Infiniti Hybrid Is a Green Sedan for Silver Foxes

If you’re old enough to remember the energy policies of the Carter administration, green enough to have donated to the Nature Conservancy and young enough to get a rush of testosterone from dusting that polo-shirt-wearing jerk in his BMW, Nissan has the car for you.

And though its styling walks a fine line between “grandpa’s luxury sedan” and “soccer mom sports car,” the 2012 Infiniti M Hybrid pulls off this delicate balancing act with grace.

The result isn’t superb on looks. As you’d expect, meeting so many different design goals results in a car that looks a little, well, melted-together. It’s not going to make anyone’s heart race on the inside, either, with slightly old-fashioned styling exemplified by the quaint analog clock in the dash.

But it is one fun ride.

The sedan’s seats ease into position when you press the ignition button, cradling your butt cheeks — and optionally warming them. The low seats and slightly bulging hood give it a sportier feel on the inside than its looks let on. The car silently backs out of its parking space on electric power alone, while a rear-view camera gives you a clear look at what’s behind you and where the car is tracking. The sound system pumps out your favorite tunes from your iPhone, which you’ve plugged into a USB port in the center console. And when you stomp on the accelerator, the 360-horsepower gas- and-electric power plant presses you back into the leather seats like nobody’s business.

Under the hood, there’s a hybrid engine similar to what’s inside the Toyota Prius: An electric motor drives the car at lower speeds and short distances until the battery is depleted to a certain level, then a bigger gasoline engine takes over.

You can choose between three driving modes with a simple dial: An eco mode saves gas, a sport mode emphasizes performance, and the “why bother” mode is somewhere in the middle.

Handling is excellent for a car that weighs more than 4,000 pounds. It hurls itself forward, into the passing lane, and around corners with ease, especially in sport mode.

For all its conservative styling, there are nice, techie touches throughout the M Hybrid, at least with the options our test vehicle had. Blind spot indicator lights on the right and left front window pillars light up to alert you when a car is sneaking up next to you. (You’ll need those lights, too, since the rear quarter windows are tiny portholes.) The touch-screen dashboard display provides a wealth of data (fuel economy, maps, what’s on your iPod) without getting over-cluttered. And it’s got a respectable sound system.

And did I mention it’s comfy?

In short, everything about the M Hybrid is smoooooooth. Even at 100mph, you feel like you’re sitting in your grandpa’s living room, eating hard candies as you watch that BMW disappear in your rear-view mirror.

Not bad for a relatively economical hybrid.

WIRED Sporty performance reminds you that you’re still alive. Comfortable interior keeps your body cradled in soft, warm leather. Console can control playback of music on an iPhone, iPod or thumb drive plugged into the USB port. Blind-spot indicator lights quickly become an indispensable safety feature. Fun to throw around on twisty country roads. Fuel economy averaged 24.5 mpg over a week of mixed driving.

TIRED Fronts seats are individually heated, but don’t actually massage your back. Rear-view camera easily obscured by raindrops. Poor rear visibility. If you don’t have at least a few gray hairs, you’ll probably feel awkward in such a grown-up-looking vehicle.

Photos: Jim Merithew/Wired

Mizuno’s Foamless Running Shoes Stiffen Your Step

While most shoe companies are chasing the minimalist craze and removing the bottoms of their shoes, Mizuno is going against the trend by doing away with the middle.

There’s a big hole right where the cushioning should be on Mizuno’s Wave Prophecy road shoe. In lieu of the usual EVA foam midsole — usually the first part of running shoes to break down — Mizuno has substituted the Wave Infinity Plate, a system of the company’s own design that consists of two TPU plates connected at ten points along the shoe by rubber baffles. In addition to potentially lasting longer than traditional soles, the plate is meant to provide better cushioning and a more responsive stride for a variety of different running styles. And for $200 a pair, these shoes had certainly better knock one’s socks off.

I wasn’t convinced at first. Initially, the shoe’s firm ride was a little off-putting. But it wasn’t long before I started appreciating the tough love. The foamless sole acts kind of like a leaf spring, compressing with the impact of each strike, and it adapted to a variety of strikes. I felt supported and cushioned whether I ran with my usual forefoot strike or the plodding heelstrike that I devolve into after mile ten or so. But I was able to pull double-digit miles without feeling like my feet were getting beaten up.

I felt quicker in the shoes, too. On the toe-off end of the footstrike, the plate bends to about 15 degrees, then becomes rigid and snaps back just in time to add a bit of “oomph” to every step. During my runs, this helped me maintain a high turnover rate, making the shoe feel a lot lighter than the 15 ounces my size 11s weigh in at.

With all the craziness going on under the foot, it can be easy to overlook the Wave Prophecy’s upper. The main component is a stretchy, mesh fabric — Mizuno calls it Dynamotion Fit — which is designed to mimic the foot’s skin, stretching and compressing with it during a run. The fabric is light and airy, and it gives the shoe’s upper a comfortable, sock-like feel. On hot-weather runs, the upper’s mesh construction let heat escape and prevented moisture from building up within the shoe.

A few weeks after running in the Wave Prophecys, I went back to my old running shoes with the EVA cushioning. I thought I’d appreciate the extra padding, but the old shoes felt too soft. I felt as if I was getting less distance out of every step, sort of like running in mud.

After getting used to the responsiveness of the Prophecys, my feet were begging to go back. It was like driving a Porsche, then suddenly being asked to swap it for a crappy old minivan. I’ll stick with the Porsche.

WIRED Stiff, dual-plate midsole system gives a subtle snap to every step. Responsive, comfortable upper. Potentially the most durable running shoe ever.

TIRED May be too firm for some runners. Potentially the most expensive running shoe ever.

Photo: Jon Snyder/Wired

Mizuno’s Foamless Running Shoes Stiffen Your Step

While most shoe companies are chasing the minimalist craze and removing the bottoms of their shoes, Mizuno is going against the trend by doing away with the middle.

There’s a big hole right where the cushioning should be on Mizuno’s Wave Prophecy road shoe. In lieu of the usual EVA foam midsole — usually the first part of running shoes to break down — Mizuno has substituted the Wave Infinity Plate, a system of the company’s own design that consists of two TPU plates connected at ten points along the shoe by rubber baffles. In addition to potentially lasting longer than traditional soles, the plate is meant to provide better cushioning and a more responsive stride for a variety of different running styles. And for $200 a pair, these shoes had certainly better knock one’s socks off.

I wasn’t convinced at first. Initially, the shoe’s firm ride was a little off-putting. But it wasn’t long before I started appreciating the tough love. The foamless sole acts kind of like a leaf spring, compressing with the impact of each strike, and it adapted to a variety of strikes. I felt supported and cushioned whether I ran with my usual forefoot strike or the plodding heelstrike that I devolve into after mile ten or so. But I was able to pull double-digit miles without feeling like my feet were getting beaten up.

I felt quicker in the shoes, too. On the toe-off end of the footstrike, the plate bends to about 15 degrees, then becomes rigid and snaps back just in time to add a bit of “oomph” to every step. During my runs, this helped me maintain a high turnover rate, making the shoe feel a lot lighter than the 15 ounces my size 11s weigh in at.

With all the craziness going on under the foot, it can be easy to overlook the Wave Prophecy’s upper. The main component is a stretchy, mesh fabric — Mizuno calls it Dynamotion Fit — which is designed to mimic the foot’s skin, stretching and compressing with it during a run. The fabric is light and airy, and it gives the shoe’s upper a comfortable, sock-like feel. On hot-weather runs, the upper’s mesh construction let heat escape and prevented moisture from building up within the shoe.

A few weeks after running in the Wave Prophecys, I went back to my old running shoes with the EVA cushioning. I thought I’d appreciate the extra padding, but the old shoes felt too soft. I felt as if I was getting less distance out of every step, sort of like running in mud.

After getting used to the responsiveness of the Prophecys, my feet were begging to go back. It was like driving a Porsche, then suddenly being asked to swap it for a crappy old minivan. I’ll stick with the Porsche.

WIRED Stiff, dual-plate midsole system gives a subtle snap to every step. Responsive, comfortable upper. Potentially the most durable running shoe ever.

TIRED May be too firm for some runners. Potentially the most expensive running shoe ever.

Photo: Jon Snyder/Wired

Samsung Phone’s Mammoth Screen Is Made for Multimedia

This phone was made to be seen.

No, really. The Samsung Infuse 4G’s huge 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus screen not only looks great, but practically begs for video playback.

Of course, that raises the question: Is that enough to differentiate the Infuse from Android’s numerous oversized offerings? For the most part, yes.

Samsung has packed this lithe handset with pretty much everything necessary for delivering entertainment on the go. Front and center is its spacious, yet ever-so pixel-challenged 800 x 480 display, a 1.3-megapixel forward-facing camera (with an 8-MP heavy hitter on the rear), and a row of capacitive Android navigation keys.

Inside its slinky 0.35-inch frame is a 4G data radio, and a beefy 1,750-milliampere-hour battery and a 1.2-GHz processor. The processor is powerful, but only single-core. I was surprised by this — Android phone manufacturers are rapidly switching to dual-core processors, as the beefier chips are a marquee differentiating feature in a crowded market. And while this phone doesn’t have a dual-core chip, it had more than enough guts for my typical smartphone needs. E-mailing, task management, light calling and even heavy app and web use was reasonably smooth within the phones somewhat outdated Android 2.2 Froyo OS. In fact, once I got over the pocket-stretching size of the device, the multimedia-minded battery made the Infuse a solid performer for marathon productivity sessions.

However, the real fun of the Infuse lies in goofing off.

Bloatware is rarely worth celebrating, but the video-centric apps that ship on the handset aren’t a complete waste. AT&T’s U-Verse app brought both live TV and on-demand downloads of favorite series like Parks and Recreation, while Samsung’s movie rental store and the generic video player supplied access to feature-length content.

It’s worth noting that none of these options are exactly free (save for the video player, which let me play my ripped movies). Despite that predictable hitch, the Infuse mostly handled playback like a champ. Streaming live TV over the 4G connection produced the occasional hiccup, but pretty much anything I downloaded locally played back flawlessly on the device.

An integrated kickstand or dock would’ve helped for longer viewing sessions, but that’s a minor gripe for a phone that actually has the muscle and endurance to rain down serious flickage at a moment’s notice. And that screen! It’s gorgeous.

Is this enough to dethrone hulking competitors like the Droid X2? Probably. Though we’ve all seen a lot of the Infuse’s individual elements before, it’s rare that they’re packed into such a single cohesive package. Even the mildly girth-conscious will likely balk at the size, but it’s hard to take issue with a handset infused with this much win.

WIRED Form+Function+Fun. Oversized touchscreen is great for flicks. Fantastic battery life regardless of use patterns. Preternaturally light at 4.5 ounces. Ships with a $25 voucher for movie rentals. Great photos (8MP) decent video (720p).

TIRED Speaker is fine for calls, anemic for movies. Plastic chassis and volume rocker are pure chintz. Getting video onto a TV is dongle-reliant. All this downloadable video sweetness ships with a tiny 2GB card.

Latest Chumby Isn’t Cuddly, or Useful

Odds are you’ll never hear the phrase, “I sure wish I had my Chumby right now.”

We’ll admit the notion of a dedicated display for consuming RSS feeds was pretty nifty when it launched in 2006. By 2008, we even named Chumby one of the top 10 gadgets of the year.

And we meant it. Heck, a single-serving, Linux-based device for news can still be a useful addition to any bedroom or kitchen.

But the fact that the latest incarnation, the Chumby 8, is billed as “Only $149.95″ says a lot. For starters, the re-tooled hardware more closely resembles a digital photo frame. The original Chumby is the size of an alarm clock radio or a mini-Nerf football. Hence, it was easy to stash on a nightstand or kitchen counter. The Chumby 8 does offer a larger display, but the device’s clunky footprint is all kinds of awkward. The screen is built into a base that’s four inches deep and extends the entire width of the device. Thus, Chumby 8 takes up ample real estate, and there’s no option to mount it or position it flush against wall.

My gripes don’t end there. The eight-inch touchscreen is laggy. The LCD could be crisper. And — get this — there’s no internal battery. So, not only did this thing bogart my kitchen counter, but it required another wall-wart and sat tethered to one location. On the plus side, the Chumby is DIY-friendly, and can run more than 15,000 apps out of the box, including all the obvious ones like Facebook and Twitter.

Nevertheless, the most telling aspect of my Chumby 8 experience? A week later, I replaced it with a 16GB iPad 2 on a dock in the same location. It provides the same updates on the weather, news, social networks, and streaming photo libraries and music — but isn’t tethered or awkward. Sure I spent $500 instead of $150. But pretty much any tablet at any price point would seemingly be a better option than the Chumby 8.

WIRED Port Authority: SD and CF slots, two USBs and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Handles Flash. Doubles as a killer night-light. Hardware also available in red. 1500+ pre-stocked apps, including Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, Wired.com (huzzah!), Reddit Headlines (ditto!), David Letterman’s Top 10 and Chuck Norris Facts (thanks?).

TIRED $100 more expensive than it should be, even after its recent $50 price drop. Bulky hardware. No internal battery. Dull screen. Setup was long and laborious and required entering a 31-digit code online. Dearth of content: The only dating app is Craigslist personals? Each content “channel” contains so many different apps that navigating around can be a bit of a time-suck, which sort of defeats the purpose.

Photos courtesy Chumby

Latest Chumby Isn’t Cuddly, or Useful

Odds are you’ll never hear the phrase, “I sure wish I had my Chumby right now.”

We’ll admit the notion of a dedicated display for consuming RSS feeds was pretty nifty when it launched in 2006. By 2008, we even named Chumby one of the top 10 gadgets of the year.

And we meant it. Heck, a single-serving, Linux-based device for news can still be a useful addition to any bedroom or kitchen.

But the fact that the latest incarnation, the Chumby 8, is billed as “Only $149.95″ says a lot. For starters, the re-tooled hardware more closely resembles a digital photo frame. The original Chumby is the size of an alarm clock radio or a mini-Nerf football. Hence, it was easy to stash on a nightstand or kitchen counter. The Chumby 8 does offer a larger display, but the device’s clunky footprint is all kinds of awkward. The screen is built into a base that’s four inches deep and extends the entire width of the device. Thus, Chumby 8 takes up ample real estate, and there’s no option to mount it or position it flush against wall.

My gripes don’t end there. The eight-inch touchscreen is laggy. The LCD could be crisper. And — get this — there’s no internal battery. So, not only did this thing bogart my kitchen counter, but it required another wall-wart and sat tethered to one location. On the plus side, the Chumby is DIY-friendly, and can run more than 15,000 apps out of the box, including all the obvious ones like Facebook and Twitter.

Nevertheless, the most telling aspect of my Chumby 8 experience? A week later, I replaced it with a 16GB iPad 2 on a dock in the same location. It provides the same updates on the weather, news, social networks, and streaming photo libraries and music — but isn’t tethered or awkward. Sure I spent $500 instead of $150. But pretty much any tablet at any price point would seemingly be a better option than the Chumby 8.

WIRED Port Authority: SD and CF slots, two USBs and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Handles Flash. Doubles as a killer night-light. Hardware also available in red. 1500+ pre-stocked apps, including Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, Wired.com (huzzah!), Reddit Headlines (ditto!), David Letterman’s Top 10 and Chuck Norris Facts (thanks?).

TIRED $100 more expensive than it should be, even after its recent $50 price drop. Bulky hardware. No internal battery. Dull screen. Setup was long and laborious and required entering a 31-digit code online. Dearth of content: The only dating app is Craigslist personals? Each content “channel” contains so many different apps that navigating around can be a bit of a time-suck, which sort of defeats the purpose.

Photos courtesy Chumby

Latest Chumby Isn’t Cuddly, or Useful

Odds are you’ll never hear the phrase, “I sure wish I had my Chumby right now.”

We’ll admit the notion of a dedicated display for consuming RSS feeds was pretty nifty when it launched in 2006. By 2008, we even named Chumby one of the top 10 gadgets of the year.

And we meant it. Heck, a single-serving, Linux-based device for news can still be a useful addition to any bedroom or kitchen.

But the fact that the latest incarnation, the Chumby 8, is billed as “Only $149.95″ says a lot. For starters, the re-tooled hardware more closely resembles a digital photo frame. The original Chumby is the size of an alarm clock radio or a mini-Nerf football. Hence, it was easy to stash on a nightstand or kitchen counter. The Chumby 8 does offer a larger display, but the device’s clunky footprint is all kinds of awkward. The screen is built into a base that’s four inches deep and extends the entire width of the device. Thus, Chumby 8 takes up ample real estate, and there’s no option to mount it or position it flush against wall.

My gripes don’t end there. The eight-inch touchscreen is laggy. The LCD could be crisper. And — get this — there’s no internal battery. So, not only did this thing bogart my kitchen counter, but it required another wall-wart and sat tethered to one location. On the plus side, the Chumby is DIY-friendly, and can run more than 15,000 apps out of the box, including all the obvious ones like Facebook and Twitter.

Nevertheless, the most telling aspect of my Chumby 8 experience? A week later, I replaced it with a 16GB iPad 2 on a dock in the same location. It provides the same updates on the weather, news, social networks, and streaming photo libraries and music — but isn’t tethered or awkward. Sure I spent $500 instead of $150. But pretty much any tablet at any price point would seemingly be a better option than the Chumby 8.

WIRED Port Authority: SD and CF slots, two USBs and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Handles Flash. Doubles as a killer night-light. Hardware also available in red. 1500+ pre-stocked apps, including Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, Wired.com (huzzah!), Reddit Headlines (ditto!), David Letterman’s Top 10 and Chuck Norris Facts (thanks?).

TIRED $100 more expensive than it should be, even after its recent $50 price drop. Bulky hardware. No internal battery. Dull screen. Setup was long and laborious and required entering a 31-digit code online. Dearth of content: The only dating app is Craigslist personals? Each content “channel” contains so many different apps that navigating around can be a bit of a time-suck, which sort of defeats the purpose.

Photos courtesy Chumby

Dell’s 3-D Monster Demands Sacrifice of Human Coinage

Dell isn’t letting the 3-D craze go quietly into the night, and with its XPS 17 3D, there’s a case to be made that maybe it shouldn’t.

Dell’s 17.3-inch, 1920 x 1080-pixel laptop is a beast of a machine, an 8.2-pound monster that is unlikely to ever see an actual lap. Specs are pretty much on the cutting edge across the board: 2-GHz Core i7, 12 GB of RAM, dual 500-GB hard drives and a Blu-ray optical drive. The Nvidia GeForce GT 555M is blazing, powering some of the best video game framerates I’ve ever achieved. General app benchmarks were solid, though considerably short of record highs.

All of that pales, however, next to the XPS’s glorious LCD. It’s not just the brightest laptop screen I’ve ever tested, it’s brighter than the screen of every all-in-one desktop PC I’ve ever reviewed, too. It’s almost as bright as the monster 22-inch flat panel on my desk. And it doesn’t just light up the night, it looks good at just about every angle, too.

Connectivity includes two USB 3.0 ports and one USB 2.0 port, a USB/eSATA combo port, dual headphone jacks, HDMI and a mini-DisplayPort jack.

While performance is good, what you really need to see is how well adding that extra dimension works. The 3-D is effective and didn’t stutter, no matter what 3-D-capable games we played or movies we watched. If you can stomach sitting a few feet from your PC with funky shades on your face, you’ll enjoy the entertainment experience. I found it to be the most effective 3-D laptop I’ve worked with to date.

What’s not to like? Mostly cosmetics: The keyboard is pretty, especially with the backlighting on, but the ultra-flat, island-style keys are awfully slick. I goofed more while touch-typing than I should have. Other issues come across as simple, weird design quirks, like the way the volume buttons are designed: To tick the audio up or down you have to hold down the Fn button and hit a function key. But muting the sound has a dedicated button of its own, no Fn required. None of that, however, is a nuisance that reaches the level of the chicklet-sized arrow keys on the XPS 17: There’s just no excuse for a machine this big to have essential buttons this ridiculously small.

In the end, Dell’s latest XPS is a solid entry into this venerable laptop series, and if you really need 3-D capabilities, it stands up as perhaps the market’s machine to beat. But at a price that approaches two grand and with some distinct drawbacks in its “con” list, you probably have to ask yourself one question before you whip out your Diner’s Club: Do you really need 3-D? Well, do ya, punk?

WIRED Great performance and a top-notch 3-D experience. High-end feature bundle, just as you’d expect at this price level. One of the best LCDs on the planet.

TIRED Gets moderately warm to the touch even under minimal load. Huge fan noise. Questionable keyboard design. Overloaded with Dell shovelware and an unnecessary quick-launch system. Pricey. Awfully heavy.

Photos courtesy Dell

Dell’s 3-D Monster Demands Sacrifice of Human Coinage

Dell isn’t letting the 3-D craze go quietly into the night, and with its XPS 17 3D, there’s a case to be made that maybe it shouldn’t.

Dell’s 17.3-inch, 1920 x 1080-pixel laptop is a beast of a machine, an 8.2-pound monster that is unlikely to ever see an actual lap. Specs are pretty much on the cutting edge across the board: 2-GHz Core i7, 12 GB of RAM, dual 500-GB hard drives and a Blu-ray optical drive. The Nvidia GeForce GT 555M is blazing, powering some of the best video game framerates I’ve ever achieved. General app benchmarks were solid, though considerably short of record highs.

All of that pales, however, next to the XPS’s glorious LCD. It’s not just the brightest laptop screen I’ve ever tested, it’s brighter than the screen of every all-in-one desktop PC I’ve ever reviewed, too. It’s almost as bright as the monster 22-inch flat panel on my desk. And it doesn’t just light up the night, it looks good at just about every angle, too.

Connectivity includes two USB 3.0 ports and one USB 2.0 port, a USB/eSATA combo port, dual headphone jacks, HDMI and a mini-DisplayPort jack.

While performance is good, what you really need to see is how well adding that extra dimension works. The 3-D is effective and didn’t stutter, no matter what 3-D-capable games we played or movies we watched. If you can stomach sitting a few feet from your PC with funky shades on your face, you’ll enjoy the entertainment experience. I found it to be the most effective 3-D laptop I’ve worked with to date.

What’s not to like? Mostly cosmetics: The keyboard is pretty, especially with the backlighting on, but the ultra-flat, island-style keys are awfully slick. I goofed more while touch-typing than I should have. Other issues come across as simple, weird design quirks, like the way the volume buttons are designed: To tick the audio up or down you have to hold down the Fn button and hit a function key. But muting the sound has a dedicated button of its own, no Fn required. None of that, however, is a nuisance that reaches the level of the chicklet-sized arrow keys on the XPS 17: There’s just no excuse for a machine this big to have essential buttons this ridiculously small.

In the end, Dell’s latest XPS is a solid entry into this venerable laptop series, and if you really need 3-D capabilities, it stands up as perhaps the market’s machine to beat. But at a price that approaches two grand and with some distinct drawbacks in its “con” list, you probably have to ask yourself one question before you whip out your Diner’s Club: Do you really need 3-D? Well, do ya, punk?

WIRED Great performance and a top-notch 3-D experience. High-end feature bundle, just as you’d expect at this price level. One of the best LCDs on the planet.

TIRED Gets moderately warm to the touch even under minimal load. Huge fan noise. Questionable keyboard design. Overloaded with Dell shovelware and an unnecessary quick-launch system. Pricey. Awfully heavy.

Photos courtesy Dell

Cartier Automatic Watch Is Some Classy, Drool-Worthy Bling

A $20 drug store watch will do if all you want is the time, but luxury watches are about more than just counting hours and minutes.

To be honest, many people buy luxury watches — generally, any watch priced at over $1,000 — because they are status symbols, planted on your wrist for all to see. They are also an investment, a finely crafted piece of bejeweled artwork to pass along to future generations. But most of all, they are pure functionality taken to the extreme, precision time-keepers tuned to split-second accuracy.

So I expected both mechanical perfection and a serious bling factor when I agreed to test the new Calibre de Cartier auto-winding watch, a $7,000 new release from the classic jeweler Cartier.

There are two notable firsts for Cartier here: this is the first watch caliber in the company’s history designed specifically for the men’s “sports” market, and it’s the first equipped with an automatic mechanical movement crafted entirely in-house at its La Chaux-de-Fonds workshop in Switzerland.

Cartier’s 1904-PS MC mechanical movement is an automatic mechanism — the watch is wound by kinetic energy, and the swing of your arm as you walk is enough to keep it ticking. But it’s particularly intricate and unique when compared to other automatic movements, and the technological standouts are numerous. It uses double barrels (most automatic watches traditionally have one), and this gives it a highly constant chronometry throughout the duration of the watch’s 48-hour power reserve. This means the watch will display time accurately and consistently for two days after you take it off your wrist, even though at that point it’s no longer getting wound by the movement of your arm. The Calibre also has a bi-directional winding system in place rather than a more conventional one-way winding of the gears. The rotor’s motion is smoothed by ceramic ball bearings instead of oil. This protects it from shock and makes trips to the repair shop less frequent. (This extra shock resistance must be where the “sports” angle comes in.)

Obviously, the accuracy and potential longevity of the inner mechanics should be the ultimate consideration as to whether or not a watch is worth the money. But let’s face it — at this price point, the thing should also look damn good.

The polished stainless steel bracelet, the understated design of the dial and the large 42mm case are all demonstratively masculine. The black dial sports a stamped contrasting white XII at 12 o’clock. There’s a small seconds counter at 6 o’clock, and the dial is topped with luminescent, sword-shaped hands. Today’s date peeks through a crescent-shaped inset. Flip it over, and some of the 186 hand-assembled components inside are visible through the crystal on the back of the exhibition case.

Our test watch’s stainless steel band came with enough links for a rich gorilla, but you can obviously remove the links to fit smaller wrists. Ours had a black dial, but it also comes in white, and there’s a lower-priced version with a leather band as well as some much-higher-priced models in various gold settings.

At well over a quarter pound (5.3 ounces to be exact) this hulking watch felt heavy in my palm, but surprisingly not heavy at all on my wrist. The shiny, stainless steel casing and band are solid without screaming “manly,” but on my wrist, it still felt like a wholesome dose of testosterone.

I wore the Calibre to an upscale restaurant during my testing period. The chatty waitress, admiring the watch, cracked, “Is that watch big or are you just glad to see me?” She got a big tip. But seriously, the Calibre de Cartier is thick at 10mm, though it certainly isn’t as thick as other watches of this class and design. And the austere, understated look does give the impression that the wearer has refined taste. For the one month loan period when I got to wear the watch everywhere, I felt like a million bucks.

WIRED The epitome of luxury watch-making both inside and out. Hand-assembled, automatic mechanical winding system will last for generations. Simple, classic design. Dead accurate 48-hour reserve. Water resistant to 100 feet.

TIRED Your wallet will take a serious bruising. As with any intricately assembled mechanical device, pricey expert servicing is required periodically.

Photos by Jon Snyder/Wired

Dell’s 3-D Monster Demands Sacrifice of Human Coinage

Dell isn’t letting the 3-D craze go quietly into the night, and with its XPS 17 3D, there’s a case to be made that maybe it shouldn’t.

Dell’s 17.3-inch, 1920 x 1080-pixel laptop is a beast of a machine, an 8.2-pound monster that is unlikely to ever see an actual lap. Specs are pretty much on the cutting edge across the board: 2-GHz Core i7, 12 GB of RAM, dual 500-GB hard drives and a Blu-ray optical drive. The Nvidia GeForce GT 555M is blazing, powering some of the best video game framerates I’ve ever achieved. General app benchmarks were solid, though considerably short of record highs.

All of that pales, however, next to the XPS’s glorious LCD. It’s not just the brightest laptop screen I’ve ever tested, it’s brighter than the screen of every all-in-one desktop PC I’ve ever reviewed, too. It’s almost as bright as the monster 22-inch flat panel on my desk. And it doesn’t just light up the night, it looks good at just about every angle, too.

Connectivity includes two USB 3.0 ports and one USB 2.0 port, a USB/eSATA combo port, dual headphone jacks, HDMI and a mini-DisplayPort jack.

While performance is good, what you really need to see is how well adding that extra dimension works. The 3-D is effective and didn’t stutter, no matter what 3-D-capable games we played or movies we watched. If you can stomach sitting a few feet from your PC with funky shades on your face, you’ll enjoy the entertainment experience. I found it to be the most effective 3-D laptop I’ve worked with to date.

What’s not to like? Mostly cosmetics: The keyboard is pretty, especially with the backlighting on, but the ultra-flat, island-style keys are awfully slick. I goofed more while touch-typing than I should have. Other issues come across as simple, weird design quirks, like the way the volume buttons are designed: To tick the audio up or down you have to hold down the Fn button and hit a function key. But muting the sound has a dedicated button of its own, no Fn required. None of that, however, is a nuisance that reaches the level of the chicklet-sized arrow keys on the XPS 17: There’s just no excuse for a machine this big to have essential buttons this ridiculously small.

In the end, Dell’s latest XPS is a solid entry into this venerable laptop series, and if you really need 3-D capabilities, it stands up as perhaps the market’s machine to beat. But at a price that approaches two grand and with some distinct drawbacks in its “con” list, you probably have to ask yourself one question before you whip out your Diner’s Club: Do you really need 3-D? Well, do ya, punk?

WIRED Great performance and a top-notch 3-D experience. High-end feature bundle, just as you’d expect at this price level. One of the best LCDs on the planet.

TIRED Gets moderately warm to the touch even under minimal load. Huge fan noise. Questionable keyboard design. Overloaded with Dell shovelware and an unnecessary quick-launch system. Pricey. Awfully heavy.

Photos courtesy Dell

Infiniti Hybrid Is a Green Sedan for Silver Foxes

If you’re old enough to remember the energy policies of the Carter administration, green enough to have donated to the Nature Conservancy and young enough to get a rush of testosterone from dusting that polo-shirt-wearing jerk in his BMW, Nissan has the car for you.

And though its styling walks a fine line between “grandpa’s luxury sedan” and “soccer mom sports car,” the 2012 Infiniti M Hybrid pulls off this delicate balancing act with grace.

The result isn’t superb on looks. As you’d expect, meeting so many different design goals results in a car that looks a little, well, melted-together. It’s not going to make anyone’s heart race on the inside, either, with slightly old-fashioned styling exemplified by the quaint analog clock in the dash.

But it is one fun ride.

The sedan’s seats ease into position when you press the ignition button, cradling your butt cheeks — and optionally warming them. The low seats and slightly bulging hood give it a sportier feel on the inside than its looks let on. The car silently backs out of its parking space on electric power alone, while a rear-view camera gives you a clear look at what’s behind you and where the car is tracking. The sound system pumps out your favorite tunes from your iPhone, which you’ve plugged into a USB port in the center console. And when you stomp on the accelerator, the 360-horsepower gas- and-electric power plant presses you back into the leather seats like nobody’s business.

Under the hood, there’s a hybrid engine similar to what’s inside the Toyota Prius: An electric motor drives the car at lower speeds and short distances until the battery is depleted to a certain level, then a bigger gasoline engine takes over.

You can choose between three driving modes with a simple dial: An eco mode saves gas, a sport mode emphasizes performance, and the “why bother” mode is somewhere in the middle.

Handling is excellent for a car that weighs more than 4,000 pounds. It hurls itself forward, into the passing lane, and around corners with ease, especially in sport mode.

For all its conservative styling, there are nice, techie touches throughout the M Hybrid, at least with the options our test vehicle had. Blind spot indicator lights on the right and left front window pillars light up to alert you when a car is sneaking up next to you. (You’ll need those lights, too, since the rear quarter windows are tiny portholes.) The touch-screen dashboard display provides a wealth of data (fuel economy, maps, what’s on your iPod) without getting over-cluttered. And it’s got a respectable sound system.

And did I mention it’s comfy?

In short, everything about the M Hybrid is smoooooooth. Even at 100mph, you feel like you’re sitting in your grandpa’s living room, eating hard candies as you watch that BMW disappear in your rear-view mirror.

Not bad for a relatively economical hybrid.

WIRED Sporty performance reminds you that you’re still alive. Comfortable interior keeps your body cradled in soft, warm leather. Console can control playback of music on an iPhone, iPod or thumb drive plugged into the USB port. Blind-spot indicator lights quickly become an indispensable safety feature. Fun to throw around on twisty country roads. Fuel economy averaged 24.5 mpg over a week of mixed driving.

TIRED Fronts seats are individually heated, but don’t actually massage your back. Rear-view camera easily obscured by raindrops. Poor rear visibility. If you don’t have at least a few gray hairs, you’ll probably feel awkward in such a grown-up-looking vehicle.

Photos: Jim Merithew/Wired

Facebook Engineers Build Google+ Inspired Facebook Hack

With many asserting that Google+ is heavily Facebook influenced, Facebook engineers Vladimir KolesnikovPeng FanZahan MalkaniBrian Rosenthal have flipped the switch and taken inspiration from the novel Google Circles design with Circlehack, a much simpler tool to build Facebook Friend lists.

Right now the only way you can create lists on Facebook is by going to the Friends page, clicking on the Account drop down menu, then clicking on “Edit Friends” and then again on “Create a List” and a bunch of other cumbersome stuff.

It’s a mess, but crucial if you want to achieve the same granular sharing features as Google+ on Facebook (which you can do by going to “Privacy Settings,” clicking “Customize,” then under “Make this open to” click oh hell just Google it).

While Circlehack doesn’t have all the design features of Google+ e.g. the circles your friends are members of don’t glow upon hover and you can’t automatically set Groups or privacy settings within the app, it’s a start, at least for Facebook.

Well played guys, well played.


Infiniti Hybrid Is a Green Sedan for Silver Foxes

If you’re old enough to remember the energy policies of the Carter administration, green enough to have donated to the Nature Conservancy and young enough to get a rush of testosterone from dusting that polo-shirt-wearing jerk in his BMW, Nissan has the car for you.

And though its styling walks a fine line between “grandpa’s luxury sedan” and “soccer mom sports car,” the 2012 Infiniti M Hybrid pulls off this delicate balancing act with grace.

The result isn’t superb on looks. As you’d expect, meeting so many different design goals results in a car that looks a little, well, melted-together. It’s not going to make anyone’s heart race on the inside, either, with slightly old-fashioned styling exemplified by the quaint analog clock in the dash.

But it is one fun ride.

The sedan’s seats ease into position when you press the ignition button, cradling your butt cheeks — and optionally warming them. The low seats and slightly bulging hood give it a sportier feel on the inside than its looks let on. The car silently backs out of its parking space on electric power alone, while a rear-view camera gives you a clear look at what’s behind you and where the car is tracking. The sound system pumps out your favorite tunes from your iPhone, which you’ve plugged into a USB port in the center console. And when you stomp on the accelerator, the 360-horsepower gas- and-electric power plant presses you back into the leather seats like nobody’s business.

Under the hood, there’s a hybrid engine similar to what’s inside the Toyota Prius: An electric motor drives the car at lower speeds and short distances until the battery is depleted to a certain level, then a bigger gasoline engine takes over.

You can choose between three driving modes with a simple dial: An eco mode saves gas, a sport mode emphasizes performance, and the “why bother” mode is somewhere in the middle.

Handling is excellent for a car that weighs more than 4,000 pounds. It hurls itself forward, into the passing lane, and around corners with ease, especially in sport mode.

For all its conservative styling, there are nice, techie touches throughout the M Hybrid, at least with the options our test vehicle had. Blind spot indicator lights on the right and left front window pillars light up to alert you when a car is sneaking up next to you. (You’ll need those lights, too, since the rear quarter windows are tiny portholes.) The touch-screen dashboard display provides a wealth of data (fuel economy, maps, what’s on your iPod) without getting over-cluttered. And it’s got a respectable sound system.

And did I mention it’s comfy?

In short, everything about the M Hybrid is smoooooooth. Even at 100mph, you feel like you’re sitting in your grandpa’s living room, eating hard candies as you watch that BMW disappear in your rear-view mirror.

Not bad for a relatively economical hybrid.

WIRED Sporty performance reminds you that you’re still alive. Comfortable interior keeps your body cradled in soft, warm leather. Console can control playback of music on an iPhone, iPod or thumb drive plugged into the USB port. Blind-spot indicator lights quickly become an indispensable safety feature. Fun to throw around on twisty country roads. Fuel economy averaged 24.5 mpg over a week of mixed driving.

TIRED Fronts seats are individually heated, but don’t actually massage your back. Rear-view camera easily obscured by raindrops. Poor rear visibility. If you don’t have at least a few gray hairs, you’ll probably feel awkward in such a grown-up-looking vehicle.

Photos: Jim Merithew/Wired

Infiniti Hybrid Is a Green Sedan for Silver Foxes

If you’re old enough to remember the energy policies of the Carter administration, green enough to have donated to the Nature Conservancy and young enough to get a rush of testosterone from dusting that polo-shirt-wearing jerk in his BMW, Nissan has the car for you.

And though its styling walks a fine line between “grandpa’s luxury sedan” and “soccer mom sports car,” the 2012 Infiniti M Hybrid pulls off this delicate balancing act with grace.

The result isn’t superb on looks. As you’d expect, meeting so many different design goals results in a car that looks a little, well, melted-together. It’s not going to make anyone’s heart race on the inside, either, with slightly old-fashioned styling exemplified by the quaint analog clock in the dash.

But it is one fun ride.

The sedan’s seats ease into position when you press the ignition button, cradling your butt cheeks — and optionally warming them. The low seats and slightly bulging hood give it a sportier feel on the inside than its looks let on. The car silently backs out of its parking space on electric power alone, while a rear-view camera gives you a clear look at what’s behind you and where the car is tracking. The sound system pumps out your favorite tunes from your iPhone, which you’ve plugged into a USB port in the center console. And when you stomp on the accelerator, the 360-horsepower gas- and-electric power plant presses you back into the leather seats like nobody’s business.

Under the hood, there’s a hybrid engine similar to what’s inside the Toyota Prius: An electric motor drives the car at lower speeds and short distances until the battery is depleted to a certain level, then a bigger gasoline engine takes over.

You can choose between three driving modes with a simple dial: An eco mode saves gas, a sport mode emphasizes performance, and the “why bother” mode is somewhere in the middle.

Handling is excellent for a car that weighs more than 4,000 pounds. It hurls itself forward, into the passing lane, and around corners with ease, especially in sport mode.

For all its conservative styling, there are nice, techie touches throughout the M Hybrid, at least with the options our test vehicle had. Blind spot indicator lights on the right and left front window pillars light up to alert you when a car is sneaking up next to you. (You’ll need those lights, too, since the rear quarter windows are tiny portholes.) The touch-screen dashboard display provides a wealth of data (fuel economy, maps, what’s on your iPod) without getting over-cluttered. And it’s got a respectable sound system.

And did I mention it’s comfy?

In short, everything about the M Hybrid is smoooooooth. Even at 100mph, you feel like you’re sitting in your grandpa’s living room, eating hard candies as you watch that BMW disappear in your rear-view mirror.

Not bad for a relatively economical hybrid.

WIRED Sporty performance reminds you that you’re still alive. Comfortable interior keeps your body cradled in soft, warm leather. Console can control playback of music on an iPhone, iPod or thumb drive plugged into the USB port. Blind-spot indicator lights quickly become an indispensable safety feature. Fun to throw around on twisty country roads. Fuel economy averaged 24.5 mpg over a week of mixed driving.

TIRED Fronts seats are individually heated, but don’t actually massage your back. Rear-view camera easily obscured by raindrops. Poor rear visibility. If you don’t have at least a few gray hairs, you’ll probably feel awkward in such a grown-up-looking vehicle.

Photos: Jim Merithew/Wired