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CNET Tech Review
HP cures MacBook 'Envy'This week on the CNET Tech Review: HP's Envy 14 makes a worthy MacBook alternative; download our top 10 (or 11) back to school apps and programs; and a rechargeable keyboard that works indoors.
-This week on the CNET Tech review, forget the book store, head to the app store instead before you head back to school plus Spotify tricks for some slick playlist. HPs Envy 14 may make you rethink your MacBook purchase and a solar powered keyboard that make fluorescent lighting a little more tolerable. 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 what's good and what's bad in the world of the tech plus offer our own unique tech wisdom in the from of the bottom line. Let's start with the good. First up to all you kids out there enjoying your summer break, I've got 3 words for you, back to school. I know were barely into August, but some of you are only weeks away from heeding back to campus, and we wanna make sure that you are fully prepared when you get there. That's why Brian Cooley is there with this top 5 download recommendations for your smartphones, tablets and PCs. -Whether you're going back to school with cool new tech or the same crap you had last year, you can tune it up nice by downloading this year's hottest programs and apps. I'm Brian Cooley with the 5 you really need to get on your gear sorted by the 5 major categories of gear you're likely gonna be packing. Number 5, iPad downloads. Skype is in our list. Sure, Skype works on just about everything, but on the iPad you sort of sit there with your mouth open because it really rocks video calls on that full touch screen and of course make sure you're running it on an iPad 2 with the cameras or you're gonna be sitting there making a voice call on a big screen device and that's kinda lame. Also look at Netflix. Netflix, I'm convinced it has kept scores of iPad buyers from taking the damn thing back with buyers' remorse because it reminds you why you just spent 500-800 bucks on a mobile device that doesn't make phone calls. It's what portable TV always wanted to be. Number 4 is our Mac software category. Starting off witih TweetDeck. Now, we always like Tweetdeck, which is now owned by Twitter by the way. We especially like the Mac version, which isn't like you always hear. It looks sharp and it's a great way to merge & manage Twitter and Facebook posts from you, your friends, your followers, and that weird stalker guy. We also are big on Spotify. When you're cranking away on your Mac doing homework you know you're gonna be playing music. Nobody studies in silence any more. Nothing is hotter in online music right now than Spotify. It just launched in the U.S. right in time for the school year. Their track library is huge and you pick exactly what you wanna hear, not a 'sounds like' thing they way do you on Pandora. Number 3, our Android apps, starting off with the Kindle app. The free Kindle app for Android is a simple, clean way to get a Kindle without buying a Kindle. That's more money for beer that way, and you know all about Kindle books and periodicals, web feeds, PDF support, but the new thing just announced is Kindle Textbook store. You can save huge money by renting digital versions of your textbooks and you still get to save your notes and highlights from them after the book rental ends because those are just fun to look at years from now. Also, there's Evernote. What is school if not one big organizational pain? Evernote for Android really fills a need for one app that swallows up text notes, voice clips, pictures, files, links, and even GPS locations. You'll kind of be like Einstein when he said he never memorized his phone number because he always knew where to look it up unless you lose your phone in the toilet, Einstein. Number 2, we get to our red hot iPhone category. Starting up with the WhatsApp Messenger. Now put this on your iPhone and you can save tons on texting because you will be able to skirt that texting plan that you pay your carrier for. The catch is your friends & family who you want to text also have to install WhatsApp Messenger, then they and you are texting and even sharing your locations for free. Yeah, that's gonna be a tough sell. Also, we're bing on Yelp. Think about it now, if you're heading off to college specially a new college, you're not leaving without two things. One, a lot of weirdness from your parents and two, the Yelp App on your iPhone. Now, everyone thinks restaurants when you think Yelp, but it's a great pocket guide to finding anything, like a guitar shop, then a piercing place, then a skateboard store, then a career counseling center. Now, our number 1 category for back to school downloads. It's PC and Windows stuff, Chrome browser at the top of the list. Chrome is cool. Partly because it's really fast and makes all the Google stuff work very well. It's also nicely standards compliant and it seems to run its best on it a PC or Windows version plus you can turn on syncing so your bookmarks, prefs, and settings will follow you to any other machine that is running Chrome just by using your Google login, great for all that itinerant computer use you do in school. Finally, there is Paint. NET. Now, come on, you're not gonna pay for PhotoShop and you probably don't need that horsepower anyway. Paint. NET is our go-to pick. It's open source, so no cash is required. It does all the essential stuff and a few advanced tricks as well and it seems to get an update like every 2 days. No for more on all our back to school picks software and gear, go to BackToSchool.cnet.com and for more Top 5's likes this. It's top3.cnet.com. I'm Brian Cooley, thanks for watching. -That's a good list especially since it had 10 items on it instead of 5. Consider it a bonus. I would like to add one more add on to your download queue though especially if you're a windows user Bitdefender Total Security 2012. Here is Seth Rosenblatt to tell you why. -Hi, I'm Seth Rosenblatt for CNET, and this first look, we'll peering the walls of Bitdefender Total Security 2012, which you can get from CNET.download.com. For the second year in a row, Bitdefender has got a new look. The suite now has a dark theme and unlike Norton. It also retains the modularity of last year's basic interface, but the rest is entirely new. The beginner-intermediate-advance interface options are gone, replaced with a single approach. The status ring there shows you your security status, green for secure, yellow for problems that require attention, and red for immediate issues. This ought to be narrowed to green and red. The yellow was potentially confusing. Either you've got problems or you don't. The new UI does retain some of Bitdefender's modularity though. This is the default look, but you can swap the security modules around. Each one has an icon at the top for easy recognition and toggles at the bottom to manage the feature. The settings window was well designed with tabs that precisely reflect the options presented in the main window. This year's interface is definitely easier to use than last year's. Enough about looks, let's talk features. There's not a huge amount that's new in Bitdefender 2012, but there are some important improvements. There's a new autopilot that's own by default. It's a smart system that sets most notifications to silent, automatically deals with most threats encountered and basically ensures that your security is running, but not bothering you. The browser add on previously limited to Firefox and internet explorer has been replaced by a browser agnostic tool. This means that you will be protected no matter which browser you use. Rescue mode has been beeped up and Bitdefender's free Facebook scanning tool safe go has been baked in. It ought to support Twitter soon if it doesn't by the time you watch this. The online storage component safe box now gets file syncing across multiple computers. Bitdefender's efficacy scores have been strong in the past 6 months on infection prevention, generally in the top 5 across multiple independent testers. It scans are fast, but not the fastest, and be warned, you're definitely going to notice its impact on start up and shut down times. Also, it's got a very aggressive install and it won't play well even with security programs that are designed to be complementary to the major suites such as Malwarebytes. Oh, in the corporate philosophy thing, the software maker says it's the computer security equivalent and the mythical Romanian half wolf, half dragon, which let's be honest, it's kind of awesome. I think more computer security company should take on animal avatars Kung fu style and that's your first look at the Bitdefender 2012. I'm Seth Rosenblatt. -I don't care how boring internet security seems, I want that. Did you hear that hackers? I've a wolf-dragon watch in my back. But if you're looking for something a little more social, Spotify also made Brian's list. Now, I know many of you are still waiting for your invites, but if you happen to be among the chosen few already using the service, Sharon has a few tips to make the most out of your playlist. -Hey, everyone, I'm Sharon Vaknin for CNET.com and today I'm gonna make you a Spotify playlist master. First, let's talk about the best ways to discover new music for your playlist starting with Spotify's built in tools because the search bar is a lot smarter than you think. Instead of just entering the name of an artist or song title, use search operators. For example, you can search year; 1970 to 1980 and get a list of popular songs from that decade, or if you wanna flash back from the new millennium, search year; 2000 or you can search for something like genre; rap year (1994), and find rap music from that year. This is the fullest of search operator, so you can mix and match to find new or old songs for your playlist. Another built-in feature is related artist. Anytime, you see a song, click the artist's name, you will get an overview of their top songs, albums, bio, and related artists, which is also a good feature for discovering new music. It's not as cool as Pandora, but it will do. Now that you are a music discovery pro, you can drag and drop music in the new playlist, just remember that all playlists are automatically public, so make sure to make the private. If you don't want people discovering your love Justin Bieber, just right click a playlist and uncheck publish. In this menu, you will also see the collaborative playlist option. This makes it so that anyone you share the playlist with can add songs to it and add it to their side bar too. The only catch is that it makes the playlist private to you and those people. Now, if you don't wanna do all the works searching for songs and creating playlist, there are few services that will do it for you and one of them is Spotify. Go to spotify.com and hit more options under the search bar, under the name of an artist or multiple artists by clicking add another. Select the number of tracts and hit generate playlist. You will get an automated playlist of songs similar to the artist or song you entered, which you can then drag and drop right into Spotify. Another way to find playlist is to use a sharing site like sharemyplaylists.com, which let's people upload their playlist for everyone to download. You can browse through the collection, search by keyword, or look at the chart to see which playlist are most popular. Once you find one, just click play and it will in Spotify and don't forget to subscribe at the top to add it to your side bar. Now, here's the tool I love. What if you already made playlist on YouTube, Soundcloud Group and other music services, we'll playlistify.org will take the playlist and help you transfer them to Spotify. Just go to playlistify.org and click your own playlist. Then select which service you wanna grab your playlist from and follow the instructions. You'll end up with a link than you can then open in Spotify without going through all the trouble of rebuilding it by hand. So, now, you have a huge list of awesome playlist, but maybe you have too many in your side bar and it's getting a little crowded. Now, this is where playlist folders comes in. To create one, just go to file new playlist folder, give it a name and drag and drop playlist into the folder to keep your side bar tidy. Once you've got your playlist built, organized, and protected, it's time to share them. Go back sharemyplaylists.com and upload your playlist so that anyone can get them or just write click a playlist and select copy http link and paste it into twitter and e-mail instant message or Facebook. When someone clicks it, it will launch Spotify. Okay, now it's time to go make your epic playlist and be sure to send me a link on my Facebook page and visit howto.cnet.com for more tips, tricks, and guides for your gadgets. For CNET, I'm Sharon Vaknin and I'll see you on the interwebs. -Just remember as more start joining Spotify, you will have more and more friends to share music and build playlist with and maybe paying the monthly pay for offline listening might seem a little more reasonable. Me personally, I like that. Now, if you like to keep a tidy desktop, a wireless keyboard can be the key to sparkling work space to do into that sort of thing, but if you're not into dumping a bunch of batteries into your local landfill, check out this new solar keyboard from Logitech. -If you're tired of replacing batteries on your computer keyboard, Logitech has a new solar-powered solution that earns our Editors' Choice Award. I'm Justin Yu, peripherals editor for cnet.com. This is your first look at the Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750. The K750's killer app is the dual solar panels that power the integrated lithium rechargeable battery inside. They also draw perpetual power from artificial light sources which means you don't have to be sitting by a window or even outside for the recharge. The lights in your apartment or above your desk at work are fine and the keyboard automatically senses and stores those charges in ambient light to keep the unit charged. Best of all, Logitech tells us a single two-hour charge will retain power for the keyboard for up to 3 months or more if you use the on/off switch in the corner. The K750 may take a little getting used to though in terms of typing if you're normally used to the generic keyboard that came with your computer. That's because the keys use scissor style switches underneath that you have a much shorter vertical clicking distance which means two things. First, the low profile switch is made for a typing experience that's a lot more like a laptop and a desktop keyboard. That means low noise and light touch for actuation. Second, the key switches also make the keyboard superthin. It's just one-third of an inch thick. Other notable features include Logitech's PerfectStroke uniform key structure and Unifying Receiver technology. So, Unifying Receiver is this USB port here that links your computer to the keyboard and it sticks out to just about half an inch of your computer and you can power up to six other Logitech devices at a time saving your precious USB ports for other peripherals. Finally, we're really impressed with Logitech's thorough eco-conscious design principles from the PVC-free chassis to the 100 percent recyclable packaging, and even a download link instead of a physical driver disk in the box. It shows the company is pushed to reduce the user's footprint. For its affordability, eco-consciousness, and thoughtful feature set, we're proud to award Logitech the Editors' Choice Award and you can read all the details in our full review on cnet.com. But, that's gonna do it for me. I'm Justin Yu. You just took a first look at the Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750. Thanks for watching. As Justin mentioned, the solar keyboard can hold the charge for up to 3 months. So, for those of you who preferred to do your computing and a darken cave, you can just switch on light once a quarter and charge that baby and take the opportunity to throw out some of those pizza boxes too. Alright, the time has come to take a break, but stick around. We will 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. Continuing on in the good. If you're one of those early adaptor types and you want something to tinker around with while you're riding in someone's passenger seat, the Pioneer App Radio might be right up your alley, though it aims for seamless iPhone integration with your car, you might end up being a little disappointed. - These days, smartphones pretty much do everything, so why do you need a fancy car stereo? That's the question that Pioneer aimed to answer with its new AppRadio, the first car stereo to be almost completely powered by your iPhone. I'm Antuan Goodwin. Let's take a first look at this one of a kind device. The Pioneer's AppRadio is aimed squarely at those of you who are absolutely addicted to your iPhones. Now, by itself, it's a little more than an AM/FM radio tuner, a Bluetooth hands-free system and a kind of fancy, kind of sexy 7-inch capacitive touch screen. Now if you don't actually have an iPhone, that's about all you can expect from this AppRadio; pretty disappointing, huh? However, connect an iPhone to the included 30-pin dock connector and the rest of AppRadio's functionality spring to life thanks to a set of apps that are installed on this connected iDevice. Users are able to browse Google Maps, search for points of interest and give directions. However, like the Maps app on the iPhone itself, these directions aren't live-updating; so you wanna get a passenger to advance those instructions and probably read the directions aloud for you. Users who want the real deal for turn-by-turn instructions will wanna install the MotionX-GPS Drive app on your iPhone which does exactly that. It gives you those turn-by-turn directions. MotionX is a free app for the first 30 days; after downloading, though, it's gonna cost you about $3 per month thereafter. Users can also add traffic data at an additional cost or you can just install the INRIX traffic app on your iPhone to gain access to free traffic reports, incidents and flow data. While you're on the road, you can access your locally-stored iPod media or stream audio from the internet with the Pandora internet radio or Rdio apps on the iPhone. All of which are very cool ways to keep your head nodding on your next long drive. There's also calendar integration and a contact manager which lets you initiate hands-free calls or even email at your current GPS location to anyone on your contacts list. Even better, Pioneer's actively working with even more app developers to add more choices to the list of supported apps. However, AppRadio is about as first generation as hard work comes, so there are some odd interface quirks that you'll need to be aware of before you pull the trigger on this guy. 1st you'll notice that every app looks a little bit different which is fine on a handset, but it can be difficult when you're just trying to skip tracks while you're driving. Next, none of the apps are connected to one another, and they run at separate processes on your phone so that INRIX traffic data I talked about isn't actually gonna factor into your Google Maps or MotionX-GPS Drive directions. More importantly, none of these apps have a back button built into them; so if you actually wanna switch between the apps, for example you're tired of Rdio and you wanna listen to Pandora, you'll have to physically touch your phone to switch between the apps using the touch screen, which means you can't really just hide the phone away in a glove compartment and control it with the AppRadio, which sort of defeats the purpose of actually using the AppRadio. Again, Pioneer promises that it is making strides towards continuously updating the AppRadio and the apps that it supports, but for now it feels like it should probably be called AppRadio beta. For you, iPhone addicts and early adopters, that may not be such a bad thing, but I think I'd wait for AppRadio to bake for a bit longer before taking the plunge. Well, there you have it. For more of my thoughts on this one of a kind car radio receiver, and I've got plenty of them, look for the full review on CNET.com, which is also where you can find more cool first look videos. I'm Antuan Goodwin giving you a first look at the Pioneer AppRadio. -The AppRadio really could have gone in the bad section of the show this week, but I like the idea the direction Pioneer is heading, so I'm giving it a pass, although I'm afraid I can't say the same for the next item, which is truly deserving of the title. Hi, I'm Rich Brown, senior editor, for CNET.com. Today, we're gonna take a look at the Acer Aspire X1920-UR20P. So, this is actually a pretty terrible budget desktop sad to say. The case is pretty decent. It's a nice simple design, relatively clean here with a DVD burner by the front door there, few ports mini card reader down here, but the problem is that the system really sort of underfeatured even for its low price. You can find it for about $400 to $500 depending on where you look, comes with the recently fast Intel Pentium dual-core chip. They're still Pentiums. It has 4 gigs of RAM, a terabyte hard drive, and that's about it. The system is really pretty spare and you can get better equipped PCs for the same price, so we really can't recommend you buy this system. Now, the back of the case we think we mean when we say how underfeatured is this. You've got 5.1 audio support, only 2 USB ports, a single Ethernet jack, old school PS2, mass and keyboard inputs as well as a VGA video out. There's no digital audio, no digital video, no Firewire or eSATA, LAN, USB3 and you can find those features at least in some combination on other desktops in this price range particularly Gateway, which is actually ironic since Acer owns Gateway. So inside of the case, the layout is pretty straightforward for a Slim Tower. There's the Intel CPU here. You can see here's the DVD drive. Underneath that is the hard drive. There is room for only 1 hard drive inside. Down here, you kind of can't see if there's 2 memory sticks, not 4 memory sticks slots like you get on some other PCs. For card expansion, the system has no cards, but there is a 1x PCI Express slot. There was a 16x PCI Express slot so you could put say half height graphics card in this PC, but we wouldn't even recommend this as an upgrade platform just because it's really pretty underpowered and underfeatured as we've mentioned. Now, we don't always expect Slim Towers to deliver let's say the fastest performance or the most features for the dollar, but the fact that they're such tiny cases, really makes them well suited both the desktop environments in the living room. You can imagine putting system like this next to your TV is a pretty decent home media server, but with no Wi-Fi adaptor or no digital video out that really makes the system tough to recommend for the living room environment. You can also get better bank for your buck in terms of performance in this price range, so for both those reasons we can't recommend you to buy the system. I'm Rich Brown, this is the Acer Aspire X1920-UR20P. -Let's take a look at some of Rich's take aways from this review; underfeatured, can't recommend, underpowered, and how could we forget pretty terrible. I don't think I have anything to add. So, let's finish things up here with this week's bottom line. The summer, Apple has introduced updates to both the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air Laptop lines, which is great news to Apple fans with money to burn. Luckily for the other 90% of world, HPs updated Envy 14 continues to be a worthy alternative. -I'm Dan Ackerman, and we are here taking a look at the latest version of HPs Envy 14. Now if you look at this Envy 14, you may say it looks a heck of a lot like the last Envy 14 or pretty much all the Envy laptops that we reviewed, and from the outside, it actually is pretty much exactly the same that's said that's not necessarily a bad thing on the Windows side. This is about as close you're gonna get the kind of that hefty metallic MacBook Pro looking feel, and it's really one of our favorite high end PCs right now. On the inside, the differences are, this latest version of the Envy 14 has one of Intel's second generation Core i series processor. This one has a Core i5 in this case. It also has USB3 and it adds its new touchpad gestures. They're taking this large image pad style touch pad a the very front here, and even though looks the same, they tried to upgrade the 2, 3, and 4 finger gestures to look a little bit more like dear I say a MacBook. There're differently awesome improvements here, however, it's not quite the same as you do get with the MacBook. The 2-finger scrolling is not quite as smooth. There's a new handy 4-finger gesture for bringing up and hiding all your different windows that you're working with. That's kind of versatile to what a 4-finger pre line you used to do in MacBook and still not quite as smooth and seamless as that. Still you get most of the things that you're looking for in a higher end and midsized laptop. You've got both HDMI and display port output, of course that USB 3.0 and some basic AMD graphics. You could do some, you know, little of gaming on here. Even better, the Envy 14 started 999, which the same as the 13-inch MacBook used to start at. Now, you'd have to either get a 999 MacBook Air, the 11-inch model or trade up to that 1200 bucks for a 13-inch MacBook Pro or even more for a 13-inch MacBook Air. So, if you're looking for something that's build like tank solid metal and really emulates kind of that MacBook Pro looking feel on Windows side, you're not gonna do better than the HP Envy line in Envy 14, definitely hits the suite spot coming in at 999. I'm Dan Ackerman and that is the HP Envy 14. -The bottom line this week, what's Apple's return policy again? and also, is it just mirrored the phrase 4-finger gestures sound a little bit dirty. Don't think about it too hard. Okay 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 everyday at CNETTV.com. I'll see you next time, and thank you for watching.