In late 2013, Lenovo released a couple of Android slates literally capable of standing on their own two feet. Well, strike that—they were capable of standing on their own one foot.
Literally and technically, it’s not a foot at all. As you can see below, it’s more like a kickstand…
That stand is what has set apart Lenovo’s Yoga Tablets—the first generation, and the newer Yoga Tablet 2 models we’ve been looking at here in early 2015—from the rest of the Android and Windows pack.
The tablet aisle has become quite the crowded place, and Lenovo realized it had to be bold in its design. In the first Yoga tablets, the kickstand allowed you to position Lenovo’s tablets in three distinct and often quite useful “modes,” standing free in several possible orientations. With the Yoga Tablet 2 models, Lenovo has added a new orientation called “Hang mode” (which we’ll discuss in the Design & Modes section later on). Now, you can use the Yoga Tablets in even more ways that other tablets just can’t pull off as elegantly.
Also with this round of Yoga Tablets, you have more choices in terms of screen size. Up from two screen-size options in Android—in the original Yoga Tablet 8 and the Yoga Tablet 10—now you have three to pick from: the $229.99-list Yoga Tablet 2 (8-Inch), the subject of this review, as well as a $249.99-list Yoga Tablet 2 (10.1-Inch), and the $469.99-list Yoga Tablet 2 Pro (13-Inch), all shown below…
We should point out, though, that the 13-inch model, with its dazzling QHD (2,560×1,440) display, low-power built-in projector, and JBL speakers, is actually more of a high-end entertainment device—a sleek, premium slate not really in the same class as the 8- or 10-inch Yoga Tablet 2. Here seems a good place to point out that we classify tablets with 9-inch or larger screens as “full-size,” and slates with displays smaller than 9 inches as “compact.” With the emergence of 13-inch models, though, we’re considering calling models in that size range “oversize tablets”—far bigger to handle than the dominant 9- and 10-inch tablets that orbit the Apple iPad’s dimensions.
The Yoga Tablet 2 8-incher is quite on the other end of the spectrum from “oversize.” It has roughly the same screen size as an Apple iPad Mini 3, and in our opinion that’s the smallest truly acceptable screen size for Android tablets these days. Given prices in 2015, much of the gloss has come off of 7-inch models for us, and as high-res screens have crept into tablets this small, the difference between a 7-inch and an 8-inch tablet is that much more pronounced.
While physically this Yoga tablet looks much like its 8-inch predecessor, inside it’s a completely new animal, as you’ll see in the Performance section later on. An ARM-based MediaTek processor powered the previous Yoga Tablet 8. The Yoga Tablet 2 (8-Inch), as well as the other two Android Yoga Tablet 2s mentioned above, have gone Intel, running on Atom CPUs. (Many competing compact slates from first-tier makers also now use Atoms.) As we’ve seen with other recent tablets, the Atom chip greatly improves performance—especially compared to some of the midrange ARM processors found in the entry-level compact slates of late 2013 and early 2014.
Even so, despite its CPU, the Yoga Tablet 8 came within about $50 (given its $249 list price) of winning our Editors’ Choice nod back when we reviewed it in late 2013. We thought—and still do—that the Yoga Tablet 8 was a $199 slate, and we think the same about this newer model. So far, though, we haven’t found it anywhere online for less than its $229.99 list price, and in places for slightly more, suggesting that Lenovo’s not having any trouble selling it.
While the Intel Atom CPU certainly beefed up this tablet’s performance, most recent competing compact models have also stepped up to the same or similar Atoms. In other words, the Yoga Tablet 2 (8-Inch) is faster than its predecessor, but so are most of its competitors. And where the 2013 Yoga Tablet 8 was generally faster than many compact slates of that era, today’s model, performance-wise, is just average—even if average isn’t so bad, nowadays.
Battery longevity is a different dynamic. On the first Yoga Tablet 8, we saw a whopping 15-plus hours in our video-playback test. Comparatively, the 8-inch Android Yoga Tablet 2 came up short by nearly 3 hours. But it still lasted long enough this time around to deliver at least a couple of days of everyday work, such as browsing the Web and answering e-mails, before we had to recharge.
As we’ve pointed out in numerous Yoga Tablet reviews, the Yoga Tablet design is unique because of the cylindrical hinge and stand built into the bottom of the device (assuming the slate is in wide/landscape orientation). In addition to providing plenty of room for a capacious battery, it also makes for a great grip point for holding the tablet in one hand while operating it with the other, as shown here…
We decided, even back with the first Yoga tablets, that we were fans of the overall design and its various modes, which we’ll get into on the next page. But the new innards and higher-resolution display of this latest 8-inch Yoga Tablet make this 2015 model much superior to the Yoga Tablet 8. Plenty has changed in the tablet market since we reviewed that tablet, but the improvements here outpace the field: Screen quality and performance have increased significantly, and the price went down by $20.
We’d still like the Yoga Tablet 2 (8-Inch) better at $199, but this new compact model is, nonetheless, a very nice tablet for the money.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.
Mobile inkjet printers have been around for some years now, and—like everything else tech—they have gotten better and better with the passage of time. However, unlike most other devices, their makers have only been able to miniaturize them so far. Case in point: If you want to print letter-size business documents, a mobile printer must be at least 8.5 inches wide. There’s just no getting around the basic physical size of paper!
Plus, printers require at least a modicum of moving parts to function. That precludes miniaturization beyond a certain point—but that hasn’t stopped printer makers from trying.
Take the topic of this review, Epson’s WorkForce WF-100 Mobile Printer. Epson claims it is “the world’s lightest and smallest mobile printer.” As we discuss in the next section of this review, that just may be the case—we couldn’t find a comparable model (apart from some snapshot-only models) to disprove that. But as we pointed out in our recent review of competitor Canon’s newest mobile inkjet, the Canon Pixma iP110 (a photo-centric model), miniature printers like this one are costly. Not only are the purchase prices for the printers high, but the operational costs are also off the chart, in terms of cost per page (CPP), compared with full-size printers.
At a $349.99 MSRP, the WorkForce WF-100 costs about the same as the above-mentioned Pixma on a list-price basis—assuming you factor in the Pixma iP110’s optional $99.99 battery, a component that comes standard with the WF-100. (Also, note that while the list price on the WorkForce WF-100 may be $349.99, it was on sale on Epson’s Web site and several resellers for $100 off, or $249.99, when we wrote this in mid-March 2015.) That battery is a big deal: On the WF-100, it’s not an optional add-on, but built-in and included in the price. Furthermore, as the WorkForce WF-100’s name implies, it is part of Epson’s office-centric WorkForce line of printers; others of its kind are designed to print business documents. Canon’s Pixma iP110, on the other hand, is a photo printer with an emphasis on printing images first and business documents as a fallback position.
Whether you’re printing photos or documents, though, the WorkForce WF-100 is, like the Pixma iP110, undeniably expensive to print on. As you’ll see in the Setup & Paper Handling section later on, depending on what you print, the WorkForce WF-100 can be a little more expensive to use than the Pixma. But that’s somewhat hair-splitting: In either case, neither of these models, nor any other mobile printer we’ve tested, is economical to use for mass printing. (That includes HP’s offerings, the most recent of which is the $399.99-list Officejet 150 Mobile All-in-One, which also performs scans and makes copies.) While these miniature machines are very handy for certain applications, you pay dearly for not only the machines themselves but also the day-in, day-out upkeep.
As with full-size desktop printers, which type of mobile printer you should buy depends on what you intend to do with it. The distinction here brings to mind the differences between standard desktop photo printers and desktop office printers. What are you more likely to be printing on the road: Photos? Business documents? Unlike the Pixma iP110’s output, which would most likely consist of one page per print run (i.e., a photo), the WorkForce WF-100’s print jobs might often be longer, seeing as it’s meant as a document printer first. But even despite that document bearing, this is still an occasional-use printer no matter what you’re printing, unless money is no object. Everything you print on it is expensive, comparatively.
Our bottom line? The WorkForce WF-100 is all about convenience, and just as you pay more for a beverage at the corner store, the convenience of a mobile printer has its price—both when you buy it and when you refill it. If you’re willing to live with that, though, this is a great little printer.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.
Here in 2015, nearly everybody in tech, it seems, is making moves to miniaturize their technology. Some desktop PCs are getting down to the size of iPhones. It’s impossible to ignore the popularity of candy-bar-thin smartphones and tiny wireless headsets. A few latest-generation laptops are thinner than yesterday’s tablets.
But some technologies are more suited to shrinking down than others—and one we seldom associate with the smallify-ing trend is printers.
Reason one: If you want to print to paper that’s letter-size or thereabouts, your printer’s body can only be so narrow and still handle the paper stock. Over the years, we’ve seen a variety of compact printers designed for printing snapshot-size photos, using inkjet or thermal-dye technologies, prominent among them models in Canon’s Selphy line. (See, for example, our review of the Selphy CP900$64.29 at Amazon.com.) A few are still on the market. These models are indeed compact, but they’re niche-use products. Their bodies and feeders limit them to use with 4×6-inch (and in rare cases, 5×7-inch) output. You wouldn’t use them for printing a picture today, and a Word document tomorrow.
Even so, a few mobile inkjet printers capable of handling bigger paper have been around for some time. And over time, they have become remarkable little tools in their own right, much like the subject of this review: Canon’s $249.99-list Pixma iP110.
When we say “mobile” or “portable,” we don’t quite mean that in the smartphone sense. The Pixma iP110 is small enough to pick up and carry with you, though not really compact enough to slide into a purse or briefcase without a second thought, like you might an Apple iPad or a really skinny ultraportable laptop. But its Wi-Fi connectivity and lack of wires (if you use this printer with Canon’s optional battery connected—more on that later) are highly convenient for use when you’re out and about—say, in a vehicle or on a work site without ready access to a power outlet. Printing off the battery might also impress at a client location, where you might not want to impose and ask to string a power adapter to an AC outlet.
Out of the gate, though, the one thing most mobile printers have in common is a high purchase price, relative to what they can do versus full-size, desk-side printers. A big portion of the price for these little printers stems from their miniaturization. (It also keeps down the size of their ink tanks, which is reflected in their per-page costs, which we’ll discuss in detail later.) Epson’s competing WorkForce WF-100 Mobile Printer, for example, lists for $349.99 and sells for around $250 online. (We’ve got a review of this unit in the works.) And HP’s Officejet 150 Mobile All-in-One (which also performs scans and makes copies) sells for $300 to $370, off of a $399.99 MSRP. HP also sells a single-function version of that Officejet, the $279-list Officejet 100 Mobile Printer, which has been around since 2011 and sells for around the same price as the Pixma iP110.
These prices may make our Canon review unit’s pricing (which comes in at $249.99 list and around $170 to $200 on the street) seem more moderate. However, you need to realize that out of the box, this is not a strictly mobile printer. You need to add Canon’s optional $99.99-MSRP battery to the mix, and if you do, the Pixma iP110 is then no cheaper than the others, and costlier than some.
Price aside, though, this model marches to a rather different beat than the Epson and HP models we just mentioned. As you might glean from the family names borne by the HP and Epson mobile models, they are business-oriented printers meant first for documents and business-graphics printing. This Pixma, though, like so many Pixmas we’ve worked with across the years, is a photo printer first, optimized for image output from snapshot-size to letter.
While the WorkForce- and Officejet-brand mobile printers are little office-optimized machines, not primarily photo printers, they print photographs well enough for most uses. If, for whatever reason, you prefer that your mobile printer specialize in photos before business documents, the Pixma iP110 is a fine match—if you can stomach the ink costs.
Maybe you’re a photographer who needs to print on-the-spot proofs or samples. Or perhaps you’re a real-estate professional who needs to let a client, on occasion, take home a hard copy of an interior room’s image. In these cases, you won’t be disappointed by the image quality you will get. Indeed, you’d be hard-pressed to top it in a mobile printer, outside of the snapshot-size-only models.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.
During the past few years, we’ve seen a surge of laser-busting, inkjet-based multifunction printers that can print, copy, scan, and fax. Many of them not only outperform their like-priced laser counterparts, they do so while maintaining a significantly lower per-page operational cost—in some cases, by more than half.
This wave only began to build, almost imperceptibly, a handful of years ago. One of the first of these high-volume, low-cost-per-page multifunction printers (MFPs) to catch our eye was the $299-MSRP HP Officejet Pro 8600 Plus. We looked at that model back in early 2012, and it was the grandaddy of the subject of this review: HP’s Officejet Pro 8620 e-All-in-One Printer, which comes in at the same list price. (We’ve already seen this model, however, selling for $199.99 from a variety of major e-tailers.)
The Officejet Pro 8620 is the middle model in a trio of high-volume Officejet Pro 86xx-series multifunction printers (MFPs) that HP has released since the groundbreaking Officejet 8600 Plus. The others are the $199.99-MSRP Officejet Pro 8610 e-All-in-One Printer (reviewed, at the link, by our sister site PCMag.com), as well as a flagship model, the $399.99-MSRP (and Editors’ Choice recipient) Officejet Pro 8630 e-All-in-One Printer we reviewed in early 2014.
As the prices stair-step upward, so do the printers’ productivity and convenience features. The Officejet Pro 8610 may list for $199, but we’ve seen it down around $129 from a few e-tailers. What you get for the additional money between the Officejet Pro 8610 and the Pro 8620 is significant, though. The cheaper Officejet Pro 8610 model is rated at up to 19 monochrome pages per minute (ppm) and 14.5ppm in color, slower than the Pro 8620 by about 2ppm for both black-and-white and color documents. Also, while it comes with a similar wealth of mobile and Web-based print channels, the Officejet Pro 8610 looks decidedly entry-level on the hardware front, coming with a smallish (2.7-inch) touch screen, a 35-page automatic document feeder (ADF), and a 250-sheet input drawer. Compare that to the Officejet Pro 8620’s 4.3-inch touch screen, 50-sheet ADF, and support for Near-Field Communication (NFC), which allows for “touch-to-print” functionality from certain mobile devices. (We’ll discuss NFC and several other mobile-device options in the Features section on the next page.)
The next model up the Officejet Pro line, the Pro 8630, on the other hand, comes with everything that the Pro 8620 does, as well as a second 250-sheet paper drawer (for a total of 500 sheets of paper capacity), OCR software, and a second set of color ink cartridges (the cyan, magenta, and yellow only—no black). The additional ink tanks, were you to buy them separately, would run you about $60 on HP’s Web site. Given that the Officejet Pro 8630 actually retails for about $280, the ink tanks in effect reduce the real price of the Officejet Pro 8630 to a sawbuck or two more than the Officejet Pro 8620, which seems like a pretty good deal to us given the other stuff you get.
As we said about the Officejet 8600 Plus and the Officejet Pro 8630, the Officejet Pro 8620 is an excellent printer that approaches the state of the art in its price range. It’s fast, and the print, scan, and copy quality are top-notch—easily comparable to what we’ve come to expect from high-end HP printers. However, HP’s competition in the high-volume inkjet market—primarily Brother and Epson, but with Canon, too, suddenly coming on strong—have not been lying down, sheepishly waiting for HP to dominate this segment of the printer market.
Since the release of HP’s first Officejet 8600 workhorse, all three competitors have rolled out high-volume, strong-performing models with very competitive cost-per-page (CPP) figures. Several of them, such as Epson’s 2014 PrecisionCore-powered WorkForce Pro models and Canon’s business-optimized Maxify MFPs (the first generation of which debuted in late 2014), perform well and meet most or all of our criteria for high-volume office-centric MFPs. They’re highly competent machines, and indeed, as a whole they are rewriting expectations of what a small-business MFP—inkjet or laser—really is nowadays.
In other words, here we are in early 2015, and the choices among small-business and workgroup MFPs are not so easy to make, though in a positive way for shoppers. That’s because many of today’s high-volume inkjets are fine printers with operating costs that are quite reasonable compared with years past. What we like most about the Officejet Pro 8620, though, is that it and its siblings have been on the market for a while—and so far, nobody is complaining.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.
It’s not often that we see a printer go as long as four years without an upgrade, a relaunch, or a name change. It’s a short life, being a printer: Most of today’s mainstream all-in-one (AIO) or single-function models get updated (or discontinued) within a year or two. But some printers, meant for specialized uses or audiences, roll on and on.
Take the topic of this review, Epson’s $799.99-list SureColor P600 Wide Format Inkjet Printer, and the machine it replaces, the Epson Stylus Photo R3000, which we reviewed way back in 2011. These are not mainstream printers. An Editors’ Choice winner back then, the highly versatile R3000 was a wide-format, near-dedicated photo printer. It stuck around on the market almost twice as long as most of its kind, thanks to some excellent execution on Epson’s part. The SureColor P600 won’t be nearly as lonely in its dotage as the R3000 was, though: According to Epson, the SureColor P600 is one of 10 “Sure”-branded professional-grade printers that Epson plans to release by 2016.
Despite the long dry spell between upgrades, the SureColor P600 looks, performs, and prints much like its predecessor did. In other words, the SureColor P600 starts out with an excellent lineage, which includes not only the venerable R3000 but also 2009’sStylus Pro 3880 (the Stylus Photo R3000’s predecessor), which is still on the market today.
Interestingly, if you look back over the six-year span of these Stylus machines, you’ll see that while they have changed considerably in terms of ease of use and other features, the one constant has been their excellent print quality.
Aimed primarily at semi-professional photographers, fine artists, and hobbyists, the SureColor P600 features both an elaborate, many-hued ink-delivery system and support for an exotic array of paper and card stock large and small. We’ll get into that in more detail in the Setup & Paper Handling section later on. In short, though, the P600 uses nine of Epson’s UltraChrome HD Inks, and it prints on premium paper from 3.5×5-inch snapshot stock to 13×19-inch photo paper, as well as banners and panoramas up to almost 11 feet long.
If this sounds like a lot of printer, make no mistake: It is. If it sounds expensive to use: Yep, it’s that, too. As we’ll also cover in detail later on, to get the best results from the SureColor P600, you’ll have to use good paper, and don’t evendream of opting for generic ink-cartridge refills in this printer. Neither the ink nor the specialty paper (the latter, especially, at its biggest sizes) is cheap.
Know what this printer is not. It’s not a snapshot printer first and foremost (though it can certainly churn out some good ones). And even though it’s perfectly capable of being a document printer, that completely misses the point. Oh, it can print Word docs and Excel spreadsheets (big ones), and the like, but take our word for it, this isn’t the printer for that, except perhaps in a pinch.
Why? A number of reasons, but mostly because printing anything on the P600, especially compared to on an actual document printer, is rather expensive. Trying to estimate just how much each document page would cost over the long haul, if you’re using this printer for a mix of documents and big photo images, probably wouldn’t yield any kind of accurate numbers. That’s because, typically, high-end photo printers like this one are not rated for printing costs in cost per page (CPP), but instead in price per milliliter of ink. (Again, we’ll talk more about the S600’s ink and operational costs later on.) And given how pricey its ink is on a cost-per-milliliter basis even versus other competing photo printers, document printing can’t possibly be cost-effective here.
In any case, whether you are upgrading from an older wide-format photo printer, or you’re making the transition from a consumer-grade photo printer (perhaps Canon’s Pixma MG7520 Photo All-in-One Inkjet Printer or Epson’s own Expression Photo XP-860 Small-in-One Printer, both six-ink all-in-one models), you’ll enjoy this machine if big, bold, accurate image prints are what you are after.
Read entire review at Computer Shopper.
Like everybody else, we expected great things from Windows once it became more touchable, and, no matter how disappointing Windows 8 has turned out, it has (for the most part) accomplished that much. Despite the flaws (yes, some were serious) and the circuitous route it took to get there, today we enjoy relatively easy-to-use, high-quality, and affordable touch-screen Windows tablets and convertibles—as demonstrated by Asus’ Editors’ Choice recipient, the $329.99 VivoTab Note 8 we reviewed back in April 2014.
One of that slate’s most notable features was its built-in, pressure-sensitive stylus, which, considering how small many of the menu entries, buttons, and icons were (especially in desktop mode), came in quite handy not only for taking notes and drawing, but for navigating Windows in general. And at the time, its price was remarkably low.
Now Asus has introduced another 8-inch Windows tablet, the $199.99 VivoTab 8 (only $149 at the Microsoft Store as we wrote this). For the most part, this is the same tablet as last year’s VivoTab Note 8, but without the stylus and with a few other minor differences we’ll get to over the course of this review.
For example, the Note version contains a slot on one edge for housing the stylus, which in turn makes for wider bezels, and display hardware for supporting the stylus. This means that the VivoTab 8 is a much leaner tablet—both smaller and lighter than the VivoTab Note 8.
That said, many users won’t mind the extra girth. For them, giving up the stylus for navigating this small screen is no small sacrifice. On the other hand, if you can live without the pen, this VivoTab is, in terms of screen quality and performance, a winner in its own right.
Granted, the display resolution of 1,200×800 pixels isn’t particularly high, but it’s plenty high enough for this petite screen. The Web sites, photos, games, and videos we looked at were…well, not necessarily spectacular, but certainly sharp enough to deliver great-looking images and graphics.
And that’s just it—if you don’t mind the concept of Windows 8 on an 8-inch screen, which will inevitably present you with buttons, icons, and menu entries small enough to sometimes require multiple attempts at manipulating them, you will probably like this tablet. We did.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper
On the whole, we’ve been impressed with Epson’s recent run of WorkForce Pro high-volume inkjet workhorses, starting with the $499-MSRP Workforce Pro WP-4590 All-in-One Printer back in 2012, up to the $299.99-MSRP WorkForce Pro WF-4630 a couple of years later in 2014. The WF-4630 was, by the way, the first printer to achieve a perfect 5-star score from Computer Shopper in recent memory.
Epson’s WorkForce Pro models are excellent machines for small and medium-size businesses, and the flagship model here at the start of 2015 (and the subject of this review) is no exception. This $399.99-MSRP printer has a bit of an unwieldy name: the WorkForce Pro WF-5690 Network Multifunction Color Printer with PCL/Adobe PS. (Now there’s a mouthful!) Like the WP-4590 of a few years ago, the WF-5690 is a fast, feature-rich multifunction printer (MFP) that’s efficient to use in terms of cost per page.
Both the WF-4630 and the WF-5690 were part of Epson’s PrecisionCore printhead technology rollout in June 2014. As we’ll discuss on the next page, PrecisionCore printheads allow for faster, cheaper-to-use printers. Pair them with ultra-high-capacity ink cartridges and mechanisms with laser-printer-like duty cycles, and business inkjets saw a shake-up of the kind that hadn’t happened since HP introduced its PageWide technology the year before. (“Duty cycle” is the maximum number of prints the manufacturer says the machine is capable of in a given time without subjecting it to undue wear. For more on that and other crucial printer terms, see our primer, Buying a Printer: 20 Terms You Need to Know.)
Of the 11 PrecisionCore-based machines that debuted last year, we’ve reviewed four of them; of those four, three—the WorkForce Pro WF-7610 (a wide-format model), the WorkForce Pro WF-4630 (our 5-star winner), and now the WF-5690—have been Editors’ Choice award recipients. Only the WF-3640, a non-“Pro” WorkForce model, failed to wow us enough to win, and that only by a sliver. In light of competing machines, such as some of Canon’s new Maxify printers, the WorkForce WF-3640 cost a bit too much too use.
Now, let’s stop here for a moment and talk about the “With PCL/Adobe PS” at the end of this printer’s name. Both are laser-printer languages: HP’s Printer Command Language (PCL) and Adobe’s PostScript. Certain applications benefit from these language emulations, but they’re relatively few and far between. They are used primarily in connection with high-end prepress and printing-press runs, as well as computer aided drafting (CAD) programs, and several other applications that require high-end imaging. In short, if you need support for these languages on your new printer, it’s almost certain that you already know it from long experience.
You don’t want to opt for it just to have it, though. The PCL and PostScript support costs you an additional $100 versus the next WorkForce Pro model down the line (the WorkForce Pro WF-5620, which is otherwise the same machine, but without the laser-lingo support). Then, too, there’s the $299.99-list WF-4630 we reviewed a few months ago, which was discounted on Epson’s site to $199.99 as of mid-January 2015. It, too, is quite similar to the WF-5690, except that it’s rated by Epson for a lower monthly capacity (30,000 pages, versus the WF-5690’s 45,000 prints).
Our point? While the WorkForce Pro WF-5690 is an excellent high-volume MFP, so are the other WorkForce models listed in the previous paragraphs. The good news is that whichever model you choose, they all deliver very low per-page operational costs, making each of them fine values assuming you need the volume. Granted, the support for the additional printer languages may seem expensive, but if you need it, having the ability to emulate either is well worth $100.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.
Most of us have a technologically challenged elderly relative or two. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center (and several other sources), about 70 million people living in the United States today are over the age of 50—and about half of those folks are only “marginally” connected to the Internet (or have an Internet connection but don’t use it much). And about 30 million seniors aren’t connected to the Internet at all.
Enter senior citizens’ advocate AARP. With the help of chip maker Intel, AARP late in 2014 introduced a compact Android tablet geared toward seniors, the $189-list AARP RealPad. According to Steve Cone, AARP’s vice president of membership and integrated value, the organization identified the need for a product, a value-added tablet designed to make technology less intimidating for seniors. That happened in late 2013, when the group started holding its AARP Technology, Education, and Knowledge (AARP TEK) seminars for members across the country.
AARP’s CEO, JoAnn Jenkins, explained further that “AARP understands that while technology is a wonderful thing and boomers are one of the biggest consumers of personal tech, it can still be a daunting experience for a large majority of Americans 50-plus.” And there’s a lot of incentive to fix that, beyond a giant market opportunity: Personal-computing devices, like tablets, not only alleviate boredom and help stimulate the brain, but they can also help seniors stay in touch and participate remotely in events with friends and family.
The heart of the RealPad is an Intel Atom processor. About the RealPad itself, Brian Fravel, Intel’s director of North American marketing, said, “In addition to powering RealPad, Intel helped build the software and unique interface on the tablet, making it simple and intuitive to interact with a RealPad tablet, even for those with little technology experience.”
So goes the claim. Because of the unique front end on this tablet, and the services connected to it (which we’ll get to in a bit), this is a niche slate aimed at a particular group, even if the niche is huge. So it was clear to us that we needed to assess it from a couple of standpoints: First, how well does it hold up against other recent entry-level, compact tablets—essentially, its physical-hardware competition? Second, do the software, help system, and other enhancements succeed in assisting seniors not only to use the tablet, but also to access the Internet, e-mail, social media, and the like? We’ll look closely at that software and other enhancements in the Features & Apps section later on.
As to the tablet itself—its build and screen quality, overall speed, and how well it holds up to today’s other entry-level, compact slates—we’ll cover these issues in several subsequent sections of this review. In a nutshell, though: Suffice it to say that the RealPad’s somewhat sluggish dual-core processor (an Intel Atom Z2520) and short battery life might earmark it, at first, as an underachiever among under-$200 slates.
The processing power, though, is not at all the point in a tablet like this. AARP and Intel are banking far more on this slate’s support and learning features to set it apart. These include a “RealQuick Fix” option for near-instant tablet status updates and one-click problem-solving, as well as numerous tutorials, videos, and enhanced help files. Those items are backed up by 24/7 live tech support, and the purchase price also includes a one-year membership (or membership extension) with AARP itself.
All of this can very well be worth the $189 going price, provided the senior in question is willing to and able to work through the tutorials. The point behind them is to alleviate as much of the frustration as possible in trying to learn to use the tablet. After all, if you have little or no computing experience, Android (or even Apple’s cleaner iOS, for that matter) can seem intimidating.
Our bottom line? As compact tablets go, were price the only thing this slate had going for it, we’d recommend that you pass on it. But if you (or your senior) have been avoiding technology because it’s just too hard to learn, AARP’s RealPad really should help. It’s a good effort, given that it’s the first of its kind.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.
In 2014, Acer sent us a budget-minded tablet, the Iconia A1-830, a well-built and attractive Android slate with an extreme resemblance to the Apple iPad Mini. However, as we stated in our April 2014 review of that compact Acer model (we classify slates with displays between 7 and 9 inches as “compacts”), a tablet has to do more than look like an iPad to do well in a product review. (See also our review of the Kocaso K-mini, another iPad Mini-alike, for more evidence of that.)
The good news is that Acer took a different approach with its latest compact Iconia Tab, the subject of this review: the $179.99-MSRP Iconia Tab 8 (model A1-840FHD). Not only does this Iconia Tab deploy the standard 16:9 high-def aspect ratio used by most Android tablets (rather than the 4:3 ratio used on iPads and old pre-HDTVs), but it also has a higher-resolution screen than most other entry-level compact Androids.
In fact, as entry-level slates go, we found much to like about this one, but it also stumbled in some key spots. It felt well-built and durable, and it was snappy on most of our benchmark tests, too—except, notably, a sag on our challenging battery-rundown test. As you’ll see in the last section of this review, this Iconia Tab 8 delivered one of the shortest unplugged runtimes we’ve seen from any name-brand Android tablet. (One of the few trailing behind it is AARP’s seniors-focused RealPad, another 8-incher that we’ll be reviewing right after this model.)
A complaint we’ve made about several recent compact tablets is that, while they were fine tablets in their own right, none of them brought anything fresh to the genre, nor any surprises on price. That’s much the case with the Iconia Tab 8, too. Mind you, it’s loaded with productivity and convenience features, such as a 1,920×1,200-pixel screen and a micro-HDMI output for pushing all those pixels to an HDTV or other high-definition display.
Unfortunately, we had a little trouble with the responsiveness—or rather, the lack thereof—of the screen. Often, we had to touch an app’s shortcut twice, or sometimes three or four times, to launch it. We experienced similar trouble when attempting to perform swipes or other expansive touch gestures.
That’s not a small concern. But apart from that, as inexpensive compact tablets go, this one’s not bad. We really liked the look of the high-resolution display, even as it stubbornly ignored our taps at times.
Depending on where the pricing on this tablet goes, you may or may not find that trade-off tolerable. While writing this, we found the Iconia Tab 8 discounted online to as low as $139.99 (from Best Buy; we’re not sure how long that price will last). That’s a more reasonable price at this screen size, considering the quibbles we had with this model. But you’ll want to look at it in light of other Android 8-inchers at similar prices with better touch response.
Read entire review at Computer Shopper.
Year after year, we looked on—and dutifully reported—as Canon’s Pixma MX series of office-centric all-in-one (AIO) inkjets floundered a bit in the small-office and home-office (SOHO) market. They certainly weren’t (and aren’t) bad products, by any means. But from model to model, they tended to be outclassed in one major way or another.
Therefore, it’s good to see that the Japanese imaging giant finally came to the realization—judging from its revised product line—that high-volume, inexpensive-to-use inkjets can be more practical than their color-laser and LED (laser-class) counterparts. Its competitors (primarily Brother, Epson, and HP) figured that out years ago. In response, in late 2014 Canon unveiled a new “Maxify” family of office-ready inkjets that hold up nicely—in terms of print speed, volume ratings, and cost per page (CPP)—to most other high-volume inkjet AIOs in the marketplace.
Perhaps we’re being a little disingenuous. We suspect Canon has known full well how important high-volume printers are to small and medium-size businesses (SMBs). After all, for quite some time, the company has been building laser-printer engines not only for its own customers and its ImageClass line, but also for HP. Possibly, Canon saw how high-volume inkjets could be a threat (and they certainly are) to its laser-printer interests—and the writing on the wall just couldn’t be ignored anymore.
In any case, the good news is that Canon’s new Maxify line of business-ready inkjets all look to be decent printers, although some may prove to be more decent than others. They range in price from $149.99 (MSRP) for the single-function Maxify iB4020 to $399.99 (MSRP) for the high-volume Maxify MB5320 Wireless Small Office All-in-One, the flagship model we’re reviewing here.
This first round of Maxify models consists of four MFPs and a single-function (print-only) workhorse. Of the four MFPs, two of them, the $199.99-list MB2320 and MB5320, have two spacious input trays, while the $179.99-list MB2020 and $299.99-list MB5020 have only one. In addition, the two MB5000 series models have twice the maximum monthly duty cycle (the maximum number of pages the manufacturer says you can print each month without premature wear on the printer) than the two MB2000 series machines: 30,000 pages monthly on the MB5000 series, versus 15,000 on the MB2000 series.
Versus the less-expensive MB2000 machines, the MB5000 series models are also faster; they have slightly larger touch screens, as well as auto-duplexing ADFs; and, most important, they sport a much lower cost per page (CPP). Where it counts, the MB5000 machines are essentially twice the printer of their parallel MB2000 models—at roughly double the list price.
As high-volume inkjets go, the Maxify MB5320 is a good one. Not only is it loaded with productivity and convenience features, but, as described in the Setup & Paper Handling section later on, it uses high-volume, efficiently priced ink cartridges, greatly increasing its overall value. Overall, we found little to quibble with in this printer, but it does compete with a few well-established high-volume models from Epson, Brother, and HP. In short, this Maxify model is a very fine AIO, but then so are its primary competitors, which includes Epson’s five-star, $299.99-list WorkForce Pro WF-4630.
It would be tough to say that this Maxify is “better” than similarly priced MFPs—you can find some great high-volume inkjet machines out there, such as Epson’s $399.99-list WorkForce Pro WF-5690, which we’re in the process of reviewing. This Maxify is one of those well-built, feature-rich machines that does just about everything, and does each thing well. It excels at high-volume output, which is what it was built for.
What, eventually, may set it apart is price. Depending on how the pricing trends go on this machine, it could end up being an even better value than when we reviewed it. When we wrote this in mid-January 2015, the major online e-tailers were selling it at its full $399.99 MSRP, though we did see one, briefly, discounting it heavily—more on that at the end of the review.
Read entire review at Computer Shopper.