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...