For our first Android App Review, we are going to look at an app that will appeal to most people who have been reading this site over the last 10 years. People who need to know absolutely every minute detail about their tech gadgets, and who want total control over every little thing. Today, we’re looking at SystemPanel, by nextapp. (in case you’re wondering why I linked to AppBrain here, this is what I have been using to manage my apps since I started using Android. Its web-based interface syncs with the Android app, using your Google account. From there, it will launch the correct app page in the market app, and install/uninstall/upgrade for you. It’s a fantastic application which I’ll be writing about soon as well)
You can also search for “SystemPanel” in the market, or click on the QR Code at the bottom of the review (using Barcode Scanner, of course)
SystemPanel appears to have started out as a task manager. These are very popular if entirely useless applications, considering that Android doesn’t need a task manager at all, and in fact using one could lead to even worse battery performance. SysyemPanel goes on to explain this in their very own help file, but they still offer access to the task manager. Thankfully, they offer so much more than that once you dig into the menus.
This review is for the beta version, which expires on June 4. After that, there will be a “Lite” version and a full version. The full version should be pretty much identical to what we’re looking at today. I’m not exactly sure what the “Lite” version will contain – I think just the task manager component – but it is confirmed not to have ads. There is no word on what the pricing will be either.
SystemPanel has four main components, and we’ll look at them individually.
1) Task Manager
When opening SystemPanel (which has the confusingly ambiguous name of “System” in the programs list), you are greeted with the task manager. Even if you’ve used one of these before, you will probably be a bit surprised by this one:
You can’t see it here, but SystemPanel’s task manager gives access to not only Active apps, which is what most task managers do, but also cached apps. Again, these are even less of an issue than active apps that sit in the background, but there you go.
Also on the top of the screen, you get a quick snapshot of current CPU load, memory usage, and SD storage usage. You are also shown the CPU’s dynamic clock speed, and current network transfer rate. Pretty cool so far!
2) Device Info
The first of many cool features is the ability to look at some very detailed device information, much like PC programs like Everest and SiSoft Sandra.
There are four different categories, each with plenty of detailed information. What you do with this information is up to you, I guess. But still, it’s neat to look at and compare with other Android phones.
3) App Installer
SystemPanel also includes an advanced app manager utility that offers far more information than the regular Market method or even AppBrain. It also has one very cool feature – the ability to archive apps for later use. Normally when you upgrade an application via the Android Market, the older version is gone for good unless the developer decides to revert to an older version. With SystemPanel, you can archive a copy of the app (as long as it is not copy protected) to the SD card, and revert to that version if the newer one isn’t to your liking.
Installed apps can be sorted by file size, so if you see one near the top that you rarely use, you might want to get rid of it if you are starting to close in on your device’s memory limit. Of course if you are running 2.2, you have probably moved most of your apps to the SD card already.
4) System Monitor
Now for the coolest part of SystemPanel – a fully functional system monitor! Here’s what the Live mode looks like:
A fully detailed look at CPU usage, network usage, memory and SD usage, battery charge remaining, and even temperature. But that’s not the best part. No, the best part would be full logging capabilities, giving you a very detailed look at the usage of your device. This includes individual app CPU usage time:
On the left is a plot view of my device usage in the last 3 days. You can see the few times where it was unplugged, so the battery being used. You can also see CPU usage peaks. On the right is a list of the processes that use the most CPU. Most of the top apps are understandable. Interestingly, toying around with Advanced Task Killer seems to consume quite a bit of CPU. This further establishes the uselessness of these apps. First of all, closing apps don’t save battery. Second, closed apps will open anyway, and third – the popular apps that close them are consuming more battery anyway.
Logging must be enabled for this to work, and it runs in the background. In my experience, it doesn’t use too much battery at all, so I just leave it running.
As you can see, the full version of SystemPanel is great for tweakers, and the logging capability gives it just enough usefulness to be worth your money. Again, this beta version is only free for a few more days; after June 4th, it will become a paid app. I’m not sure exactly how much it will be (and like most apps, the price will likely fluctuate regularly). Check it out at the Android Market by scanning the code to the right, or searching for “SystemPanel” if you prefer to do things the old-school way ;)