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CNET Tech Review: The tablet war heats up

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CNET Tech Review: The tablet war heats up

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This week on the CNET Tech Review: new tablets from Acer; the Galaxy Tab vs. the iPad in our Prizefight; awful cell phones you should avoid; and protect your passwords with LastPass.

-This week on the CNET Tech Review, Acer tries to take a bite out of Apple, the Galaxy Tab versus the iPad in a tablet Prizefight, LastPass prevents poor password, and cellphone carriers ratings for where you live. It's all coming up right now. Hey 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 and offer some unique tech wisdom in the form of the Bottom Line. Let's get started when the good. Just before the Thanksgiving break, Acer held an event in New York to show off a couple of their would-be iPad killers. Dan Ackerman was on hand to give us a peak at what's to come. - I'm Dan Ackerman and we're down in Soho today where Acer had a big press event to talk about really the hot topic of the year that's tablets and touchscreens. They had a handful of products and some new services to show off, key among them, Iconia. It's a 14-inch laptop, and if it looks like something's a little bit different, that's because it has two screens and they're both touchscreens. This is more of a full laptop experience and to get that onscreen keyboard, what you do is you don't hit a button or anything, you take both hands, 10 fingers, 2 palms, put them down right here and it knows to pop up the full keyboard right there which then you can type on depending on your proficiency with onscreen keyboards. It will also take one-hand input. You put all five fingers down and it brings up this media jog wheel that lets you jog through all sorts of different media options and, of course, they actually have their own custom web browser built in right here that's meant to work with both screens. I've got it up right here but with one touch, I can expand it to both screens or I can just view it just on the top. The Iconia is a full-featured laptop. It's got an Intel Core i5 processor and it runs Windows 7 and it should be available, depending on where you live in the world, either in December or early in 2011. So we're here with Acer's just-announced 10-inch Android tablet. Unlike a lot of other Android tablets that we've seen, this one's actually gonna use Nvidia's Tegra platform and that should give you a pretty good experience in terms of, you know, media viewing and videos and music and stuff like that. It's designed to work with Clear.fi. That is Acer's new multimedia sharing platform and it should be out some time in 2011. It does not yet have a name, a price, or any info on which cell carriers are going to sell it in the US. Acer also talked about a couple of new services. One is Clear.fi, that's their media sharing platform for having a central hub in your home and sharing music and movies and video among different devices. The other is Alive, that is Acer's new content store and that works again on Acer products and it's a little bit like iTunes in that it has movies and music but it also has e-books and other kinds of publications and apps and even games and what it does it keeps track of your preferences and let's you set up almost channels, if you like a particular artist or type of music or movie, you can set up a channel and it will give you suggestions based on things that would fit in that channel like superhero movies or Lady Gaga. They're just in time for the holiday shopping season to kick off. Acer's giving us a whole bunch of stuff to think about for next year. In Soho, I'm Dan Ackerman. -Looks like Acer is really taking a run at Apple. A fancy laptop, a tablet, wireless media sharing and the Acer store, better watch out, Steve Jobs. But before those Acer's come to market, Apple's already got its hand full trying to fend of attacks from Samsung and the Galaxy Tab, and of course, there's really only one way to crown the king of tablets, Prizefight. - What's up Prizefight fans? I'm Brian Tong and this is the first-ever Prizefight tablet war that you've been asking for. It's a price fight punch out between the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Apple's iPad 3G. Our judges for this fight our senior editor Donald "Saved By The" Bell, senior associate editor, Jessica "Dish Em Out" Dolcourt and Brian "Ring A Ling A Ding" Tong. Now, we'll take all 3 judges' blind scores and average them out to the nearest tenth each round. The final Prizefight score will be an average of all rounds using the same decimal system. Let's get ready to rumble, round 1 is Design: Samsung's Galaxy Tab has a solid design with its 7-inch screen and curved corners that's less than half the size of the iPad. It's wider and more comfortable to hold. The Tab's 1024 X 600 resolution on a smaller screen brings a slightly crisper image, but it left us wanting more and by more, we mean screen size. The iPad brings Apple's highest level of design and its 9.7-inch screen is big, but its design isn't bulky. The metal finish and curved edges are gorgeous, and its 1024 x 768 display just pops. It might be heavier than you like, but if feels like it's worth every penny. Apple's iPad gets a perfect 5 and Samsung's Galaxy Tab gets a 4. The next round is controls and user interface. The Galaxy Tab is pure Android and if you've used it before, you'll feel ride it home. One issue is that it's the exact same experience you would get on a phone. There's nothing that makes it unique for a tablet. You'll still get the same customization, but widgets don't align with icons. Hitting the menu button to access app features on the Android OS bugged Donald. The swipe info method is here, but at the end of the day, new comers to tablets might feel intimidated by its learning curve. Now, it doesn't matter if you've used an iPhone or iPod. The iPad's user interface is so simple. Several judges mentioned how our nieces and nephews 1 years and older can all use the iPad. We kept saying it, but it's still amazing how easy it is to use. The keyboard is more spacious and comfortable for typing, and the iPad will snap your navigating overall. The iPad strikes hard with its 2ndth perfect round and the Galaxy Tab gets a 3.3. So, after averaging 2 rounds, Apple leads by more than a point, but there's plenty of fight to go. Round 3 is features and performance. The Tab has everything that iPad users have been craving for with front and rear facing cameras with a flash; a micro SD card slot; wireless hot spot capability; and flash 10.1 support. It also covers pack with Google's goodies like voice search and commands, Google navigation and access to key services in the notifications pull down. Apps store in the marketplace are still built for phones and just don't take full advantage of the screen real estate; they're just bigger. The Tab is also a step-behind performance wise with a few laggy moments and its battery life is shorter by 3 hours. Now, the iPad can't match up with the hardware features, but it's still the snappiest tablet on the market with significantly better battery life. The new control strip is a nice edition, but changing the orientation button to a mute button is idiotic. It also has plenty of apps built specifically to use the larger form factor and it makes for a better user experience, but it's not enough as the Tab finally takes its first round with a 4 and the iPad gets a 3.3. Next round is web browsing and multimedia. The Tab's web browser is a solid offering, but it's frustrating how it goes directly the most of the mobile versions of web sites by default. Even with the 7-inch screen, the experience can be a little print. Now, flash playback can be hit or miss and it has laggy moments when you're pinching and zooming into web sites. Samsung's media hub is a nice way to get media content, but it still has a long ways to go. The 3-megapixel rear camera is mediocre, but one advantage is that it's easier to hold and use an eBook reader. Now, the iPad's web browser is a full-screen multitouch version of Safari that actually makes web browsing more fun and takes advantage of its space, even though it doesn't have flash. The multimedia experience is one of a kind with its deep library of content from iTunes. It has a polished media player, multimedia apps that add more access to content and a large screen that enhances the experience. The iPad gets a 4.7 and the Tabs get a 4. So, after averaging 4 rounds, Apple's lead has been trimmed down to 7 tens of a point. The final round that decides it all is value. The Samsung Galaxy Tab can be purchased with a 2-year contract on T-Mobile or Sprint for $399 or without a contract on all 4 carriers for around $599. Data plans vary, but at that price, you're almost paying the same price of an iPad 3G for half the screen size. Apple's iPad 3G starts at $629 with no contract and Apple broke new ground with a portable data plans. The Wi-Fi only models gives you even lower pricy. But if you're looking for the best bank for your buck, is the iPad. Tablet prices are still a little high overall, but in the final round, the iPad gets a 4 and Samsung's Galaxy Tab gets a 3. So, let's average out all 5 rounds, and in a Prizefight where Apple came out swinging with back-to-back perfect rounds, The Galaxy Tab closed the gap, but it was just too much to overcome, and the Apple iPad 3G takes this first time tablet face-off 4.4 to 3.7 and is your Prizefight winner. Both of these tablets are great picks and will fit different needs. But this show on market will constantly be flooded with new contenders and the war for Prizefight supremacy rages on. I'm Brian Tong. Thanks for watching. We'll catch you guys next time on another Prizefight. Was there ever any questions what was gonna win on that Prizefight? Yeah, not really. But luckily for Samsung, they've got other new products for you to choose from and not just the TVs and smartphones you are used to seeing. Check out this new laptop courtesy of Scott Stein. -Hi! I'm Scott Stein, senior associate editor at cnet.com and this is the Samsung QX410. Now, this holiday shopping season, everybody wants to know the same thing, "How do I get a great, affordable laptop that's got everything I need and it's pretty compact? And simple questions, right? Well, you may not be thinking of Samsung laptops. But this year, we've been really surprised at the quality and the affordability of Samsung laptops that we've seen and the QX410 is a slimmer, nicer looking design that really looks like kind of a crossbred of Vaio and a MacBook Pro, and a price that's really pretty reasonable, $849. And inside, you've got a core i5 processor, 4 gigs of RAM, 645 gigabyte hard drive and NVIDIA Optimus enabled automatic-switching graphics. Now, the graphics aren't spectacular. It's GeForce 310M which are entry-level but they enable you to play most mainstream games pretty well. Don't expect anything screaming if you're a real hardcore gamer. We're able to play everything from Unreal Tournament 3 to Activision's Blur at pretty reasonable frame rates and we enjoyed it. In addition, this laptop has Intel Wireless Display which we've seen on a number of other laptops. You need to purchase a separate $99 Netgear box called Push 2 TV. Once you have that, it enables streaming of video and audio content wirelessly to your television and it works really nicely with the exception of it doesn't play Blu-ray or DVD content. You probably will have that hooked up to your TV anyway. Considering of all that in this package for under a $1000, it's a great deal especially since it's a really nicely design laptop. It has aluminum metal frame here, brushed metal on the back, edge-to-edge glossy display. The keyboard feels really nice. It's sort of like a MacBook keyboard. It's a little bit like a Vaio keyboard or if you use ASUS's raised keyboards. And there's a MultiTouch clickpad that's pretty nicely sized better than other competitors we've seen. Not as large as a MacBook Pro's, but hey, we're not complaining. And the port selection is pretty nice. You've got your USB ports. You've got your HDMI. There's nothing unexpected on here. There's no express card and there's no Bluetooth on this. But other than that, for $849, you're getting graphics. You're getting a good processor. You're getting good specs. You're getting Intel Wireless Display and you're getting a design that to most people is gonna look high end, but hey, it's $849. You save a little bit of money this holiday season. Give this Samsung QX410 a look. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. I'm Scott Stein and this is the Samsung QX410. -So, pretty snazzy laptop from Samsung and a pretty snazzy short for Scott too, although maybe not the best for shooting on that set. I think I lost track of them a couple of times. Turning our attention back to Apple, last week in the tech review buying guide, we suggested that the iPad and the MacBook Air both make great gifts, but is now really the right time to buy Apple products? Well, let's check in with Brian again with his buying guide from the Apple Byte. - Okay. It's the holidays and you probably want some real good advice about when is a good time to buy that specific Apple gadget. We get tons of e-mails about it. So, we wanna give you the Apple's Buyer Guide or what we like to call here the AppleByter's Guide. Get it? Alright, we have 3 Apples: green means it's good to go; yellow means it's in the middle of its product life cycle, so, it's okay but it might be worth holding out a little longer; and red means wait for an update soon. Now, things are fluid and unpredictable, but this is using the best info we have, so first up, the iPhone 4. Now, it really depends on your carrier. If you're on AT&T, it's a solid time to buy, and that's worthy of a green apple. New models will be probably coming around June or July since it's a yearly update. So, you're smack in the middle. Now, if you're on Verizon, we're throwing out the red apple. Don't switch over to a different carrier. Just be patient because all of the major websites point to sometime in January for the iPhone 4 to potentially come to Verizon. Keyword is "potentially." Now, if youre looking for an iPad, it's worth of a yellow apple. There will be no new model announced anytime soon but we expect to possibility hear news in January with a next gen. It will probably come out in late March to April which is still about 5 months away. So, if you just want one with a camera, then don't pull the trigger and wait for it. Now the entire lineup of iPods was refreshed in September and that's been their typical yearly release cycle, so green apples galore for all iPod models. iMacs are updated about every 7 months and it's been 3 months since the last release, so it's worthy of a yellow apple and there's nothing wrong with you getting one if you need one. Now the Mac Pro's, they get updated a lot less frequently because they're so powerful. The last updated was in July and will go even a year or more before the next update so all signs point to a green apple. Now on the laptop front, this line is updated every 6 months or so. The MacBook Pro's and the White MacBook were updated in the spring. We won't see anything before Christmas, but we'll probably see something early next year. So we're giving it a yellow apple, but I would lean toward waiting if you can. Alright, we'll get to more of your questions next week. Hopefully, that byters guide helped out, but that's gonna do it for this week's show. Send your e-mails to the Apple Byte at cnet.com. I'm Brian Tong. Thanks for watching. We'll see you next week for another bite of the apple. -I know the MacBook Air wasn't on Brian's list. But since it just came out on October, I think it's safe to give that one the green light as well. And I'm giving out the green light to stretch your legs for a bit because it's time for a break, but don't go too far because we will be right back with 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, according to our friends over at SmartPlanet, the most common password people use are the digits 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. So if that's your password, change it now. Or, better yet, check out a program called LastPass which can help you manage better passwords and remember them for you. -I don't know about you, but I hate remembering passwords. There's personal e-mail, work e-mail, bank accounts, twitter and Facebook, and Woow, to anybody who uses the same one for both of those malware magnets. So far, the best option I found is the free browser add-on, LastPass. I am Seth Rosenblatt for CNET and, today, I'll show you the basics of how to use the secure encrypted password manager, LastPass, which is encrypted with AES-256. The installation process is simple but important. More than just installing like any other add-on, it helps you create a LastPass account and it will import your existing passwords unless you choose not to. Once you install, the LastPass icon will appear in the upper right hand corner of the browser. Importing the passwords is key because once there in your LastPass account, it can remove them from your browsers making it difficult to get to them without your LastPass log-in info. Once installed, LastPass will auto detect username and password form fields. If it has the credentials for the page you're visiting, it will ask to fill in the info for you. You can also set LastPass to automatically filling credentials or even automatically log in. When you visit a site that you're creating credentials for, it will ask if you like it to create a password for you. In the LastPass vault where your passwords are stored, you can change the default level of security for generated passwords. It will also auto detect when you've changed the password for site that's already been saved and ask you if you like to change the saved version. LastPass comes with some excellent power features. You can use the encrypted online vault to access your secure sites on the fly and LastPass Premium supplies you with a mobile version of the password manager. It also works in conjunction with UBKey for extra tinfoil hat paranoid protection or you can create for free your own encrypted USB key for multifactor protection called LastPass Sesame. If you're concerned about keyloggers, lastPass.com supplies a virtual keyboard. It's not fail-proof, but LastPass is an excellent and secure way to cut down the risk of having your passwords compromised. The first look at LastPass for CNET download.com, I'm Seth Rosenblatt. -And just in case you're wondering, the number 4 password on the list is password. Some people just never learned. Alright, let's switch gears and see what we can find over in the bad. Since this is the holiday season, many of you maybe thinking about buying a new cellphone for a loved one, don't! At least not until you check out our top 5 awful cellphones that no one wants to find in their stocking this year. -It's a great time to be alive and communicating. Excellent cellphones of all kinds abound. These, however, are not among them. I'm Brian Cooley with the top 5 phones you should pass up for something, anything, else. #5 is the Motorola Flipout with a [unk] CNET rating of 6.7. Okay Motorola: lesson one; When making a touchscreen smartphone make the screen large enough to touch. This chunky little guy has the Android OS crammed into it, but not enough interface area to take advantage of it in spite of a nice slide out keyboard. Here's a hint, the screen is square, the web is not. By the way, the speakerphone is also crap as was its 3G radio. Next, #4, the Sony Ericsson Vivaz, what a stupid name. CNET rating, 6.3. Now, touchscreen products pretty much all use what's called a capacitive touch screen. Except the Vivaz, which uses resistive technology kind of like those plastic flat buttons on a gas pump, that ain't cool. Coupled with the hoary old Symbian OS and slow internal guts and you'll have plenty of time to contemplate what else you should have bought. #3, the Samsung SGH-a107, CNET rating 6.0. We give it about a 2.0 for its name. This is the most basic phone in our list of losers today, and frankly too basic. It doesn't have an external display, so you have to flip it open to do anything. Other than being a great prop for a movie set in the 1990's, it's just a mess. Oh, and it's missing the single biggest innovation in phones since the flip, Bluetooth. #2, the ZTE Agent with a CNET rating of 5.3. Yeah, ZTE, is who makes this dud. No, I haven't heard of them before either. I think this quote from our review says it all: "Design, features and call quality all leave much to be desired." We're done with this one? Before we get to our #1 phone to avoid, a smartphone in general is not something we are avoiding. Latest numbers from Nielsen research indicates that the number of smartphones in use in the U.S. will equal the number of ordinary cell phones by around Q3 of 2011. The revolution is on. Okay, our #1 phone to not walk but run from is the Dell Aero with a miserable CNET rating of 5.0 that's out of 10 remember. Running the ancient Android 1.5 OS doesn't start things well, but then Dell, that paragon of user interface design, skins it their own way which makes it frustrating and unintuitive. Add sluggish internals and mmmmm, nice phone. If you want to see the secret 6th loser phone that vied for #1 on today's list or to catch up on all the CNET Top 5's, head to top5.cnet.com. I'm Brian Cooley. Thanks for watching. -Now once you decide not to buy a terrible phone, you should probably make sure the phone can get decent reception where's it's going to be used. Luckily for you, CNET has partnered with Root Metrics to bring you a new service that can help you find the best carriers for your area. Kent German has the scope in this week's Bottom Line. -Hi! I'm CNET, senior editor, Kent German. You've come to rely on CNET for in depth analysis or reviews of the latest cellphones and accessories. But as you know, carrier coverage also plays a part in creating your best wireless experience. CNET does not rate wireless carrier coverage because it varies too much from neighborhood to neighborhood. But we know it is important to research carrier performance for your home, commute, and workplace. That's why we partnered with Root Metrics to create a unique tool that can help you make a carrier decision. Unlike some services, the track carrier dead zones, Root Metrics uses a smartphone app that enormously gathers information on voice signal strength and data speeds. Now, I'm gonna show you the tool to explain these features and how to use it. To access the tool, just click on the cellphone coverage map link here at cellphones.cnet.com. You also can find a link on any CNET cellphone review. You'll start by seeing a list of all the covered markets which includes most of the countries largest cities. If you don't see your town listed at the moment, Root will be expanding coverage in the feature. And at the end of this video, I'll tell you how you can help. Now, I'm gonna show what information is available for each city. Let's choose San Francisco as an example, the interface uses a mash-up of Google Maps so it should be familiar to most users. You can zoom out and in with the bar on the left and you can scroll around as you wish. Down at the bottom of the map, you'll see tabs for the 3 metrics that Root tracks. The first tab, the Root score represents the carrier's overall network performance. Using the color code, it measures an aggregate voice and data score for the area the map is covering. Green and yellow are best, orange is in the middle, and red and black are worse. As you click between carriers and as you change the map view by scrolling or zooming, the data is recalculated. Root breaks up each city into hexagonal sections or hexes that span a couple of city blocks. To see data for a specific hex, just click on it and you'll get this popup window. You can choose to see the score for one carrier or you can compare all 4. The carrier with the highest score will always be at the top of the list. If you click on the voice tab, you can see the voice score for the map area you are currently viewing. Just like on your phone, you'll see the voice strengthened bars. For even more detailed information, you can click on the advance link to see the signal strength and decibels. Now, it's a negative numbers so the closer it is to 0, the better the signal. Now, it's important to understand that this tool measures the signal penetration in a certain area. Capacity, however, is another story. Even with a strong signal, a cellular network can be overloaded if too many people are using it at one time. The result can be dropped calls, poor audio quality, or inability to connect. The same is true for data as well. Here, you'll see the average time it takes to download a song and upload a photo for each carrier. And if you click on the advance link, you'll see the average upload and download data speeds in kilobits. We hope that you'll find this tool useful and that you'll use it to think about wireless coverage in your area. And if you'd like to take this information on the go and help gather data about a new or existing area, download the free iPhone app that's available in the iTunes app store and Android app is coming and support for other smartphones will follow in the near future. For more information, go to rootmetrics.com. I'm Kent German and thanks for joining me. -The Bottom Line this week, your mileage may vary a lot. Actually, we're really excited about this new project and you can help us make it better by downloading the app and letting us share your results. I know, we won't read all your text messages. I promise. Alright folks, that's it for me today but come back next week for an all-new episode of the CNET Tech Review. Until then, there are tons of great videos available everyday at cnettv.com. I'll see you next time and thank you for watching.
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