It seems that no matter how hard we work towards digitizing our lives, we all wind up with at least a few drawers or shoeboxes full of bits of paper. You know what we mean—those grocery-store receipts, teller slips, and business cards that we toss off to the side with a promise to ourselves thatthis will be the month we’ll deal with them. The months pass, and you never quite find the time to type the business-card info into Outlook, or get those receipts entered into Quicken. Meanwhile, more months go by, the stack gets bigger, and the task gets ever more daunting.
Alas, wouldn’t life be so much easier if we all had a personal assistant to take care of mundane tasks like these for us, entering and organizing all these pieces of paper? Well, a Philadelphia-based firm, The Neat Company, has for some years now advertised a product that it says will do just that. (If you’ve spent any time watching cable TV in recent years, you’ve likely seen Neat’s infomercials.) The $399.95-list NeatDesk Desktop Scanner + Digital Filing System is designed to take all those business cards, receipts, and other miscellaneous scraps of paper and catalog them in a searchable database.
The full name of the NeatDesk system is definitely a mouthful, but it describes the product’s base functionality—a scanner and a digital filing software suite—reasonably well. If anything, it actually undersells it a bit. The NeatDesk software, now NeatDesk version 5, is far more than a mere document-cataloging system. In fact, depending on what you scan and how you organize it, NeatDesk splinters off into several different directions. From your business cards, for example, it creates a contacts database and functions as an address book. From your scanned receipts, you can flag tax deductions or generate expense reports.
Those two possibilities just scratch the surface. You can, for instance, sync NeatDesk with Outlook (or Address Book on a Mac), Quicken, or QuickBooks, and when you use the software with The Neat Company’s NeatCloud and NeatVerify online services, it takes on yet another level of functionality. Our point? What might look like a simple solution for scanning and organizing receipts, business cards, and paper detritus turned out to be one of the most ambitious…well, we’re not sure whatexactly to call it.
What we can say, though, is that the NeatDesk does a lot of different things, and some of them reasonably well. We suspect, though, that most folks will buy NeatDesk for the main function Neat advertises: to scan and organize receipts and business cards. And as you’ll see in the “Setup & Performance” section a little later in this review, the product struggles a bit in providing this base functionality.
What the NeatDesk software does do well, though, is sync the contact information gleaned from scanning business cards with Outlook and Address Book. And it does a good job of exporting receipt data for use in other programs, such as Excel, Quicken, QuickBooks, and TurboTax. That said, the question then becomes, is the process of scanning, reviewing, and exporting the data more efficient, in terms of accuracy and time management, than simply typing in the data manually?
Then, too, there’s the price. The NeatDesk kit comes at a hefty $399.99 price tag, which hasn’t budged in the years we’ve seen the NeatDesk ads on TV. Considering that many basic all-in-one printers for under $200 have decent sheetfed scanners built in, $400 seems like a lot for a simple scanner and cataloging software. (Neat also offers a sister product, NeatReceipts, a $179.99-direct version that’s a sheetfed “bar”-type scanner.)
We’re somewhat conflicted about the viability of NeatDesk. While the scanning didn’t work as smoothly and consistently as we thought it should considering the price, we can envision scenarios with stacks of receipts and business cards where it would certainly be a huge timesaver. Is it worth $400, and will it work for you? As we see it, the answer depends mostly on the amount of data—how many receipts and business cards—you need to enter, and what you plan to do with the data afterwards.
See full review at Computer Shopper.
Toshiba’s Excite line of tablets has scored consistently high in our reviews over the last year. The Excite 10 we looked at in 2012, for example, was a highly impressive, premium-quality slate. Fully encased in metal, it was slim and light, with a wide range of expansion options, and it supported full-size SDXC memory cards, which allowed you to increase its storage capacity by up to 128GB. (We found this last unique feature particularly impressive.) Both it, and the company’s ultra-premium Excite 10 LE, came just shy of receiving our Editors’ Choice nod—primarily because both slates were priced a bit too high.
That’s our primary concern with the Japanese electronic giant’s latest full-size (10.1-inch) Android tablet, the $499.99-list Excite Pro—it costs a little too much. In addition, Toshiba has done away with a few of the features we found so attractive on last year’s model, such as the all-aluminum chassis and support for full-size, high-capacity SD cards.
This is not to say that we weren’t impressed with this new Excite. It is, after all, more than a year later, and nowadays we’re not quite as smitten with all-metal cases and massive storage capacity. What compels us more in a tablet is an ultra-high-resolution screen, a generous complement of system RAM, a super-fast processor, or great-sounding speakers. In mid-2013, media-consumption powerhouses such Google’s Nexus 7 (2013) and Sony’s Xperia Tablet Z are winning the day, and, from that perspective, the Excite Pro holds its own.
The biggest news here is that this new Excite was the first Android slate out of the gate that we tested to run on Nvidia’s new Tegra 4 CPU. (That’s barring the rather different, only tangentially tablet-related Nvidia Shield gaming device.) As you’ll see in the Performance section later on in this review, compared to its predecessor, the new Tegra delivered significant performance boosts across the board on most of our benchmark tests. However, unlike last year, when the Tegra 3 stood out as the only quad-core processor, the Tegra 4 is meeting with some stiff competition from Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 Pro, which we’ve seen so far in Sony’s highly impressive Xperia Tablet Z and Google’s recent refresh of the Nexus 7.
The only area where this year’s Excite fell behind last year’s was battery life. Considering the Excite Pro’s high-resolution 2,560×1,600 screen, though, it held up fairly well, and the screen itself displayed our test videos and photographs impressively. When you combine the high-res screen with its pair of excellent-sounding Harman/Kardon speakers, you get an excellent slate for watching movies.
Alas, nothing is perfect, though, and where the Excite Pro fell short was, in our opinion, important. During game play and watching videos for more than a few minutes, the tablet itself and the power brick got excessively hot—so hot, in fact, that it became uncomfortable to hold onto or rest in our lap.
At no time did it seem hot enough to damage the device, but the excessive heat did, when coupled with the Excite Pro’s premium price tag, cost it our Editors’ Choice nod. At $500, a tablet should be near perfect. As you’ll see as you read on, the Excite Pro faltered in a few other areas, which, depending on how (and for what) you use your tablet, may or may not matter to you. Overall, though, mostly we liked this slate and would have no problem giving it a resounding recommendation were it a little cheaper and cooler.
See entire review at Computer Shopper.
While watching the press event late last month announcing Google’s Chromecast, a new gadget for streaming content from mobile devices to HDTVs, we knew it was going to be big, but we had no idea it would be this big. Nobody, not even the folks at Google, imagined that, within less than an hour after the announcement, Chromecasts would be on back order by more than a week. Or that the day after Google unveiled the device, people were paying as much as three times the suggested retail price of $35 on eBay. Or that, also a day after Chromecast’s debut, Google’s withdrawing a bonus offer for three free months of Netflix would have no effect on the sales stampede.
What’s all this tumult about? After all, aren’t there already several solutions out there, such as HDMI, Intel’s Wireless Display (WiDi), and Miracast, for pushing content from smartphones, tablets, and laptops to televisions? Well, yes there are, but Google’s little dongle offers several advantages over other technologies—starting with its exceptionally low price, which we suspect had a lot to do with it selling out in the first hour.
Granted, you can connect your mobile device to an HDTV with an HDMI cable for less than $35, but this solution is fraught with inconveniences—even if your device has an HDMI-out port, and many don’t. If yours doesn’t, you’re stuck shopping around for an adapter, which raises the expense and frustration factors. But even so, cost isn’t really the drawback to HDMI cabling.
As with any wired solution, when you tether your laptop, tablet, or smartphone to your television with an HDMI cable, your movement is restricted by the length of the cable, not to mention that mobile devices in general are much more cumbersome to use with wires dangling off them. Then, too, there are those situations where your sofa is located 15 or 20 feet across the room from your TV. Sure, sufficiently long HDMI cables are available, but hardly elegant.
Yep. A wireless solution is much more practical. And there are some good ones, such as Miracast, which runs over the Wi-Fi Direct protocol. However, unless your device comes Miracast-enabled, you’re out of luck. Only recently, on products such as Samsung’s new Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 and 8.0 and Asus’ MeMO Pad HD 7, have we begun to see support for the Miracast standard. Furthermore, even fewer TVs support Miracast, meaning that, even if your mobile device can broadcast the Miracast signal, you’ll still need a $50-or-so adapter for your television.
Furthermore, when you use Miracast (and similar broadcast technologies) to push data from your smartphone or tablet to your television, you can’t use the mobile device for anything else—not without stopping the broadcast, anyway. As you’ll see in the How it Works section a little later in this review, Google has found a way around that limitation with Chromecast.
Perhaps that is what makes this little dongle such a hit? Or perhaps it’s that Chromecast works with any operating system, mobile or otherwise. In any case, we’ve been testing Chromecast on several different mobile devices for the last three weeks or so, and overall, we’re impressed—it’s well worth the $35 price tag, and innovative and clever enough to deserve our Editors’ Choice nod.
That said, nothing’s perfect. Currently, for instance, Chromecast supports only a handful of apps, such as Netflix, YouTube, and a few others, and during our testing, we discovered a few quirks, but nothing we couldn’t live with. What impressed most was the little gadget’s potential.
See entire review at Computer Shopper.
It’s been almost a year now since Vizio, a Southern California electronics firm far better known for its extensive line of HDTVs than computers, introduced its first 27-inch all-in-one PC, the CA27-A1. And while we had a few quibbles about it, considering that this was the company’s first big-screen desktop, it wasn’t a half-bad machine.
Still, with the imminent release of the first truly touchable version of Windows—Windows 8—only about a month away, we were a bit perplexed as to why the Vizio all-in-one (AIO) didn’t include a touch screen. And the plasticky-feeling wireless keyboard and touch pad were less than impressive, too.
Mostly, though, last year’s Vizio had a lot going for it—it performed well and it had a big, bright, and beautiful screen and better-than-average sound system, all in a pleasingly high-tech, elegant design. Overall, we called it a decent value, even after budgeting $50 for a wireless keyboard and mouse to replace the Vizio keyboard and touch pad.
Enter this year’s $1,549-list Vizio CA27T-B1, the company’s latest big-screen all-in-one desktop. This Vizio is, of course, a touch-screen PC, which gets it past our biggest concern about last year’s model. It has the same stylish black-on-silver design that, despite an entire year having gone by, still looks high-tech and modern. And, thanks to its Intel Core i7 processor and 8GB of system RAM, it’s a strong performer.
Unfortunately, Vizio chose to include the same underwhelming, cheap-feeling keyboard and touch pad we groused about last year, and while the stand on which the 27-inch monitor is mounted looks good, it’s a lot less conducive to touch-screen gesturing than designs originally engineered with finger manipulation in mind, such as, say, Acer’s Aspire 7600U and several other competitors. As you’ll see in the Design section on the next page, we discovered that the monitor mount has far too much play in it, causing it to wobble when you use the touch screen.
Furthermore, since it relies on Intel’s integrated graphics solution rather than a discrete graphics processing unit (GPU), it comes up short for high-end multimedia creation, and it can’t run the most resource-intensive games. Yet another concern we have is that, with the advent of Intel’s fourth-generation Core (a.k.a. “Haswell”) processors, this system’s Core i7-3630QM chip comes out of the gate a generation behind.
That said, the CA27T-B1 is, after all, a mid-range desktop aimed at families and students, and priced well under $2,000 (even marked down, at this mid-August 2013 writing, from $1,549 to $1,439 on Vizio.com). We can’t really expect to see discrete graphics and a “Haswell” CPU in such a moderately priced machine.
With that in mind, we found a lot to like about this all-in-one. During our battery of benchmark tests, for example, it held up well compared to several more costly competing models. The screen, a true HD (1,920×1,080) panel, looks great and responds well to finger input. The Vizio’s 2.1 surround system delivers better-than-average sound and, combined with its bright and colorful screen, makes this AIO a good choice for media consumption, especially watching movies. We like it as a home-office and family PC.
See entire review at Computer Shopper.
In 2012, with the release of the Google Nexus 7 by Asus, Google literally redefined the compact-tablet market—erased the slate, you might say. It did that not by delivering anything truly ground-breaking, but instead by offering a premium-quality slate at an entry-level price. Nothing about the 2012 Nexus 7 was particularly new, apart from it being the first tablet at the time to run the incremental 4.1 (a.k.a. “Jelly Bean”) version of Android. But it was the first slate you could get for under $200 that wasn’t plagued by quality-sapping, cost-cutting compromises.
For starters, the 2012 Nexus 7 was the only budget-friendly tablet near its price built around Nvidia’s Tegra 3 quad-core processor. And, unlike most other entry-level slates at the time, Google (and the actual hardware manufacturer, Asus) didn’t compromise on screen or build quality. The display rivaled those we’d seen on tablets that cost $100 to $200 more, and its light, attractive chassis felt sturdy, well-balanced, and, well,expensive, in our hands. On the whole, it was a great tablet at a great price, resetting the standard for the entire market for compact tablets.
Here we are a year later, and Google has introduced the next generation of the Nexus 7, which goes under the same name; we’ve dubbed it the “Google Nexus 7 (2013).” The new Nexus starts at a $229 list price (for a model with 16GB of onboard storage), and it’s manufactured by Asus, like its 2012 predecessor. This time, though, not only has Google delivered a great product at a decent price (albeit one with a starting price $30 higher than the 2012 model’s), but this time the new Nexus doesbring a number of firsts to Android mini-tablets.
It is, for example, the first 7-incher to come with a super-high-resolution, true-HD screen (with a native resolution of 1,920×1,200, or 1,080p), and it supports wireless charging. (We’ll discuss both of these features in detail in the Features & Apps section, a little later in this review.) It’s thinner and lighter than last year’s iteration, too, making it the leanest 7-inch slate we’ve tested to date. And it’s the first slate to run on Android 4.3. Version 4.3 may be an incremental update to the operating system, but early returns suggest that here it delivers significant performance boosts, especially in graphics processing.
In addition to all these exciting new changes, the Google Nexus (2013) is one great-looking, great-feeling tablet. As with last year’s model, our only real complaint is that this new model doesn’t let you increase its storage capacity. You’re stuck with either the 16GB that comes in the $229 version, or the 32GB in the $269 model (the one we’re reviewing here). Apparently, this lack of an SD slot didn’t dissuade many tablet buyers, though—if the sales of last year’s Nexus 7 and the stalwart Apple iPad Mini are any indication.
As you’ve probably gathered by now, we really liked this tablet—so much so that our recommendation is simple: If you’re looking for a compact slate that doesn’t have to be an iPad, and your budget has any kind of flex at all, buy this one.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.
Few of today’s tablets hit a happy medium between consumer-centric fun and business-optimized practicality. The former gets most of the love, with most slates we see leaning toward social media and media consumption, rather than running business applications. To that end, most of the full-size (10.1-inch) slates we review focus on delivering great-looking graphics on screens built into sleek, attractive chassis, instead of concentrating on the security and durability features many business users need.
One company that consistently bucks that trend, offering no-nonsense, business-ready tablets, is the information-tech and communications giant Fujitsu. Case in point is theStylistic M532, an Android slate we reviewed back in September 2012—one of the first Androids built to meet military-grade durability standards. That slate and earlier Windows 7 Fujitsu models, much like the Windows 8 model we’re reviewing here today, the $879-list Stylistic Q572 Tablet PC, placed practicality in business settings way above leisure functions and style.
With this latest model, though, Fujitsu has pulled out all the stops. Not only is this slate durable, but, as you’ll see in the Features & Apps section a little later in this review, the list of security features—which includes a CompuTrace-enabled BIOS, a fingerprint reader, and a SmartCard reader—is very impressive. We haven’t tested a slate to date that’s so well-protected.
In addition to providing security on every front, the Q572 comes with a slew of other business-ready enhancements (mobile broadband, stylus-pen support, and a swappable battery), as well as a wide range of connectivity options, including full-size USB and HDMI ports. In fact, aside from, perhaps, an infrared (IR) emitter and face-recognition, we can’t think of any other reasonable features Fujitsu could have stuffed into this exceptionally full feature set.
The Stylistic Q572, then, is one well-endowed tablet, which explains its high price. What also makes it distinctive is that it’s the first slate we’ve seen that runs on AMD’s low-power, mobile-optimized Z-60 accelerated processing unit (APU), which AMD is offering as an alternative to the Intel Atom processors seen in most new Windows slates. It’s a bold move, to be sure. As you’ll see in the Performance & Conclusion section at the end of this review, even though the AMD chip has a 64-bit data path (compared to the 32-bit Atom), the Q572 struggled with many of our performance tests.
A complaint we’ve had about most Fujitsu tablets is that their screens are often lackluster compared to many competitors’. The ones we’ve seen simply have not been as brilliant and color-rich, and this one is no exception. Videos, images, even Web pages appear somewhat washed out and subdued, to the point that the best praise we can give is that it’s, well, adequate. Adequate enough for Web browsing, word processing, e-mail, and other typical business applications, but at no time will anything on the screen jump out and wow you. If media consumption is high on your list of priorities, this is not your tablet.
The Stylistic Q572 comes in only one standard configuration, which includes 4GB of RAM and a 64GB solid state drive (SSD). As mentioned, this model lists for $879. However, you can special-order this slate on Fujitsu’s Web site with additional RAM and larger SSDs (128GB or 256GB). Alternately, you can opt for a 64GB or 128GB SSD with Full Disk Encryption (FDE), for added security. Prices, of course, depend on the options you choose. (We should add that you can also get this slate with Windows 7 instead of 8 for the same price.)
At first glance, the Q572’s price may seem a bit high. However, considering this slate’s wide range of features (among them the replaceable battery, mobile broadband, stylus support, and the security options), $879 doesn’t seem that far off the mark. We did find its less-than-stellar performance and somewhat washed-out screen concerning, though. If you need a slate for watching videos, viewing photographs, or playing games, this one will disappoint you.
Our bottom line? The Stylistic Q572 works in strictly-business settings where security is important and display quality doesn’t matter much. Its durable build, support for mobile broadband, and the ability to swap out the battery make it suitable for long shifts on, say, factory and warehouse floors. As a business tool, it would serve you more adroitly—in certain settings—than most consumer-oriented tablets. Conversely, many consumers would find it lacking on a few key fronts.
See the full review at Computer Shopper.
The market for all-in-one (AIO) inkjets really is a fickle place. A couple of years ago, several models from Kodak (and a few other manufacturers) suggested the end of a long-running trend: specifically, selling entry-level printers at rock-bottom prices, then compensating by charging exorbitantly for the ink. For a while there, we were seeing under-$150 printers with costs per page (CPPs) of about 3 cents for black-and-white pages and under 10 cents for color. It appeared that small and home offices were finally going to get a break.
Alas, here we are in mid-2013. Kodak’s out of the printer picture, due to a recent bankruptcy. Dell and Lexmark have quit the inkjet-printer market altogether. And the survivors, notably HP, Canon, and Epson, are introducing some of the costliest-to-use entry-level AIOs we’ve seen. Case in point is HP’s recently debuted Envy 5530 e-All-in-One Printer. (We have a review of it in the works.) When you use the company’s standard-yield ink tanks, it costs over 9 cents per black-and-white page, and over 20 cents per for color—yikes!
That brings us to the subject of this review, Epson’s $99.99-list Expression Home XP-410 Small-in-One Printer—another entry-level AIO with, alas, astronomical per-page costs. We’ll discuss that issue in some detail in the Setup & Paper Handling section a little later in this review. But those costs, really, are the most important news here.
Why? No matter how strong this printer’s feature set, no matter how well it prints or how quickly, the fact that this AIO costs so much to use relegates it to an occasional-use machine. Prospective inkjet buyers who need to use their printer frequently would be better off paying more—perhaps as much as $100 more—to get a printer with a cheaper per-page cost of ink. Period.
That said, the XP-410 does churn out fine-looking business documents and photographs, and it performed well on our print-speed benchmarks for a printer in this price range. True to its Small-in-One name, it’s light and compact, which makes it easy to situate in even the most cramped home offices. And, despite somewhat flimsy-feeling input and output trays, it feels well-built.
Unlike a few other AIOs in this class, though, it lacks an automatic document feeder (ADF) for scanning and copying multipage documents, and it can’t print two-sided pages without user intervention—meaning that you’ll have to turn the pages over yourself to print the other side (and pay attention to the document order). While neither of these missing features is standard fare on under-$100 machines, some models do provide them. Whether or not this is a deal-breaker depends on how you plan to use the printer. Having both features can save time and frustration if you’ll use your printer for light business/home-office tasks. (And even if not, they’re nice to have, just in case.)
We recognize that many small and home offices print less and less all the time, relying on their printers as standby machines. From that point of view, the Expression Home XP-410 Small-in-One works for us—as an occasional-use AIO for printing or copying a handful of documents or photos each month. For heavier duty, though, you can and should do better.
See full review at Computer Shopper.
Ever since the webOS-based HP TouchPad debacle back in July 2011, many a pundit has pundit-ized about what role HP might end up playing in the non-Windows tablet scene. With the introduction of HP’s first Android tablet, it looks like that role will be…a supporting actor.
Instead of coming back with a confidenttour-de-force, rolling out something new and ground-breaking, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based giant has quietly sidled into the Android slate market with an entry-level compact slate, the HP Slate 7, that’s more run-of-the-mill than run-of-table.
In a marketplace awash with mini tablets, our first question about the Slate 7, as we took it out of the box and looked it over, was whether this was a serious contender, or just one more me-too tab. The first impression tended toward the latter. And at this stage in the Android-tablet game, HP needed a home run to get a slice of this very competitive pie. How else to make yet another 7-inch slate attractive enough to gain a foothold against the market-dominating Google Nexus 7 and Apple iPad Mini, not to mention the price-chopped Barnes & Noble Nook HD and cheap mass-market tabs from the likes of Hisense and many others?
HP told us that its strategy for the Slate 7 is two-fold: first, to focus on functionality and features where the market leaders have fallen short; and second, to offer a quality-built, well-performing product at a competitive price. For example, the Google Nexus 7 has only one camera and doesn’t provide a means for expanding storage. The Slate 7, on the other hand, comes with both front- and rear-facing shooters, and you can expand its storage capacity via a MicroSD card. In addition, HP has included Beats Audio enhancement and improved printing capabilities.
We’d say HP has succeeded partially in its aims. While the Slate 7 performs well, and it does feel thoughtfully put-together, it remains a budget tablet at heart. And alas, the compromises of budget-friendly products always shine through somehow. What you give up on the Slate 7 is a gyroscope and GPS, which are standard features on most Android slates. In addition, this tablet has a lower-resolution screen than on most other 7-inch slates that aren’t cut-rate models. And just as much a concern, this tablet didn’t last nearly as long on our battery-rundown test as a bunch of others we’ve tested. That includes several low-cost 7-inchers—notably, the Google Nexus 7 and the Amazon Kindle Fire HD (7”)$199.00 at Amazon.
The question with any low-cost tablet is, of course, whether these trade-offs make sense versus competing models—a question we’ll try to answer over the course of this review. As for the price, you can buy the Slate 7 with either 8GB or 16GB of onboard storage; HP pegs these models with list prices of $169.99 and $199.99, respectively. However, as we were writing this in early July 2013, HP announced an instant rebate of $30 for both versions, dropping them to $139.99 and $169.99.
HP told us that this pricing would last “for a while,” which we took to mean at least for the foreseeable future. In any case, considering current tablet trends and other new players on the scene, such as Hisense and its two under-$150 slates (the $149-list Sero 7 Pro and the $99Sero 7 LT, both exclusive to Walmart), the pressure on HP and others to maintain these low prices—or perhaps drop them even further—is immense.
Overall, the Slate 7 is well-built and attractive, and it performed well on our suite of benchmark tests. Still, given its screen resolution and somewhat diminished feature list, we’d have trouble recommending either model—but especially the 16GB version—at the list price. With the instant savings, it’s a better buy. The problem is, like so many other compact tablets we’ve seen lately, it doesn’t much stand out from its mass of competitors.
Indeed, HP has chosen quite a tough time to enter this free-for-all. We like the Slate 7 as an entry-level slate for first-time buyers, or perhaps as a second tablet for a family with children. But at its list price, you might as well opt for one of our Editors’ Choice compact-tablet winners, such as the $199, 16GB version of the Google Nexus 7, without a second thought. With the rebate, on the other hand, it’s a safe pick if you’re budget-strapped enough that the extra $30 would be a hardship. But know that the 8GB version of the Slate 7 will likely have you scrambling for a $20 MicroSD card before long, dashing much of the discount.
See the full review at Computer Shopper.
Lenovo’s popular business laptop line, the ThinkPad T Series, contains both a thin and light model, the ThinkPad T430s, and an ultrabook, the ThinkPad T430u. The first T Series to combine Lenovo’s high durability and business standards with Intel’s ultrabook requirements, the T430u represents an affordable alternative to Lenovo’s elegant ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Unlike the Carbon, though, the T430u is not—by ultrabook standards, anyway—all that light. In fact, it weighs slightly more than the T430s (4.1 versus 4.0 pounds).
Now Lenovo is giving slimline shoppers a third choice. Not only is the new ThinkPad T431s about half a pound lighter than the first T Series ultrabook (3.6 pounds), it has a few other features that make it more appealing, such as a 1,600×900-resolution display, up from the lowest-common-denominator 1,366×768-pixel panel of its predecessor.
In a further attempt to make the matte black brick ThinkPad more fashionable, Lenovo has also made a few cosmetic changes to the T431s. Though perhaps not as alluring as the brushed aluminum cases we’ve seen on other ultrabooks, this one’s semi-gloss lid, slender side profile, and thin display bezel make for an all-around more attractive laptop.
One change that ThinkPad loyalists may not like, however, is the new glass touch pad. Instead of three tactile buttons at the top of the pad, you now get the flat, no-button integration we see on many consumer-oriented laptops. TrackPoint pointing stick enthusiasts, we believe, will find this change a minus, because it’s now more difficult to distinguish between the left, right, and middle mouse buttons.
We were also a little disappointed with the Lenovo’s display. While the 14-inch screen displayed text, graphics, and images well enough for everyday business applications, it left something to be desired in overall brightness and vibrancy. In addition, its lack of in-plane switching (IPS) technology made for relatively narrow viewing angles—when viewing the screen at any angle other than straight on, the contents started to appear washed out and distorted.
Overall, though, the ThinkPad T431s, like most T Series models, is a strong business-class laptop. It’s built solidly, with the durability we’ve come to expect from ThinkPads, and it performed reasonably well on the majority of our benchmark tests. It’s thin, light, and comfortable to use, making it a solid travel companion. We don’t recommend it as a consumer-oriented media-consumption machine—there are a number of ultrabooks better suited for that. This ThinkPad means business, and we like it as a highly portable workstation.
See the full review at Computer Shopper.
It’s not all that often that we get to test an inkjet multifunction printer that costs more than $300. (Most inkjets are geared toward consumers and come in below that.) The most recent was HP’s $799.99-list Officejet Pro X576dw, an ultra-high-volume model based on the company’s relatively new PageWide technology, quite different from other machines built around standard inkjet mechanisms. Prior to that, the last $300-plus inkjet we had seen in some time was the Editors’ Choice-winning, $499.99-list Epson WorkForce Pro WP-4590—which we reviewed back in 2012.
What we liked about the WorkForce Pro WP-4590—aside from its strong feature set and its laser-like print quality and print speeds—was its highly competitive cost per page (CPP). This was one of few inkjets (and still is) that delivered black-and-white pages for under 2 cents per page, and color pages for well under 10 cents. Not only are these CPPs extremely low for an inkjet printer, but they are also less expensive per page than many color-laser-class machines. Combine this low cost of ownership with an extensive feature set, a high monthly print volume, and exceptional print quality and speed, and you get a great all-in-one (AIO) machine for small businesses and workgroups that print a lot.
That’s also what you get with the subject of this review, HP’s $399.99-list Officejet Pro 276dw Multifunction Printer$399.99 at OfficeMax—a highly capable, feature-rich, high-volume AIO with a very reasonable per-page cost of consumables. In fact, feature for feature—right down to an optional additional 250-sheet paper drawer and PCL/PostScript laser-printer emulation—HP’s 276dw and Epson’s WP-4590 have a lot in common. Frankly, we would find choosing between them difficult.
The good news is that no matter which one you choose, both machines provide an excellent alternative to a midrange color laser multifunction printer—not to mention the benefits you get from inkjet technology versus laser technology. Inkjet printers, for example, turn out much higher-quality photographic images and intricate graphics, and they do so while consuming less power than their laser counterparts.
As we see it, then, this really is a battle of two high-volume business-centric inkjet AIOs—the 276dw reviewed here and Epson’s highly capable WP-4590. Aside from the $100 difference in their list prices (which, on high-volume models like these, is less important than their CPPs), the devil is in the details. This Officejet, for example, comes with a high-capacity automatic document feeder, or ADF (holding 50 pages, versus 30 on the Epson printer), and a slightly higher suggested maximum monthly duty cycle (30,000 pages versus 25,000). On the other hand, the Epson model delivers slightly lower CPPs, which, if you print thousands of pages each month, can save you plenty year in and year out.
Our suggestion is that you check out our reviews of both models and compare them heads up to decide which one better fits your needs. In the meantime, as we said about the WP-4590 last year, we found very little to dislike about this Officejet. It’s hands-down an easy earner of our Editors’ Choice nod.
See the entire review at Computer Shopper.