All about Google Chrome & Google Chrome OS

30 May 12 Chrome OS lives: New Chromebook and 'Chromebox' debut

10 hrs.

Google / Samsung

Hot on the heels of the new version of Chrome OS come two new pieces of hardware from Samsung: an updated Series 5 Chromebook and a “Chromebox,” which Google is hoping will sell as a low-cost desktop or media device. The new gear won’t be toppling any empires, but it is handsome and possibly practical.

The new Series 5 550 laptop isn’t any bigger, but adds much-needed horsepower in the form of a new Intel Core processor and 4GB of RAM. It also has an improved webcam and a much more modern video-out port: the new one will work with HDMI, DVI or VGA, which means it should be easy as pie to connect to a monitor or TV.

Google / Samsung

There’s been a significant but not drastic redesign: more squared-off corners, a handsome slate finish,and an aluminum palm rest. The trackpad has been “built from the ground up” for the new laptop.

Unfortunately the improved processor results in a slightly lower running time: 6 hours versus 8.5 on the old Series 5. And the build changes have added a third of a pound to the weight; it’s now 3.3 pounds. But the trade-off is almost certainly worth it. It’s available now for $449.

The Chromebox is a “compact, powerful and versatile desktop perfect for the home or office.” It’s a bit underpowered compared to most tower desktops, but the price is right at $349. It too has a new Intel Core processor and 4GB of RAM, but it also has three display ports (good for multiple monitors or connecting to a TV) and a ton of USB ports.


Shipping with the new hardware is the new version of Chrome OS, which features a more desktop-like interface complete with task bar and desktop. They’re adding deep support for Google Drive as well, including offline access, so your files will be available whether you’re online or not.

Google is constantly updating the software, and new features are already on the way. But the addition of more up-to-date hardware makes the Chrome OS device family a bit more realistic for budget-minded buyers. More information can be found at Google’s blog post.

Devin Coldewey is a
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30 May 12 Give Android a Break, Will Ya?

When I write about tablet/smartphone OSs, I usually discuss iOS because I have an iPhone and iPad, or Windows 8, because I’m a Windows guy. But the nearly nonstop firestorm of Android bashing seems, to me at least, unfounded and, well, a little unwise, so let me take up Android’s cause this month.

The standard “Android is evil” commentary in the past few months usually runs something like this: “Android has malware. This is intolerable. No one should use Android.” So let’s consider that.

Let’s first ask the question, Is the idea that an OS used on phones and tablets could have malware novel, or unacceptable? After all, no one’s surprised about malware on Windows, Mac, Linux, or other desktop OSs. In general, cell phones have been malware-free, but that’s only because until recently there wasn’t much point in writing cell phone malware. That was true for several reasons. First, it wasn’t possible in general, because most cell phones didn’t offer an open development platform. My Motorola Star-Tac did include some sort of Java on it if I recall correctly, but I don’t recall any easy way to acquire and install software on it, and no one’s going to write malware that can’t spread. Second, no one’s going to write malware for any kind of platform unless a lot of people are using it. The first target of mobile viruses that I’m aware of was the Symbian phone OS. This might be why there hasn’t been much in the way of Windows phone malware — there aren’t enough potential victims yet to make it worthwhile, and even if someone got ahold of a non-smart cell phone, it’s not clear what real benefit the miscreant could derive from it. What’s made things different in the case of Android, then, is that we’ve finally got a smartphone/tablet OS with a large enough base and a working application model.

What interests me about this is that people are surprised by it. As I’ve already said, no one’s outraged or amazed that Windows has malware, or that the Mac does. It should be obvious that the more your phone looks like a computer, the more malware will get written for it. My only Android device is a Kindle Fire, and I like it quite a bit, although in my opinion Amazon sort of shot itself in the foot with some of the interface — why can’t I rent a movie and cache it on my Fire so I can watch it on a plane flight? But it’s a nice size, nice screen, not bad on battery life, and it’s fairly easy to give it access to Android apps of all kinds. That easy access to installable new apps makes my Fire somewhat like my Windows ultrabook (another very light, long-battery-life, portable computing device), and I’d never think about installing random apps from the Internet without some knowledge of those apps’ provenance, for heaven’s sake. (Nor would you, right?)

Second, beyond the nice size, nice screen, and nice battery life, the Fire sports a nice price. Any chance of a small Apple tablet for 200 bucks? Not anytime soon. Or what’s the chance that after Microsoft spent a zillion dollars throwing away its “Hey, they finally got it right!” Windows 7 Phone OS and building Apollo that we’ll see a cheap Windows “Apollo” Phone? Not anytime soon, I’d imagine. Google annoys me about many of its products — who on Earth thought I’d want Chrome to show thumbnails for the last half-dozen or so websites I’ve been to when I start that browser? — but the company’s choice to embrace open source for its small-device Android OS was, I think, a good one, and the 50-plus percent of people who bought Android phones in the latter part of 2011 agree, apparently.

It infuriates me that I can’t buy and install an application on my iPhone or iPad without jailbreaking it, and it saddens me that it seems that so few share my ire. Sure, it’s easy for Apple to say that they’re protecting people from “objectionable” things such as nudity with their AppStore policies, but several developers of rejected apps tell me that they’ve had their apps rejected because they expressed anti-Apple messages, and I don’t think I’m guilty of a slippery slope fallacy in positing that no good will come of any big corporation controlling speech in a channel created by its products. (Imagine a GE-manufactured TV that only received NBC in any universe besides the inside of 30 Rock.) Furthermore, if Microsoft ends up controlling which Metro apps I’m allowed to install on my Windows 8 tablet, then it’ll only be because Apple got away with it. It’s Android’s openness that opens it to malware attacks, and if the only tablet/smartphone OS that lets users acquire and install whatever apps they want in a few years is Android, I think that many thinking users will opt for freedom over a well-regulated software police state. I’ve been trying really, really hard not to say this but . . . “After all, haven’t we heard in the past that ‘the price of freedom is eternal vigilance?’” Long live iOS, where the trains always run on time, and long live Android, where liberty’s fresh air abounds!

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24 May 12 First look at Chrome’s new retail store in downtown Portland

New Chrome store in downtown Portland-21

Chrome, a well-known bag and urban bicycling/lifestyle apparel brand, opened a new retail store in downtown Portland yesterday. Staffers from the company’s San Francisco headquarters spent three weeks completely renovating a 1,300 square foot space at 425 SW 10th Avenue (around the corner from the Ace Hotel and up the street from Powell’s). Portland is just the fourth city where Chrome has opened a store, and we’re by far the smallest. Their other stores are in San Francisco (their headquarters), New York City, and Chicago.

Chrome was founded 17 years ago in Boulder, Colorado and moved to San Francisco a few years later. Since then, due in large part to their iconic messenger bags, they’ve extended their product line and now offer apparel, backpacks, and footwear. While their gear is not bike-specific, the brand lives and breathes urban biking and everything is made with the assumption that the customer will move around the city on a bike.

I dropped by their new store yesterday. Even though the doors had only been open for a few hours, the place was already buzzing. Customers milled around both outside and around the store’s TV (which was playing old clips of Eddy Merckx at the Tour de France). And as you might expect from a brand that made its name with bomb-proof quality messenger bags, a lot of the folks hanging out at the store were local bike messengers.

Here are a few shots from inside…

New Chrome store in downtown Portland-15

New Chrome store in downtown Portland-13

New Chrome store in downtown Portland-19

New Chrome store in downtown Portland-14

New Chrome store in downtown Portland-12

New Chrome store in downtown Portland-18

New Chrome store in downtown Portland-9

New Chrome store in downtown Portland-11

I met one guy near the front door, Barry, who said he was the store’s first customer. He’s been a fan of Chrome for awhile. “I’m glad they came to Portland!” he said, smiling and showing off his new backpack (which he likes because he can carry his laptop and clothes in it and it’s “great for traveling because it fits in the overhead bin.”)

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Another person who’s glad Chrome came to Portland is the store’s manager, Amanda Sundvor. Many of you might already know Amanda as the high-fiving and fun-loving mechanic at 21st Avenue Bicycles (where she used to work), as the DJ who keeps local bike parties thumping, or as the force of nature behind Backyard Blam (the folks who brought you the recent Cross Up event, among others).

New Chrome store in downtown Portland-8

Sundvor loved working at 21st Avenue, but recently suffered a bad hand injury that made working on bikes painful. She had gotten to know the folks at Chrome over the years and when they asked her to manage the new store, she says, “It was very serendipitous.” Now she’s overseeing a crew of six employees and her infectious energy will help keep this place ticking.

New Chrome store in downtown Portland-24

Chrome’s Retail Marketing Manager Paul Wilson, came up from San Francisco to train employees and make the store look just right. Wilson, like many businesses I’ve asked over the years, says his company wanted to be in Portland because of, “The great vibe and community here.” Wilson says he wants Chrome to become a “hub” (they don’t call them stores) for the community. “We’re here in Portland to support our dealers and urban cycling in general… We want people to come here, hang out, and find out what’s going on… It’s a community thing, we want to foster that.”

New Chrome store in downtown Portland-10

The store itself is gorgeous. The 18-foot ceilings make you want to linger and the hand-made, wooden fixtures are tastefully integrated with Chrome’s urban graphics and dizzying array of colorful products. At the center of the store is a wide wooden table for taking a closer look at the bags. Want to know how it feels all packed up? They’ve got some weights you can toss in the bag to find out.

Near the shoe section is a tastefully-sized TV (not a huge big screen) and some stairs and couches to view it on.

New Chrome store in downtown Portland-6

In the rear of the store is what they call the “sewing station.” Sundvor says customers can make an appointment to have certain bag models made custom by the store’s full-time seamstress. Just call ahead, pick your bag, choose a color and other options and they’ll make it right in front of your eyes. Through a partnership with courier company MercuryPDX, they’ll even deliver the bag to your door later the same day (usually) using local bike messengers.

New Chrome store in downtown Portland-4

This is definitely a store worth checking out (for locals and visitors alike). There’s a big grand opening planned for First Thursday on June 7th. Amanda says to bring your guns because there’ll be an arm-wrestling contest.

    Chrome Portland Retail Store
    425 SW 10th
    Hours: Monday – Saturday 10-7, Sunday 10-6

Welcome to Portland Chrome! Hope you don’t mind all the rain…

New Chrome store in downtown Portland-3



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22 May 12 Chrome passes Internet Explorer to become world’s most popular browser

Chinese cartoonist Carol Liu Hong built her studio from scratch, doing post-production work for TV commercials and then, once she broke even, realizing her dream of creating cartoons for Chinese kids.

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12 May 12 Google Chrome Commercial Pulls on the Heart Strings

One thing that irritates me more than anything is stupid commercials. Some are so incredibly bad I just can’t believe that big brands have paid for the commercials to be made.

So last night I am watching TV and this Google commercial comes on. It was just so smart I had to share it with you. Shockingly it didn’t give me any of my normal geeky exciting feelings, instead it made me feel a bit emotional. Google did a darn good job on this one because they created an emotion that will be remembered and at the same time displayed how their products can be used for just about anything. Take a peek and let me know what you think.

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04 May 12 Samsung Galaxy S III: Everything You Need to Know

Samsung Galaxy S IIISamsung Galaxy S IIIAfter all of the rumors and speculation, the Samsung Galaxy S III is finally here but you probably have a few questions about this new Android phone.

Samsung is the master of flash and flare at its press conferences, but we’re here to help you get to the nitty gritty of why you should care about this phone. The Galaxy S III will go on sale in Europe on May 23. No official word yet on a U.S. launch, but it could come this summer.

[Related: Spec Smackdown: Samsung Galaxy S III vs. iPhone 4S vs. HTC One X]

Can the S III Really Follow Your Every Move?

The Samsung S III really wants to be your new best friend–your new psychic best friend. According to Samsung’s somewhat creepy commercial (shown below), the S III “follows your every move.” Scared yet?

In reality, the Samsung S III can do things like predict when you want the screen awake by using the front-facing camera to monitor your eyes. If you’re watching a movie on your phone and happen to fall asleep, the phone’s display will turn off.

The S III also has a feature called S Voice, which is a customized voice-recognition system. Hmm, sound familiar? Like Apple’s Siri, S Voice can recognize a variety of commands. For example, you can say “snooze” when your alarm goes off and buy yourself a little more sleeping time. You can also say “direct call” and ring somebody while you’re in the middle of a text. You can also control the volume of your music, organize your calendar, and launch the camera via voice commands.

However, there’s no word, so far, on whether S Voice works with third-party applications. S Voice works with eight different languages, including British English and American English. A few of my friends from across the pond have complained about Siri’s difficulty in understanding them so I guess this is good news there.

Is It Quad-Core Powered?

Samsung confirmed before today’s announcement that the Galaxy S III phones will be powered by the company’s own quad-core 1.4GHz Exynos 4 Quad processor. Oddly, however, the processor specs were not in the press materials we received today. I have a suspicion that the Samsung quad-core processor is not compatible with U.S. LTE networks. If true, we might see a different processor on the S III phones in the United States. Samsung would not comment on what sort of processor the U.S. versions will have when I asked.

NVdia Tegra 3HTC pulled a similar trick with the One X. The global version runs on an NVidia Tegra 3 processor, while the U.S. phone uses a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor. NVidia’s quad-core processor was not yet compatible with ATT’s LTE network at the time of the One X’s manufacture. In our benchmarks, however, the U.S. version of the One X did quite well despite having fewer cores.

When Will the S III Come to the United States?

According to our sources at Samsung, the 4G (HSPA+/LTE) versions of the S III will come to North America this summer. Samsung said it will optimize the phones for the LTE and HSPA+ networks. Timing, pricing, or carrier partners have not yet been announced.

What is the Deal with the New Sharing Apps?

Samsung made a big deal about the ease of sharing from the S III, but from what I can tell, it looks like you can only share from your S III to another. Samsung has enhanced Android Beam, which allows large files to be transferred between phones quickly. Now called S Beam, you can share music, photos, and up to 1GB of video from your S III to your buddy’s S III.

To help you understand, here’s how Android Beam works on the Galaxy Nexus.

Samsung also enhanced its DLNA service for sharing content from your phone to your TV. AllShare Cast lets you wirelessly connect your Galaxy S III to your TV, tablet, or PC and share files over WiFi. However, you’ll have to buy the separate All Cast Hub accessory in order to use this feature (see the Accessories question below)

What is an HD Super AMOLED display?

The 3.4-inch-thick S III has a 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED display with a 1280-pixel by 720-pixel resolution. This is the same display technology we saw on the Galaxy Nexus. The Galaxy S II had Super AMOLED Plus, which is actually based on a PenTile pixel structure in which pixels share subpixels.

The Galaxy S II phones, on the other hand, have full RGB displays in which the pixels have their own subpixels. This means that HD Super AMOLED displays have lower overall subpixel density, which could translate to reduced sharpness and degraded color accuracy.

When we compared the Galaxy Nexus to the Galaxy S II, however, we didn’t notice a huge difference in display quality. The only quality different we detected was color accuracy, especially with whites (they appeared to have a yellowish tint). I have yet to see the Galaxy SIII up close and personal, so I’m not sure if it suffers from this same issue

One cool thing is that despite the Galaxy S III having a larger display than its predecessor (4.8 inches versus 4.3/4.5 inches), it isn’t much bigger. There’s very little bezel around the phone as the display takes full advantage of the hardware real estate.

Will Battery Life Really Improve?

Battery life is the bane of every tech user. Samsung claims that it won’t be an issue with the S III as it has a larger 2100mAh battery. For comparison, the Galaxy S II has a 1560mAh battery, while the Galaxy Nexus has a 1750mAh battery. The granddaddy of phones with long battery life, the Droid Razr Maxx, has a 3300mAH battery.

I fear that Samsung’s all-seeing front-facing camera might put a strain on the battery life, however. Also, phone manufacturers still haven’t worked out all the kinks with battery conservation on LTE networks. Battery life will depend on what sort of processor Samsung is packing into its S III phones for the United States and, as we’ve learned, this is still very much up in the air.

Is the Camera Any Good?

The Samsung Galaxy phones have always performed quite well in our PCWorld Test Center camera subjective tests. While I haven’t personally gotten my hands on the Galaxy S III’s 8-megapixel camera, I can tell you a little bit about its new features.

According to Samsung, the Galaxy S III will have zero shutter lag. The company also claims that the camera will start in “less than one second.” The S III will also have a burst-shot mode, a feature we saw on HTC’s One phones.

The S III camera also will have a feature called “Best Photo,” which will automatically select your best photos out of a series of eight photos taken in succession. But do you really want your phone to be your photo assistant?

What About Accessories?

Samsung Galaxy Note S PenSamsung Galaxy Note S PenSamsung announced a slew of accessories, including a C Pen stylus (which seems pretty similar to the S Pen on the Galaxy Note), an AllShare Cast Hub for wireless streaming, a docking station for your desk, a wireless charger, a car kit, and an HDMI adapter.

Samsung also announced the S Pebble “music companion” MP3 player. Why does this accessory look so familiar? Oh yes, in 2009, I reviewed the Samsung Pebble MP3 player which looks strikingly similar to the S Pebble.

Is the Galaxy Nexus Outdated Now?

Samsung Galaxy NexusSamsung Galaxy NexusNo, relax. It might not have as many cores as the S III, and the display might be a little smaller, but don’t feel bad if you just walked out of the store with a brand new Galaxy Nexus. Your Galaxy Nexus is still an excellent, current phone and offers something the Galaxy S III does not: A pure, untouched Android experience.

Have more questions? Sound off in the comments and I’ll try my best to answer them for you.

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02 May 12 Chrome marketing is exceptional

Love makes the world go round, and, c`mon, who doesn’t love a good relationship story? But love stories aren’t easily told — one reason there are so few classics. But Google has done just that in 90 seconds. Take a moment to watch the embedded video over your morning coffee and bagel, donut or scone and tell me if you agree.

I don’t even recall where I saw the commercial — it was during some program I had recorded then watched on Monday evening. But as I fast-forwarded through the adverts, something about this one caused me to stop. Perhaps it’s subliminally related to the long length, seeing as most TV spots are no longer than 60 seconds. I actually rewound and watched a second time. Now that’s marketing.

Effective advertising is familiar, aspirational and, when about products, shows the benefits. Who can’t relate to unrequited love or desire to make a relationship work. Familiar and aspirational.

Google effectively does something else: Shows the benefits of multiple Google services, not just Chrome. There’s Gmail, in the message Mark sends Jen, and Google Docs in the plaintive request he makes to her. The commercial also shows YouTube, Picasa Web, Google Translate, Google Maps, Google Spreadsheets and Google Plus, which all tidily fit longstanding Chrome marketing tagline: “The web is what you make of it”.

The same can be said about relationships. Love is what you make of it.

This story has no ending. We don’t know if Jen and Mark meet for coffee, or get back together. That’s how it should be. In this case, closure would take a way from the story.

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28 Apr 12 Google’s Latest TV Ad: How Chrome Can Help You Get Your Ex Back

Google Chrome Coffee

Do you hate how things ended between you and your ex and are you still trying to get him/her back? Google apparently knows what that feels like and wants you to use Chrome to set things right. Or at least, that’s what it looks like judging from Google’s latest TV commercial for Chrome, which debuted last night.

In this latest ad, Mark ( is trying hard to get his ex Jen to go out for coffee with him because he still hates “how things ended” (why they broke up, the ad sadly never tells us). To woo his ex back (or at least convince her to go out for coffee with him), Mark then uses a steady stream of Google Docs spreadsheets, Picasa photos and YouTube videos to make his point.

Google has also released a steady stream of ads for Chrome, Google+ and its other products over the last year or so. Some of them try hard to tug on people’s heartstrings while others feature celebrities like Lady Gaga. Just last December, Google also launched two commercials for Google+ with the Muppets.

What most of these ads have in common, though, is that they don’t focus on technology so much, but what that technology can do for its users. No doubt, that’s a pretty effective advertising technique. Whether Chrome and Google can help you get your ex back, though, is a different question. The ad sadly doesn’t tell us Jen’s response.

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17 Apr 12 Samsung Galaxy Player 3.6

An inexpensive alternative to an Android smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy Player 3.6 ($149.99 list, 8GB) acquits itself well as a basic, budget MP3 and video player that also runs most of the 400,000 Android apps available. It’s for people who want to play “Draw Something” but don’t want to deal a smartphone contract, and it costs $50 less than the same-capacity iPod touch ($199, 5 stars). But its low-res screen may limit its appeal to status-conscious teens who could make up its core market. 

Physical Design and Networking
The Galaxy Player 3.6 looks like a small budget smartphone. Made of black and chrome plastic, it has standard MicroUSB and headphone jacks on the bottom panel and a matte back. The front is mostly a somewhat-dim 3.6-inch, 480-by-320 LCD screen with three standard Android touch buttons below it. At 4.6 by 2.6 by .4 inches (HWD) and 4.2 ounces, it’ll fit easily into any hand and most pockets.

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Samsung Galaxy Player 3.6 : YouTube

Here’s the thing about the screen. Yes, it’s the same resolution as many low-cost smartphones. But remember that we’re competing with the Apple iPod touch here. Because of the touch’s dominance in this category, there are different expectations for media players than for phones, and this screen is noticeably dimmer and grainier than that of the iPod touch. In a row of iPods, the Galaxy Player 3.6 will stand out in an unattractive way. That’s why we’re more likely to recommend the larger-screen Galaxy Player 4.2, whose 800-by-480 screen stands up better against its top competitor. 

The Galaxy Player uses its Bluetooth connection to pull off a neat trick: The handheld can act as a Bluetooth headset for a simpler phone you have lying around. When it’s connected to your phone, you can answer calls on the Galaxy Player as if it was a smartphone. You can also dial from the Galaxy Player’s contacts book, though there’s no traditional dialer, and no easy way to activate voice dialing. The Player doesn’t share your phone’s Internet connection over Bluetooth. To get on the Web, you’ll need a Wi-Fi connection; we had no problem connecting the Galaxy Player to our 802.11n network.

The relatively dim screen and lack of phone capability make for great battery life; we got 8 hours, 15 minutes of full-brightness video playback time on a charge, compared to five and a half hours on an iPod touch with its screen brightness set to full and eight hours with the iPod touch’s brightness set to half.

The included earphones come with a microphone, and clear rubber flanges that create a bit of a seal within the ear to improve sound and provide some very basic passive noise cancellation. You should still look at upgrading, but this pair is better than the signature white earbuds that come with the iPod touch.

Built around a 1GHz, single-core Cortex-A8 processor, the CPU is the same as you’ll find in many inexpensive-to-midrange smartphones. It runs Android 2.3, with no real hope of an upgrade to 4.0. It was undistinguished at benchmarks, but performed well overall because of the low-res screen. With fewer pixels to push, the processor doesn’t have to work as hard as it does with higher-resolution devices.

Casual games like Angry Birds and Draw Something performed well. Web browsing will feel cramped if you’re used to the now-more-common larger 800-by-480 screens, but at least the Galaxy Player supports Flash 11. 

Along with the standard Google Play market, the Galaxy Player comes with the Samsung Apps store, a selection of mostly free apps curated by Samsung. Proprietary Samsung apps let the Galaxy Player be used as a remote viewfinder for Samsung Wi-Fi-enabled cameras, or as a remote control for Samsung Wi-Fi-enabled TVs. 

There’s 8GB of on-board memory as well as a MicroSD card slot that you must remove the battery to use. Our 64GB SanDisk MicroSD card worked fine, so you can get quite a lot of media onto this device. The Player handled AAC, WMA, MP3 and OGG format music files at a range of bit rates, and played MPEG4. H.264 and WMV video files at up to 640-by-480 resolution without any issues. The Player has a moderately loud, single speaker that delivers undistinguished, but not awfully distorted sound loud enough for a small bedroom; you can also use wired or Bluetooth headphones.

The low-resolution screen doesn’t bring video to life the way the iPod Touch screen does, but it’s adequate for TV shows and cartoons. Netflix, and Vevo apps work. The Hulu app said it does not support this device.

The FM radio works when headphones are plugged into the 3.5mm jack. It automatically scans for stations, which is very convenient. I found that it locked into stations easily and played them clearly.

There’s a 2-megapixel camera on the back of the Galaxy Player 3.6 and a VGA camera on the front, but don’t expect much of either of them. The rear camera takes slightly hazy, very contrasty pictures with some low-light blur and in one case, rather odd fish-eye distortion. The front camera is for taking basic snapshots of your face. You can record unremarkable 640-by-480 videos at 25 frames per second with the rear camera; there’s no flash. 

You’re not actually saving much money by getting the Galaxy Player 3.6 instead of a smartphone. Looking only at prepaid no-contract Android phones, Virgin Mobile has the  LG Optimus V (4 stars) for $129.99, MetroPCS has the HTC Wildfire S (3 stars) for $119, and Cricket has the Samsung Vitality (3 stars) for $99.99. None of them are really standouts, but neither is this device.

So the Galaxy Player 3.6 is for the niche of people who really, truly don’t want a smartphone, but also want a touch-screen gadget that runs apps. I suspect many of those people will be kids. (They want smartphones, but their parents won’t let them have them.) At $150, the Player 3.6 is a decent device that undercuts the price of the iPod touch by $50.

With the Galaxy Player 4.2 and iPod touch now both at $199, there’s no reason to pay any more for your media handheld. The older Galaxy Player 4.0 (4 stars) still lists at $229, with no advantages over the less expensive Galaxy Player 4.2. The Sony NWZ-Z1000 ($249, 3 stars), meanwhile, has a faster processor but worse battery life than either Galaxy Player, and no camera or camcorder. Don’t buy that one either.

But I think those $199 products are the sweet spot, and the Galaxy Player 3.6 is shooting a bit too low. With every similar competitor running at 800-by-480 or greater, the Player 3.6′s grainy 320-by-480 display just looks cheap in comparison. Save your pennies for the Galaxy Player 4.2 or the iPod.

More Media Player Reviews:
•   Samsung Galaxy Player 3.6
•   Sony Walkman Mobile Entertainment Player (NWZ-Z1000)
•   Motorola MotoActv
•   Samsung Galaxy Player 4.0
•   Sony W Series Walkman (NWZ-W262)
•  more

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12 Apr 12 Samsung Announces Lower-Cost Android 4.0 Tablets

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 got its official U.S. launch today, with pricing and general availability revealed for the first time since the Galaxy Tab 2 series was quietly shown at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona two months ago.

Back at MWC, the Tab 2 played second fiddle to the company’s attention-grabbing Galaxy Note 10.1, itself a larger version of the Galaxy Note phone.

Today, though, the Galaxy Tab 2 series has the spotlight to itself. A light refresh of earlier tablets, the Tab 2 Series comes in 7.0 and 10.1-inch versions and features similar specs, with a few differences.

The biggest news surrounding these tablets is their markedly lower price. The Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 is priced at $250, goes on pre-order April 12, and on-sale 10 days later. The Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 is priced at $400, will go on pre-order May 4, and ships May 13.

Those prices are especially noteworthy given the red-hot tablet market. At $250, the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 sets its sights squarely on its bargain-priced $200 Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes Noble Nook Tablet competition. All three of those models have 7-inch 1024 by 600 pixel displays, and all three come with just 8GB of memory on-board. But of those, only the Galaxy Tab 2 has an infrared port for controlling your TV and entertainment components, and only the Tab 2 has Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (both Amazon and Barnes Noble are using their own versions of Android, built on-top of 2.3 Gingerbread).

Meanwhile, the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 price reflects a 20 percent drop as compared with last spring’s original Galaxy Tab 10.1. Both old and new 10.1-inch models had 16GB of memory and 1280 by 800 pixel resolution, but this year’s version adds the microSD card slot and IR port, so you can use the tablet as a remote control.

Both of the new Galaxy Tabs have a 1GHz dual-core processor, though Samsung did not divulge if they were the same Nvidia Tegra 2 processors as in previous dual-core Tab 10.1 Wi-Fi, for example (presumably, it’s not since they’re not saying). The new models will replace the existing like-sized Tabs in the market, the 10.1 Wi-Fi and the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus. Oddly, when comparing the Tab 2 7.0 to the Tab 7.0 Plus, the latter—a late-2011 model–was actually more tricked out than the Tab 2, with a 1.2-GHz processor and 16GB of memory. The rear-facing camera’s spec (on both models) of 3 megapixels stays the same as on the original Tab 10.1 Wi-Fi; but oddly, the front-facing camera drops from 2 megapixels on the 10.1 to a sub-megapixel 640 by 480 on the new models.

The physical specs of the Tab 2 models are virtually the same as on their respective predecessors. Likewise, physical build is comparable, too, to previous models (not to mention that it’s notably better than the chintzy impression the Tab 2 series left in its pre-production state at Mobile World Congress two months ago). The Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 weighs the same as the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus: 0.76 pounds, with a similar design and build quality, and similar dimensions (4.8 by 7.6 inches, but slightly thicker at 0.41 inches, to the 7.0 Plus’ 0.39 inches). The Tab 2 10.1 also has similar dimensions to its predecessor, 6.9 inches by 10.1 inches, but slightly narrower (0.34 inches to 0.38 on the original Tab 10.1 Wi-Fi). Oddly, the new 10.1-inch model’s weight is ever-so-slightly more, 1.28 pounds to 1.25 pounds.

In its launch, Samsung emphasized aspects of its software additions to the Tab 2 series. Among them: a year of included Dropbox service with 50GB of storage; the IR remote control capability, powered here by Peel’s app; and features like Smart View for mirroring content from your TV on the tablet, and Remote Viewfinder for use with Samsung’s Wi-Fi cameras. This feature could have some interesting applications for group photos, for example; using WiFi Direct and an app on the tablet, you can use the tablet to control the viewfinder, shutter, zoom, and flash of the camera.

The Smart View TV-to-tablet mirroring feature will work with only Samsung 7000 series LED HDTVs, circa 2011 and beyond. It was fairly nifty in a demo, requiring just a few taps to share a television’s feed with the tablet; I noticed a fair amount of macroblocking and artifacts in the image on the tablet, but it’s unclear if that’s because of the tablet itself or the available Wi-Fi bandwidth. The image was certainly watchable in a pinch; and it sufficed compared with some other middling streamed images I’ve seen over time. Also, I noticed that, as compared to the same 720p image broadcast on a Samsung HDTV, the image on the tablet frankly called attention to the color reproduction deficiencies of the tablet’s screen.

Is all of this enough for Samsung to stay competitive in a crowded tablet marketplace? Maybe, but it’s still a tight call. These tablets are obviously being positioned as the company’s “value” hitters—no 4G, no pen input as on the upcoming Galaxy Note, no high-resolution display—and that makes the inclusion of an infrared port an even larger coup.

Still, these models must compete with the Apple juggernaut along with the Android masses. And that might be a tough proposition without better, higher resolution displays, thinner designs, and better cameras. I also wish that Samsung had included its own universal remote control app with the tablet, rather than relying solely on a third-party app to do the heavy lifting instead.

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