CNET Tech Review
I'll stop the world and RockMelt with youThis week on the CNET Tech Review: browse your social life with RockMelt; twice the touching with the Samsung Continuum; BestTube saves YouTube favorites for later; and our Top 5 reasons why the iPhone's inferior to Android.
-This week on the CNET Tech Review, RockMelt your Facebook off with the new browser, the Samsung Continuum doubles down on touchscreens, BestTube downloads YouTube to your phone, and Brian Cooley picks a fight with iPhone fans. 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 and, of course, offer that unique tech wisdom in the form of the Bottom Line. Let's get started with The Good. The internet was abuzz this week about RockMelt. It's a new web browser that aims to help you manage all of your social networking needs. Here's Seth Rosenblatt to show you how it works. -While rumors of a Facebook phone persist, one company has gone ahead and created an unofficial Facebook browser, RockMelt. Backed by Mosaic founder Marc Andreessen, among others, it's so tied to Facebook that at the time of the browser's release, you couldn't even get an invite to download it without having a Facebook account. RockMelt is more of a competitor for the social networking-friendly Flock Browser than anything else, but if that's what you're looking for, you're really going to like RockMelt. It takes the sidebar which, interestingly, made its Chromium debut in Flock 3, and mirrors it, creating dual narrow sidebars. The left sidebar, called the Friends Edge, is dedicated to your Facebook friends, showing who's online, filterable by favorites and a "Show All Friends" button. The right sidebar, the App Edge, is where you can toggle social networks, providing one-click access to your Facebook news feed, your Facebook profile, and your Twitter account. An indicator will tell you when you've got new updates. Chrome extensions that you install will also live here, although they don't always work. RockMelt has a few neat tricks up its sleeve. There's a share button at the right edge of the URL bar from which you can quickly share a link to Facebook or Twitter with a note. Also, when you land on a page with an RSS feed, RockMelt will auto-detect it and provide a one-click button for subscribing. Besides the sidebars--sorry, "Edges," there are two design changes in RockMelt worth noting. The first is that the Unified Options menu has been shifted to the left of the browser, mimicking design seen in Opera and the upcoming Firefox 4. The edges can be toggled here in the Options menu or by hot key, but RockMelt also resurrects the dedicated search box. Since the location bar here possesses the same omni powers that it does in Chromium as well as Facebook Friend searching, it's not entirely clear why the browser has sacrificed the screen real estate. Note that it won't search your Twitter contacts. Given the premium that the sidebars force on open screen space, I can't say that this was a good idea. More importantly, RockMelt unabashedly forces you to log in to your Facebook account and share your friends list with it before you can use the browser. The company says that it doesn't share your data with anyone and I'm inclined to take them at face value, simply because these social networking features require a tradeoff. If you're not comfortable sacrificing that level of privacy, choose a different browser. At the time of its release in November 2010, RockMelt is also a security risk. Its built on version 6 of Chromium while the stable build of Chrome is already well into version 7 and is expected to hit version 8 before 2011. Given the hyper-social privacy busting behavior that RockMelt encourages, running without the most up-to-date security patches poses a massive potential security risk to users. RockMelt is an encouraging take on the social networking browser phenomenon, presenting an interesting alternative to Flock. It still has numerous kinks and bugs to be worked out but if you live and die by Facebook and Twitter, this might just be the browser for you. It's currently available on CNETdownload.com. With the first look at RockMelt, I'm Seth Rosenblatt. -Man, that whole security thing is just kind of a buzz kill, isn't it? I mean, like Twitter or protect my bank information? I guess maybe just launch Chrome for banking? RockMelt's really fun, though. Now remember when just having a touchscreen on your phone was a big deal? Well, if the new Samsung Continuum catches on, having only one touchscreen will just be kinda sad. -Hi, I'm Bonnie Cha, senior editor at CNET.com and we're here in New York where Samsung and Verizon just unveiled the Samsung Continuum. This is Samsung's latest Galaxy S phone and it's unique in that it has two displays. You have a 3.4-inch Super AMOLED display here as well as a Super AMOLED ticker display down here. The ticker display acts as a notifications bar for your news feeds as well as social networking updates. It'll also alert you to new messages and voice mail and such. You can also use it to control your music player. The phone also has grip sensor technology so if the main screen is off, you can actually just touch the bottom here and it'll activate the ticker display so you can just see your updates without having to re-wake your phone. As far as the other parts of the design, it's very much like the other Galaxy S series. Nice and thin and lightweight. A little bit plasticky which I've said before but not too bad. It's running Android 2.1 but will be upgradable to Android 2.2. Has a 1 GHz Hummingbird processor as well as a 5-megapixel camera with HD video capture. Like the Fascinate, unfortunately, Bing is gonna be the default search engine as well as mapping application on here, but overall, it looks like a very nice phone and we're looking forward to checking out the ticker display to see if it's really useful or just a novelty. The Samsung Continuum will be available for pre-order on November 11th and in stores on November 18th and the cost is $199.99 with a two-year contract and after a $100 mail-in rebate. I'm Bonnie Cha and this has been your first look at the Samsung Continuum for Verizon Wireless. -You know, the Continuum is also the gadget of the week over on my other show, the Buzz Report, just in case you haven't seen it. On this show, we talked a lot about sexy smartphones and flashy tablets and even burly muscle cars, but there are also plenty of digital cameras and monitors and even printers that never get a chance to shine, so here's a look at a few of these sometimes overlooked products. -Hey, everyone, I'm Eric Franklin from CNET.com and today we're taking a first look at the Samsung SyncMaster FX2490HD. The FX is sleek and stylish looking with a very thin profile and unique looking chrome foot stand. When knocked from the sides, the foot stand does a good job of keeping the monitor from falling over but the panel still wobbles a lot when knocked. The panel tilts back 10 degrees and swivels right and left 30 degrees but no other ergonomic options are included. The connection options include two HDMI ports, component and composite ports, a coaxial antenna in, an optical audio out port, a headphone jack, a USB port, and an EX-link port. The FX includes a Samsung TV-like remote and it's the preferred way of navigating the OSD. Picture options include typical controls like Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness, and some custom presets. Also, there's a color temperature option and an option to adjust the red, green, and blue values individually. In movies, the Samsung display dark detail just as well as on the Samsung PX2370. What stood out most was the apparent green push noticeable in character faces, making them appear sickly compared to the healthy looking faces on the PX2370. However, we were able to make some color adjustments in the settings and things improved greatly. We found games deliver a vibrant image with no hint of that green color tint problem, after calibration at least. In power consumption, the FX would cost $9.53 per year to run, compared with the PX2370's $7.65 per year. The FX has performance that rivals the PX2370. It also has some of the best movie and games performance we've seen recently and it has a near full assortment of HD TV connection options. Still, for $419, Samsung offers essentially a 24-inch television at a very appealing price. Once again, this is Eric Franklin and this has been the first look at the Samsung SyncMaster FX2490HD. -Hi, I'm Josh Goldman, senior editor with CNET and this is a look at the Canon PowerShot SD4500 IS. It's the company's smallest compact megazoom featuring a 10x optical zoom, though the lens isn't wide angle so it's not as flexible as some competing models. Similarly, it has a 3-inch LCD on the back but it's a standard 233,000-dot resolution instead of a higher resolution screen that we're seeing on other high-end compact megazooms. Overall, though, it's a nice design if you're looking for a simple, easy-to-use compact megazoom that's small enough to fit in a shirt pocket. The SD4500 is the second PowerShot with a high sensitivity 10-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS sensor. Now, that sensor mainly improves low light photo quality but it also allows for some speedy burst shooting, getting up to 3.6 frames per second. There are faster compacts but they usually make you wait while the camera stores the photos and the Canon doesn't. However, the rest of its shooting performance is average, bordering on slow. Its photo quality is overall very good, thanks to generally excellent color but, like most cameras in this category, subjects look soft and benefit from a little sharpening. The SD4500 is also capable of recording nice looking movies at resolutions up to full HD 1080p at 24 frames per second and there's a stereo mic in front and use of the optical zoom while recording. There's also a super slow motion mode that records video at 240 frames per second at a resolution of 320 X 240 so, really, only suitable for viewing on a small screen but it's fun nonetheless. All these features and its small size seem to come at the cost of battery life, though. The little rechargeable pack is only rated for 150 shots and using any of the burst or movie modes put a real hurt on battery life, but if frequent recharging doesn't bother you or you're willing to buy an extra battery, the camera is certainly a compact megazoom worth considering. I'm Josh Goldman and that's the Canon PowerShot SD4500 IS. -Hi, I'm Justin Yu, associate editor for CNET.com with a first look at the Oki B431DN monochrome laser printer. So, its boxy shape and generic aesthetic may be easily confused with other printers but this one deserves your extra attention. The appeal of the $350 B431DN lies in its simple setup, ease of use, and extra features like an autoduplexer for double-sided printing and Ethernet networking that lets multiple users print at the same time. All controls live on top of the unit here and you get your standard array of buttons and two-line LCD which is really all you need for a simple monochrome. We're also big fans of the dual paper inputs as well. The main tray pulls out of the bottom and fits 250 sheets of paper but there's also a multipurpose tray above it that can fit another 100 sheets. Most printers only give you 250. So if you're looking for an efficient printer for simple jobs like business documents and text pages, the B431DN won't disappoint. It printed faster than all four of our competitive printers at an impressive 33.86 pages per minute and it also has the quality to match. For its modern features, affordable price tag, and fast output speed, the Oki B431DN exceeds our expectations for a small business printer, and it's well-deserving of our CNET Editors' Choice award. So, I'm Justin Yu, this is the Oki B431DN and that sounds good to me. -Sounds good to me, too, Justin. But enough of that for right now, we'll get back to the cool phones and apps right after this quick break when the CNET Tech Review continues. 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. Have you ever tried to show somebody a hilarious YouTube video on your phone only to find out that you can't get a signal? I know. Bummer. Well, thanks to a new app called BestTube, you'll be able to play your favorite videos wherever you are. -Oh. Hey, guys, welcome to Tap That App. I'm Brian Tong and this is the show where we cover the hottest apps in the mobile space. Now, we all love watching YouTube videos on the go but what if you wanna save those videos to your phone so you can watch the high quality versions any time? Check out the free app in the Android Marketplace called BestTube by Jared W. Smith for Android phones. The app showcases the most popular and top rated videos but you can also search for a video that you're looking for. Once you found it, you'll have the option to preview it or download it directly to your phone's SD card. You wanna make sure you're on Wi-Fi when you use this app because the quality of the file will depend on your phone's current bandwidth and Edge or 3G can be iffy. Now, once it's downloaded, you can view your favorite YouTube videos whenever and wherever you want and if you use a long press, you'll also have other options to save the file as an MP3 or copy and rename it. It's a free app but one negative is the ad banner that appears over each downloaded video. If you click on it once, it will take you to another screen but it will never show up again. Now, there aren't any apps like this available through the iPhone, Palm, or BlackBerry's official app store, so it makes BestTube unique and easy to set up. If you're looking to save those YouTube videos you just can't get enough of, then go with BestTube and best of all, it's free. Now, if you guys have any other apps or dance moves you'd like to see, send us along an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org . I'm Brian Tong, thanks for watching, and we'll see you guys next week. -Finally. I can watch the "Bed Intruder Song" anytime I want which is pretty often. You know that one, right? -Hide your kids, hide your wife, hide your kids, hide your wife, and hide your husband, 'cause they're raping everybody out here. -Alright, I hope that made you feel good because now, it's time for The Bad. Sometimes, it's hard to find a product that qualifies as bad for this show because most of the things we review have at least some redeeming qualities, but that is hardly the case with this new cellphone from MetroPCS. -I'm Jessica Dolcourt with CNET.com looking at the ZTE Agent for MetroPCS. Now, unfortunately, this is one of those phones that has little to recommend it. It's tall and slim with the soft touch back cover that makes it grip well and feel comfortable in the hand and it can slip into almost any pocket. The screen is also nice and large for the phone's height and fairly sharp and clear looking. However, we did find that the navigation buttons below the screen are a bit constricted and you can see how tall and narrow the Talk and End keys are and the circular toggle here, it's a bit too small to make navigation very finger friendly. We do like the shortcut to the music player, we'll give it that, and we also enjoyed that the dial pad buttons are almost scaled, so that typing in a phone number was no problem. On the back is a 1.3-megapixel camera and camcorder plus a vanity mirror. Inside, there's a slew of MetroPCS branded apps including a navigator plus all of your usual organizer tools like the calendar. There's instant messaging and the MetroWeb browser plus some other preloaded apps like Loopt. We do have to say that call quality was pretty poor in our tests. So, to bring it all together, the Agent is a prepaid phone that'll cost you $69. That's a typical price for a not-too-fancy phone you buy without a contract, though frankly you can get better phones with MetroPCS for less or for a few dollars more. We'd recommend you keep shopping around. This is Jessica Dolcourt from CNET looking at the ZTE Agent from MetroPCS. -Okay, so I guess if you like wasting money on phones that don't really do much, then I guess this could be the phone for you, and also I want to meet you because why would you do that? Now, let's see what we've got in this week's Bottom Line. The battle between the iPhone and Android phones is raging and both sides of the fight have their own upsides and downsides, so, leave it to Brian Cooley in this week's Top 5 to draw a line in the sand. -Okay, I'm gonna get my gear on for this one. Not sure what's gonna get winged at me for this bit of sacrilege. It's Top 5 Reasons Android is Better than iPhone, as laid out by the team at CNET's Android Atlas Weekly podcast. Yeah. I know that sounds like we're comparing an OS to a product line, but you get it. We're gonna compare the universes here, OS, devices, apps, and carriers between the two hottest smartphone platforms in the world. Here we go. Number five, Android is open source. The folks behind it don't care if you hack the phone you paid for, and they don't play games trying to outfox the way you did it. Instead, they have lives. And the Android Marketplace, that's pretty much the Jezebel of apps, welcoming one and all with wide open listings. Add in the alternate Android Marketplaces and it all adds up to "app democracy." Now, yes, that does mean you can get some lousy, buggy, scammy apps, but you and developers are treated like a bunch of grownups in the Android world, not like you're going to a daycare. Number four, real multitasking. Yes, iOS does multitasking now, but not to the true degree Android does. Apps there are free to do their thing like programs on a personal computer, and, yes, as with a computer, it means you can run into some conflicts but see note 1 above about daycare. Number three, Adobe's Flash. Android phones support it, Apple's don't and won't. It means you're Android phone can hit the web, all of it, with a browser, not a custom app for each website you want to run well on your phone. Website apps aren't always cool innovation. Sometimes, they're just baggage, and with Android, you don't have to use them. Number two, handsets. Lots of them. There are something like 80 Android phones and counting. Apple has 2, really 1-1/2. Simplicity's worked well for them but then again there's that choice thing. Android has choice of features through all those handsets, features you want, features you don't, choice of a real keyboard or just a pretend one on the screen, choice of a device with removable battery, memory expansion slot, you get the idea. As we see everyone adopting smartphones, can 1 or 1-1/2 devices really fit all? Before we check out the number one reason Android makes iPhone look like the phone for sheeple, let's look at why we're even talking about this. Android's on fire. In the US market, it outsold iPhone in Q3 of 2010 to grab 44% of smartphone shipments against Apple's 26%. That comparison, unthinkable a year ago. Globally, Android shipments are up 1300% in a year, to 20 million worldwide. Apple still dominates in the number of apps available but where do you think that trendline's gonna be going? And, finally, the number one reason Android is better than iPhone, really is carriers, that pesky choice thing again. Android phones are on a bunch of carriers. IPhone is and always has been just on AT&T, and even if you're one of the 6 people who've never heard the constant complaints about AT&T's network, you still might not wanna move to it. Maybe you just like your carrier. Well, they've probably got a good Android phone waiting for them. So, if you're now thinking Apple might be more 1984 than not, you'll wanna check out CNET's Android Atlas Weekly podcast hosted by Justin Eckhouse and a variety of other experts he plucks from around CNET every week. Just head to CNET.com/live. And for more Top 5 goodness, it's Top5.cnet.com. I'm Brian Cooley, thanks for watching. The Bottom Line this week? Oh, yes, he did. I would not wanna be opening Brian's mail this week, but we look forward to your unbiased and well thought out comments, and, of course, if you don't agree with Brian's list, keep an eye out for the Top 5 Reasons Why iPhone is Better Than Android in the coming weeks. Okay, folks. With that, it is time for me to go. Join us next week for a brand new CNET Tech Review and until then, there are tons of great videos available everyday at CNETtv.com. I'll see you next time and thank you for watching.