CNET Tech Review
Roku like a hurricane!This week on the CNET Tech Review: new Roku 2 offers games and improved streaming options; Acer's Revo 100 has a sneaky little secret; add some bling to your iOS screen; and hard-drive speed comes at a price with Promise's Thunderbolt rig.
-This week on the CNET Tech Review: gaming comes to the new Roku 2, get the skinny on the Acer Revo 100, make your own Lion Recovery Disk for free and the fastest hard drive we've ever tested comes with a hefty price tag. It's all 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 our own unique tech wisdom in the form of the Bottom Line. Let's start with the good. If you love Angry Birds and you love Roku and frankly, I don't know very many people who don't love those two things; then imagine them together with an all new gaming remote and even more streaming content options. I mean, talk about the good. -Hi, I'm David Carnoy and I'm here with the Roku 2 XS which makes a strong case for being the best media streamer out there for less than $100. First thing you should know about this little guy is that, well it's got the number 2 in its name. This is actually the fourth iteration of the device which started its life out as the Netflix Player. Like Apple TV, this still is a Netflix video streamer at its core and a very good one, but along the way Roku has shrunk the box down and a lot of more content options and bulked up feature wise upping the Annie this goes around with a new blue tooth motion remote that allows you to play games. That's right, games. You heard right. However don't think you're getting a mini Wii, even if the remote is a little like the Wii mote. Roku has included Angry Birds for free at launch and later this year, we'll offer up more casual games that you can purchase through the system. Don't care about gaming, well fear not. You don't have to pay for the fancy remote if you don't want it. Only the top and excess model you see here comes with the remote but the two stepped down models in the line: the $80 XD and the $60 HD offer nearly all the same features but comes with a standard IR remote. It's worth noting that all the models do offer the gaming feature but you need the remote to play and you can buy one later if you want for $30. Well, the entry level model Mac is out at 720p HD video instead of 10 ADP. All three models looked almost identical and have fast 802.11 and wifi as well as a Micro SD expansion slot which you'll have to use storing additional game purchases on an optional memory card. It's also worth mentioning that the XS here is the only model that offers a built-in Ethernet connection for those who want to go the wired route. And yes, there is a USB Port which means you can connect the thumb drive full of images and select video files but the truth is, this just doesn't support a lot of file types so don't buy it for that. If you have an HD TV, you'll be connecting this via HGMI; however an included breakout composite AV cable does allow you to hook this up to nearly any TV. Of course you'll be getting standard definition video but at least there's an option for people who own older sets. Over the years, Roku has done a good job refining the interface on its media streaming boxes and while the Roku 2's interface may not be quite as slick as the one you'll find on Apple TV, it is elegant and user friendly. Ultimately, however the real strength of Roku 2 and the thing that differentiates it from Apple TV is the range of content offerings that are included. Roku calls those offering channels and there are dozens to choose from including: Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and Pandora, and RDO on the audio as well as subscription services like Hulu Plus and MLB TV. To get a more complete list, check out our written review as you can see from this quick scroll for the offerings, it's pretty extensive. The one potential big downside for owners of Apple devices is this doesn't offer the iTunes integration and wireless airplay features of the Apple TV. However, on the plus side it has the widest array of streaming content today and one of the best Netflix experiences out there; combined that with a smaller design, the new remote and gaming feature and for the moment anyway, we can comfortably recommend the Roku 2 XS as the go-to-choice for buyers looking for a sub $100 solution for accessing the increasingly attractive panoply of online streaming media services. I'm David Carnoy and that's the Roku 2 XS Media Streamer. Thanks for watching. -I feel like I'm drooling all over Roku all the time but seriously, if you've been wanting to cut the cord, the time is now. Well, mostly. I mean, while you're waiting for all the studios to make all of their content available for streaming, at least you'll be able to play Angry Birds. Of course, the Roku Box isn't your only option if you do cut the cord. Last week, we featured one of Acer's aspired desktop models in the bad section of the show. But it appears they have redeemed themselves with a quirky home little home PC that holds a few surprises. -Hi, I'm Rich Brown, Senior Editor for CNET.com. Today, we're gonna take a look at the Acer Revo 100. So this is a 499 home theater PC. It's got a really unique slim design and actually has some pretty good features for its price. It's a low powered AMD CPU inside so it's not really meant for productivity. But it has a Blue Ray drive. A 750 gigabyte hard drive and pretty much all the features we expect to find in a PC meant for the living room. You'll notice of course its size. It's a pretty slim system and it's actually kinda reminiscing of the old PS2 slim game console. Like that console, you can actually sit the system on its end or you can lay it down flat. This stand here at the bottom slides out from the bottom of the unit and it's simple enough just to lay it down. One of the most unique features about this PC is the included input device. You can pop out this little tab on the top of the system and you get this little touchpad device. Now the touchpad has two modes. It works like a standard touchpad like you find in the laptop. And we find that it attracts your fingers pretty well but it's actually is not as responsive as we'd like in terms of clicking. Sometimes it takes a couple of presses but it does have pretty good range. So it's useful for say: one click applications but we wouldn't use it for multistep processes. It can be a little bit annoying. Other more effective feature is its keypad that's built in. Push this button at the top and you get a full cordy keyboard. A couple of extra functions buttons up at the top here and we find the keyboard actually performs a little bit better than the touchpad. You don't have to worry about double tapping the letters. The system recognizes your presses well enough and it's useful for say: searching for content or entering in a webpage or a log in. This dial on the side here also access the volume control. So this touchpad actually does a fairly good job of solving the problem that has plague living room PCs and that's how do you, actually control that system from your couch. This is a pretty good solution and it's certainly a lot meatier than a dedicated mouse and keyboard. So for the rest of the system, that's actually fairly basic. You've got a Blue Ray Drive up here, there's a USB Port here and an SD card reader down in the front. On the back of the case, you got a couple of USB Ports, analog audio outs, an optical audio output, HTMI, Ethernet and down here you've got the power input. So there's no TV tuner on the system which we don't think is that big of a deal. It also has a budget graphics card so this really isn't meant for gaming. That said it can play pretty high bit rayed Blue Ray discs. So in terms of the things it tries to do: playing stream content, playing Blue Rays, it actually works fairly well. Now of course, there are other devices that can do a lot of what this system does for less. The Playstation 3 for example has a Blue Ray drive built in, supports all kind of media streaming software and only cost about 299. But the benefit of a Window's based system of course is that it gives you access to the full internet, multiple formats, any content you can find so it actually has a certain amount of versatility even though it cost a little bit more. So if you are looking for a low-cost Window System to provide that flexibility in the living room, we would definitely recommend checking out the Acer Revo 100. So, I'm Rich Brown. This is the Acer Revo 100. -I can totally see that computer in my media center setup, right where my DVD player used to be. And I have to say, that is the coolest touchpad/keyboard/coaster that I have ever seen. It's hardly a sleek or stylish as that Acer but this new laptop from Asus is a solid performer and a sensible back-to-school purchase. Scott Stein has all the details. Hi, I'm Scott Steins, Senior Editor at CNET.com and this is the Asus U31SD-A1. Now if you're doing any back-to-school shopping. You're probably looking for some budget laptop that's portable that is a good solid all around set of features and performance, well this will slot in to that area. It's may be not that exciting but it is a laptop that fits the bill. It's 13 inches, it's 4.2 lbs. Now it's nowhere near as thin and light as a MacBook Air but at 799, it's more affordable than one that comes with a Core i3 processor that's second gen and also has some decent graphics and video GeForce 520M. It's not gonna blow the doors out off anything but it is capable of playing some basic games. Plus this laptop has got really good battery life. We got it almost 6 hours running our video playback battery drain test so that's really an all day battery life which is great in this little form. But it's not that exciting looking. I mean it's kind of an old fashion almost for a couple of years ago. If you're on this really buying a laptop to draw attention, if you're budget shopping, this has got a 640 gigabyte hard drive, 4 gigs of RAM and enough umph to get you through the day which qualifies for us as a really good buy. But just be aware that at $800, you can get a lot of laptops now with a lot of different features. Some of which are better than this and some of which are a little more lacking. So, it's not quite the bargain that you think it is. Just before a warn, this does not have an optical drive. No there is no DVD drive in here whatsoever. Now, that you'll be expecting on a 13-inch MacBook Air but a design this thick, you could have sawed an optical drive in there but you're not gonna get one. But if you're looking for a 13 incher, back-to-school that's not too thick but not that thin, take a look at the Asus U31SD-A1. -Obviously, if you have a teenager heading off to college, they will probably assume you don't love them if you buy them of these instead of a Mac. But if you wanna teach them a lesson about having your dreams crushed as the approached adulthood, by all means, go with the Asus. Ouch, I know. Moving on with this week's installment of Tap That App, Brian Tong is here with an IOS app that will help you improve the appearance of your devices display. All right, it's time to pimp your screen. -Hey, guys welcome to Tap That App. I'm Brian Tong and this is the show we cover the hottest apps in the mobile space. Now everyone talks about how customization is king on android phones with their widgets and skins but IOS users, you don't have to be left out and you don't have to jailbreak your phone either: thanks to a 99 cent app called Pimp Your Screen. Now it's compatible with every single IOS device that has existed. That's right, I'm talking to you first gen iPhone guy, so pay attention. Now, Pimp Your Screen includes a variety of home screens with something for everyone: lots of colors and lots of fun. There are themed app shelves that can be used in portrait or landscape mode and some really trippy neon combos for the rayver in you. Plus they're constantly adding new styles. A killer feature allows you to preview what the theme looks like with the app icons on top of it to get a real good idea for how you wanna pimp your pad. But the best feature is the lock screen maker and the home screen maker. The lock screen maker allows you to pick a background but also customizes the frame that will wow your friends. Wow! The home screen maker lets you go to town by picking a background and then mixing and matching a shelf type or a skin to go on top. I prefer skin. Now once you're done with everything, press save and it will add your creation to your camera roll, go into your photo app and find the picture. Select the sharing options and you'll be able to set your masterpiece as a wallpaper and make it your lock screen or home screen. And just like that, you'll be pimping in no time. Now if you have any other apps you'd like to show us, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>. I'm Brian Tong. Thanks for watching. Keep pimping. -For the record, my producer and I would prefer to see the word Pimp Band from any of our videos, at least when used as verb but since my producer actually downloaded and started using the app after watching this video, he decided he'll allow it, for this week anyway. So pimp away people, just this once. Okay, the time has come to take a break, but stick around we still have a lot 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. Let's go ahead and see what has landed in the bad. This week, we saw a handful of new mini camcorders come through the labs and though you might not guess it from Josh Goldman's review, this is actually the best one of the bunch, which isn't saying much. -Hey, I'm Josh Goldman, Senior Editor with CNET and this is a look of the Toshiba Camileo BW10. It's a waterproof mini camcorder that can shoot resolutions up to 10 ADP, full HD and can survive being underwater down to 6 1/2 feet for up to 60 minutes. It's easy use too. All you do is turn it on, wait several seconds and then press record or you can also take 5 megapixel photos. That's really where the excitement ends though with the BW10. It's not a bad mini camcorder, its video and photo qualities decent for sharing online at small sizes, if nothing else but it's missing a lot of the stuff I've come to expect from these devices such as: embedded editing, sharing software and flip out USB connector. Instead you get a basic Youtube uploader and some trial software on a disc and a Micro USB cable. There's no shooting option beyond changing resolutions and capturing photos while shooting video. There is face detection too. The upside is so few features though is that there's nothing to get in the way of capturing videos. So if all you're really after is a basic inexpensive mini camcorder for pool side or other damp environments, it's an option. I'm Josh Goldman and that's the Toshiba BW10. -It's an option, not quite the ringing endorsement Toshiba was looking for I'm sure. Here's an example of how something good came out of a bad situation. -Hey, guys Brian Tong here with CNET.com and Mac OS X Lion users might be happy with how easy it is to download the Lion through the app store but there's no need to purchase an installer disc from Apple for 60 bucks and there's been no way to create a physical recovery disc until now. Apple has made their own Lion Recovery Disc assistant that's available to download for free at the link you see here. You'll be able to create your own physical recovery disc, it's just over a meg and requires you have Lion running with a recovery hard drive partition which is set up by default. Now first up, insert a USB thumb stick or external disc drive with at least 1 gig of storage to your computer running Lion. Run the Lion Recovery Assistant and it will create the recovery disc for you in a few minutes on that drive. So from now on, you'll have a Lion Recover Disc and if you need to restore you need to restore your computer in the future, first plug in your disc drive then power up your Mac. On start up, hold the option key and a screen will appear that allows you to select which drive you wanna boot out from. So there you have it. I'm Brian Tong for CNET.com with your recovery disc how to, that will save you from potential headaches and more importantly, save you some money. Use it wisely. -That is so generous of Apple to let you create a recovery disc for the operating system you bought just like every operating system has let you do since the beginning of operating systems. But yes, at least you don't have to pay the 69 bucks like we all thought at first. All right with that, let's finish things up with this week's Bottom Line. Apple is definitely known for taking a new standard and making it the hot new thing. Like when they co-opted Intel's Light Peak data transfer interface; called it Thunderbolt and put it in all their newest machines. You will be amazed by the speed, the price and the romantic possibilities of this Thunderbolt accessory. -Hey, guys Dong Ngo here and I'm really cool. I have here the MacBook Pro 2011 and here the very first Thunderbolt Hard Drive that offers up to 12 terabyte of storage space. Now, that's gonna impress the lady. -Big deal, my boyfriend had a 15 terabyte Nas Server. -All right, in that case I have two of these. What now? Do you wanna see my second MacBook Pro? I have that one too. Anyway, move on. These are the Pegasus R6 Drive from Promise, the first storage device on the market that use the new Thunderbolt connection and has 6 drive bases. As a matter of fact the only other Thunderbolt device on the market is the Pegasus R4 that has only 4 bases. But why settle for 4 when you can have a 6, right? On the back here, the drive has 2 Thunderbolt ports. One of them is to connect to a computer while the other can be used with a main display port device such as the Apple display LCD or another Thunderbolt storage device. Up to 6 devices can be chained together like that without affecting performance of one another. Meaning each of them enjoy up to 10 gigabytes per second bandwidth. On the front, you can find the drive's bay. Each can be pulled out easily to reveal the hard drive inside. The device here has six 2 terabytes SATA III drives that can be combined in right configuration to offer up to 12 terabytes of storage. The device comes with a Promise utility that helps managing its rate and monitor the internal hard drive's condition. The hard drives can be chained from one rate to another very fast. You know testing, the Pegasus offers the fastest ever among all storage devices for our consumers. As a matter of fact, it's even faster than the internal drive of this MacBook Pro which is a SATA III Solid State Drive. With great performance comes great cost. The Pegasus R6 is not cheap costing around $1,500 for the 6 terabyte version and this 12 terabyte version here cost around $2,000. This means, only super cool people are able to afford one. Never mind two. Once again, my name is Dong Ngo and this has been the first look at the Pegasus R6 Thunderbolt Drive from Promise. Yeah, that's good. -The Bottom Line this week, no hurry on the old Thunderbolt thing there. Super expensive, super tiny market; you don't need to be that cool right now. Oh, and no comment on the skit but I blame Brian Tong for that. All right folks, that's our show. Come back next week for an all new CNET Tech Review. Until then, there are tons of great videos available every day at cnettv.com. See you next time and thank you for watching.