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CNET Tech Review
Savor the sophisticated taste of Editors' ChoiceThis week on the CNET Tech Review, Gateway and Logitech earn Editors' Choice Awards; Frash puts Flash on your iPad; Prizmo scans text into your iPhone; and don't bother learning how to pronounce Eton Soulra.
-This week on the CNET Tech Review, using Prizmo to scan text into your iPhone, see what you've been using on your iPad, we count down the Top 5 back-to-school downloads, and not one but two Editors' Choice award-worthy products. 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 some life changing tech wisdom in the form of the bottom line. Let's start with the good. It's the middle of August and some of you kids are already headed back to school, but before you start clogging your campuses network sharing torrents, check out our top 5 downloads for students. They'll come in handy when you actually get around to doing some work. -Yeah, you still see piles of pencils, erasers, and paper in stores' back-to-school aisles, but I don't know why. I'm Brian Cooley here with another CNET Top 5. Top 5 things you really need to go back so school. Software downloads. Number 5, WordWeb. It's a great tool for when you're cranking on a paper and need to come off smarter than you are. Highlight a word, hit a hot key, and presto! There's a definition, synonyms, and other info about the word that you really don't know but wanna copy and paste so it looks like you do. Windows only, but that's okay since MAC users probably think only Windows users are stupid enough to need this. Number 4, Microsoft Office. Yeah, downloads are usually cheap or free and Office isn't really either of those, but you can download an academic version costing as little as a hundred bucks. And, sorry, Google and OpenOffice, you're great, but Redmond's Productivity Suite is still the gold standard of getting stuff done. Number 3, Google Earth. Seldom is anything so cool so free, but that's Google. Doesn't matter what your major, having what used to be government-level access to geography, satellite imagery, and street-level views of locations you're studying, or just dreaming of a spring break to, is incredibly powerful. Number 2, Avast! Antivirus Free. Windows only but, then again, who needs it more? It galls most of us to pay for antivirus software, especially since so often the antivirus warnings out there are coming from an antivirus company. So, a freebie like Avast! is a good feeling no-brainer and is highly rated so you get way more than you pay for. Before we get to our number 1 top back-to-school download, maybe you're wondering if you're being cheap with your kid on the shopping budget this year. Well, a fresh survey indicates the average back-to-school budget for a 7 to 12-year-old is gonna be about $440 this year, down 10% from last year. And if you've got a teen in the family, look to spend about $480 to be average. That's down about 12%. Clearly, we're not buying our kids a bunch of iPads, or if we are, we're sending them to school in rags. Okay. Now, it's time to reveal our number 1 back-to-school download. It's Review. Okay. You're gonna think I'm nuts or moronic, or both, but this is a flashcard program which doesn't mean it's limited just to grade-school stuff. Flashcards were one of my secret weapons all the way through college. Sure, I got my degree in multiplication but Review is a great tool to make flashcards to hammer home into your mind anything, and it can test you with the cards you've created. Oh, by the way, if you need something to download these great software picks on to, go over to CNETtv.com and look for our recent Top 5 desktop computers, and for details on all these software titles, just head over to backtoschool.cnet.com. I'm Brian Cooley. Thanks for joining us for this Top 5. -Oh, you don't have your back-to-school computer yet? Well, as Brian mentioned, you can find all of our computer reviews at CNET.com but let me save you a little trouble. Here are a new laptop and an Editor's Choice award-winning desktop for your consideration. -Hi, I'm Scott Stein, senior associate editor at CNET.com, and this is the Alienware M11x laptop, the nVidia Optimus version. I say that because we reviewed the Alienware M11x previously in the spring, and we talked about it at CES 2010 as well. It's an 11.6-inch small ultraportable laptop with pretty powerful built-in high-end graphics but an ultra low voltage process inside. Previously, a Core 2 Duo ULV processor, which combined, provide an interesting balance between decent battery life switching over to some pretty good graphics in a compact little shell. Back then, the starting price for this little 11.6-inch laptop was $799, but since then, Dell has released a new version with upgraded processors and nVidia Optimus automatically switching graphics at a starting price of $949. Now, what do you get for this? You get a Core i5 ULV processor, or you can upgrade to a Core i7 ULV processor. You'll also get up to 4 or 8 gigs of RAM, a 500-gig 7200 RPM hard drive. When you add all that up, in ours, it came to about $1299 so it's really not that cheap. And another thing that's a little disappointing is that while the nVidia Optimus graphics do provide an automatically switching experience, meaning you can go from your game playing mode down to a non-dedicated graphics mode using integrated graphics to extend your battery life, the actual games in our test were not that spectacular. In fact, the battery life was a little bit less than we had on the previous version, a little over 3 hours, which is great for a gaming laptop, but it's not so great for most laptops that you'd expect would have slightly better battery life nowadays, the Macbooks being a great example. There's also no optical drive on this which is surprising because it's a pretty thick base. On the other hand, you're getting nVidia Geforce GT335 graphics end here which are really good. They're a step below really high end graphics but you're gonna get some really nice framerates. We played a lot of mainstream games, looked fantastic, and there's a great built-in audio system here, too, with 5.1 simulated surround. You can also export this with HDMI or using DisplayPort. There's no VGA on this which was dropped from the previous model, a little strange, and you can play on an HDTV or monitor. 1080p display, looked a little bit choppy, but it looks pretty good in other resolutions and it's cool that you can do that. All in all, for the price, there are a lot of other laptops you can get that can provide you a better overall experience, but if you're looking for a really portable gaming experience, for a price that won't destroy you, it could be an interesting one to look into, particularly with the added improvements. I'm Scott Stein, and this is the new Alienware M11x, the nVidia Optimus edition. -Hi, I'm Justin Yu, associate editor for CNET.com with a first look at the SX2801-01e. It's Gateway's latest budget slim tower system that we're proud to award our Editor's Choice. This $519 desktop is a Best Buy exclusive and it isn't too far off from last year's model which also received an Editor's Choice. This system features a 2.8 GHz Intel Duo Core processor that can easily keep up with most consumer level tasks. A 1 terabyte hard drive, and 6 gigs of storage. So, as you can see, the narrow case is suitable for any environment and it has an HDMI port on the back that makes it a suitable partner for your HDTV if you wanna use it in a home theater. You also get a flexible set of connectivity options including 9 total USB ports, eSATA, optical audio, and VGA out in addition to HDMI. A big part of the criteria for judging budget desktops are its performance scores and, as expected, this computer keeps up in our head-to-head performance tests with four competing systems, so it certainly can handle all your day-to-day tasks, but, if you're a video editor that uses graphics-heavy programs like Photoshop or Premiere, the Gateway SX2840-01e, that's last year's model, and its faster Core i3 processor, is a better fit. You can get all the details on both of those systems on CNET.com, but that's my time. I'm Justin Yu and you just took a look at the Gateway SX2801-01e. It's an Editor's Choice winner for its top-tier performance, upgradability, and affordable price tag. Thanks for watching. -Up next on the good list is this week's edition of Tap That App. Now, for those of you who came for Brian Tong's dancing, you may be disappointed, but Josh Lowensohn is here with an iPhone app that can really come in handy. -Welcome to Tap That App. I'm Josh Lowensohn and this is the show where we cover the hottest apps in the mobile space. This week's app is Prizmo for the iPhone by Belgian-based developer Creaceed. The app is scheduled to be released mid-August 2010. Prizmo uses the iPhone's camera to scan and process text so you can get rid of that stack of business cards or pile of notes and store everything on your phone instead. To start out, you just tell Prizmo what you wanna scan. It does business cards, plain text, whiteboards, and bills. For this demo, we're gonna use a business card. The app includes a handy onscreen grid to help you straighten out your shot. Once you've taken a picture, you can rotate it left or right by 90 degrees, crop it and correct the white balance. This makes it easier for the program to do its next step which is to pull out all that information. Prizmo uses optical character recognition or OCR to grab letters and numbers from your shot. We found it to do a pretty great job at this, though if your picture is blurry, on a multicolored background, or you're working with a handwritten note, it can bungle it up. Luckily, it lets you go and correct any mistakes it might have made just by tapping on a text field. Once you've captured any text you wanna save, you can store it on your iPhone's camera reel as a personal contact or a spreadsheet file. The app can also be tied into Amazon's Simple Storage Service or Dropbox so you can store your files in the cloud. Beyond business cards and whiteboards, Prizmo even works on receipts so if you get a big dinner bill or you're trying to manage your finances, you can use this app to record that data. To do this, you just snap a picture like you would with a business card, but this time, you'll notice there's this big sideways bar. Use this to split up the description from the price, and Prizmo puts it into an order bill. You can then send or save this as a spreadsheet, or use the built-in bills splitting tool to figure out who needs to pay how much. Prizmo has a few advance features that make it really unique. One is that it can actually read back text you've scanned with one of 36 international voices. These costs $2.99 a pop, but are very well done. -[unk] -We don't really know why you wanna use this feature, but it's nice that it's there. The app is also able to translate whatever text you've captured using Google Translate. This is useful if you're trying to translate a dinner menu or any signage. The most impressive feature is that you can actually use this app to correct photos you've taken with a bad perspective, so say you've taken something off angle, you can make it look like you took it straight on. This works especially well on magazines. Prizmo was just submitted to Apple for approval and will be on the App Store in early August for around $10. Since it puts so many features in one little package, we think it's a really killer deal for the money. Don't forget that if you got an app you want us to tap, send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org . I'm Josh Lowensohn and thanks for watching. -That is one pretty tap-worthy app, but I can just imagine the look on the waitress' face if you pull your phone out and try to use Prizmo to split up the bill. Just put it on the company card. That's what I do. Alright. While you're figuring out that 18% tip, I'm gonna take a break. Actually, bump it up to 20%. The math is easier. And we'll be right back with more CNET 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. Let's continue on with the good. Man, our editors have been busy choosing things lately. Here's Donald Bell with an iPod speaker system that gets his vote. -Hey, I'm Donald Bell, and today we're taking a first look at the S715i from Logitech. This is a portable speaker designed for the iPhone and iPod and priced at a $149. It's such an outstanding price for the sound quality that you're getting that I've given it a CNET Editor's Choice award. I've seen a lot of rinky-dink portable iPod speakers come through here but this one really raises the bar. The design measures around 15 inches across and 2 inches thick. It's on the larger end of portable speakers but it has no problem fitting in a backpack or a messenger bag. On the front, you have buttons for power and volume and a covered iPod dock that flips back into a kickstand. On the back, there's a little gasket here that covers an AUX input and a sock for the included power adapter. You also notice two passive radiator woofers on the back which we have to assume is how this thing gets its deep, full sound. There's also a pair of powered 3-inch speakers on the front, another pair of passive radiators, and dedicated tweeters that are spaced at the edges to offer a better stereo soundstage than you'll typically find with this price range. To really sweeten the deal, Logitech also throws in an IR remote control with basic play, pause, skip, shuffle, and repeat controls, and you also get a carrying case and the included power adapter. The internal rechargeable battery is rated at around 8 hours of use at a moderate volume. We noticed a definite improvement in volume and sound quality when the speaker's plugged in, but even off the battery, the S715i sounds better than any similar product at this price. You won't get features such as an integrated radio, EQ, Bluetooth or alarm clock, but if you're using an iPhone or an iPod Touch, you've already got most of these features, so that's the Logitech S715i, an Editor's Choice portable speaker for the iPhone and iPod. For CNET.com, I'm Donald Bell. -Of course, they cannot all be winners. David Carnoy has another iPod speaker system to show us and this one's even solar powered, but that is not enough to save it from being this week's representative of the bad. -I'm David Carnoy and I'm here with the Eton Soulra iPod, iPhone portable audio system. This is actually an audio system that is designed to go outside. It is both a little bit ruggedized and has a splashproof design. As you can see, you can hide your iPod or iPhone behind the plastic shield here in the front. That is removable. You can also put down this little lid here, but, what the key thing is is this is a solar charger right here in the lid. The idea is that you would charge this unit up with the AC adapter. It has a built-in lithium ion rechargeable battery, then you would take it outside and you would flip this lid up and it would allow you to trickle charge so you get more battery life. Without any sun, you only get about 4 hours of battery life but with the sun, you can probably get in the range of around 6 hours so this can go for a full day outside. It also charges your iPod or iPhone. Now, from a feature standpoint, aside from that solar charging, there isn't a whole lot here. This is really a very basic audio system. There is no FM radio. There's no Bluetooth or anything like that. This is designed to be set outside and it has a little handle on top so you can carry it around. It isn't all that heavy but does have enough heft to it that it does feel like there's something to it and it is compact as you can see. Like a lot of these little systems, this one does come with a remote. It matches the design of the product. It has kind of an industrial look. We did like the design of the product and the remote is simple and durable. As for the sound, it's okay but not great. We found the bass to be a little bit thin. There is a bass boost on it, but it doesn't offer tremendous clarity and it distorts a little bit at higher volumes so you wanna play this in sort of a middle volume level but for casual listening outdoors, it certainly does the job. I'm David Carnoy and that is the Eton Soulra. -Okay, so, you plug it in, you charge it up for however long, and then maybe you get two extra hours with the solar charger? Two extra hours of cruddy audio quality? Wow! Where do I sign up? And now it's time for this week's bottom line. It's true the iPad is pretty and it runs all kind of apps that's fine for reading and Angry Birds is kind of a troublesome addiction, but dammit, sometimes I just wanna click on a video link and watch a Flash video. Luckily, some clever hackers have removed the last barrier to web surfing nirvana. Flash on your iPhone or iPad is here. Kind of. -Apple's refused to allow Flash to run on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, but now you can do it if you're willing to jailbreak your device. I'm Brian Tong and I'll show you how to install an app called Frash that will allow you to view Flash content on your iDevices. Now, you'll first need to jailbreak your device which is legal but voids your Apple warranty with Apple so to find out how to do that, you can find the video at CNETtv.com. Now, let's get to it. You have a jailbroken device and first we'll launch the Cydia app. Select the Manage tab and then select Sources. You'll see a list of sources, hit the Edit button and then Add. Enter in this url and then once you're done with that, add source. It will update and when it's done, hit Return to Cydia. When the installation finishes, go to the Search tab and then find Frash and install that application. Reboot your iDevice but once it's up and running, you'll have the ability to view some but not all Flash content on your iDevice. So far we've seen it run best on car websites and restaurant websites and, yes, those advertisements you love to hate, they display most of the time. But it's a basic Flash you're getting here and all the websites with a Flash-based video player did not display content or would crash including our own gamespot.com, but there you have it. I'm Brian Tong with your how-to for installing and viewing Flash content on your iDevices. Use it wisely. -The bottom line this week, come on, Steve. Just let us have Flash already. Sure, I can live without some of those annoying Flash ads, but how do you expect me to shop for my new Porsche without jailbreaking my iPad? Well, that's our show for this week, everyone. Join us next time and we'll be back with a brand new tech review. Until then, there are tons of great videos available everyday at CNETtv.com. See you next time and thank you for watching.