Virgin Mobile USA has announced the availability of the new LG Optimus Elite smartphone in Titan Silver, priced at $149.99. This is the first device from Virgin Mobile USA with Near Field Communications (NFC) capabilities, which allows you to use…



BATTLESHIP video game is now available

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As the big-budget movie “BATTLESHIP” is about to hit theaters, Hasbro and Activision Publishing are giving gamers some action with BATTLESHIP the video game, which is available today in stores. The game is described as “combining military strategy and fast-paced…



Saying it wanted to take its experience with HD entertainment and aesthetically pleasing products to the computer industry, TV maker Vizio last night introduced a new line of laptops and desktops.

Among the new computers are the 14- and 15-inch Thin + Light laptops, a 15-inch laptop, and 24- and 27-inch all-in-one desktops. All use Intel’s third-generation Core processors, and start at $900. They’ll be available from retailers such as Wal-Mart, Amazon, Costco, and Target. Vizio is known for low prices on its TVs. Prices for the PC lineup is more a mixed bag, with the all-in-ones inexpensive compared to many others, especially considering that they’re using the latest processors. As for the Ultrabooks, they’re priced middle-of-the-pack for thin-and-light laptops.

We took a look at the systems during Vizio’s launch event yesterday. The all-in-one looked slim and stylish, and the display is tiltable (though not as much as some we’ve seen, including those on HP and Lenovo all-in-ones). The hinge felt a bit wobbly when we tried tilting the screen, so we’ll look more into that when we test the computer.

The keyboard was pleasant to type on, small enough that it didn’t take up a lot of space but large enough to be comfortable. Vizio added a special key that calls up a number of content providers, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu, and Rhapsody. But no software from any of these companies was installed on the computers. One of Vizio’s goals, the company said, was to provide computers with no pre-installed “bloatware.” (You’ll also find this keyboard on the laptops.)

The power supply on the all-in-one has the subwoofer built into it, and the ports are built into the base, not the display. Those include four USB 3 ports. There are also a 1TB hard drive and 32GB solid-state drive for quick start-up. Instead of a mouse, the all-in-one includes a large trackpad.

The Thin + Light line was lightweight and pleasant to hold, with gentle curves and no sharp corners. They look very much like Apple’s MacBook Air, including a sleep LED that “breathes,” a visible cue where the indicator light brightens and dims continually to show that the computer is sleeping as opposed to fully on or off.

The laptops (including the non-Ultrabook) are constructed with aluminum unibodies. The screen is a bit flexible and can bend somewhat when pushed, but not as much as some others. The Ultrabooks were quite thin, though we didn’t get a chance to measure them. The line-up starts with a 128GB solid-state drive and 4GB of memory.

The 15-inch laptop has a very large (for a laptop) 1TB drive. Both 15-inch laptops and the all-in-ones have 1920 x 1080 displays, while the 14-inch is 1600 x 900. Vizio says it emphasized viewing angle and color reproduction while designing the displays.

All the models are available now for pre-order. Vizio didn’t say when they will ship. When they do, we’ll test them for our laptop and desktop Ratings.

When you’re ready to buy your next personal computer use our computer buying guide and check out our Ratings.

After announcing this impressive Quad-core smartphone at the Mobile World Congress last February, LG is ready to release the new Optimus 4X HD this June in Western Europe. The LG Optimus 4X HD Android 4.0 smartphone boasts a 4-PLUS-1 Quad-Core…



Have you ever had a car that wouldn’t start, heard a noise from under the hood, or felt a pull in the wheel, and you didn’t know why? Now, there is an app for that.

Car Trouble can help with the maladies listed above and more, by taking you through a series of basic trouble-shooting questions. Based on your simple yes or no answers, the app can help identify the problem, or at least the problem area, by process of elimination.

The main menu offers six categories covering noises, brake or steering problems, overheating, electrical issues, and the plain old won’t start. Tap on your problem, and follow-up questions narrow things down until you reach a likely solution.

Generally speaking, the descriptions are detailed and some provide some diagnostic background explaining what is normal and what is not. While Car Trouble may not be able to always help you fix the problem, it should at least enable you provide some details to your mechanic or roadside assistance service so they can be better prepared when they arrive.

What we like: Navigation is a cinch, with simple buttons and yes/no options that take you through a very logical sequence to identify problems. Car Trouble has the potential to get you going when you’re stranded, or at least have an understanding of the problem and how is and how serious it is. It’s not perfect, but it is free.

What we don’t like: While the app provides a lot of useful information and appears to be aimed at the layperson, much of it assumes a mechanical knowledge that those users are unlikely to have, such as knowing how to “Loosen the bleeder screw for that wheel.” It also suggests using tools like a voltmeter that not everyone keeps in their car, when trouble may arise. We also found that some problems dead-ended at a problem such as “missing teeth on the flywheel,” with no advice what to do about it. Along the same lines, the ability to translate error codes is handy, but won’t help in a lot of situations and we found its descriptions weren’t always accurate. Smaller gripes are that the type is very small, and white lettering on a grey background adds to the challenge of reading anything on the screen, particularly if you’re outdoors working on your car. A button to return to the home page for a start over, rather than tab “back” repeatedly, would be helpful. Finally, Car Trouble pays the bills by using banner ads, but they’re small and generally not annoying.

What could be improved: More questions and answers to help novices identify problems would be helpful, along with some counsel advising whether the car can safely be driven or driven without further damage with any given problem. Larger typefaces and colors with better contrast would be helpful, along with illustrations to help users identify what they’re looking for. A way to link to local mechanics, auto parts stores, or other services on the road would seem a natural addition.

Compatibility: Car Trouble is produced by HandStorm, Inc. It is a free app, and compatible with iPhone and Android devices.

Related:
iExit Interstate Guide app takes the guesswork out of pit stops
Waze – Free navigation app with traffic and potential for unnecessary distraction
GasBuddy app can help save money on gasoline
Navigon updates iPhone, Android navigation apps

Rockstar Games’ Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. has released the latest in its Max Payne videogame series, the new Max Payne 3, available for the PlayStation3 and Xbox 360 gaming systems for $59.99. Max Payne 3 will also be available for…



Kodak has introduced its new ESP 3.2 All-in-One Printer, along with its new Pic Flick HD App which lets you create personalized photo cards, collages, and prints on an iPad and send them to the printer. The Kodak ESP 3.2…



Sony’s New 16.1 Megapixel a NEX-F3 Camera

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This June, Sony’s ? NEX-F3 “mirrorless” digital camera will be released, offering professional quality photos with a compact, pocket-sized body that supports interchangeable lenses. The NEX-F3 camera features an advanced 16.1 effective megapixel Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor, Full HD…



If you’re one of the 12 million-odd cable customers who still use an analog TV, you may soon need to either get a new TV or a converter box that can handle digital signals. That’s because the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has decided to let cable operators shut off analog TV signals as of mid-December, forcing those with analog TVs to either get a converter or a new TV—or risk losing access to some local TV stations.

In a unanimous decision earlier this week, the FCC decided to let lapse the so-called “viewability order,” a rule put in place back in 2007 when it was considering the country’s planned analog-to-digital TV switchover in 2009. To ensure that analog TV owners wouldn’t lose any “must-carry” broadcast stations, the FCC imposed a rule forcing cable companies that operated hybrid analog/digital systems to carry both types of signals for a period of three years, until June 12, 2012.

Though some groups—especially smaller stations that broadcast religious and/or minority-focused programming, which will be most affected by the decision—had petitioned the FCC for an extension, the FCC unanimously decided to allow the provisions to “sunset.” But to help all the affected parties manage the transition, the FCC extended the sunset by an additional six months, requiring cable operators to continue providing analog signals to subscribers until December 12, 2012.

After that date, cable subscriber who are still using an analog TV will need to get a converter box, which the FCC says will be provide at either no or little cost to subscribers. If you’re one of those affected, you should contact your local cable company to see how you can get a converter box and whether there will be any additional charges for the box or your service.

FCC, Viewability Rule Sunset

Here’s a slick looking speaker from iHome called the iP76 LED Color Changing Speaker Tower which packs Bluetooth technology, and is designed with 16 multi-color LED clusters for some mood-setting light effects. The three-foot high iP76 LED Speaker System has…