e-mail and web browsing just as well as it plays music and video. The fourth generation iPod Touch is offered on three models, an 8 gigabyte version for $229, 32 gigabytes version for $299, and a 64 gig model for $399. Some other little design features to note. The screen here measures 3.5 inches diagonally. It's a high resolution screen that Apple calls a retina display. For the uninitiated, the iPod Touch gives you killer features right out of the box, such as e-mail, maps, music, photos, videos, YouTube, and a Safari web browser. You also have two new apps here for camera, and Facetime video chat. But even without all the crazy apps, the core features here are still better than anything else on the market, outside of smartphones. Just looking at the music player, you have integrated access to one of the largest online music stores with iTunes, a music library view that can be customized or viewed in a Cover Flow mode, great support for podcasts and audiobooks, the ability to create playlists on the fly, and unique Genius Mixes and Genius Playlists features that take all the work out of finding something to listen to. Dive into settings, and you'll also find features like wireless Bluetooth audio streaming, auto volume control, and EQ presets. On the video front, again, the iTunes store integration is killer, allowing you to download or even rent movie and TV content. You can sync video over from your computer, subscribe to video podcasts, and stream videos on the YouTube app. Netflix users can also install a free app to view streaming Netflix content. And best of all, the screen here is nice enough that you'll actually enjoy watching video it. On the productivity front, you have an e-mail app that's compatible with all the major services and now works with multiple e-mail inboxes. With the multi-touch keyboard, typing is actually very smooth in both landscape and portrait orientation. You can cut and paste, shake to undo typing, and jump to different parts of your e-mail by tapping and holding. The web experience has to be taken with a grain of salt, considering the screen size, but it's still very useful. Page load time is quick over a decent Wi-Fi connection, you can resize pages with a pinch, and the system for creating and managing bookmarks is excellent. Finally, there's Facetime, which is a voice calling application available on the iPod Touch, the iPhone, and Mac computers. With it, you can place and receive video calls to other Facetime compatible devices, using either a phone number or an e-mail address. Since the calls go over Wi-Fi, they're completely free, and the call quality isn't dependent on flakey cell reception. It's a fun feature, and one that will probably become more useful as Facetime gains in popularity. So that's the fourth-gen Apple iPod Touch. It doesn't get all the hype and buzz of an iPad or iPhone, but it packs most of the same great features in a more affordable, and a more portable package. For CNET.com, I'm Donald Bell. -Thank you very much Mr. Donald. We are gonna jump right in your calls because our phone lines are packed and stacked. We're gonna jump over here first of all to our little Chris in Florida. He's asking about- We're gonna put Dan Ackerman on the spot. So, Dan, I hope you're ready for this. But he's asking about your opinion on the Toshiba Satellite C655. -I know exactly what you're talking about. Is this the one that's at Amazon right now from [unk] or something? -Wait, wait, Chris first. -He's asking about your deal. -What's your question? -Yeah. -Is that what you wanna know? -Yeah. Hey guys, sorry. -It's alright. -I'm sorry. -Dude, I know what's going on. -Chris is like, wait, "Do I get to talk or now?" -I feel- -Well, in that case, let's get right to the answer. -Was that the one he was talking about? -Exactly. The one I'm talking about. -Alright. -Exactly. See. I noticed because I was actually shopping for a laptop for somebody who could use, you know, good 15-inch, you know, very basic laptop. Don't wanna spend a lot of cash on it and I know that this one- It has a Pentium, what? P6000, you know, basic dual core CPU, not a core 2 duo, not a core i series, the one before that. It was like 400 something on Amazon as we go. That's his thing. I'll keep an eye on that. Then, it look like after Thanksgiving, they'd actually dropped that price down to like $389 or something like that. So they dropped by almost a 100 bucks. And it's now, I believe, the most popular laptop on Amazon right this second. And if you're looking for a 15-inch laptop, that will do basic stuff but not really anything more. I can't think of anything that has a dual-core Intel processor that is cheaper right now. -And- -We have a review up on CNET right now of the single-core version of that from like 3 or 4 months ago and our buddy Matt Elliott actually reviewed that one and he liked it and that's the single-core version that was actually more expensive when he reviewed it than this one is now. So, rock bottom price. If that's what you got to spend, I don't think you're gonna do better. -Actually, I looked it up on Google products and it's look like it's $349- -The single- -at Best Buy. -Well, that's the crazy thing, the single-core model is the one that's $349, so think about the value. -or go to a dual-core. -For $379. The dual-core is $379. Done and done, Chris. -So we give you thumbs up all around. -Sound good, buddy? -You know, can I add that there's- If you're looking for a 17-inch laptop roughly the same price or with the same CPU inside, the same components, Walmart has, I think, they're the only guys who have this. They have an Acer Aspire, I think 7741, that's a 17-inch with the same CPU. That's $498 and that's the cheapest 17-inch. That's anything decent I've seen this holiday season. -Alright, nice. Let's keep it rolling. We got Eric on the line from Los Angeles. Eric, are you there? Hello? -Hello. -Hello. -Yes. Hi. Is this [unk]? -Yes, it is. -[unk]. -How's [unk]. I know right. [unk] so they're trying to play it cool, but he's our BFF. -Oh, really? -Okay. What's your shopping question? -Well, I'm actually participating in Secret Santa this year and I was wondering what you find people would suggest I get for coworkers who's not too tech savvy? -And how much? You have a price range for this? -You know- -How generous of a secret santa are you? -I kinda like her, so- -Well, ho ho ho. I can go anymore than, I'd say, let's go 50 bucks. -Okay. Well, I thought right off the bat, earbuds would be a good bet. What do you guys think? -Well, you know- -Okay. -Earbuds are alright. I think- -I think it's a nice gift. I always get excited-- -But what about- What about fat emo kid, a gift that keeps on giving, the Sansa SanDisk, Sansa Clip+, alright? -Okay. -It's a clip on mp3 player. You can get it. It starts at $29.99 for 4 gigs, okay? -Okay. -It's on my screen. You can take a look. You can put music on it for her. You know how we do that in our playlist. -Well, exactly as you say. -And for 50 bucks, you could even go all the way to shuffle which is $49, and you could- I mean, the key really is loading it up. -Put that music. -The holiday playlist. -Chestnuts roasting on open fire. -Just make sure it's not a white elephant. Nobody's gonna steal it and then be like, "What is this? -Seriously. -I mean, that would be a pretty solid one and it's not too nerdy, I mean, the music, the emotional connection. -I know. -Uh huh. -It's really. It's saying a lot. -You know how to work it. -Okay. -And you know how to work it. -You're a good friend. -Thank you for reading between the lines. -Thank you for bringing that subject out into the open like we do. Alright. -Thank you guys so much. -Alright. -Okay. -Bye. -Alright, sweet. Zach has been holding on the line from Sacramento for so, so long. What do you got for the HDD, Zach? -Hey, how are you doin'? -Good. Good. -How are you? -Good. Good. I know, you know this holiday is about giving, and you know, just taking care of other people. But the all [unk] money and I want to give myself a gift. -That's the best- -Of course, you do. -I think I need a vacation, so I'm debating whether to go to E3 or CES, but I'd like you guys [unk] you know, as a tech enthusiast, which one is just like more like mind flow. -No. -Yeah. -Oh man. -Here's the thing- -It's okay to question. -First of all, do you know if you have acces to both events? -Yeah. Yeah. -Okay. You do have acces to both events. Are you more of an eye candy guy or more of a like a cool gadget guy? -I will say cool gadget guy but you know eye candy, never hurts either. -Okay. We'll let's go around and everyone just say [unk]. -Yeah. I mean, my opinion is like to me, CES is more of the all-you-can-eat buffet, right? Because E3 is pretty local to gaming. I mean, it's a spectacular show. But if you're kind of all-around geeky, everything is happening at CES. It has all of the crazy, you know, somebody built a snowboarding ramp out in the parking lot kind of thing. But then it's also got giant TVs, and I mean, I it's sort of every kind of technologies. Plus, and this is nontrivial, the AVN show is also going on at the same time, so. There's like, I'm just saying- -That's the Audio and Video Network show, right? -Audio and Video. -Yeah. -Audio and Video expo, right? -So, I'm just saying there's all kinds of audio-video eye candy. -And also- -CES is pretty awesome. -You know, if you're really wanting to play all the games when you go to E3, you're gonna stand in a lot of lines in order to play the hot games, so you have to factor that in where is at CES, you can kind of go to something, touch it and play with it and then move on to the next thing. It's not so much sort of malling around. So, put that into your cap and also, you know, worst comes to worst and you can't decide, then Brian Tong has said that he will let you room with him at both shows. -That's true. -So that you can go. -[unk] say that. -Just pay for the flight and then hotel is free. -Zach- -I kinda [unk] fly to. -Zach, don't worry. It will be double twins, not a single twin in my room. -It's our [unk]. -Now, we just wait in here with a counterview. I've been going to CES for, I think, 7 years now and E3 for like 12. I gotta tell you, E3 is a visually stunning show if you're at all instrument games. It's harder to get into. CES, you kinda fake your way in. E3, is a little bit tougher. But if you had any interest in gaming or you know just seeing [unk] walking around or seeing the guys in crazy costumes, I think it's a much more kind of visually friendly show. CES is so big and gigantic. It's hard to apprehend around it and really 75% of it is kind of dull. You know, the 25%, that's great. It's fantastic. -Yeah. Yeah. -AVN. Anyway, I hope that we have helped you make your decision. -As a gamer guy, I would vote for E3. But also at CES, all the major gaming companies except for Nintendo are there. Sony has it all set up. Microsoft has their set ups. You can play games there. But if you love gaming like to the bone, you have to go to E3. you just have to. -Yeah. -Both, clearly- -And you can stay in my room. -are answer is both. -At least come to say hi to us at [unk]. -Or knock on my door and I'll let you in. -I don't think they're doing live Buzz Out Loud at E3, are they? -No. -No. -We'll get to work on that, though. We'll get to work on that, so that you'll have every reason to go to both. Alright, Zach, happy shopping for yourself. -Zach, what are you leaning towards now? What are you leaning towards now? -No. You gotta go. We got other calls. Come on. -I'm just curious. -Sorry, buddy. Call us back, though, and tell us what you're leaning toward. -John I calling us from, what, California, somewhere in California with a question. Are you there John? -Yeah. -Hello. What can we help you with today? And are those your laptop speakers I hear on the background? No. Okay. -Alright. -What do you got? -Okay. Should I get the G2 or the Nexus S? -Nexus S. -Yeah. -I don't know. I mean, I don't what anyone else thinks, but boom, Nexus S front facing camera. -Yeah. -Already has Ginger Bread, so you don't have that uncertainly of knowing whether the G2 is gonna be upgradable. Hot as [unk]. -I would also say because the G2, although, you know, it's a nice phone with a keyboard. It's using a solar processor. It's a 800-megahertz processor. So just from a technical jump and standpoint, you wanna jump up to a phone that not only was just announced and released but has more processing power behind it, I would say Nexus S. -You think. -But the thing is, I just bought it. I just bought the G2. -Why did you tell me that? -Why did you tell us that? -Wait, wait, how just? How recently? -I bought it last week and UPS is shipping bring by tomorrow. -So, you can't take it back. -It hasn't arrived yet. -You have a [unk] at my place where I go, I now use it all the time. You have a 30-day return window. I think you might be able to take it back and exchange it for the Nexus S if it's out with him 30 days. -So was it one of the things where you're like, "Oh, maybe, I call CNET and they'll tell us it's okay." So, you're trying to talk yourself out of returning it, right? -I don't know. -You don't know. Well, the thing is the G2 is our top rated T-Mobile phone. -There's nothing wrong with that phone. -But if you're telling from today when you see, you know, almost anytime we'll say get the next gen phone. You know, get the newer phone but it's because of Ginger Bread. It's because of the faster processor. Now, the Nexus S is a full touchscreen phone, so maybe you're a keyboard guy. -Yeah. -Then you'll stick with G2. It's not a bad phone. We're not ripping on the G2 'cause it was our top holiday pick. -It's a really good phone, and actually, you're in a great position because you can take it out of the box, try it out, see if you like it. And if you feel like you have any problems with that at all, you're within that return window for the Nexus S. You are actually, right now, possibly the happiest T-Mobile user on the block 'cause you have a wonderful choice between 2 fantastic phone. Yep. So, yey. Good luck with that. -Alright. -You can't lose. -Let's keep it rolling. I think we have time for one more call 'cause- that dude can't lose. That's great. -He's like Parker Lewis. -I'm kind of jealous. Alright. Alright, one last call before we go. Steve, are you there? -Yes. I'm here. Hey buddy, what do you got for us today? -I have a question on the Panasonic plasmas. -Uh huh. -There seems to be an issue or at least a question of an issue on the black labels deteriorating overtime and there hasn't been an update on your side since May. -I see. Yeah. That's true. I don't know. Dan Ackerman, do you- have you heard anything about this. They test the TVs out in New York, I know. -It's funny. You mentioned that. I, of course, you might have noticed just when through this process because my TV unexpected died about a week or so before Thanksgiving and I had to figure out what to get. But of course, I consulted. The CNET TV oracle, Mr. Scott [unk]- -Uh huh. -who I think is in Korea right now, but he and I went over a whole bunch of options and it came down to a 50-inch Panasonic plasma for 2D and a Samsung 50-inch for 3D and both are very good. He is speaking out to that Panasonic issue. The latest version that came out [unk] if I'm paraphrasing him correctly, "It may not be as much of an issue with these but it will take sometime to tell." But even that it wasn't that big deal anyway. I mean all these, you know, devices, aged with time. However, I'm very happy with my C7000 50-inch Samsung which is 3D. And right now, on Amazon, they'll throw in a 3D Blu-ray player and a 3D starter kit with 2 pairs of glasses which made it a pretty decent deal, and you can actually find that on CNET. Read my whole How I Upgraded my TV, you know, diary. -Nice. -Okay. So you went with a 3D version. -I did get to 3D just because it wasn't really that much more. There's not really enough 3D stuff to really watch right now, but I will tell you this weekend, I was playing some Call of Duty: Black Ops in 3D. It was pretty, and on a multiplayer, it was pretty awesome. And Gran Turismo 5, also pretty awesome in 3D. -Yep. Gaming on 3D. That works out. We've been talking about the whole time. -It really is. Yeah. I mean sounds like we can all ask [unk] when he gets back to Korea, actually, if we can get a specific update on that model because people are concerned about it, although I will said the user reviews overall on that TV are really good, and people are not- There are not widespread reports of bad black fade- -Uh huh. -on that TV. -Although that would take time to develop. Although, he did say- -Yeah. -for none 3D- for 2D images, that Panasonic, I think, it's [unk] the 50-inch settings it's like [unk] or something was simply the best thing I could get in that price range. -Yeah. So, you know, if you're willing to take the chance, areally good value. If not, there are some pretty amazing 3D TV deals out there. -Uh huh. -Great. Okay. -Was that helpful? -I think that's answer my question. -You know, like I said, make sure you've got- take advantage of that return window. I mean, really, I think people, you know, were hesitant, and I know with the TV, it's like a big pain in the butt. But again, I've said this a bunch of times if you're near some place like a Costco and you're willing to go there and your truck can pick it up, then it's worth it to try it out basically and see if you have any kind of a problem with it within the first like 14, 30, or 90 days depending on where you buy it. -And I think that Ackerman's choice about buying the 3D just because it wasn't that much more expensive is the way that a lot of people are going to adapt 3D these days. Like no one's gonna go like I need that 3D, and very few people are doing that. But you know, they've price it in such way that it's low risk for us. So, when you're looking into those things and even the widget TVs, you're like, "Yeah. I might as well get an internet connected TV." -Yeah. -That kind of point they catch me do the other day. -Do you ever compare the picture quality of the 2D and the 3D televisions? Are they the same engine? It's just a different input signal or? -Once you have the 3D- When you have the 3D turned off, there's no difference. When you have the 3D turned on, I've seen that a lot of the game content goes from 1080 to 720 'cause that's what the game consoles push out in 3D [unk]. If 3D is turned off, it has no impact. -So the picture quality is the same on both TVs. -Yep. -Yeah. If you're watching on 2D mode, there's no difference. None of the 3D stuff is on. -Okay. -And he pointed out to me that in a midlevel or higher TV, they're just building the 3D in by default now. It's not like you have to choose it. So, unless you're going for a super bargain TV, anything mid-price or higher is generally gonna have it built in. -Alright. Happy- Good luck Steve and happy shopping. I hope that answers or at least starts answering your question 'cause I know TV buying is a complicated thing. With that, it is time wrap up our, what is it? Second or third Holiday Help Desk show of the season. They're going fast. Thank you, Dan, so much for joining us. We'll be back next week with eBay and with CNET's smartphone expert, Bonnie Cha. So if you have your phone questions, get them in. 4 p.m. Eastern, 1 p.m. Pacific. That's next Monday. We'll see you then guys. -See you guys. -Bye.