Review of the Seagate Personal Cloud (3TB) at Computer ShopperIf you’ve been in the information technology (IT) business as long as we have, we’re sure that you marvel at the evolution of its terminology the same way we do. Take, for example, the term “cloud,” which emerged in the 1990s as an abstraction for the complicated inner workings of the telephone company, and later to represent the massive infrastructure of the Internet. The term was used by IT people to symbolize the too-complicated-to-explain conglomeration of servers, routers, switches, and data lines. The cloud was a mysterious entity out there where intricate and wondrous things took place.

So how, then, did we get from that vast abstraction to everyday network attached storage (NAS) appliances being called “clouds,” like the $169.99-MSRP Seagate Personal Cloud 3TB we’re reviewing here today? Or, more simply: How did a humble data-storage device, sitting beside you on your desk, get associated with a term of such immense reach?

In short: The term keeps morphing and evolving. After all, Seagate is not the only drive manufacturer to use this “cloud” conceit in naming its personal storage devices. Western Digital (WD) offers multiple versions of its My Cloud NAS product, networking veteran ZyXel offers a Personal Cloud line of NAS drives, and Seagate sub-brand LaCie makes the CloudBox. The term “cloud” evolved from referring to the Internet’s massive wide area network (WAN) to refer more specifically to the storage repositories on the Internet—such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft’s OneDrive—where many of us save or back up our data these days. Before long, concerns arose about entrusting your only copy of key data to these offsite services. And so, with some brilliant marketing judo, storage-device makers adopted the term for storage appliances that let you keep a copy of your data in-house while making it accessible to the wider Net. And just like that, the enormous, intricate, and highly complex has been reduced to a data-storage gadget residing in our homes and offices.

Which brings us back to the Seagate Personal Cloud. What we have here is a one-hard-drive version of the Personal Cloud 2-Bay we reviewed back in 2015. In addition to this 3-terabyte version we received for review, Seagate offers 4TB ($219.99 MSRP) and 5TB ($239.99 MSRP) alternates.

The primary advantage of the Personal Cloud and NAS drives like it, compared to online cloud sites, is that with your own NAS drive, you pay a one-time charge for your data storage—the cost of the drive—and can add as many users as you want. In contrast, Dropbox charges $12.50 per month to rent 2TB of online storage, and if you need an account that supports multiple users, that goes up to $20 per user. It doesn’t take long, then, to burn up the cost of a small NAS like this in cloud-storage fees.

Seagate Personal Cloud (3TB) (Left Angled)

The primary disadvantage of the Personal Cloud and its competitors is that if anything happens to the NAS device—fire, theft, and the like—you’ll lose your data. Another disadvantage, of this Personal Cloud drive in particular, is that it contains just one hard drive mechanism, as opposed to higher-end NAS appliances that house at least two (and some of them, four or more). Multi-drive NAS devices let you configure their internal drives in redundant arrays designed to protect your data should any of the drives in the array fail. A shortcoming, then, of the Personal Cloud and others that contain just one drive is that if the drive inside fails, so goes your data, unless you have backed it up somewhere else (such as, say, a cloud site) or what’s on it is just a second copy.

That said, the Seagate Personal Cloud is easy to set up and use, and it comes with handy apps and services for backing up the PCs on your network and other routine tasks. Also included are a few feature-rich and adroit media-streaming servers. In testing, it was speedy enough, and it has a USB 3.0 port for adding supplemental external USB storage to the Personal Cloud, or for backing up USB external drives and thumb drives. And given that the street price is under $150 at this writing, the value proposition for a 3TB drive paired with all these extras is hard to beat.

For what it is, we like the Personal Cloud as a personal backup and media-streaming device, as long as you don’t rely on it alone for storing your only copies of critical data. For that kind of storage, this drive needs a backup plan itself.

See the entire review at Computer Shopper


 

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Lenovo Tab 2 A8-50 Review and RatingsLooking back over our Android-tablet reviews for 2015, we realized that we haven’t reviewed a new 7-inch tablet all year. (Indeed, the number of new Android tablets on the whole seems to be way down.) The low end is taking on a new shape, too: As we thought in 2014, 8 inches has become the new standard for compact Androids. You might say 8-inchers are the new 7-inchers, in terms of both popularity and price.

Case in point is last year’s $179.99-MSRP Lenovo Tab A8, which we reviewed in July of 2014. At that time, the Tab A8 was one of many entry-level compact Android tablets available, with most of the 8-inch models selling for just under $200 and most of the 7-inchers going for a bit over $100 ($129.99, or thereabouts). Here we are, just a year later, and Lenovo’s sequel to the Tab A8, the Tab 2 A8, raises the quality level for the price over last year’s model (even though both slates use the same processor). And it also lists for $20 less: a $159.95 MSRP. (Plus, as we wrote this in August 2015, it was selling at shop.lenovo.com and several other places for $40 less than that, or $119.99.)

Lenovo Tab 2 A8

Plenty of things about this slate place it firmly in the “entry-level” column, such as its relatively low-resolution, 1,280×800-pixel display, a mediocre 16GB of storage, and a relatively slow 1.3GHz MediaTek processor. Even so, its better-than-adequate display panel and Dolby-enhanced sound make it a good device for watching videos and for other kinds of not-so-resource-intensive media consumption.

Its shoulder-shrug-at-best performance on our benchmark tests suggests that this little slate might be somewhat sluggish, compared to other competing 8-inchers. The numbers suggest that perhaps you might notice it even when performing some everyday tasks—such as composing and responding to e-mails, Web browsing, and social-media interaction. But that was not the impression we got from our hands-on trials. As long as we didn’t try to push the Tab 2 A8 too hard, as we’ll get into in our Performance section later on, the Tab 2 A8 performed just fine.

That said, it’s also important to point out that the Tab 2 A8 simply could not complete a few parts of our cadre of tests. This, in turn, relegates this slate to a not-small group of entry-level- and midrange-performing tablets capable of most of the basics, but not up to the stresses of the most demanding Android games and apps.

In short: It’s dressed in fine accoutrements for media consumption—a good screen and speakers—but at the core this is a basic tablet. It’s ideal, we think, for first-time tablet buyers, for children (to keep their hands off Mom’s and Dad’s much pricier iPads), and anybody else looking for an inexpensive-yet-capable compact Android to help them keep in touch friends, family, and the world.

Read entire review at Computer Shopper

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Zuckerberg is spreading the Internet across the globe, but is it only for Facebook’s gain?   In the 20 or so years the world has enjoyed public Internet (ever since the days of dialup, in fact), there has always been free Internet in one form another. Usually, though, these so-called “free” providers forgo the monthly fee in lieu of the subscribers allowing the company to subject (bombard) them with advertising—in the form of banner ads or some other, usually more distracting, type of message. For these providers and their subscribers, this is a mutual exchange; nobody gets anything from charity or the goodness of anybody else’s heart.

Not so, though, according to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, for subscribers of Facebook’s free Internet service, Internet.org. Founded in 2013, Internet.org’s goals are much loftier than ad-supported providers of old. It hopes to offer free Internet service to the two-thirds of the world’s inhabitants who, because of poverty, location, or a general lack service availability, don’t have and can’t get Internet connectivity.

Is Internet.org truly an attempt at altruism, as Zuckerberg claims, or a scheme to bring less developed countries of the world Facebook?

Read entire article at Digital Trends.

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Could DNA be the key to passing digital data to future generations? Perhaps in predicting “bio-neural” circuitry to store and transfer data throughout the starship, the writers of the mid-1990’s TV series Star Trek: Voyager were prophetic. Over the past few years, researchers at Harvard, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, ETH Zurich university, and other research facilities have been experimenting with storing data in DNA. Researchers are starting to find we may be able to store data for thousands of years by using techniques first perfected by Mother Nature.

The Voyager engineers have 400 years or so on today’s scientists. DNA storage is probably a little closer to today than the 25th Century, where Star Trek: Voyager was set. Still, this budding technology has a lot of obstacles, among them prohibitive costs. If that can be conquered, though, all of today’s existing digital data could be stored and preserved in about four grams of synthesized DNA.

Read the entire article at Digital Trends.

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Does the death of Windows RT cast a shadow on Windows 10?   Read more: http://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/windows-rt-dead-will-windows-10-make-mistakes/#ixzz3SDXC1QYl  Follow us: @digitaltrends on Twitter | digitaltrendsftw on FacebookThe recent introduction of Windows 10 Technical Preview has made many pundits wonder about the future of Microsoft’s Windows RT, an inexpensive, low-power version of Windows 8 designed to run on the ARM processors often used to power tablets and smartphones. Much of the speculation is that Windows RT is dead. Then again, was it ever really alive?

Nobody was ever enthusiastic about Windows RT. Microsoft promised, negotiated, bribed, and cajoled, but still the response to RT was poor, at best. The financial loses, especially Microsoft’s, were immense (and still climbing). Within a year or so of its 2012 release a list of PC manufactures including Asus, Dell, Samsung, and Lenovo gave up trying to sell RT devices.

Read the entire article at Digital Trends.

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Work with your hands, at your desk: Intel refocuses on gesture input with RealSense   Read more: http://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/intel-re-commits-realsense-voiceassist-ces-2015/#ixzz3ORSGXTIJ  Follow us: @digitaltrends on Twitter | digitaltrendsftw on FacebookSurely you’ve seen, either in movies or educational shows, those artificial intelligence (AI) computers that you interact with through various cables, or input leads, connected to your fingers, your hands, your head, and your feet. Depending on the sophistication of the devices and the software, nearly all parts of your body create input for the AI computer. Now, imagine interacting with, even controlling, your computer via hand and head movements, even facial expressions, without the input leads and cables.

Or maybe you want to control your computer with voice commands, like iPads and Android devices? Enter RealSense and VoiceAssist, two new interactivity enhancement features slated for the next generation of Intel CPUs.

If it all works the way Intel claims, you’ll soon be interacting with your computer via voice commands, hand, and head gestures, rather than actual physical pointing devices and keyboards. Here’s a real sense of how Intel’s new RealSense and VoiceAssist technologies work.

Read entire article at Digital Trends.

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The Windows 10 Tech Preview is snooping in on you, just so you know

Perhaps we’re getting too used to big tech companies collecting, using, and often distributing information about us without our permission.

Invasions of our privacy have become commonplace, and, for the most part, we tolerate them. We do so, solely, it would seem, because we value the convenience and productivity that we get by using these operating systems, applications, and online services that collect data about us. This data ranges from information about our systems, to how we use our computing devices, what software we use, our Internet usage, what we buy, and more.

Read the entire review at Digital Trends.

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NEW INTEL HD GRAPHICS, IRIS, IRIS PRO DRIVERS BENCHMARKED

Recently, Intel released new drivers for its Intel HD, Iris, and Iris Pro integrated graphics chips.

To test the company’s claims of improved performance, we downloaded the new drivers, and installed them on a laptop running on a 4th-gen Intel Core i7-4500U processor, which contains Intel’s HD 4400 Graphics GPU.

To establish points of reference, we ran 3DMark Fire Strike and Cloud Gate before installing the new drivers as well. These are popular benchmarks which we use to test graphics performance regularly.

Related: First Intel Core M benchmark scores released

After that, we installed the new drivers, and ran the same benchmarks again. While we expected the new drivers to perform somewhat faster, we were a little surprised by the results.

Read the entire article at Digital Trends.

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Asus MeMO Pad 7 (ME176C) Review and Ratings Every now and then we come across a tablet that demands we sit up and take notice—not because it’s glamorous, fashionable, or made of nifty materials, but because of its quiet competence. That was the case with the release of last year’s Asus MeMO Pad HD 7, a Computer Shopper Editors’ Choice in July of 2013.

Like most compact (7- and 8-inch-class) tablets we’ve seen over the past year or so, the MeMO Pad HD 7 was primarily an entry-level slate. At first glance, you might wonder why it was an Editors’ Choice at all, or even noteworthy. Compared to some competing compact models (such as Google’s highly desirable 2013 version of the Nexus 7), it offered little that was ground-breaking in terms of technology.

What that modest 7-inch slate diddo, though, was bring to reality a well-built, attractive tablet for under $150, complete with a decent sound system and a quite serviceable display. And that’s what the subject of this review—the MeMO Pad HD 7’s replacement—does here in 2014, as well: It redefines what a budget tablet can and should be.

Yes, the name is almost the same, to the point of confusion. The MeMO Pad 7 (no “HD”) is one of a group of three entry-level tablets that Asus rolled out in summer 2014. The others were the $299-list, 10.1-inch Transformer Pad TF103C and the $199-list MeMO Pad 8, both of which we reviewed just before this one. (Hit the links for the deep dives on those models.) The Transformer Pad TF103C, we found, was a pretty reasonable deal. It has a much larger display than our MeMO 7 review unit, and for the additional $150, you get a full-size tablet along with a fully integrated Android keyboard dock that turns it into a workable Android laptop.

Asus MeMO Pad 7 (Yellow)Still, that’s double the price of the MeMO Pad 7, and these are two very different tablets, for two different crowds. A closer match is the MeMO Pad 8. For the additional $50 that it costs versus the MeMO Pad 7, you get, well, another diagonal inch of display (which translates, if you do the math, to 30 percent more screen area).

For some buyers, that extra 30 percent is well worth another half a C-note. It does make things larger and easier to see, especially for those of us advanced enough in years to start experiencing declining eyesight. Plus, the 8-incher can be easier to read for another, less obvious reason: Despite its smaller screen, the MeMO Pad 7 has the same native resolution as the MeMO Pad 8. That means that (as we’ll discuss later on) the 7-incher has the more “detailed-looking” screen of the two, due to the necessarily smaller, tighter dots, but the 8-incher renders icons and other elements a bit larger. Even so, it’s a difference only noticeable if you really look for it, and a matter of personal preference between the two.

Otherwise, the MeMO Pad 7 and its 8-inch sibling look, feel, and smell a lot alike, right down to their controls and internal connectivity, which are nearly the same. Unlike last year’s 32-bit MeMO Pad HD 7 model, though, all three of Asus’ new slates run on a fairly new quad-core, 64-bit Intel Atom CPU, which, as we’ve seen in both the Transformer Pad TF103C and the 8-inch MeMO Pad, is an able performer. It delivered respectable scores on our battery of benchmark tests, and it contributed to a good, long runtime on our demanding battery-rundown trial. And it felt snappy in practice.

Asus MeMO Pad 7 (Angle View)Those truths, combined with the solid hardware, are what make this new MeMO Pad 7 much parallel to last year’s winner: It balances a lot of things that tend to be mutually exclusive. In addition to performing well, the MeMO Pad 7 is light, thin, and easy to hold on to. While the screen might be a little small for some buyers’ tastes in the current market, given the fast rise in popularity here in 2014 of tablets with 8-inch screens, it’s a good one, as 7-inchers go. If compact, economical, and Android are what you’re after in a tablet, it’s hard to beat the MeMO Pad 7 for the money, given the field.

Read the entire article at Computer Shopper.

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AOC mySmart All-in-One Android PC (A2472PW4T) Review and RatingsBack in November of 2013, we looked at an early attempt at an Android all-in-one PC, the Slate 21-k100 All-in-One Desktop from HP. Our opinion then was that running Android—a mobile operating system designed for smartphones and tablets—on a full-fledged computer was sheer folly. Not only was Android clunky on a 21-inch all-in-one (AIO), but several of HP’s hardware and design choices were baffling, too. As a result, the Slate 21 received one of the lowest scores we’ve given to a product in quite some time.

Now, venerable monitor maker AOC has tried its own hand at the same game with its mySmart All-in-One Android PC, another attempt to run Google’s open-source mobile OS on a large-screen AIO. This time, though, there are actually two such models: a $299.99 (MSRP) version with a 22-inch screen and the $399.99 (MSRP) model A2472PW4T, the 24-inch unit we’re reviewing here. Aside from the 2-inch-diagonal screen difference and the ensuing chassis-size change, these two machines are identical in almost every way.

AOC mySmart All-in-One Android PC (A2472PW4T)Note, though, there’s something big the AOC AIO can do that the HP Slate 21 can’t. The mySmart can double as a high-resolution (1,920×1,080-pixel) touch screen for Windows, making it, in a sense, something of a hybrid product. Unfortunately, while it makes a fairly decent monitor for straightforward viewing, this AIO has some serious design and performance issues that affect its overall value and effectiveness as a desktop machine. The touch functionality leaves much to be desired in either mode, too.

In addition, this is the first AIO we’ve seen that comes without a keyboard or pointing device in the box. You’ll have to provide your own, or else resort to typing onscreen, which isn’t at all productive. On the other hand, this AIO has several USB ports, and it supports Bluetooth, so your options are wide open if you want to buy your own input devices. We’ll talk more about these design issues on the next page.

All of this is not to say that there’snothing to like about AOC’s mySmart PC—quite to the contrary. For starters, it’s built around a good-looking 23.6-inch display panel and a decent sound system for watching movies and viewing high-resolution images. Very few Android games and apps, on the other hand, can take proper advantage of the high-resolution screen (which we’ll get into in greater detail in the Features & Apps section). So the screen is really only of note if you’ll be using the display in monitor mode.

On the other hand, for a mid-2014 Android-based device, this one is full of 2013 compromises, were it even just an Android tablet. It’s using last year’s Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, and it came outfitted with a two-versions-behind installation of Android, 4.2. While we didn’t care much for HP’s Android all-in-one, at least the HP Slate 21 came out of the gate with the most modern Tegra 4 CPU and the latest version of the Android OS at the time. Both systems, however, are low on storage (just 8GB inside).

AOC mySmart All-in-One Android PC (Front View)As we said about the Slate 21, this Android AIO provides neither a well-rounded Android-tablet-style experience, nor full-fledged all-in-one PC performance. If all you need is a large touch-screen device for watching videos, browsing the Internet, and managing e-mails and social media sites, this one will do. And, like we said before, it works as a touch-screen monitor—with, as you’ll see on the next page, some major caveats.

Still, realize that you can find basic Windows AIOs starting at about $350 (albeit with smaller screens), and for most users, those will be a far better alternative. Android doesn’t do big screens all that well to begin with, and when you stack on some this model’s shortcomings, it’s tough to get excited about the mySmart in light of what you can get for the same money.

Read the entire article at Computer Shopper.

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