Can a Chromebook Pixel Compete with a MacBook Pro?

Last updated on December 4, 2013

Before the Chromebook Pixel, Chromebooks were all about value

Chromebooks offer the best value in a laptop today

Beyond Budget

Until recently, Chromebooks were budget laptops that sold for as little as $199. Although they were great values, their hardware didn’t compare with high-end laptops from Apple and others. Google changed that when they released the Chromebook Pixel. It’s specs aren’t just comparable to a MacBook Pro, they exceed it in several areas. But hardware isn’t everything, we’ll see how it stacks up in the software department as well. We’ll also compare it with Windows, iOS and Android devices.

 Apple's claims that the MacBook Pro is the highest resolution notebook is simply not true

The MacBook Pro is no longer the resolution king

Why You’ll Love It

    An exceptional display – The display on the Chromebook Pixel is superb. It has more pixels than a Retina 13″ MacBook Pro and its pixel-per-inch resolution exceeds every MacBook — including the new 2880-by-1800 Retina MacBook Pro 15″ (220 PPI). Whether you can actually see a difference is debatable because the numbers are close, but you’ll love what you see. It’s noticeably better than any PC laptop I’ve ever seen. Text on the Chromebook Pixel is razor sharp — not blurry and distorted like you get on PCs running Microsoft’s ClearType.

    The Chromebook screen looks noticeably better than other PC displays

    The Chromebook Pixel’s screen looks noticeably better than most PC displays

    No waiting - The days of waiting for your laptop to boot are almost over. This is an instant-on device. When you lift the screen the Pixel is usable in less than a second. That’s impressive, but where it really kills PC laptops is the time it takes to fully boot from a cold start. The Chromebook only takes 8 seconds to get to the sign-on screen and 8 to 10 additional seconds to fully load the browser home page. This may not sound fast, but it’s literally 10 times faster than the boot time of my new SSD-powered Lenovo laptop.

    One terabyte cloud-based storage – Although my Chromebook Pixel only came with 64GB of local storage. You can easily expand the storage to match a MacBook Pro by adding a 64GB SD card. These cards cost as little as $29. However, with the Chrome operating system, local storage isn’t that important. Where the Chromebook Pixel really shines is in the area of cloud-based storage. Google gives every Pixel user one terabyte of storage for three years. That’s 1029 GB or more than 200 times more storage than Apple users get. I’m trying to fill up my 1TB Google Drive, but it’s not easy.

    A Chromebook is much more secure than a PC (Image courtesy of Nilesh Patni)

    A Chromebook is more secure than a Mac or Windows laptop (Image courtesy of Nilesh Patni)

    Almost immune to viruses and malware – When a Chromebook boots, it checks to make sure the operating system and firmware haven’t been tampered with. As a result, it’s not possible for keyloggers or other malware to run in the background. All data is encrypted, so no one can read your files. Each webpage you visit runs in a restricted environment, so visiting a site that’s been infected can’t affect anything else on your Chromebook. Apps you install run in Chrome’s sandbox as well, where they are isolated from the rest of the OS. Although browser extensions are allowed, you can’t install Java plug-ins or other software that opens up security holes.

    The touchscreen on the Pixel is very useful for some things

    The touchscreen on the Pixel is useful for some things

    A responsive touchscreen and trackpad – The Chromebook Pixel comes with a touchscreen that is responsive and doesn’t affect picture quality. Although not all software supports touch, there are times like using Google Maps when it is extremely useful. However, most of the time you’ll be using the glass trackpad on the Pixel. It’s the best trackpad I’ve ever used and supports multi-touch gestures, such as two-fingered scrolling.
    LTE3
    4G LTE support – Like a MacBook Pro, the Chromebook Pixel has dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi support. But Google goes much farther by including a 4G LTE modem, which is capable of download speeds up to 100Mbps. This is really useful when you’re not in-range of an open Wi-Fi network. For now I’m using the free 100 MB/month plan, but I’m considering upgrading to Verizon’s 1GB data plan, because it only costs $9.95 a month.

    thin

    It’s lighter and thinner than a MacBook Pro – Although no one is going to confuse a Chromebook Pixel with a MacBook Air. It’s thinner (16.2mm vs. 19mm) and lighter (3.35lbs vs. 3.57lbs) than a 13″ MacBook Pro. This is surprising because Apple is very good at making very thin and light products.

    A better auto-update system – The Chrome operating system (OS) handles software updates much better than any other OS I’ve used. Whenever a new security patch (or OS update) is available, the Chromebook Pixel automatically downloads and installs it in the background. No user-intervention is required. On major updates, the entire OS and browser are updated together, but they won’t be active until after you restart. Chrome keeps two copies of the OS around, so it can revert to an earlier version if something goes wrong. The best part is you won’t be constantly bothered with update requests like you are on Windows, iOS and Android.

    Google's office apps are better than anything you'll find on iOS or Android

    Google’s office apps are better than anything you’ll find on iOS or Android

    Better office apps – Google office apps have improved and are now better than most of the office apps you’ll find on iOS or Android. Some people even prefer Google Docs and Google Sheets to Microsoft Word and Excel, because of their value and real-time collaboration abilities.

    Great sounding stereo speakers – Even though the speakers on the Chromebook Pixel are hidden under the keyboard, they sound better than most other laptop speakers. I’ve got one small beef however, when you hold your fingers above the keyboard it acts as a filter and changes the sound slightly.

    Extra features – The Chromebook Pixel has a lot of nice extras like an integrated HD camera and noise cancelling mics, an anodized aluminum case, and a backlit keyboard that responds to ambient lighting and type of usage. I also can’t say enough about its keyboard, which feels wonderful and isn’t noisy as most laptop keyboards. Another nice extra is the twelve free GoGo Inflight Internet sessions Google gives you.

    Trouble in Paradise

    Although the Chromebook Pixel’s hardware stands out in many areas, the Chrome operating system and app ecosystem seems a little rough around the edges when compared to Windows, iOS or Android. Here are some of the limitations in software and hardware which I’ve experienced so far.

    Only a limited number of Chrome apps work offline

    Only a limited number of Chrome apps work offline

    Over-dependence on the Internet – Although a few Chrome apps work offline, you need Internet access to take full advantage of this product. LTE support helps in places without Wi-Fi, but there are many places that don’t have access to any Internet. Apps like Google Music are useless when you are offline. Chrome could cache media files you’ve played recently but it doesn’t. Although you can download songs for offline use, you can only do this twice (see the screen capture below) — even though Google’s PC-based Music Manager has no such restrictions. Google desperately needs to adopt a strategy like Dropbox, which keeps track of the changes locally, and syncs them after you get a data connection.

    Chrome has download restrictions that PC-based apps don't have

    Some Chrome apps have download restrictions PC-based apps don’t have

    Intel inside is no longer always a good thing

    Intel inside is no longer always a good thing

    Disappointing battery life – You can thank Intel for the relatively poor battery life of the Chromebook Pixel. You barely get 4 hours on LTE and although some claim 5-6 hours on Wi-Fi, I’m not seeing anything close to that. To add insult to injury, the i5 processor doesn’t feel as fast as the processors in the newest tablets. Heat is another serious issue. The metal case on i5-powered Chromebooks gets warm quickly, and the fan kicks after only a few minutes of video playback. Just how warm? I measured 120-128 degrees Fahrenheit on the bottom on the Pixel’s aluminum case. I’m confident all these issues would go away if this product had a Qualcomm Snapdragon mobile processor instead.

    Few great apps – Chrome’s dirty little secret is the fact that most of the so-called Chrome apps are not really apps at all, they’re shortcuts to existing web pages or browser plug-ins. This is my single biggest disappointment with Chrome OS. The few popular apps that are available in the Chrome Store are often missing important functionality found on other platforms. For example, Google Music on Chrome is missing EQ and advanced settings found on Android. Spotify for Chrome is missing many features found in their iOS mobile app. Google needs to encourage developers to create real apps, which don’t feel like they are running in a browser. There is some hope in this area. Last summer Google announced Chrome browser-based “Packaged apps” that look and behave like native apps. Packaged apps are closer to apps that are native, since they can run offline, display in a borderless browser that resembles an app window and can use APIs to gain access to a device’s hardware and other functionality. However, the creation of packaged apps isn’t happening nearly as fast as it needs to. Here are some of the best packaged apps that are available today.

    Notice how many more settings Google Music has on Android

    Notice how many more settings Google Music has on Android

    Microsoft Office compatibility issues – Although Google Drive is supposed to open documents created with Microsoft Office, it doesn’t always work. I tried to open a presentation created with PowerPoint 2010 and could not. Even after I manually imported the slides, there were issues with font sizes and the screen background didn’t look the same.

    Limited internal storage – Although it’s great that Google gives you one terabyte of cloud storage, the entry-level Chromebook Pixel only ships with 32GB of internal storage. This makes it hard to store a large collection of photos, music and movies locally so you can access them offline. Maybe this isn’t a problem yet, because I’m told you still can’t download movies to a Chromebook for offline viewing.

    Chrome was not designed with touch in mind like Windows 8 was

    Chrome was not designed with touch in mind like Windows 8 was

    Designed with touch as an afterthought – The touchscreen on the Pixel is nice, but touch seems like an afterthought on Chrome. Some apps don’t work well when you try to only use the touchscreen. Chrome doesn’t have a touch-friendly user interface like Windows 8, with its large tiles. Due to the high resolution screen, buttons on some web pages are hard to accurately click with your finger. Android has special logic to detect this, and zooms in so you can easily select the right thing.

    Not entirely intuitive – Chrome has some Windows-like user-interface concepts and some Android-style interface concepts, but is not near as intuitive as it should be. It also wasn’t obvious how to access app settings, update the OS, or do other basic things like right-click.

    The trackpad is nice, but missing dedicated buttons

    The trackpad is nice, but missing dedicated buttons

    Trackpad issues – One of the things I miss on this product is a right-click button. To get right-click commands to appear, you have to press with two fingers on the trackpad — which is louder than a dedicated button would be. You probably won’t notice this in a normal office environment, but it’s annoying in a quiet room. There is a good workaround however: You can touch the trackpad lightly and it still works.

    Limited I/O – I was surprised the Chromebook Pixel doesn’t have an HDMI out or a USB 3.0 port like Samsung’s Chromebooks have. It’s also crazy that you cannot plug-in a fast Ethernet cable when you are in environments with poor wireless connectivity. I purchased a USB-to-gigabit LAN adapter and DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapter to address these limitations.

    The Chromebook Pixel bests the MacBook Pro is many areas

    The Chromebook Pixel bests the MacBook Pro is many areas

    Can It Compete with a MacBook Pro?

    In terms of hardware the answer is yes. The Chromebook Pixel’s screen is better than the display on the Retina MacBook Pro. Both laptops use Intel i5 processors and the Pixel goes way beyond any Apple laptop with 4G LTE support, a terabyte of cloud storage, great sounding speakers and faster boot times. It’s also thinner and lighter than a 13″ MacBook Pro. Were this product falls short is mostly related to its operating system and applications, which can’t compete with Mac, Android or iOS devices today.

    Is It Worth the Money?

    Based on the issues listed above I wouldn’t recommended you pay $1299 to $1449 for a Chromebook Pixel. As good as the Retina-quality touchscreen is, it simply costs too much for what it does. For less money you could buy a Samsung Series 9 Ultrabook, MacBook Air or MacBook Pro and do much more on it. You’ll have a much better selection apps, fewer hardware-related issues and better battery life. Chrome OS is good for some things, but it’s not ready for prime time in some areas.

    Hope for the Future

    Although I’ve made it clear Chrome hardware and software needs work, I’m not giving up yet. I’m planning to keep my Pixel, because I’m enjoying learning the Chrome OS and I hope the software will improve in the future. By giving thousands of Chromebook Pixels to top developers, Google wants to encourage programmers to create new and improved Chrome apps. I hope a year from now we’ll see better Chrome apps available. I would also recommend a Chromebook to anyone who is looking for a computer for web browsing, email and writing. The next computers I buy my children and parents are likely to be Chromebooks.

    Google wanted to make a statement with this product that a Chromebook can be every bit as good as the best laptops. Influential tech writer Kevin C. Tofel of GigaOm affirmed this by saying “The hardware is on par with, if not better than, the MacBook Air I owned prior.” On this metric, I consider the Chromebook Pixel to be a success.

    - Rick

    Copyright 2013 Rick E. Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged

    Follow me on Twitter @mostlytech1

Ooma Telo is the One of The Best Land Line Replacements

If you’re still paying for local phone service, it’s time to switch to an Internet-based phone system. Over half of Americans no longer use a land line, according to government data. Internet-based phone systems let you to make long distance calls for a fraction of the cost of a traditional landline. In some cases, there is no monthly charge whatsoever. There are quite a few different companies offering voice over IP (VoIP) phone solutions, so it’s important you do some research before buying.

What The Experts Say


Speaking of research, I came across this blog post which compares most popular VoIP systems. After reading this, I decided Ooma was on my short list of products to consider. This wasn’t the first I’d heard about Ooma. I first heard about the Ooma Telo at Best Buy’s corporate headquarters. One of their senior technical managers told me he was using Ooma at home and recommended it highly. I also noticed Consumer Reports ranked Ooma as the #1 phone service. In their study, Ooma beat Skype, Verizon FIOS, Vonage, Cox, U-verse and all other VoIP services. These two recommendations were all I needed to take the plunge and purchase an Ooma Telo.

How Much Will You Save?


Phone rates vary. I was paying about $45 a month for my landline. The Ooma website has a nice little calculator, which estimates how much you will save using Ooma. In my case, the savings were considerable. I’ll save at least $1245 dollars over a three year period. Also, my Ooma hardware will pay for itself after only 5 months, not 7 months as the chart shows. That’s because I paid only $180 after tax and shipping.

Ooma Pros

This is a partial list of the advantages Ooma has over a conventional landline and other VoIP systems.

  • Unlimited free local and long distance anywhere in the U.S. Save hundreds of dollars a year over the cost of a conventional landline
  • Ooma Telo Handset

    • Does not require a computer like magicJack or Skype. This results in extra savings because your computer does not need to be left on
    • Better voice-quality than Skype, magicJack or any mobile phone
    • You can use your existing wired or wireless phones with it
    • Cheaper than Vonage – Even with the hardware cost and the optional $10 a month Premier Plan, Ooma is still often cheaper than Vonage for a year of service
    • Setup is easy and only takes about 10 minutes
    • Has an built-in answering machine for voice-mail. Caller ID, voice mail, call waiting are all free
    • Doesn’t have the annoying delays that VoIP systems like Skype sometimes have
    • Has a wide range of features and accessories, including a wireless handset, wireless adapter, Bluetooth adapter and a mobile HD app

     

    How Good is the Sound Quality?

    If you use Ooma with a good DECT 6.0 wireless phone, it sounds much better than Skype, magicJack or any mobile phone. It would probably sound even better, if the 2-Wire Gateway provided with AT&T’s U-verse service allowed me to give Ooma priority. Even with Ooma sharing bandwidth with everything else on my crowded network, I never get any echos or delays. Is it perfect? No. Occasionally, I hear other artifacts and small dropouts, but they aren’t very obvious and normally go away after a few seconds. I also bought their Ooma Telo handset because I heard it had even better sound quality, but it sounds a lot like my Panasonic phone. Since I’m signed up for their Premium package, I can have two different conversations going on at once. I have noticed the sound quality does drop when I do this, but it’s still acceptable.

    Ooma Cons

      No system is perfect. Here are some of the negatives of the Ooma Telo system.
    • Higher initial cost than most other VoIP systems ($179 currently)
    • Ooma is not entirely free. You still have to pay monthly taxes of $3 to $4
    • Some cable-based phone systems have slightly better voice-quality than VOIP systems.
    • Ooma does occasionally have short drop outs in sound. You hear these most often when you're listening to your messages.A loud click occurs when the Ooma answering machine starts recording
    • International calling costs an additional $9.95 a month for 1000 minutes. Right now, you can call Canada is free3-way calling and some other optional features cost an extra $10 a month
    • Not as good for travel as magicJack or Skype, because it requires a 5.5” x 7.5” box

     

    Ooma is not entirely free. There is a small monthly fee.

    Activating Your Ooma Telo

      Setting up an Ooma system takes about 10 minutes. First you go online to Ooma.com/activate.
    • Next, type in the activation code found on the back of the Ooma Telo box.
    • Then enter the area code for your new Ooma phone number. It doesn't have to be the same as your old area code. If you want to keep your old phone number, you must pay a one-time $40 fee which  is waived if you subscribe to Ooma Premier.
    • Now enter your contact info and address. This is used for 911 services.
    • Next, enter your billing information. This is used to pay your monthly taxes and any upgrades you decide to add.
    • Finally, select a password and answer a security question.

     

    Setting up an Ooma Telo is easy

    System Setup

      Once you’re activated, you’re only three steps away from making a phone call:
    • Connect your Ooma Telo box to your cable modem, DSL modem or home gateway. Although it’s best to connect your Ooma box between your modem and router, it works fine if you connect it to an integrated modem/router.
    • Connect your corded or cordless phone to the Ooma box.
    • Power up the Ooma Telo and wait for it to update its software. This took 5-10 minutes on the first Ooma box I installed and was not required on the second one.

     
    That’s it! Now you’re ready to make free local and long distance calls. When you turn on your phone you should hear Ooma’s special dial tone.

    Is Ooma Right for Everyone?

    No. Ooma is a good system but it’s not right for everyone. VoIP-based phone services are not ideal for:

    • People who can’t lose phone service when their power or Internet is down
    • People with alarm systems that communicate via landline. Ooma recommends you maintain a basic landline  for the purposes of your alarm system, or move to a cellular-based alarm panel
    • Someone who doesn’t want to have their Ooma answering machine in the same room as their modem or router. Installing a Ooma Wireless Adapter or HomePlug network addresses this problem
    • Those with wireless phone systems where the base station can’t be moved near the Ooma phone box
    • Those without a high-speed Internet connection (like all other VoIP systems except cable)

     

    Scare Tactics

    Porting your phone number can be a little intimidating for DSL users.

    • They say you need to contact your broadband provider and request a dry loop DSL
    • They also warn there could be cancellation charges. No one I know has been charged for this
    • They also say it could take up to two weeks to port your number. In my case, it took about 4 days
    • They also warn your broadband or TV service could go down if the the port isn’t done correctly. We didn’t lose service.
    • They also say you must call your phone company after the number port to cancel your service

     
    I’ve done two separate number ports so far, and had no problems with any of the things listed above. Both were in homes with DSL and an IP-based TV system (e.g. AT&T U-verse). The only thing that you should be aware of,  is the fact your communications bundle pricing could go up if you got a discount for bundled phone service before. Normally this will be about $10.

    Ooma Extras

    Ooma charges $10 extra a month for their Premiere features. The Premiere package has so many features, I can’t go into them all here. I listed a few highlights below. You can read about the rest here.

    • Instant Second Line  – Allows you to make or take two simultaneous calls from a single phone number
    • Blacklists – Help you block telemarketers. This is one of my favorite features and the main reason I spent the extra $10
    • Multi-ring – Lets you answer calls from your home phone or cell phone
    • Message Screening – Allows you to listen-in as the caller leaves their message
    • Send to Voicemail – Allows you to transfer a call to your voicemail
    • Voicemail Forwarding – Lets you forward voicemail, so that you can listen to it from your favorite email program
    • Do Not Disturb - Allows you to roll your calls into voicemail without ringing your phone
    • Personal Numbers – Allows you to select additional phone numbers in any calling area in the U.S.

     

    Summary

    I’ve been using Ooma now for about six months and have no major complaints so far. My only gripe so far is the loud click the person calling you hears when you pick up the phone (or the answering machine starts recording). No one in my family has said much about the switch so far, which is good news. I love the ability to blacklist telemarketers, and have it setup so they hear a disconnected number message when they call. The bottom line is, Ooma Telo a good replacement for your landline and the savings are substantial.

    - Rick

    Copyright 2011 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.

    Follow me on Twitter @mostlytech1

Review: A First Look at Rhapsody Cloud Sync

This is the first (and only) review of Rhapsody’s new cloud-based music sync service. When you see this on Engadget in a few months, remember that you saw it here first.

Even though cloud-based music services like Rhapsody have been around for more than ten years, they are the hottest thing in digital music today. Spotify, Google, Amazon and of course Apple are all getting tons of press about their cloud-based music services. There are two different types of cloud-based music services:

  1. Subscription music services like Spotify and Rhapsody
  2. Music lockers like Apple’s iTunes Match, Google Music and Amazon’s Cloud Drive. And of course we can’t forget the world’s first music locker: My.MP3.com, which launched all the way back in January of 2000.

With so many music lockers out there, does the world really need another one? Rhapsody apparently thinks it does. So let’s take a first look at Rhapsody Cloud Sync and see if we agree.

The Pitch

All cloud-based music lockers have the same basic benefit: Sync your music with the cloud once, then access it from your computer or mobile devices anywhere in the world. Sounds good to me. Let’s see what the system requirements are:

There’s nothing too scary in the system requirements. Rhapsody Cloud Sync should work with most computers and Netbooks sold over the past five years. Some people will be disapointed that no lossless file formats are supported (e.g. FLAC). And of course if you purchased music from iTunes before they removed DRM, you’re out of luck.

Membership has its Privileges

Rhapsody Cloud Sync is currently in Beta and only available to what Rhapsody calls Sounding Board Members. I was probably added to this list because I’ve participated in earlier Rhapsody polls. Although this Beta is closed to the general public you can download Rhapsody Cloud Sync for yourself if you follow me on Twitter @rickschwar. I recently tweeted the download link along with the username and password that you’ll need to get access to the software. You’re welcome.

The Installation Process

After you enter the credentials and log-in, you’ll see the first installer screen. For most, there’s nothing to change here, so press Continue and move on.

I didn’t take the time to read the license agreement. I just blindly clicked “I Agree” like everyone else does. What we don’t know can’t hurt us right? Reminds me of the South Park “Human CentiPad” episode.

The actual download and installation process was fairly fast.

Hurdle #1: Now we’re asked to log-in to Rhapsody. It would have been nice if they mentioned that a Rhapsody account is needed in the System Requirements. Although I have an account, here is where most people will stop. It’s worth mentioning that it took about 15 seconds to authenticate me after I logged in. Hopefully it doesn’t take that long every time you log-in.

Of course the software needs to know where your music is in order to scan it. If you have your music in the My Music folder, or the default iTunes path, you can press the Scan and Match button now.

The Long Wait

Hurdle #2: I don’t know why I thought something would happen within a few minutes, but that is not the case. Here is how my screen looked after one hour and ten minutes. Notice that the software has only been able to sync about a third of my music library so far. :(

During the syncing process, it was clear to me that something was slowing my computer  down. I checked the CPU usage and found it jumping between 4 and 20%. That surprised me considering the fact that I have an Intel i7 860 CPU which runs at 2.79GHz. My network bandwidth is 42Mbps upstream and 45Mbps downstream, so network bandwidth was not the cause of the slowdown either.

The Result

After about 2 hours and ten minutes the cloud sync process finally finished. The bad news: Only 4849 of my 6923 tracks were identified. It’s possible that some tracks were identified, but Rhapsody doesn’t have permission to sync them, but I scanned the error log and 99% of the missed tracks said “No match found in catalog”. And it wasn’t just the more obscure songs that were missed, many popular artists had albums which could not be sync’d.

Hurdle #3: I then clicked on the Open My Library button for the big payoff I had been waiting 2 hours for, but I had to sign-in again. This is probably a temporary restriction due to the Beta status of this software, so I won’t complain about it.

Hurdle #4: Really? Another sign-in page? This is starting to test my patience…

As you can see, Rhapsody is promoting the social features of their music service. Since I’m fed up with Spotify announcing what I do to my Facebook friends, I passed on the option to setup a music profile and connect to Facebook.

The Big Payoff

Although the software is still beta, it’s not the cleanest user-interface I’ve ever seen. I clicked on profile and was a little surprised to see that Taylor Swift was my favorite artist. I never listen to her music. I was even more surprised to see that cabaret was one of my favorite styles of music. Again, I never listen to that type of music — not that there’s anything wrong with it. Then I remembered my daughter uses my Sonos controller 24/7 to music from Glee and Taylor Swift. Mystery solved!

The Interface

There are six tabs on the interface: Profile, People, Library, Playlists, Listening History and Suggestions. All of the tabs are pretty self-explanatory. You can see the Suggestions tab above. Profile contains info about me and my favorite artists. The People tab is blank because I didn’t link with Facebook. Playlists showed all of my Rhapsody playlists, which is nice.

The Browse and My Music tabs at the top also take you to the Rhapsody subscription music pages. I like the player interface on the right, and how it works for my sync’d songs and music in the Rhapsody service. Playback was almost instant. Sound quality was good, but not great. Last I checked, Rhapsody was using the Windows Media codec streaming at 160kbps.

Cloud to Mobile

I launched the Rhapsody app on my iPhone 3G to see what the experience was. Truth be told, I don’t use this app, because the last time I tried it is was painfully slow. It appears not much has changed. It took almost a minute simply to launch the app. The splash screen touted substantially improved music playback times. I can’t wait to find out if that’s true. I clicked on the My Library cloud icon at the bottom. Nothing appeared on the screen for the next 30 seconds. Then a screen worth of artists appeared, but it took another minute for the Updating icon to go away. I clicked on the artist “Adele” and it took more than a minute for album art and songs to appear on the screen. Granted, I currently have Wi-Fi off and I’m on AT&T’s horrible 3G network, this performance is unacceptable. Finally a picture of Adele appeared along with her bio, but still no songs. Another few minutes goes by… and finally two albums appear. This time it only took about 12 seconds to display the songs. I click on a song and 20 seconds later I hear music. If this is “substantially improved” playback, I can imagine what it was like before.

UPDATE:
I just tried Rhapsody Cloud Sync with an Android phone running on Verizon’s 3G network. Playback speeds were much better on both 3G and Wi-Fi. It took about 2 seconds to begin playback over Wi-Fi, and 5-10 seconds to begin playback over 3G. I suspect their iOS app is capable of similar performance over Wi-Fi or a good 3G/4G network. Rhapsody has also release a new update for tablets, but I can’t run it because my Rhapsody account only lets me run on one mobile device. You have to pay more to run on 3 devices.

The Rhapsody Beta program has been expanded to include a new tablet version.

Final Words

Rhapsody Cloud Sync appears to work pretty well on computers. Although it’s still Beta, I didn’t encounter any problems other than the ones I attribute to their slow iOS app. Although this service seems to work as advertised, I gotta be honest, while I’m a big fan of subscription music services like Spotify and Rhapsody, I don’t see that much value in uploading music to the cloud. The idea of anytime access to my music from computer, tablet or phone sounds good, but it only works when you have a good Internet connection. My experience using Rhapsody Cloud Sync over AT&T’s 3G network was very poor.

Maybe I just don’t get it. Make a comment below to let me know what you think about this (and other) cloud-based music lockers.

- Rick

Copyright 2011 Rick Schwartz. All rights reserved. Linking to this article is encouraged.

Follow me on Twitter @mostlytech1

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