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CNET Tech Review
Look at me when I'm poking you!This week on the CNET Tech Review: Google+ and Facebook face off with video chat features; new headphones and speakers make listening easy; fix your parents' PC with your iPad; and the Contour+ HD sports camera hits the road.
-This week on the CNET Tech Review, Google takes a poke at Facebook with Google+ and Facebook fights back with video calling plus hot new headphones and speakers for your auditory needs and take control of your home computer using your iPad. 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 what's good and what's bad in the world of tech plus offer some unique tech wisdom, in the form of the bottom line. Let's start with the good. Since the end of last week, the internet has been abuzzed, which talked of Google's new social networking platform called simply enough Google plus. Now, unless you're among of the lucky few who have been able to score an invite, you might have no idea what everyone is talking about. Well, here's Rafe Needleman to help get you up to speak. -Rafe Needleman with a first look of Google+, Google's Facebook killer. Well, not really. Google+ is the search giant's latest major social networking play and it's the first product that may eventually just give other social networks including Facebook and Twitter and run for the money. Google has learned a lot from the problems that affected earlier experiments like Orchid, Google Buzz, and Google Wave. They key social concept of Google+ is the circle. You can create circles for the different parts of your life, your work, your family, your friends, your hobbies, and it's easy to drag people into circles and then to create updates that just go to particular circles or to all of them at once, and then the key cue from getting overwhelmed by all your contacts and social updates, you can watch just what's happening in particular circles by using streams. So, if you're on the mood to see what's going on with your family, you just check out your family stream. The ease with which you can shift in and out of circle send updates to one or some or all of them is Google+'s big differentiator from both Facebook and Twitter. Now, Facebook in particular also lets you send updates to particular groups, but in plus, the whole setup is around carefully directing updates to particular groups. It doesn't feel like an afterthought like it does in Facebook. Google+ also has a very strong video conferencing feature called hang out. You can create a video room and then invite your friends from some or all of your circles plus displays everyone's webcam image at the bottom of the window and automatically shows a bigger video and whomever is talking. It's a seamless and very powerful video experience. We tried it here and we were up and running and having a natural conversation in moments. Plus also makes it really easy to share photos. It connects to Picasa Web Albums for instant sharing, you can easily drag pictures from your computer into your stream to share with your circles, and if you're mobile, there's a good mobile web version of plus. It has some features that you don't get in the big web version like location based check in and the ability to see stream updates from the friends that are closes to you, but I can access the video hangout features. Android users also get an app and iPhone users will get the app later. All is not perfect in Plus land though. Adding people to your circles can be time consuming and little confusing especially if you're used to the more monolithic social systems of Facebook or Twitter. It's not clear for example if you add someone to a circle if you're also added to one of theirs. Also integration with other Google services is so far incomplete. For example, if you have a lot of contacts and say Google voice, you might see all of those people in Google+, but not the categories or circles that you filed them under, and if you send a direct message to a user from Plus through the e-mail feature and they e-mailed you back, it's shows up in your G-Mail viewer, not on Plus. Plus is big on privacy and data ownership though, which is a big plus. The whole idea of segregating your updates into circles makes it much easier in theory to control who sees what of the things you post. Google is also pushing Plus' take out feature that lets you export all the information on plus to own computer for use however you want. Facebook finally has this two, but that was a very longtime coming. If want to get into to Plus, hit up your friends. There is big demand from people who tried this service and people are in it have been sending out a lot of invitations. Google is only letting those invitations out in small batches for the time being but they should start flowing again soon. It is unlikely that Google+ will unseat Facebook as the number one social network, but it is a worthy additional social service. If you're not already overwhelmed by having to manage your connections on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and elsewhere, it's really worth to try when you can get in. I'm Rafe Needleman for CNET. -Now before you all starting riding, no, I do not have any invites to send you, but stay tune to CNET TV and we'll be sure to share any sign of work around we come across plus tell you all the Google+ tips and tricks we can come with. Of course, Facebook couldn't just lie down and let Google get all the attention, so they scheduled a big surprised announcement for Wednesday. Here's Rafe again with a look at the new video calling features you will soon find inside Facebook. -Comb your hair and try to look nice, Facebook is doubling down on its person-to-person communication tools. It starts with the way you see other online Facebook users. Everyone using the computer with a large or wide screen will notice that facebook has taken the list of who's online and move it to a side far, reinforcing the fact the Facebook is place to connect with friends and real time. Not only there's a side bar make Facebook more alive, but there's a bit more you can do with your friends who hare online with you, in particular, video chat. Facebook has partnered with Skype and you can start a person-to-person video call from within a Facebook web page. You do need to install a small executable on your PC or Mac, but the key point is that you don't need a client app. This all works within the browser. It's fast and easy to get a video call going even if in early testing we did have some audio sync problem, but if you want to video chatting with friends or relatives who are not on Skype or more tactical service like Google, Facebook video is just a great solution. It is the easiest online video system to use and it also has the most users. There are over 750 million people on Facebook. There are few issues though. First, there is no integration with Skype even though the technology comes from Skype deal. Skype users cannot connect the people on Facebook or the other way. This will be added later and could make Facebook and Skype together the most important real time communications network on the planet, but is not here yet. Second, video conversations are person-to-person only. Those of you waiting to see how Facebook will tramp Google's new multi person video hang out feature on Google+, keep waiting. Facebook video was like Google talk the person-to-person video feature, not its cool new hangout. If you want to do video with a bunch of people all at once, stick to Google, and third, there is no mobile access for the video feature. It's another feature that's on the roadmap, but at the moment, mobile buddies can't play along. Facebook also just added a group chat feature, so you can huddle with a bunch of your friends at the same time in a real time conversation. Other instant message platforms that had group chat for a while, but again, when you build a feature into a Facebook, all of the sudden everyone is on it at once. The group chat features easy to use. You just click the tool icon and a person-to-person chat to add additional people and face will then open a new multi party chat window. It can get little hard to manage multiple chat conversations in Facebook at once though and with the multiparty chat that might become an issue for heavy users. These new chat features are here now and they are here for everybody. Facebook is unrolling them out in dribs and drabs like at other service. All Facebook users with camera at is can now do video calling and everyone can participate in the group chat. For CNET, I'm Rafe Needleman. -So, what's it gonna be, Skype via Facebook and hang out in Google+. Either way, it's about to get a lot tougher to avoid talking to those annoying people from high school that you never knew in the first place and now it's gonna be face to face to keep the makeup handy. Up next, we've a couple of products for all of your music and home theater fans out there. First up, Justin Yu has a set of headphones that are not his editor's choice distinction. Then Matthew Moskovciak offers some big speakers with big sound, but a small price tag. - If you're a DJ shopping for a stylish new headset that performs just as well as it protects, AiAiAi deserves your attention. I'm Justin Yu, headphone editor for CNET.com. Here with the first look at the Editor's Choice Winning AiAiAi TMA-1 DJ Headphones. So, it's getting harder and harder for headphones to stand out with a unique look but the TMA-1 succeed where others failed by going backward and pairing the physical design down to a simple one piece look. That not only looks pretty cool but also serves a protective function, so you'll notice that aside from these short spring coils on the side. There is no physical joint to weaken their durability. The silhouette is much more subtle with the blackout stealthy colorway and a wide nylon headband with notch to adjustable ear cuffs. Our only critic with the physical build is the lack of padding on the under side of the headband which we can imagine becoming an issue for DJs playing music all night. The ear cuffs also follow a module or design and AiAiAi gives you an extra set of ear cushions that are really easy to change out, thanks for the four knobs that it just snap early behind each cushion plate. Since the dual 40 mm drivers are protected regardless, you won't have to worry about throwing the headphones into a bag while you travel. DJ headphones also need specific details and AiAiAi answers that demand with the detachable rubber cable and it also has an extra coiled section for more freedom of movement. You'll notice however that you can't actually rotate the ear cuffs for one side of listening, but the materials themselves are so flexible that you can bend them around comfortably without worrying them breaking. The TMA-1's are closed-back headphones and their noise isolation makes them a solid choice for DJs and commuters alike. Some DJs prefer bass-heavy headphones but we actually like the TMA-1's for their natural wide depth of sound and oral realism in relation to the recorded tracks. They do have a considerable low-end punch but it doesn't overpower the other instruments and they can also handle very loud volume, so we don't doubt their performance for DJs in night life environment. You can read all the details and check out more pictures in our full review on CNET.com, but that's gonna do it for me. I'm Justin Yu and these are the Editor's Choice Winning AiAiAi TMA-1 DJ Headphones and that sounds good to me. -Hey, I'm Matthew Moskovciak at cnet.com and this is the Pioneer SPPK21BS. This is a 5.1 speaker system and it's available direct from Pioneer for $400. The two things you need to know about these speakers is that they sound incredible. And as you can see, they're huge. There are 4 satellite speakers for the front and surrounds and they come in at a little over a foot tall. The center channel is one of the largest we've seen at nearly 20 inches wide and it's not gonna fit under your TV, so you need either a separate cabinet or a shelf to put it on. You'll also see that it has a curved bottom, so it doesn't quite sit level, but it doesn't really affect its sound quality. The 100-watt subwoofer is actually average sized for this system and it has just a simple cube shape. All the speakers have a faux wood finish, which isn't quite nice as the high gloss finishes available on some competitors. Around back, you'll find sturdy metal speaker connections that can accept banana plug, spades, or bare wire. Now, if you're Now, if you're willing to put up with the size of these speakers, the pay-off is that you get the best sound quality we've heard from a budget system like this. The Pioneer has no problem getting loud without distortion and it delivers the kind of powerful sound that you just can't get on smaller systems. Even more impressive is that it sounds great with two channel music too, which most budget systems can't handle. When we put it head-to-head with the editor's choice award winning Excellent Take Classic System, the Pioneer definitely had the edge at higher volumes, although to be fair, it is a much larger system. So altogether, if you care more about sound quality than style and you're on a budget, the SPPK21BS is the hands down best pick and an outstanding value overall. But if you're looking at the speakers and you're realizing they're just too big for your room, check out the smaller but still Excellent Take Classic System. I'm Matthew Moskovciak and this is the Pioneer SPPK21BS. -So, whether you're on the road or in your living room, there is no excuse to listening to muddy sound. There's also no excuse for listening to muddy sound that's also auto tuned Britney Spears, but far bet it for me to judge. Okay, the time has come for a quick break, but don't go too far. 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, Antuan Goodwin thanks so much of the Contour+ HD camera that he made it an editor's choice and now you will see it's also one our favorite tools of the trade. - The old Contour HD 1080p that we usually use to record the Car Tech podcast meted unfortunate demise beneath the wheels of a moving vehicle, wrap on the things but ouch. So, we needed a new sports camera. Fortunately, Contour has a new top of the line Prosumer model that just might fit the bill. I'm Antuan Goodwin with CNET.com. Let's take a first look at the editor's choice winning Contour+ HD sports camera. The Contour+ doesn't look much different from the rest of the Contours lineup. It's got the same sort of bullet camera form factor, but if you look closely, you will see the differences. For starters, the twin laser-pointers have been removed from the front to make room for an ultra wide angle lens with a 170 degree viewing angle. The lens assembly now rotates 270 degrees rather than the old 180 allowing the unit to be mounted upside down if necessary. As always, using the contour plus is easy as powering it up and sliding the record slider forward to start recording and back when you're done. Videos are recorded either at 1080p HD at 30 frames per second or in 720p HD at up to 60 frames per second. However, the plus has a few new tricks up its sleeve including a still photo mode that captures 5-megapixel pictures in to 2 to 60 seconds intervals, which is great for time-lapse photography. The unit also features a new microphone input and an HDMI video output that can be used in live video to an external source. Beneath raised record slider is a GPS receiver that keeps track of the latitude, longitude, elevation, and speed of the unit while recording. A feature that comes in the play a little bit later. There's also an internal Bluetooth antenna under that hump that allows unit to connect to an iPhone. Now, why would wanna connect the camera to an iPhone. Well, the Contour+ lacks of view finder, but when you use the Contour up on your iPhone, the handset can show what the camera sees. So you can line up your shot perfectly before you hit the record button. The Apple also lets you adjust the settings of the camera to switch between its various recording modes and adjust exposure and microphone gain on the fly. Once you're done recording, contour also provides its story teller software, which can be used to download the videos from the Contour+ and to trim longer videos to highlight just the most awesome parts. If you recorded GPS data, the storyteller software can also show on a live Google map where you were when you did your recording with speed and elevation data. When you're happy with your video, you can upload it to contour stories video sharing site with that map data intact or export the video for uploading to, for example, YouTube. Now, your Contour won't compact this elegantly. We're being in a bit theatrical here, but it will shift with these accessories including an HDMI cable, a microphone adaptor cable, a mini USB cable, a rubber lens cap, and 3 adhesive mount. Unlike the previous contour models that we've tested, the plus does not shift with a head strap or goggle mount. For most of our testing though, we used our trusty via suction mount, which is actually sold separately. It's $500 MSRP maybe a bit of a turn off for some, but if you the want the absolute best as far as ease of use, fantastic video quality, and compact size, we're picking the contour plus as out editor's choice of current cup of sports cameras. I'm Antuan Goodwin. Check out the full review of the Contour+ over on CNET.com. -And there you have it a little peek of how some of our Car Tech videos, and I wonder if that means our car tech producer Mitch can bring out his iPhone now too. Alright now, as promised, it is time to complete Brian Cooley's iCloud top 5 double header as we move along to the bad. Last week Brian brought us the top 5 things Apple's iCloud service gets right. Well now, it's time to burst some bubbles and countdown the ways iCloud comes up short. - Apple's iCloud. It's what Jesus uses. Well. As with all things Apple, maybe it's not quite as good as the hype. I'm Brian Cooley with the Top 5 things iCloud needs before it can part waters. Number five, it works with Windows, but not for you. iCloud doesn't work with Windows XP, just Vista and 7, but the problem is according to most surveys, XP is still the most popular Windows version out there. Whoops. Number four, Photo Stream. This feature promises to be...complicated. A thousand of your latest pictures are synced on all your devices, but that can be made broader if you manually add them to albums except for the device that took the image originally which always has it and meanwhile, 30 days' worth of photos will be stored on the iCloud servers but all your photos will be kept on the desktop you sync to. Really? Number three, no sharing. I'm an only child and this one bothers me. iCloud is largely a syncing thing, not a sharing service like a Dropbox. That means this isn't a big hard drive in the sky and you sorta gotta keep your hands off it. Most users will be okay with this, but a lot of sophisticated users won't be. Couldn't support both? Number two, installed applications, you still need them. Hi, welcome to the 90s, I'm Brian, I'll be your server tonight. iTunes and iWork are still not cloud apps, only their data made that move. And apparently, MobileMe is losing its web interface as well. That means you can't just plop yourself down in front of any browser and get your stuff. Google may not be losing a ton of sleep. But the number one thing we think iCloud needs or we at least were hoping it was gonna get, is streaming. It's not there. iCloud syncs your music on all your devices, but the files all still live on your devices. You're never streaming your stuff from the cloud purely the way Pandora, Rhapsody, Amazon, Google, MOG, and just about everybody else is doing. Now, I get it, Apple's in the business of selling you devices that hold stuff but this one's starting to feel a little stale. Thanks to CNET's Josh Lowensohn for his help putting this list together, and make sure you check out his piece on making the move from MobileMe to iCloud. We've got a link to that at Top5.cnet.com where you'll find more episodes like this. I'm Brian Cooley, thanks for watching. Seriously, there's still no streaming. So, if you take the time to wait for a movie to download to 1 device, you have to wait just a long for it transfer over to another one, so much for on demand viewing, although I might just have an alternative in this week's bottom line. Our how to video this week features a couple of tips to help you take control of a remote computer with your iPad. Let's see if Sharon Vaknin can help us with that stream problem. Even though your iPad lets you do tons of great stuff when you're out and about, there are plenty of reasons why you might wanna access your home computer instead. I'm Sharon Vaknin for cnet.com with an easy way to control any computer with your iPad. First of all, if your mom is always asking you for text support, it might be just easier to take control for computer instead. To do this, I'm gonna use a free program called TeamViewer. Any computer you wanna control needs to have this program installed and it's compatible with Mac and PC. Go to teamviewer.com and download the program on your computer. When you open, you will see an ID and password. We'll come back to that in a second. Now, go to your iPad and get the free app from the app store, launch it and enter the ID and password from your computer, connect and watch the magic happen. You will see a helpful screen with gesture tip. For instance, use 1 finger as your mouse pointer Drive with 2 fingers to scroll, pinch to zoom, and double tap and drag to move windows. So, now you can show your mom or friend how to change the setting or maybe even send yourself a file from your computer, but what if you want to actually stream media from your computer to your iPad remotely. Instead of taking up space on your iPad by storing movies on it, you can stream from your desktop computer with Air Video. Go to emeta.com and then downloads and grab the Air Video server for Mac or PC. Open it and you will see window where you can add folders you wanna share with your iPad and it's pretty need because you can even share iTunes playlist right here. Now, go to the remote and check enable access from internet. Also make sure automatically Mac core is checked. Make note of the PIN and will be using it in a sec. Next head over to settings and check require password. Make sure you set a strong one unless you wanna give hackers a free pass to your computer. Finally, make sure the server is turned on. Now, head over to your iPad and download the Air Video app, which is actually compatible with all iOS devices. Hit the plus button and select enter server PIN. Enter that PIN you noted from the remote tab and you will be given instant access to the videos on your computer. Just remember that your remote computers will need to stay on and connected to the internet for this to work and that your iPad isn't connected to Wi-Fi while doing this, you're definitely hugging your date usage. As for streaming music, check out my video on how to stream music from the cloud on iOS devices and if you have any questions, come 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 he interwebs. -The bottom line this week: No mom, your computer isn't hunted. I'd suggest that you tell someone that you're gonna still in control of their computer with your iPad first and then of course one downside of this text support technique is that it's not gonna help with one of our biggest problems, the relatives based, why their computer won't connect to internet in the first place. Alright folks, that's our show come back next week for an all new CNET Review and tell them there are tons if videos available everyday on cnettv.com. See you next time and thank you for watching.