CNET Tech Review
BlackBerry PlayBook means businessThis week on the CNET Tech Review: take a look at the RIM BlackBerry PlayBook; Android backups made easy; Marshall amps you can wear on your head; and the HP TouchSmart lays down on the job.
-This week on the CNET Tech Review: The BlackBerry PlayBook gets the hands-on treatment. See how it holds up against the iPad 2 in our speed test. Marshall Headphones that are major cool. And back up here, android phone before it's too late. 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 some unique tech wisdom in the form of the Bottom Line. Let's start with the good. In what has really been a two-horse race between iOS and android, sorry Windows, a new contender in the tablet battle emerged this week with the release of RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook. Built as the future of the BlackBerry platform itself, the PlayBook is designed with business users in mind and here is Donald Bell with his First Look. -Hey! I'm Donald Bell and today we're taking a first look at the BlackBerry PlayBook from RIM. This is a 7-inch tablet priced at $499 for a 16-gigabyte version, $599 for a 32 gigabytes, and $699 for 64 gigabytes. This version here only connects to the internet over WiFi or tether connection to your smartphone, but a 4G model is coming out later this year. The screen quality is nice. There's a pair of stereo speakers on the sides here, a 3-megapixel camera up top, and a 5-megapixel camera on the back that can also record video at 1080p. On the bottom, you get connections for an optional charging dock, a micro USB port for charging and syncing, an HDMI port that can also crank out smooth 1080p video. The top of the PlayBook is a sour note for me. There's a headphone jack and a pair of stereo mikes. That's fine. But the power button if you can see it is this little teeny tiny thing made for baby fingers. It's also the button you'll need to use for waking the screen out of sleep mode, so you'll have to contend with it everyday. We thought a case might help, but for us, it actually made the situation worse. As for the tiny volume and play/pause controls next to it, they do work, but I'm not sure why they're even up here or why a dedicated play/pause button is even necessary. If you can get past the tedious little button, the real centerpiece of this whole thing is the OS. This is a brand new piece of software built from RIM from the ground up. It's fast. It's fluid. It can multitask and juggle apps like a maniac. And if Apple and Google aren't scared yet, they probably should be. My favorite part of the whole system is the web browser, which fully supports Adobe, Flash and presents web pages just as they would look on your desktop. That means Flash video; Flash Games; and for better or for worse, Flash ads, but as great as it is, the browser is trapped inside a tablet that is half the size of the iPad, not to mention the 10-inch honeycomb tablets that are due out this year. Some may find the small size an advantage, but when it comes to full-scale web pages and document editing, those tasks really deserve a larger screen. So that's the BlackBerry PlayBook from RIM, a powerful tablet at a good price and one of the best 7-inch tablets we have seen even though I wish it were bigger. For cnet.com, I'm Donald Bell. -So, it's not as pretty or as big as the iPad 2, but how does the PlayBook stack up in terms of performance? Eric Franklin put them side by side in a good old fashion speed test to find out. -Hey guys. We're in the CNET Lab here today; another week, another tablet to test it seems. You've seen our previous speed tests. Well, you know what to expect. If not, it's pretty self explanatory. This week, the iPad 2 versus the RIM BlackBerry PlayBook. Now, we have some web speed test to get to, so let us begin. First web speed test is giantbomb.com. Let's go. Let's do this. Alright. They go away. And iPad 2 is ahead. The RIM is right behind. The iPad 2 is done. RIM is-- Okay now, the RIM is done. And there you are, giantbomb.com. Next up, cbsnews.com. And go. And they're off and running. And CBS News on the iPad 2 is holding, holding. They're both holding. CBS News and iPad 2 is done and now the RIM BlackBerry is done as well. Now, we're going into this little-known site. You may have heard of it. It's called cnet.com. Let's go. Okay, cnet.com no the iPad 2 is-- it's coming in and it's done, and the RIM is lagging behind a couple seconds and it's done now too. Aright, there is cnet.com. And there it is. Hope the iPad 2 and the PlayBook are fast as you can see. The iPad 2 is a little bit faster; however, the PlayBook has full Flash support, so that may have adversely affected its performance. Check out my full blog as I'll have more detailed results as well as results for the Motorola Zoom. Until next time. -Personally, I don't mind waiting a couple extra seconds for a page to load if it means that the page is gonna look right. Yehey Flash! But I also wouldn't mind watching my Flash video on a bigger screen. A couple of weeks ago, we showed you how to take advantage of Amazon's new Cloud Drive and cloud player services on your android phone. Well, Sharon's back again this week. And as you are about to see, the Cloud Drive still isn't really that helpful if you have an iPhone, but there are some alternatives out there that you should check out. -Storing and streaming music from the Cloud is a nice alternative to storing it locally on your phone or computer. It gives you more storage space on your devices and allows you to access your music from anywhere. But when Amazon launched its Cloud Drive and Cloud Player, it gave iOS users no love. I'm Sharon Vaknin for cnet.com with the guide for iOS users who want to stream music from the Cloud. When Amazon's Cloud Drive and Player were first announced, we quickly figured out that even though there isn't a dedicated app for iOS, you can still stream music to your iPhone, iPod, or iPad. It's sort of clumsy, but here's how it works. Head to amazon.com/cloudplayer. You'll be warned that your browser is not supported, but you already knew that. Hit 'continue' and you'll see the Cloud Player dashboard. To play a song, tap it and hit the blue arrow on the right. You'll see a drop down menu. Select 'download' and Safari will open the song with QuickTime. The first time you do this, Amazon will ask you to get the MP3 Downloader. Your song will start playing and will play in the background if you exit Safari, which is fine. But as you can see, you can skip songs, save them, or do any of the cool things that the Amazon MP3 App for Android can. Personally, I would skip this option. It's too sloppy and I can't find any practical use for this method. Instead, I use SugarSync-- a similar service which is actually iOS compatible. Like Amazon, SugarSync gives you 5 gigabytes of storage for free. But the best part is that for every friend who signs up for SugarSync through a referral you made, you get 500 megabytes of extra storage to keep forever, and there's no maximum. Right now, the promotion is only offered until May 31st, 2011. So, now is the time to start spamming your friends. To setup the cloud, go to sugarsync.com and hit 'try SugarSync free.' You'll see several pricing options. For now, let's get the 5 free gigabytes of storage by scrolling down and hitting 'sign up' next to the fine print. After that, follow the sign up and download instructions, and get SugarSync on your computer. Once it's there, open the SugarSync file manager. To add music to your Cloud, hit 'add sync folder' and select all the folders you want to sync. If you have iTunes, you can choose to sync your entire iTunes library if it fits. Now, download the SugarSync app on your iOS device. Once you're signed in, open the icon for your computer. You'll see all the files you backed up to your cloud. To stream your music, just open a folder and tap a song. If you're on a slow connection, it'll take some time to buffer. SugarSync supports multitasking, so music will play even when you exit. From this player window, you can skip songs within the folder. So, if you want to be able to skip through all of your music, make sure to put all your files into one folder. Unlike the Amazon MP3 App, there's no support for playlist creation or shuffling. But according to SugarSync, these features should be coming soon. Remember, you need to be connected to the Internet to stream music from your cloud. But if you know you'll be offline, cache songs by tapping the arrow next to a file and selecting 'sync to iPhone.' SugarSync is my chosen alternative to Amazon Cloud Player, but Dropbox can offer you a similar deal. The difference is that you only get 2 gigabytes free and the app won't let you skip songs. In other words, it's pointless for media streaming. But if you're stuck on Dropbox, you can download a $2 app called BoxyTunes. It lets you skip songs, create playlists, and cache your library. At this point, SugarSync and Dropbox are probably your best bet for streaming music from the Cloud. But since the Amazon MP3 App would directly compete with iTunes, and the fact that Apple is rumored to be developing its own Cloud service, it might be a while before we see an Amazon Cloud Player show up in the App Store. If you have any How To requests of your own, e-mail them to email@example.com. For CNET, I'm Sharon Vaknin and I'll see you on the interwebs. -And of course, once you finally get your Cloud situation figured out. You don't wanna listen to all that music on crummy headphones, do you? Assuming that you don't, I suggest that you at least consider this new pair from Marshall, the guys that make the amps. -If you're a musician that already owns Marshall gear, well now you can add these headphones to your collection. I'm Justin Yu with CNET.com. This is your first look at the Marshall Major headphones. The Majors are the company's first over-ear headphone and they definitely live up to the company's strong legacy with a familiar shape and excellent acoustics to match its line of amps. They feature a closed-back, on-ear design that does well at eliminating ambient noise around you so you can focus on your music instead of that conversation going on next to you. Along the same line, the sealed design actually helps keep others from hearing what you're listening to as well. Aesthetically, it's easy to tell who makes the headphones. They're clearly branded on both ear cups and the interior even features Jim Marshall's own signature. Marshall adds even more distinction with a headband line with Marshall's own Tolex flexible vinyl fabric that's been historically used to cover Fender guitar amps and guitar cases since the 1960s. Other small details of note include a swiveling wire cage for transport, tough rubber throughout for durability, and a straight wire that also features a coiled portion for extra slack. Sonically speaking, the Majors actually do sound great across all genres of music. They reproduced all of our test tracks with accuracy and a spatial sound that gives the audible illusion that the music is playing outside of your head instead of just between your ears. So, whether you're married to the Marshall brand or you're just shopping for a new pair of passive noise-isolating headphones, you certainly will not be disappointed with this purchase. You can read all of the details in our full review on cnet.com, but that's gonna do it for me. I'm Justin Yu. These are the Marshall Major headphones and that sounds good to me. -Now, I know headphones are basically just little speakers you wear on your ears, but I'm not sure they need to look like little speakers that you wear on your ears. Although if Justin says they sound good, I would at least be willing to give them a try. And while I find out if those little Marshall amps go to 11, let's take a break. We'll be right back for 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. One of the cardinal rules of computing is backup, backup, and backup your backups. Well, that motto is just as true when it comes to your phone. iPhone users have it easy because iTunes can backup your phone every time you plug it in to Sync, but for all of us android folks, it's not that cotton dry. So that's why we have Sharon Vaknin to show us how. -I'm Sharon Vaknin for cnet.com here to show you how to backup your android phone. Backing up is simple, but many people only realize they should when it's too late. It only takes a second for your phone to get stolen, lost, or dunked in coffee. So, here is my advice to keep your data safe even if you end up phone less. If you have a router device, go download Titanium or Nandroid and you're set. But if you don't know what I'm talking about or you'd like to backup your device before routing your phone, here are some easy solutions. Android users have any number of options to choose from. So, where do you start? Consider the most important things that you want to keep safe. For most of you, it will be apps, contacts, SMS, and photos. Luckily, Google takes care of some of these things and more. Go to settings, privacy, and make sure that backup my settings and automatic restore are checked off. Go back to the settings menus and select account and sync and open your Gmail account. Check off everything and your calendar, Gmail, and contacts will be backed up to Google servers. Now, if you ever lose your phone and purchase a new android, all you have to do is sign into your Gmail account and your applications, contacts, e-mail, calendar, and system settings will be restored. Text messages get handled a little differently. To backup your text conversations, download an app called SMS Backup Plus. It will automatically backup SMS, MMS, and call logs to your Gmail account as threaded messages. Download the app. Connect it to your Goggle account and choose backup to start syncing. Your text messages will show up under a new label in your Gmail account and your sms will continue to backup in the background. For some reason, Google has not configured automatic photo syncing yet. So, here are some other options. If you use a Cloud service like Flicker, Picasa, or Photobucket, there are third-party apps that will help you backup your photos wirelessly. Photobucket mobiles me because there's an option to auto upload all of your mobile photos the way Eye-Fi does. Flicker, Companion, and Picasa tool are also free apps that will let you upload your photos to their server, but they're not automatic. If you don't want to deal with all of those apps and all you want to do is store those photos on your computer, use the good old drag and drop method. Plug your phone into your computer. Put it in disc drive mode and open the drive. It should appear on my computer on Windows or on your Mac desktop. Open it. Find the DCIM folder and drag and drop all the photos you want saved on to your hard drive. The only problem with this method is that it's not automated, so remember to do this at least once a week. Now, if you want the peace of mind knowing that somebody else is taking good care of your data, there's an app for that. My Backup Pro is the best and least expensive app that I found that will backup everything to their online servers or your SD card. For 5 bucks, My Backup will store photos, call logs, apps, text messages, and more. It also gives you the option to schedule backups. And if you get a new android or your current android is somehow wiped, just reinstall My Backup and hit restore. Just realize that some apps and settings might not transfer because of software or hardware compatibility. These are my favorite ways to backup my android phone, but there are many other options. If you have a preferred way, let me know on Twitter or e-mail your suggestions, questions, and ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org. For CNET, I'm Sharon Vaknin and I'll see you on the interwebs. -I have to say the fact that you can do all that without ever having to plug your phone into a computer, so much better than iTunes. For many photographers, half the fun of taking pictures is tweaking all the settings and adding effects afterwards to create fun artistic photos. And while there are hundreds of photo editing apps in the iTune's app store, FX's Photo Studio is by far one of our favorites. Here's Jason Parker to tell you why you should tap that app. -Welcome to Tap that App. I'm Jason Parker and this is the show where we cover the hottest apps in the mobile space. Anyone who spent anytime browsing the iTune's app store know there's no shortage of camera-related. One of our favorite photo effects apps received a price drop recently and offers so much after numerous updates that it's almost silly not to get it. It's called FX Photo Studio, and like many other apps, lets you quickly edit images right on your iPhone. You get the standard set of basic image editing controls gamma, cropping, rotation tools. All of these are controlled using on-screen sliders and other simple touch controls so it's easy to get the exact look you want. But where FX Photo Studio truly shines is the amount you can do with your photos by selecting from an enormous amount of effects. As of today, FX Photo Studio includes 187 high quality effects you can add to your images. Start by either taking a picture with your iPhone camera or picking one from your photo library. From there, the app defaults to showing you its entire list of 187 effects with previews so you know what you're getting. With so many effects, it can be a bit overwhelming, but fortunately you can also view effects by category making it easier to figure out what you want. You can get the retro look by selecting Vintage, for example, which gives you selections like "Old Photo," "Burnt Paper" or "Old Film Frame." Each of the effect types can be saved for later by touching the star at the upper right, adding it to your favorites list. You also have the ability to layer your image with multiple effects for a custom look you can save as a preset to use later. Simply add an effect to your image, then select another effect to layer on top. When you're finished, return to the effects selection screen, and hit the Preset button at the bottom. You can then save the preset and give it a name that you'll remember later. Now, you'll only need to go to the Preset screen to add those same effects to other images. When you're done, you can share the images via Facebook, Twitter, Flicker, Tumbler or just send directly through e-mail. FX Photo Studio is not a new iPhone app, but over the course of time and numerous updates has become one of the best in the iTunes App Store. Anyone who likes adding effects to images or just wants to experiment with their iPhone camera should definitely Tap this App. FX Photo Studio is only 99 cents at the iTunes App Store for a limited time so make sure to grab it before the price goes back up again. That's it for today's show, but if you have any suggestions, send them to Tap That App at cnet.com. I'm Jason Parker. Thanks for watching. -I bet that would be even more fun on the iPad's big screen. And 99 cents for all that? What a deal! Alright, I've put it off for as long as I can, but it's time to check out the bad. My favorite part of this next video is the fact that Scott Stein makes so little effort to conceal his lack of enthusiasm for this Toshiba Satellite Laptop. And I don't think it's because he has to review yet another laptop, but the fact that he has to review this one again. -Hi. I'm Scott Stein, senior associate editor at CNET.com, and this is the Toshiba Satellite A665-S5176. Now, if I sound a little bit less than enthusiastic about that long series of numbers at the end of the Satellite, that's because we've seen this Satellite before. We reviewed Satellite A665 laptops, these big 15.6-inch models, last year, and what's new now? Well, new processors, the new Intel Core i3 is in here, which uses that new Sandy Bridge architecture that we've talked about which gives you some better performance and some better graphics despite not having any dedicated graphics inside. On the other hand, "eh," I mean, it costs $799 which is right in that "eh" range of laptops. It's got a Blu-ray drive which is nice. It's got a screen that's not as nice. It's a 1366 X 768 resolution, not bad, but it's not as crisp or as bright as we've seen on other Blu-ray laptops. The speakers are pretty great. Harman/Kardon speakers, and we've liked those on all of those upper range Satellite laptops. They really do boom, but not quite as much as we saw on, say, the Dell XPS 15 which had fantastic speakers, so if you like the idea of multimedia in your laptop, that could be a plus. It's got Intel Wireless Display and it's got your 500-gigabyte hard drive, your 4 gigs of RAM. Overall, though, it's clunky, it's big. The battery life is good but not great, and you're sort of left in that middle ground. Honestly, you could do better. Let me give you some advice. Look at this one but maybe look at some other laptops too. I'm Scott Stein and this is the Toshiba Satellite A665-S5176. -Now, the Toshiba does have a few things going for it, but my guess is that if you end up buying it, you'll be just as ambivalent about it as Scott was. Alright, let's go ahead and check out this week's Bottom Line. Other than the iMac, all-in-one desktop PCs don't get a ton of respect these days, but HP's TouchSmart has intrigued us with previous models and HP might finally have cracked the nut. -Hi, I'm Rich Brown, senior editor for cnet.com. Today, we're gonna take a look at the Editor's Choice-winning HP TouchSmart 610q. So, this is a high-end all-in-one from HP and it's got a touchscreen, but it also has some pretty cool features that we've never seen in a touch-based all-in-one before. One of the best things about this system is its case. It's a brand new design from HP and it comes with a new feature that lets you tilt the system down so it becomes sort of a touch console, and it's actually not unlike using an iPad. Now, of course, this is still Windows 7, so not every application on here is optimized for touch, but there are certainly some that are. Opening up Kindle PC for example, using this system in this tilted console mode is really quite natural. Now, of course, HP also includes its suite of touch-based software. Some of it is good, some of it you can kind of forget about. But overall, it's a pretty well-designed interface. In addition to the tilting screen, HP has also gone above and beyond with its HDMI inputs in the system. Now, we like HDMI inputs in all-in-ones because it lets you connect to a game console or a cable box directly to the system, then you can swap the video signal out, so this is basically like a smaller TV. Now, what HP has done here is that it has not only added 2 HMDI inputs, so that means you don't need an HDMI hub soon, but it also has this HP picture-in-picture software. So, what the picture-in-picture does is it gives you a handy software control to kick you out to the various HDMI inputs, but it also gives you handy display, brightness, contrast, and other controls on a handy touch-based interface. So, in addition to all those features, this is also one of the fastest all-in-ones we've tested. It beats out every Windows-based all-in-ones in its price range, and it comes behind Apple's $1999 iMac on only 2 of our tests. Now, the reason for that speed is a fast 2.93 gigahertz Intel Core i7 CPU. That makes the system fast enough to handle any day-to-day productivity or even consumer-level digital media editing. We expect gamers will also appreciate the 2-gigabyte AMD Radeon HD5570 graphics card. That's a pretty solid midrange card and it'll play pretty much anything out there at full 1920 x 1080 resolution and with basic image quality. For other highlights of the system, you get a Blu-ray/DVD combo drive, as well as a pair of USB 3.0 ports among the various inputs on the system. So, for its price, its performance, and the various innovations around this case, this is easily on our favorite all-in-ones. So, I'm Rich Brown and this is the Editor's Choice-winning HP TouchSmart 610q. -The Bottom Line this week: That's a hell of a big eReader. Seriously though, the TouchSmart has been all about potential for a long time, and it's nice to see it finally be all that it could be and speedy to boot. Look out iMac. Alright folks, that's our show. We'll be back next week with a brand-spanking new CNET Tech Review. Until then, there are tons of great videos available everyday at cnettv.com.