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best free antivirus software september 2010

first looks: Lenovo IdeaCentre B500 20 Twitter Tools You Can’t Live Without How to Build a Linux PC for $200

top 100 FREE mobile apps • Google Android •  Apple iPhone • BlackBerry • Palm • Symbian • Windows Mobile

Plus The New BlackBerry Torch 9800 >>

september 2010

vol. 29 no. 9



The top 100 Free mobile apps The dream of turning your phone into a PC on the go would be nothing without the right apps. In this blockbuster story, we include the best free apps for iPhone, Android, Palm, Symbian, and Windows Mobile phones. You’ll find everything from e-book readers to VoIP.


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FIRST LOOKS 12 hardware Lenovo IdeaCentre B500 Ava Direct Nano Cube Dell Studio XPS 7100

tech newS 5 Front Side The “Internet kill switch” bill; wooden iPhone skins; building a $200 Linux PC; the coolest laptop bags.

Acer Aspire AS5741Z-5433


Casio Green Slim XJ-A145U

2 First Word: Lance Ulanoff

Plus Quick Looks 20 CONSUMER ELECTRONICS Sony Bravia KDL-55HX800 BlackBerry Torch

36 John C. Dvorak 38 Sascha Segan 40 Dan Costa

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2


Plus Quick Looks

64 Top Twitter Tools Want to tweet with the pros? Check out our list of handy Twitter companion apps and services.

26 BUSINESS HP Z200 Imation Defender F200 + Bio HP LaserJet Enterprise P3015dn 30 SOFTWARE Webroot AntiVirus 2011 Ad-Aware Pro Internet Security 8.3 iMovie for iPhone 4 Plus Quick Looks

72 security: Free Av Software Sure, pay suites are more powerful, but our list of free AV and antimalware apps can also get the job done. 76 office: super excel tips Master Excel 2010 with our 10 most useful tips and shortcuts.

82 the best stuff PC Magazine Digital Edition, ISSN 0888-8507, is published monthly at $12 for one year. Ziff Davis Media Inc., 28 East 28th Street, New York NY 10016-7940.



Easier on a Mac


’ve been cheating on my Windows 7 PC. You see, when I need to edit and upload videos to YouTube, I use a Mac. My indiscretion began casually, but it’s evolved into a bit of an obsession: This is an affair that I do not intend to end. The simple, painful truth is that video editing and YouTube uploading is much smoother when I use iMovie on a MacBook Pro. I’ve been shooting a lot of video lately and, if you’ve seen any of my YouTube uploads, you know I’ve met with varying degrees of success. I’ve posted pixelated videos, videos that look a tad blurry, and even videos that are too small for the now-standard 16:9 YouTube playback window. Each and every one of these clips was edited and uploaded via Windows. Contrast that with the results using my Mac: Every video looks better, and all properly fill the YouTube playback window. In each instance, producing the video on the Mac was easier. The Big Slowdown I’m not blaming Windows 7, per se. Instead, I’ll point a bony finger at the apps. As I’ve said before, this is the best version of Win-

dows in over a decade. For years, I’ve used Adobe Premiere Elements to edit and upload videos on my Windows XP, Vista, and, now, Windows 7 systems. When I was shooting 640-by-480 video, things went pretty smoothly. I’m actually a big fan of the remarkable level of control afforded me by Premiere Elements and have stuck with the app from Version 1 through 8. However, when I switched to an HD pocket camcorder, things got dicey. These days, I’m using a Kodak Zi8 Pocket Video Camera to shoot most of my video. Naturally, the files are larger than VGAquality files, but not so large that a midrange, decently equipped PC shouldn’t be able to handle them. Unfortunately, even at WVGA resolution, Adobe Premiere 8 seems to choke on some of my files, struggling to catch up (it’s forever grinding through background processes). I can live with this when it’s on my laptop, but I am frustrated when I see similar performance on my Windows 7 desktop, which has Nvidia graphics and 6GB of memory. What really drives me nuts, however, is what happens to my output. Adobe Premiere Elements is at a complete loss when it comes to guiding me to


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Every iMovie video I’ve uploaded to YouTube looks better than those edited with Premiere. the best output settings for my video. It doesn’t appear to auto-sense the size or resolution, and it doesn’t stop me when I select something that will make the video look like garbage. In fact, the more I dig into the program, the worse it becomes. If it took only a few minutes to convert and then upload the video I might not care. Too bad it can take well over an hour to compress and upload a 9-minute video (longer if I choose the wrong settings). I have tried both local and online help, but there is nothing that addresses my specific problem. Keeping It Simple I tried switching to a simpler app—the very usable Windows Movie Maker. It’s superfriendly, but, ultimately, a bit too simplistic for my needs. Plus, it offered no more advice about proper upload settings than Premiere. I could go on about my frustrations, but why bother? I finally decided to switch to the 15-inch MacBook Pro with iMovie (part of iLife 9) that I have sitting in my office. I discovered that iMovie on the Mac is better in almost every way than any videoediting software I have ever tried. I simply booted the software, created a new project, and then imported my video. The interface seems to understand something that none of the Windows apps I’ve tried do—that you’re working with video. All video apps I’ve tried use drag-and-drop, but iMovie lets you dispense with virtually everything else.

Most of the work involved clicking, doubleclicking, and dragging and dropping. I could preview portions of the video and my full video at any time. You can do this with Premiere and other Windows apps, too, but it was easier to do so in iMovie. Deceptively Simple Most video-editing products make you choose between a timeline interface and a storyboard. Perhaps the only video editor on the market to split the difference is iMovie. The video-editing window is utterly unique. It gives you video-scene thumbnails nearly as large as you’d find in a storyboard editor, but with the near-frame-level control you’d find in a timeline. On the surface, iMovie appears to offer far less control than does Premiere; yet, what it does offer usually results in highly professional output. iMovie gets the single most important thing right: It defaults to the best YouTube output option. Virtually every iMovie video I’ve uploaded to YouTube looks better than what I posted via Premiere Elements and Windows Movie Maker. For lower-resolution videos, Windowsbased tools may suffice, but for videos of any resolution above 480i, I’m going with a Mac and iMovie whenever possible. Please do not tell my Windows 7 PC. Follow me on Twitter! Catch the chief’s comments on the latest tech developments at september 2010 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 3

Editor-in-ChiEf, pC magazinE nEtwork Editor

Lance Ulanoff


Stephanie Chang

dirECtor of onLinE ContEnt, EXECUtiVE prodUCEr EXECUtiVE Editor

Vicki B. Jacobson

Dan Costa

Laarni Almendrala Ragaza Sean Carroll (software, security, Internet, business), Tony Hoffman (printers, scanners), Matthew Murray (ExtremeTech), Sascha Segan (mobile), Wendy Sheehan Donnell (consumer electronics) fEatUrEs Editor Eric Griffith sEnior Editors Brian Heater (, Carol Mangis (blogs, community), Erik Rhey (Digital Edition) pC Labs LEad anaLysts Cisco Cheng (laptops), Tim Gideon (consumer electronics), Samara Lynn (business, networking), Michael Muchmore (software), Neil J. Rubenking (security), Joel Santo Domingo (desktops), M. David Stone (printers, scanners) anaLysts Dan Evans (DIY, hardware), PJ Jacobowitz (consumer electronics) inVEntory ControL Coordinator Nicole Graham staff photographEr Scott Schedivy pCmag.Com managEr, onLinE prodUCtion Yun-San Tsai prodUCErs Mark Lamorgese, Whitney A. Reynolds nEws Editor Mark Hachman nEws rEportEr Chloe Albanesius staff Editors Jennifer Bergen (blogs), Gregg Binder (printers, scanners), Errol Pierre-Louis (software, security, Internet), Jeffrey Wilson (software, security, Internet) assistant Editors Sean Ludwig (mobile), David Pierce (consumer electronics), Natalie Shoemaker (hardware) CommErCE prodUCErs Iman Edwards, Arielle Rochette UtiLity program managEr Tim Smith CrEatiVE dirECtor Chris Phillips ContribUting Editors Helen Bradley, John R. Delaney, Richard V. Dragan, John C. Dvorak, Craig Ellison, Galen Fott, Bill Howard, Don Labriola, Jamie Lendino, Jim Louderback, Bill Machrone, Edward Mendelson, Jan Ozer, Neil Randall, Matthew D. Sarrel, Larry Seltzer intErns Andrea Burciu, Joe Osborne pC Labs dirECtor, managing Editor (Laptops, dEsktops) managing Editors

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Front What’s New from the World of Tech

Cutting the Power Does a new cyber-security bill really have an Internet kill switch? In the physical world, most Americans are used to increased security in a post–9-11 world. But there may be a new law that could affect the security of the online world. Senate bill 3480, also known as the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010, is being debated on the Senate floor. The bill is an over-arching cyber-security initiative, which would, among other things, create an office of cyberspace policy within the White House, which would be led by a Senate-appointed director. It would also create a new center within the Home-

land Security Department, which would implement cyber-security policies. A provision that is getting the most attention, however, is one that gives the president the power to “authorize emergency measures to protect the nation’s most critical infrastructure if a cyber vulnerability is being exploited or is about to be exploited.” Though the language is somewhat vague, this section is interpreted by many as giving the president an “Internet kill switch” that would effectively allow him to “turn off” the Web in an emergency. september 2010 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 5


Joe Lieberman, the bill’s sponsor, refutes the “Internet kill switch” notion as “misinformation.” Defining Disabling Several privacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), wrote a letter to the Senate committee that approved the bill, saying, in part, “While the bill makes it clear that it does not authorize electronic surveillance beyond that authorized in current law, we are concerned that the emergency actions that could be compelled could include shutting down or limiting Internet communications.” The groups also said the bill should be amended to describe exactly what actions the government can take. Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, the bill’s sponsor, refuted the “Internet kill switch” assertion as “misinformation” during an appearance on CNN. “The president will never take over—the government should never take over the Internet,” Lieberman said. Web Executive Authority Current law already provides the president with broad authority to take over communications networks, according to the Senate committee, pointing to Section 706 of the Communications Act. That portion gives the president authority to “cause the closing of any facility or station for wire communication” and “authorize the use of control of any such facility or station” by the federal government. This can be done if a state or threat of war exists, it does not

require advance notification to Congress, and can continue for up to six months after the threat expires. This bill, the committee said, “would bring presidential authority to respond to a major cyber attack into the 21st century by providing a precise, targeted, and focused way for the president to defend our most sensitive infrastructure.” Specifically, the bill would give the president 30 days to respond to a threat, requires that he notify Congress beforehand, and demands that he use the “least disruptive means feasible” to do so. Also, owners of private networks would be able to propose alternative responses to a given threat. Going on the Defensive According to Lieberman, the bill is a response to real threats against the United States. “Catastrophic cyber attack is no longer a fantasy or a fiction,” Lieberman said in a statement. He added that the country’s electric grid and telecommunications are “constantly being probed by nation states, some terrorist groups, and organized criminal gangs.” He said that a cyber-attack on America can do “as much or more damage today as a conventional war attack.” Lieberman cited China as an example as a government having such authority: “Right now, China, the government, can disconnect parts of its Internet in a case of war. We need to have that here, too.”—Chloe Albanesius


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A $35 Tablet PC India’s low-cost answer to the iPad. Thanks to the success of the Apple iPad, tablets are, for the first time in their long history, well on the way to becoming mainstream. With prices starting at $499, however, Apple’s device is still too expensive for many. A new prototype from the Indian government, however, may slice the price of tablets down to a fraction of that. The government has announced plans to create an educational tablet priced at $35. The device, which will offer a number of basic computing features, such as a Web browser and video conferencing, is set to roll out to Indian students in 2011. The device was first demoed on an Indian TV show called “Gadget Guru” by India’s Human Resource Development Minister,

Kapil Sibal. According to Sibal, the device has a virtual keyboard, Wi-Fi capability, a built-in camera, 2GB of RAM, and runs on the Android operating system. The Indian government is attempting to push the device’s price down to a mere $10. “We have come out with the device at 1,500 rupees [$35] and now we invite individuals, entrepreneurs, firms and industries to produce the device at cheaper rates than this,” Sibal told The Business Standard. So far, there hasn’t been a manufacturer named for this device. Recently, however, OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte sent an open letter to the Indian government expressing his support and offering OLPC technology for the project.—Brian Heater

BEST of the Internet Kapitall Kapitall is a free service that educates consumers in investing in an interactive, graphically pleasing way, including companies color-coded by sector and comprehensive watch lists.—Jen Edwards

Gpanion Gpanion syncs with your Google account and allows you to launch any of your Google apps right from the page into fresh tabs. Default apps on the dashboard include Gmail, Calendar, and Docs.—Joe Osborne

Animated Explanations This video site is full of professionally animated videos that answer commonly asked questions in diverse subject areas, such as health, technology, and the workplace. —Alan Henry



BEST of our blogs GEARLOG NetDock Has What Your Netbook Lacks Wooden iPhone Skins Denver-based Karvt announced that its wooden skins for the iPhone 3G and 4 are now available for pre-order. The skins are made of sustainable material and come in bamboo (two finishes), cherry (two finishes), maple (one finish), pine (two finishes), and walnut (two finishes). iPhone 3 skins go for only $15 each, while iPhone 4 skins are $25. The only downside is that the skins come with front and rear pieces, so they don’t cover the sides and won’t prevent the iPhone 4’s antenna problem.—Troy Dreier

SECURITY WATCH Unpatched Vulnerability in Windows Several sites, including VUPEN Security, are reporting a vulnerability in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2 that could lead to full kernel-level access to the system. The bug is a boundary error in the CreateDIBPalette() function in win32k.sys. The resulting buffer overflow can elevate privileges to kernel level, but the attack requires that the user be a trusted, logged-on user. VUPEN says it has confirmed the vulnerability in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 and 2008 R2, but Secunia also lists Windows XP SP3, Windows Server 2003 R2 Enterprise SP2, and Windows Vista Business SP1. As of press time, there was no response from Microsoft.—Larry Seltzer

AT WORK Panasonic Announces Sub$200 Laser MFPs For small businesses looking for quality printers at a low price, Panasonic has launched three sub-$200 A4 laser MFPs for the home office, small office, and remote office. The KX-MB2000, KX-MB2010, and KX-MB2030 feature 24 page-per-minute (ppm) laser printing and copying, networked multiformat color scanning, and a suite of Panasonic officeenabling software. All three models include a front-facing maintenance and consumable loading bay. They are the first Panasonic MFPs in the sub-$200 range to include a 10/100 Base-TX Ethernet port for shared network printing and scanning.—Errol PierreLouis


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GOODCLEANTECH Apple’s Green AA Battery Charger Apple has just released a battery charger, which comes with 6 double-A nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries. And the company has added a eco-friendly feature that cuts the power once the batteries are fully charged, reducing its “vampire draw” from the usual 315 milliwatts to a mere 30. The charger also has a removable AC plug that can be replaced with other plugs for international travel. The charger also works with other brands of double-A NiMH rechargeables. The kit is available for $29 at the Apple Store.—Katherine Montgomery

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Building A $200 Linux PC Lab notes on constructing a super-cheap desktop. Times are still tough out there, but our needs and desires don’t always flag just because the economy does. If an accident or an equipment failure has punched an unexpected hole in your computing life, you may be in need of a system—any system—to fill it. You may be tempted to drop $500 or more on a budget desktop at Costco or Wal-Mart. But even if you need a computer right away, there are plenty of good reasons to build one rather than buy one. But what can you build quickly and cheaply? To answer this question, we spent hours researching possibilities, making swaps, compromises, and last-minute changes until we had all the parts for our system that, amazingly, came in under our drastically low $200 budget. With our budget and ground rules set, we shopped Newegg and picked up the following components: a Foxconn A6GMV motherboard ($39.99), a 2.9-GHz AMD Athlon II X2 245 processor ($58.99), 1GB Crucial CT12864BA1339 RAM ($24.99), a 160GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 ST3160318AS hard drive ($38.99), and a Rosewill R424BK

case with a 350-watt power supply ($29.99). Finally, the operating system, Ubuntu 10.04 LTS, didn’t cost us a dime. Because of our tight budget, we left out a graphics card and optical drive. Our final total was $192.95. The build took less than a half hour and presented no major challenges. We benchmarked our Linux PC against the eMachines Mini-e ER1402-05 nettop, which had more RAM (2GB) and ran Windows 7. Our system cold-booted faster and copied a 2.18GB folder much more quickly. And our system consistently came out ahead in system tasks and applications, proving that a little time and effort can get you a useable backup PC on the cheap.—Matthew Murray SEPTEMBER 2010 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 9

frontside Connected Traveler

Treat Your Laptop Right Invest in a stylish, comfortable laptop bag for your PC. When you are traveling, your laptop can be your office lifeline, television, and communication device. So why trust it to some junky shoulder bag you got free at a trade show? Save your technology—and your back— with one of these cool, functional, and ergonomic choices. Designed primarily for the mobile commuter, the very affordable Timbuk2 Quickie Laptop Messenger Bag ($45 direct, l l l l h ) is a good bag for minimalists who need just enough space to fit a laptop and a few accessories. This bag measures a slender 9.8 by 13.7 by 1.1 inches (HWD) and weighs only 0.7 pounds. The exterior, black nylon with light-gray trim, has a simple, attractive design aesthetic with only two expandable front pockets hidden

Timbuk2 Quickie Laptop Bag

underneath a Velcro flap. The red interior is lightly cushioned but also has raised padded dots that serve as shock absorbers. The bag comes in four sizes: extra small, small, medium, and large. For the maximum in carrying comfort, try the Tumi Alpha Bravo Benning Deluxe Messenger Bag ($245 direct, l l l h m ). This bag, which comes in spruce green and jet black, is made from a knit nylon material that makes for a comfortable feel, not to mention the Benning’s ballistic nylon strap: It’s so soft that Tumi doesn’t even bother with a shoulder pad. For the high-tech, organized lady who does not want to compromise her sense of fashion, we recommend the Sherpani Viso SlimLine Laptop Bag ($109.95 list,

Tumi Alpha Bravo Benning Deluxe Bag


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Sherpani Viso SlimLine Bag

Victorinox Trevi Brief

). The Viso comes in java, black, or seafoam and has comfortable nubuck leather handles and zipper tassels. Sherpani bags are made of recycled materials, so you can feel no guilt about upgrading to this better bag. It is also roomy, so you can fit a book, bottled drink, or a modestly sized bagged lunch. Thankfully, the zippers—which encompass three-fourths of the bag’s perimeter—do not run, so your bag will only open as much as you want it to. Another plus: it is a light bag, so you can carry it all day comfortably. As you would expect of a company that makes Swiss Army gear, the Victorinox Trevi Laptop Brief ($259 direct, l l l h m ) is a multitasker that can fit all your accessories, business materials, and gadgets with no problem. The 16-by-12-by-6–inch bag can fit laptops up to 15.4 inches and weighs 4 pounds. The outside of the bag has a slot for quick access to documents. There’s a zippered compartment with multiple slots for PDAs, cell phones, business cards, and l l l l m

Mobile Edge EVO Backpack

more. In the middle is another zippered compartment that houses and protects your laptop with three pockets for accessories. At the back, you’ll find another large zippered pocket and a sleeve for sliding this bag over the handle of your rolling suitcase. The Trevi Brief comes with both handles and a shoulder strap. If you need something a little bigger, the Mobile Edge EVO Backpack ($79.99 direct, l l l l m ) is, quite frankly, a beast of a bag. It comes with 16 exterior pockets to cover all your needs whether that’s for personal items or travel accessories. Its exterior design is rather plain, aside from all the zippers and compartments. Inside, there’s a snug laptop compartment that holds up to a 16-inch laptop. It also has a work-oriented compartment inside that contains slots to hold your memory cards, flash drives, wallet, IDs, pens and pencils, iPod/MP3 player, and even a hole through the top of backpack to string your headsets through. —Gregg Binder and Natalie Shoemaker SEPTEMBER 2010 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 11

INSIDE 12 HARDWARE 20 Consumer Electronics 26 BUSINESS 30 SOFTWARE


Lenovo IdeaCentre B500

An All-in-One Winner The IdeaCentre B500 eschews trendy features like a touch screen and HDMI inputs in favor of rocksolid HD and multimedia performance. You won’t miss the touch screen once you put this entertainmentoriented system on your desk and rock out to World of Warcraft while simultaneously listening to music. Granted, you’ll pay a couple hundred dollars more for the B500 than for its rivals, but that premium is worth it. The B500 has an angular look, setting itself apart from the more minimalist all-inones, such as the Apple iMac and Gateway One ZX6900 series. The JBL stereo speakers sit low under the 23-inch widescreen and are highlighted by a show-through perforated grill with orange accents. The system has a decent number of connections and is mostly wireless, with 802.11n


and Bluetooth for the keyboard and mouse. The system comes mostly free of bloatware, but you do get some useful software, such as WinDVD, and you can watch live or recorded TV in the Media Center interface. You also get a motion-control remote. The B500’s well-appointed components all worked together to give it excellent multimedia and 3D scores. It smoked Windows Media Encoder at only 38 seconds and finished Photoshop CS4 in a speedy 1 minute 32 seconds. And surprisingly, the B500 achieved playable scores on our gaming tests, turning in 56 frames per second (fps) for Crysis and 49 fps for World in Conflict— almost unheard-of scores for an all-in-one. So if you’re looking for multimedia prowess, and 3D power, the B500 is the one to get.—Joel Santo Domingo CLICK HERE FOR MORE >>

Specs 2.6-GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8400S processor; 4GB SDRAM; 1TB SATA hard drive; nVidia GeForce GTS 250M graphics; Blu-ray combo drive; 23-inch widescreen LCD; integrated stereo speakers; Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit).


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our ratings key: l l l l l EXCELLENT l l l l m VERY GOOD l l l m m GOOD l l m m m FAIR l m m m m POOR

Lenovo IdeaCentre B500 $1,399 direct L l l l m

Pros Bright, beautiful 1080p HD screen. Less screen/bezel reflections than competitor. Discrete 3D graphics. Blu-ray player. TV tuner. Analog A/V in. Wireless keyboard and mouse. Minimal bloatware. Ambient lighting. Motion-control remote. Cons No HDMI. No eSATA. Bluetooth keyboard and mouse slow to wake. No 5-GHz 802.11a or 802.11n networking. A little pricier than its rivals.


MULTIMEDIA TESTS pcMark vantage*


3dMark vantage* L


World in Conflict ** L (fps)


Windows Media Encoder M

CineBench R10 (XCPU)

Photoshop CS4 M

Lenovo IdeaCentre B500








Apple iMac 21.5-inch (Core 2 Duo)








HP TouchSmart 600-1055 PC








L High scores are best. M Low scores are best. Bold type denotes first place.

L (fps)



Product name in RED indicates Editors’ Choice. * Test was run at 1,024-by-768 resolution. ** Test was run at 1,280-by-1,024 resolution.


first looks hardware

AVADirect Nano Cube

Small Desktop, Great Gaming


he AVADirect Nano Cube is a specialist desktop PC among other gaming rigs. This compact system provides fast performance, but lacks in some creature comforts. If you absolutely need a small, mid-range gaming system that travels from bedroom to friend’s house to hotel conference room, take a look at the Nano Cube as a serious contender. The Nano Cube measures about 7 by 9 by 11.5 inches (HWD), but you’ll have to allow a few inches’ clearance on each side for cooling and access to the back panel. The white paint job on our review units showed scratches easily. The interior of the chassis is neat, though every bit of room is filled. (You’ll have to remove items to upgrade this system.) Ports include a whopping 12 USB 2.0 ports, one of which doubles as an eSATA port. The system also has an HDMI port and DisplayPort in addition to the two DVI ports


AVADirect Nano Cube $1,999 list l l l h m

PROS Compact portable gaming rig. Good gaming performance scores. No extraneous software. Speedy SSD. HDMI and DisplayPort. CONS Loud fans. No expansion room. Easily scratched paint. Limited storage space. No FireWire.

on the ATI Radeon graphic card. The Nano Cube’s performance on three of the four gaming benchmark tests we ran were flawlessly smooth. It played Crysis and World in Conflict at medium resolution at 96 frames per second (fps) and 134 fps, respectively. Crysis at very high quality was a bit jerky (33 fps), however. Multimedia tests were also quick, with this system finishing Windows Media Encoder in a quick 30 seconds and Photoshop CS4 in 1:18. All in all, the Nano Cube is a decent system for the specialized LAN party enthusiast. But if you don’t need portability, I recommend the Editors’ Choice Falcon Northwest Talon (Core i7-875K) for $500 more. —Joel Santo Domingo >>CLICK HERE FOR MORE

Specs 2.4-GHz Intel Core i5-750S processor; 4GB SDRAM; 128GB SSD storage; ATI Radeon HD 5870 graphics; dual-layer DVD±RW drive, Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit).


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first looks HARDWARE

Dell Studio XPS 7100

A GamingMultimedia Crossover T he Dell Studio XPS 7100 is a genre-straddling desktop PC. On one end, it has a quick six-core AMD multimedia processor and 1.5TB hard drive. On the other, it comes with an ATI Radeon HD 5870 graphics card, so it’s a contender as one of the better entry-level gaming rigs. It’s packed with a lot of future-proof technology, and its price tag won’t break the bank. The XPS 7100 comes in a silver version of the tower on the XPS 8000. The system is angled, so it appears to be leaning back, making it easier to access the media card bays and optical drives. The XPS 7100 also has some internal expansion room, including space for one PCI card, two hard drives, and one optical drive. You’ll need a screwdriver to get inside, but everything is well laid out and easy to access. Also notable is the fact that this system comes free of bloatware. In terms of performance, the XPS 7100 was able to complete the Windows Media Encoder (WME) test in a speedy 38 seconds, and the Photoshop CS4 test in 1 min-


Dell Studio XPS 7100 $1,149 direct L l l l m

Pros Very good gaming performance. 6-core AMD Phenom II processor. Intelligent solution to bloatware problem. 15-month McAfee Security Center subscription. 802.11n wireless. Immobilizing bracket on graphics card. HDMI, eSATA, DisplayPort. Blu-ray. Cons Fewer legacy technologies. Very little expansion space.

ute 38 seconds—which is reasonably quick. The XPS 7100 also showed totally playable frame rates on three of our four gaming tests, scoring 65 frames per second (fps) on Crysis (at 1,280 by 1,024 resolution) and 82 fps at World in Conflict at the same resolution. Though the Gateway FX6831-01 is still our Editors’ Choice for gaming PCs (offering more bang for the buck and easier upgrading), the XPS 7100 takes the EC crown for multimedia PCs.—Joel Santo Domingo >>CLICK HERE FOR MORE

Specs 2.8-GHz AMD Phenom II X6 1055T processor; 6GB SDRAM; 1.5TB SATA hard drive; ATI Radeon HD 5870 graphics; Blu-ray combo drive; Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit). september 2010 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 15

first looks hardware

Acer Aspire AS5741Z-5433

Power on a Budget With a 15.6-inch screen, dual-core Pentium processor, 4GB of RAM, 320GB hard drive, and Windows 7 Home Premium, the Aspire AS5741Z-5433 (available at Staples) has an impressive list of features for a budget laptop. In addition, its battery life and overall performance places it in the top tier in its category. Weighing 5.39 pounds, this system is relatively light and has a very subdued design, with a smudge-resistant lid that’s covered in a dark-gray, plastic matte coating that has a textured, mesh pattern, while on its keyboard dock is a smooth, matte-silver metallic surface with light streaks. The Chiclet-style keyboard includes a numeric pad, but lacks dedicated volume and brightness buttons. The keyboard flexed way too much for my tastes, but the touch pad was very responsive. The 15.6-inch display is surrounded by a glossy, black plastic bezel that also houses a 1.3-megapixel webcam and microphone. You also get an HDMI-out port and an integrated 5-in-1 media card reader. And the presence of bloatware is kept to a minimum. For a budget laptop, this Acer performs


Acer Aspire AS5741Z-5433 $579.98 list L l l l m

Pros Strong performance for its class. Great battery life. HDMI port. Smudge-resistant lid. Cons Lackluster audio quality. Mushy keyboard.

surprisingly well—easily out-sprinting its closest competitors on nearly every test. This system’s CineBench R10 score of 4,992 is a whopping 44 percent higher than the Compaq CQ62-225nr’s score. And the PCMark Vantage test score of 4,204 was still a sizeable 28 percent faster than the CQ62-225nr’s. Not to mention that the AS5741Z-5433 surprised me with its impressive battery life, lasting 4 hours, 20 minutes on MobileMark 2007. This class-leading performance and battery life, combined with a few extra features, means that a tight budget can still get you an Editors’ Choice laptop.—Daniel A. Begun >>CLICK HERE FOR MORE

Specs 1.86-GHz Intel P6000 processor; 4GB SDRAM; 320GB SATA hard drive; Intel GMA HD graphics; dual-layer DVD drive; Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit).


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first looks HARDWARE

Casio Green Slim XJ-A145U

A NewTech Data Projector


ot many projectors offer both a 2,500-lumen rating and a light source designed to last the life of the projector. In fact, the Casio Green Slim XJ-A145U and a few closely related Casio models are the first to make that claim. The secret is Casio’s innovative Green Slim hybrid light source. Not only does it last a lot longer than the traditional lamps, it has the additional benefit of being mercury free, which makes it a much more ecologically friendly projector than most. In some ways, the 1.7-by-11.7-by-8.3–inch (HWD) XJ-A145U is a typical lightweight XGA (1,024-by-768) DLP projector, but instead of producing red, green, and blue using a standard lamp and a color wheel, it produces red with LEDs, blue with lasers, and green by shining the blue laser light on a phosphor. One of the key advantages of the hybrid light source is its 20,000-hour expected lifetime—which is 4 to 10 times longer than the claimed lifetimes for standard lamps. And adding to the portability of this unit is its ability to read JPG and AVI files from a USB memory key, so you can leave

Casio Green Slim XJ-A145U $999.99 direct l l l h m

Pros Lightweight. Mercury-free light source with a 20,000-hour lifetime and 6,000-hour warranty. Reads files from USB keys. Cons Some image quality issues, particularly for video, as opposed to data, images.

your laptop at home. I measured the XJ-A145U’s brightness in its brightest mode at 1,927 lumens, or about 77 percent of its rating—and bright enough to throw a reasonably large image, even in a well-lit room. On our DisplayMate tests, the XJ-A145U handled most images without a problem. However, like all DLP projectors, it showed a slight rainbow effect, with light areas breaking up into little red-green-blue rainbows when you shift your gaze or something moves on screen. Also, I saw obvious posterization and a greenish tint to skin tones in videos. So although this projector is not great for video and the rainbow effect is a bit distracting, it is still a bright, portable system that’s environmentally smart and easy on the wallet.—M. David Stone >>CLICK HERE FOR MORE september 2010 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 17

Quick looks HARDWARE






Gateway FX6840-01e $999.99 list

Gateway DX4320-01e $699.99 list

Gateway DX4840-02e $799.99 list

HP Pavilion p6527c-b $699.99 list

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• Solid productivity and multimedia performance • Spacious hard drive • Two-year warranty

• Good performance • Large hard drive • Two-year warranty

• Great performance • Monitor included • Two-year warranty on system

• Quad-core CPU • Bundles in an HD monitor

• So-so graphics performance • No Blu-ray drive • Bloatware

• So-so graphics performance • Bloatware

• Integrated graphics • Bloatware

• No Blu-ray • No HDMI • Poor 3D performance

The FX6840-01e is an underachieving gaming rig with a budget-friendly price tag.

This desktop is equipped with a quad-core CPU and massive hard drive, but it’s not suited for high-detail gaming.

The DX4840-02e is a reasonably priced desktop with strong productivity and multimedia performance for the money.

If you are looking for a desktop and monitor bundle for no-frills computing, the HP Pavilion p6527c-b might be the system for you.

2.8-GHz Intel Core i7 860 processor; 8GB SDRAM; 1TB hard drive; ATI Radeon HD5570 graphics; DVD±RW drive; Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit).

3.0-GHz AMD Phenom II X4 945 processor; 6GB SDRAM; 1TB hard drive; Nvidia GeForce 315 graphics; DVD±RW drive; Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit).

3.2-GHz Intel Core i5 650 processor; 4GB SDRAM; 640GB hard drive; DVD±RW drive; Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit).

2.9-GHz AMD Athlon II 635 processor; 4GB SDRAM; 500GB hard drive; Nvidia GeForce 6150SE graphics; DVD±RW drive.

Product name in RED indicates Editors’ Choice.


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HP Pavilion p6577c-b $999 list

Alienware M11x (Core i7) $1,175 direct

Dell Inspiron 17R2211OBK $799.98 list

Epson Stylus Photo R2880 $799.99 direct

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• Quad-core CPU • 25-inch 1080p monitor included • 1TB drive

• Ruggedized exterior • Portable • Backlit keyboard • HDMI and DisplayPort • Excellent graphics • Very good battery life • Inexpensive

• Great performance for its class • HDMI-out and eSATA ports • Barely any pre-installed bloatware

• Fast • Impressively high-quality photos and graphics • Maximum 13- by 19-inch cut paper size • Fine arts papers available

• No Blu-ray • No HDMI or eSATA ports • Integrated graphics • Bloatware

• Undersized keyboard • Screen glare can be bothersome • Battery is screwed into the chassis

• Lid collects fingerprint smudges • No ExpressCard slot or FireWire port

• Needs different black ink cartridges for matte and glossy paper

The HP Pavilion p6577c-b is a solid mid-priced desktop PC with room for expansion and a giant HD monitor.

There’s no better laptop made for road gamers than the Alienware M11x (Core i7).

Offering average features for a 17.3-inch laptop, the Dell Inspiron 17R-2211OBK excels in performance.

Suitable for both serious amateurs and professional photographers and graphic artists, the Epson Stylus Photo R2880 delivers greatlooking output at fast speed.

2.5-GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300 processor; 8GB SDRAM; 1TB hard drive; Intel GMA X4500HD graphics; DVD±RW drive.

1.2-GHz Intel Core i7-640um processor; 4GB SDRAM; 500GB hard drive; Nvidia GeForce 335M and Intel GMA HD (Core i7) graphics; 11.6-inch display; Atheros 802.11n Wi-Fi; 4.5 pounds; 64-Wh battery; Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit).

2.4-GHz Intel Core i5-450M processor; 4GB SDRAM; 500GB hard drive; Intel GMA HD graphics; 802.11n Wi-Fi; 17.3-inch display; DVD± drive; 6.7 pounds; Windows 7 Home Premium.

Ink jet; 1-pass color; supertabloid maximum paper size; direct printing from cameras; 8.4 by 24.3 by 12.7 inches (HWD).

Visit for the full reviews of these and scores of other hardware products.


first looks consumer electronics

Sony Bravia KDL-55HX800

Sony 3D HDTV Delivers


hen the Bravia KDL55HX800 arrived in PC Labs, we couldn’t wait to tear open the box. And we weren’t disappointed: Besides delivering 3D, it also has the latest TV tech, including LED backlighting and a fast 240-Hz refresh rate, which translates to a beautiful 2D picture, too. The HX800 series is the least expensive of Sony’s family of 3D HDTVs, though you wouldn’t know it by this 55-inch HDTV’s hefty $3,400 price tag. And by the time you add in $150 3D glasses for the family and a 3D transmitter, you’re in for around $4,000. That doesn’t include a 3D-capable Blu-ray player or discs. As with most brand-new technologies, you’re paying a premium to be in on the ground floor. But you won’t be disapointed. With its sleek lines and thin glossy black bezel, the HX800 is one good-looking HDTV. Other than a couple of small status indicators and a polished chrome Sony logo in the center of the lower bezel, the front of the set is very clean. This model uses a proprietary LED backlighting technology dubbed Dynamic Edge, a hybrid of sorts consisting of edge-lit LEDs and a partial array of LEDs with local dimming. As a result, the HX800 is not nearly as thin as other edge-lit models such as LG’s 47LE5500 and Samsung’s UN40B7000,

but it still maintains a reasonably slim profile. The cabinet is approximately 2 inches thick, except for at the bottom, where it extends out an additional 3/4-inch to accommodate a pair of embedded down-firing speakers. On the left side of the TV are two HDMI jacks, a set of composite A/V ports, and a USB port. The HX800 comes with an attractive 8.6-inch matte-black remote featuring a concave face with 43 buttons and a 4-way rocker. There’s also a dedicated 3D button for switching between 2D and 3D mode. On our tests, the 3D effect was overall well implemented and fun to watch—but not perfect. The picture is not as bright as it is in 2D, due to the darkened lenses. Also, you get some ghosting around 3D images. The HX800 turned in a respectable contrast ratio of 2,814:1, and grayscale swatches from DisplayMate’s LCD diagnostic software showed no signs of tinting or saturation, and colors were very accurate. When it comes to 2D, the HX800 does an excellent job of displaying HD content. And for 3D this HDTV also performed admirably with the limited catalog of 3D content currently available. More important, its 2D image quality is stellar, and the set comes with a full complement of Web apps to keep you busy while you wait for more 3D content to become available.—John R. Delaney


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Sony Bravia KDL-55HX800 $3,399.99 list L l l l m

Pros 3D-ready. Very good 3D and 2D picture quality. Attractive cabinet. Plenty of Web apps. Cons Expensive. 3D glasses and transmitter cost extra. Some backlight blooming. Glasses are heavy and can become a bit uncomfortable when worn for long periods. september 2010 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 21

first looks consumer electronics

BlackBerry Torch 9800 (AT&T)

BlackBerry Goes Touch Screen


he new BlackBerry Torch 9800 with BlackBerry 6 keeps RIM in the smartphone game. It’s the first truly usable touch screen BlackBerry, and it’s packed with new features: a new Web browser, apps, interface, and social networking hooks. Messaging is still clearly at this phone’s core, though, leaving the Torch a strong bet for those who type and chat all day, and still behind the leaders for those who prefer to play games, surf the Web, or watch videos. The 4.4-by-2.4-by 0.6-inch (HWD), 5.7-ounce Torch is black and silver, with a soft-touch back and a comforting heft. The screen slides up to reveal a BlackBerry Bold–like keyboard, which I found to be flat-feeling but still very useable. And the 3.2-inch, 360-by-480 capacitive touch screen is very responsive. The device has 4GB of on-board storage and comes with an additional 4GB MicroSD card. The new BlackBerry 6 OS offers a great balance of keyboard, track pad, and touch-screen input. You can do almost everything two or three ways, which makes this the best AT&T

BlackBerry Torch 9800 (AT&T) With two-year contract, $199.99 direct L l l l m

Pros Looks and feels good. Lots of new features. Integrates social-networking well. Cons Browser still slower than iPhone 4’s. Fewer games and apps than iOS or Android. Poor Microsoft Exchange integration for consumers.

phone for people who are more comfortable typing on a hard keyboard than on a touch screen. On our tests, I found that the Torch is a good voice phone but lacks noise cancellation and also has a slight buzz in the sidetone. The new browser is 25 percent faster at rendering pages than the browser on the BlackBerry Bold 9650—but it is still slower than the iPhone 4’s. So in a nutshell, the Torch keeps the flame alive, but it’s not a barn-burner. But if you’re looking for a messaging-focused smartphone with a QWERTY keyboard, this is AT&T’s top choice.—Sascha Segan


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first looks consumer electronics

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2

Rugged And Full Of Features The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2 is an update to last year’s Lumix TS1—although based on its performance, the TS2 is far more than an incremental update. It has all the makings of an excellent point-andshoot camera, with the added benefit of a ruggedized housing. The camera’s performance is comparable to last year’s Editors’ Choice, the ruggedized Canon PowerShot D10, though the D10 offers a superior lens, in addition to a more affordable price tag. But if capturing HD video is important to you, you’ll want to spend the extra on the TS2. At 2.5 by 3.9 by 0.9 inches (HWD), the TS2 is of average size compared with other ruggedized cameras, but far thinner than the D10. The TS2 is waterproof to 33 feet and can shoot in temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit. The 4.6X optical zoom lens has a focal length of 28–128mm and a maximum aperture range of f/3.3–5.9. As for the TS2’s user interface, I can safely say it is just as solid as the camera’s construction, with an intuitive menu structure and little clutter. On our tests, the TS2 started up and cap-

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2 $399.99 list L l l l m

Pros Great Image quality. Simple operation. SDXC card support. Spectacular 720p30 HD video capture. Mini-HDMI port with CEC support. Fast performance. Waterproof to 33 feet. Drop-proof to 6.6 feet. Freezeproof to 14 degrees F. Cons Occasional lens fog during underwater use. Pricey. No lens cover.

tured its first image in an average of 1.7 seconds, averaging 2 seconds of wait time between shots—both good scores. And the TS2 averaged just 0.34 second of shutter lag. The TS2 also produced sharp, low-noise images at up to and including ISO 800. And this model is hands-down the best ruggedized camera for capturing video. If a $400 ruggedized camera is in your budget, don’t hesitate to get the TS2. But keep in mind that the D10 will deliver equivalent images (but no HD video) for much less dough. Nonetheless, the TS2 is a great rugged camera deserving of Editors’ Choice status. —PJ Jacobowitz >>CLICK HERE FOR MORE september 2010 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 23








Panasonic TC-P50G25 $1,499.95 list

Casio Exilim G EX-G1 $229.99 list


Olympus Stylus Tough-8010

Kodak Pulse Digital Photo Frame

$399.99 list

$129.95 direct

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• Reasonably priced • Excellent black levels • Beautiful HD picture • Wide viewing angles

• Thin build for a ruggedized camera • Waterproof up to 10 feet • Can survive drops up to 7 feet • Can operate in temperatures as low as 14°F

• Good image quality with low noise • Water- and crush-proof • 720p HD video • 2GB of internal storage

• Fast user interface • Good image quality • Responsive touch screen • Facebook integration

• Only 3 HDMI ports • Not terribly energyefficient • A limited number of Web apps

• Soft images • No lens cover to protect from smudges • Slow recycle times • Dated user interface • Needs proprietary USB cable

• Pricey • Noticeable shutter lag • Long delays between shots • LCD has noticeable motion blur

• No video playback • Support for photo sharing sites is limited

An affordably priced 50-inch plasma, the TCP50G25 offers deep blacks and a crisp, detailed HD picture—with some compromises.

The EX-G1 offers a ruggedized build in a surprisingly compact body, but sub-par image quality limits its usability.

The 8010 is a good fit for those who want top-of-theline rugged protection, HD video capture, and a camera that’s easy to operate.

The Kodak Pulse’s Wi-Fi capability and responsive touch screen offer a painless, automatic photo experience.

50-inch screen; 1,920-by1,080 native resolution; 16:9 aspect ratio.

Compact; 12.1MP; 3X optical zoom; 2.5-inch LCD; HD video capture; 2.5 by 4 by 0.78 inches (HWD); 5.1 ounces.

Compact; 14MP; 28–140 lens; 5X optical zoom; 2.7-inch LCD; HD video capture; 2.5 by 3.9 by 0.9 inches (HWD); 7.6 ounces.

7-inch screen; 800-by-600 native resolution; 6.25 by 7.5 by 1.0 inches (HWD).

Product name in RED indicates Editors’ Choice.


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Motorola H17txt $99.99 list

Creative ZiiSound D5 $299.99 direct

Samsung Gravity 3 SGH-T479

Pantech Ease $69.99 to $219.99 direct

$49.99 to $179.99

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• Reads caller ID and full text messages • Supports A2DP streaming over mono • Comfortable fit

• Quality wireless audio • Simple, visually pleasing design • Works through walls

• Excellent keyboards • Solid construction • Workable e-mail programs and Web browser • Sharp camera • Solid battery life

• Expansive touch screen • Roomy, slide-out QWERTY keyboard • Easy to use UI

• Texting features work only with Android smartphones • App may have to be updated for your specific smartphone

• Speakers can’t handle deep bass at high volumes • Bluetooth audio signal can be weak

• Non-standard headphone jack • Buggy Bluetooth music playback

• Some issues with call quality • Proprietary headphone jack • Riddled with AT&T bloatware

The H17txt reads text messages to Android phone owners, but there are better deals out there.

At $300, the slick D5 seems a bit overpriced, and wireless capability is stronger than audio performance.

The Gravity 3’s balanced feature set, reasonable plan pricing, and excellent overall performance make it a winner.

The Ease is indeed easy to use, but AT&T’s pricey messaging plan kills the value.

1.7 by 0.7 by 0.4 inches (HWD); 0.3 ounces.

2-channel audio; 3.5 by 16.7 by 4.3 inches (HWD); 8.4 pounds.

T-Mobile; 2.4-inch screen; 2MP camera; Bluetooth; 4.7 by 2.1 by 0.6 inches (HWD); 4.3 ounces.

AT&T; 3.2-inch touch screen; 2MP camera; Bluetooth; 4.5 by 2.3 by 0.6 inches (HWD); 3.5 ounces.

Visit for the full reviews of these and scores of other hardware products.



HP Z200

A Workstation For Tight Spaces The HP Z200 small-form-factor (SFF) PC offers workstation-level performance in a surprisingly small package. Sure, you won’t get the myriad expandability options of a tower, but how many of your workers actually need 16TB of hard drive space anyway? The Z200 works best as a workstation for the space-constrained staffer with a heavy multimedia-oriented workload. It’s got many advantages and a few drawbacks, but the main thing that might make potential buyers retract their wallets is the steep price. The Z200 looks just like the $800 PCs you buy your rank-and-file employees, but at roughly 4 by 13 by 15 inches (HWD), this diminutive workstation hides a good amount of internal power. It supports Intel Core i3, i5, and quad-core Xeon processors and has some expansion room, including a free PCIe x1 and PCIe x4 slot. You also get a media-card reader, FireWire, and a whopping 10 USB ports. Also, this system is bloatware-free, but you do get HP Performance Advisor, a program that lets you and your IT department know what components you


HP Z200 $2,496 direct L l l m m

PROs Compact. Powerful. Expandable. HP Performance Advisor. No bloatware. CONs Only takes half-height expansion cards. No room for extra hard drives. No eSATA or USB 3.0. Expensive.

possess, poll your system performance, and auto-optimize settings for your workload. This system has EnergyStar 5.0 compliance and EPEAT Gold certification, as well as other eco-friendly features, thus earning our GreenTech Approved seal. In testing, the Z200 zipped through Windows Media Encoder in 36 seconds and the Photoshop CS4 test in 1 minute, 17 seconds (a score that is faster than any of the rankand-file business systems we’ve seen). It also turned in a decent score on our 3D tests, outperforming the Lenovo ThinkStation E20. So, I can recommend the Z200 over the Lenovo E20 only if your desk real estate outweighs the purchase price difference (more than $1,200). —Joel Santo Domingo >>CLICK HERE FOR MORE

sPECs: 3.46-GHz Intel Core i5-670 processor; 8GB SDRAM; 500GB SATA hard drive; Nvidia Quadro FX 380 LP graphics; DVD±RW drive; Windows 7 Professional (64-bit).


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CRYsIs** L






HP Z200








Apple iMac 21.5-inch (Core 2 Duo)








HP Pavilion Elite HPE-140f








Lenovo ThinkStation E20








L High scores are best. M Low scores are best. Bold type denotes first place.


(min:sec) M

RED denotes Editors’ Choice. N/A—Not applicable: The product could not complete the test, or the test was not compatible. * This test was run at 1,024 by 768 resolution. ** Test was run at 1,280 by 1,024 resolution.


first looks business

Imation Defender F200 + Bio

Super Storage Security


arlier this year, a German security research group revealed a serious vulnerability in the password-verification software for supposedly secure USB drives from Kingston, SanDisk, and Verbatim. You won’t run into that kind of problem with The Imation Defender F200 + Bio. First, the password verification takes place right on the drive itself rather than in PC-based software. Second, a built-in swipe-style fingerprint reader gives the Defender two-factor authentication. Like IronKey Personal S200, the Defender has received FIPS 140-2 Level 3 validation from the U.S. government, which means the device can actively resist tampering as well as adhere to requirements for storage and transfer of encryption keys and other security elements. Once you’ve completed the initial setup, most settings can’t be changed without reformatting the device. You can configure the Defender for up to ten users, storing fingerprint data for each. In a singleuser situation, it’s possible to disable the administrator account, and you can choose to enable “data destruction” mode, meaning that a user’s data will become permanently unavailable after a specified number of failed log-ons. When you plug in the Defender, its autoplay software launches and invites authen-

Imation Defender F200 + Bio 1GB, $109 list; 32GB, $369 l l l l m

Pros Encrypted USB drive with governmentvalidated biometric and password authentication. Administrator can recycle device for a new user or rescue user if authentication fails. Less costly than some similar biometric devices. CONS Making a change in the required authentication methods (fingerprint, password, or both) requires a complete reformat, as do many other configuration changes. Fully detachable cover easily lost.

tication by fingerprint, password, or both, depending on how you originally configured it. You have the option to check a box to open your private data in read-only mode. A drive for your private, encrypted storage shows up in Windows when you log on and vanishes when you log out or eject the device. Although IronKey offers more features and a ruggedized exterior for $30 less, the Defender gives you the added security of fingerprint biometrics, making it a good choice for the security-conscious. —Neil J. Rubenking


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first looks business

HP LaserJet P3015dn

Speedy Biz Laser


he LaserJet Enterprise P3015dn is best understood as the little brother to the HP LaserJet P4014n that I reviewed last year. Both are monochrome lasers that offer similarly fast printing for a small to medium-size office or workgroup. Both offer similar—and reasonably ample—paper capacities in their base configurations. Unlike the P4014n, however, the P3015dn offers only limited additional paper-handling options, making it suitable for somewhat less heavy-duty printing needs. This isn’t to say that the P3015dn is a lightweight when it comes to paper handling. Its standard configuration has a 600sheet capacity, divided into a 500-sheet drawer and 100-sheet multipurpose tray, along with a duplexer for printing on both sides of a page. As for speed, the P3015dn turned in a score of 4 minutes 33 seconds on our business application suite, compared with 4:29 for the P4014n. These two printers were also essentially tied on each individual test I ran. The P3015dn scored reasonably well for output quality overall, but in particular, it excelled at text output. Its text quality is near the top of the range for

HP LaserJet Enterprise P3015dn $899.99 direct l l l l m

Pros Fast. High-quality text. Reasonably high paper capacity for a small office or workgroup. Cons Few paper-handling options.

monochrome lasers, and particularly good for fast mono lasers. Graphics output was acceptable for internal use, but probably not for slick client material. Photo output was towards the bottom of the range, but typical for a mono laser. Also worth mention is the P3015dn’s low running cost, which HP claims is 1.8 cents per page with the printer’s high-capacity cartridges. So overall the combination of fast speed, good-looking text, ample paper handling, and low cost per page makes it easy to recommend for businesses. —M. David Stone >>CLICK HERE FOR MORE september 2010 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 29

first looks SOFTWARE

Webroot AntiVirus with Spy Sweeper 2011

Simple, Powerful Protection After putting Webroot AntiVirus with Spy Sweeper 2011 through its paces, I’m convinced this application was worth the wait. The new edition’s user interface has been redesigned with a strong emphasis on simplicity. On-screen elements slide into place rather than snapping open a new view. If the product is performing perfectly, the main screen is a serene green with minimal detail. A gray screen with a yellow warning icon indicates the configuration isn’t quite optimal. A real problem turns the main screen scary red. Yes, other products use same green/yellow/red status scheme, but Webroot has kicked it up a notch. By default, the app downloads and installs all signature updates automatically, with no user interaction required. Also, Webroot automatically scans your system for malware when the system is idle, applying all of its malware-smashing technologies by default. It scans memory, the Registry, and the full file system; it looks inside archives, and it uses direct-disk scanning to detect rootkits. Despite all this activity, the scan is quite fast. On my standard clean test system,

it took just 18 minutes. Real-time protection comes from over a dozen “shield” modules. When I ran Webroot on 13 malwareinfested test systems, I found that it detected 83 percent of threats, the same as Ad-Aware Pro Internet Security 8.3. However, it did a better job at cleaning up malware, scoring 7.0 points overall to Ad-Aware Pro’s 6.4. In quite a few cases, Webroot wiped out every trace of the threat. Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus 2010 beat them both, detecting 89 percent and scoring 7.3 points. Webroot also set a new record in the keylogger removal category with 7.8 of 10 possible points, handily beating both Spyware Doctor’s 7.1 and the next-best 6.6 points achieved by Norton AntiVirus 2010 So while Webroot didn’t ace every test, it consistently made the top three, and, unlike many products, it did well both at malware prevention and at cleaning up existing infestations. You won’t go wrong choosing Webroot to protect your system against viruses and other types of malware, which is why we have awarded it an Editors’ Choice.—Neil J. Rubenking


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Webroot AntiVirus with Spy Sweeper 2011 $39.99 direct ($49.99 for 3 licenses) L l l l h

Pros New user interface is simple, attractive, and well-designed. Scanning and updating occur automatically. Very effective malware blocking and cleanup, especially of rootkits and scareware. Full scan is speedy. Cons In testing it took many hours to scan some of the malwareinfested systems.


first looks software

Ad-Aware Pro Internet Security 8.3

Ad-Aware Keeps Clean Systems Virus-Free


emember your first anti-spyware program? If you started using anti-spyware in the last millennium, chances are you used Ad-Aware. Lavasoft’s original Ad-Aware, one of the first-ever antispyware utilities, appeared in 1999. More recent versions have successfully branched out to cover viruses, Trojans, rootkits, and many other types of security threats. The latest edition, 8.3, isn’t a major update, but it’s cheaper and timed to match the release of Ad-Aware Total Security 1.0. The user interface starts off in simple mode, showing only the most essential controls and status items. You can launch a scan, trigger a manual update, or verify that real-time protection elements are turned on. You’ll have to switch to advanced mode if you want to change any settings. In this mode, you can review malware-fighting statistics or go straight to the list of quarantined threats. My testing showed that malware cleanup isn’t this version’s strongest feature. It detected 83 percent of malware threats, putting it right in the middle of the products I’ve tested with my current malware collection. Despite the potential power of its boottime cleanup, Ad-Aware left behind a fair

Ad-Aware Pro Internet Security 8.3 $29.95 direct l l l l m

Pros Simple UI hides complexity when not needed. Quick full scan. Especially effective at removing scareware. Great at keeping malware out of clean systems, particularly rootkits. Cons Failed to fully clean up much detected malware. Some malware still running after alleged removal. Bonus “AutoStart Manager” can easily disable launch of items that should be left alone.

amount of malware traces. Still, its score of 6.4 points was better than that of free antivirus Editors’ Choice Panda Cloud Anti-Virus 1.1, which scored 5.9. Basically, this latest version of Ad-Aware is extremely effective when installed on a clean system, less so when challenged to get rid of malware that’s already present.—Neil J. Rubenking


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first looks software iMovie for iPhone 4

So-So Editing on The Go


he iPhone’s IPS LCD screen is remarkably sharp, but is it good enough for video editing? Apple obviously believes it is, and proved it with the release of iMovie for iPhone 4, the first smartphone app that lets you edit video on the go. It won’t replace the usability and functionality of desktop–based video-editing apps such as iMovie or Windows Live Movie Maker, but iMovie is surprisingly peppy and worth a look if your video-editing needs are very basic. One caveat: Don’t try installing it on any device other than the new iPhone 4. Desktop video-editing software typically uses a three-pane view that shows a preview of the movie, a timeline, and one or more palettes of effects and editing options. The iPhone’s small screen is a disadvantage in this regard; it must make do with the first two, and a couple buttons to take the place of the palettes. Video editing isn’t always the most intuitive task, and the interface of iMovie doesn’t ease matters. I played with the app for a while without consulting the instructions, and didn’t get very far. At one point I found myself in an infinite loop of

iMovie for iPhone 4 $4.99 direct l l l m m

Pros Trims video clips. Applies themes, background music, and titles. Decent performance. Cons Can’t split video clips. Not the most intuitive app, given its limited capabilities. No voice-over capability. Can’t customize title fonts or size.

applying a theme and importing content. iMovie offers five themes: Modern, Bright, Travel, Playful, and News. You can also add music, and turn the video’s original sound on or off. There’s no option to add voiceovers with the iPhone’s built-in mic, however. Another thing you don’t get is video stabilization. If you have no laptop/desktop option, this iMovie is passable. But if you can, use the desktop version instead and save your five bucks.—Michael Muchmore >>CLICK HERE FOR MORE september 2010 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 33

Quick looks SOFTWARE





Ad-Aware Total Security 1.0 $49.95 direct

K7 SecureWeb $29.95 direct per year

Outpost Antivirus Pro 7.0 Three licenses, $24.95 direct

digital defender Pro 2.0 $25 direct

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• Firewall handles program control automatically • Better malware removal than standalone Ad-Aware • Very good phishing protection • Local, online backup

• Secure browser protects online transactions at many levels • Blocks keylogging and screen scraping • Works with standard antimalware

• Scans incoming and outgoing e-mail • Offers multiple layers of behavior-based security • Includes ID Block private data protection

• Quick install • Received VB100% award in one of two attempts

• Occupies over 1GB on disk • Noticeable performance drag • Firewall blocked programs it shouldn’t • Less-effective malware blocking than standalone Ad-Aware

• No way to organize favorites in stripped-down browser • Doesn’t actively identify or block phishing sites • Doesn’t block keyloggers

• Web Control blocked few malicious sites • So-so malware removal • Multi-layer behaviorbased security generates tons of pop-ups

• In testing, displayed a poor malware detection rate • Poor ability to keep malware from installing on a clean system • Pro-only “deep scanning” made for a very slow scan with no significant benefit

The massive Ad-Aware Total Security includes standard security components as well as backup and system tune-up. Most components do a good job, though a few are sketchy.

This secure browser can protect your online transactions even on a system that’s been compromised by malware.

Outpost 7.0 doesn’t detect or remove malware quite as well as the competition. It offers many features to protect clean systems, but it also spews confusing pop-ups.

digital defender Pro’s deep scanning mode more than tripled the scan time without appreciably improving malware detection, cleanup, or blocking.

Product name in RED indicates Editors’ Choice. 


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AAcronis Backup & Recovery 10 $74 direct

Windows Live Photo Gallery (Wave 4 Beta) Free

3D Dot Game Heroes $39.99 list

Red Dead Redemption $59.99 list

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Not rated

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• Provides both drive-image and file-based backup • Speedy performance • Packed with features

• Face recognition • Geo-tagging • Blemish-removal tool • Panorama stitcher • Easy interface

• Wonderfully constructed world • Nostalgic throwbacks to 8-bit gaming • Fun, interesting gameplay

• Great western • Wonderful story, gameplay, and world

• Unclear interface with confusing vocabulary • Some features modify hard-disk structure • Emergency CD didn’t respond to keyboard on one test system

• Can’t adjust camera raw files

• Repetitive soundtrack • The adventure isn’t particularly fresh

• Glitches and bugs take you out of the story

Acronis Backup & Recovery 10 is powerful, multi-purpose backup software, but using it can be confusing and often frustrating.

Now with face recognition and retouching, Windows Live Photo Gallery can stand proud against iPhoto and Picasa.

3D Dot Game Heroes has charm in its jokes and oldschool gaming references, but it feels more like a walk down memory lane rather than a full-fledged game.

Red Dead Redemption is the first great western video game done right. Some bugs may distract, but the gameplay and story are top notch.

Visit for the full reviews of these and scores of other software products.


john c. dvorak

Note to Self: Chips Are Out, Apps Are In


hen you’re a tech columnist like me, you’d better be writing about whatever hot technologies are sweeping the nation, or forget it. As I wrote about last month, the current public consciousness has shifted from dumb to dumber. So my writing essay after essay about new instructions within the x86 chip would get me zero readers. Nobody cares about chips now. Apps are where it’s at. The mobile platform has taken over the mindshare of the public at large, so we writers and publishers need to be laser-focused on these apps and the phones that run them—mainly the iPhone and also Android phones from Motorola and others. RIM is trying to get into the act, and Nokia is out on a limb trying to do its own thing. From this emerged the anomaly called the iPad. This whole idea was easy to condemn from the get-go. Time after time, pads have been attempted yet have never been popular. All have failed. So Apple pulls a fast

one and takes two newer ideas and marries them to create the iPad. First it throws out the previous concepts regarding the tablet computer. No stylus, no handwriting recognition, no notepad qualities. Instead, it takes the iPhone and combines that with the Kindle, a pure e-book reader. Voila! The iPad. This is actually a completely new model for a pad. It cannot be compared to the attempts of the past to popularize this physical style of platform. This is some serious fodder for writers and publishers. It’s actually more interesting than the appPhone because it is so weird. You cannot talk about this idea enough as far as the readers are concerned. And the phenomenal skyrocketing sales prove the point as the device becomes the fastest selling consumer electronics device ever. As this device sells by the millions right out of the chute, one must recall the early days of the original ground-breaking Macintosh computer. The hoped-for goal back in 1984 was to try and sell 100,000 Macs in 90 days. Apple barely made it (if at


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Writing essay after essay about new instructions within the x86 chip would get me zero readers. all). Times have indeed changed. So if mobile apps and the iPad are the two hot topics for the next year or so, what else is out there? There is the Internet and its gatekeeper, Google. This appears to be the only company working the Net that is doing anything interesting or noteworthy—not good. Microsoft has been marginalized and tries to get attention for Bing when it should be keeping people interested in desktop computing somehow. I’m not sure how to do this either, but Microsoft should be trying to figure it out. But it doesn’t seem to care, despite the fact that this is the way it makes make most of its money. So let’s face it, unless something comes along sooner than later, all you’ll be reading about is Apple, Google, Pad computing, app-phones, and not much else. Yeah, there will be the occasional story about an AMD chip with a funny name, or IBM thinking about cloud computing, or Larry Ellison of Oracle buying the new Lexus supercar. The slate of articles sounds boring, and it is. But there is a benefit, too. Because the line-up is weak, writers and analysts will look elsewhere for human interest. And this falls right into the lap of laws, regulations and the effect of technology on the public-at-large. This means discussions of harmful effects, privacy, learning, computers in schools, computers and terrorism, automotive adop-

tion, tracking, surveillance, and on and on. You can worry yourself sick about the paucity of interesting tech stories that do not involve an iPhone app, but there will be plenty to discuss, but it has now moved to the “big picture.” I’ve begun to notice this transition from nerd talk to serious debate over technology and society beginning a few years back. While a good gizmo with a picture attached will always get some attention, talking about how you may be getting screwed by technological trends seems to be more and more interesting to a wider and more diverse group of readers. While tech mavens like myself could effortlessly ride out these trends by deconstructing the code-name conventions employed by Intel (I have done this a lot over the years), nowadays nobody cares. The usefulness of the barcode readers on the app-Phones, now that’s worth discussing! But writing about how technology allows people to easily snoop on your TV-viewing habits might be even more interesting. Perhaps this is the age of the practical; we’ve had enough of geek talk. Hello iPad, let me smudge your screen. Are you spying on me, iPad? Hmmm...interesting. Dvorak Live on the Web John’s Internet TV show airs every Wednesday at 3:30 ET on Cranky You can download back episodes whenever you like. SEPTEMBER 2010 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 37


AT&T’s Insane Service Plan Strategy


s AT&T trying to kill feature phones? Recently, the company started charging less per month for fullfledged smartphones than for crippled texting phones. This would seem to deprive the carrier’s 85.1 million customers of a useful, inexpensive mobiledevice choice. As we all kn ow, A m e r i c an s a re n ’ t always smart when it comes to making choices about anything that involves a monthly fee. We’re a country of suckers who fell for “no money down” mortgages, and for years we’ve played out a tiny version of that tragedy by sucking up “free” phones that are really anything but. Let me remind you: The most important fee associated with a mobile phone is the monthly price. When you’re in a two-year contract, even a $400 gadget translates to only $16 per month. Of course, you probably won’t listen to me on this one. T-Mobile has been running an experiment for a while where it lowers subscribers’ monthly fees in exchange for buying phones up front (or

even on a layaway plan). So far, it seems to be a failure at worst and a curiosity at best: The hypnotic power of the up-front price cannot be denied. AT&T’s Sleight of Hand Still, in an industry with many insane pricing schemes, AT&T’s now takes the cake. Here’s how the silliness works: All AT&T phones require a voice plan costing at least $39.99. But the only phones you can actually get for $39.99 per month are the dumbest of dumbphones, without keyboards or apps. AT&T has a range of smartphones (including, of course, the iPhone), and it offers two data plans for them. The $15 monthly plan is for light users, with 200MB per month. The $25 plan gets you 2GB of data. If you’re into texting, that costs extra ($5 per month for 200 messages, or $20 for unlimited messages). You should understand, though, that you can ease into the smartphone lifestyle for a minimum of $55 per month. In the doughy middle of AT&T’s lineup are a bunch of “texting phones,” otherwise


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It’s very hard to argue any advantage to buying a feature phone over a smartphone on AT&T. known as quick-messaging devices. These are supposed to be a lower-cost way for people to get some smartphone features. Texting phones have QWERTY keyboards and usually an e-mail program and Web browser. They’re always somewhat crippled and inadequate compared to a good smartphone, but they’re a good way to dip your toes in the mobile-computing waters. The thing is, this product category works only if the darn things are noticeably less expensive than smartphones. Otherwise, just get a smartphone! The Real Price of Data So, here’s the problem. Remember how you can get a smartphone for $55 per month? Texting phones cost at least $60. Now, that $60 minimum plan also includes 200 SMS messages, which would drive your $55 smartphone plan up to $60 as well. But it’s very hard to argue any financial advantage to buying a feature phone over a smartphone on AT&T. AT&T isn’t alone in making people buy onerous add-ons to use their feature phones, however. Verizon tacks a $15 mandatory charge onto all of its 3G phones. Sprint’s and T-Mobile’s plans are both more affordable and comprehensible than AT&T’s and Verizon’s. AT&T and Verizon claim that their mandatory data plans exist to prevent people from being “accidentally” charged for data, but that’s disingenuous nonsense. Instead, they

could just slap down a big click-through warning on certain activities saying “Are you sure you want to do this? This is going to cost a lot of money!” and skip the mandatory plan. But they’re trying to raise monthly fees, not save you money. A Counterproductive Stance AT&T’s policies seem counterproductive in many ways. Take the company’s nasty attitude toward Google’s Android OS. AT&T is far too dependent on iPhone sales right now, so you’d think it’d be happy to get a powerful smartphone alternative. Unfortunately, it alienates the technorati by locking out “nonmarket” Android apps, and it confuses consumers by loading up its Android phones with useless bloatware. Fortunately, there’s plenty of wireless choice in this country. Cell phone buyers can go with Verizon’s voice quality, Sprint’s low rates, T-Mobile’s easily understood plans, prepaid options from several different carriers, or even the personal service of a small, local phone company. Nonetheless, it would be really nice for the companies’ pricing schemes to be comprehensible. There’s a natural progression— cheap simple phones, slightly less cheap texting phones, and, then, smartphones. Why is that so hard for AT&T to understand? STAY PHONE-SMART Keep up with the latest on smartphones by reading Sascha’s column at september 2010 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 39


The Connected Reader


hen CEO Jeff Bezos launched the latest edition of the company’s Kindle e-book reader, he did so with a solemn commitment to maintain the device’s dedicated reading experience. Bezos’s vision for the Kindle has always been to provide an almost invisible device between the reader and the book. It is a pretty thought, no doubt more comforting than the idea of pitting the mono-function Kindle against the multimedia powerhouse that is the Apple iPad. Still, it is fundamentally wrong. Bezos is right to keep the focus of the Kindle on reading, but must address the fact that the way we read is changing. Whenever I talk about e-book readers, I feel the need to first present my book bonafides, which is to say, I love books. The smell, the feel, the soft clap as a finished book slams shut. My first edition of Hemingway’s Winner Takes Nothing is among my most prized possessions. But at this point, almost all of my book purchases are electronic. Maybe it is the nature of my job, maybe it is the appeal of the digital discount, ($9.99!), but my Kindle goes everywhere I

go. But only recently have I started to understand how reading itself has changed. Reading Goes Social Not long ago, Amazon released a software update that would let you link your Kindle account to Twitter and Facebook. Just select a portion of the text, and with two clicks you can share a link to it with all of your friends. Sharing books with friends has always been the second greatest pleasure of being a reader—the first being getting those books back. Technology accelerates the process, giving you access to a realtime, constantly available book club. Reading is suddenly social. Another example of the evolution of reading is Flipboard for the iPad. I admit, when the news of this app first broke, I didn’t understand the buzz. I was inclined to dismiss Flipboard as a Silicon Valley darling that would have little appeal to mainstream consumers. After testing out the service, however, I think the attention was deserved. At its core, Flipboard is a reader application, albeit more of an RSS reader than an e-book reader. Still, it pulls text and photos from sites and organizes them in a nice


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Reading is becoming less passive and more interactive. Who is to say that is a bad thing? interface for the iPad. Compared with the mobile sites most publishers put online, Flipboard is a wonder. But that isn’t its great innovation—like the latest Kindle update, Flipboard makes reading social. All of the digerati flipping over Flipboard managed to crash the startup’s servers, so I had to wait to see the Facebook and Twitter integration. Link your Twitter account with Flipboard to make a digital magazine, complete with photos, links, and text. My sister posted pictures of her kids on Facebook, and Flipboard scrapes them off the Web and displays them in its well-ordered design. When posts a link to its live coverage of a Jeff Bezos interview on Charlie Rose, that gets picked up, too. And it is all on the same page, within the same design. The newspaper may be dying, but the personal paper has just been born. Define ‘Reading’ Sure, you say, but it just sounds like a cool graphical way to read your Twitter feed. Yes, I respond, read your Twitter feed. Not skim, not surf, but read. Is this real reading? I dare say people read their Twitter feeds with an interest that has been lacking among most newspaper readers for years. Indeed, the average teenager spends almost two hours a day online, and in that time he or she isn’t just reading, but also writing. Reading is becoming a less passive and more interactive activity. And

who is to say that is a bad thing? Of course, there is a difference between enhancement and gratuitous embellishment. As Bezos himself told The Wall Street Journal: “For the vast majority of books, adding video and animation is not going to be helpful. It is distracting rather than enhancing. You are not going to improve Hemingway by adding video snippets.” The future of reading isn’t so much in adding content, but adding context, be it social, historical, factual, or otherwise. I don’t think a video with the author adds that much to most books. Still, how many people who read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Googled Stieg Larsson to read his backstory? (In my opinion, his story is far more interesting than the books.) That kind of functionality needs to be supported by the reader itself. So does book lending, which the nook supports now. So does annotation and commenting. Despite his praise for the pure reading experience, Bezos knows all of this. The Kindle has already changed reading as we know it. The device can be searched, words can be defined, books can be read aloud for the visually impaired. There are 630,000 titles available within 30 seconds anywhere there is 3G or Wi-Fi. The rules have changed, and I say it is a good thing. TALK back to Dan E-mail your thoughts to SEPTEMBER 2010 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 41

Top 100 Fr for Your Whether you tote an iPhone,

Droid, BlackBerry, or Palm Pre, your apps are what make your smartphone brilliant. Here are our top free app picks of 2010.


s you’ve probably haven’t noticed, the app scene is booming. The iPhone still leads the race, with more than 225,000 apps, but other platforms are gaining momentum. Google’s Android Market now has more than 60,000 apps. Palm’s App Catalog for the Pre and Pixi has risen from hundreds to more than 2,000 apps during the past several months alone. And there are thousands of apps for BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and Symbian phones. Although the iPhone isn’t the numberone smartphone platform in America (that’s BlackBerry), iPhone owners download more apps than owners of competing devices. But a huge number of Androidpowered phones are hitting the marketplace right now. Verizon and Sprint, 42 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION SEPTEMBER 2010

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44 iphonE 52 android 58 blackbe 60 palm W 62 symbian 63 window

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ree Apps r Phone


oid erry ebos ian ws mobile

especially, have been enthusiastic about Android, offering Google’s OS as their hottest smartphone platform right now. Our list includes 10 free apps for Palm’s webOS; Palm phones are now available on Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T, and HP has said it’s going to “double down” on the Palm system. Meanwhile, we give the Symbian OS just five free apps; Nokia’s smartphones have barely hung on in the U.S. market. The losers in this roundup are app developers for BlackBerrys and Windows Mobile phones. There are millions of BlackBerrys in the U.S. but BlackBerry owners are less interested in reading about apps than users of other platforms, according to our readership statistics. That may be because RIM’s App World is still difficult to use. Microsoft’s Windows Mobile is in a chrysalis right now, as it transforms into Windows Phone 7 later this year. Microsoft shifted most developers’ interest away from Windows Mobile 6.5. But because there are still millions of Windows Mobile 6.5 phones in consumers’ hands, we’re giving you five great free apps for that platform. SEPTEMBER 2010 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 43

TOP 40 Free iphone apps*

by sean ludwig

Apple Inc.

AT&T Services Inc.

Apple iBooks 1.1

AT&T myWireless 1.3.2

Apple’s iBooks isn’t just an e-book reader; it’s also an excellent PDF reader. This app uses an attractive bookshelf to arrange your virtual books and PDFs, and Apple makes quite a few older books available for free through its online store. You can also sync your bookmarks and notations with your iPod touch, iPad, or additional iPhones.

AT&T’s myWireless app tells you if you’re coming close to your monthly 200MB or 2GB data limit, how many minutes you’ve used, and when your next bill is due. It also allows you to upgrade your plan if you’re using your iPhone much more than you expected. Checking this app periodically is the best way to protect yourself from unexpected AT&T charges.

Microsoft Corp.

Bing 1.2

NBC Universal Inc.

CNBC Real-Time 1.3

On the desktop, I prefer Google, but on the iPhone, I prefer Bing, which offers more than just simple search. It also provides a scrolling photo search, voice search, and local shopping searches; it even has a bar-code scanner to look up prices in stores. The Social tool lets you connect to Facebook and Twitter and search your results from friends.

One of the best business news sites has one of the best free business apps on the iPhone. CNBC’s app starts with businessnews alerts, but we really like it because of its detailed stockportfolio tracker. Plus, we dig its wellrendered graphics.

Andy Qua

Cube Runner 1.5 This addictive game lets you control an arrow that flies through rows of digital cubes. You must try to avoid the cubes and fly for as long as you can. In the background, fun electronic music jams along as you pilot your arrow. It’s a total flashback to early ’80s arcade graphics. *These apps are for the iPhone and iPod touch. All will work on the iPad, but not terribly well unless they have been optimized. For a list of great iPad apps, check out our 25 Best iPad Apps story online by clicking here.


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Nuance Communications Inc.

Dragon Dictation 1.3.4 Ever wanted to dictate a long series of notes and then e-mail or text them? Dragon Dictation can do that for you. Just load the app, tap the red button, and dictate for a minute at a time. One downside: Some users have complained that Nuance goes through your contacts to ensure accuracy when you speak names. It’s a breach of privacy, but is it any worse than Facebook? Probably not. And we’d rather have the names spelled correctly. Evenflow Inc.

eBay Inc.

Dropbox 1.2.2

eBay Mobile 1.7.0

Dropbox lets you access your personal files residing on any of your gadgets or computers. It gives you 2GB of file storage that can be accessed from any computer. On iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, the app allows you to view documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and some videos and photos that you’ve put into your personal file space.

That auction item you want desperately will go to someone else unless you can swoop in at the last second. This app lets you do just that from anywhere with an Internet connection. It lets users search, bid on items, update their info, check bids on items being sold, and much more. For frequent bidders, this an essential tool.

eBuddy B.V.

Condé Nast

eBuddy Messenger 3.6.0

Epicurious Recipes & Shopping List 2.1

If you use many different instant-messaging clients, eBuddy will let you log into each of them at once, such as AIM, Yahoo, Facebook, Google Talk, ICQ, MySpace, and MSN. It will push notification of new instant messages to you even when it isn’t running, and you can tell it to log out automatically after a set period of time.

If you’re a foodie, you probably know about Epicurious and its 100,000-plus recipes. The site’s iPhone app lets you turn your favorite recipes into a shopping list that you check off, or turn them into a paginated cookbook. The ads here can be annoying, but we’re willing to put up with them for a free app. SEPTEMBER 2010 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 45

top 40 Free iphone apps ESPN Inc.

Evernote Corp.

ESPN ScoreCenter 1.5.3

Evernote 3.3.5

Take notes several different ways—text, voice, and photos— then access them from any desktop or phone with Evernote’s software. The simple interface makes it easy to write down important to-dos, or things like locations, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses.

Sports fanatics with iPhones need this. It allows you to keep track of your favorite teams on a single page, read the latest analyses from ESPN, and receive push notifications when games start or teams score. Sportacular is also a smart sports app with similar score-tracking abilities, but we think ESPN’s design is a little cleaner.


Fandango 3.2.2 Facebook

Facebook 3.1.4

Looking for movie times on the go? Fandango is your friend. It can show you movie times, help you buy tickets, and show you user reviews of the latest blockbusters and indie flicks. Since some theaters sell tickets through competitor Moviefone, you should also download Moviefone’s app if you want to be able to buy tickets anywhere you go.

If you’re an active social networker, you’re probably on Facebook. And if you have an iPhone as well, this well-designed app is a must-have. The home screen is a 3-by-3 grid that gives you access to almost everything Facebook has to offer. The app also integrates with the iPhone’s own features well, letting you call or text any friend who has publicly posted his or her number. John Haney Software

Flashlight. 2.1.1 As simple (or dumb) as it sounds, having a flashlight app on your iPhone or iPod touch is never a bad thing. Turn up the iPhone screen’s brightness and you can use it as a reading light, or even as a backup on a camping trip. If you feel like starting a party on the go, the app can display a strobe light or other light effects. 46 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION SEPTEMBER 2010

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Foursquare 1.9.0 Any modern social networker with an iPhone should be on Foursquare. It’s a hip, fun app where you check in to places you go physically and earn badges when you accomplish various things. It sounds a bit silly (and maybe it is), but there are rewards—being the person who checks in the most (called the “mayor”) at a restaurant can earn you a free meal, drink, or dessert. Google


Google Earth 3.0.0

Groupon 1.1.0

Google Maps is fine and dandy, but Google Earth ups the ante, taking you wherever you want in the world. You can digitally climb mountains, browse geo-tagged photos, check out city info with Google Local Search, and search in many languages. This latest version includes road layers and native support for the iPad, too.

Groupon offers decentto-great coupons on stuff to do, see, eat, and buy in 65 cities. There’s one deal a day, and if not enough people sign up, the deal is canceled (hence the name, Groupon). It’s a smart system that makes sure users and businesses alike get something from the deal. It even has a little green cred because with it you no longer have to print out coupons. Inc.

Kindle 2.1.1

Intuit Inc. Personal Finance 1.3

While Apple’s iBooks app might be slightly flashier, Amazon Kindle’s library has been around longer, has more titles, and works with more devices. For those who want to read on the cheap, Kindle also has a lot more free books for download. The app allows users to read the beginning of any e-book, making it a good shopping tool.

Keep track of your spending with Mint. com’s mobile app. Just enter a few data points in the iPhone, and you’ll be able to see your spending patterns as an easy-to-read chart. Of course, if your bank account is anemic, cool-looking animations probably won’t make you feel much better about it. SEPTEMBER 2010 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 47

top 40 Free iphone apps The New York Times Co.

OpenTable Inc.

NYTimes 2.3.3

OpenTable 3.0.2

Wondering why a newspaper’s app is necessary when you can just go to the paper’s Web site? The app allows you to save stories for reading when you don’t have an Internet connection. (Thanks, AT&T!) Plus, even as newspapers across the country are cutting back, the Times still has niche sections like Technology, Books, Travel, Fashion, and Dining.

You’re out on a date that’s going better than expected, but you didn’t make dinner reservations. What to do? Time to bust out the OpenTable app for iPhone and make a reservation for a nearby restaurant. OpenTable makes the process so fast and easy that you might be able to do it while your date isn’t looking. Pandora Media Inc.

Opera Software ASA

Pandora Radio 3.1.1

Opera Mini Web Browser 5.0.2

We were pleasantly surprised when Apple approved Opera Mini—a competitor of Safari—for the iPhone. Lousy AT&T connections prompted Apple to approve Opera Mini, which uses less data and can sometimes eke out a complete Web page when Safari can’t. Safari is better overall, but Opera Mini is good to use when your network connection isn’t optimal.

Pandora creates custom streaming radio stations based on artists or songs you like. It uses elements from the song itself and the user’s preferences to pick new songs to listen to. You’re likely to hear some unfamiliar bands mixed in with a lot of bands you already know and like. Plus, if you use Pandora on your desktop, the iPhone account will sync your thumbs up or down on song selections.

Adobe Systems Inc. Mobile 1.2.2 With the new iPhone 4’s 5-megapixel camera and better photo capabilities, there’s a good chance more users are going to need an app like this. Mobile lets you crop, rotate, change exposure, and apply other effects to your iPhone photos. Then you can upload your work to an account on 48 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION SEPTEMBER 2010

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Apple Inc.

Remote 1.3.3 Turn your iPhone or iPod touch into a remote control for music on your computer or Apple TV. While music is playing, album artwork is displayed on your phone and you can even edit playlists. The app only works over your home Wi-Fi connection, so you don’t have to worry about anyone else controlling your tunes—except other people in your house, of course.

Big in Japan


ShopSavvy Barcode Scanner 1.5

Siri Assistant 1.1.1

Take a photo of any bar code, and ShopSavvy will show you prices for that product from online and local retailers. If you think a product is overpriced, you can simply buy it from someone else. If ShopSavvy doesn’t find what you need, check out pic2shop, another accurate bar-code scanner.

Siri’s smart search app has learning A.I. built in, so it remembers your preferences and locations as you use it, thus providing more accurate search results. The most recent version adds the ability to post to Twitter and do math problems. Let’s just hope Siri doesn’t become Skynet and use the data in its computer systems to take over the world.

Skype Ltd.

Slacker Inc.

Skype 2.0.0

Slacker Radio 2.1

Though the iPhone version doesn’t yet do video calls (you’ll have to stick to FaceTime on the iPhone 4 for that), it finally does 3G VoIP voice calls, Wi-Fi Skype-to-Skype calls, and paid Skype-to-landline calls. Skype’s international rates are much lower than AT&T’s, and this app can be a real boon if you use it in a Wi-Fi zone while traveling.

Want to listen to professionally programmed radio stations on your phone? Then meet Slacker, which never slacks in finding you great music. If you enter an artist, it finds similar music you might like and you can ban or like songs to help the system fine-tune your listening experience. Like Pandora, the more you use it, the better the app works.


top 40 Free iphone apps Lexis Numérique


Surfacer 1.0.0

Tap Tap Revenge 3.5

Surfacer is half digital art project, half addictive game. The game is easy: Cover as much surface as you can with circles without hitting any of the moving balls. As you complete levels, more moving balls are added and it becomes harder to cover the surfaces with the allotted amount of circles. The fuzzy electronic music in the background works extremely well as a soundtrack.

It might not be the most innovative game, but at this point, Tap Tap Revenge is an undeniable touchstone in the iPhone app canon. For the uninitiated, TTR is a music-based game that has its users tap their fingers along with the beat of popular songs. Think of it as Guitar Hero for Dummies. TTR developer Tapulous was acquired by Disney in early July, so we’re hoping to see a lot more addon packs and music for TTR in the future.


TripIt 1.6.1

Mobile Bros LLC

Our managing editor for mobile devices, Sascha Segan, is also a travel writer who never hits the road without loading his information into TripIt. The app helps you keep track of all those annoying confirmation numbers and flight statuses. It might seem like a simple thing, but when your flight is canceled, it can save you precious minutes rebooking.

Trundle 1.2.1

This frustrating but rewarding platform game will keep you entertained and puzzled for hours. You control a gear (yes, a piece of metal) that’s trying to get from one side of a level to another. You move the iPhone side to side to control your gear and tap the screen to jump. It’s harder than it sounds, especially once you start having to master the game’s smart physics.


TweetDeck for iPhone 1.3 There is an unending debate about which free iPhone Twitter client is the best. Among TweetDeck, Twitteriffic, Tweetie, and Echofon, our favorite is TweetDeck. You can sync to your TweetDeck account on the desktop, and its depth of features (including multiple accounts) are unmatched by other free clients. 50 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION SEPTEMBER 2010

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The Weather Channel Interactive

The Weather Channel 2.82 Just like Twitter clients, there are many free weather apps for the iPhone. The Weather Channel is far and away our favorite because of its rich range of options. It displays current and extended forecasts, maps, severe weather alerts, pollen counts, videos, and more. Whatever weather data you need while on the go, The Weather Channel has it, guaranteed. JiWire Inc.


Wi-Fi Finder 2.0.1

Words With Friends Free 3.0.9

Ever needed to find a good Wi-Fi connection in a hurry because your data plan or AT&T’s signal wasn’t cutting it? Wi-Fi Finder by JiWire lets you download a complete directory of free Wi-Fi spots in the U.S. and it even works without a data connection. The app works best in populated cities, but that’s where you’re more likely to find free (and paid) Wi-Fi connections.

This is basically a generic version of Scrabble that you play iPhone to iPhone. It has push notifications to see when someone else has played a word, and a very simple interface to keep track of your games. Couple this with the free WordWeb Dictionary app and you might be unbeatable. Yelp Inc.

Avantar LLC

Yelp 4.3.0

Yellow Pages 2.9.3

Looking for a good new restaurant in your neighborhood? Yelp has an extensive database of restaurants, bars, coffee shops, movie theaters, and shops. The best part of Yelp is the user reviews. Consensus forms around the best places in each neighborhood. The competing Urbanspoon app, which features professional reviews, is also a fun addition if you’re a foodie on the lookout for good restaurants.

Have you ever looked up a store’s address on Google Maps, then gone there only to find the store is closed? Yellow Pages can help. Its extensive database for business queries has few wrong numbers or addresses. In our tests, we found Yellow Pages to be more accurate and complete than the competing YPMobile app.


top 30 Free google android apps

by gregg binder


The Associated Press

Advanced Task Killer Free 1.7.9

AP Mobile 2.3

This app provides constant updates on multiple news categories, as well as AP news videos. It caches stories for offline reading and provides local news tailored to your ZIP code. You can also customize your homepage so the first news you see fits your needs.

After hours of strenuous Android multitasking, you might find your phone to be sluggish and drained of its battery. This task-killing app can free up valuable megabytes of memory and plenty of processor power. The pay version with an “auto-kill” function is available for $5, but the free version is more than acceptable.


Astrid 2.14.3

Astro File Manager 2.4.2

Astrid is still probably the best Android to-do list app. You can start with a generic list of tasks, then add more complexity by tagging tasks, setting priorities, and assigning dates with reminders. Astrid also syncs with Remember The Milk, an online to-do list app that can send your tasks to Google Calendar, Gmail, Twitter, or your desktop.

We all love apps, but they take up valuable space on your phone. Astro lets you back up apps on your SD card; you can’t run them from there, but you can swap out apps you aren’t using. It lets you browse your phone’s file system, examining and moving files. It also gives you a very detailed peek into which apps and processes are running, with info about how much memory and CPU power each process is using.

We Love Astrid

Glu Mobile

Bonsai Blast 1.5 This classic game lets you shoot colored bubbles at strings of other colored bubbles to clear them out, with walls, super-powered bubbles, and lots of vaguely Asian landscapes complicating the situation. It’s simple, addictive, and graphically pleasing. 52 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION SEPTEMBER 2010

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Dolphin Browser HD 2.0.0 If you aren’t happy with the generic browser that comes with your phone, Dolphin is the way to go. It offers tabbed browsing, multitouch zooming, syncing with Google bookmarks, and the ability to flag sites that you might want to read later. You can even download YouTube videos.



doubleTwist Player 1.0.1

Facebook for Android 1.2

This slick media player helps make up for the lack of iTunes on your phone. Combine it with the desktop version of doubleTwist, and you’ll turn your Android device into a portable multimedia powerhouse that syncs music, (un-DRMed) iTunes playlists, and videos as well as any Apple hardware does. It’s a must-have for all music lovers.

This is the “official” Facebook app on Android, and it serves its purpose well enough. You can post status updates, upload photos, and check your news stream. It’s a lot faster than using the Facebook Web app, so it’s the best option on Android to stay connected to your Facebook friends.




Google Maps Navigation

Foursquare is a cool location-based social networking app that integrates with Facebook and Twitter, too. The integrated Google Maps feature allows you to get views of places in your area, so you can easily go from one restaurant to another (it doesn’t hurt that it comes with Yelp integration as well). Then you can “check in” to various locations to alert your friends that you’re there. navigation/

Google Maps Navigation gives you free, voice-guided GPS driving directions on your Android phone. It offers Google’s trademark satellite view, real-time traffic reports, search and voice recognition, and best-inclass POI search.


top 30 Free google android apps Google


Google Sky Map 1.5.2

Google Voice 0.3.4


If you have a virtual Google Voice number, use this app to make outgoing calls and SMS messages easily, including international calls that run about 2 cents per minute. This app also lets you integrate your phone’s built-in address book and call log for voice calls. There are other third-party apps out there that tap into Google Voice, but Google’s native app works almost seamlessly.

Put names to all the stars, planets, and constellations. This app syncs with your GPS to provide you with a map of the sky wherever you are. The only tricky thing can be getting your phone and the sky aligned exactly right. MH Games

Jewels 1.60

Jewels is a highly polished, free, Bejeweled clone. The game is highly addictive and serves as a great way to pass the time on your commute. Different modes let you play this as a strategy game or an action game, and if you’re competitive, you can share your scores with others.


Listen 1.1.3

Every smartphone needs a good podcast client, and Google Listen fits the bill on Android. You can subscribe to individual podcasts or find podcasts using terms you like. You can downloading podcasts to play even when you aren’t connected to a network. Rewind and forward options need improvement, but overall Listen is a great way to get radiostyle content onto your Android phone.

Meebo Inc.

Meebo IM 22 This is our favorite Android-based, multi-platform IM program. Along with the usual AIM, MSN, Yahoo, Google, and ICQ instant-messaging networks, Meebo also supports Facebook and MySpace IM, which is pretty cool. Social-networking contacts come with photos and status messages, and you can keep multiple conversations going at once. 54 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION SEPTEMBER 2010

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Intuit Inc.

Mint 1.4 This impressive app allows Android users to manage their finances easily on the go. You can see real-time account balances, compare your spending with your monthly budget, keep track of recent transactions, and edit transaction details. An exclusive-to-Android feature: Homescreen widgets display overall cash flow and financial updates. Flixster Inc.


Movies by Flixster 2.9.4

PageOnce Personal Assistant 1.4


There are a lot of good movie apps out there, but Movies by Flixster gets our nod here because of its complete experience. It will inform you of the latest top flicks and movies coming out, as well as theaters near you. It provides trailers, reviews, information, and Rotten Tomatoes results for all the current movies. And yes, you can even buy tickets to select participating theaters as well.

This app lets you monitor your financial accounts, as well as track anything flightrelated (frequent flyer miles, itineraries, flight times), cell-phone minutes, bills due dates, your Netflix queue, eBay bids, and a variety of social-network feeds. PageOnce says it uses top-notch encryption and is fully insured, so you don’t have to worry about the security of your data. A $6.99 “premium” version lets you ditch ads.

Pandora Media Inc.

Adobe Systems Inc.

Pandora Radio 1.3 Mobile 1.2.0

Internet radio gives you an endless amount of music for your Android phone, albeit at the cost of battery life. Pandora lets you tap into custom radio stations that you create based on songs or artists. Pandora will play best over Wi-Fi, but it also works over 3G.

Here’s an arsenal of photo-editing tools to use on your Android phone. You can crop, rotate, color-correct, or change images to black and white with a beautifully intuitive interface. The app integrates with free online accounts, but unfortunately not other services such as Flickr. SEPTEMBER 2010 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 55

top 30 Free google android apps Team Replica


Replica Island 1.3

Ringdroid 2.3

Replica Island is perhaps the most sophisticated free game on the Android platform. As a platformer, where you collect coins and avoid enemies, it’s similar to older video games like Mega Man and Super Mario Brothers. But it’s a must-have game that provides 40 levels of fun, and it uses phone features such as the accelerometer quite well.

More than a ring-tone app, Ringdroid is really an audio editor for your Android phone. You can use it to clip audio files to make ring tones, but also for any other purpose—for example, sending audio recordings to friends. Just take almost any unprotected audio file that your Android phone can play, slide two sliders to the beginning and end of your clip, and in an instant your new sound is ready.

Big In Japan Inc.

ShopSavvy 3.6.6

Mobile1Sports LLC

ShopSavvy is the best comparison-shopping app for Android. Just take a picture of a product’s bar code with the phone’s camera, and ShopSavvy will give you prices from various retailers along with reviews from online shopping sites. Its weakness is its collection of “local” stores; while standing in midtown Manhattan, it told us the nearest store selling a particular video game was a Wal-Mart in New Jersey.

SportsTap 2.4.8

SportsTap gives you scores, stats, and news for baseball, football, basketball, hockey, golf, tennis, soccer, and NASCAR. It lets you select some of your favorite teams, so you can get updates immediately upon opening the app. And unlike competing apps, it gives you AccuScore game projections for many of the day’s games—nice for anyone who might want to partake in the occasional bet.

Flaviu Negrean

Talk To Me Classic 1.7.8 Originally, this language translator with speech-to-speech functionality (you speak the word; it speaks the translation back to you) offered only services in English, French, Spanish, German, and Italian. Now it has many other languages such as Chinese, and you can just type what you want translated into the program. This app is a must-have aid for any traveler. 56 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION SEPTEMBER 2010

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Matt Wachowski

Trap 1.00 The last game to make our app list could arguably be the most addictive. If you remember the 1980s game Qix, you’ll be familiar with Trap. The goal of Trap is to draw lines to take over screen areas and trap moving balls inside walls. Be careful, though— you can’t let the balls hit any of the lines you are drawing. CBS Interactive Inc.

TweetUp Inc. 1.3

Twidroyd 3.4.0

You can’t hit Hulu on Android yet, but is a good alternative. This streaming video app lets you select programming from CBS, The CW, CNET, ET, Showtime, CBS News, Gamespot, CBS Sports, and more. We’d recommend streaming over Wi-Fi rather than 3G for more reliable video quality. Not all channels allow you to watch full episodes, but the ones that do offer the ability to browse and skip chapters.

The recently renamed Twidroyd (to avoid that pesky Lucasfilm trademark) is a popular, straightforward, and simple Android Twitter client. Twidroyd lets you send direct messages, @reply to your friends, post pictures, set your location via GPS, set background notifications, and paste a URL. It also runs in the background, periodically checking for new tweets and telling you through an icon in your notification bar.

The Weather Channel


The Weather Channel 2.3.22

Yelp 1.4.2

Yelp’s many business categories help it edge out Urbanspoon as our favorite restaurant-reviewing app. In addition to places to eat, you can search for banks, gas stations, drugstores, the “hot on yelp” section, and much more. Yelp gives you amateur rather than professional reviews, but the Yelp community is wellrespected.

Get everything you need to know weatherwise before you head out for the day—hourly, 36-hour, and 10-day forecasts, multiple locations, and live video from the TV channel. The app automatically updates your location using GPS, and its homescreen widgets will keep you informed if it’s time to get your umbrella out.


TOP 10 Free blackberry apps

by sascha segan

The Associated Press


AP Mobile News 2.5.6

BOLT 2.1

Unless you can get the new browser for BlackBerry 6 OS, stick with BOLT, a fast, high-quality browser that downloads pages that actually look like desktop Web pages. The new version 2.1 adds tabbed browsing, support for many Flash video Web sites, and Web-based chat apps, such as Facebook and Meebo. If you have a lower-res BlackBerry, like the 8530, try Opera Mini ( instead.

Get complete, flexible access to local, national, and international news with AP Mobile News. Plus, the latest version of this app lets you send stories to Facebook or your friends, read stories offline, or watch news videos. If you’re looking for multiple news sources, try Viigo, but AP can satisfy any needy news junkie. App Pro Shop

FlashLight 1.0.2


Google Maps 4.2

Our favorite free flashlight app is extremely easy to use, and the light is bright. You can adjust both the color and brightness of the light to your taste, too; according to the manufacturer, different colors of light work better in different situations. FlashLight is available from BlackBerry App World.

Google’s free mobile mapping program just keeps getting better. The most recent version adds bicycling and transit directions, as well as the ability to share directions through SMS and Facebook. You can turn live traffic and Google Buzz layers on and off, and the GPS locks in quickly. “Labs” beta options include a terrain layer and scale bar. Inc.

Kindle for BlackBerry Beta The tiny BlackBerry screen may not seem like the ideal platform for reading long-form books, but stick with us here. Kindle for BlackBerry is part of a multi-platform strategy, where you can read Kindle books on your iPad, on your computer, on your Kindle, and on your BlackBerry. Unfortunately, newspapers and magazines aren’t available on the BlackBerry platform. But we really like the ability to put down the latest best-seller at home, and seamlessly sneak a glimpse at it during a long, boring meeting at work. 58 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION SEPTEMBER 2010

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Qik Inc.

Qik LiveStreaming 1.0.15 Broadcast video with your BlackBerry with this app; you can stream it live to the Web or to other mobile phones. It’s simple to use if you have a good 3G or Wi-Fi connection. All of your videos are also automatically archived and shared for later viewing, and your viewers can respond to you in real time. Slacker

Research in Motion

Slacker Radio for BlackBerry 3.1.76

Twitter for BlackBerry

In the eternal war between Slacker and Pandora—the two leading custom streaming radio apps for the BlackBerry—Slacker recently edged out its rival by offering “station caching,” which lets you listen to music while you’re offline and really saves battery life. Unfortunately, station caching requires a $4-$5 monthly Slacker Radio Plus subscription. But the free Slacker app is still great for streaming music, with all the professionally programmed and custom stations you expect from

Now that Facebook comes baked into most BlackBerry smartphones, the folks at RIM have an official Twitter client. Its advantage over the competition is its very elegant, well-designed interface. Nothing’s rough here—you can Tweet, search, use lists, follow, or check trends using beautiful fonts and an unobtrusive utility bar.


Viigo for BlackBerry 3.1.489

Our top BlackBerry app pick, Viigo is also the best single-information app for any handheld platform. Under the hood, it’s an RSS reader. But it finds and presents its information brilliantly, whether it’s a slew of news sources and Technorati searches, weather, sports scores, flight information, or even Tweets.

AWS Convergence


Sure, WeatherBug gives you live localweather updates, detailed forecast summaries, weather alerts, camera views, and detailed radar maps from a weather app nowadays. But it also goes a bit further by integrating with Bing Maps, letting you tap on a map to find out how the weather is over there. WeatherBug is available in BlackBerry App World.


TOP 10 Free palm Webos apps

by jamie lendino

The Associated Press

K’s Cluttered Loft

AP Mobile 1.0.0

Destroids 1.3

The Palm version of the AP’s ubiquitous multimedia news app offers a customizable front page, with top headlines broken down by category. Bring up a story, and the interface gets out of the way, letting you scroll through fullpage news articles without having to press tiny Next buttons every few paragraphs. You can also run searches, and share favorites over e-mail, SMS, and Twitter.

Remember pumping quarters into Asteroids back in the day? If so you’ll appreciate this one. Destroids lets you blast apart space rocks and fight UFOs. Each new level brings more and faster asteroids. Smooth animation, configurable keys, a global high score board, and even adjustable in-game physics make Destroids a rare treat. Flixster

Flixster 0.9.19 Facebook

Facebook 1.2.1

Flixster won’t let you buy movie tickets online, but it will do pretty much everything else to help you make your film choice. The app divides up movies into Opening This Week, Top Box Office, and Also in Theaters, with average review scores, stars, running time, ratings, and even box office results. There are icons for finding showtimes at nearby theaters via GPS, plus upcoming titles, DVD release schedules, and a search function. Still undecided? You can even play trailers from within the app.

Facebook’s webOS app lets you view your news feed, upload photos, run searches, and browse profiles, in addition to having the usual statusupdate bar. It also displays recent notifications, and it keeps a refresh icon handy at all times. Keep your addiction alive and well while on the go.


Foursquare for webOS It may be in beta, but it’s almost fully functional, and it’s certainly good enough to get the point of the service across. In short, the app lets you “check in” to different real-life locations, in order to tell your friends and colleagues of your whereabouts. The app also recommends nearby restaurants, events, and other things you may find interesting. 60 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION SEPTEMBER 2010

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OpenTable OpenTable lets webOS device owners search for restaurants and book reservations. It finds nearby restaurants by cuisine type using the phone’s GPS. It adds reservations to the phone’s built-in calendar app, and it lets you modify them later in case something comes up. The app even displays step-by-step directions on how to get to a restaurant, and lets you send invites to friends or colleagues. Pandora Media


Pandora 1.0.4

Translator 0.9.6

Enjoy Pandora’s custom, streaming Web radio right from your Palm Pre or Pixi. The webOS version lets you key in a song or artist to create a new station, just like on the desktop. You can also access all of your favorite stations or create new ones that are stored in your universal account. Icons along the bottom of the screen let you like or dislike tracks, bookmark songs and artists, and even buy tracks over the air.

Need to ask a Dutch shop owner if the pastries are fresh? The Translator app is simple to use. The main screen offers basic “From” and “To” boxes and a choice of 45 languages. Once you translate text, you can send it as a text or as part of an e-mail message. As with all translation apps, you’ll get literal results that may not be exactly what you intend to say. Still, combine this with the built-in Google Maps, and you’ll never feel lost in a country again.

Delicious Morsel LLC

The Weather Channel Interactive

Twee Free 1.6.0

The Weather Channel

Why pay for a Twitter client when you can get Twee Free for free? It offers location-based tweets and trending topic information. It supports multiple accounts, displays @replies and direct messages, and lets you re-tweet or reply to others. It also shortens URLs, uploads photos to TwitPic, YFrog, TweetPhoto, and, and previews photos that others have posted.

Weather apps are a dime a dozen. But The Weather Channel’s webOS app is one of the best, with GPSenabled local weather, beautifully arranged pages, and 36-hour and 10-day forecasts. It also features fully animated radar maps for cloud cover and precipitation, plus configurable tornado and other severe weather notifications. SEPTEMBER 2010 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 61

top 5 free symbian apps

by jamie lendino



Fring 9.4

JoikuSpot Light

Fring is one of several Symbian apps that lets you make free VoIP and video calls. Unlike the others, Fring also hooks into Google Talk, AIM, MSN Messenger, and even Facebook and Twitter accounts, letting you connect with everyone from a single, unified address book. Behind the scenes, the app’s optimized P2P backbone ensures that your calls stay clear and that your video chats look and sound as good as possible.

Why pay for a MiFi when you can turn your phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot for free? JoikuSpot Light is a limited version of the company’s paid, premium app. The Light version offers basic tethering for your laptop, iPad, or other Wi-Fi device, and it supports regular and secure Web sites. The paid version drops the default landing screen, and adds WPAbased security, support for VPNs and e-mail protocols, and additional configuration options.


Ovi Maps

Qik Inc.

Nokia is beginning to preload this app on the latest Symbian smartphones, but existing owners who don’t already have it should grab it right now. Ovi Maps offers completely free, accurate, voiceenabled turn-by-turn directions for both driving and walking. It offers fast recalculations, Internet-connected POI searches and 2D- and 3D-map views. Load this app and forever relegate your existing PND to doorstop status.

Qik 1.0.56

More than just another video player, Qik lets you stream live video from your phone, either to a private group of friends or over the public Internet as you see fit. The app also posts to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and lets you share your location with others. Everything is integrated, so you don’t need multiple steps to share photos, video clips, or live video. The app even hooks into Blogger, Wordpress, and other blogging platforms.


TweetS60 Lite 1.40.0 TweetS60 remains Symbian’s premier free Twitter client. It displays the latest tweets, your own updates, and direct messages, and it lets you retweet or update your own status. It runs in the background, providing updates while you do other things. The paid, $1.99 Pro version lets you post TwitPic photos, as well as create and run custom searches. 62 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION SEPTEMBER 2010

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top 5 free windows mobile apps

by jamie lendino

Microsoft Corp.

Bing for Mobile 1.0 Bing for Mobile brings Microsoft’s latest search engine to your phone. That means GPS-enabled maps, local movie show times, and targeted POI (point-of-interest) searches for restaurants, parks, hotels, and other commonly searched-for locations. It also offers Bing Web searches, though this last part is just an illusion, as all it does is fire up Bing using Internet Explorer Mobile. Facebook

Microsoft Corp.

Facebook for Windows Mobile 1.0

Office Mobile 2010

Facebook’s Windows Mobile app takes full advantage of touch-screen devices. It includes a much more responsive interface than you’d expect. You can upload photos taken with your device’s camera, and stream videos from Facebook’s site. The app is also smart enough to adjust the interface to fit Windows Mobile devices with different screen resolutions.

Nearly all Windows Mobile devices sold today come with a portable version of Office. But few have the latest Office Mobile 2010. The newest suite offers a convenient Text Reflow feature that formats text for easier reading on a cell phone, without altering the actual document’s formatting. It also lets you control a laptop PowerPoint presentation, and even read notes separately from the audience’s view.

Opera Software

SPB Software

Opera Mobile 10

SPB TV for Windows Mobile 2.0.1

Windows Phone users are lucky to have two excellent, freeware browsers: Opera Mobile 10 and Skyfire 1.5. We give the nod to Opera Mobile 10, for its transparent yet full-featured interface, and comprehensive bookmark management—complete with a Safari-like Speed Dial home screen for your favorite Web pages. Opera Mobile lacks Flash support, though; for that, you’ll still want Skyfire 1.5 for its ability to stream Web video.

Sick of how cell-phone carriers and some developers are charging $10 or more per month for mobile TV? Enter SPB TV, an app that delivers more than 100 subscription-free TV channels to your handset. You won’t find HBO, ESPN, or the BBC on here. But you do get dozens of public TV channels, including AFP and NASA, an integrated TV guide by channel and time slot, fast channel switching, and live previews. SEPTEMBER 2010 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 63

Solutions Top 20 Twitter Tools Here are our favorite apps for tweeting, improving tweets, and being an all-around better twit. By Eric Griffith


hen PC Magazine first reviewed Twitter back in 2007, we gave the “hugely popular phenomenon” a rating of 3.5 stars and noted that the social-networking site “fills a gap left by other forms of communication.” Three years later, Twitter is a form of communication in and of itself, with more than 105 million users and about 55 million tweets per day. Its 140-character limit, which once seemed restrictive, now seems almost limitless in its reach. One of the reasons for Twitter’s success and growth is the extensive collection of third-party apps available for use with the micro-blogging-and-so-much-more service. Twitter’s openness makes it easy for software vendors and Web site builders to create tools that take advantage of the platform, all to help you become an all-around better tweeter.

There’s no way to create a completely comprehensive list of tools for tweeting; they spring up as fast as rabbits in springtime. That said, there’s no doubt you’ll find some gems here that you can put to use immediately. Most of these focus on interface apps, but we’ve also included tools that handle multimedia, backup, stats, and more. 1. Tweetie (by Twitter) Category: Twitter Interface URL: Twitter Username: @tweetie Platforms Supported: Mac OS/iPhone Once only for the iPhone, Tweetie is now also available on Mac OS ($19.95; the free version runs ads). This is no master control for Twitter, but the design is simple and straightforward—something Mac OS users are used to. It does support multiple accounts, for example, even if it doesn’t do true multiple columns (just multiple win-


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72 security Protect your PC from viruses for free

76 Office Get the most out of Excel with these tips

dows with different columns). A Mac OS 2.0 version is coming soon. It’s a perennial favorite on the iPhone. In fact, Tweetie is so good, Twitter bought it and rebranded it with its own name and now gives it away. 2. TweetDeck Category: Twitter Interface URL: Twitter Username: @tweetdeck Platforms Supported: Windows/Mac OS/ Linux/iPhone/iPad Arguably the most popular third-party Twitter app, TweetDeck set the bar for multi-col-

umn tweet access on the desktop. Because it’s written using Adobe Air, you can use the same software on all of the major operating systems, plus there are mobile versions. It can update and view statuses in more than just Twitter (it even updates FourSquare), and the company site has a directory of all types of Twitterers worth following. 3. Seesmic Web Category: Twitter Interface URL: Twitter Username: @seesmic Platforms Supported: Web The folks at Seesmic have no lack of tools for tweeting, but none come as easy as the Web-based interface. Log on with your Twitter credentials and you get a home column of those you follow, a column of tweets that mention you, and more. You can add columns with your favorite lists or trending September 2010 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 65

solutions social networking

topics. You can even filter results. It can be a little slow to load, but the control it provides—for free—is priceless.

4. Twitterrific Category: Twitter Interface URL: Twitter Username: @twitterrific Platforms Supported: Mac OS/iPhone/iPad Twitterrific is another set of tools for the Mac OS/iPhone-only side. It was one of the first out of the gate with an iPad-specific interface, in fact. New features will arrive when it gets updated for iOS 4 and the new iPhone 4. The Mac OS version is $14.95 without ads; the premium iPhone version is $4.99. You can even buy a plush, 4-inch-high version of the Ollie bird icon if you really like Twitterrific (that’ll run you $26.95).

5. twhirl Category: Twitter Interface URL: Twitter Username: @seesmic Platforms Supported: Windows/Mac OS Simple, single-column twhirl for Adobe Air is another free tool from Seesmic that integrates with services like for cross-posts and yfrog for images. It handles multiple accounts, including those on FriendFeed or Seesmic Video to share home videos. The color schemes aren’t all great, but what twhirl lacks in design it makes up for in ease of use. 6. HootSuite Category: Business Twitter Interface URL: Twitter Username: @hootsuite Platforms Supported: Web Dubbed the “professional Twitter client,” this app provides a flexible, tabbed, multi-


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column layout for reading and managing one or more Twitter accounts (not to mention other social networks, such as LinkedIn and Facebook). Multiple editors can post, tweets can be scheduled ahead of time, and you can track stats on just how well your tweets are doing in fancy-looking graphs.

8. Brizzly Category: Twitter Interface URL: Twitter Username: @brizzly Platforms Supported: Web

7. Yoono Category: Social Networking Interface URL: Twitter Username: @yoono Platforms Supported: Win/Mac OS/Linux/ Browser Add-on/iPhone This service provides access to all of your social nets in one stream and unified IM accounts in another, all accessed via tabs. Yoono also makes it easy to access links, images, and videos. Yoono can load as a sidebar in a browser (Firefox, Google Chrome, or IE) or as a desktop app, and there’s even a portable version that runs on USB flash drives. Coming soon: a Yoono iPhone app.

Whether you’re a tweeter or a Facebooker, you can use Brizzly to get easy access to status updates and the links and pics that come with them, with automatic auto-expansion, so you don’t have to go to another site to see images, for example. It even tells you all about current trending topics. 9. Hahlo Category: Twitter Interface URL: Twitter Username: @hahlo Platforms Supported: Web Use Twitter’s OAuth to sign in and you’re instantly surfing tweets in a user-friendly interface complete with tabs for accessing your lists, mentions, and direct messages. The interface is minimalist and perfectly designed for use in the Firefox sidebar (right-click the bookmark and check) and on mobile phones (it looks fantastic on iPhone’s Safari browser). september 2010 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 67

solutions social networking

versal app and vice-versa. You’ll never read the same tweet twice, and that’s the twuth. When posting, you can drag and drop items like photos and music. (There’s also an Echofon add-on for Firefox, previously known as TwitterFox.)

10. threadsy Category: Social Networking Interface

URL: Twitter Username: @threadsy Platforms Supported: Web

12. Seesmic Look

Threadsy is an uber inbox that accesses all of your social networks, plus e-mail. Imagine your Twitter direct messages, Facebook messages, and Gmail (or Yahoo Mail, AOL, Mobile Me, IMAP e-mail) on one side of the screen and your status updates from Facebook and Twitter on the other in a column called Streams. Click a name and you get details on the tweeter.

Category: Twitter Interface URL: look/ Twitter Username: @seesmic Platforms Supported: Windows

Platforms Supported: Mac OS/iPhone/iPad

This may be the best-looking, singleaccount, Twitter-desktop app you’ll ever see. Seesmic Look is a Windows 7–only app that “rains” tweets in a very Flashesque interface. It’s unlike any other tweetaccessing app. (Seesmic also has two other desktop apps—one for Windows only and another written for Adobe Air to run on Mac OS and Linux. The next generation will even support plug-ins.)

Things get complicated when you want to follow your Twitter stream across multiple devices. Echofon tries to manage that for the Apple elite. Buy the $20 desktop app, and it syncs with the $4.99 iPhone/iPad uni-

13. DestroyTwitter 2.0 Category: Twitter Interface URL: Twitter Username: @destroytwitter

11. Echofon Category: Twitter Interface/Browser Plug-In URL: Twitter Username: @echofon


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nels� or groups of users you create. It runs in a single pane, but you can have multiple columns (three by default). Grab the mobile version for iPhone and you can sync groups, filters, and more with your desktop app.

Platforms Supported: Windows/Mac OS/ Linux Destroy Twitter lets you filter your timeline of tweets, so you see tweets written only by a select group of users or with specific keywords. The latest upgrade also makes it easier to turn those filters on and off. The tool can now go full-screen to show multiple columns of tweets. And composing tweets is a breeze, with the ability to pick file hosts when uploading images or video, or switch URL shorteners quickly. 14. Mixero Category: Social Networking Interface URL: Twitter Username: @mixero Platforms Supported: Windows/Mac OS/ Linux/iPhone As you might expect, Mixero offers a nice mix of features. It accesses both Twitter (multiple accounts) and Facebook statuses, provides a threaded look for direct messages, and, of course, filters on “chan-

15. TwiDroyd Category: Twitter Interface URL: Twitter Username: @twidroyd Platforms Supported: Android Recently renamed (to avoid lawsuits with the guy who owns the Droid trademark), the app formerly known as TwiDroid is a primary tool for Android-based phone users who tweet. The Twitter client comes in free and $3.99-for-life versions. The paid verSEPTEMBER 2010 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 69

solutions social networking

sion adds desktop widgets, multi-account support, native support, color themes, phone shake to refresh, and more.

16. Category: Multi-Service Poster URL: Twitter Username: @pingfm Platforms Supported: Web We’re all busy people, and many of us have more than one social network to keep upto-date every day (or every hour). Thank goodness for, which exists to make sure all of our social networks get the same treatment. To use it, just enter a status message as you normally would, and it’s sent out to all the services you set: Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Tumbler, Plurk, Plaxo, and more than 30 others. You can access Ping.FM via Web, e-mail, SMS, and instant message, and it’s featured as part of

several Twitter and social-networking apps, such as HootSuite, CoTweet, Seesmic, and Twhirl. You never have to worry about keeping people abreast of your doings ever again.

17. yfrog Category: Photo/Video Hosting URL: Twitter Username: @yfrog Platforms Supported: Web/iPhone/ Android/BlackBerry This terrific service makes it easy for you to share your photos and video with followers on Twitter. It transcodes video into a Flash-based format for easy playback on all browsers (it even transcodes to nonFlash video that you and others can play on iPhones). yfrog features a Web-based uploader that captures directly from your webcam. It also handles e-mail uploads. The service is supported by third-party apps, such as TweetDeck, Seesmic, and Twitteriffic, to name a few.


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18. TwitPic Category: Photo Hosting URL: Twitter Username: @twitpic Platforms Supported: Web If you’ve seen a picture linked from a tweet, chances are good it was hosted by TwitPic. Anyone with a Twitter account can use TwitPic automatically, using the same credentials. You can upload an image using the TwitPic page by sending it to your unique e-mail, or by using any of the many Twitter clients that support it by default (including Twitter for iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android, as well as clients like Twhirl, Twitteriffic, and many others).

19. TwitVid Category: Video Hosting URL: Twitter Username: @twitvid Platforms Supported: Web/iPhone/ BlackBerry Despite being unrelated, TwitVid will likely look familiar if you use or visit TwitPic. As you can probably guess, TwitVid is a video-hosting site. You can sign on with your Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, or YouTube accounts, upload a video file, record from a webcam, and send videos via e-mail or MMS.

20. BackupMyTweets Category: Backup URL: Twitter Username: @backupmytweets Platforms Supported: Web/E-mail

You can back up 1GB of tweets (they say that covers about 1 million posts) for free at this site, as long as you pimp the service a bit on Twitter. It even provides the copy to use, or you can customize the tweet. Or, you can pay $9.95 per year without talking up the service. You can download the whole backup as an HTML file. n SEPTEMBER 2010 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 71


Free Virus And Spyware Protection: What’s Right for You? Everyone needs antivirus and antispyware software, but do you really need to pay for them? By Neil J. Rubenking


ith the vast number of viruses, spyware, and other malware served up alongside Internet content, there’s no question that everybody needs security software. The problem is, not everybody wants to cough up the cash to buy that protection. But there’s plenty of free antivirus software available, and it runs the gamut from impressive (Panda Cloud Antivirus) to ineffective (digital defender free 2.0). Don’t get me wrong; if you can scrape up the money, buy some high-end commercial antivirus; it will undoubtedly offer your system the best protection. spyware Doctor with AntiVirus 2010 ($39.95 direct, L l l l h ) retains the honor of Editors’ Choice for standalone malware protection, and Norton Internet security 2010 ($69.99 direct, L l l l h ) is our Editors’ Choice for

security suites. I use the Norton suite on my own systems, but I know others have a big hate-on for Norton. If you’re in the antiNorton camp consider BitDefender Total security 2010 ($79.99 direct, L l l l M ) or ZoneAlarm Extreme security 2010 ($69.99 direct, L l l l M ) for suite protection. The Free Contenders Still, some of the free options come pretty close to those top commercial products. Panda Cloud Antivirus Free Edition 1.1 does an even better job than the commercial products at keeping malware from infesting a clean system, though it’s not as good at cleaning up malware that’s already on board. The free edition of Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware 1.46 does a good cleanup job, particularly against scareware, and because it doesn’t have a real-time antivirus component, it gets along well with others.


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Like Malwarebytes, Trend Micro’s HouseCall 7.1 offers malware cleanup but not realtime protection. Like Panda Cloud Antivirus, HouseCall uses signatures “in the cloud” rather than maintaining a local signature database. That means no time spent updating the database and no disk space devoted to storing it—very nice! AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 9.0, Avira AntiVir Personal 10, and avast! Free Antivirus 5.0 live in the shadows of their fullfledged for-pay editions. AVG adds more protection to distinguish the paid edition from the free. The other two include all protective features, so unless you intend commercial use you’ll do fine with the free editions. Avast! in particular tested well for malware removal, edging out Microsoft Security Essentials 1.0 for the best malware removal score by a free product using last year’s malware samples. Free Can Be Costly Just because a product is free doesn’t mean it will save you money, though. Installing a free product that lets malware steal your

credit card number could be costly. IObit security 360 performed poorly in almost every test except blocking and removing scareware. Immunet Protect Free 2.0 aims to keep you protected by protecting everyone you interact with, but the protection it aims to share needs more work. digital defender free 2.0 also performed poorly. Experiment! If you buy a security tool and later decide you don’t like it, you’re stuck, at least until it’s time to renew. Not so with a free product; you can to try different ones and then choose the one you like best. You can even experiment with multiple free products; just don’t run real-time malware protection from two at once—that can cause problems as they’re likely to fight each other. Whatever you decide, the important thing is to use something. An unprotected computer is dangerous to you and to everyone you contact—so get some protection. An empty wallet is no excuse! Here are our top picks for free anti-virus and malware protection. n

avast! Free Antivirus 5.0 l l l l M

Free You won’t recognize this latest version of avast! Free Antivirus. It looks completely different and has more power under the hood. CLICk HErE FOr MOrE >> Product name in rED indicates Editors’ Choice. SEPTEMBER 2010 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 73

solutions security

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition 9.0 l l l h M

Free Version 9.0 of AVG’s free version cleans up malware and prevents further infestations. This edition works faster and adds identity theft recovery. Click here for more >>

Avira AntiVir Personal 10 l l l h M

Free Avira AntiVir Personal does a great job of keeping malware from infesting your clean computer. Just don’t rely on it to clean things up if your system is already infested. In testing, even when it did detect entrenched threats, it often couldn’t remove them. Click here for more >>

Trend Micro HouseCall 7.1 l l l h M

Free Once a browser add-in, Trend Micro’s venerable HouseCall is now a standalone thin client that keeps its malware-detecting intelligence in the cloud. Click here for more >>


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Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware 1.46 l l l h M

Free The free Malwarebytes utility downloads, installs, and scans very quickly. Use it any time your regular security program hits a snag. Click here for more >>

Panda Cloud Antivirus Free Edition 1.1 l l l l M

Free The latest Panda Cloud Antivirus is the best free antivirus and antispyware software we’ve tested. Click here for more >>

Microsoft Security Essentials 1.0 l l l M M

Free Installing the free Microsoft Security Essentials will protect your system from malware—to a degree. But you’ll get better protection from one of the other well-known free anti-malware products. Click here for more >>



10 Excellent Excel 2010 Tips New tools and features in Excel make it a powerful part of the Microsoft Office 2010 suite. Here are 10 tips to help you master this new version of the spreadsheet app. By Edward Mendelson


ithout a doubt, excel is one of the most powe r f u l a n d c o m p l ex d e s kto p a p p s eve r designed. With its performance tweaks and added features, the new version of excel is part of what makes microsoft Office 2010 a highly desirable—if not absolutely necessary—upgrade from Office 2007. Here are 10 ways to make the most of the spreadsheet app. We stick to the basics—no need to write complex formulas to take advantage of them—and because basic functionality hasn’t changed for the most part, those who use older versions of the app will be able to use some of these tips, too. 1. Display formulas Instead of Results A single keystroke lets you toggle between excel’s normal display, which shows the results of the formulas in the spreadsheet, and a display mode that shows the actual formulas. the keystroke is Ctrl-~; press it once, and excel displays formulas instead of results. press it again, and the results appear

again. this single keystroke is a lot quicker to use than the alternate method of displaying formulas, which is to use file | Options | Advanced, then scroll down to Display Options for this Worksheet and check the box next to show formulas in cells instead of their calculated results. Uncheck the box to display results again. Bonus tip: When you do this to display formulas in cells, select a cell with a formula, and excel outlines the cells that are referenced in the formula. 2. Display Actual Cell Values When Creating or Editing a formula the previous tip shows how to display formulas in the entire spreadsheet. Here’s how to switch between displaying the cell addresses in a formula and the actual values in each cell. Use any method that displays a formula—for example, when the formula of the current cell is visible in the formula bar, or when you’re creating a formula for the first time, or after pressing Ctrl-~ to display formulas throughout the worksheet. In the


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DIsPLAyING CELL VALuEs this formula would normally display the address D12:O12, but by selecting it and pressing f9, the actual values appear.

formula you want to find out about, select the cell addresses, and press f9. the highlighted addresses are replaced by the values of all the cells referenced in the formula. If you want to return to the normal display, just press Esc. 3. Highlight All Cells Referenced by a formula When you’re debugging a worksheet, you can easily navigate through all the cells referenced in a formula. Highlight the cell and press Ctrl-[ (that’s Ctrl-open-squarebracket). excel highlights all the cells referenced by the formula, and moves the current selection to the first of the refer-

enced cells. press Enter, and the selection moves to the next referenced cell, and continue to press enter to move through the rest of the referenced cells. 4. Highlight the formulas That Reference the Current Cell the previous tip explained how to use Ctrl-[ to see all the cells referenced by a formula. What if you want to do the reverse, and see the formulas that reference a cell? select the cell, and press Ctrl-] (Ctrl-close-squarebracket). As in the previous tip, the selection moves to the first formula that references the cell. press Enter repeatedly to navigate to the other formulas that reference the cell. september 2010 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 77


sEEING fORMuLAs THAT REfERENCE A CELL Originally in cell D3, we pressed Ctrl-]; this then highlighted b3, D12, and D35, and b3 became the current cell.

5. Add Content or formatting to Multiple sheets at Once You can add content or apply formatting to two or more of the sheets on a multisheet worksheet fairly easily, by “grouping” the sheets together. When you group multiple sheets, any content or formatting that you add to one sheet also gets added to all the other sheets, so you can add a row of headers to one sheet and have it automatically appear on all the sheets that are grouped together with it. to group all the sheets in a worksheet, right-click on any of the tabs in the lower left of the window, and

click select All sheets. If you only want to select two or more individual sheets, hold down the Ctrl key and click on the tabs of the sheets that you want to format or edit at the same time. When two or more sheets are grouped, excel adds the word [Group] (in square brackets) after the sheet’s name in the title bar. 6. Be Careful When Working with Grouped sheets Grouping is a powerful but dangerous feature. If you delete the contents of a cell in one grouped sheet, the contents of the


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GROuP sHEETs WITH CAuTION make sure to select Ungroup sheets before you begin editing worksheets that are grouped. Otherwise you may inadvertently delete a lot of data.

cells at the same location in all the other grouped sheets will also be deleted. so before you start editing in a worksheet with grouped sheets, right-click on one of the tabs at the lower-left and choose ungroup sheets. 7. The standard Select All Key Doesn’t Work the Way you Think It Does experienced Windows users know that Ctrl-A is the shortcut key that selects everything in a window or document; the “A” in Ctrl-A stands for “All.” Ctrl-A works this way in every application you can find—except

excel. When you press Ctrl-A in a worksheet with data in it, you select the current region (that is, all connected cells), and not the whole worksheet. but wait—if you immediately press Ctrl-A a second time, you select the entire worksheet—unless the worksheet contains a table, in which case your second press of Ctrl-A will select the current region and the summary rows (typically the headers) of the current table. And if your second Ctrl-A selects the current table and its summary rows, then you’ll need to press Ctrl-A a third time to select the entire worksheet. september 2010 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 79


sELECTING ALL Unlike most other applications, excel does not allow you to select all data by pressing Ctrl-A. but you can do so by pressing the gray box in the upperleft corner of the spreadsheet.

Bonus tip: the one-step way to select the entire worksheet is to the click on the gray box at the upper-left corner of the worksheet—the one at the corner of the lettered columns and numbered rows. 8. use the Ctrl Key for Quick Navigation When you want to move quickly to the left, right, top, or bottom cell in a data set, just press Ctrl with one of the arrow keys. Let’s say you want to select the cells in the current row of the data set, but only the cells with numbers, not the labels—for example, sales figures for January through December. If the current cell is in the middle of the

row (for example, the cell with the sales figure for may) press Ctrl-Left to go to the first data cell in this set (the cell with the sales figure for January), then hold down the shift key and press Ctrl-Right to select all the sales figures for January through December. 9. find a sum or Average Quickly type a few numbers in some adjacent cells, or highlight some numbers in existing cells. Now look down at the status bar at the foot of the window. excel displays the average of the numbers, a count of the cells, and the sum. You can also use this trick with non-


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AVERAGEs AND suMs IN A fLAsH If you want a sum or average of a group of cells, highlight them, then look at the status bar at the very bottom of the spreadsheet.

adjacent cells. Here’s how: click on one cell, then hold down the Ctrl key and click on a cell with a number that you want to add to the number in the first cell. Continue to add numbers by Ctrl-clicking in additional cells. the average, count, and sum in the status bar get updated each time you click another cell. by the way, when you use this tip, excel ignores any cells you click that contain text or graphics instead of numbers. 10. Tidy up your Charts If you’ve ever created two or more charts on a worksheet, you know how tricky it can be to align them and make them all the same

size. Here’s the easy way. Click on the first chart to select it, then hold down the Ctrl key and click on the other charts that you want to align it with. When all the charts you want to align are selected, right-click on any one of them and choose size and Properties. this opens the format shape dialog, and the measurements that you enter in the dialogue will be applied to all the selected charts. After making the charts the same size, go to the Drawing Tools tab and click on format. Use the Align drop-down menu on the ribbon to align the selected charts and to distribute them evenly either horizontally or vertically. n september 2010 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 81


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Konica Minolta magicolor 1600W $180 street


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Prevx 3.0 $29.95 direct per year antivirus NEW Webroot AntiVirus with n


Sony Ericsson Naite $159.99 direct

Spy Sweeper 2011 $39.99 direct


3G network adapters sprint

media extenders

Air Sharing $6.99 direct Photogene $2.99 direct

Cell phones

photo editing

iphone apps TomTom 1.3 $69.99 direct Navigon MobileNavigator 1.4.0

Sierra Wireless 598U $249.99 list

Norton 360 version 3.0 $69.99 yearly

Spyware Doctor with Antivirus 2010 $39.95 yearly

Office & productivity Office 2010 Professional, $499 direct

iWork for iPad $9.99 direct QuickBase

$19.95 direct

Dropbox  2GB, free; 50GB, $9.95 monthly

$250 direct per month

ACT! by Sage 2010 $299 list Citrix GoToAssist Express $69 direct per month

Backup SOS Online Backup (beta)

Financial QuickBooks 2010 $399 list Free

Amazon Kindle 2 $359 direct SEPTEMBER 2010 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 83

True PDF release: storemags & fantamag

Magazine: Top 100 free mobile Apps ( PC Pro )  

PC pro Issue of Sept, 2010. I wish I didn't Spam. (:

Magazine: Top 100 free mobile Apps ( PC Pro )  

PC pro Issue of Sept, 2010. I wish I didn't Spam. (: