Budget-friendly, compact Android tablets certainly haven’t been in short supply over the last year or so. The main trend among them, though—apart from better feature sets and screens for less money, as time has gone on—is that the 8-inch screen size has risen to more prominence. That’s likely due to the influence of the 7.9-inch Apple iPad Mini.
Before, compact tablets were practically defined by the 7-inch screen size in slates like the early Amazon Kindle Fire HD and first-gen Google Nexus 7. So, when Dell unveiled an 8-inch version of its Android-based Venue tablet last fall, tucked between its 7-inch Venue 7 Android tablet and an 8-inch Windows version, the Venue 8 Pro, that’s when we realized 8-inch slates would be a new class to reckon with on the Android side, too. The Venue 8 wasn’t the first of its kind, but with the rollout of Lenovo’s ThinkPad Tablet 8 at CES 2014, the company’s earlier Yoga Tablet 8, and several others, the “8” size looks like it’s here to stay.
The subject of our review today, Dell’s Venue 8, is not terribly different from the umpteen other compact Android tablets we’ve looked at over the past several months—especially the $149-list Dell Venue 7 we tested back in December 2013. Like the 7-inch Venue and numerous other compact Android slates from competitors such as HP, HiSense, Lenovo, Asus, and Samsung, this one falls short of our favorite compact slate to date, 2013′s $229-list refresh of the Google Nexus 7, in terms of performance and display quality.
In this case, though, our 16GB Venue test unit sold for only $50 less than Google’s sleek, strong-performing Android. As we see it (unless you simply just can’t pony up the additional $50), what you give up when choosing one of these under-$200 budget models is stark.
Then again, this and several other budget models—HP’s Slate 7 and Dell’s Venue 7 among them—come with MicroSD card slots for expanding storage, which is missing from not only the popular Nexus 7, but also all iterations of Apple’s runaway iPad Mini. You can increase the Venue 8′s storage capacity, for example, by 32GB, to either 48GB or 64GB (depending on which initial model you buy).
This Venue comes in either black or red…
Our review-model Venue 8 was a red tablet equipped with 16GB of internal storage, for $179.99 list. The next model up has 32GB of storage and runs $229.99 MSRP. (You can get either capacity in either color.) Alternately, you can choose Dell’s Venue 8 + Essentials Bundle (which lists for $294.99). In addition to 32GB of onboard storage, this bundle includes a Targus stylus, a 32GB SanDisk MicroSD card (which boosts the storage capacity from 32GB to 64GB), a Dell-branded case for the tablet, and an extra power adapter.
The bundles that Dell offers with the 7-inch-screened version of this slate are broadly similar to its larger sibling’s: a stand-alone Venue 7 tablet for $149.99; the tablet with a stylus for $189.99; and a $229.99 Essentials 7 Bundle with the same accoutrements as on the 8-incher. While the Venue 7 has a smaller screen and a slightly slower processor, at $30 less than the 16GB Venue 8 (and $80 cheaper than the Nexus 7), we think that it’s the better buy of the two—by a modest margin.
The Venue 8 runs on a slightly faster Atom processor than the Venue 7 does (a 2GHz chip versus a 1.6GHz). As you’ll see in the Performance section later on, this makes for a slightly better-performing tablet. (Don’t confuse the Venue 8 with the previously mentioned Venue 8 Pro, though, a Windows 8.1 tablet we looked at back in December 2013.) As we said about the Venue 7, this 8-inch Venue brings little new to the club. In fact, both slates are very much like several other entry-level compact Android tablets that came before them. At $179.99, though, given that most of the competition has 7-inch screens, the Venue 8 does net you a bit more display for your money.
Like we said about its 7-inch sibling, we couldn’t find a compelling reason—aside from its relatively low price given the screen size—to recommend this slate strongly over many of the other compact Android tablets out there, though it’s certainly as good a choice as any at its price. Given that the much peppier Nexus 7 is just $50 more, the potential savings gained from choosing the Venue 8 are only compelling if you’re sold on its bigger, lower-res screen.
Still, this is a well-built, satisfactory-performing tablet. It’s a good buy as a second slate for families with children, or perhaps as a first tablet for someone who isn’t sure if, or how much, he or she will use it. And if you see it on a limited-time discount, as Dell tends to offer for its tablets, it becomes an even better deal.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.
Last year, we watched as two-in-one convertible laptops battled for dominance, making 2013 the first round of the Windows hybrid wars. Laptop makers trotted out machines that twisted, turned, and bent over backwards to switch to tablet mode. Some were highly inventive and useful, while others (Acer’s Iconia W700 comes to mind) were well-intentioned but awkwardly implemented.
Over the past months, few convertibles have impressed us as much as Lenovo’s Yoga series, whose screens fold a full 360 degrees to bring the display and keyboard back to back, turning the laptop into a tablet, with handy “tent” and “stand” modes in between. Since testing the Yoga 13 in November 2012, we’ve reviewed several Yoga models, most recently giving an Editors’ Choice to the Yoga 2 Pro, with its fourth-generation “Haswell” processor and ultra-high-resolution 3,200×1,800 screen, in December 2013.
A Lenovo illustration of the Yoga series’ four operating modes.
One complaint those reviews have had in common, however, is that we haven’t been thrilled with the way the downward-facing keyboard hangs out in the breeze while using the Yoga in tablet mode. Although the keyboard’s disabled as the screen swings past 180 degrees, feeling the keys give way beneath your fingers as you hold the tablet is distracting and awkward.
Dell’s Yoga-like convertible, the XPS 11, addresses the exposed-keys issue by making the keyboard a flat surface, similar to the touch-sensitive slabs Microsoft sells for theSurface Pro. We found holding the XPS 11 in tablet mode less awkward than Lenovo’s approach, but when it came to comfortable typing, Dell’s hybrid was far from ideal.
Enter the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga, which is not only the first Yoga to bear the Chinese computer giant’s famous business brand but the first with a so-called “lift ‘n’ lock” keyboard that elevates the keyboard deck as you open the lid past 180 degrees. The deck slowly rises until it’s flush with the (disabled) key tops, making the bottom of the tablet a flat surface—and, in our opinion, successfully and cleverly addressing the distraction caused by the keys protruding and giving way beneath our fingertips while using the device as a tablet or in stand mode.
So the question now becomes, how well does this ThinkPad hold up to the competition as a business-centric PC? In addition to the signature ThinkPad keyboard and TrackPoint and touch pad pointing devices, this Yoga is built around a powerful fourth-generation Intel Core i5 CPU, making it one of the better-performing ThinkPads to date. We also liked our review unit’s great-looking 1080p HD screen. Then, too, there’s the exceptional ThinkPad build and materials quality.
Our bottom line? We loved last year’s Yoga 2 Pro, except for the exposed keys in tablet and stand modes. The ThinkPad Yoga resolves that issue, but at a price. To get one configured similarly to our review unit, with a 1,920×1,080 display and stylus support, you’re likely to spend upwards of $1,500. Our test model rang up at $1,669, which is frankly a lot for a 12.5-inch notebook.
Still, this is one well-performing, well-built laptop. That it seconds as a tablet, with a couple of other useful positions between that and laptop mode, provides significant additional value, making this not only our new favorite ThinkPad, but also one of the better business-oriented convertible notebooks of early 2014.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.
The first desktop PC we tested running Android was HP’s Slate 21 All-in-One, a $399, 21-inch touch-screen machine bundled with an inexpensive wired keyboard and mouse. While we lauded the experimentation, and considered it a workable concept, the implementation was definitely wanting—in part because Android is underdeveloped as a desktop OS. It worked, but awkwardly. It did suffice, however, as a big-screen media-consumption device, especially good for watching videos.
Here, we’re looking at an even bolder experiment. ZeroDesktop, a small Silicon Valley app maker, has recently debuted yet another Android PC, a tiny desktop box dubbed MiiPC (pronounced me-pc). The MiiPC began life as a Kickstarter project, and in its retail form it’s much cheaper than the Slate 21: $129 or $149, depending on the configuration. (Kickstarter participants got the base model for $99 if they committed to backing the project for that amount at the time.) In the case of the MiiPC, you supply the keyboard, mouse, speakers, and monitor. Also, unlike the Slate 21, the MiiPC doesn’t support touch input; it’s designed to be used with a keyboard and mouse, as it doesn’t have an integrated screen.
The MiiPC differs from every other Android device we know of—and most PCs, too—in that it provides an impressive set of cloud-based parental controls at the core of the experience. And we do meanimpressive—for example, you can kill and disable an app remotely, while your child is in it. We’ll discuss MiiPC’s parental controls and several other features unique to this product in the Features & Apps section later in this review, but know that the parental-control aspect is a big part of the appeal of this device.
As Android devices go, the MiiPC packs a list of hardware components that are lightweight relative to what’s in today’s mainstream Android tablets. It’s powered by a dual-core ARM-based processor, whereas most of today’s higher-end Android tablets run on quad-core CPUs (as does HP’s Slate 21, for that matter). Furthermore, the model we tested, the $149 version the company calls the MiiPC Premium, has only 8GB of storage—which is, frankly, not nearly enough. The $129 MiiPC Basic model has even less (just 4GB). Count on purchasing an SD card to expand the storage capacity right away.
Yet another serious shortcoming is that the MiiPC is not a Google Play-certified device, meaning, among other things, that it can’t access Google Play, the world’s largest Android app repository. Instead, it comes with access to a couple of other app stores, which we’ll discuss later in the Features & Apps section.
There’s a good bit of software on board to get you started, though. The MiiPC comes with about 80 games that ZeroDesktop has converted to scale properly onto large screens, and the company says it’s in the process of doing the same for “many” others. The device also comes with some supplemental gaming software preinstalled, the Cannonball gaming console, which allows for game-controller support to enhance Android gameplay on a large screen. (MiiPC supports several popular game controllers, including ones for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. See them all here.)
Compared to most recent mainstream Android tablets, MiiPC performed merely ho-hum on our battery of formal benchmark tests. While it’s certainly got enough oomph for everyday tasks such as e-mailing, Web browsing, and playing the simple preinstalled games, its benchmark scores indicate it doesn’t have quite the resources to run today’s higher-end games.
As we said about the HP Slate 21, the MiiPC idea appears to be a good one, but the implementation is a bit underdeveloped. With that in mind, we think it’s a bit overpriced. You’ll have to bring your own monitor, keyboard, pointing device, and speakers, which, if you shop around, you could probably find for about $200, or perhaps a little less. So, for about $350, you get a fully functional Android desktop PC with a highly comprehensive set of remote parental controls, as well as a fairly capable gaming and media-consumption device. And if the parental controls matter greatly to you, or you already own a lot of the hardware to attach to the MiiPC (such as a spare display), it can be a good deal. But know that basic Windows all-in-one PCs start at around that same $350.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.
One of the most interesting and best-received of 2013’s Android tablets was Samsung’s $399-list Galaxy Note 8.0, which we gave our Editors’ Choice nod back in April 2013. Well-built, attractive, and fast, the Galaxy Note 8.0 (as well as the 2014 refresh of the Galaxy Note 10.1 that we looked at in October 2013, also an Editors’ Choice recipient) differs from most Android tablets. In addition to allowing for excellent fingertip and gesture input, with that Galaxy tablet you get Samsung’s highly innovative, useful stylus, which it dubs the “S Pen.”
Not only does the S Pen provide excellent pen-input support, but the Galaxy Note 8.0 itself also comes with a handy host of pen-enabled apps, as well as multitasking features unavailable on most other Android tablets. We found plenty of things to like about the Galaxy Note 8.0—more than enough, to our eyes, to justify the seemingly exorbitant $400 price for a compact slate.
Samsung’s Galaxy Note tablets are, of course, premium products at premium prices, and, if you need the pen input, they justify the cost. However, graphics-hardware and mobile-processor giant Nvidia, with its 2013 release of the Tegra 4 processor, soon after unveiled a reference design for a stylus-supporting, compact Tegra tablet, which was picked up by EVGA for sale in the United States, and by several other makers for overseas distribution. We’re looking at it here in the form of the EVGA Tegra Note 7. A full $200 cheaper than the Galaxy Note 8.0 was at its debut, the Tegra Note 7 takes direct aim at Samsung’s pen tablets with an aggressive price and pen support that leverages Nvidia’s powerful mobile processor.
Granted, the Tegra Note’s pen-enabled apps are, compared to the Galaxy Note’s, sparse. And, as you’ll see in the Design & Stylus section on the next page, the tablet itself is not nearly as thin, sleek-looking, or attractive. But let’s cite that price again: It lists for only $199.
The slate we looked at is marketed under the EVGA brand, but it’s very much a showcase of Nvidia tech. Beyond the Tegra 4 inside, the other real news here is Nvidia’s inclusion of its own DirectStylus pen technology, which allows the company to build in support for a passive pressure-sensitive stylus, for a fraction of the cost of the active-pen technology Samsung uses in its Note devices. DirectStylus technology harnesses the image-processing power of Tegra 4’s GeForce GPU to analyze data from a standard touch sensor and recognize the difference between the fine tip of your stylus, your fingertip, the stylus’ eraser, and your palm brushing the screen.
Indeed, this is an unusually flexible tablet for its size and price. The inclusion of the stylus helps make the Tegra Note 7 a decent productivity slate, while Nvidia’s quad-core Tegra 4 makes it a strong-performing gaming tablet. The 1,280×800-pixel screen (the same native resolution as on the Galaxy Note 8.0), may be nothing spectacular compared to, say, the super-high-resolution 1080p screen on Google’s 2013 refresh of the Nexus 7, but it looks pretty good.
Mostly, we liked this slate, barring its bulky, plasticky-feeling chassis. The build quality makes it look and feel like an inexpensive, entry-level tablet, but the Tegra Note 7 is better than that—it’s a high-performing, bargain-priced slate that’s good for games and note-taking. Despite its bulky, somewhat homely appearance, considering what you get, it’s well worth $199 if those two kinds of tablet tasks are in your wheelhouse.
It wasn’t that long ago that 8-inch Windows tablets were rare. In fact, prior to Windows 8 and its by-design touch capabilities, the few Windows tablets available in any form were inconsistent in terms of comfort and usability—and compact models just didn’t exist. (We consider tablets with screens 9 inches and under “compact” models, and between 9 and 11 inches “full-size” slates.)
In mid-2013, Acer was the first out of the 8-inch gate with its lukewarm Iconia W3 (soon to be supplanted by the Iconia W4, shown at CES 2014), and a few other major tablet makers have followed suit. Among them are Dell, with its recent release of the Venue 8 Pro, and Lenovo, with its $299-MSRP Miix 2 8, the subject of this review.
In many ways, the Miix 2 8 reminds us of the full-size (10.1-inch) Miix 10 tablet we looked at back in November of last year. However, in our tests, thanks to a much more powerful Intel Atom CPU (a member of the chip maker’s new “Bay Trail” family), this compact Miix ran circles around slates running on previous (“Clover Trail”) iterations of the Atom chip. (We’ll talk more about processors and benchmarks in the Performance section later on.)
Meanwhile, though: Yes, the latest Atom chip in this Miix (the 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740) is much faster. But there’s a caveat: The Miix 2 8 (and all other Windows slates built around that CPU, for that matter), still can’t execute 64-bit applications and are precluded from accessing more than 4GB of RAM. Because of that, these tablets typically ship with 2GB. Programs like Photoshop, for example, require more memory than that to execute most processes successfully.
According to Intel, 64-bit Bay Trail chips won’t be available until early 2014 (i.e., soon). So where does that leave this last round of tablets built around this Atom processor? As our charts in the Performance section attest, this Bay Trail chip is certainly faster than the “Clover Trail” Atoms we saw in a few tablets, but, alas, it still has most of the same shortcomings we discussed in our review of the Miix 10. According to several reports, support for 64-bit processing—in both Windows 8.1 and Android 4.4—on Atom processors should happen early this year. However, since you can’t update the RAM in this or most tablets, the point is somewhat moot. What you buy now is what you get.
You can buy the Miix 2 8 with either 32GB or 64GB of storage, for $299 or $339, respectively. This Miix is light, thin, and attractive—not to mention well-built and durable. Beyond the restrictions placed on it by virtue of its processor, it’s not a bad little tablet, especially considering it sells for under $300. The fact that it’s a full-Windows slate at that price and comes with a full license for the Home & Student version of the Office suite makes it an even better value.
Plus, you can accessorize this tablet pretty cheaply. For an additional $20, you can pick up Lenovo’s optional “smart” cover, which also comes with a stylus. The cover protects the tablet, of course, and it also lets you position the Miix 2 8 upright for video viewing or screen sharing…
Unlike the optional cover for the Miix 10, however, this one does not include a physical keyboard. (Our review unit did not come with the cover and stylus, so we weren’t able to review them.)
Overall, the Miix 2 8 felt good in our hands, performed reasonably well, and delivered decent battery life. Our primary concern? Bay Trail may support 64-bit code before too long, and that might be worth waiting for. Otherwise, this tab is a solid buy.
Read entire review at Computer Shopper.
With the debut of its radically thin and light XPS 11 ultrabook, Dell has taken direct aim at a couple of Lenovo’s convertible PCs, namely the IdeaPad Yoga 11S and Yoga 2 Pro. Like those two Yogas, the 2.5-pound Dell comes with a pair of articulating hinges that allow you not only to open the lid for laptop use, but to keep folding it back a full 360 degrees, until the screen and keyboard are back-to-back—thereby transforming the device into a tablet. Indeed, Dell likes to call the XPS 11 a tablet that can serve as an occasional ultrabook, while the slightly larger XPS 12 is vice versa.
While last year we lauded the Yoga’s overall design, Lenovo’s decision to include a full-sized, chiclet-style keyboard caused a couple of comfort issues. It made, first, for a very thick tablet. Second, we found that feeling the keys (even though they’re disabled) beneath our fingers as the “back” of the tablet was just plain, well, weird.
For the XPS 11, Dell addressed this issue by going with a flat, capacitive touch keyboard, similar to the thin, flat keyboard covers Microsoft sells for the Surface Pro. The upside of this approach is that you get a very thin ultrabook, but then you also get a keyboard that provides little to no feedback, not to mention a lot less comfort, during typing. In fact, the keyboard is such a drastic difference from what most laptop users are used to that it just may be this device’s Achilles’ heel. We’ll look at the keyboard in greater detail in the Features section.
Despite where you come down on the keyboard issue, the XPS 11 is otherwise one thin, light, attractive, and well-built 11.6-inch ultrabook. It comes with a nice-looking, high-resolution (2,560×1,440) screen, and it performed reasonably well on most of our benchmark tests.
Dell offers three different models of the XPS 11, starting with a fourth-generation Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and an 80GB solid-state drive for $999. The next model up comes with a Core i5 CPU and a 128GB SSD and sells for $1,249. Our review unit was the $1,449 flagship, which is the same as the previous except for a 256GB solid-state drive.
Mostly, we liked this laptop. Granted, the flat keyboard will undoubtedly turn off many would-be buyers, but then, this hasn’t been much of a deterrent for Surface Pro shoppers. Our opinion? It was bold of Dell to experiment like this. Whether you should buy the XPS 11 or not probably depends on whether you can live with the keyboard—so we suggest that, if you can, you give it a try before you buy.
Upon removing the XPS 11 from the box, we were impressed with its light weight and super-slim profile (0.4 inch at its thinnest point). Both the lid and the underside of the chassis are made up of a carbon fiber weave and aluminum frame that look and feel not only durable, but also quite elegant and substantial. It’s just a hair heavier than the 11-inch MacBook Air (2.4 pounds), and therefore very easy to carry.
Despite the system’s thinness, Dell managed to work in several expansion ports, including two full-size USB 3.0 ports. You’ll find one of these, the AC power jack, a mini HDMI port, the audio jack, a speaker vent, and the volume toggle located on the left edge. The other USB port, another speaker vent, a 3-in-1 memory card reader, and a security lock are all located on the right edge.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.
Lately, it seems that every few months Epson is releasing another model in its “Small-in-One” line of compact inkjet all-in-one (AIO) printers. Just a few months before this review, in October 2012, we looked at one of the company’s latest higher-end models, the Expression Premium XP-810 Small-in-One. We found it to be a great little all-around office appliance for families. Our only complaint? This scaled-down five-ink printer was, in terms of cost per page (CPP), just a bit too expensive to use.
Today, we’re looking at a more photo-centric family member, the $349.99-MSRP Expression Photo XP-950 Small-in-One Printer. (When we wrote this in late December 2013, it sold for about $259.99 on the street.) Similar to two of Canon’s higher-end photo inkjets, thePixma MG7120 and Pixma MG6320, this AIO uses a six-ink imaging system. And much like Canon’s six-ink Pixmas, the XP-950 prints exceptional photographs and graphics—and, also like those Canons, this Small-in-One is fairly expensive, on a per-page basis, to use.
A further way the XP-950 resembles those two Canon photo printers is that it has no automatic document feeder (ADF) for scanning and copying multipage documents. Instead, you must feed the scanner one page at a time, which is time-consuming and tedious. Without an ADF, you’ll find that an AIO’s scan and copy functionality is practical only for single-page and relatively small jobs.
The lofty CPP and lack of an ADF aside, the XP-950 performs reasonably well compared to competing models, and it prints snazzy-looking documents and photographs with aplomb. The high CPP, of course, limits its value for printing in any kind of serious volume. If you print hundreds (or even thousands) of pages each month, you’d be far, far better off choosing a much higher-volume, office-centric model with a lower cost per page, such as HP’s OfficeJet Pro 8600 Plus. For churning out heavy-duty jobs day to day, this model will cost you a mint to print.
On the other hand, if you need a good photo printer that has the ability to print the occasional business document cleanly, the XP-950 fits that profile, and then some. In addition, it can print on appropriately surfaced CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs, and (as we’ll discuss on the next page), it supports numerous alternative mobile printing channels. And it has an ace up its sleeve compared with most mainstream inkjets: It can also print to 11×17-inch paper, which most inkjets cannot.
Granted, the XP-950 is not meant for serious printing at this size; you have to feed it one oversize page at a time. But if, now and then, you need the occasional outsized image or want to visualize a giant spreadsheet on paper, this is a very handy feature to have in your back pocket.
Above all else, though, this is a photo printer, and a good one.
Read entire review at Computer Shopper.
We’ve watched over the last year or two as mainstay business laptops gradually inch closer in design to their ultrabook competitors—as we saw when Lenovo bolstered the ThinkPad T430 with the thinner, lighter T430u and T431s. Now Toshiba is doing the reverse, making its ultrabook more businesslike.
Compared to its Portege Z835/Z935 predecessor, the Portege Z30 delivers more of the security and office-friendly features you’d expect to find on a business machine, such as a SmartCard slot and a docking connector for a $199 desktop port replicator shared with Toshiba’s Tecra enterprise laptops. However, since it’s an ultrabook, you also get an extra-slim profile and light body (albeit a fractionally heavier one—the Z835 was 2.4 pounds and bordered on feeling flimsy, the Z30 is 2.6 pounds and feels solid). Unlike some ultrabooks such as the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus that aspire to elegance and high-end looks, though, the Portege focuses more on practicality than glamour.
The Z30′s optional port replicator provides Ethernet, USB 3.0, and assorted video (VGA, HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI) ports.
You can buy the Portege Z30 in several different hardware configurations with your choice of processors, memory, and storage options. Our $1,279 review unit, the Z30-A1301, was built around a fourth-generation Intel Core i5 CPU, along with 8GB of system memory and a 128GB solid-state drive. Build-to-order options include a Core i7 processor, up to 16GB of RAM, and up to a 512GB SSD, as well as the Windows 8-suitable touch screen which our Windows 7 Professional test unit lacked.
One component you can’t change is this laptop’s mediocre, low-resolution 13.3-inch, 1,366×768 display, which frankly we found disappointing, especially considering that we liked nearly everything else about the Z30, right down to its relatively strong performance in our benchmarks and its exceptional showing in our demanding battery-rundown test.
Thinner, lighter, and faster than most competitors, the Portege Z30 is a well-built ultrabook with some nice extras and stellar battery life. Aside from its lackluster screen, we think it makes a great road companion.
Unlike high-end, consumer-grade ultrabooks, the 0.7-inch-thick Toshiba is not made of chic brushed aluminum. Instead, the Z30′s chassis is made from a very light and durable magnesium alloy that looks and feels like plastic, but it’s much lighter and tougher than that.
Furthermore, as you can see in the image at left, the new Portege appears, compared to several other ultrabooks we’ve reviewed, a little boxy, devoid of the sculptured bodies and sleek lines we see on so many consumer models. Instead of style and sex appeal, though, we say again that this laptop offers durability and business-friendly features, such as a fingerprint reader to help keep out intruders.
Any office-oriented laptop needs lots of connectivity and expansion options, and the Portege Z30 won’t let you down there. For example, it supports two types of video output, both VGA (RGB) and HDMI. You’ll find these two ports, along with the AC power jack and a USB 3.0 port with Sleep and Charge for recharging handheld gadgets, on the left edge. Meanwhile, on the right edge you’ll find an SD Card reader, another two USB 3.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a security lock slot.
The Z30′s left and right profiles and ports.
On the underside of the chassis, up near the front edge, are two stereo speakers. The pair, with the help of DTS Studio Sound software enhancement, played back with decent tonal quality and stereo delineation, but we weren’t able to get enough volume out of them.
A supplied software utility offers hi-fi fine tuning.
As you can see in the image above, the DTS utility provides extensive control over audio playback. When we turned DTS on, our test videos and music samples sounded full and rich.
Read the entire article at Computer Shopper.
In the closing months of 2013, we’ve seen tremendous growth—at least in terms of the sheer number of products—in the market for compact Android tablets (that is, models with 7-to-9-inch displays). It’s to the point, it seems, that we’re reviewing a new one every week or two. Some, such as the 2013 refresh of the Google Nexus 7, are fast and aspire to elegance. Others, such as HiSense’s Sero 7 LT and HP’s Slate 7, are no-pretenses budget models.
That second group—budget-priced compact tablets—is where the model we’re looking at here, Dell’s $149.99-list Venue 7, fits in. Like several like-priced, no-frills budget slates we’ve looked at lately (notably Asus’ $149.99-list MeMO Pad HD 7 and HiSense’s $149.99-list Sero 7 Pro), the Venue 7 is light, thin, and attractive, and it performed reasonably well on our benchmark tests given its price. It’s fast enough to perform most tasks comfortably, though not an ideal pick for the most resource-intensive Android games.
In addition, the Venue 7 turned in one of the shortest unplugged runtimes in our battery-rundown test we’ve seen in some time—as much as three to eight hours behind some other compact models. We’ll talk more about this tablet’s battery life in the Battery Life & Conclusion section later on.
Our review package contained the Venue 7 alone, equipped with 16GB of internal storage, for $149.99 list. However, Dell offers some interesting bundles on its Web site. You can, for example, choose the Venue 7 with a Targus stylus for $159.99, or a “Venue 7 + Essentials Bundle” for $199.99, which includes the Targus stylus and a 32GB SanDisk MicroSD card, which boosts the onboard storage capacity from 16GB to 48GB.
In addition to the Venue 7, Dell also offers the Venue 8, an 8-inch-screened version of the tablet. It sells in a set of bundles parallel to its smaller sibling’s: a stand-alone Venue 8 version for $179.99; with a stylus for $189.99; and a $229.99 Essentials 8 Bundle with a stylus and a 32GB memory card.
We should also point out that the Venue 8 has a slightly faster (2GHz) Atom processor than the Venue 7’s (1.6GHz), which should, theoretically anyway, make for a slightly faster slate. Also, don’t confuse the Venue 8 with the Venue 8 Pro, which is a full-on Windows 8 tablet. (Hit the link for our review of that one.) In any case, nothing about either Android version, the 7- or 8-inch, is particularly ground-breaking. In fact, the Venue 7 is, for the most part, just another entry-level compact Android tablet. It brings little new to the conversation. At $150, it’s one of the cheaper compact tablets we know of, but certainly not the cheapest. And that’s our main quibble with this tablet: We couldn’t find a compelling reason to recommend it over the other 7-inch Androids out there in its price class.
That said, given the price, we couldn’t find any reason not to recommend it, either, for first-time buyers, as a second slate for the family, or perhaps as an inexpensive tablet for a child. Given its comparably priced competitors, though, we’d like the Venue 7 a lot more at $129, or perhaps even a bit less.
See entire review at Computer Shopper.
As we’ve noted over the years, when it comes to printing photos on all-in-one (AIO) inkjet printers (that is, multifunction models that can print, copy, and scan), few solutions provide better-looking photographic output than the six-ink imaging systems deployed in a few higher-end, photo-centric Canon Pixmas. (The Pixma MG6320 Wireless Inkjet Photo All-in-One we reviewed back in February 2013 comes to mind.) Hence, we always pay attention when another new model based on this tried-and-proven imaging technology comes along.
Enter Canon’s MG7120 Photo All-in-One Inkjet Printer, the Japanese electronics giant’s latest model based on that detail-rich, vibrant six-ink imaging system. It lists for $199.99 and sells for roughly $149 on the street. Designed for photo enthusiasts and capable of printing exceptional photographs, this AIO also performs basic office functions, such as printing business documents, scanning, and copying.
The key word here is basic, though. Notably, this Pixma lacks an automatic document feeder (ADF) for scanning and copying multipage documents. What this means is that each page of a document must be placed on the scanner bed one at a time, which can be time-consuming and tedious, especially if your original document is two-sided. These days, it’s unusual for a printer in the $200-list price range to come without an ADF onboard.
In addition, the Pixma MG7120 is—in terms of print speed, input and output volume, and cost per page (CPP)—a decidedly low-volume machine. While everything it prints looks good (partly because it uses six discrete, premium inks), what it prints, as you’ll see in the Setup & Paper Handling section later in this review, costs a bit too much to output for our tastes.
Usually, we ding a printer hard for high CPPs, though we do make some provision for photo printers built around five- and six-ink systems. Typically, you would buy one of these photo-centric models only if image printing were more important to you than office-productivity and convenience features. In these cases, as we see it, it’s important that you understand what you’re getting and why.
As we’ve put forth for years, Canon’s six-ink Pixmas print exceptional images. The business documents it prints look good, too, but, compared to the CPP figures we’ve calculated from many other inkjet-based AIOs, they’re also a bit too expensive. In addition, this machine’s lack of an ADF limits its flexibility as a copier or scanner, which is a pity, because the quality of its copies, as we found in our tests, is excellent.
In light of that, be clear on what the Pixma MG7120 is, regardless of its AIO exterior: a photo printer, first and foremost. There’s no denying that the Pixma MG7120 prints stellar photos, but that’s by far the main reason you should consider it.
Read entire review at Computer Shopper.