Logitech Z623

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 Logitech Z623

Logitech products appear to fit into two separate categories, especially when it comes to speakers.

We’ve seen – and heard – £200 5.1 setups that have blown everything else clean out of the water, but on the other hand, you can also pick up a set of stereo speakers for £15 that sound like they should have cost no more than a fiver.

At £120 the Z623 certainly doesn’t come cheap, but does it sound like it’s worth all that extra money? The answer is a resounding yes.

The sound is deep and rich, and the most ‘three-dimensional’ we’ve ever heard from a 2.1 system. Even coming from a laptop’s dubious-quality in-built sound card, the sounds of gunfire in our favourite FPS seemed to come from all around us. How soothing.

The bass and treble are perfectly tuned out of the box, but if you want to add more bass there’s a dedicated rotary dial on the right-hand speaker. Despite the slightly ‘Day of the Tentacle’ design of the speakers, they’re well built too.

The subwoofer is one of the smaller ones we’ve seen, but it did just as good a job of bass reproduction as ones the size of a small fridge. The satellites compliment it perfectly, being adequately weighted in terms of both construction and sound.

If there’s a slight niggle, it’s that Logitech has elected to use the same connection system it uses on its lower-end speakers. The right satellite houses the power, volume and bass controls, and it connects to the sub-woofer via a proprietary VGA-style cable. The left speaker simply connects to the sub with a phono plug.

The system evidently works, and having power control on the desktop saves you having to lean over to a hidden sub to turn them on – and it’s exactly the same system you’ll find on Logitech’s £15 speakers.

They have to be heard to be believed though, and despite our reservations about the THX certification, it actually seems to mean something here. These come highly recommended.

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HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea

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 HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea

Overview

The HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea comes at an interesting time for portable PC laptops. Traditional laptops have had a turbulent ride of late, with a number of threats appearing to erode their market.

The first threat – netbooks – has been seen off pretty comprehensively. The diminutive machines offered a smaller, lighter and cheaper alternative, but at the cost of power and features.

In the end netbooks failed to capture the public’s imagination, despite the efforts of some great products, such as the Toshiba NB520-10U.

Tablets, however – especially the Apple iPad 2 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 – haven’t had this problem, and have surpassed netbooks to become the laptop’s biggest threat. Sales have rocketed so that tablets have succeeded where netbooks failed. Offering slick interfaces, a huge selection of apps and usually attractive and portable designs, tablets are a force to be reckoned with.

Their Achilles’ heel at the moment is price. Top range tablets go for around £300-£400. You can get cheaper models, such as the Binatone HomeSurf 705 and ViewSonic ViewPad 7e, but they’re not very good.

HP pavilion dm1-4027ea review

A new front has now opened up from the high end of the laptop market, with Intel’s ultrabook format. These new laptops are incredibly thin, light and beautifully designed, as well as being powerful. The standout models of ultrabook is the Asus Zenbook UX31 and the Acer Aspire S3.

So where does this competition leave standard laptops in general, and the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea in particular? Does it do enough to stand out in an already crowded market, and does the audience for that market even exist any more? The HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea starts with a strong foundation, with Hewlett Packard remaining a trusted and respected manufacturer of laptops.

The HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea’s stablemate, the HP Pavilion dm1-3100sa, has impressed as an ultra-portable laptop that doesn’t make too many sacrifices when it comes to performance. But now the spotlight is firmly on the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea.

Specifications

HP pavilion dm1-4027ea review

The HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea is certainly a small laptop, with dimensions of just 29.2 x 21.5 x 3.2cm, and a weight of only 1.6kg. This makes it almost as small and portable as the much maligned netbooks but, crucially, it also has enough power to handle most tasks.

Packed onto the small chassis of the laptop are VGA, HDMI and Ethernet ports. There’s a combined headphone out/microphone in jack and three USB 2.0 ports. It’s a bit disappointing that there are none of the faster USB 3.0 ports included, since these are becoming increasingly common on new laptops.

To keep the computer small, there’s no optical drive for reading CDs or DVDs, so you’ll have to rip music and video to a USB stick to make the most out of this laptop’s media-playing capabilities.

HP pavilion dm1-4027ea review

HP bills the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea as an “Entertainment Notebook PC”. This conjures up expectations of a machine that’s capable of handling media with ease, and maybe even a few casual games. Where the HP Pavilion dm1-3100sa was let down with its handling of high-definition content, we expect the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea to have no such trouble.

On paper, things don’t look too bad. The HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea uses an AMD Radeon HD 6320M integrated graphics card. It comes with some automatic overclocking tools to give it a bit of a needed boost, and with DirectX11 support, it can handle low- to mid-range games.

Graphically demanding newer games are definitely a no-no, though. This is because while the AMD Radeon HD 6320M inside the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea can theoretically use up to 1.92GB of memory for graphics, it doesn’t actually have dedicated graphics memory, so it needs to share memory with the rest of the PC.

HP pavilion dm1-4027ea review

This means if you’re running a few graphic-intensive programs, along with other applications that need memory, the strain is going to show. The 11.6-inch screen has a resolution of 1366 x 768, which is fine for high-definition movies.

Although there’s a lack of dedicated graphics memory, HP has been very generous by including 4GB of DDR3 RAM with the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea. This is more than enough for most applications, and it’s nice to see that HP hasn’t hobbled the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea by cutting the RAM to 2GB to lower costs.

Processor-wise, the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea comes with a 1.65 GHz AMD Dual-Core E-450. This processor has been specially designed by AMD to work in laptops, with lower power consumption that leads to greater battery life and saves the components inside the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea’s small body from overheating.

While it’s no competition for the Intel Core i5 and i7 processors found in higher-end (and much more expensive) laptops, this dual core processor is meaty enough for a lot of tasks, and pleasingly powerful, considering the size of the laptop.

Performance

HP pavilion dm1-4027ea review

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

3D Mark: 2,602
Cinebench: 1,433
Battery eater: 2 hours 59 mins 26 seconds

As with many laptops around this price range, the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea’s performance really depends on what you’re using it for. Day-to-day computing on this laptop, such as writing on a word processor or browsing the web, is accomplished with little fuss, although there is a faint lag when starting up programs. We found that a bit of patience is required when selecting options or launching applications, with pauses of a few seconds sometimes.

Even with 4GB of RAM, multitasking can slow down quite a bit, especially if you’re browsing the internet while running a number of graphic-heavy programs at the same time, such as watching a movie or video editing.

The 320GB hard drive offers plenty of space but has a speed of just 5,400rpm (revolutions per minute). The faster a hard drive can spin, the faster the computer can open, move and edit files stored on the disk. With faster drives out there achieving 7,200rpm and even 10,000rpm, it does feel like the drive is a bit of a weak link.

The trade-off with a slower hard drive, however, is lower overall cost and a longer battery life.

HP pavilion dm1-4027ea review

Graphics performance was OK, but nothing spectacular, with a 3D Mark score of 2,602, which is on the low end even for laptops, and lower than the HP Pavilion dm1-3100sa‘s score. The Cinebench score of 1,433 using multiple cores was better, but still less than the HP Pavilion dm1-3100sa’s score of 1,985.

Despite the lacklustre benchmarks, our real world tests were more positive. Media playback itself was good, with no stuttering on standard-definition movie files.

The 11.6-inch screen displayed colours well and animations in particular looked great. The 1366 x 768 resolution actually benefitted full HD movies files, since the 1080p source was nicely downscaled to run on the smaller resolution, resulting in a sharp image. High-definition movies also play very well, with just a hint of screen tear, but no noticeable stuttering.

HP pavilion dm1-4027ea review

Much has been made of the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea’s sound capabilities, with the inclusion of Beats Audio technology, exclusive to HP laptops. The built-in speakers sound great – definitely the best we’ve heard in a laptop from this price range. Audio is clear, with plenty of depth and none of the tinny qualities that often plague laptop speakers.

Battery life was a pretty standard three hours of intensive computing. That’s not awful, but we’ve seen laptops – such as the Acer Timeline X – with much longer battery lives.

Verdict

HP pavilion dm1-4027ea review

The HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea is a strange beast of a laptop indeed. On the one hand it can feel rather lacklustre and underpowered when doing unexceptional tasks. Windows 7 Home Premium can feel sluggish at times, and with a number of windows left open on the desktop, things can get pretty slow.

In this regard, the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea can’t compete with a higher-end, more powerful laptop, or even a tablet that’s less powerful but has an operating system and apps that use the limited resources well enough to ensure a smooth user experience.

However, there’s no denying that when it comes to media playback – an important consideration due to HP’s labelling of the Pavilion dm1-4027ea as an entertainment-focused machine – this laptop actually performs very well. Movie content – both standard and high-definition – plays very well, and the built-in speakers provide audio that is well above average for a laptop.

The lack of an optical drive does limit its media playback options quite a bit, however, but if your media collection has gone fully digital, then this won’t be such a problem.

The small size and light weight is also a big factor, and this is certainly a more portable laptop than most.

If you’re after a light media-playing laptop then this is a good choice. For anything more demanding, look elsewhere.

We liked

Media playback is a big winner with the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea. A lovely screen coupled with enough graphical power to run movies smoothly (bar the odd screen tear) makes this laptop a pleasure to watch movies on.

The battery life will just about make it through an entire film.

Better still is the audio quality of the built-in speakers, which really does sound great, and saves you the extra expense of buying separate laptop speakers such as the Logitech Laptop Speaker Z305.

The small size of the laptop is also a boon, making it easy to carry around wherever you go, with a slim and attractive design.

Even with the smaller keyboard, typing is comfortable.

We disliked

Outside of media playback, performance is pretty mediocre, with relatively impressive stats on paper not making a great impact in use.

The biggest culprit here is the 4GB of DDR3 RAM, which should give the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea some punch, but actually still leaves the laptop struggling when there is too much going on at once.

Final verdict

If you want a light laptop for watching movies on, the HP Pavilion dm1-4027ea does what you want it to do. However, if you want to use it to work on, editing digital photos or anything more strenuous, then you’re going to be disappointed.

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Review: Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet

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Review: Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet

Overview 

and features

For those with a penchant for tech throwbacks, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet is a reminder of past accomplishments. With its all-black design and an optional pen with a large red faux-pa eraser, this tablet looks a bit like one of those original IBM ThinkPad notebooks from years ago. Sadly, its throwback design is still no match for the thin and powerful Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 or Apple iPad 2.

Like the Acer Iconia Tab A500 and Asus Eee Pad Transformer, the ThinkPad Tablet has quite a few extra ports including a camera card slot for loading images from a digital camera straight from the SD memory card, a USB port for connecting peripherals such as a keyboard and mouse and a micro-HDMI port for sending the screen out to your HD TV.

However, at 14.5mm thin and 748g heavy, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet is not as sleek or portable as the Apple iPad 2.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet, which runs on the Android 3.1 operating system, is loaded with the latest chips, as expected. There’s an Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 1.0GHz processor, 1GB of DDR2 RAM, and – at least on the version we tested – 32GB of storage. Lenovo offers 16GB and 64GB versions as well, costing £683 for a 16GB Wi-Fi-only version, £788 for a 16GB Wi-Fi and 3G version and £885 for a 64GB Wi-Fi and 3G version.

The tablet has a 2MP front-facing camera and a rear 5MP camera for videos and photos. There’s a SIM slot for adding an optional 3G card, and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections are both on board.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

The most unique feature is the pen, which is thankfully just an optional add-on that enhances the interface in dramatic ways. For most tasks, you can just use finger presses and swipes. Yet, if you want to jot down notes, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet converts what you write to text quickly and, for the most part, accurately. You can also draw objects in a sketchpad and annotate documents with ease.

From a design standpoint, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet feels a bit chunky and is reminiscent of older slate tabs that ran on Windows Tablet PC. That said, unlike the Toshiba AT100 (known as the Toshiba Thrive in the US), the IPS screen, made of Gorilla Glass and so exceptionally durable, is viewable from a side angle, like the iPad 2’s.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet

There are four buttons on the top left-hand side that serve as the screen lock, Web, Back and Home buttons.

The tablet is loaded with extra software. Lenovo includes the Documents To Go app, which normally costs £9.99 to download. Lenovo says its ThinkPad Tablet is the first Android tab to include the Netflix app – the popular US TV and movie streaming site – on its US models. There are two unique interface add-ons – one is an app launcher that sits in the centre of the screen, and the other is an app wheel that functions just like the app pop-up menu that’s standard with Android.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

Lenovo advertises its ThinkPad Tablet as “professional grade”, and we think that means it’s focused less on the consumer side. That’s a good thing, because one of our overall impressions is that the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet runs slowly for video.

The Chinese PC maker might be targeting business people with the higher price as well. At £821 for the 32GB model (although currently offered at the discounted price of £580 on the Lenovo website), the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet is one of the most expensive Android tablets around. It may not be worth the high price, but some of the features are definitely business friendly.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

In the box, Lenovo includes a charger and USB cable, but no earbuds, case or stand

.

Taking a tour around the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet, the first impression is that the tablet seems big and bulky. At 748g, it’s heavier than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, at 565g, and the Apple iPad 2, at 601g. The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet is even heavier than the Toshiba AT100, which we described as too bulky.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

There are ports galore, though. We tested the USB port, which is below the screen on the right, and it worked with a USB keyboard called the Luxeed, and even a wireless mouse from Microsoft. However, the tablet didn’t work with one USB flash drive loaded with music and video files. We tested another flash drive, formatted on the same Windows 7 PC as the first one, and it worked fine.

Above the USB slot, on the right-hand side, there’s a three-in-one camera flash card reader that works with SD, SDHC, and MMC cards up to 32GB. A docking port, micro USB port (for charging and swapping files) and a mini-HDMI port are also on the left-hand side. The power button is on the top to the left. On the left-hand side, there are volume control buttons and a slot for storing the pen.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

The 1280 x 800 IPS display, measuring 10.1 inches, like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, looked a bit dull for movie playback and games. At least it is viewable from a side angle, up to 178 degrees, since the technology is the same as the Apple iPad 2. Like almost every tablet we’ve tried, the screen glare on the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet is obnoxiously bad – the device is barely useable outside.

Other notable hardware features are here to appease the business user. For example, Lenovo includes an app that you can use to encrypt sensitive business documents stored on flash media. There’s also a handy USB file transfer app that works for copying internal files to an external hard drive or USB flash drive.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet

Battery life on the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet is about average for most Android tabs, lasting for around eight hours. In our testing, we experienced all-day usage from sun-up to sun down when we used the device under normal conditions for checking email, browsing the web and playing YouTube clips.

As expected, when we watched several episodes of The Killing one after the other, with the display turned up bright so we could see what was happening, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet only lasted for about four hours of continuous playback.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

One other hardware perk is that the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet comes with a service called PrinterShare. You install a utility on your PC, select your printer and can then print directly from the tablet – although you have to configure the printer under Settings – over a Wi-Fi network. Of course, the printer has to be on the same network as the tablet.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet

Interface


Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

Other than the slightly unusual hardware features, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet Tablet is also outfitted with some interesting new user interface enhancements. Some of them work well, but others aren’t as impressive.

The thing first you notice about the main screen is that Lenovo has added a Launcher widget in the centre of the screen where you can quickly start the internet browser, open a book, watch a movie or listen to music. The widget really only sends you to an app – Slacker Radio for music or the mSpot app for movies. For new users, the widget is a smart idea because it calls attention to main features on the device.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

Another addition is the App Wheel. There’s an icon on the lower centre of the screen – press it and you’ll see a circle menu you use to start an app. This is different from the pop-up menu included with Android that shows you open apps – this wheel is for storing favourites. The App Wheel looks a bit clunky though, with an unconvincing drop-shadow. Also, it’s easier to just store apps on the desktop.

Both of these are just extra UI icing on the standard Android 3.1 interface. There are no radical interface overhauls like there will be with the Amazon Kindle Fire. There are also no app categorisation bins like there are with Samsung and Acer tabs, although these bins don’t add a lot of value.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet

Many of the other interface features are standard – you can drop widgets onto the main screens. None of these stray too far from the norm – Lenovo hasn’t added any extra widgets. There’s a back button on the lower left-hand side and a Home button in addition to the pop-up app menu.

One oddity, though, is that the hardware buttons on the left of the screen require that you press them close to the screen. If you press near the edge, the button might not work. In daily use, you might just skip these buttons altogether.

Market and apps


Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

Some of the best features on the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet are all behind the scenes. Lenovo includes IT-specific tools such as Computrace for finding a lost device or wiping the data if it’s stolen, LANDesk for pushing apps to the device over a network and requiring that data has to be encrypted when moved to an SD card, and the McAfee Security app, which is designed mostly for backing up and restoring data.

Lenovo went well beyond the norm for bundled apps. In addition to the IT tools, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet includes an app called ArcSync that enables you to synchronise documents, music files, photos and videos to a website, then sync the same media to your phone and computer.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet also includes Angry Birds HD, Documents to Go for viewing and editing Word, PowerPoint, Excel and PDF files, several “virtual” board games such as Backgammon and a few card games including Euchre and Spades.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

As you’d expect, all of the Android apps are here as well, including a light app for editing movies you’ve taken with the built-in camera, the Google Music app for syncing music to the cloud, a built-in Maps app that includes turn-by-turn navigation, and Google email, web browser and calendar apps.

One interesting addition has to do with the Lenovo app store, called App Shop. This cluttered app store pales in comparison to the Android Market. We searched for any pinball game and found none listed. Worse, the screenshots that show up on the main screen were stretched as though the app store was designed for a thinner tablet. When we searched for a PDF reader, the store only had two suggestions – one was the free Adobe reader.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

There’s also an AppVerse feature within Lenovo’s App Shop, which is designed to help you find the best apps. This enables you to browse through the popular apps suggested by other users. The section works like Twitter – you can follow other users and they can follow you. The main problem at the moment, though, is that there just weren’t enough users actively making app suggestions to make this feature useful.

Screen


Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

The summary so far is that the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet does offer some extra IT services, there are some good bundled apps, and the Lenovo app store isn’t really worth the effort. But what about the screen? A tablet lives or dies on the quality, brightness, and touch input of the screen.

Lenovo uses the same IPS technology on the Apple iPad 2 that makes the screen viewable at a sharp angle. That was helpful in a crowded coffee shop when trying to work with a laptop and the tablet at the same time – sitting on a table, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet screen was still viewable.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

The colour quality looked a bit dim, though, and the screen brightness isn’t anywhere near as luminescent as the iPad 2 or Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1’s.

In terms of gesturing, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet is just average. We didn’t notice any serious problems – in a session with Angry Birds HD the screen registered our flicks and swipes with ease. Pressing on an app icon registered quickly and accurately.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet

However, during several tests with the keyboard, we found the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet would occasionally miss a finger press. There’s no haptic feedback (a slight buzz that tells you your finger registered) but the keyboard does make a chime to register a finger press.

For pen input, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet works wonderfully well if that’s what you need to do. Modern tablets are designed for finger input, but there were times when we used the pen to annotate a document, write down notes and control the interface. The pen proved to be highly responsive.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

Using the Notes Mobile app, we wrote out a grocery list and found that the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet recorded these notes accurately as text.

In the SketchPad app, we drew a complex artistic drawing with the pen and were impressed with how accurate the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet registered every brush stroke and spray paint blob. We liked that Lenovo includes the pen not as a primary input device but as an extra option you can use when you need that functionality. There were no times when we felt dependent on the pen to control the tablet.

Usability

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet seems like a throwback device at times. The all-black design doesn’t help – it reminded us of a ThinkPad with the red mouse control nub from the early noughties. Lenovo meant for that to be a bit nostalgic we think, but the overall impression is that the design looks dated. The tablet felt a bit heavy and bulky, not exactly state-of-the-art thin and light like the Apple iPad 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 models.

We also found the buttons a bit superfluous. The buttons to the right of the screen are all repeated as software buttons, and our focus tended to stay on the screen. So we used the software home button more often, rarely used the hardware button for the web browser and never bothered locking the screen rotation, although that last one’s partly due to the fact that the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet rotates the screen correctly.

The ports tell a different story. We used the USB port with a USB flash drive throughout a day of testing, and snapped in an SD card from a Nikon D7000 camera several times.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

We also tested the mini-HDMI port with a 50-inch Sony HD TV, and were mightily impressed: the screen looked crisp and ran fast on the HD TV, and finger swipes were responsive, even with the mirroring.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

When we watched the movie Fast Five, playback looked a bit dim and had a poor, muddy contrast ratio, but at least the movie looked properly formatted and streamed fluidly from the mSpot app.

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet lacks that pick-up-and-go aesthetic of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Apple iPad 2. There’s something about the extra thinness of those devices that makes you think they’re designed to grab quickly to look up a recipe in the kitchen or flick through a website.

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet has a business-like aesthetic that’s designed more for a conference room than for quick YouTube sessions. It almost feels and looks like a small LCD from a Lenovo laptop, only at a 10 inch size.

Media


Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

By emphasising the business features on the ThinkPad Tablet, Lenovo has made some of the consumer features a little less compelling. There are no first party apps for renting movies, buying music, or serving up your photos to a secure image library. Instead, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet relies heavily on apps.

For example, the mSpot service is included for renting Hollywood movies. This app is actually quite useful, because it streams movies instead of forcing you to download them first. So, in our test of the movie Fast Five, the first chapter of the movie started playing immediately after we rented it. You can set the app to use a low bandwidth or high bandwidth mode, which determines the quality level.

At the high bandwidth setting, the movie looked similar in quality to a LoveFilm or BBC iPlayer stream. The low bandwidth setting made movies look almost unwatchable, with a soft jagged look to objects.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet

For music, there are a few options available, but none of them match the tight infrastructure of iTunes. The main portal is the Amazon MP3 app, but there’s also a music purchase store from mSpot. If you have your own music, you can load files onto the tablet easily using a USB flash drive, connected over Wi-Fi, or from an SD card. When you do, you can use the Google Music app for playback and cloud storage.

From what we hear about the Amazon Kindle Fire, these features might all suddenly seem outdated and even archaic. The Kindle Fire enables you to store all media in the cloud for free, and that feature is baked right into the device – it will be seamless. That means every photo, movie, music file and document will be transferred automatically over to a cloud server from the Kindle Fire.

With the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet, and every other Android tablet, cloud integration is app-specific.

We had no problems with media support – the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet worked fine with every music file we loaded, including several WAV and MP3 files. We also loaded several hundred JPG photos. The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet worked well in terms of playing these media files and formatting them for the screen.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

The one glitch we noticed appeared when we loaded Windows Media video files for the TV show The Killing. The videos would stutter and pause occasionally. We loaded the exact same files, which weren’t even HD quality, on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, and they played smoothly.

Camera

Lenovo thinkpad tablet

Let’s be clear about camera technology on tablets: it is not what it should be. Shots with the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet tended to look a tad blurry, with a washed-out look and lack of colour variance. In fact, comparing the photos to those taken with a handheld Samsung Galaxy S2 smartphone, there is quite a disparity.

In a pinch, when all you have available is the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet, the camera does work OK. But there were times when it was difficult to hold the tablet steady, and shots looked blurry.

Indoor shots looked less colourful than those taken outside on a bright sunny day. The problem isn’t particular to the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet – no modern tablet is really ideal for taking photos.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet

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Lenovo thinkpad tablet

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Lenovo thinkpad tablet

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Lenovo thinkpad tablet

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Lenovo thinkpad tablet

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Lenovo thinkpad tablet

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In terms of videos, colour quality was also an issue, but there wasn’t as much of a problem with blurriness. In a scan of a back garden scene, the video looked clear enough and had some colour variance, but the movie wasn’t nearly as impressive as what you’ll find on any typical handheld pocket camera, and is definitely far worse than a dedicated video camera or the video mode on a DSLR.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet offers a few extra scene modes than we’re used to on Android tablets. You can quickly press the scene button and select a setting for a beach, sunset, snow or even fireworks. There’s also a solarise setting, which casts your image in a pale silver outline. White balance settings for indoor shots or even on a cloudy day help to improve colour accuracy.

There are no scene settings for the video mode, though, other than using black-and-white, sepia or other colour modes. For video, it would have helped to have scene modes that improve shutter speed for recording at a sporting event or for low light conditions (say, a birthday party).

Verdict

Lenovo thinkpad tablet

We ended up liking what Lenovo has done to make its ThinkPad Tablet a more professional-grade tablet than some of the competition. IT folks can track the device and wipe data if it’s stolen, the back-up app from McAfee means not worrying about lost business documents. Help desk staff can push apps to the device, which isn’t something Samsung or Apple offer out of the box.

Overall, the design is a bit dated, which is odd for an Android tablet. It has a throwback look that seems more like a Lenovo laptop than a sleek, modern tablet. The device is a bit hefty and bulky for daily use, but if you are a mobile professional and need to run a Citrix client all day and tap into your ERP system, then the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet has you covered – and you might be willing to overlook the design issues.

That said, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet is also a poor consumer choice. The AVI movies we tested stuttered and looked washed out, like looking through a steam-covered window.

There isn’t the same quick mobile movie session of competing tablets, and that’s a shame, because even for business use there are times when watching a movie on an aeroplane or at the hotel makes sense.

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet beats several other Android tablets, including the Acer Iconia Tab A500, the Toshiba AT100, the Motorola Xoom, and the Asus Eee Pad Transformer. Each of those tablets also provide some extra ports, including one for USB connections, that make them more suited for a PC-centric tablet user, but are not exactly thin and light enough for mobile entertainment.

Yet, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet adds some extra business-oriented features. We loved the pen input for jotting down notes and drawing in pen-enabled apps. Other than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, the iPad 2 and potentially the Kindle Fire, which is coming to the US soon, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet is a good bet.

We liked

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet has extra business features for tracking the device in case it’s stolen or lost, pushing apps for a secure install and backing up your data.

The pen, which slips into a holder below the screen, is useful for making notes that are accurately converted into text, and for making original art sketches.

The eight-hour battery life is about what we’d expect from a 10-inch tablet – the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet lasted all day and them some for typical web browsing and email activities.

We disliked

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet felt bulky and heavy compared to thinner tablets on the market. The all-black design works well at the office, but not so much on a long plane ride or at a sporting event. Other sleeker and more modern-looking tablets point to a future age when most computing takes place on a thin device.

The camera, like the one included with most tablets, is just not that great. It’s hard to take really compelling photos and videos and want to keep them forever (aka, on Facebook). Some AVI videos played with stuttering that made the TV show unwatchable.

It’s unfortunate that not many apps actually support the annotation features – the pen didn’t work with Adobe Reader or Documents To Go. That means the pen is useful but not essential.

Final verdict

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet is a smart option for those who need to use a tablet at work. It has an understated but somewhat bulky design that fits well with a full-size laptop.

Movies and other media are hit and miss, but mostly miss because of the less than colourful screen and choppy playback.

Our final conclusion is that this tablet is better than many other Android models, mostly because of the extra ports and the business apps, but the larger size and weight make it a runner-up to Apple and Samsung models.

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Review: Microsoft Wireless Optical Dekstop 700

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Review: Microsoft Wireless Optical Dekstop 700

Obscure Washington outfit Microsoft present us with this, the Wireless Optical Desktop 700.

It’s been fairly inconsistent in the design and quality of its peripherals lately, swinging from the sleek Arc Touch to the almost unusable Windows 7 Touch mouse.

Recommended at £30 but available for a shade over £20, the Wireless Optical Desktop 700 features a well-built keyboard running on AAA batteries and a slightly flimsy mouse running on AAs, each communicating with your PC or laptop via a wireless receiver.

Key feature

As far as this reviewer’s weary fingers are concerned, the best thing about this package is the weighting of the keys.

The mouse, however, is less satisfying underhand. It’s extremely light, which makes it a bit of a nightmare in a gaming scenario. Despite this and some flimsy buttons, the real problem is that it goes to sleep too soon if you haven’t moved it in a while.

We can forgive the Wireless 700’s unsuitability for gaming because that’s not what it’s designed for, but this has an impact on everyday desktop use. It’s an issue that plagues many wireless mice, particularly at the budget end.

The big problem here is the absence of any lights for caps, num and scroll locks. Okay, it’s £30, but no lights? It affects the most fundamental keyboard tasks, and is something that £10 keyboards get right.

It’s easy to get up and running wirelessly and while the mouse doesn’t feel great, we doubt either peripheral will fall apart any time soon.

However, you should only consider this keyboard and mouse if your needs necessitate a wireless setup, and your budget’s locked down to this price point. There are better wired bundles for the same price, and better wireless ones for a bit more.

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Review: StarTech USB to HDMI External Dual or Multi Monitor Video Adapter with Audio

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Review: StarTech USB to HDMI External Dual or Multi Monitor Video Adapter with Audio

HDMI ports on computers can be incredibly useful – the ability to transform your HD TV into a huge monitor has excellent uses from watching movies to playing games on the big screen. Or for work, you can also use HDMI to display presentations on TVs and projectors.

If your laptop or desktop PC doesn’t come with an HDMI-out port then the StarTech USB to HDMI External Dual or Multi Monitor Video Adapter with Audio is very useful, since it effectively transforms a USB port into an HDMI one.

Another benefit is that even if your PC comes with HDMI, you can use this adaptor to extend your desktop over an extra monitor – a worthwhile feature if your graphics card isn’t up to the task.

While some people use a DVI to HDMI cable to connect their PC to a high-definition TV – because DVI ports are far more popular than HDMIs on computers – the DVI can’t handle audio.

The StarTech USB to HDMI External Dual or Multi Monitor Video Adapter with Audio, as the very long-winded name suggests, can handle audio. A small feature perhaps, but it’s very valuable if you use your TV’s speakers when watching media via HDMI.

Verdict

This is a useful product, although if you have a decent graphics card that comes with HDMI and can support multiple monitors then you’re not going to need it.

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