A few years ago, the Android-tablet market was flush with slates in two or three different screen sizes—and economy levels—from most of the big players in PCs. Nowadays? The pickings are pretty picked over.
Whether you’re talking about compact (7-to-9-inch) or full-size tablets (models with screens around 10 inches), we just haven’t seen that many new ones in recent months to choose from—or review, for that matter. Acer, Samsung, and Lenovo have trickled out a few, but most of the full-size Android tablets that have debuted over the past year or so have been upscale, premium multimedia devices with exceptional displays and sound.
In fact, while they can do many things, most of today’s full-size Android tablets are designed primarily for watching digital video. And, much like today’s review unit, Huawei’s $419-MSRP MediaPad M2 10.0, most of these slates are quite good at it—which requires, above all else, two predictable things: good speakers and good screens. (It’s also important to note here that our review unit was near the top of its family in both components and features. As we’ll discuss in a bit, you can buy a reasonably equipped MediaPad M2 10.0 for around $349 MSRP.)
Another thing that most recent full-size tablets have had in common: a tendency to be durable and look upscale, even elegant, in appearance. Dell’s $629 mid-2015 Venue 10 7000 (Model 7040), with a detachable keyboard and touch pad) is an excellent example, as is Lenovo’s solidly built, $499.99-MSRP Yoga Tab 3 Pro. As you’ll see in the section coming up next, the Huawei MediaPad M2 10.0 comes with not only an excellent 1,920×1,200-pixel screen, but also an excellent Harman/Kardon sound system with four loud, clear-sounding speakers.
But this MediaPad isn’t a one-trick tablet; media playback isn’t all it can do. It also supports 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity that, when coupled with Huawei’s active stylus (in the box with our review tablet), lets you annotate, draw, and take notes with Huawei’s bundled pen-enabled apps. Unfortunately, not all of the MediaPad M2 configuration options include the stylus, which we’ll address in some detail in a moment. Suffice it to say here that the differences in what you get for $349 and $419 are significant.
In either case, whether you buy the least expensive version of the MediaPad M2, the most expensive, or one in between, you’ll get a tablet that’s impressive in appearance (a dead ringer for the iPad Air 2) and build quality for a reasonable price.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.
Inkjet printers are amazing technology—microscopic nozzles spraying tiny droplets of ink in precisely manipulated patterns. That R&D isn’t cheap, though, and a whole other set of elaborate endeavors on the side have sought to maintain the sky-high cost of that ink. It’s printer manufacturers’ main path to profit. In some ways (and much less conspicuously), it’s akin to the pricing shenanigans of the gasoline market.
Today’s EcoTank all-in-one (AIO) review unit, the $1,199.99-MSRP WorkForce Pro WF-R4640 All-in-One Printer, is a bit different, and a bit bigger. It has compartments for holding huge bags of ink on both sides…
The flagship model of the EcoTank series to date, the WorkForce WF-R4640 is, like the other printers in this series, essentially an existing AIO retrofitted with the EcoTank ink storage and plumbing. In this case, rather than refilling reservoirs from relatively large bottles of ink, here you simply swap out an empty ink bag for a full one. We’ll look closely at this configuration, how well it works, and the economics a little later.
In this case, the WorkForce Pro WF-R4640 is at the core Epson’s $399.99-MSRP WorkForce Pro WF-4640 All-in-One, the two-input-drawer version of one of our Editors’ Choice recipients, theWorkForce Pro WF-4630 All-in-One. (We should point out that at the time of this writing in late April 2016, we found the WorkForce WF-4640 for as low as $270 and the WF-4630 for as low as $200.)
In our analysis, the WorkForce WF-4640 was a good choice for upgrading to an EcoTank model. Keep in mind, though, that what Epson has essentially done is retrofit the WF-4640 to use the EcoTank system and then multiply the price by a factor of three or four, from a $399.99 list price (or $270 typical street price) to $1,199 (which was both the MSRP and street price when we wrote this).
When viewed from the perspective of the past couple paragraphs, the WorkForce WF-R4640 mightsound like an economic enigma—who would pay four times the price for essentially the same printer? Our analysis so far has said nothing about the huge, 20,000-page ink bags that come with the printer—enough ink, according to Epson, to last for two years.
Two years? Really? Well, that all depends on where and how you might be using this printer. One office’s first two years’ worth of ink is another’s first two weeks’ appetizer.
If you printed 20,000 pages over the course of two years (730 days), that comes out to about 27 pages per day. If you back out weekends, holidays, and any number of other reasons you might not print on certain days, let’s be generous and say the ink bags will print 50 pages per day.
The printer can certainly handle that. A 50-page-per-day load, even on every day of a 30-day month, is far, far below the WF-R4640’s 45,000-page monthly duty cycle (Epson’s rating for the most pages the printer ought to handle in a given month). In other words, if you actually pushed it to or close to its monthly rating, you would run out of ink in the first few weeks.
The good news in all this is that when it comes time to buy new ink bags, as you’ll see a bit later in this review, the per-page cost of ink is quite low. Even color pages come in well under what we consider competitive cost-per-page (CPP) figures. But then the CPPs, while certainly impressive, aren’t the only reason to buy this high-volume workhorse. Remember that the WorkForce model from which it has been adapted is a fine office-centric AIO in its own right. It had plenty of reasons—good print speed and print quality, mobile connectivity options, not to mention a strong set of productivity and convenience features—to make it a Computer Shopper Editors’ Choice recipient, too.
It just comes down to the price, and how soon you think you might burn through 20,000 pages of printing. We liked this printer, but we recognize that $1,200 is a lot to pay for an inkjet printer of this caliber, in essence, a printer that at the core has the features of a $300-to-$400 model. If you use your printer—and we mean churn out thousands of prints and copies each month—when it comes time to buy new ink, and every time after that, you will save big. The cost per page is far more economical after you’ve exhausted that first set.
The more and the longer you use the WF-R4640, the better a value it is compared to some other competing models capable of the same print volume. But if it’ll take you years and years to drain the first set of tanks, this is not the right printer for you.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.
Even though they’re often more expensive to purchase and use, all else being equal, HP’s LaserJet printers earn it. The technology inside is field-leading, and they tend to be more modern- and stylish-looking than most of their competitors. And that’s saying something when you’re talking about most single-function laser printers, which favor the “plain cube” look. Most wind up box-shaped and bland-looking.
The topic of today’s review, HP’s $799.99-MSRP Color LaserJet Enterprise M553dn, can’t quite escape that, though the company does add a few curves to give it a distinct look. It’s a single-function color laser printer meant, as the name suggests, for businesses with large workgroups to serve and a need for managed print resources. We’re catching up with this model in April 2016, but it’s been on the market for a while. And it hasn’t followed the usual price trends for a midlife product.
We should point out that as we wrote this in early April 2016, that everywhere we looked on the Internet, this specific LaserJet model sold for its full manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP), or more. Indeed, at Amazon, it sold for $200 higher than the MSRP, or $999.99, which is something that we don’t often see. That this LaserJet has been on the market for nearly an entire year and still commands such pricing suggests that it has been well-received so far.
In fact, everywhere we’ve looked, the M553dn has received high ratings. Like most of the HP laser printers we’ve reviewed recently, such as the Color LaserJet Pro MFP M477fdw, the M553dn comes with the company’s latest JetIntelligence toner cartridges and reformulated ColorSphere 3 toner, which (according to HP), delivers a bunch of advantages compared to earlier LaserJets and other, competing laser printers.
As we noted in our reviews of some other recent LaserJets, the claims about the new JetIntelligence cartridges and ColorSphere 3 toner include the ability for the toner particles themselves to melt at a lower temperature. (In a laser printer, the toner dust that gets arranged on the page is melted in place by a hot roller.) This, along with a few other enhancements, allows LaserJets to burn—again, according to HP—53 percent less energy, take up to 40 percent less space, and wake up and print two-sided (duplex) pages faster than previous LaserJet models could. (The wake-up speed is tied in with the need for the fuser to hit a lower relative temperature to do its job.)
HP also says that the enhancements done to toner and cartridge alike deliver many more prints from a cartridge, compared to previous LaserJets. As we pointed out in our review of the Color LaserJet Pro M477fdw (and other LaserJets), while this also allows for smaller cartridges and, therefore, smaller printers, it does nothing to reduce the per-page cost of the toner. We’ll get into that issue in some detail in the Setup & Paper Handling section later on.
Even though the Color LaserJet Enterprise M553dn has an 80,000-page monthly duty cycle (the maximum number of prints HP says the printer can handle each month), if you actually pushed it that hard—even by as much as, say, a third of the rating—this MFP, compared to many other laser and laser-class (LED-based) printers we’ve looked at, would cost a bit too much to use in terms of toner.
That factor—the somewhat high cost per page—plus a purchase price that seems impervious to discounting and a lack of built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, are our only real complaints about this printer. Other than that, it did what we expected it to, and well.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.
For a while, it was looking like high-volume, business-grade inkjet printers were going to outpace their laser counterparts in nearly every way—especially in speed and per-page cost of operation. Some of today’s top-value inkjets for offices—notably, models in HP’s PageWide and Epson’s WorkForce families—have made a convincing case that there’s a new print-tech sheriff in town for those who don’t necessarily need true laser-quality text output, but need their pages quickly and cheaply. And it’s inkjet.
However, if today’s review unit, Brother’s $249-list HL-L6200DW Business Laser Printer, and a few other laser machines we’ve looked at of late are any indication, some laser-printer makers are fighting back.
The HL-L6200DW is one of a handful of economical single-function (i.e., printer-only) monochrome models that Brother has rolled out recently. Most of these models have been smaller and not as fast nor as economical, apart from the $349.99-list HL-L6200DWT. That unit is essentially the same printer as the HL-L6200DW here, except for the addition of a second, 520-sheet paper drawer. A $100 premium for the second drawer, considering its $209 price tag bought separately at Brother’s online store, isn’t bad at all if you need that kind of paper capacity. But, then again, as you’ll see in the Setup & Paper Handling section later on, with this model you have a few expansion options that perhaps even outstrip the other aspects of this printer.
Single-function monochrome laser printers tend to be humdrum models, and while we are impressed with the HL-L6200DW’s cost per page (also discussed in the Setup & Paper Handling section), it’s the intangibles rather than the physical traits of this printer that set it apart. Aside from the cost per page, decent print speeds and print quality also formed our more-than-favorable impression of this little workhorse.
Granted, other single-function laser printers in the same price range are as fast or faster. But the difference is not enough to skew our assessment of this printer by much. With this laser’s 100,000-page-per-month duty cycle (the number of pages Brother says the printer should be limited to in any given month to forestall premature wear) and aggressively low cost per page (CPP), it’s worthy of our Editors’ Choice award.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.
Among the most successful multifunction printers (MFPs) in recent years has been HP’s 2014 Officejet Pro 8630 All-in-One Printer—also, not coincidentally, one of our highest-rated Editors’ Choice recipients (4.5 out of 5 stars) over the past few years. An all-in-one (AIO) printer must hold up well under our scrutiny and impress us to receive so high a score.
Alas, all good things must eventually get refreshed and replaced.
Now, it’s time to talk about not only the Officejet Pro 8630’s replacement, but also the retirement of the entire Officejet Pro 8600 series, which includes the 8600, 8610, 8620, and the 8630 flagship model. The 8630 is much like the 8620, minus the former model’s second drawer. In the same way, aside from dropping a few features, such as an auto-duplexing ADF (and, of course, that second drawer), the 8610 is much like the 8620.
HP’s new generation was unveiled in early March 2016. The Palo Alto printer giant introduced, along with 15 to 20 other printer models, the Officejet Pro 8700 series, which included the flagship, today’s review unit. The $399.99-MSRP Officejet Pro 8740 All-in-One Printer, as you’ll see over the course of this review, is no incremental update to the Officejet Pro 8630. Apart from some similar specs, these two printers don’t have a lot in common—especially, as shown in the image below, in appearance…
In fact, this series, including our Officejet Pro 8740 review unit, which we’ll discuss in some detail in the Design & Features section next, looks quite different from any inkjet AIO we’ve seen, now or in the past.
In addition to the Officejet Pro 8740, on March 8 HP also unveiled the Officejet Pro 8710, which is a bit of an outlier. In addition to having, as you’d expect, features reduced versus the Officejet Pro 8740, it’s dark gray (unlike the 8720, 8730, and 8740) and looks more like the previous-gen 8610 than the other three new releases do. The Officejet Pro 8720, 8730, and 8740 are more of a kind, with several features in common, including legal-size (8.5×14-inch) duplex printing, scanning, copying, and faxing, plus single-pass duplex scanning.
We expect all of these features, as well as a respectable per-page cost of operation (what we call the “cost per page,” or CPP) for both black-and-white and color pages, from any business-centric inkjet that lists for $400. That’s not the upper limit for business inkjets these days, but it’s a premium machine. We’ll look at the CPP, as well as this AIO’s versatile paper-handling options, in the Setup & Paper Handling section later on. But a teaser: If you plan to print and/or copy at levels close to this machine’s actual 30,000-page monthly duty cycle, the CPP here is probably a bit too high. That’s compared to some other relatively high-volume models, including HP’s own significantly more expensive PageWide Pro 577dw Multifunction Printer we reviewed a few weeks ago.
Of course, seldom is it a good idea to push any printer to its absolute maximum suggested limit, month in and month out. If you have printing needs that heavy, you need to buy a printer with a bit more overhead. That said, this AIO’s CPP is about right for what it is, if you use it for well under HP’s recommended monthly printing limit, or “duty cycle”—even though $399 is a bit pricey for a printer in this class. Printer pricing is an ever-moving target, though, and if the Officejet Pro 8740 behaves on the open market as its predecessor did, it will spend much of the time on sale at around $299, which we think is a much more appropriate price given the competition. (At this writing, that remained to be seen, though.)
All that said, as usual with HP, you’re paying for style and innovation, as well as dependability and quality. For many users, those assets are worth a premium price. And we think that most folks would be happy with this printer whether they paid an additional $50 or $100 for it, or not. Pricing quibbles aside, the Officejet Pro 8740 is a very fine—and refined—small business and micro-office printer.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper
It has been just over three years since HP’s release of its Officejet Pro X line of printers based on the company’s fixed PageWide inkjet printhead technology, as described in our February 2013 review of the Officejet Pro X576dw Multifunction Printer. Many things about this new line impressed us at the time, including its exceptional print speed, great print quality, and extraordinarily competitive cost per page. In fact, this was the cheapest-to-use multifunction printer (MFP) we had tested at the time, be it a laser or an inkjet. (It still holds that distinction.)
However, HP never really filtered the PageWide technology way down its product stack. Unlike its competitor Epson, which offered a new printhead in mid-2014, dubbed “PrecisionCore,” in models all the way down to its entry-level, low-volume WorkForce multifunction printers (MFPs), the Palo Alto printer giant kept PageWide out of its lower-volume (and lower-priced) office-centric products.
That remains the case. On the date of this review, March 8, HP is rolling out a new, second-gen line of HP PageWide printers—and indeed, PageWide joins LaserJet and Officejet as a discrete HP product family—with more levels than before. Today’s review unit, HP’s $899.99-MSRP PageWide 577dw, for example, sits near the top of the PageWide product line, while the cheapest PageWide model, the PageWide Pro 452dw sfp, a single-function machine, lists for $499.99.
That’s a far cry from the average consumer- or small-office-grade $199 and $299 high-volume inkjets designed to churn out a few thousand pages per month. Our PageWide Pro 577dw review unit, for example, has an 80,000-page monthly duty cycle, which is the number of pages HP says the printer should be able to handle each month without undue wear. Since PageWide is a “fixed” printhead spanning the width of the page, more akin to a laser printer mechanism than a conventional inkjet, it can churn out pages mighty fast, without the limitations of a moving printhead carriage.
What we really liked about the first round of PageWide printers, though, was that unprecedented low cost per page (CPP) of operation. At the time, only very expensive enterprise-grade laser machines could touch it in that regard.
This time around, you can buy black cartridges with page yields up to 17,000 pages (and color tanks with yields up to 13,000), as opposed to 9,200 and 6,600, respectively, in the previous generation. The CPP figures, for both monochrome and color, have stayed about the same, which we’ll get into in greater detail in the Setup & Paper Handling section later on. Like any self-respecting high-volume printer, this one delivers a CPP low enough to make printing out multiple reams of paper each month reasonably economical compared with other like-priced printers.
Now, while a high duty cycle and a low CPP are important, so too are print speed, print quality, and, of course, mobile connectivity and cloud features. The 577dw delivers that, not to mention a wealth of security and network-administration options, along with some design features that make this, like its X576dw predecessor, a top pick for businesses that need bulk output, color, and not necessarily laser-quality text.
As we alluded to earlier, the PageWide Pro models are part of a much larger collection of products that all debuted on March 8. In addition to the PageWide additions to HP’s product stable (a total of seven printers, there, in PageWide Pro 500, PageWide Pro 400, and PageWide 300 lines), the company is also pushing out new and replacement models in the Officejet Pro, PageWide Enterprise, and Officejet Mobile product families. We’ll be getting down to reviews of many of these in the coming weeks.
All considered, we found little to quibble about in this high-volume workhorse, other than what seemed to us a lofty price, versus competing models such as Epson’s $549.99-list WorkForce Pro WF-6590 Network Multifunction Color Printer. The good news for HP here, though, is that this new PageWide model provides significantly lower CPPs than the highest-volume Epson WorkForce Pro models that are available at the moment, which is very important for high-volume printers like these. And the good news for businesses that need that kind of mass output: The PageWide Pro 577dw maintains most of the high points of its illustrious predecessor.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper
The further you work your way up the Epson WorkForce Pro product line, the more impressive these high-volume all-in-one inkjets get. Over the past couple of years, we’ve awarded several WorkForce Pro models our Editors’ Choice award. Most recently, these were the WorkForce Pro WF-4630 Network Multifunction Printer (which earned a very rare perfect five stars) and the WorkForce Pro WF-5690 Network Multifunction Color Printer With PCL/Adobe PS.
Why did these particular high-end, high-volume printers score so high? For a number of reasons, but foremost: These are fast, robust machines with exceptional print quality and a highly competitive per-page cost of operation.
Add to that group the subject of our review today.
The $549.99-list WorkForce Pro WF-6590 Network Multifunction Color Printer is, with its 75,000-page monthly “duty cycle” and potential capacity of up to 1,580 sheets, an extremely well-built and capable all-in-one. (The monthly duty cycle is the number of pages the manufacturer says you can print each month without causing undue wear and tear on the machine.)
Essentially a replacement for (or an alternative to) a laser printer, this PrecisionCore-based workhorse comes with just about every convenience and productivity feature appropriate to this level of high-volume multifunction printer (MFP). As we’ve pointed out in past reviews of PrecisionCore-based MFPs, they hold some key advantages over laser and laser-class (LED) machines, including significantly lower power consumption, the ability to print higher-quality photographs, and—especially—a much lower cost per page for color prints, as we’ll get into in a later section of this review.
Midrange and high-volume laser models tend to churn out black-and-white pages at reasonable per-page costs, but printing color pages on them often costs two to three times as much as the same pages would on a WorkForce Pro or some other competitive high-volume inkjet, such as HP’s venerable, PageWide-based Officejet X576dw. Our point is that this WorkForce Pro model, several of its siblings, as well as HP’s PageWide Officejet X models outpace comparably priced laser MFPs in many ways.
For the most part, the WF-6590 is the next step up from the WF-5690 (which lists for $150 less), with capabilities and volumes increased by roughly a third. For example, the cheaper model has a 45,000-page monthly duty cycle, compared to the WF-6590’s 75,000 pages. Furthermore, the WF-6590’s print speed is slightly higher, rated at 24 pages per minute (ppm), as opposed to the smaller model’s 20ppm. Copy and scan speeds are somewhat faster, too.
In brief, as we said about the WorkForce Pro WF-5690 a while back, the WorkForce Pro WF-6590 is an excellent high-volume MFP, as are the other WorkForce models listed in the previous paragraphs. They are ideal picks if you need large amounts of text (and don’t require true laser quality), as well as a good bit of color printing with photo-output quality that beats what you’ll get on any color laser. The good news is that whichever WorkForce Pro model you select, each one delivers a very low cost per page for both of those kinds of output. As we see it, any of them will do a good job—you just need to decide on how much volume you need.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper
It’s been a few months now since our first look at Epson’s relatively new ink-delivery system, EcoTank, in our review of the $499.99-MSRP WorkForce ET-4550 EcoTank All-in-One. (We reviewed it back in August of 2015.) Now that the EcoTank tech has been out in the wild for a while, we’ve had a chance to chew on it in light of other ink developments in the inkjet-printer marketplace, and users have chimed in. And our opinion of it has changed some—but not enough to reconsider the Editors’ Choice nod we gave to the WorkForce ET-4550.
EcoTank now plays in a field with HP’s Instant Ink service and Brother’s INKvestment, two new means of delivering and pricing inkjet ink. EcoTank, while it cansave you money on ink, as we’ll get to in a moment, is, of the bunch, a bit of an odd bird, at least when it’s applied to certain printer models. That brings us to today’s EcoTank review model, the $399.99-MSRP Epson Expression ET-2550 EcoTank All-in-One. For the $100 difference between this unit and the WorkForce ET-4550 we tested, you get a more robust machine in the WorkForce model. (So far, the purchase price hasn’t come down on either model from the list price, no matter where you shop.)
As we explained in our review of the WorkForce ET-4550, these recent EcoTank models really are just versions of earlier Epson AIOs with four big ink reservoirs added, encased in a housing attached to the right side of the chassis. In the case of the ET-4550, for example, it is, at the core, Epson’s WorkForce WF-2650 All-in-One; today’s review unit, the ET-2550, is actually the $89.99-list Expression Home XP-320 Small-in-One Printer, as shown here…
(If the AIO on the right looks larger, except for the EcoTank attachment on the right side, it’s not, actually; it’s just a question of perspective in the two images. The machines are the same size, barring the EcoTank hump on the ET-2550 model at right.)
Like the ET-4550, then, the ET-2550 is an under-$100 AIO with enough ink in the box, Epson estimates, to last you for two years—which is to say, enough ink to jack up the purchase price to $400. On the ET-4550, Epson estimates its 11,000 black-and-white pages and/or 8,500 color prints are the equivalent to two years’ worth of printing (comparable to about 50 ink-tank sets). Our ET-2550 review unit, on the other hand, comes with enough ink, according to Epson, to churn out about 4,000 monochrome pages and/or 6,500 color prints. That, according to Epson, is equal to about 20 cartridge sets. A cartridge set consists of, in this case, all four of the cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK) process-color tanks.
As you’ll see on the next page, the EcoTank system in itself can, if you’re willing to spend the additional money up front, save you money—if (and this is important) you use your printer often enough to justify buying all that additional ink. (We’ll get into that math a bit later on.) But the bottom line on EcoTank, at least as it is implemented with this entry-level AIO, is complicated by the fact that this is a very modest printer apart from the EcoTank stuff. So what about the printer itself? Is it worth $400?
That’s what this review will be all about. In short, though: Except for the four large bottles of ink in the box and the “supertanker” ink reservoirs on the right side, everything about this printer says low-volume, right down to its 500-page recommended monthly print volume (which works out to about 15 to 20 pages per day). Epson has provided enough ink to print about 167 black-and-white pages and/or 271 color pages each month. The good news is that should you require more ink, as you’ll see in the Cost Per Page section later on, refill bottles are remarkably cheap.
The key thing, though: Were you to require much more volume than what Epson suggests, the ET-2550 (and possibly your patience) probably won’t be robust enough to handle the day-to-day stress. This model’s small input and output options, and, as you’ll see next, its lack of certain key features, render it not up to the needs of a large number of would-be buyers. The Expression ET-2550 couldserve you well, but only if you match it closely to how much you print (and how little you scan). To do that, read on.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper
As we took the 2.7-pound, $699.99-MSRP ZenBook UX305CA from its box, we experienced two sensations: one, that it was exceptionally thin, light, and balanced; and, two, that we had seen this 13.3-inch-screened laptop before. Our first observation we’ll discuss over the course of this review. The second, that we had seen this laptop before, is true—the identically priced ZenBook UX305FA we reviewed back in July 2015 was, in many ways (but especially appearance) much alike.
Apart from the version of Windows (Win 10 here, versus 8.1 on the UX305FA) and a different generation of Intel Core M processor, these laptops differ little. The ZenBook UX305CA’s processor is a second-generation version of the Core M. (We tested a 900MHz dual-core Intel Core m3-6Y30 in today’s review unit; the Core M-5Y10 in the earlier ZenBook was a 800MHz dual-core.)
Unlike the first round of Core M chips, which were classed simply as “Core M” and seen in only two variants, this next generation comes in the familiar “3”, “5,” and “7” stepping that Intel uses with its higher-end Core processors. (It’s a parallel scheme; instead of Core i3, i5, and i7, Intel has stacked the new Core M chips into Core m3, m5, and m7 classes.) Core M is all about power efficiency and keeping heat in check in small spaces, and by providing finer slices of its Core M silicon than before, Intel has enabled makers of laptops and 2-in-1s more flexibility in these thin, thermally challenging designs. Just as entry-level and mainstream portables typically run on Core i3 and i5 CPUs, and models meant for resource-intensive games and media editing/processing are home to more powerful i7 processors, we should see similar stratification with these new CPUs.
Of course, with Core M designed for work in tighter confines than Core i, we can’t help but wonder whether even Core m7 chips, without cooling fans, will be powerful enough to act as media crunchers for high-res photos in Photoshop or as effective mobile video workhorses. [Jury’s still out on that, as we we’ve tested just one example; see our review of the Core m7-based HP Spectre x2 2-in-1 detachable for more. —Ed.]
We’ll see as more Core M comes to market, but if clock speed is any indication, Core M will be more about base productivity work than CPU-heavy load crunching. Early on, it looks like the primary differences within this new-gen Core M line circle around clock speed. The Core m3 CPU in our ZenBook review unit, for example, runs at 900MHz, while the two Core m5 processors in the wild when we wrote this in mid-January 2016 (the Core m5-6Y54 and Core m5-6Y57) run at 1.1GHz, and the Core m7-6Y75 in the Spectre x2 runs at 1.2GHz. All of the other base specs in the new line are the same.
While the Core M CPUs emphasize low wattage and other power-sipping options, one of their more attractive features is that they’re designed to be “fanless,” allowing laptop and tablet manufacturers to build near-noiseless laptops and convertibles. (Noise, then, becomes a factor of the storage drive, but for the thin portables that Core M makes sense for, the drive is almost always a silent solid-state model.) It’s also the reason that this ZenBook and its predecessor are so thin. Although the marketing moniker “ultrabook” is falling into lesser use, if not disuse, these days, plenty of laptops still fit the profile, and being thin and light has always been one of the primary attributes. Whatever these machines end up being called, Core M CPUs should help keep them that way.
Which brings us back to our review unit. Like with its ZenBook UX305FA predecessor, given the UX305CA’s $699 list price, you get a respectable set of components. The top-line ones: That Core m3 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB solid state drive (SSD), and an attractive 1080p HD display panel. On the whole, this is a respectable midrange ultrabook with an excellent mix of components that skillfully balances the perception of just-enough speed for productivity work without ever spilling into overkill. And like with the ZenBook UX305FA, we found very little to quibble with on this ultrabook’s design, assuming the level of performance matches the way you work.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper
Unless you’ve been watching the printer market awfully closely, you’ll find it difficult to trace the lineage of today’s review unit through the evolution of Canon’s photo printers. We’re looking at Canon’s current flagship model among consumer-grade, photo-ready all-in-ones (AIOs), the Pixma MG7720 Photo All-in-One Inkjet Printer. (Its list price is $199.99, but while writing this, we found it on sale at shop.usa.canon.com for $50 off, or $149.99.) Canon’s MG line emphasizes photo printing; its MX line of Pixmas is geared more toward balanced general printing and document handling.
An upgrade to the $149.99-list Pixma MG6820 we reviewed not long before it, this six-ink Pixma prints some of the brightest, most vibrant photos you’ll get from a consumer-grade photo printer. To get better output than this, you’ll have to turn to a professional-grade photo printer, such as Canon’s own $499.99-MSRP Pixma Pro-100 or Epson’s $799.99 SureColor P600—elaborate, large nine-ink printers, both.
Aside from printing better photos, the professional-grade models mentioned here and their numerous counterparts aren’t really designed for printing document pages consisting of text and graphics. Nor is it economically feasible to do much of that on them. It’s not that they’re notcapable of printing all kinds of output; they surely are. But using them to do so is wasteful. It’s too expensive to use your nine-ink photo printer to print business reports or presentations.
In any case, back to the history of this particular AIO. Prior to the MG7000-series Pixma printers, Canon, in 2010, offered a higher-end six-ink Pixma, the Pixma MG8120, which not only was an excellent photo and document printer, but could also scan slides and negatives—a well-rounded photo-centric AIO. But Canon eventually ditched the somewhat expensive MG8000 series (which topped out, in their time, at $299.99) for a less-expensive six-ink MG7000 series (now cresting at $199.99).
If you shop around, you’ll inevitably find these printers for less. (That’s always been the case with these consumer Pixmas.) Unfortunately, the same does not apply to the ink. Unless you’re feeding the Pixma MG7720 third-party ink, this model’s per-page cost using genuine Canon ink relegates it, where documents are concerned, to being a low-volume printer.
It’s expensive to operate as a photo printer, too, simply by the nature of photo printing, as we’ll get into more later on. But if top-notch “keeper” photographs are what you’re after, you may find the outlay worth the price. Granted, HP’s Instant Ink allows certain of that company’s photo-ready Envy models to print images dirt-cheap. But those are four-ink, two-cartridge machines that, while they print decent-enough photos, are not equal to what the Pixma MG7720 gives you in vibrancy and color depth.
Our bottom line on this printer, its siblings, and its predecessors? If you’re looking for the least-expensive way to print the best-looking photos, the Pixma MG7720 is arguably it. Beyond it, you’re looking at a much costlier proposition to buy and operate one of those professional-grade photo printers we mentioned earlier. But as a general-purpose printer, the Pixma MG7720 is not as strong a choice. The output is unimpeachable, but it will be dear.
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