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Vacuum buying guide

Ah, the vacuum. That extremely useful hunk o' plastic that's relegated to a utility closet for most of its life. Yes, I admit it: I have a love-hate relationship with vacuums. Sure, they clean the floor, but these home appliances can also be guilty of a number of offenses that make even the most basic clean-ups a major pain. Some are noisy and heavy and have too few or too many accessories. Others come with bins that are a challenge to empty or bags with hard-to-find replacements -- you get the idea.

Basically, there are a lot of potential … Read more

Speaker specifications: A consumer guide

I recently met with speaker designer Andrew Jones at the CNET office in NYC to discuss his latest project, the new Pioneer SP-SB23W Speaker Bar. And after we finished, I picked his brain about the value of speaker specifications.

My take is that most, but not all, are nearly useless for providing consumers with information that could lead to opting for one speaker over another. For example, what exactly does "power handling" mean? When a manufacturer claims its speaker has a 100-watt power handling rating, can it be safely used with a 200-watt-per-channel amplifier? Or a 500-watt amp? … Read more

Lock the iPad to just one app

The first time I handed an iPad to my kid, I felt a little guilty, but not for the reasons you might think. The way I figured, with such an awesome tool in his tiny hands -- with the collected knowledge of mankind literally at his fingertips -- my child had an unfair advantage over his peers and a fast track to an Ivy League education.

But minutes later, when I had to pry Angry Birds from him like a T-bone from a tiger, I quickly realized that the iPad, for all its potential, was a tool that needed some … Read more

Microwave buying guide

The microwave is a kitchen staple, but it wasn't always so. These handy kitchen appliances were actually developed by accident shortly after World War II by a man named Dr. Percy Spencer. Dr. Spencer worked for Raytheon, a company that supplied many of the magnetron tubes used in US and British radars during the war.

One day, Dr. Spencer was standing in front of an active magnetron and noticed that the chocolate bar in his pocket had begun to melt. Perplexed by this, he decided to see what would happen if he exposed popcorn kernels to the magnetron and … Read more

Stove and oven buying guide

Shopping for a new oven or stove can be a daunting experience. Gone are the days when stoves came in two options: a gas stove with a gas oven attached or an electric stove with an electric oven attached. You will likely find yourself inundated with options and a slew of new vocabulary to learn. And while all of those new options might seem overwhelming at first, in most cases, they mean great things for you in terms of accessibility, usability, and overall quality. We hope that this buying guide will give you all of the information you need to … Read more

Dishwasher buying guide

Rules for buying a washer

Know your needsDo you have a large family and run a load of dishes every day? Do you use scant dishes and therefore only need a small wash capacity? Do you plan to wash your pots and pans in your dishwasher? It is advisable to sit down and think about what it is you're looking for in your next dishwasher. With a wide variety of new features spread across many brands, you should have a good idea of your needs before ever setting foot in a store.

Look at new technology It seems like … Read more

Refrigerator buying guide

Refrigerators have long been thought of as the boxy, boring behemoths of the kitchen, and buying one used to be as simple as choosing between eggshell and off-white. But times have changed, with manufacturers increasingly thinking outside of the icebox to try to redefine what the modern refrigerator is really capable of. Today's shopper will find an ever-increasing range of color and style options, cleverly-designed units designed to disappear into your decor, and a wide variety of new smart features, including ones aimed at transforming your kitchen itself into an entertainment hub. It's enough to make you wonder … Read more

Dryer Buying Guide

Dryers have come a long way from the noisy, ugly, cubes of laundry days past. These days, you'll find bigger, bolder, more energy-efficient machines boasting game-changing smart features, entirely new levels of functionality, and designs so attractive, you'll feel guilty stashing them in the basement.

In other words, it's a great time to upgrade, or even purchase your very first dryer (I'm looking at you, laundromat junkies.) Armed with the right information, you'll be able to make a purchase that feels even better than putting on a pair of socks straight out of the high … Read more

Washer buying guide

Rules for buying a washer

Know your needs Ask yourself the important questions about your usage. All washers will clean your clothes, but it's the additional options that can make a huge difference. Do you wash a lot of heavily soiled laundry? (i.e. do you have an athlete at home?) Do you wash large quantities and therefore need a large wash capacity? Will you be needing a gas dryer or an electric one? Knowing your particular needs will help you to narrow down the selection significantly, making your ultimate decision less stressful.

Look at new technologyFrom steam to … Read more

Tiny, maggot-like bot could kill hard-to-reach brain tumors

When J. Marc Simard, a neurosurgery professor at the University of Maryland, saw a TV show a few years back with plastic surgeons using sterile maggots to remove dead tissue from a patient, the proverbial light bulb went off.

"Here you had a natural system that recognized bad from good and good from bad," Simard said last week in a press release from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. "The maggots removed all the bad stuff and left all the good stuff alone, and they're really small. I thought, if you had something equivalent … Read more