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Check out our 2013 Holiday Gift Guide, win some awesome gadgets!
Our 2013 Holiday Gift Guide is in full swing - we are adding our recommendations daily, aimed at men, women, teens, families, techies, and more. If you need help figuring out what to get the people in your life, head on over to our Guide for some ideas. We’ll even be giving away some of the items featured this year!
The perpetual war for supremacy between AMD and Nvidia constantly leaves enthusiasts dodging shrapnel: When you want the best video card you can afford, why buy one now instead of waiting for the better one the competing chipset designer will undoubtedly release in a few months? This leaves reviewers in a tough spot, too, as we're constantly proclaiming that nearly every new card is the fastest ever. But because you can only live in the world you live in, we're obliged to go there. So, here goes once again: The just-released AMD Radeon HD 7970 ($549 list) is the latest fastest and most feature-rich single-GPU card ever, surpassing our previous Editors' Choice winner, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 580.
Though we have little doubt that Nvidia will yank back that title with its next generation of cards, the 7970 is an impressive achievement for the moment. (It's rumored to become widely available by early January of 2012.) The inaugural member of the Southern Islands family, it utilizes a fresh architecture AMD refers to as "Graphics Core Next." Based on a new 28nm process technology and utilizing more than 4.3 billion transistors, Graphics Core Next uses a revised instruction set architecture, gives each compute unit the ability to simultaneously execute instructions from multiple kernels, and delivers an increased number of instructions per clock cycle per square millimeter of GPU space. The result, so AMD claims, is "designed for high utilization, high throughput, and multitasking."
How much does Android 4.0 mean to you? How much do you need to have it right now? Because that's the dilemma with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone ($299-$649). Overall it's not quite as good a phone as the Motorola Droid RAZR ($299). But right now, it's the only phone running Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), and that's the future.
In many ways, this is the ultimate early adopter phone. The phone itself isn't perfect; typically, Nexus phones aren't the best hardware on the market. But the software takes a major leap forward, with everything from a better Gmail experience to a faster browser and the ability to put folders on your home screens. Do you need that right now? Then yes, you need the Nexus. Why else might you want to jump on board the latest flagship Google device? Hit the link and follow us through our full Galaxy Nexus review for the answers.
I've been using my Kindle Fire since it came out, and while I'm still waiting for CyanogenMod9 to come out and let me actually put Ice Cream Sandwich on my Kindle Fire, I've been relatively happy with the performance.
The main interface tweak added to the Kindle Fire is the ability to remove items from the carousel on the home page. This is a small but useful way to keep your most commonly used apps organized and, if necessary, make sure other users don't see whatever naughty things you might have been perusing.
That's the only change to the main screen; you still can't organize your apps into categories or customize your menu beyond adding and removing items from favorites and the carousel. I use my Kindle Fire for several different things, and it would be great to organize my apps by categories like Online Content, Books, Network Tools, and Games. The Fire still has Amazon's default seven tabs and single app list organized alphabetically or by date.
When we first reviewed the Samsung Focus Flash, we felt its smaller form factor and significantly lower price made it a better deal than the Focus S at first glance ($199.99 - $19.99 on Amazon). Now that we've tested the Focus S, we're singing a different tune. True, you're only getting a bigger screen, an improved camera, and a thinner profile, but the Focus S brings Windows Phone 7.5 Mango closer than it has ever been to the high-end. That alone makes this smartphone worth a close look, especially given its slick OS. Click on through to see why in our full Samsung Focus S review.
The Twelve South MagicWand aims to solve a simple-yet-annoying issue with the Apple Wireless Keyboard and Magic Trackpad. We've used the Wireless Keyboard and Magic Trackpad combo pretty much exclusively here at Gear Live ever since the Magic Trackpad launched back in July 2010, and while we've enjoyed it (heck, we haven't switched away from that setup yet after 16 months,) there's one problem. Despite the fact that the Trackpad and Wireless Keyboard line up perfectly when next to each other, they have a really hard time staying put.
What I mean is, you constantly have to bring the Magic Trackpad back over to its spot next to the keyboard. It's not something you need to do every few minutes or anything like that, but a few times a day we've found that the Trackpad has mysteriously inched its way across the desk and needs to be wrangled up and brought back home. The TwelveSouth MagicWand solves this.
The HP TouchSmart 520-1070 ($1,399.99 direct, or $1329 on Amazon) is the high-end entry in HP's current TouchSmart line of touch-enabled all-in-one desktop PCs. Equipped with powerful components, like a quad-core processor and 2TB hard drive, it's also packed to the gills with entertainment options, offering a big 1080p display, Beats Audio, a Blu-ray drive, TV-tuner, and a remote control. An HDMI-in port is just icing on the cake, extending the life of this desktop even further for use as a monitor.
Design and Features
The 520-1070 has a glossy black plastic chassis, but it's more than just a monolithic 23-inch screen. Two vertical arms hold the touch screen aloft from the silvery plastic base, with a single immense hinge to adjust the angle. But while the hinge is housed in the base, the components are housed behind the widescreen display, which provides 1,920-by-1,080 resolution as well as a large multitouch surface. Thankfully, HP took the time to get this hinge right, and you'll find that despite your touching and tapping, the 520-1070 stays firm though it all, without the wobble that mars the experience on competitors, like the Samsung Series 7 (DP700A38-01) or Asus ET2410-06. It also has a decent range of motion, sitting at a vertical 90-degree angle that can be adjusted all the way back to a comfortable 60-degrees.
A few months ago, we reviewed the Nyko Charge Base for Nintendo 3DS ($29.99, 4 stars). This clever, yet inexpensive, accessory boosts the battery life to the Nintendo 3DS, but requires you to remove the back panel of your 3DS to attach it. The Nyko Power Grip ($29.99 list) clips onto the 3DS and provides all of the battery-boosting of the Charge Base for the same price, without the need for a tiny screwdriver. Is it worth it? Read on for our full review!
The LG Nitro HD ($249.99 with two-year contract) is the third smartphone to tap into AT&T's emerging 4G LTE network and (after the HTC Rezound) the second phone available in the U.S. to feature a 720p display. That display looks absolutely dazzling in person and the Nitro is a performance speed demon. We're leaving our Editors' Choice with the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket ($249.99) for its better signal strength and data speeds, but make no mistake: Either phone is a great choice.
Design, Screen, Call Quality, and Data Speeds
The Nitro HD looks and feels a a lot like the Skyrocket. It measures 5.27 by 2.67 by .4 inches (HWD) and weighs 4.5 ounces. It's made entirely of matte black plastic and features a textured back panel. While the look is somewhat generic, that all seems irrelevant once you feast your eyes on the Nitro's glorious, 4.5-inch 720-by-1280 AH-IPS (Advanced High-Performance In-Plane Switching) display. It's a real stunner. At 329 ppi, it has even greater pixel density than the Apple iPhone 4S ($199, 4.5 stars), with its 326 ppi Retina Display. For further comparison, a device like the Motorola Droid RAZR ($299.99, 4.5 stars), which features a 4.3-inch qHD display, has 256 ppi.
The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime feels like the first laptop-class Android tablet, with its quad-core 1.4GHz processor, clever add-on keyboard dock, and its support for USB storage and console gamepads. This is easily the most impressive Android tablet ever. But with such startling specs, it's outstripping the weak app selection available for Google's Android Honeycomb OS. Although there are a few standout apps for the platform, the lack of a thriving Android tablet app community makes the Transformer Prime a less sure choice than it should be. Read on for our full review of the Transformer Prime to see if it's worth your attention (or money.)
This is a huge deal. Ice Cream Sandwich is the biggest upgrade to Google's Android OS since Android 2.2 hit in May 2010, and possibly the most important update ever. From what I've seen so far in a day with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone, Android users should be demanding their share of Ice Cream—and it should absolutely make a difference in your phone purchases.
Google lent me an international developer unit of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the first ICS phone. This isn't the LTE device that Verizon Wireless will be selling in the U.S., but it's roughly the same size and shape with very similar capabilities, so it's a good way to judge what ICS will be like when it hits the USA.
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