capsule review

RealPlayer

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder RealPlayer

    PCWorld Rating

    Its media management capabilities are pretty standard, but its ability to sync files to and from a variety of smartphones makes this media player stand out.

Venerable multimedia playback software RealPlayer is back. In the latest version, Real Networks has enhanced the player's mobile capabilities, taking aim at Android, BlackBerry, and Nokia phones that lack the native media syncing solution that Apple's iPhone and iPod enjoy with iTunes.

The new RealPlayer is ad-supported; you'll see and hear a video ad every time you launch the app. Luckily, the ads close automatically when you navigate away from the "Featured" tab. The real action takes place in the Now Playing, Library, and Burn tabs. When you navigate to the Library tab, you can have RealPlayer search your PC for media files (music, videos, pictures, downloads, recordings, and playlists).

Once you've added media files to your library, you can play them back, edit their info, create playlists, and more--all the tasks you'd expect from a multimedia manager app. You can use the Burn tab to create CDs or DVDs, and can print jewel cases for your discs. The Now Playing tab works just as you'd expect, letting you view the content that's currently playing.

Where the new RealPlayer differentiates itself is through its ability to help you manage your mobile devices. While the previous version of the app let you transfer files to your mobile device, the new RealPlayer works in the opposite direction too, adding the ability to transfer media files off of your mobile device and into your RealPlayer library. In my tests of the final version, this feature worked as promised.

When you connect your mobile device to your computer, RealPlayer recognizes it as a source of content, and asks you to identify the make and model. I tested RealPlayer with a Motorola Droid 2 smartphone, and was happy to see that this relatively new phone appeared as an option on Real's list; it didn't when I tested the RealPlayer beta a few months ago. You're asked to identify your mobile device in case you'd like to convert any of your PC files for viewing on the handset, and, I was able to convert files without a problem.

When your mobile device is connected, RealPlayer adds it to your library, where you can view its information in its own panel. The app identified the phone by name--another fix from the beta version, which identified my phone as J:\.

RealPlayer identifies any new media files on your connected device, and allows you to transfer them to your PC. This process worked seamlessly in my tests, and provided one of the easiest ways of managing an Android phone that I've experienced. In addition, you can sync playlists and can transfer files to your mobile device--now by just dragging and dropping the file to your phone. If the file isn't compatible with your device, RealPlayer gives you the option of converting and then syncing it.

You can use the new RealPlayer with an iPhone or an iPod, but the experience isn't the same. Your iPhone or iPod will not show up in your Library as a connected device, but you will be able to convert copy files to the iPhone. The app also lets you add them right to your iTunes library. Still, the new RealPlayer is not a true media management solution for Apple devices; iTunes itself is better for that.

The new RealPlayer retains the features found in previous versions that let you upload files directly to sites like Facebook and YouTube. You also can download video files from Web sites directly to your RealPlayer library. These are all nice touches, but not enough to make RealPlayer a must-have. But if you own an Android, BlackBerry, or Nokia phone, and have been looking for a free and easy way to manage its multimedia files, the new RealPlayer will make your life a whole lot easier.

Note: This link takes you to the vendor's site, where you can download the latest version of the software.

--Liane Cassavoy

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Its media management capabilities are pretty standard, but its ability to sync files to and from a variety of smartphones makes this media player stand out.

    Pros

    • Media syncing solution for Android and BlackBerry; Free and easy to use

    Cons

    • Doesn't always identify your phone by name; Doesn't work seamlessly with Apple devices
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