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CNET Tech Review
Laptops of luxuryThis week on the CNET Tech Review: five slim laptops to compare against the MacBook Air; how to customize your privacy settings in Google+; the Alienware M18x should come with a back brace; and Blockbuster takes on Netflix in an all-new Prizefight.
-This week on the CNET Tech Review, 5 slim laptops that will make MacBook Air owners think twice, how to keep your deepest secrets from falling into the wrong circles on Google+, find out if it's time to dust off your Blockbuster card and a video rental Prize Fight and let everyone know what disc you're watching with Get Glue. It's all coming up right now. Hi everyone. I'm Molly Wood and welcome to the CNET Tech Review where we collect our hottest videos of the week and tell you what's good and what's bad in the world of tech, plus offer our own unique tech wisdom in the form of The Bottom Line. Let's start with the good. If you're among the extremely vocal minority that think we spent too much time shoving Apple products down your throats, this one's for you. Although the MacBook Air is arguably the prettiest laptop ever made, a number of notable specimens from the Windows world are available for a price. -The MacBook Air, it's helping make Apple the hottest laptop maker on earth. So that begs one question, isn't there something else? I'm Bryan Cooley with the top 5 alternatives to a MacBook Air. These are all Windows machines by the way, but that's fair since the MacBook Air runs Windows just fine through boot camp. Number 5 is the Lenovo ThinkPad X1. Now like most ThinkPads and unlike a lot of other Windows laptops, this guy doesn't feel like it's made my Mattel. It's rock solid with a clean look, an Intel Core i5 CPU like some of the new MacBook Airs, Solid State Drives available, and it has a webcam that works really well in low light. You won't realize how much you'll like that until you have it, for all those little nasty videos you shoot that I don't wanna see. On the downside, that solid construction gives this 13-inch machine kind of a porky weight, about 3.8 pounds versus 2.3 for the same-sized MacBook Air, and the battery life on this guy is weaker as well. Number 4, the Dell XPS 15z, this is the thinnest 15-inch Windows laptop out there with an available full 1080p display to take advantage of that big screen size and a nice metal case to give you that luxury hand feel that Apple MBAs have in spades. Now a MacBook Air trait you won't get here is battery life. We got a mere 3-1/2 hours in our video playback test, compare that to 6-3/4 from the 13-inch MacBook Air. The sweet spot price for this guy though is pretty good, around 1200 bucks. Number 3, the Toshiba Portege R835. It's also powered by the Core i5 Intel chip, has a battery that lasts 3 hours longer than the last model for a full 7 hours, that's even nosing out the 13-inch MacBook Air. Also the price is pretty good for this guy, about 800 bucks. That's cheap for this class. What it's missing is sexy. This is not a machine you'll ever have to wipe any drool off of. Number 2 is the Samsung Series 9. This little hottie has one thing even a MacBook Air doesn't have, an even more outrageous price, at 1650 lest, this machine requires a commitment and probably a second-shift to pay for it. It's the most direct assault on the MacBook Air though with the same weight, Solid State Drive, 5-1/2 hour battery life, stylish lines and a really good display, and it's all powered by the latest Intel Core i5, but you know even for this money, it doesn't quite have that machine from an ingot feeling of quality. Still, it's hot, but make sure you shop aggressively for price if you're gonna buy one of these. Always check the links to the best merchant prices in the CNET review. Okay, here's the number 1 ultra-portable you wanna carry when you don't wanna carry anything with an Apple logo. It's the Sony Vaio Z, thin, light, powerful, blah, blah, blah. That's basically par for the course at this point but two things set this guy apart. This interesting docking station that graphs on an optical drive including Blu-ray ability, a bunch of extra ports and a dedicated AMD Radeon 6630 graphics processor. We've never seen anybody create an ultra light with that kind of range that we'd actually wanna own. Oh, the other big difference, it's a fortune. A Vaio Z starts at 2 grand. Well, you asked for number 1. Dan Ackerman and Scott Stein are busy every week digesting the latest ultra light laptops and you're gonna wanna find their reviews at CNET's laptop review section, that's right there on the front door. And for more top 5s like this and links to all the reviews of these machines, go to top-5.cnet.com. I'm Bryan Cooley. Thanks for watching. -Or maybe you're not worried about thin and light and portable. Maybe big and thick and hefty is more you're scheme. If that's the case, Alienware has you covered with the M18X, a beast of a laptop that has all the bells and whistles you're looking for plus pretty flashing lights. -I'm Dan Ackerman and we are here taking a look at the brand new Alienware M18X. Now I'm sure you're all familiar with the super high-end gaming laptop that this Dell subsidiary puts out. They've got the M11X which is an 11-inch laptop, the 14X, the 15X, the 17X. So I think you can pretty much guess what's so unique about the 18X. It is an Alienware with a massive 18-inch screen. Now it still got the same 1920x1080 resolution that the 17 and even some of the 15-inch versions have. You can't really get much higher in a laptop screen, but just adding that little bit of extra screen size, it really makes a difference. This is the ultimate sort of home theatre, in-your-face laptop screens. Like all Alienwares this guy is super configurable. It starts at 2 grand. This particular version is about 5 thousand dollars and it comes with a Quad Core Intel Core i7 CPU. It comes with 2 NVIDIA 580 graphics card and 16 gigs of RAM. There are all kinds of other options like the Blu-ray drives and Solid State hard drive so you can really spend a lot of money building the perfect gaming laptop. And of course like all Alienwares, it's got that very distinctive Alienware's style. That's based on the couple of things. It's got these cool kind of automotive grills in the front, and it's got this backlit keyboard and backlit touch pad and a couple of other lights right here that you can actually go in and adjust with the AlienFX software pack. It just comes with this. It's got a couple of different tabs within it. The first is AlienFX and that lets you actually change the color of the backlighting underneath the keyboard in 4 different sections and of course the touch pad and the Quick Launch buttons and even the Alienware logo and the little lights in the front. You can actually just pick the section you wanted changed. Let's say I wanna change my number pad, pick a different color. I know we'll make it blue and it just changes on the fly and of course you can set up all kinds of different weird effects doing this. There's also Alien Fusion that's basically a power management utility and it goes through, you know, the same power management options you can get through Windows, but dresses them up nicely and gives you access to a whole bunch of options that it may be hard to find when you're just going through Windows. And of course, there's AlienTouch that controls some of the options for the touch pad. You can change obviously the color of the board of the touch pad, the sensitivity, where the scroll bars are for your finger, and lastly you can control the macro keys along the left side of the keyboard. You can again change the background color and also assign each key to something different whether it's launching a program or doing a particular combination of buttons in a game. Of course, you're not gonna go carrying this thing around in your backpack or to the coffee shop. It's just too huge, but if you do wanna set it up, let's say in a dorm room or in a den as your whole entertainment center, not only has an HDMI out jack. It actually has an HDMI in so you can actually use this big 18-inch screen and hook other things like game consoles and Blu-ray players or other devices up to it. Of course if you're in the market for an Alienware you kind of already know who you are. This is not a laptop for somebody who just wants to surf the web and check their email. It's really designed around high-end PC gaming and of course it has more than enough power to do anything else a high-end PC user would wanna do like HD video editing or anything like that. Of course you are gonna pay dearly for the privilege, but at least you're gonna have a laptop that's a little bit different than everybody else. I'm Dan Ackerman and that is the Alienware M18X. -Since that computer folds in half, I guess it is technically a laptop, but if you fork over the dough for that big boy, I'll be surprised if it ever leaves your desk. When it comes to controlling your privacy on social networks like Google+, the golden rule is to not post anything you don't want anyone else to see, but sometimes it's not that easy. Luckily Sharon Vaknin has a few tips for locking down your info in Google+. -Hey everyone. I'm Sharon Vaknin for CNET.com and today I'll show you how to customize privacy settings for post photos in your profile on Google+. The main feature that sets Google+ apart from Facebook is Circles which lets you selectively post to different people. You need to know a few things about how this works. First any post you make public are indexed by Google. So anyone who searches for your name or something related to those posts might find them in Google search, but most of the time you'll probably post it in limited circles. The problem is that if you're not careful, anyone in your Circles can re-share your post to their audience, but there is a way to prevent this. Once you publish a post, click the arrow and select disable re-share. You also have the option here to disable comments if you want. Now that you understand how post work, let's tweak privacy settings for photos. Head to the photos tab in your profile and hit view all albums. If there's a globe next to the album, it's public. A lock means it's private and a couple of heads means it's limited. To change your sharing settings for any album, click it then hit the link next to visible to and enter Circles or email addresses of people who can view it. Google+ also lets people tag you in photos which are added to the photos of view album, but if you don't want just anyone tagging you in the photos, go to Google+ settings then scroll down to the bottom and select which Circles can tag you here. And this area is another important privacy feature. The Google+ app for Android and iPhone has huddle with lets you chat with people in your network. By default, anyone can start a conversation with you which is really creepy. To disable this from happening, change the setting to just your Circles. Unfortunately, there isn't a way to block it altogether, but I have faith that the option will come in time. Now head to your profile and hit edit profile. We're gonna make some changes here. You can basically select any element in your profile and decide who gets to see it, but I'll point out a few important options. Scroll to the bottom of your about section and check out an option called search visibility. If you don't want your profile to show up in search results, click this setting and uncheck help others find me in search results. Now look at the left side bar. When people visit your profile, they can see who's in your Circles and who has you in theirs. You can hide either or both of these modules by clicking change who's visible here and then checking the boxes. Once you've made all the changes in your profile, hit done editing then see what your profile looks like to the public by clicking view profile as and selecting anyone on the web. If you're satisfied, hit done and enjoy Google+ without worrying about your privacy. As always, if you have questions ask me on my Facebook page and visit howto.cnet.com for more videos like this. For CNET, I'm Sharon Vaknin and I'll see you on the Interwebs. -Now that you've got that all sorted out, ready for another network to join? This week's edition of Tap That App highlights the service called Get Glue and Jaymar Cabebe has all the details. -What's up, folks? I'm Jaymar Cabebe and welcome to Tap That App, the show where we cover the hottest apps on planet earth. This week we're checking out an app for a unique kind of social network called Get Glue. Now I know some of you might be thinking what is the point? Why should I care about checking in to yet another social app? Well first, Get Glue is an awesome place to discover new forms of entertainment. You see, it processes all of your check-ins, your likes, favorites, reviews, etc. and uses them to recommend other things you might enjoy, new shows, indie movies, books, and honestly it's pretty on point with its recommendations. At the same time you can check out trending shows or look at your friend's streams to maybe discover new things from them. And of course there's a game element to the app. Kind of like Foursquare's Badge system, Get Glue gives you stickers for your activity. You can unlock hidden stickers, earn limited edition stickers and post them all on your Get Glue profile. It's really addicting. But what sets these stickers apart from say Foursquares Badges is that you can actually have physical printed copies sent to you for free. So if you really want to represent you can stick them on your computer, your phone, locker, whatever, but in order to get them for free, you gotta earn at least 20 stickers first. So get cracking. Get Glue is available for free in the Android market and the iTunes app store, or if you like you can also access it through your desktop browser. That's it for this week. If you know of any apps worth tapping email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm Jaymar Cabebe. Thanks for watching. -Oh, so it's basically Foursquare for people who never get off the couch. I get it. Alright, the time has come to take a break, but stick around. We still have a lot more Tech Review right after this. Welcome back to the CNET Tech Review. Our weekly video digest of all things good and bad we've seen here at CNET TV. Continuing on in the good. The folks from RIM kept our cell phone editors busy this week with 3 new BlackBerry handsets for 3 different carriers. My favorite of the bunch is the BlackBerry Torch 9810 for AT&T with its slide-out keyboard. Here's Nicole Lee with her First Look. -I'm Nicole Lee, senior associate editor for CNET.com and this is a first look at the BlackBerry Torch 9810 for AT&T. The BlackBerry Torch 9810 is a successor to the BlackBerry Torch 9800 from the previous year. As you can see the design is very similar, is in fact it's almost identical. The key differences between the 2 devices seem to lie within the brighter and cleaner display as well as a slightly wider keyboard. One key difference is that it has BlackBerry's latest OS 7. BlackBerry 7 offers a number of different improvements over OS 6. For example it has improved HTML5 video support and it has a new liquid graphics technology that promises fluid animations, instant response times to taps and improved graphics. It also now has voice-activated universal search. Another improved feature with OS 7 is augmented reality. This is enabled with the digital compass and accelerometer. Aside from the OS 7 looks and feels the same to OS 6 you get the same menu interface. For example, you can switch from different home screens and the home screen is gonna be collapsed down to a smaller invisible tray. Some of the improved apps that come included with the Torch 9810 includes a premium version of DocsToGo, BBM 6, BlackBerry Balancing and BlackBerry Protect. The Torch 9810 as you can see here has a very nice and bright 3.2-inch display, very nice and colorful as you can see here. Beneath the display are the usual shortcuts for the menu, the back key as well as the send-end functions. If the touch screen isn't enough for you and you want more precise control, you can use the optical track pad as well. Slide the phone up and you get the very infamous BlackBerry keyboard. It's a little shallow to our taste and you might not be comfortable with it if you have very large thumbs, but generally we found it decent and easy to use. Another key upgrade over the old Torch is that the Torch 9810 has a 1.2 gigahertz processor. This makes navigation really speedy, really fast. The phone also has Wi-Fi and support for AT&T's HSPA-plus network. On the back of the phone is a 5-megapixel camera and for the first time the torch 9810 can record 720p HD video. The Torch 9810 is 8 gigabytes onboard memory, but if you want more, there's always a micro SD card slot on the back. For pricing and availability, please check out my full review on CNET.com. I'm Nicole Lee. This has been the First Look at the BlackBerry Torch 9810. -If the 9810 isn't the right BlackBerry for you, check out the Torch 9850 for Sprint which does away with the keyboard or the Bold 9930 which offers the more traditional BlackBerry form factor that we all know and love. We've got reviews for both right now at cnettv.com. But before you do that, let's see what showed up this week in the bad. If you haven't noticed already, I've had a bit of a cold this week so Brian Cooley filled in for me on the buzz report and boy am I glad he did because it meant that I didn't have to look at this atrocity for very long. -The gadget of the week is, Jesus, something too hideous to live and too crafty to die, a robot head that can read music with its cold dead camera eyes and OCR brain and then sing it to you. You know it sings the way a corpse whistles. This thing from Taiwan also has facial movements so it can interpret the message of the song. Oh, great. I'm sure it works really well as long as the message is always, "I want to kill you so I can more readily access your gallbladder with my teeth." The inventors at a university in Taiwan hope that can go into production replacing receptionists in some businesses in China very soon. And they said nothing could stop that economy. -Yikes. That thing is just wrong on so many levels. In fact, let's try to forget that ever happened as we move along to this week's Bottom Line. As you might recall from previous episodes I like many of you, was less than pleased when Netflix announced the recent changes to their pricing scheme. And as many of us started looking for Netflix alternatives, Blockbuster emerged as a promising contender. Let's see how the 2 services stack up in this week's Prize Fight. -Glitz up Prize Fight fans. I'm Brian Tong and with changes the Netflix is pricing, people are looking for alternatives. So we're bringing you a throwdown showdown with 2 disc and streaming subscription services. It's a Prize Fight punch-out between Netflix and Blockbuster. Our judges for this fight are senior editor John "Game of Throne's" Falcone, executive editor David "The Bad Boy" Carnoy, and myself, "Me Leading" Tong. Now we'll take all 3 judges blind scores and average them out to the nearest tenth each round, the final Prize Fight score will be an average of all rounds using the same decimal system. These 2 services aren't exactly alike so we'll help break it down for you, but hold on to your butts. Round 1 is all about the disc subscription plan. Netflix has the largest physical disc collection with over 100 thousand TV shows and movie titles with the plan that starts at $7.99. Now if you want Blu-rays you'll pay 2 more bucks a month. Blockbuster's disc plan brings its library of over 95 thousand movies and TV shows, but you'll also be able to rent video games from a collection of more than 3,000 and there's no additional cost for Blu-rays with plan starting at $9.99. But on the fact that Blockbuster gets many of its new releases 28 days before Netflix, and it's Blockbuster that takes round 1 with a perfect 5 and Netflix gets a 3.7. Next round is streaming subscription plans. Neither company has released specific numbers for their streaming collections, but Netflix's $7.99 streaming plan is packed with older movies and it shines when it comes to catching up with TV series from the past. But when you're done with that, what's left. Its biggest drawback is its weak library of new and current content that we all care about. Now Blockbuster doesn't offer a monthly streaming plan. Instead it's an on-demand service with little to no TV show content where you can rent new movies for $3.99 a pop or purchase them as well. Its advantage is that it still brings new titles 28 days before Netflix, but the cost will add up fast. Netflix takes round 2 with a 3.7 and Blockbuster gets a 2.7. So after averaging 2 rounds, Blockbuster leads by 2/10 of a point, round 3 is the by-support. Netflix is supported on nearly every major connected device from phones to game consoles to TV and add it all up and it's over 200 pieces of hardware. It really feels like it's on every device. Blockbuster support is growing. You can access it on laptops, some phones and more, but it's still way behind and when the 50 percent of Netflix viewing is done on game consoles, you probably wanna get in on that action. Netflix takes this round with a perfect 5 and Blockbuster gets a 3. Next round is overall convenience. Netflix brings a clean user interface across all its digital devices that feels familiar and getting people to trust and mailing disc because of its ease and reliability was pretty much created by Netflix. Now Blockbuster's web interface needs a little streamlining, but it's not horrible. Its flexible disc-by-mail program is solid, but the differentiator here is the ability to walk into a physical Blockbuster store and swap all your rentals. Now that sounds great if you're close to one, but there aren't that many left. Netflix takes another round with a 4 and Blockbuster gets a 2.7. So after averaging 4 rounds, the tables have turned and Netflix now leads 7/10 of a point. The final round that will decide it all is combined value. Things have cooled to a simmer after a hot boiling period with the new price changes that split Netflix to streaming and disc rental plans. But let's do the math, even after the split, if you add up both the disc plan and the streaming plan at $7.99 each, you're spending just under 16 dollars a month. Now let's look at the Blockbuster plan. It starts at $9.99 for disc rentals and yes that includes Blu-ray and games, but if you watch just 2 on-demand movies in a month, you're already at 17 dollars. Now these plans come down to what kind of content you care about, but Netflix looks like the more compelling of the two and it takes the final round with a 4.3 and Blockbuster gets a 3. So let's average out all 5 rounds and in a Prize Fight where Blockbuster took the lead after 2 rounds, Netflix fought back and takes this Prize Fight 4.1 to 3.3 and is your Prize Fight winner. We know these services aren't exactly alike and even though Netflix is king of the ring, your best bet might be getting the combination of Netflix's streaming for $7.99 and Blockbuster's disc rental plan for $9.99 where you'll really get the best of both worlds. I'm Brian Tong. Thanks for watching. We'll catch you guys next time on another Prize Fight. -The Bottom Line this week, always bet on red. If you wanna quit Netflix, just on principle, Blockbuster can be a decent alternative, but I like Brian's suggestion of splitting the difference, streaming from Netflix and disc from Blockbuster, especially if you can get them a month sooner. Alright folks, that's our show. Come back next week for an all-new CNET Tech Review. Until then there are tons of great videos available every day at cnettv.com. See you next time and thank you for watching.