CNET Tech Review
'Droid rageThis week on the CNET Tech Review: Samsung debuts the sequel to the Galaxy S; protect yourself from phishy URLs; now you can have OnStar in your car, too; and things to do with your TouchPad when WebOS is dead.
-This week, the CNET Tech Review is brought to you by the Letter S as Sony's new S tablet wedges itself into a cluttered market and Samsung's Galaxy S II is coming to a pocket near you. Plus, catch all of your favorite podcasts with your android phone and use 99-dollar TouchPad. Now what? 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. Samsung truly had a hit on its hands when the Galaxy S line of android phones arrived in the U.S. last year and the names hit the high [unk] ceiling too; epic, captivate, fascinate, even mesmerize; all different Galaxy S models with different features for different carriers. Well, this week, Bonnie Cha was on hand for the unveiling of the first 3 members of the Galaxy S II series including the epic 4G Touch for Sprint. -Hey everyone, I'm Bonnie Cha, senior editor at cnet.com, and I am here to bring you a First Look at the Samsung Galaxy S II, which was just announced here in New York. I'm holding here the Sprint version, which will be called the Samsung Epic 4G Touch and they are actually coming first to market. They'll be available at September 16th for 199.99 with a 2-year contract so very fair price. What you're getting is a [unk] version of the Galaxy S. You've got a 4.5-inch Super AMOLED Plus touchscreen. They've also updated the Touchwiz interface widgets. A little more control of our customization like resizable widgets and more animation, which is very nice. Up front, you've got a 2-megapixel camera for video calling. On the back, you've got an 8-megapixel camera with flash and there is a dual core processor under here so you can shoot video at 1080p. Software wise, it's running Android 2.3.4. And again, like I said, it's running the latest version of Touchwiz. You've also got more security options here. They offer on-device encryption as well as full Microsoft accessing with games support. Sprint has added some of their services on here such as Sprint ID, Sprint Zone, Sprint Mobile Wallet, and things like that, but overall looks like a very nice upgrade for the Samsung Epic 4G. Unfortunately, no keyboard for those who have their physical button, but again very nice, very thin here. Sprint has added a textured back unlike some of the others who offers a nice, more of a premium feel. I'm Bonnie Cha. This has been your First Look at the Samsung Epic 4G Touch for Sprint. -I like to see Samsung getting rid of all those over-the-top names and just sticking with one really, really long over-the-top name. Anyway, those new Galaxy S IIs are hot, but if you can't wait a few weeks and you need a new android phone now, Brian Tong has a couple of solid choices in this week's Prizefight. Of course, it helps if you're a Sprint customer or don't mind becoming one. -What up Prize Fight fans, I'm Brian Tong and we're bringing you a fight to the finish between two 4G phones on Sprint. It's a Prizefight punch out with HTC's Evo 3D and Motorola's Photon 4G. Now, our judges for this fight are senior editor Bonnie "Boom Shaka Laka" Cha, senior editor Nicole "Ice Cold" Lee, and my self "Ring a Ling Ding" Tong. We'll take all of the 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. It's 5 rounds to the finish. Round 1 is design. HTC's Evo 3D and the Photon 4G are solid devices, but the Evo 3D stands out with its cleaner design, textured backing, and curved corners. The Photon 4G has a brighter display and were always spans of a kickstand, but this is one of the only phones that decided a cut off corners as a good design element and it doesn't work. HTC takes round 1 with a 4.3 and the Photon 4G gets a 3. Next round is control and user interface. The Evo 3D is lock screen app launcher and visual transitions plus its overall ease of use make our editors smile and its physical camera button and an easy switcher between taking 2D and 3D photos when it points with us. Now, the Photon 4G's Motorola Blur interface has cleaned itself up from the past. We like the ability to resize any of your widgets. It has a more simplified rigid look, but it can also feel and get a little cluttered at the same time. The Evo 3D gets a perfect 5 and the photon 4G gets a 4. So after averaging 2 rounds, HTC leads by over 1 full point, but there's plenty of fight left. Next round is features. HTC's biggest feature is in its name and its glassless 3D. Now, you might think this would be a huge advantage, but when you can only use the 3D feature with specific game content, certain movie files, and pictures, and movies we take with the camera, it really wasn't that big of a feature advantage, and what hurts it even more is the lack of HDMI and fewer features compared to the Photon 4G. Motorola isn't missing around here at all, and the Photon 4G is packed with an HDMI port, our beloved kickstand that the Evo removed from its design. It's a dual mode world roaming phone and it has a web top docking station option that gives it PC-like functionality. I know it's a 129 add on, but it's a feature that HTC can't match. Motorola gets a perfect 5 and HTC gets a 4. Next round is web browsing and multimedia. Both these dual core processing Gingerbread phones feature 4.3-inch screens and Swype and handle web browsing about the same with support for playback and flash content. So, we're gonna call that push here. Now, the Evo 3D gets the advantage with its 5-megapixel camera that takes better quality pictures overall compared to the photon 4G's 8-megapixel camera; and when you add in the 3D option, taking pictures and movies can be even more fun even if you have to be in the perfect suite spot to see it correctly. Now, the Evo 3D gets a perfect 5 and the Photon 4G gets a 4.3. So, after averaging 4 rounds, the Evo 3D only leads by half a point. The final round that decides it all is call quality and performance. The Evo 3D has solid call quality, but we did notice there was more background noise and occasionally noise artifacts that like crackling. Now, the photon 4G delivered with slightly crisper audio quality and a richer and fuller sound overall. Both phones have dual processors, but the photon 4G also felt just a hair faster moving through the menus without all of HTC's visual eye candy. So, in the final round, Motorola gets a perfect 5 and HTC gets a 4. So, let's average out all 4 rounds and in a Prizefight where both phones scored 2 perfect rounds. The Photon 4G came on strong towards the end, but it just wasn't enough and HTC's Evo 3D takes this battle 4.5 to 4.3 and is your prize fight winner. I'm Brian Tong. Thanks for watching. We'll catch you guys next time on another Prizefight. -Congrats to HTC, but I still don't know why they got rid of the kickstand on the Evo. Sometimes the best part of having a smartphone is being able to put it down. When HP announced it was killing off the TouchPad tablet, it was obviously because no one was buying it then HP and retailers dropped the price to just 99 dollars and suddenly people couldn't snatch them up fast enough, but what good is a TouchPad given that webOS will no longer be supported? Here's Brian Cooley with a few ideas. -You might be one of the lucky hundreds of thousands who scored an HP TouchPad for 99 bucks or maybe you're one of the tech snobs sneering at those who did. Either way, There's no denying the TouchPad fire sale made it one of the hottest tech products on earth for a while, but are those who bought one savvy or stupid? I'm Brian Cooley with the Top 5 Things to Do with an HP TouchPad also known as why any tablet is fine for most of what you'll do with it. File this one under reality check. Number 5: Use it as E-reader. The TouchPad comes with the Kindle app preinstalled and the Kindle store is not going away. Even if you use the TouchPad for no other purpose, you got a reader for 15 dollars less than the cheapest Kindle. Now, there is some risk the Kindle platform is going to evolve and the webOS-based TouchPad will be left behind, but let me restate, $99. Number 4: Use it as a photo viewer. The TouchPad does a particularly good job of harvesting all your online photos in one place from Facebook to PhotoBucket, Snapfish, and others. It beats the hell out of making people squint at your smarpthone screen or the back of your digital camera. Number 3: Use it an in-car media player. Now, you can spend the 2 grand or so to get rear seat entertainment built in to the headrest of your car or let our little sub 100-dollar friend or really any tablet take over instead. The TouchPad will always support standard MPEG4 and H.264 video formats along with all of the major audio formats. Now, only an iPad will get you access to the iTunes store, but there are enough other ways to get download and streaming video on a non-iOS tablet, and anything is better than those few scratched Dub DVDs in the backseat pouch that your kids are sick of watching anyway. Number 2: E-mail. E-mail's agnostic. It works on any device that has an e-mail client and the TouchPad has one baked in just like every tablet. And it's not going to stop working because you're missing an OS update or need some app no one's developing for your platform. In fact, 74% of respondents in a recent Google survey cited e-mail as a main use of their tablet. Before I take you to the number 1 reason to buy and use one of those fire sale TouchPads, let's give iPad its due. If you want to buy a tablet and not have to explain yourself, then it's gonna be an iPad. A recent survey showed 95% of people looking for a tablet are considering an iPad. The next nearest competitor was like 10% considering the TouchPad, but one that's not made anymore! And the Blackberry Playbook? Forget it. Like fewer than 4% of people care. And if the iPad retains these kinds of numbers, the TouchPad will not be the last of its competitors liquidating at fire sale prices. See what I mean? Okay, the number 1 thing you can do with your fire sale 99-dollar TouchPad and not care what anyone else thinks is go on the web. In fact, if the TouchPad had nothing but a good web browser, it could still do everything else on this list and it does have a good one, one that actually shows you Flash-based websites without broken stuff on the screen like you know who. So whether you found one of HP's 99-dollar unicorns or are considering some no-name tablet that's good and cheap, take heart that you will get a lot of out of it even without a bunch of apps and OS updates. Orphans are beautiful too! To stay up on top of the latest tablet reviews, the best street prices, and even news of who might be having a blowout fire sale next, go to cnet.com. Click on tablets right there on the left. I'm Brian Cooley. For more Top 5s like these, go to top5.cnet.com. Thanks for watching. -If you missed your chance to snag a bargain price TouchPad the first time around, HP has announced they will be offering a limited supply of the tablet in the next few weeks and they'll be available starting at $99 from HP's website, but we don't know whether other retailers will match the price this time around so start stalking HP.com today. Although if you'd prefer a tablet running in OS that actually has a feature, might I suggest a taste of Gingerbread. Sony's new S tablet is just the latest of several tablet models built on the android platform, but if offers a few features that help it stand out from the crowd. -Hey, I'm Donald Bell and this is the Sony S Tablet. It's an android 3.1 Honeycomb tablet with a 9.4-inch screen and a unique wedge-shaped design. It's due out in mid September, priced at $499 for 16 gigabytes or 599 for 32. Now, we've already seen a ton of honeycomb tablets this year and Sony must know that they have their work cut out for them. They wanna stand out from the crowd. In my eyes, they have succeeded. In terms of design, the tablet has a completely unique wedge shape that that gives it a better balance in your hand and minimizes glare when you have it on the table. It doesn't achieve the same finish as an iPad 2, but it's just as light at 1.3 pounds and feels more solid than a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. Around the sides here, you have buttons for power and volume, speakers, headphone jack, and a door here that offers a micro USB sync connection and a full size SD card reader. A build-in app handles moving files back and forth from your card. Another thing worth noting here is that Sony went with a 9.4-inch screen instead of the 10.1-inch panel found on nearly every other honeycomb tablet out there. They are also using Sony's True Black technology to make screen contrast really pop. Sony also ruled in an IR remote control that comes with one of best interfaces we've seen for managing multiple devices; and finally, just to prove that Sony is all in, they made this a PlayStation certified device, which means that Sony will be offering games from their vault of PS1 and PSP titles. Out of the box, you can play Crash Bandicoot and Pinball Heroes. Overall, this one of the best executed android tablets we've seen. The hardware is beautiful and lightweight. The screen pops and the software optimizations are all thoughtful and restrained. It's not cheap, but if you're wondering what a high-end android tablet has to offer, this one of the best examples we've seen so far. For cnet.com, I'm Donald Bell and that was a First Look at the Sony S Tablet. -499 sounds high after 99 bucks, but at least it's comparable to other tablets. Actually, I wish that philosophy would carry over to Sony's TV business. Also, I can't wait until someone figures out how to use that thing to control my PS3. Get on it people! In fact, let's take a break so you can get started working on that right now, but don't go too far. There's a lot more Tech Review coming up 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. If our resident security expert, Seth Rosenblatt, has taught us anything over the years it's that the internet is a dark and scary place and you should never click any links ever, but if you see a URL that just begs to be clicked and you feel like you have to see what's on the other side, Seth has a few tips to help you decide whether it's worth the risk. -Have you ever been phished? Whether you use a Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, or Android, there's a real strong chance that somebody has sent you an e-mail or text message in an attempt to get you to turn over your personal information. I am Seth Rosenblatt for CNET. And today, I'm going to show you some excellent ways to make sure that you don't get victimized online. Data equals money and you're a big old dollar sign to the bad guys. So first off, browse smart. Always double check the URL of your banking site before you log in and look to the left of the location bar to verify it's legit. This is triply true when going to your bank from an e-mailed link. In fact, lets just agree now to never ever ever do that again. If your bank e-mails you a link, ignore it and type in your bank URL by hand. But what about that link to some ostensibly hilarious video your best friend just posted on your Facebook wall? Tere are several services you can use to verify a link. There is Google safe browsing. Type google.com/safebrowsing/diagnostic?site= and then the site name or the IP addressed to find out if it has hosted malware in the past 90 days. Another similar service is HP hosts at hosts-file.net. Enter a site into the search box and its database will tell you if the site has been used to distribute malware of phising attacks. HP hosts gives you more detailed information than Google safe browsing if you're into that kind of thing. Two other excellent services are Norton Safe Web from Symantec at safeweb.norton.com and unmaskparasites.com. Pop in the URL and you're good to go or if the site comes back as unsafe, don't go. Many security suites come with browser add-ons to check links you can click on a fly, and those work fairly well at scanning your search results and adding icons to indicate if a link is safe or not. If you don't have a suite, AVG's link scanners are free add-on that works with both Windows and Mac, and AVG's free mobilization android app will block malicious links there. iPhone and iPad users, you're out of luck. There are no link checking apps I could find for iOS probably because iOS is safe, Apple says. If you know of one, let me know. So, those are a few tips on how you can stay off the hook of the creepozoids after your box. For CNET, I'm Seth Rosenblatt. -Do you hear that creepozoids? I've got my eye on you. Former iPhone users who have switched to android often lament the loss of iTunes for media management especially when dealing with podcasts. There is no built-in pod catcher, and it's timing consuming and frustrating to have to track them down manually. Well, Antuan Goodwin feels your pain and he has found a couple of apps that will help ensure that you never miss another episode of your favorite shows. Welcome to Tap That App. I'm Antuan Goodwin. This is the show where we talk about the hottest apps in the mobile space. These days, I spend more time listening to podcasts than I do listening to music. There are so many good shows about technology, and cars, and Android. Now, iPhone users have got it easy. Podcast management is built right into iTunes, but Google has left its podcast-loving Android users out in the cold without a native podcast subscription service. Fortunately, there are a few good pod-catching apps available in the Android market. DoggCatcher puts your favorite audio and video podcasts at your fingertips with a set of options that allow users to be as basic or as complex and granular as they'd like to be. If you just want DoggCatcher to just download the newest episode of every subscribed show, it can handle that. If you wanna set the auto downloader options on a per-show basis, DoggCatcher can do that too. If you only wanna download podcasts when your phone is plugged in and on WiFi, you're good to go. This app also allows resumed playback so you can pick up your shows where you left off. BeyondPod offers just about all of the functionality of DoggCatcher, but adds the ability to separate your podcasts into categories, so you can keep your comedy podcasts separate from your tech news podcasts. Now, categories come into play with a cool feature called SmartPlay that lets a user micromanage what feeds get added to the playlist and in what order. So, if you like to start your day with the latest news show, then listen to 3 comedy shows and then finish up with the oldest episode of your favorite internet radio drama BeyondPod will accommodate. BeyondPod also offers a tablet-optimized version for Honeycomb users. Both DoggCatcher and BeyondPod are going to cost you about $7 each. However, BeyondPod is free for the first 7 days for those of you who like to try before you buy. I think that either of these apps is worth every penny if you subscribe to a bunch of audio and video podcasts. The app that will be best for you will depend on which interface you like the best. Whichever podcast manager you choose, be sure to fill it up with CNET podcasts that you can find over at cnet.com/podcasts. And if you've got an app that you'd like to see us tap, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm Antuan Goodwin, and if you'll excuse me, I've gotta tune into the latest episode of Tap that App. Weird. -Antuan is surely a busy guy. In fact, I'm not sure how he has time to listen to all those podcasts considering how much time he spends making them every week. Alright, I've put it off as long as I could, but the time has come to check out the bad. We talk a lot here about all the great things smartphones can do and sometimes we leave out an important thing they should do and that's make phone calls. Apparently, Samsung left that out as well when they unleashed the Admire upon the unsuspecting public. -Hi, I'm Kent German, section editor for cnet.com. Today, we'll take a first look at the Samsung Admire. The Admire is a new phone for Metro PCS. It has a pretty simple design, so it's basically user friendly, functional, but this isn't gonna have a lot of really high end features. One thing you note, however, is the phone didn't have the best audio quality. Audio tended to cut out a little bit at times, so you really had trouble hearing me. So, it doesn't have the best audio quality, but let's get down to the design. As I said, it is pretty simple. It does have this ribbed texture here on the sides, so it gives it a bit of a comfortable feeling in the hand. Also, there's a bit a texture on the back. I wouldn't wanna drop this phone a lot of times on a hard surface. The phone is little heavier than it looks, a little over 4 ounces. Dimensions are pretty average so slips easily in your pocket, or bag, or anything like that. It does have 5 home screens that, of course, you can customize in usual android fashion. The phone is running Gingerbread so that's a nice bonus especially on a basic phone like this that just came out, but it is good to have all the features of a Gingerbread. Down below, we have 4 physical controls. These are easy to use. They are tactile. I could feel-- I could find them by feel. On the back, there's a 3.2-megapixel camera lens and a small speaker. The speaker doesn't have the best output. It made the speakerphone kind of unusable actually especially when the phone is resting like this and the music quality on that external speaker is pretty poor, so you definitely wanna use headsets when you're talking or listening to music. Now, the phone has all the basic features you'd expect from an android phone as I said, although it does have a couple of extras. This is the first device that we've seen from Metro PCS that comes with access to the carrier's new Rhapsody unlimited music service. So, you get unlimited access to almost all of Rhapsody's catalogue. It is free, but it does require Metro PCS. That is $60 per month unlimited data and calling plan, so keep that in mind. Another unique feature this phone has is Metro PCS's virtual card service. Once you sign up, there's no minimum and it should be pretty easy to manage. So, all in all, I think the phone has a lot to offer as far as features go. The design is user friendly, but I just wish that call quality was just a little bit better. I'm Kent German and this is the Samsung Admire for Metro PCS. -So there you have it. The Admire is a nice phone that doesn't really work as a phone. Let's hope they don't have the same problem with those Galaxy S IIs we talked about earlier. And now, it's time for this week's Bottom Line. Until now, if you wanted to take advantage of OnStar's suite of driver assistance services, you had to be driving a General Motors' vehicle, which let's just say isn't for everyone, but with the release of OnStar FMV or For My Vehicle, the security and convenience of OnStar is now available to almost anyone. -Typically, the OnStar service is only available in GM vehicles, but I'm in a Ford Explorer and there's an OnStar mirror. Now, before you go getting confused, we're taking a look at the OnStar FMV that stands for, For My Vehicle. It's a universal standalone OnStar mirror that you can install in pretty much any vehicle. It's also got an internal speaker that's built in to the back of the unit and an external microphone that you can mount pretty much anywhere in your own vehicle. Ours is up here in the roof. Now, on the front of the unit, there are 3 major buttons. The first button is the phone button or I'd like to call it the self-service button because you don't actually have to interact with anyone. Here, you will be able to access hands-free calling either through the OnStar system's built in cellular connection or through a Bluetooth connection with your paired phone. The second button is the blue on button. Now, here, pushing this button will get you in contact with OnStar's concierge service who will be able to help you find destinations, who can send you roadside assistance. It's a real person. The third button is for emergency services. Now, you don't really wanna push that button unless you need help from police, fire, or medical personnel. Now, in the event of an accident, the system can also initiate a call from an OnStar person. And if nobody answers, they can automatically send you out help. That's the automated crash response system. Now, the way that OnStar knows where you are is because the FMV has a built in GPS receiver. It can even give you turn by turn directions to a destination that's been pushed to your car either by an OnStar concierge or through an online Google maps interface. The OnStar is gonna retail for about $299, but you're gonna have to have it professionally installed. So, go ahead and factor about 100 more bucks in for labor. After that, you're also gonna need subscription to the OnStar service, which is about $19 a month or 200 bucks a year. I've been Antuan Goodwin. You've taken a look at the OnStar FMV universal OnStar receiver. -The Bottom Line this week: For My Vehicle is right granted some might buckle a little with the custom installation, the monthly fees, the lack of remote door unlocking, but I gotta tell you, every time I see OnStar in a commercial when the operator calls for help after someone has been in a crash, I want that. I think I might do it. Alright, that's it for this week everyone, but come back next week for an all-new 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.