Weather Channel Desktop gets better maps

The Weather Channel Desktop 6 moved out of beta this past week, boasting an interface refresh and new satellite maps powered by Microsoft Virtual Earth.

When it comes to your weather-knowing needs, The Weather Channel Desktop 6, which moved out of beta this past week, contains a wealth of meteorological and atmospheric information that goes far beyond three-day forecasts. Of course, it does that, too. The app can predict weather for as short a period as the next 12 hours or as extended a span as the next 12 days. There's a storm watch and pollen count for your physical well-being and reports on cloud behavior over local golf courses, lakes, and amusement parks to help plan your day.

The Weather Channel Desktop
The Weather Channel Desktop, with Giants skin. (Credit: CNET Networks)

The Weather Channel Desktop also edges the competition, notably WeatherBug, in map quality, the former having switched to dynamic maps provided by Microsoft Virtual Earth that are complete with undulating cloud patterns in various levels of transparency.

When it comes to sheer appearance, I much prefer WeatherBug's glossier package to The Weather Channel Desktop's spare design. That may not matter a bit for sports fans, though. With The Weather Channel Desktop, they score a choice of Major League Baseball skins that tack on a score ticker, team stats, and the real-time climate at the game.

But apart from the map dynamics and a variations on the extra features (WeatherBug's UV count, for instance,) WeatherBug and The Weather Channel Desktop are neck-in-neck, down to the annoying bundled toolbars and blaring ad units. For about $30 a year, The Weather Channel will nix those ads, and also throw in five location profiles to the free version's two, plus provide a larger weather map with more animation details. That's a decent deal for amateur climatologists, but average folks will extract what they need from the free desktop version or a quick trip online.

Great weather info? Check. Obnoxious ads? Double-check. (Credit: CNET Networks)

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.