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RealOne Mobile review:

RealOne Mobile

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The Good Free; lets wirelessly connected users stream audio or video.

The Bad Virtually useless unless your Pocket PC has a wireless Internet connection; video won't play over slow wireless connection; extremely meager tech support.

The Bottom Line RealOne Mobile shows promise but won't reward early adopters. For now, stick with your Pocket PC's bundled option, Windows Media Player.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

3.0 Overall

Review Sections

If you're a fan of Real.com, you have every reason to be excited about RealOne Mobile, a Pocket PC version of the popular desktop media player. The mobile app promises to bring video clips, music files, and streaming audio and video straight to your handheld. However, RealOne Mobile offers hardly any features without a wireless Internet connection, and even then it suffers from limited content, a skimpy feature set, and total lack of tech support. Until RealOne beefs up its offline offerings, stick with Windows Media Player, which comes standard on all Pocket PC handhelds, for playing MP3 and video files. If you're a fan of Real.com, you have every reason to be excited about RealOne Mobile, a Pocket PC version of the popular desktop media player. The mobile app promises to bring video clips, music files, and streaming audio and video straight to your handheld. However, RealOne Mobile offers hardly any features without a wireless Internet connection, and even then it suffers from limited content, a skimpy feature set, and total lack of tech support. Until RealOne beefs up its offline offerings, stick with Windows Media Player, which comes standard on all Pocket PC handhelds, for playing MP3 and video files.

Download and go--sort of
RealOne Mobile was designed almost expressly to work with Real content, meaning you can't just load up any old playlist or Simpsons clip. Rather, you can play only RealMedia files (those with the .rm file extension) or stream content over a wireless Net connection. RealOne Mobile also plays MP3 files, but there's a catch--more on that later.

To get moving with RealOne Mobile, you'll have to make sure your handheld supports it. It's compatible with most Pocket PC models, including the Compaq iPaq H3870 and above, the HP Jornada 565 and above, and the NEC MobilePro P300 (our test PDA). You'll need only your e-mail address, zip code, and Pocket PC model name to download and install the player. But from there, things get woefully confusing.

Unless you troll through the handful of knowledge-base questions that apply to RealOne Mobile, you'll never know that you need the RealOne Player for Windows in order to transfer any files, or that RealOne Mobile requires a special Pocket PC plug-in, which is easily downloaded from within the RealOne Player. In short, RealOne Mobile can stump even the most experienced user.

Skimpy tools; vanishing content
We found the player itself competent but decidedly rudimentary. You can build custom playlists right on your handheld, but that's about it. No skins, no graphic equalizers, no track information--just basic audio and video playback. Windows Media Player at least offers skins and track information.

Worse, you won't find any mobile content for your player. Most of the music, sports, and news feeds at Real.com can be streamed only. You can't save them to your hard drive, then transfer them to your Pocket PC. The same applies to most Real files across the Web; you'll need to stream them, because you can't save them. Translation: your Pocket PC requires a wireless modem or 802.11b (Wi-Fi) connection. Otherwise, you'll find yourself with a dressed-up player and nothing to play.

So-so wireless performance
Using a D-Link Wi-Fi card with our MobilePro, we could indeed listen to streaming audio. Video wouldn't fly, however, perhaps because of our relatively poky 384Kbps DSL connection. We could hear the clip but saw no video. We were unable to test RealOne Mobile with a wireless modem, but with the limited bandwidth of current CDPD and CDMA networks, it probably would have performance problems.

MP3 with a catch
For what it's worth, you can use the RealOne Player to transfer MP3 files to RealOne Mobile, but they get converted to the RealMedia format in the process. That's a problem since the highest bit rate you can select is 96Kbps, a kick in the teeth for audiophiles who insist on at least 128Kbps.

Save for the aforementioned knowledge base, Real.com offers no documentation or direct support for RealOne Mobile. You can e-mail tech support, but RealOne Mobile isn't even listed among the subject categories in the support form. We tried Other, and were informed that our "search returned no results"--funny, since we were just trying to send e-mail.

We have to award RealOne Mobile a few points for promise. In the future, when all Pocket PCs have built-in wireless broadband connectivity, we'll be thrilled to have access to news feeds, Internet radio, movie trailers, and other media. For now, however, RealOne Mobile is barely worth the bother.

Take me back to the roundup!

When playing audio files, RealOne Mobile looks rather plain. Some skins, or at least a graphic equalizer, would liven things up.

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