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Samsung Series 9: Heir to the MacBook's throne?: CNET Tech Review

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CNET Tech Review: Samsung Series 9: Heir to the MacBook's throne?

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This week on the CNET Tech Review: get Amazon's Cloud Player on your Android phone; the Acer Iconia looks better on paper; and Samsung's Series 9 will make you covet your neighbor's laptop.

-This week on the CNET Tech Review: how to use Amazon Cloud Player on your Android phone; how to turn on parental controls on your iPhone; how to get free e-books from the library--boy, that sure is a lot of How Tos. All that and the Samsung Series 9 are 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 you 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 get started with the good. In really good news for those of you who, like me, have digital music stored on 3 different computers, 2 old iPods, and an Android phone, Amazon launched a new cloud service for storing all your tunes and then downloading them anywhere, which is awesome. And here's how you use it on your Android phone. -Hi, I'm Sharon Vaknin for CNET.com here to show you how to use Amazon's Cloud Player with your Android device. Sorry iPhone users, you're going to have to sit this one out. Amazon didn't release an app for you. First, set up an account on amazon.com and upload music to your account. It's pretty straightforward. You can upload almost any MP3 or AAC files, so music you've downloaded from iTunes, Amazon, or other stores will work. You can also use music ripped from CDs no matter where you got them. Amazon gives you the first 5 gigabytes of storage free. If you wanna get more storage, through the end of the year, you can purchase an album from Amazon and they'll bump you up to a total of 20 gigabytes for free per year after your purchase. Now, you're ready to stream your music library to your android device. Download the free Amazon MP3 app from the Android Market. Once it's there, go to Cloud Drive Music and sign in with your Amazon account. Now, you're ready to play music you've uploaded to your Cloud. Just remember that your device must be connected to your network or Wi-Fi to stream music. If you know you'll be off the grid but still want to access your music, the applets you download tracks directly on to your device. Hit the green arrow next to any playlist, artist, or album to download multiple titles; or long press any song to download a single track. The player also lets you create and modify new playlists and access music stored locally on your device. You can also use this app to purchase new music from the Amazon MP3 Store and save it to your cloud drive for safekeeping. Since Amazon wants you to purchase music from them, purchases made from the store won't be counted against your storage capacity. For now, Amazon Cloud Player is only available for Android devices, Macs, and Windows computers. Expect to see more developments around the cloud storage though. Apple and Google should be jumping on the bandwagon anytime now. For CNET.com, I'm Sharon Vaknin, and I'll see you on the interwebs. -I love that service so much. All right, now, speaking of Android, there are so many new phones and tablets out there that you're probably looking for ways to get the most out of your new devices. Well, here's Antuan Goodwin with 2 tasty tricks. -Most Android users will get there app fixed from the Android Market, but there are plenty of very cool apps we found outside of the market from small developers and, more recently, from third-party sources such as Amazon's App Store for Android. Now, out of the box, your Android phone will not allow you to make use of these third-party apps, flagging them as untrusted sources. But, come on, you can trust Amazon, right? I'm Antuan Goodwin with CNET.com and I'm gonna show you how to enable third-party app installation on your Android phone. Now, enabling this function is actually quite simple. Just pop into your Android phone's setting menu, look for the applications option. Tap that and then look for an option that says "unknown sources". It is usually the first one here, but the placement can vary from phone to phone. Check that box then back out of the menu and voil� ! You'll be able to install third-party apps from anywhere. Now, the apps themselves are usually transported to .APK file and can be found all over the place. The easiest place will be from Amazon's Appstore, but don't let your hunt stop there. Oftentimes, app makers will make beta versions of their app such as the Swype Alternative Keyboard available on their website, which can be downloaded and installed directly from your phone's browser. Other places to look include Android-hacking communities such as the XDA developer forums, or the Droid forums where devs are always cooking up neat little applets that you can download to your phone's SD card and then access and install using a file manager such as Astro. Unfortunately, access to the third-party app installation function is at the discretion of your wireless service provider. So, for example, users of AT&T-powered Android phones such as the ATRIX 4G and Samsung Captivate are unable to use or even see this option without first rooting their phone and possibly getting your hands dirty with some command line action. Well, there you have it. You're now free to get your apps from wherever you darn well please. Be sure to check out the Android Atlas blog for even more Android tips and tricks, and CNET TV for even more How To videos. This has been Antuan Goodwin with CNET.com showing you how it's done. We've all been there. You're trying to track down a group of friends in a crowded park on a Sunday afternoon. But telling that you're standing near that one tree and a pack of hipsters isn't very useful when there are dozens of trees and literally hundreds of hipsters. I'm gonna show you a quick way to share your location with your friends using little more than your Android phone. The easiest way is to use a location sharing service like Google Latitude to keep your pals constantly updated of your whereabouts. However, services like this also require that your friends sign up, which they may not be too keen on doing or may not even have access to. So, here's how you send your location to your friends using little more than Google Maps and a well-placed text message or e-mail. Pop over into the Google Maps app and make sure that your phone has an accurate fix on your location by tapping the "Find Me" button in the upper right corner of the screen. If you see a gigantic blue circle surrounding your location, then you only have an approximate fix and you'll need to wait a few seconds for your GPS accuracy to improve, or move to a spot where you have a better view of the sky. Once you're satisfied with your positioning accuracy, tap on the blue arrow marking your location, then tap the text bubble that appears. You'll be brought to a menu that shows more information and options relevant to where you happen to be. The option that you're interested in is the one that says "send location to others". Tap that and you'll be presented with a variety of sharing options. You can now use your mail client or text messaging app to send your location to your pals. On their end, they'll receive a Google Maps link that can be used with the Google Maps app on their Android or iPhone, and the Google Maps Web app on any other phone or computer; or open with any other mapping app that supports Google Maps coordinate system, such as MapQuest. You can also use this message for sending any address, business, or meeting place to your friends. Simply search for the business, for example your favorite burrito spot, and tap the location to bring up the "Places" page. Then, tap the more options icon to share the location complete with street address for turn-by-turn directions with your friends using the "Share This Place" option, and that's all there is to it. You can now hope your friends find you wherever you are or wherever you may be going without compromising your or their privacy. Be sure to check out the Android Atlas blog for even more Android tips and tricks, and CNET TV for more awesome How To videos. This has been Antuan Goodwin showing you how it's done. You could find me right here on CNET.com. -Naturally, when it comes to mastering your Android phone, these tips only scratch the surface. But rest assured, we'll keep bringing you more Android How To advice all the time over at cnettv.com. Now, if you iPhone and iPad folks are feeling a little left out, here's a video that's just for you: how to manage the parental controls on your iOS device. -Hi, I'm Sharon Vaknin for CNET.com here with some advice that might save you a lot of money. We've heard many stories about kids who spent hundreds of their parents' dollars on apps, especially games. Usually, it's the in-app purchases that rack up your iTunes bill, like the $25 barrel of Smurfberries in Smurfs' Village, or a $20 jar of stars from Tap Zoo. Maybe a few of you purchase-happy non-parents should also take this advice. I've seen enough adults obsessed with Farmville. To disable in-app purchasing on your device, go to Settings, General, then Restrictions. When you turn restrictions on, you'll be asked to set a passcode. Pick one that no one can guess. Now, you can configure a number of controls. To disable in-app purchases, scroll down to "Allowed Content" and switch it to off. Remember that on iOS 4.3, Apple asks for your password each time an in-app purchase is made, but this setting will completely disable these purchases. You can also disable the installation of apps so that you choose what goes on the device. There may be other things you don't want your kids doing either, like downloading explicit music, sharing their location, or playing games with strangers. All those settings and more are available here. Disabling downloads and in-app purchases are good for passive control, but here's an option that will help your child learn about budgeting. iTunes has a little-known feature called "Store Allowance". It lets you to send a monthly iTunes credit to another user. So, you can give your child $10 a month for app purchasing, and they can decide how it will be budgeted. Go to the iTunes store and click "Buy iTunes Gifts". Scroll down to "Allowances" and click "Set up an allowance now". Before you do this, you'll need your own iTunes account and the account of the person who's getting money. If they don't have one, you can set one up in this next window. Once you fill out the form, select the monthly allowance, and you're set. If you ever want to make changes, go to you your "Account Information" page. Allowance lets kids learn about budgeting without putting your credit card at risk. If they run out of money, they'll have to wait 'til next month. For CNET.com, I'm Sharon Vaknin, and I'll see you on the interwebs. -Of course, if you make your parental control strict enough, your kids will probably lose all interest in using your iOS devices anyway. So, it's really a win-win situation. Okay, let's wrap up our Hot To extravaganza this week with a handy tip that anybody can use no matter what platform you're on, assuming you like to read, that is. -I'm Sharon Vaknin for CNET.com here to bring you back to the good old days. We're seeing brick-and-mortar bookstores, like Borders, go bankrupt as cheap online stores and e-books are taking over. So, let's help keep one thing alive: libraries. Today, I'll show you how to check out e-books and audio books from your local library for free. First, you'll have to get off the couch, walk out the door, and head to your local library to get a library card. Then, download the OverDrive app. It's available for almost every platform including Windows, Mac, iOS devices, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile. OverDrive is like the Kindle or iBooks apps for libraries. Once it's on your device, open the app, hit "Get Books", and then add a website. You'll be asked to find your library. Once you do, select the right library system. Now, you're ready to find a book to download. Here's the annoying part though. Right now, most libraries only have a few copies or licenses of each book. You'll have to think back to your childhood and remember that if somebody else checked out the book you want, you'll have to wait your turn. Each book can be loaned out for up to 14 days. So, if 3 people are on the waiting list ahead of you, do the math. That's 42 days. But every library system has its own licenses for e-books and audio books, so you might have to check a few libraries before finding the copy of your book. When you do find a book that's ready for download, hit "add to cart" and check out. This is when you'll be asked to enter your library card number. Now, confirm your check out and hit "download" in the next screen. OverDrive will re-open and begin the download. One thing to keep in mind is that books downloaded with OverDrive can only be used with that app. You won't be able to open them in any other e-reader app like iBooks or Kindle. OverDrive isn't for people who need instant gratification. So, if that's what you're looking for, you'll probably have to purchase your e-books on digital platforms, or go to one of the few physical bookstores left. If you have any How To questions, comments, or ideas for one of these videos, e-mail howto@cnet.com. For CNET, I'm Sharon Vaknin, and I'll see you on the interwebs. -And the best part? You don't have to return the books when you're done. Goodbye overdue charges. All right, let's take a break, but come right back for 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, switching gears from phones and tablets, let's talk laptops and tablets. As Brian Cooley points out in this week's Top 5, Apple may have cornered the tablet market for now, but there are plenty of worthy competitors nipping at Apple's heels. -Something like 82% of people who are considering a tablet are actually thinking of an iPad--pretty stark numbers from a recent survey by ChangeWave. But, I know you're more creative than that. I'm Brian Cooley with Top 5 tablets to beat the iPad listed by their ecosystem or platform. Number 5, check this out: the Barnes & Noble NOOK Color. That's right, an e-book reader. But if you root this Android-based reader, bump it up to Android 2.2 Froyo, You'll get a very credible Wi-Fi tablet that only costs about 2-1/2 bills, even less if you root around eBay to buy one. And unlike the rest of the tablets in our list, it's actually a real e-book reader with all that great screen technology. Now, it'll have no access to 3G for data, might be a little unstable, and rooting will void the warranty. But, what the hell! You can afford to buy two of these for the price of most real tablets. Number 4: the BlackBerry PlayBook. Here's another category of 1, if you will. The PlayBook has been impressive in our hands. It's compact enough that it doesn't require you go bag shopping the same day you buy one, and it uniquely pairs with your BlackBerry to inherit contacts, calendar, and e-mail. So, it's like a BlackBerry that does media well, which is something we weren't sure RIM would ever figure out. Number 3: the Windows 7 tablets from many of the big netbook names in most cases like Asus, Lenovo, Samsung. Now, some people think a Windows 7 tablet is kind of oxymoronic since tablets normally have a lightweight operating system and use apps, and this is, of course, a real operating system that uses programs. And with Apple and Android blotting out the sun these days, Windows 7 tablets are a bit of a dark horse. But 7 gets a lot of love for its performance on netbooks, and you know how to use Windows right out the box, and Microsoft has the guts of a great tablet OS already in Windows Phone 7, if it'll just liberate it to go to tablets. Number 2: the HP TouchPad running webOS. Everybody loves this operating system. But in the past, no one liked any of the hardware it lived on. The TouchPad seems to give webOS the kind of device it was always meant for. And don't forget, HP's the biggest seller of PCs. They sell a bajillion to consumers and business. Their spillage alone is more than many companies actually make a living on. So, they can move a tablet. Before we get to our number 1 tablet that makes you think twice about an iPad, here's a look at where tablets are going in 2011. After selling about 18 million tablets, nearly all of them Apple in 2010, the predictions are that in 2011, Apple remains in a big lead role, but the tablet sales will soar to 45, maybe 58 million units. This may be the fastest, hottest introduction in tech history. Okay, the number 1 tablet to make you think twice before you pull the trigger on an iPad is anything Android from a Dell Streak 7 to a hefty Motorola Xoom. This platform's breakout success on smartphones greases the skids with consumers and developers alike. And the 3.0 version of Android, Honeycomb, is white-hot and tablet-centric. Oh, and most of the new tablets that are gonna come out, period, are gonna be Android-based. They'll have multi-carrier support in most cases. Oh, and that's the other thing, too: they can display a Flash website. Okay, those are the families to watch. Like a bunch of mafiosi, you gotta be careful 'cause specific tablets are breaking out weekly. So, stay on top at CNET's Tablet section. It's the busiest burner on our stove these days. And for more Top 5s like this, head to top5.cnet.com. I'm Brian Cooley. Thanks for watching. -I like the idea of rooting a NOOK to turn it into more of a tablet than an e-reader. If only someone could show us how to do that. I'm looking at you, Antuan and Sharon. In the meantime, let's see what we've got going on in the bad. First off, let me just say that the Acer Iconia isn't really all that bad, but I had to put something in the slot. So, let's take a look at a laptop that's really cool and no one's ever gonna buy. That's the bad part. -I'm Dan Ackerman and we are here with a laptop we have been waiting for, for some time. That is the Acer Iconia and as you can see, it ditches the regular setup of a screen up on top and the keyboard down here for 2 independent 14-inch touchscreens. It's a little bit like a Nintendo DS or maybe like your iPad, because you're supposed to use an on-screen keyboard to type. Now, the way you get to that on-screen keyboard is simply by taking 10 of your fingers and resting them lightly on the bottom screen, and that pops up a keyboard that looks about as well as the one on the iPad does, which means that you'll need a few to sort of self train to get used to it, but I actually find it fairly easy to use. Once again, you kinda get over that learning curve. You can also take one hand and put your 5 fingers down, and that would give you kind of a media control jog wheel that lets you launch some specialty apps and also get into a bunch of different settings designed for the touchscreen in this machine in particular. Now, we call systems like this kind of the executive laptop because they're kind of gimmicky, they're highly designed, sometimes they're kind of overpriced, and they're really meant for sort of the CEO of the company to go, "Hey, I need one of these fancy things to put in my, you know, desk to impress people but they're not really meant for everyday use." In terms of the executive laptops, the Iconia was actually a little bit easier to use than most, even though it is really based on a big gimmick. Once we got used to typing on the screen, even though there's not really any sort of feedback besides the clicking sound when you type, we eventually got used to almost touch-typing on it. There was just enough of a hint of lag on the typing that if you're a superfast touch typist, you might run into that; for most people, not so much of a problem. Our bigger issue with this is a touchpad built into the bottom here, but it's really too small, and since it's a virtual touchpad, you feel like they could really just make it as big as they wanted. But you're gonna end up going off the sides a lot, and I actually found myself not using the touchpad as much as just reaching up and clicking on the things I wanted on the top screen. Now, I'm gonna demonstrate very quickly some of the cool things you can do if you have 2 screens because the number 1 question we get about the system is why would I need 2 screens. The first thing you can do is open up a Web browser and maybe have it on the top screen, or hit this little button there and flick it down to the bottom screen, or you can have 1 window open in the top and an entirely different window open in the bottom, and they're both, you know, touch sensitive so you can play around with them like that. We also took an HD video and put it in the top screen, then we took another HD video and put it in the bottom screen and played them both at once, and it actually worked pretty smoothly. We also did this with some online video and that worked as well. There's also some custom-made apps designed for the touchscreen. If you do the 5-finger thing and you hit the TouchBrowser that brings up a Web browser that works across both screens automatically, although you're really more likely to just use Chrome, or Firefox, or your favorite browser. There's also a custom-made social media app, and photo and video apps. Again, you're more likely to just use your regular versions of those, but there is a nice kind of control center where you can turn the backlight of the different screens off and on, and perform a bunch of power and system control functions. Now, with two 14-inch touchscreens, this thing is pretty much a tank. It's really thick. It's really heavy especially compared to other 14- or even some 15-inch laptops. We're also not happy that it uses the last generation of Intel processors. If they moved up to the newer version that's something called Sandy Bridge, you probably get better performance, longer batter life, and even some basic game playing ability. As it is right now, this thing really can't play games, although as you saw, it does the HD videos just fine. One thing we did like about it is that for a so-called executive laptop, compared to a lot of other laptops that are super fancy like the Samsung Series 9 or Dell's Adamo XPS, this guy is actually relatively reasonably priced considering what you get. It's about $1199, which certainly doesn't put it outside of the mainstream of high-end mid-sized laptop pricing. I'm Dan Ackerman and that is the Acer Iconia. -I kinda feel like Acer made the Iconia just to prove that they could. But, in the end, isn't it really just a big tablet that you have to fold in half to carry around? All right, let's go ahead and check out this week's Bottom Line. From a laptop no one wanted to one that everybody does, it's time to feast our eyes on the beauty that is the Samsung Series 9. I have been drooling over this thing since I first saw it at CES in January, and here's Scott Stein to show you why. -Hi, I'm Scott Stein and this is not a MacBook Air. It's a Samsung Series 9 laptop. You may have heard about this back at CES 2011 and it is one of the most hyped laptops of this year, especially if you're a Windows user. It is a rival to the MacBook Air in terms of its design, in terms of its size and weight, and also in terms of its price. This is $1649 for the 13-inch Samsung Series 9. That's not cheap, but it's about the same price as what you get for a similarly configured MacBook Air 13 inch. Actually, it's a little bit more. Now, the design on this features a Duralumin exterior. Now, that's a metal that Samsung says is used to construct airplanes and has a nice brushed aluminum feel. It certainly feels sturdy but on the inside, it's a little bit plasticky around the keyboard area. That's not the case on the all aluminum MacBook Air, but it still feels great. The keyboard is nice and large, nearly the same as a MacBook Air, and it has a nice large trackpad, definitely one of the largest trackpads that we've seen on a Windows laptop. It's a clickpad, so there are no discrete buttons. You click on the bottom here on a sort of a levered button system. It has a matte glass surface. It feels great for multi-touch gestures; very quick responding. Now, as far as ports, they're buried on the sides behind little doors that slide out. It's a little unfortunate. We prefer direct access to our ports, but there are a few of them. There are a couple of USB ports, there's a mini-HDMI port, and there's a very funky special dongle that will connect to Ethernet. While that's a little annoying, there's no Ethernet port on that MacBook Air either. Now, inside, this has a Sandy Bridge next-gen Intel Core i5 CPU, but it runs at the slower clock speed than those other Core i5s that you see out there; a low-voltage processor. We'll have to see how it tests in our full review. And the battery that's integrated promises hopefully equivalent battery life as well. It comes with 4 gigs of RAM and a 128-gigabyte SSD drive that, for the price range, is half of what the MacBook Airs tend to provide for the cost. You can get a 13-inch MacBook Air with a 128 gig SSD for about $1249, which is cheaper. This has integrated Intel second-generation graphics which, as we've shown before, are capable of playing some games. We're not expecting a lot out of this one but it should be capable of playing some games. We did get Street Fighter IV to technically playback on this. And speakers are buried on the sides here. There are little speaker ports on the side of the unit, which actually have pretty good sound for its size. I mean, it's not gonna shake a room. And there are a couple of other nice little features on this laptop. It has a backlit keyboard. The screen, as you might notice, is matte which is very rare on laptops and some people are gonna want this laptop just for that, and it has a very fast sleep-wake system built into it. By flipping a lid and putting it to sleep, it actually turns off all the power to the unit and then will wake up extremely fast in about 3 seconds, which is nice. I mean, it's a super speedy startup time and will conserve power. Boot up time, they claim, is about 60% faster than other hard-drive-based laptops. We definitely found so far that it's a pretty fast boot time compared to Windows laptops. Overall, this is definitely one of the sleekest, sexiest Windows laptops and if you wanna show off in a coffee shop with your futuristic, high-tech machine over your latte, well, pick this one, but you're gonna be paying a high price to do it. However, for its size, for its portability, it might be the worth it for some people. I'm Scott Stein and this is the new Samsung Series 9. -The Bottom Line this week? Why did I buy this thing? All right, well, I'll save my buyer's regret until the Series 9 prices come down a little bit. But, oh my god, it's gorgeous. So gorgeous! All right, folks. That's our show. We'll be back next week with a brand, spanky new CNET Tech Review. Until then, there are tons of great videos available everyday at cnettv.com. See you next time and thank you for watching.
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