Monday, November 21, 2011


Notes From the Technoground: My Rough Road With the iBike iDash Cycling Computer
I tried to take the iBike iDash for a spin—really, I did! But I kept getting flats.
My Notes From The Technoground column is a guilty pleasure of mine. Essentially, I get to write about anything tech I want—within reason—as long as the topic is potentially interesting for ComputerShopper.com readers. It gives me the opportunity to play with cool products and technologies that might not otherwise come my way. "Cool," in theory. But sometimes, "cool" doesn’t always work out the way I planned. This last March, a nifty-sounding product, the iBike iDash CC, popped up on my radar screen. The iDash lets you use your iPhone or iPod Touch as a full-function cycling computer...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pandigital Nova Review
To be minimally good, a tablet must have three key attributes: access to one of two major mobile-app e-tailers (Apple, or the Android Market), a gorgeous screen, and the best touch interface possible. To be very good, it must also have long battery life, a sleek design, and exceptional media playback. Pandigital’s Nova has none of these things. The one thing it does have is a low price: $189. It could replace an e-reader, or get you into an Android tablet (if that’s the goal) for less than $200. If you’re still reading, enticed by the price, we’ll evaluate this tablet like any other. But be prepared to be underwhelmed...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Kingston Wi-Drive Review
So, you've filled your iPad, iPhone, or Android device to the brim with movies and music, and you don't want to deal with streaming more media from "the cloud"? Then you're just whom several storage sellers are targeting with a new breed of devices. Essentially, these products are portable hard drives that stream media to your Android or Apple iOS device over a Wi-Fi connection. Some (though not all) of these drives have a rechargeable battery, so you need not worry about where the nearest power outlet is when streaming or transferring your files, making them ideal for road trips and long commutes...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Acer Iconia Tab A100 (8GB) Review
For most of 2011, tablets and the Android "Honeycomb" operating system have been buzzing around each together like, well, bees and honey. But the latest version of Android has not been seen on 7-inch-screened slates. Acer, though, broke the trend and paired it with the Iconia Tab A100. In theory, we like the idea, but we wish Acer had paid more attention to the hardware to create a desirable finished product. As is, the Iconia Tab A100 is not a bad tablet, but a tablet needs more than a smooth operator (err…operating) system to make it a winner here in 2011, considering the competition...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lenovo IdeaPad Z370 Review
What a difference a year makes. Last year when we looked at the Lenovo IdeaPad Z360, we found it “a solid all-purpose thin-and-light laptop for the masses.” So when its newer sibling, the Lenovo IdeaPad Z370, arrived at our doorstep, we anticipated that we’d come to the same favorable conclusion as we did with the Z360, and we assumed we’d see faster performance, an updated design, and more features. But that’s not exactly what we found...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lenovo ThinkCentre M91p 0266 (B8U) Ultrasmall Desktop Review
Not so long ago, if you wanted a compact business PC, you'd have to dial down your performance expectations and pay several hundred dollars extra for the convenience of saving a few inches of office space. But the Lenovo ThinkCentre M91p 0266 (B8U) Ultrasmall Desktop, a business PC that's not much bigger than a hardcover book, should convince office denizens and IT professionals that those days are in the past. While it is undoubtedly somewhat hampered by the limitations of its small stature—most notably, limited expandability—this PC hides some surprises under its hood, including a powerful processor and full-size desktop components rather than the smaller, generally pricier laptop components usually used in systems of this size...

Monday, August 15, 2011


Notes From the Technoground: Watching Movies on My iPad 2
Keeping my daughter happy on long road trips means turning my iPad 2 into a glorified movie player. Here's how I did it.
In my last column, I was giddy about acquiring my first Apple iPad, a Wi-Fi-connected iPad 2 with 16GB of storage. Not only was I over the moon with all the cool iPad apps and features, but I was also looking forward to sampling some of the innovative accessories available for it. Part two of this deepening relationship continues in this column (as well as a few more columns to come), as I take a few more iPad accessories for a test drive...

Friday, August 12, 2011

Acer Iconia Tab A100 Gallery
The First 7-Inch Honeycomb Tablet
On the heels of the recent onslaught of 10.1-inch Honeycomb tablets (Android OS 3.x), the Acer Iconia Tab A100 is the very first 7-inch Honeycomb to make a public appearance. It’s also the first tablet we’ve seen to run the latest iteration of Honeycomb, Version 3.2. This version includes a number of incremental improvements to the Android OS. Perhaps most significant is a new set of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that gives app developers more control over how their apps appear on different-size displays. This means that developers can now theoretically create a single version of their apps that will run on all Android devices (regardless of screen size) and no longer have to create separate versions of their apps optimized specifically for 10.1-inch tablets. The only problem is that the devices running these apps need to be using version 3.2 or higher of the Android OS...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Lenovo IdeaPad Tablet K1 (32GB) Review
The Honeycomb-tablet market is rapidly evolving into an all-out swarm—and Lenovo is just one of the latest computer-system manufacturers to start buzzing around it. But not one to be outdone by its rivals, Lenovo is actually getting into tablets on several fronts, announcing three models: a Honeycomb (Android OS 3.1) tablet for general consumers, another Honeycomb tablet for business users, and a Windows version for those attached to their PC apps at the hip. The business-centric Android model is due out in late August, and the Windows version will make its debut sometime in the fall. The consumer tablet—the Lenovo IdeaPad Tablet K1—just landed in our hands, and we put it through our rigorous tablet tests to see how it stacks up...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Notes From the Technoground: A Love Affair With the iPad 2 Begins
Not long after bringing an iPad 2 home, the iPad accessories start to roll in.
I've been looking at a lot of tablets these last few months. I've reviewed the Motorola Xoom, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, and a smattering of other Android tablets. (I just got my hands on the Toshiba Thrive, too.) I've also spent some time with the BlackBerry PlayBook, the HP TouchPad, and even some Windows tablets. Curiously, the more hands-on time I spent with all these other tablets, though, the more I wanted an Apple iPad.
HP Compaq 8200 Elite Ultra-slim PC (XZ788UT) Review
Don't let the look of this little box deceive you: The HP Compaq 8200 Elite Ultra-slim PC might be small in stature, but it stands tall in functionality, performance, and manageability. Those are three things that businesses want to hear when outfitting an office or workgroup with workhorse PCs by the bunch—especially when all three come at a reasonable price. (Our test model rang up at $869.) A fourth factor comes into play with this model, too: It's a green machine. Too often, green concerns go out the window when they don't directly add to the bottom line—especially in tight economic times like we're seeing today. But the Compaq 8200 Elite includes a number of environmentally friendly features that can make eco-conscious employees and investors sit up and take notice. (Plus, they won't add to the cost of the PCs...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Toshiba Thrive 10 Tablet (32GB) Review
Gamble much? If so, you'll appreciate the risk Toshiba has taken with its Thrive 10 Tablet, the first Android tablet to offer full-size ports and a removable battery. Those additions come at the cost of size and weight, but in the increasingly crowded world of tablets, we welcome having a choice like this one. At first glance, the Thrive seemingly goes head-to-head with the strongest competitors, but on closer inspection, it fails to knock either of the top two consumer tablets off its perch. Nonetheless, you may deem the ports and battery flexibility of this tablet to be worthy trade-offs...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Lenovo IdeaCentre K330-77273GU Review
Stylish, speedy, and expandable: These three words are a good way to sum up the Lenovo IdeaCentre K330-77273GU desktop. With a $999 price direct from Lenovo, it sports a combo Blu-ray reader/DVD±RW drive, a dedicated graphics card, and a modest, but mostly useful, collection of pre-installed software—with nary a piece of bloatware in sight. But tread carefully when browsing the K330-series marketing material on Lenovo's Web site and stickered onto the system. Pay special attention to those asterisks and footnotes, or you might be led to believe that the IdeaCentre K330-77273GU has capabilities beyond its actual abilities—at least right out of the box...

Friday, July 8, 2011

HP TouchPad (32GB) Review
Go on, now...push over and make room for another. The HP TouchPad—the latest contestant in an increasingly crowded tablet field—brings yet another new mobile operating system (OS) into the tablet OS arena. It's HP's webOS, which joins the ranks of the four main ones you’ll find powering tablets here in 2011: Apple's iOS, Google's Android OS, RIM’s BlackBerry Tablet OS, and Windows 7. And like so many of the tablets that have arrived since the original Apple iPad stormed onto the scene in the spring of 2010, the TouchPad has the iPad firmly in its sights...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dell Latitude E6520 Review
The bigger your company, the more important it is to choose the right laptops for your employees. If you own or work for a big business (one with 500 employees or more), your laptop needs are likely very different than if you worked at a small or medium-size one—no matter how big the goals are. The security of sensitive data might top your list of concerns, followed by minimizing expenses across a big fleet of notebooks. Only third on that list might be getting the optimal features and performance for any one user's needs, given the impossible-to-reconcile needs of hundreds of employees. Dell addresses all of these criteria with the Latitude E6520, making for a solid platform that works for IT managers and employees alike...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Samsung RC512 Review
Extras tend to count for a lot more if all the basics are in place. Would you care about sporty wheels and tinted windows on a two-cylinder Fiat? That may seem like a harsh analogy, but we think it's not too far from what you get with the Samsung RC512. This $1,099 mainstream notebook touts a whole list of smart-sounding premiums that are nice for the price: Nvidia’s Optimus graphics technology, a 4G (WiMAX) radio for wireless broadband Net access, wireless HD output to a TV (via WiDi), a Blu-ray drive, a Core i7 processor, and more. But the system is marred by shoddy-feeling materials and construction that make us wonder just how much—if any—mobility this portable can handle...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (16GB) Review
Not only did the Apple iPad start the tablet wars, but its latest iteration—the Apple iPad 2—continues to dominate the tablet market. While other manufacturers have tried to cash in on the iPad’s popularity with their own tablet designs, no real iPad contender has yet to even come close to knocking the iPad off its pedestal. Pundits had high hopes that the Motorola Xoom Android tablet would be up to the challenge, but its long list of missing features delegated it to the not-ready-for-prime-time category. Here in June 2011, the focus has now turned to the new 10.1-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Android tablet—a bigger version of Samsung’s original 7-inch Galaxy Tab. What makes the Galaxy Tab 10.1 different from those that have come before? Mostly its size and weight...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Samsung Chromebook Series 5 Review
Leave it to Google to create an entire new class of mobile-computing products—and no, we’re not talking Android phones or tablets. We mean Chromebooks. A Chromebook is a lightweight notebook—akin to a netbook or ultraportable—that runs Google’s Web-based Chrome operating system. Acer and Samsung are the first manufacturers out the door with Chromebook models, both of which go on sale June 15 at Amazon.com and Best Buy. Acer's Cromia 700 Chromebook models start at $379.99, and Samsung's Chromebook Series 5 units start at $429.99...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

HTC Flyer Review
If the pen truly is mightier than the sword then the HTC Flyer Android tablet has a weapon in the form of an optional “digital pen” that provides an additional level of functionality on top of the device’s multi-gesture touch-screen interface. Unfortunately, the features and usefulness of the digital pen are limited, making it more akin to a dagger than a broadsword. Take away the Flyer’s digital pen (which is a $79.99 option) and you’ve still got a decent 7-inch Android tablet that has a few standout features, such as a very quick boot time, excellent screen quality, and superb speakers. But the Flyer suffers from mixed performance and a relatively high price tag at $499.99...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Seagate GoFlex Satellite Review
How many movies, songs, and photos can you store on your iPad, iPhone, or Android device? If your answer is “not enough” then you might want to take a gander at the $199.99 Seagate GoFlex Satellite wireless media-streaming hard drive. The GoFlex Satellite is a pocket-size, battery-powered external drive that connects to your mobile devices over its own Wi-Fi connection. With 500GB of storage space, a large chunk of your media collection can travel with you and be enjoyed on your portable device. Even better, if you want to let others share in your good taste in movies, music, and photos, up to three devices can connect to the GoFlex Satellite at the same time—with each person watching or listening to a different media stream.

Notes From The Technoground: Where My Fingers Do The Walking With a Few Keyboards and Mice
Some keyboards and mice are built to impress and last, some are shrunk down to travel size for convenience, while others are one-trick ponies that don’t quite measure up.
I’m not fanatical about keyboards or mice, but I know plenty of folks who are. Some people are very particular about their keyboard’s key-travel distance, key resistance (or springiness), the spacing between keys, the size and shape of keys, backlighting vs. no backlighting, and so on. For mice, size and shape are important, as is button placement, right-handed vs. left-handed use, and so on.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Acer Iconia Tab W500 Review
Never one to sit idly by on the sidelines while other manufacturers reap the rewards of a growing market, Acer recently dipped its toes into tablet-mania with its Android-powered, Iconia Tab A500. Acer is going up against not only Apple’s iPad but also Android tablets, such as the Motorola Xoom and Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101. But for the more business-oriented crowd, Acer also produced a tablet that runs on Windows, the Iconia Tab W500. There are actually two versions of the Iconia Tab W500: a $549.99 version that runs Windows 7 Home Premium and a $619.00 version that runs Windows 7 Professional. We looked at the former...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

LG N2A2 (2TB) Review
When we looked at the 1TB LG N1T1 network-attached-storage (NAS) drive back in 2010, it impressed us with its feature set, performance, and unique inclusion of a built-in DVD burner. The N1T1 wasn’t perfect—it was on the expensive side, and the documentation wasn’t great—but it was good enough to garner our Editors’ Choice award at the time. This time around, LG sent us its 2011 model, the $249 N2A2, which has 2TB of storage capacity. (LG also offers a 1TB version—the N1A1—for $149.99.) Unlike its predecessor, the N2A2 does not include a DVD burner, and it therefore acts more like a traditional NAS device...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Buffalo CloudStor Pro (2TB) Review
We’ve been fans of Cloud Engines’ PogoPlug DIY approach to network-attached storage (NAS) ever since the first PogoPlug device was available in 2009. The PogoPlug concept is simple enough: Plug virtually any storage device—such as an external hard drive or flash drive—into a PogoPlug module, connect the PogoPlug to your network, and voilà, you have an instantly network-accessible device. Since the PogoPlug’s initial release, the technology has gotten very easy to set up and use, and it has made sharing files with just about anyone a breeze. For those who don’t have a hard drive to spare, but who still want to reap all of the benefits of PogoPlug, Buffalo Technology has the answer with its CloudStor NAS device. It's the first PogoPlug-based device to come with its own built-in storage...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

BlackBerry PlayBook (16GB) Review
When Research In Motion (RIM), makers of the ubiquitous BlackBerry smartphones, released the BlackBerry PlayBook—the company’s first foray into the fast-growing tablet market—reviewers and pundits wasted no time in picking it apart for its missing features and buggy performance. Because the PlayBook marks the first real competitive alternative to Apple's iPads and Google Android-based tablets, and was touted as “the world’s first professional-grade tablet,” it’s no wonder that the tech community had such a critical eye. At the time of the PlayBook's release, the rumor mill buzzed that RIM had rushed the PlayBook out the door too soon, and what landed in people’s hands was a half-baked product. So, instead of joining the rest of the world on the PlayBook-as-piñata bandwagon, we chose to wait a few weeks and let at least some of the issues resolve themselves via software updates. In fact, during the time we had the PlayBook in hand, we counted no fewer than three over-the-air updates...
Dell XPS 8300 Review
The last time we looked at a Dell XPS 8000-series desktop, in 2009, we were impressed with its fast performance, attractive chassis, and two-year onsite warranty. But we were also disappointed by its limited upgrade potential and comparatively high price. And after spending some quality time with an early-2011 update to the Dell XPS 8300, we can again tell you it was a serious speed demon in our test configuration, it still looks pretty, and it comes with the same generous warranty as its predecessor. But it seems that Dell didn’t get our memo: The setup still suffers from minimal upgrade potential, and the system is again a bit pricey compared with similarly configured systems from other PC vendors. Those quibbles are what separate this very good performance PC from being a big box of awesome...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Acer Iconia Tab A500 Review
Okay, we’ll say it: Tablets are the new netbooks. Just as the terrible twos are now the terrible threes (for parents of toddlers), 50 is the new 40, and [slot your color in here] is the new black, the tablet is the new netbook. That's because, like netbooks in 2009 to 2010, you're going to see a veritable flood of them on the market in 2011—and probably more choices than anyone needs. In the case of tablets, Google's 3.0 version (a.k.a. "Honeycomb") of its Android operating system is the trigger. Acer’s Iconia Tab A500 marks the third Honeycomb-based tablet to come available in the United States, with more—many more—on the way from Dell, LG, Sony, and Toshiba, to name just a few...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101 (16GB) Review
If you were alive in the 1980s, you knew the words to that unavoidable cartoon theme song. It went: "Transformers: Tablets in disguise..." Okay, it didn't quite say that, but consider that an update for the '10s: The Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101 arrived under the radar, and it's about to transform the Android-tablet battlescape in a whole bunch of ways. For starters, the Transformer runs the Honeycomb version of the Android operating system, version 3.0, which is the first one designed specifically for tablets. Until the Transformer's debut, the Motorola Xoom was the only Android tablet available in the United States to use Honeycomb—most of the models just preceding it, such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab, used the same versions of Android used by Android phones...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Iomega Home Media Network Hard Drive Cloud Edition (2TB) Review
Makers of network-attached-storage (NAS) devices have their heads in the clouds these days—and that's a good thing. At its core, a NAS drive is just a centralized repository on your home or small-office network that allows multiple people or computers to use it for file access and backups. Many of today’s NAS devices, though, also let you easily share your stored files with remote users. With one of these devices, you are essentially hosting your own “personal cloud,” to use Iomega's apt name for this scenario. The data isn’t stored in some far-away data center, but physically resides on your NAS device...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

HP Pavilion p6720f Review
One of our around-the-office theories: The members of Hewlett-Packard's desktop-PC design department all have the cliche "Don't mess with success" tattooed on their biceps. Why do we think that? Because that appears to be the guiding principle behind the $599.99 HP Pavilion p6720f, new for 2011—as well as just about every Pavilion desktop PC we've seen for some time now. On the outside, this updated model looks nearly identical to every other Pavilion PC that has marched through our labs over the last few years, and its performance is almost a mirror image of what we saw with 2010’s $699.99 HP Pavilion p6320f. That said, considering the $100 markdown from the 2011 model, this system's lack of innovation is not necessarily a bad thing. But it shouldn’t be too much to ask for some evolutionary changes—even minor ones—in terms of system design and performance...

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Toshiba Portégé R835-P56X Review
Whenever we test one of Toshiba's ultraportable Portégé laptops, we're reminded of the stereotypical Volkswagen full of clowns: We're not sure exactly how they do it, but boy, do they cram a lot in there. So we were more than pleased when a new model rolled into our labs: the $929.99 Toshiba Portégé R835-P56X, an updated, 3.2-pound version of this winning light-laptop series. And unlike the clown car, there's nothing comical whatsoever about the configuration we tested. This is a seriously well-made laptop that's also a serious value...

Friday, April 1, 2011


Notes From the Technoground: Will the Iomega SuperHero Really Save My iPhone?
The Iomega SuperHero's superpower is its ability to charge an iPhone and automatically back up its contacts and photos. Is that enough to justify a $69.99 price?
I can define at least three basic types of iPhone users. There are those who faithfully connect their iPhones to their computers, syncing and backing up their iPhones’ content via iTunes. Then there are users who seldom connect their iPhone to their computers, feeling no strong urge to sync or to back up their iPhone’s contents. The last bunch, most users, fall in-between—syncing and backing up only occasionally, but not religiously. (These generalizations are not meant to be all-inclusive. For example, some folks spurn iTunes altogether for alternative software, such as doubleTwist...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Motorola Xoom Review
When the Motorola Xoom became available, it arrived with considerable fanfare. In part, this was because it was the very first Android tablet to ship using the much-anticipated "Honeycomb," or 3.0, version of the Android OS, the first one designed specifically for tablet computers. Until that point, the most recent version of Android seen in tablets had been 2.2 ("Froyo"), the same one you’d find on Android phones. The OS got the job done, but it could not inherently take advantage of the unique features of the tablet form factor—most notably, the larger screen size...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch Review
With the early 2011 refresh of the MacBook Pro family, Apple came out with both guns blazing. Not only is the entire lineup now powered by Intel’s second generation Core i5 and i7 mobile processors (commonly known by its codename, Sandy Bridge), but the new MacBook Pros also feature the brand-new Thunderbolt I/O technology (the official name of Intel’s Light Peak technology)--which supports up to 10Gbps bi-directional communications for high-bandwidth external peripherals, such as RAID arrays and HD displays. And this is on top of an outstanding chassis design, an excellent-looking display, a great keyboard and trackpad, and superb battery life. And don’t forget, even if you’re not a Mac OS fan, you can run Windows on the MacBook Pro--either natively or via a virtual machine...
Interviewed by Small Business Computing as Android tablet "expert":
Mobile Trends: Why Tablets Mean Small Business
...For the time being at least, many observers don't expect tablets to supplant your primary PC, but rather complement it. "I don't foresee the tablet replacing the laptop or desktop computer in the workplace anytime soon," said Daniel A. Begun, author of the recently released Amazing Android Apps For Dummies. "But I do see the tablet quickly becoming a viable alternative to the laptop -- and even the smartphone at times -- for those who need to stay connected when they're away from the office...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dell Vostro 460 Review
Sometimes buying business tech can get reduced to a simple catch-phrase: Just the basics, ma'am. When it comes to desktop PCs meant for small businesses, you need a system that can be relied upon to get the job at hand done: not much more, and definitely not much less. But while this utilitarian approach will serve most business-critical needs well enough, you don’t necessarily have to sacrifice a system’s good looks in the process. Take, for instance, the Dell Vostro 460 mini-tower we tested. Configured properly, it can be a performance powerhouse, while its simple and elegant design helps you get your work done in style. But the details are all in the configuring...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Computer Shopper: How We Test Tablets
Methodology developed, script written, and How We Test docs written by Daniel A. Begun
Computer Shopper uses rigorous, repeatable methodology to test the tablets it reviews. Find out how we do it, and learn more about what the test results mean.
Here at Computer Shopper, we test hundreds of products a year, including a whole host of tablets in all shapes and sizes. All of them are given an Editors’ Rating based on price, performance, and features, as well as other criteria. Price and features are always key purchasing factors, to be sure, but you also need to make sure a tablet has the necessary horsepower to handle the tasks you’ll subject it to. To measure how well a tablet performs, we run a series of industry-standard and proprietary benchmark tests to see how each tablet stacks up against its competitors...

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Notes From the Technoground: Can the WD TV Live Hub Media Player Top Apple TV?
With my growing collection of ripped DVDs, I find the WD TV Live Hub media player has plenty of verse, but no chapter. Read on, though, for why I think it's a contender.
I love movies. I even majored in movies in college (granted, my degree had the more erudite title of film studies). I even worked in Hollywood for a couple of years after college. I’ve collected DVDs of many of my favorite films (such as The Third Man), “important” titles (such as Sullivan’s Travels), and lots of plain-old-fun flicks (such as Groundhog Day). There was even a time that I recorded many of the classics from Turner Classic Movies on my DVR and then burned them all to DVDs. By last count, I had about 600 movies on DVD...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Amazing Android Apps For Dummies
Written By Daniel A. Begun
Find the Android apps that are right for you so you can have fun and get more done! The popularity of Android apps is exploding and this handy guide helps you sort through the thousands of available applications so you can find the ones that are ideal for you. You'll explore a variety of apps in the areas of entertainment, finance, health, food, music, news, weather, photography, reference, dining out, social networking, sports, travel, and more. Author Daniel Begun helps you navigate through this enormous—and potentially overwhelming—array of Android apps...

Monday, February 28, 2011

Lenovo H320 Review
Lenovo calls its H320 slim desktop “an affordable family PC,” and in some respects, you can consider it the computer equivalent of the midrange minivan. At $699 (direct, as tested), it’s not too pricey, its performance is commensurate with similarly priced systems, and it’s light on extra features—except for a Blu-ray reader/DVD±RW combo drive. That said, its small form factor (which Lenovo claims is “half the size of a standard desktop”) and a sharp-looking design are enough to make the H320 standout among its peers...

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Notes From the Technoground: Take Me to the Soundbar
After living with just my TV's built-in stereo speakers for years, the Harman Kardon SB 16 soundbar gives me a taste of what a better-sounding A/V system sounds like—and the potential headaches that come with it.
According to one of my favorite sci-fi franchises, space is the final frontier. But if you live in an apartment, as I did for many years, you know that space is also a precious commodity that you seldom have much of—especially when so much of that space is occupied by all the accessories that come with having a baby in your home. Even well before my daughter entered the picture, I had to launch a six-month campaign to convince my wife that we should purchase a high-def TV. Although, this was actually less an issue of space than it was cost—at the time (circa 2005), the 42-inch plasma TV I ultimately decided on cost over $3,000. A comparable TV by today’s prices is less than $500. (But even after all this time, it still works like a champ and it’s still our primary TV—so I guess we’ve gotten our money’s worth...
Polywell Poly ITX-H6700 Review
The last time we looked at a desktop from Polywell Computers, the MiniBox P5500C, we dinged it a bit for an unpolished design and at least one questionable configuration decision (which surprised us, for a company that’s been building PCs for over 20 years). That said, the system was a solid performer and a good value for its configuration. So when Polywell sent us the $999, small-form-factor (SFF) Poly ITX-H6700, the first thing we did was check to see if shortcomings like these repeated themselves. This time around, the system’s design is much more polished—although we did note one nearly fatal flaw and a potential future performance issue, both of which we’ll get to shortly. But we have no gripes with the system’s configuration this time around. Like its predecessor, it offers very good value and performance for its price and size...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Zotac ZBox AD03BR Plus Review
Many home-theater aficionados are technically minded folks who subscribe to a three-letter code of conduct: D-I-Y. As a result, when it comes to configuring a home-theater PC (HTPC), many choose to build their own, instead of purchasing a preconfigured rig. If you do a Google Shopping search for “HTPC”, you’ll see a long list of HTPC cases and bare-bones computers. A bare-bones computer typically includes an installed motherboard, a power supply, and an optical drive—letting you choose and install the CPU, graphics card, memory, hard drive, operating system (OS), and software yourself. These kits come in sizes that range from full-size desktops to small-form-factor (SFF) chassis that can be tucked away in an entertainment center or even mounted to the back of an TV...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Lenovo IdeaPad U260 Review
With apologies to Cole Porter, if there were one word to best describe the design of the $999 Lenovo IdeaPad U260 ultraportable laptop, it would have to be “swellegant.” Its sturdy, lightweight design, combined with smart-looking features, makes the U260 a very attractive acquisition to anyone looking for a sharp, compact laptop. Factor in strong performance for an under-$1,000 ultraportable, and you’ve got the potential makings of a real winner for frequent-traveling business users or general consumers...

Friday, February 4, 2011


Notes From the Technoground: Ethernet at Home...Without Miles of Wires?
Actiontec's Ethernet over Coax MoCA Network Adapter may sound intimidating, but it helped me set up a wired network throughout my home, without having to make lots of holes in walls, floors, and ceilings.
Being the uber-geek that I am, I’ve got some sort of PC or connected consumer-electronics device in nearly every room of my house. This list includes things like Mac and Windows desktops and laptops, plus an iPhone, an iPod Touch, several Android handsets, and an Android tablet. Then there's an e-reader, an Orb Music Player connected to an audio system, and multiple NAS devices. Add to that a Windows Home Server acting as a media server, and Apple TV, Roku, and Cirago TV Platinum Network HD Multimedia Center network media player devices connected to my HDTVs. (Whew!) While Wi-Fi can get the job done for most of these devices, a speedier wired network connection is a much better choice for those devices that stream video...

Friday, January 28, 2011

Pandigital Novel 6-Inch Personal eReader Review
A basic guide to e-readers in early 2011 looks like this: There’s the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble's NOOK, and then everything else. Pandigital, best known for its line of digital picture frames, hopes to be one of the companies—much like Sony Electronics—that can sail in the slipstream of the better-known e-readers. Its best chance is its Novel 6-Inch Personal eReader...
HP EliteBook 8740w Review
A sturdy, high-end mobile workstation with a professional-grade display
It’s difficult to pick just one standout feature of the HP EliteBook 8740w mobile workstation. Certainly a bright, 17-inch, 10-bit LCD panel that’s capable of displaying more than 1 billion colors and remains visible at up to about a 170-degree offset without any color degradation is worth noting. But so is the notebook’s durable design, with its spill-resistant keyboard, magnesium-alloy chassis, and magnesium-aluminum display enclosure. Then there’s also the 8740w’s impressive performance that runs circles around our zero-point configuration...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Google Cr-48 Chrome Notebook Review
Few tech companies have the ability to send tremors through the way people compute and communicate that Web giant Google does. And looking at what the company has done in recent years, it's hardly a surprise that the computing future Google envisions has us all “living on the Web.” In Google’s world, nearly all of our applications and data live online (in the cloud), where we can perform whatever tasks we need to and access all of our files from any connected device...

Monday, January 17, 2011


Notes From the Technoground: Why I'm Underwhelmed by the Verizon iPhone
With CDMA technology under the hood, the Verizon iPhone actually has a lot in common with my HTC Incredible. Here's why I'm waiting to see what the next rev brings.
I have a love/hate relationship with my Apple iPhone. I love that it helps me keep up on my e-mail, schedule, and social networking, no matter where I am. I love that I can see the latest headlines and weather forecasts at a moment’s notice. I can check my bank balance, find cheap gas, refill my Starbucks card, or play a round of Sudoku whenever I want. And I especially love all the kid-friendly apps that my three-year-old daughter can work at mastering during long trips in the car...