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CNET Tech Review
Killing me softly with his phoneThis week on the CNET Tech Review: counting down the Top 5 low-radiation smartphones; LA Auto Show highlights; Google TV continues to disappoint; and giving thanks for Chow's new app.
-This week on the CNET tech review Facebook announced something, but don't call it e-mail; highlights from the 2010 LA Auto Show; Google TV just can't catch a break; and a new app that's know tech turkey. 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, and offer some unique tech wisdom in the form of our bottom line. Let's start with the good. When is e-mail not e-mail? When it's brought to you by Facebook, of course. Earlier this week, the company announced the new communications feature that will bring chat, text messages and even e-mail into your Facebook inbox, but they said it's not e-mail. Confused yet? Here's Rafe Needleman to explain, sort of. -Hi, this is Rafe Needleman with the first look at Facebook messages. This is the revamp of the private person-to-person messaging system within Facebook. There are some big improvements. Facebook messages now keeps all your conversations with your contacts together no matter how they communicate. Everything you say to people in messages, be it in an e-mail message, a chat, or an SMS 'cause files are one long conversation thread. In messages, to reach someone, all you have to know is their name. Facebook will find users wherever they want to be found, on the Facebook website, in chat, or in their mobile phone depending on their preferences. It means you don't have to think about how your message gets from you to them. But it doesn't pose some limitations. For example, there are no subject lines in Facebook messages. Essentially, the subject is now the relationship. But as Facebook's goal was to combine SMS, chat, and mail-like messaging together, there really was no other way to blend the communication modes. Facebook is clear to say that messages isn't e-mail in fact, but there's a little confusion on this since Facebook's messaging system now for the first time actually gives everyone on the network an optional e-mail address. When the system is rolled out, everyone will have a facebook.com address. You'll be able to receive messages from the outside world to that address and send from Facebook to other systems as well. One of the other big features of Facebook messages is that by default, the only messages you see in your inbox will be those from your network of friends. Other messages like invitations, alerts, and spam show up in the other inbox and you have to promote people to have messages from them appear in your main inbox. Likewise, you can demote people so their communications don't clutter your main inbox if you prefer. Facebook messages is a necessary and useful upgrade of the platforms current, very limited private messaging system. Facebook says it's not e-mail and that's accurate. The product is missing standard features in e-mail. There's no concept of a multiperson conversation for example. Facebook says the groups feature for that. And you can't even forward a message to someone else at least not yet in this current version. It won't replace e-mail for those of us comfortable with that platform. But for younger users you communicate primarily in SMS and in Facebook, it's a welcome upgrade. Facebook says messages will roll out slowly over the next few months and users will get an alert when they logged in to their account when it's enabled for it. Users who have messages can also invite a very limited number of their friends. For CNET, I'm Rafe Needleman. -I really don't see how Facebook messages could be an actually e-mail killer; although to be honest, I wouldn't have guessed that our company will ditch outlook for Gmail either, so I guess never say never. Now, a few weeks ago, we showed you a preview of the new color version of the Barnes & Noble Nook, and we asked if maybe it wasn't more an Android tablet than just an e-Reader. Well, here's David Carnoy with his answer to that question. -Hi. I'm David Carnoy and I'm going to give you a quick tour of the Barnes & Noble Nook Color. Back at the end of 2009, Barnes & Noble released an E Ink reader, the Nook that differentiated itself from the Amazon Kindle by having a small color LCD at the bottom of the screen for navigation and keyboard entry among other things. Now, the company isn't messing around with the strip of color. As instead, betting the farm on a full color e-Reader, it features a 7-inch touchscreen LCD, built-in Wi-Fi, and has people asking, "Is it an e-Reader or a tablet?" The short answer is both or as Barnes & Noble is spinning it, "This is a reader's tablet." It's just a shade less than a pound. It's about twice the weight of the latest generation Kindle, but it is significantly smaller than an iPad which weighs in at around 1.5 pounds. The color screen is next generation LED backlit display supplied by LG which is bright yet energy efficient. The product's designers added a special layer of laminate to the glass that covers the display to help cut down on glare and improve off access viewing. However, like any screen that has a layer glass over it, it's not immune to glare, and like the iPad screen, it is a fingerprint magnet and will potentially crack if dropped. That said, the touch mechanics are quite responsive and the device as a whole is zippy. For those who are hoping for a full-fledged Android tablet, you get such features as web browsing and multimedia functionality along with a little Pandora and some basic games and the ability to read format such as Microsoft office documents and PDF files. But one thing missing is Android Marketplace. Yes, 4 apps are on the way, but Barnes & Noble is really gearing this toward reader's first and those looking for a multifunction device like the iPad second. We are generally impressed with how elegant the user interface is and how easy the Nook Color is to operate and navigate. We also like that the designers included a physical home button. It's the end at the bottom of the device rather than a virtual one. The hard button makes going back to the home screen easier and it's well placed. Along with its large selection of eBooks, the company is making a bigger portion into kid's content with its new Nook Kid's brand that features digital picture books designed to take advantage of such colored devices such as the Nook Color and the iPad. The same time, the company is highlighting how well the Nook Color handles periodical content particularly magazines. At the end of the day, despite the limited number of apps available at launch, the Nook Color is a much more polished eReader than the original Nook was when it launched. We've called this the poor man's iPad in the past. While it doesn't offer nearly the range of functionality from a reading experience standpoint, it certainly rivals that of the iPad just on a smaller more portable scale and half the price. I'm David Carnoy and that's the Barnes & Noble Nook Color e-Reader. -It may rival the iPad in terms of reading books and magazines, but I think that's about it. In fact, I think we can safely put the Nook back in the eReader bin for now. The 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show is going on right now and although it's far from the biggest car show of the year, that doesn't mean you can't find some surprises while you're there, or better yet, why not just watch Brian Cooley's highlights from the show right now? -Now, in the last what 8, 10 years Cadillacs really re-invented itself, but can they go this far? That's why this concept is being shown here at the LA Auto Show. It's a very compact, urban luxury vehicle, a city car if you will; about the size of a mini cooper, though it presents much more massive, which is kind of that Cadillac design language, really sharp sort of blades here along these side planks. Inside, of course, is strictly concept car stuff, but they're trying to get it to say a luxury for the urban dweller. This was actually designed in a Los Angeles area studio for this kind of a car culture that is very much in need of mobility loves their car, but at the same time, wants to get in the something smaller, but maintain the luxury. Well, here it is, the Nissan Murano---- wait, that's not new, but this is---- come here---- looks what's missing? It's the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. Nissan says, and I'm pretty sure they're right, is the first all-wheel drive crossover without the top. I think they've got a hit on their hands. It's just corky enough and also useful enough because let's face it, open-air cars are once again all the rage, and this one retains the high sitting position of a crossover, which kind of, I think, is gonna add to the acceleration of open-air driving here up high and during the open-air two things people tend to like out of visceral level. Inside, it's pretty standard Murano stuff, although you do have a little bit of a different shape thing in the rear compartment here, which brings us to the boost audio system that will be available on this car, which has an auto-sensing position to know when the top is down and adjust, I believe, volume and the equalization to make sure the music still prints well. The Murano CrossCabriolet is perhaps most surprising and then it's coming to dinner shift soon. This is not some design studio trial balloon; early 2011 in showrooms. Pricing around 464 before destination; a little high, but realize they only sell it in a high trim model like we see here. There is no stripper version. So, it's got all the cabin tech, obviously, the convertible top, the nice boost audio system, the fancy interior trim, and of course, the all-wheel drive standard. I didn't have minivans when I was a kid, I used to have things like Econolines, so I feel somewhat cheated. And with vans like these on the market, who wouldn't? Nissan's back in the game in there with Toyota with Sienna, Honda with Odyssey, now the all-new Nissan Quest is getting back in the market and as you can see, they're following the current trend of the Asian minivans go high style, quasi-luxury, kind of a sporty look that isn't [unk]. Nissan points to this kind of vanishing dipping line in the body here that really says " It looks like it's in motion even when it's parked " maybe not exactly, but you get the idea kind of aggressive as opposed to a [unk] front end, and the lines overall have some style to them. Now, in terms of technology, here is what it's interesting. Let me show you in upon a lot of cars soon. But when you go down here to the filler valve on the tire, if the TPMS pressure monitor on the dash says "You're low, you're pulling to a gas station starts filling that up." And because most folks don't know or have a good tire pressure gauge---- well, I don't know how to use it, this car will beep when you get to the proper pressure. This talks to another sensor in the car [unk] one with right PSI, kind of cool. Okay, let's talk about some other technologies in and around this car. You gotta have serious rear seat entertainment in the minivan. The Asian cars are getting very serious about the size of that monitor. Nissan chose to go with an 11-inch center of the roof drop down LCD and that's as big as the smaller of the two new MacBook Air. It's a pretty good-size screen. Unfortunately, the bigger the screen, the more it obstructs that rearview mirror. I'm not a big fan of the center roof dropdowns. I like them better when they're in the headrest, but you can't make them that big when they're in the headrest, unless you just bring your own iPad and some velcro tape. This vehicle will also offer a blind spot warning system, and you're also going to find an interesting partition, dual panoramic roof. I'm not sure if that's gonna be a continuous glass roof if you get it without the rear seat entertainment or if it's always these two pods like this. And of course, in modern minivan technology, you've gotta have a totally disappearing third row of seats and easy flip secondth row. Check and check. I'm not sure what's cooler, the giant hot wheel track or the car coming off it, the giant hot wheels car. Here it is finally, the Camaro in rag top form and it'll come in three potencies if you will. Be available with a 3.6 liter V6, doing about 312 horsepower, or go for a V8 6.2 liters that has an automatic, that's gonna give you 400 horsepower, or go up to 420 plus horsepower if you get it with V8 and manual transmission. Now they're playing to the faithful. Beyond that, it's pretty much the same Camaro you know, but that's like saying a convertibles no big deal. It operates a lot like the Corvette top does, you release it at the center latch here and then it's a power retractor that goes into this wheel behind the seats and largely leaves the trunk intact. And one of the best improvements about going topless in this guy, no more of that bunker feeling that I get in the regular Camaro. Now the key question, is a Camaro rag top proposes because that's a big deal among folks who buy cars like this. I don't think it is. We just talked about the engine choices, nothing phony there. And the engineers at GM say they were able to use the same suspension set up and settings in this car and get the same ride quality, which means they were able to stiffen up the body to rigidize it with improvements and various buttresses to get the same kind of rigidity, which means the car should handle as much on point as one that has a metal top. Okay, availability, this convertible Camaro will hit showrooms in February of 2011. Exact pricing is still TBD and of course it'll vary widely by the powertrain choice you decide to put in here. But this is the Camaro a lot of folks say it is the one it was designed to be. -Now, that's what I call a bitchin Camaro, right? Does anybody remember that song? No? Well, I do. Anyway, can't get enough for Brian Cooley; stick around because he will be back with this week's top five countdown when the CNET Tech Review Continues. Welcome back to the CENT Tech Review, our weekly video digest of all things, good and bad we've seen here at CNET TV. Continuing on in the good, as the debate over the dangers of cellphone radiation rave is on, it's still terribly unclear whether it's harmful or not. But if you feel like hedging your bets, check out this list of the top five Smartphones that won't kill you, unless not right away. -The SAR number, specific absorption rate. It's the government's measure of how much your cellphone is treating you like a bag of microwave popcorn. It's expressed as what's absorbed per kilogram of body mass, but nobody is really sure what it tells us. Nonetheless, it remains the only yardstick you've really got. Now in our third decade of this debate over whether a cellphone causes cancer. So, with all that in mind, here are the top five Smartphones of 2010 that rate high with CNET and low on their SAR number. Number 5, the Samsung Vibrant with a CNET Rating of 8.3 and a SAR number of 0.89, just over half the legal limit of 1.6, pretty low. This T-Mobile Android phone is a looker with a 4-inch AMOLED screen and 16 gigabytes of memory as well as speedy performance all around. But much of that helps make the battery life a bit soft and that beautiful screen is way nicer than the plasticky case around it. Oh, and no flash with the camera automation. Number 4 is another Sammie, the Epic 4G on Sprint, CNET Rating 8.7 and SAR rating of just 0.68, under half the limit. This guy can utilize Sprint's 4G network were available and it's got just about everything else, including 5 megapixel camera, another big AMOLED display and it can be a hotspot for up to 5 other devices. Unfortunately, all that stuff needs a place to live and the Epic is just plain epic in size. Number 3 is the HTC Legend on, well, not really on any carrier in North America because it isn't compatible with 3G networks here. But if it works where you are, you'll enjoy a phone with a CNET rating of 8.3 and a SAR number of just 0.56, nice and low. Another Android phone here, another AMOLED screen, but mixed results from its built-in camera. The number 2 Smartphone in our list is the Samsung Fascinate on Verizon. CNET Rating of 8.3 and SAR number a mere of 0.57. Sister phone to the Vibrant we saw earlier, but on Verizon in this case and with some service tweaks including the annoying lock-in of its search function tied to Microsoft Bing. Before we look at the number 1 Smartphone in this list of clean ones, let's update that SAR story: The FCC recently announced it's no longer sure what the hell this number means, and that any phone, in its opinion, under the 1.6 SAR rating is as safe as any other, which doesn't really make any sense because the number represents radiation absorbed by body mass. Doesn't more mean more? So while the mystery continues, the choice to play it safe remains yours, which brings us to the number 1 Smartphone in our list today: The Samsung Captivate. CNET Rating 8.3 and SAR number just 0.42, that's like a quarter of the legal limit. This phone is the virtual twin of the Fascinate and the Vibrant, but running on AT&T. So notice how the phone you buy is not the only factor in radiation, the network it's on has a big impact, another reason to think about carrier and phone when you're making a choice. For all out Smartphone reviews, go to CNET cellphone section and to CNET's SAR ratings, which sort them by maker as well as by top twenty cleanest and dirtiest. I'm Brian Cooley. Thanks for watching. -So I guess if you're really worried about radiation, go with Samsung. Four entries in the top five is not too shabby. At last, the time has come for us to check what's up this week in the bad. Now that more Google TV enable devices are coming on the market, the service seems to be getting more notoriety for all the things it can't do. So if you're in the market for a Blu-ray player, should you take the lift and go for one with the Google TV built-in? Matt Moskovciak has an opinion on that. -Hi, I'm Matthew Moskovciak, senior associate editor at CNET.com and we're here with the Sony NSZ-GT1 with Google TV. This is the first Blu-ray player available with the new Google TV platform, which means it searches through your online and offline media, controls your cable box, and handles your Blu-ray and DVD movies from a single box and it's selling for $400. The exterior design is bigger than we were expecting, coming in at a little bit larger than a standard Blu-ray player. The top has a glossy black finish while the rest is white which isn't our favorite color since it doesn't blend in well with other home theater products. Now, controlling the Google TV requires quite a bit of typing so the way you control it is important. Sony's included controller looks a little bit like a PS3 controller with a keypad added and while it feels comfortable in your hands, we didn't really like it for controlling Google TV. The white foam pad is touch sensitive and it's used to control the on-screen cursor, but it's inaccurate and that can be frustrating to use. The controls for the Blu-ray player are also small and sometimes require you to use the function key, which makes it harder for tech novices to use. Hardware issues aside, our experience with the Google TV software has been mixed as well. It has a built-in Chrome browser capable of playing back flash and HTML5 video, but major content providers like Hulu, CBS, Fox, NBC, and ABC are blocking Google TV devices from streaming video. It currently has some basic apps like Netflix, Napster, Pandora, and Twitter, but the included Netflix interface is outdated compared to other devices like the Apple TV, Roku XDS, and the PS3. Cable and satellite box control is fully integrated if you have a Dish Network DVR but if you don't, then Google TV can't schedule recordings or season passes. And, while we love that we could bring up the Google search bar at any time to find content, Google currently doesn't find programs on Netflix and we also found that some of the listings info isn't accurate for shows like the Colbert Report and the Daily Show. Altogether, although we love the idea of Google TV and Blu-ray in a single box, right now, we'd recommend the competing Logitech Revue over the Sony for early adopters because we prefer Logitech's excellent wireless keyboard. But for mainstream buyers, we'd pass on both the Revue and the Sony for now until Google TV can iron out its issues. I'm Matthew Moskovciak for CNET and this is the Sony NSX-GT1 with Google TV. -We had such high hopes for Google TV when it first came out, I mean, I'm even on it, for Pete's sake. But having all the networks blocked their websites is not a very good sign; at least they placed Blu-ray, right? All right, now let's see what we've got going on in this week's bottom line. We're less than a week away from Thanksgiving, so don't wait too long before you start planning your turkey dinner and if you need a little help in that department, there's a new app from our friends at chow.com that will hold your hand every step of the way. Hey everyone, I'm Molly Wood and welcome to Tap that App, the show where we run down the hottest applications for your mobile doo Hickey or whatever. This week, it is all about thanksgiving here in the United States and for a lot of you, I know that means you're starting to panic; maybe you've never made the big turkey dinner before, maybe grandma's coming and she's gonna judge your gravy. You need help. Out sister site, chow.com has created the Thanksgiving Dinner Coach App. It's free for the iPhone and iPad Touch. Actually, I downloaded it onto my iPad and I made it big because I like to use this for cooking, so hopefully an iPad version is next. Also, speaking of cooking, thanks to Chow for letting me shoot this in their test kitchen; I'm never leaving. Anyway, The Dinner Coach App lets you choose from 9 recipes here, pretty basic Thanksgiving fair, nothing that's gonna scare off your picky eater friends. You can delete whatever recipes you don't think you'll use, except for the turkey actually, so vegetarians, you might wanna look elsewhere. Anyway, once you choose the recipes you wanna use, let's see green beans, turkey gravy, yes, it creates an entire shopping list for you. Now, what I really like about this shopping list is that it also includes the gear you're gonna need, like the pitcher, the whisk, the frying pan, the roaster, that kind of thing. But anything you already have, you just tap it, and then it disappears from your list, off you go. Okay, then, and this is where it's really helpful, it creates an entire cooking schedule for you by day. So what you need to do on Monday, defrost your turkey, what you need to do on Wednesday and what order you need to cook thing, so you can have everything ready all at the same time. This is a super useful organizational tool. Now, this is the pretty basic app. It's probably best for people who haven't cook Thanksgiving dinner before or who are just interested in keeping things simple and organized. For example, I wish that you could import other recipes from the Chow database. There's a lot of good stuff there. But in this case, you're pretty much stuck with this one here. If you wanted to customize you might wanna try something like iFeast Thanksgiving, or you could combine this with the Turkey Recipes app in the iTunes app store, that's got 38 different turkey recipes. Also, I would love it if there was a way to e-mail someone the shopping list so that you could send someone else to the store or maybe even print it out. All in all, though, if you're nervous about Thanksgiving dinner or you just want a good way to stay organized, this app is dead simple to use and it's free. So, you know, if you can take the stress out of cooking that means that you can just serve a good meal, sit back and go to your happy place while Ann Alice criticizes your housekeeping. Again, for Tap that App at cnet.com, I'm Molly Wood. The bottom line this week, better cooking through technology. I am a little disappointed, though, that the Dinner Coach App didn't include that recipe for turkey cake. Did you see that thing? I can't decide if I'm disgusted or craving it, probably a little bit of all. All right folks, it's time for me to go. Join us next week for a special Black Friday buyer's guide episode of the CNET Tech Review. Until then, there are of tons of great videos available everyday at cnettv.com. Thank you for watching and happy turkey day.