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CNET Tech Review
PlayBook takes on iPadThis week on the CNET Tech Review: RIM reveals the BlackBerry PlayBook; the top apps for sharing files in the cloud; counting down the five worst downloads of the fall; and the all-new Apple TV has arrived.
-This week on the CNET Tech Review, RIM reveals the BlackBerry PlayBook, get the gear to start your recording career, we'll count down the top 5 worst downloads we were unlucky enough to discover, and the all-new Apple TV has arrived. 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 offer our unique tech wisdom in the form of the Bottom Line. Let's get started with the good. This week, Research in Motion, the BlackBerry people, held their annual developers conference here in San Francisco and, finally, announced the BlackBerry tablet we've been speculating about. Here are some highlights from their three-hour keynote. -Introducing the world's first professional tablet--the BlackBerry PlayBook. You see, everyone needs a great playbook, whether you're a sports team, your business, you're developing strategy or you're coping with your family--everybody relies on their playbook to keep them focused and get them through the day. Its 7-inch high-resolution widescreen display is super comfortable to hold and super convenient to carry. The first time you hold it, it just feels right and you wanna take it everywhere you go. Second, the BlackBerry PlayBook will deliver a no-compromise web experience. Not just WebKit, not just HTML 5.0 but also full Flash 10.1 with hardware accelerated video. The BlackBerry PlayBook will support 1080p HD video with an industry standard HDMI out connector for connectivity to external display, something our CIOs have all asked us for so you can go straight from your PlayBook to a presentation, and you can display anything from PowerPoint, documents, websites, or even videos. We've added not just a rear camera but also a front-facing camera for video capture and these are full HD cameras, both the front and the back. This thing is Enterprise ready. CIOs can rest assured that the BlackBerry PlayBook is absolutely Enterprise ready. They can take advantage of the unique BlackBerry integration with secure pairing, so, think of this, right? You've already got a BlackBerry, you already have an account, you're already paying for it, it's already connected into the BlackBerry Enterprise server. It's already being controlled and managed from IT. You already know how to use it. All the data has already been sent to your BlackBerry. Why send it again? Why not use the NSA-approved Bluetooth secure pairing to have an amplified view of what's already on your BlackBerry? And, finally, it wouldn't be professional if it didn't have industry leading performance and here, again, we take the lead with 1 GHz dual core processors that take advantage of built-in symmetric multiprocessing with a full gigahertz of RAM for real, true multitasking capability. -Seems like if you have a BlackBerry phone, and a lot of you do, then PlayBook could be a pretty sweet alternative to the iPad. We'll be sure to bring you our full review when the PlayBook goes on sale, whenever that may be. I suggest you don't hold your breath. However, if you have an iPad and you wanna hold on to it for a while then getting a case for it might be a good idea, and if you do a lot of typing, an external keyboard might come in handy, too. Wow. Imagine if someone could come up with a way to combine the two. That would be crazy. -Hi, I'm Scott Stein, senior associate editor at CNET.com and what you're looking at right here is not a netbook. It's an iPad in a keyboard case. This is the Kensington KeyFolio Bluetooth Keyboard Case and for those who are worried about tablets and iPads, that they don't have keyboards and can't compete with netbooks, well, our prayers have been answered. There are actually cases that include keyboards built into them that connect wirelessly. Now, it sounds like a dream come true for those who wanna have a laptop-like experience on the go. This one has its ups and downs, though. It's $99 which seems expensive but if you add up the cost of a good case plus the cost of a good Bluetooth keyboard, it's actually affordable, and, unfortunately, it needs to be a little thick because you have a keyboard built into it. The thickness actually ends up being quite like a netbook or an 11.6-inch ultraportable so you're not saving that much on thickness anymore. So, the keys are a little bit cramped and the keys are very rubbery and soft so you're not gonna get a lot of key return feel. This could really throw you, but the good news is that at least the keys are responsive and that worked pretty well. You just have to get used to the strange feeling keys. Once we got into that, we found we were able to write pretty decently. The problem, though, is that the KeyFolio is not really a great case for anything else. It's got a very heavy lid and even though it opens like a book, if you're holding on the subway or another place, it's gonna flop open and it feels a little awkward for holding to read. The keys opens up and rests with a little dimple on the bottom that attaches to this little rubber ridge there yet there's no real lock or snap so it doesn't really have adjustable settings and we would have liked for this to have had a little bit of a keyboard riser as well for easier typing but it works fine and it does the job. And when it opens and shuts, there's no button or hinge on the bottom part of this. That's not a problem for when you open it up but it's a problem when it's in another mode, it flops open a little too easily. The Bluetooth keyboard works the same way that any other Bluetooth keyboard would. It actually can recharge via tiny mini USB 4-pin port on the side and it comes with a USB cable so you can charge it up. The battery life is supposed to be on the order of about 40 hours. We didn't exhaust it but it seemed to work fine and there is a little physical on/off switch on this side. There's also a connect button that you can press that begins the syncing process to pair with Bluetooth. Overall, hey, it turns your iPad kind of into a netbook, but it doesn't type as well as a netbook, so, how much do you use your iPad for writing? You may wanna consider it. It could be an interesting option if you write a lot on the go. I'm Scott Stein and this is the Kensington KeyFolio Bluetooth Keyboard Case for the iPad. -I guess dreams really can come true. Thank you, Scott Stein. Of course, if you've just had it with all this talk of tablets and portability and convenience and you're a fan of lower back pain in general, then Dan Ackerman has the laptop for you. -I'm Dan Ackerman and we are here with the HP Envy 17. Now, this is the laptop we've all been waiting for. It is the big screen desktop replacement version of HP's Envy line. We've already seen the 13-, 14-, and 15-inch versions. Here's the 17-inch version. Makes for a really great home theater kind of laptop. It's got a huge 1920 X 1080 resolution, that's full HD and, of course, you get a Blu-ray drive to go along with that. High-end Core i7 processors, a couple options there. A high-end ATI graphics and, of course, the super solid metal construction that we're used to from the Envy line. It's a very big, very heavy laptop. It's got the same backlit flattop keyboard that we're used to from the Envy models and, of course, backlit keyboards, once you get used to those, there's really no going back, and it's got the same large touchpad, they call this more of a ClickPad than a touchpad because instead of individual left and right mouse buttons, the mouse buttons are actually built into the bottom of the pad, the entire thing is on a little bit of a hinge so when you click down on it, it kinda goes like that a little bit like Apple's current MacBook laptops do and you're gonna see a lot more ClickPad touchpads in laptops going forward replacing the traditional touchpad and then separate mouse buttons. One of the big selling points for the Envy series of laptops has been the collaboration with Beats audio, the guys who make those Beats by Dre headphones and, like the other Envy models, the Envy 17 has Beats Audio hardware and software built in. You actually get a Beats control panel that you can use to adjust the sound settings, you know, theater settings, headphone settings, gaming settings, and, of course, they claim, you know, it sounds a lot better if you're using those expensive Beats headphones along with it but, you know, it gives you really nice, for a laptop at least, sound even when you're using the built-in speakers or your regular headphones. You might think that a laptop like this would really break the bank. In years past, we could see paying $2000 or more for something like this but, fortunately, lower laptop prices across the board means that the high-end bar is really lowered. The Envy 17 goes for $1500 or less, depending on how you configure it. I think this particular review model was about $1399 which, compared to the price of a 13- or 15-inch MacBook Pro is really kind of a bargain. I'm Dan Ackerman and that is the HP Envy 17. -Man, that thing is humongous. I do not envy anybody who has to carry that on the bus everyday, right? That'd kill me. Next up, we've got a little something for all you budding music producers out there. If you've been shying away from using Pro Tools because it seems too complicated, Donald Bell is here with a suite of products that can help you get started. -Hey, I'm Donald Bell and today we're taking a first look at some new audio production bundles from Avid. There are three hardware options in this lineup including a recording studio USB audio interface for $119, a vocal studio with a USB microphone for $99, and a USB keyboard version called the Key Studio that goes for $129. All these hardware options are bundled with the same software which is geared towards beginners but also has plenty of power compared to other entry-level options like GarageBand or Acid. The hook here is that you get an inexpensive foothold into Avid's award-winning Pro Tool software which is still the industry standard. The idea is that once you get comfortable with the included Pro Tools SE software, there's an upgrade path all the way up to a full blown Pro Tools rig. As far as construction quality goes, the hardware is made by Avid's M-AUDIO division who have a good track record for making sturdy gear even if the materials and designs sometimes feel a little bit more consumer than professional. The USB audio interface features XLR microphone and instrument inputs as well as RCA output on the back. It's basically a two-channel interface in and out, some nice big gain adjustment knobs up here at the top, a switch for a microphone phantom power on the back, and the option for zero-latency direct headphone monitoring on the front. If you don't wanna fiddle around with knobs and you just wanna get the most direct way to get a quality recording into your computer, the Vocal Studio USB Mic is the way to go. It uses a rugged all-metal design with the USB output on the bottom and a headphone jack on the front. A metal tripod and leather pouch also come included, and as the name implies, this is an ideal setup for recording vocals or podcasts but it also works just as well for recording your guitar amp or pretty much anything that makes noise. At $99 with Pro Tools SE included, it's really a killer value. Now, there are a few downsides that apply to all the products here. One thing that you need to know is that you have to have your hardware connected to boot up the software. It's kind of a pain if you wanna edit and compose songs on the go but if you're just putting together a little home studio, it's no big deal. The second drawback is that the software limits each song to just 16 simultaneous tracks, but you can upgrade to a better version of Pro Tools if you really need the extra freedom. So that's what to expect from Avid's latest crop of entry-level audio recording gear. If you're aspiring to learn how to record like the pros, these are great products that essentially work like Pro Tools with training wheels. For CNET.com, I'm Donald Bell. -All I ask is that you remember to thank me when you win your first Grammy. Okay, it's that time again, folks. We're gonna take a break but we'll be right back with more CNET Tech Review 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, in this era of cloud computing, all kinds of services are popping up that offer to help you share your documents in a variety of ways. Luckily, Jessica Dolcourt is here to help weed through some of them in this week's edition of Tap That App. -Hey, everyone. Welcome to Tap That App. I'm Jessica Dolcourt and this is the show where we cover the hottest apps in the mobile space. Now, I know that a lot of you out there have the same problem I do. You have files and photos that you would like to be able to access from anywhere. Luckily, there are several services out there that can store your stuff in the cloud and let you view it from your phone. They all work about the same. You can upload files from your computer or mobile phone to your online account and then access them from another desktop, from mobile apps, or from the browser, and here's a bonus. There are versions of all these apps we're gonna talk about for iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry smartphones. The apps and basic service is free but you may want to upgrade if you use a lot of space. First up is Dropbox which gives you two gigabytes of free online storage before you need to upgrade to a paid account. You'll be able to view your files, photos, and videos from any of the mobile apps and you can also upload a photo or a video if your phone has a camcorder. You can also e-mail a link to a friend. Next is Box.net which gives you one gigabyte of free storage. It's unique because it lets you invite others to collaborate on files in your folder which also makes it great for mobile productivity. The mobile apps let you view files, play back audio and video, and upload images but only the Android app lets you upload other files. The BlackBerry version is a disappointing link to the mobile Box.net site but it will work. Last but not least is SugarSync which gives you two gigabytes of free storage and an extra 250 megabytes for completing the tutorial. It has the most interesting look of all the mobile apps but it's also the most complex and least intuitive to use so spend a little time exploring it before you get started. In addition to syncing mobile and online content, SugarSync can also back up some of your computer files with its desktop apps. It has collaboration and media uploading elements as well. So there you have it, three good solutions for three mobile platforms and you'll never fret about not having that fun or important file on your phone when you want it most. If you have any show suggestions, e-mail us at email@example.com. Until then, I'm Jessica Dolcourt, keep on tapping. -Moving on, the subject for this week's Top 5 Countdown is worst downloads. So is there any real question as to what section of the show it belongs in? I don't think so. -I'm Brian Cooley with a Top 5 that keeps them honest--worst downloads. These are applications I hope you'd only fall for if this whole computer thing is still real new to you and even then, only if you're stupid. It's kinda hard to rank this list from CNET download maven Seth Rosenblatt, so I'll just take them in order of my increasing disbelief. We start with number 5, MakeUp Instrument. It's a makeover app that costs $50 to do what a whole bunch of websites from Mary Kay to Marie Claire will do for free. Of course, those sites probably can't make fairy tales portrait, make your body slimmer, or remove tattoo, but they also don't conjure images of a whorehouse in Manila. Number 4, Baby Keyboard. This one asks you to spend $20 to turn your $1000 computer into the world's most expensive busy box, while rending the air about your home with the noise of repeated sound effects as your little one slaps away at the keys and makes them play. Makes a pretty strong case for TV and a bowl of Skittles instead as a babysitter. Number 3 is American Football Predictor. You can tell by the name this one's from some crafty limey looking to pick the colonists' pocket to the tune of $150. In exchange, this application gives you football score predictions. Basically, it's like one of those smug grease balls with a 1900 betting line infomercial, but without the silver tongued charm. And did I mention $150? Number 2 is a galling bit of chicanery. Aloaha PDF Saver. It lets you save PDF forms which you have filled out, but it does it for $64. You could also just download something free like Nitro PDF Free version and do the same thing, but the number 1 appalling download this time around is Date Doctor for Women. Oh, God. Ladies, you install this one then it asks you to input a disturbing amount of information about yourself and what you're looking for and then coaches you with a battery of checklists of things you need to do to find Mr. Goodbar 'cause, you know, that's how it works. It also offers chestnuts of inspiration like, "Get out as often as possible, men often become interested in girls they have seen around town a few times." I think that could be phrased better. Now, for downloads that are really good, go to the site that just proved it knows the good ones from the bad. Download.com. And thanks to their Seth Rosenblatt for putting on his waders and dredging these up for me. I'm Brian Cooley, we'll see you next time. -Yeah, just one question, Brian. How much time are you spending reading Marie Claire anyway? And now it's time for the Bottom Line. Netflix streaming has been available on iPhones and iPads for a while now so, in some ways, it feels like the new Apple TV is kinda playing catchup, but in this case, late definitely beats never. -I'm John Falcone from CNET and this is the 2010 version of the Apple TV. This is the first hardware revision of Apple's streaming media box in a few years and the company has made several key changes in its design, functionality, and price. The enclosure has been shrunk down to this incredibly tiny size, less than a quarter of the size of the original model. One way space was conserved is that the unit no longer includes a hard drive. Instead of buying and downloading videos, the Apple TV is now strictly a streaming-only affair. Now, instead of the entire iTunes store, you can choose from a rental only subset of instant streaming content from TV providers like ABC, Disney, Fox, and the BBC. While some 99-cent HD episode options are included, we were disappointed that some of the most popular shows on those networks, like House, Fringe, and Modern Family, were not currently available for streaming at this time. The same goes for any shows from NBC, CBS, and most cable networks. Thankfully, there are two workarounds. You can buy those other shows and movies from your computer via Apple's iTunes software and then stream them from your computer to your Apple TV over your home network, though that's a slower and more cumbersome procedure than we'd like. Also, buying them is currently more expensive, up to $2.99 for an HD TV episode. The other new viewing option on Apple TV is Netflix streaming. We're a huge fan of Netflix' online streaming service which offers unlimited viewing of movies and TV shows for as little as $9 per month. It's great to finally have it available on the Apple TV but given that Netflix is now available on nearly all Internet-connected entertainment products, it's more of a ketchup feature than a distinguishing factor. That said, the Netflix interface is a step beyond what you normally get with animated menus and the ability to search and make on-the-fly changes to your viewing queue. Apple TV also offers access to YouTube videos, Flickr photos, MobileMe photos and several online Internet radio stations as well as podcasts. It can also stream videos, photos, and music from PCs and Macs running iTunes. It's worth noting that for now, you're limited to services Apple has included on the Apple TV. Unlike the iPad and iPhone, there's currently no apps store so you can't add new content from third party providers. The box itself has only HDMI and optical audio outputs. Unlike Roku's competing product, that means you can't connect it to older, non-HD TVs. The Apple TV does have state of the art dual band wireless N Wi-Fi and it can also connect to wired Ethernet networks as well. Image and sound quality on the Apple TV were largely superb. We found the picture quality of the Apple content to be competitive with that of most satellite and cable programming. HD content is limited to 720p but most viewers won't find anything to complain about. The key here, as with all streaming boxes, is making sure you have enough network bandwidth for smooth downloads. Another area where Apple TV really shines is in its superb design and ease of use. Setup is a breeze compared with many home networking products and the interface is downright elegant and responsive, unlike Roku's more utilitarian approach. While the included remote gets the job done, we love that any iOS handheld, an iPhone, iPod Touch, or an iPad, can also act as a touchscreen remote via Apple's free Remote app. And because these work via Wi-Fi, they double as RF remotes which don't need line of sight to the Apple TV unit, meaning you can hide it away under a cabinet or behind a television. And speaking of Apple handhelds, there's also a forthcoming feature on the Apple TV that may be a major upgrade. AirPlay will allow medias from selected apps to be beamed from Apple handhelds to the Apple TV itself. It sounds very promising but it won't become active until the November iOS 4.2 upgrade hits. Perhaps the biggest improvement on the new Apple TV is the price. It's just $99 which is less than half the price of the original model, but if you don't count Netflix, the list of rent-only content available on Apple TV right now is disappointingly small. By comparison, the Roku Box includes access to Netflix and Amazon's Video on Demand channel, a streaming service with far more options than what you can get on Apple TV's rental service right now. Roku will also be adding Hulu Plus in the near future. That said, Apple TV's shortcomings are strictly content based, something that could be fixed in an instant with a software update. We hope that Apple adds even more TV content and third party services to the device and we're looking forward to seeing how much the AirPlay feature helps accomplish that in just a few short weeks. Until then, stay tuned. I'm John Falcone for CNET and this is the new Apple TV. -The Bottom Line this week, look out cable. Between the Apple TV and the Roku Box, I'm not sure why anyone has cable anymore. Unless you're a big fan of all those CBS shows, but once those hit the iTunes store, fingers crossed, go nuts. Alright, that's our show, everyone. Join us next week when we'll have some sweet new cars from the Paris Auto Show. Until then, there are tons of great videos available everyday at CNETtv.com. See you next time and thank you for watching.