Every now and then, a gadget shows up in our labs that, once we take it out of the box and examine it, makes us marvel at modern technology. Granted, in recent years, we’ve reviewed plenty of mini-computers like the $299.99-MSRP Zotac Zbox Nano XS AD13 Plus we’re reviewing here today. But it seems that with each successive generation, they keep getting smaller. And each time, our initial response to holding a full-fledged PC in the palm of our hand is one of amazement. Not only do these tiny devices remind us of how far we’ve come, but they also conjure up a sense of wonder for what’s next—and how small PCs can get.
Of course, after this brief lapse into sentiment, we plug it in and get to work.
This Zbox Nano model, a refresh of theNano AD12 Plus we looked at back in November 2012, is one of a host of ultrasmall-form-factor PCs made by the Asian computer-component giant Zotac. It’s very possible you haven’t heard of the Zotac name before; it’s the consumer-facing brand of PC Partner, a large OEM maker of core PC parts such as video cards and motherboards. (See our 2011 tour of PC Partner’s facilities, “Inside a Mainland-China Factory: How a Video Card Is Made, in 100 Pictures.”) Though you may not have heard of Zotac, you may well own hardware that came from PC Partner in some computer you use.
At the core, the Zbox Nano XS AD13 Plus uses the same AMD E2-1800 processor as the AD12 Plus. However, this new Zbox’s array of ports is positioned somewhat differently, and Zotac has done away with the DisplayPort connection this time. And, with the AD13 Plus at just over four inches square, Zotac actually managed to make this newest Nano more, well, nano. (The AD12 model was about five inches square.) In our battery of benchmark tests (described in the Performance section later in this review), we did see some very modest improvements to overall system performance over the Nano AD12 Plus, but little in the areas of graphics processing and video encoding.
Either way, know that this PC is no processing powerhouse. The AMD E2-1800 processor is a 1.7GHz chip with built-in Radeon graphics acceleration designed for low heat and energy consumption. It comprises a dual-core AMD CPU and on-chip Radeon HD 7340 graphics on one piece of silicon. (AMD’s nomenclature for these combined CPU/GPUs is “accelerated processing units,” or APUs.) This energy-efficient combination delivers enough processing power to play back full-screen 1080p video and provide for light computing tasks, such as word processing and Web browsing.
That said, we can’t recommend the Nano XS AD13 Plus as a primary computing device. As we said about the Nano AD12 Plus last year, this tiny PC works well enough for use with a TV as a ready-made home-theater PC (HTPC), as well as for turning the living-room TV into a light-duty computer. But it’s not much of a productivity station, and it’s certainly not good for PC gaming.
In our Zbox Nano AD12 Plus review, we covered all the reasons why you might want to connect a Zbox to your TV, as well as why it could be a more desirable alternative to TV-playback solutions from Apple, Roku, or game consoles, so we won’t reiterate all of that here. (In a nutshell, HTPCs provide a much wider range of capabilities, beyond simply streaming music and video to your home entertainment center.) Plus, with an HTPC, you get a host of storage options, and you can perform familiar, everyday functions in the PC-style interfaces you’re used to: Internet browsers, e-mail clients, instant messagers, video conferencing apps, Facebook, YouTube…you get the idea.
However, while the Zbox Nano XS AD13 Plus is tiny, low-powered, and easy to situate—the things that make it ideal as an HTPC—it doesn’t come with everything you need. To do anything with it, you’ll have to install your own operating system, such as Windows or Linux, and the Zbox doesn’t come with a keyboard or mouse. (There is a remote in the box, however.) These essentials, which come with most other PCs, could, depending on which ones you choose, boost the cost of this mini-PC a good bit.
As you can see, deploying this Zbox as an HTPC is not a turnkey solution. Still, if you’re not intimidated by installing your own operating system, it’s an elegant one. And, as you’ll see on the next page in the Design & Features section, it’s loaded with connectivity and expansion options—indeed, more than you’d find on most laptops. The Zbox Nano XS AD13 Plus is not for everyone, but keeping in mind that it’s not designed to replace your everyday PC, it’s a great buy for what it is and what it’s designed to do.
See the full review at Computer Shopper.
Some of us here at Computer Shopper have been analyzing computers and peripherals long enough to remember when color laser printers cost upward of $7,000. At that price, very few small offices and home-based businesses could justify buying one. Even for many years after, color laser printers were considered more a luxury item than a sound business expense. Still, owning a color laser printer was then, as it is now, akin to having a small printing press in-house.
Fast-forward about 20 years, to today, and here we are reviewing an under-$200 single-function color laser—well, in this case, technically a laser-like—printer, Dell’s C1660w. (We say “laser-like” because the C1660w is actually an LED printer, making it a “laser-class” device. We’ll talk more about this distinction in a moment.) The list price on this model is $199.99, but when we wrote this in the first week of April 2013, it was selling on Dell’s Web site for $154.99. If you’d told us 20 years ago that we’d be reviewing $200 color printers that were faster, lighter, and smaller than those four-figure models (and sold for less than the toner cartridges inside them), we’d have been more than a little dubious.
Granted, the C1660w isn’t the first color-laser-class machine we’ve seen limbo under the $200 bar, but this phenomenon is new enough that we haven’t yet lost our sense of wonder. In most cases, what makes this possible is the print mechanism inside. These devices rely on LED arrays, rather than lasers, to draw the page image onto the print drum. Among other advantages, LED technology uses less power, has fewer moving parts, takes up less space inside the printer, and costs less to manufacture. And it does all these impressive things without compromising print quality.
The C1660w is on the low end of a line of entry-level LED printers Dell offers. The next step up in the family is the $279.99 C1760nw Color Printer we reviewed last month, which, at this writing, was selling for $259.99 on Dell’s site. Like the C1760nw, the C1660w is quite basic; it lacks a snazzy-looking color LCD for facilitating PC-free printing, it has no support for printing from cloud sites, and it can’t print two-sided pages automatically. What you give up in the $100 price delta between this model and the C1760nw is some print speed, as well as Ethernet connectivity and a few other, less-significant features.
Neither model is designed to be a high-volume workhorse. They print at similar speeds, and the two models’ figures for toner cost per page (CPP) are only a few tenths of a cent apart. If you don’t need the ability to connect to a wired network, the lower-cost C1660w is likely the better buy. (In short, if you use your printer enough that the speed and CPP differences between these two machines matter, you’re probably looking at the wrong class of printer altogether.) Their high CPPs make them poor choices for small offices and home-based businesses with even moderate print-volume requirements. If you print more than, say, a couple hundred pages per month, you’d be much better off, in terms of the ongoing cost of ownership, choosing a more expensive, higher-volume machine.
Like the C1760nw, the C1660w does have its high points, though. It turned in competitive scores on our speed tests, for a printer in this price range. Its output looked good overall, and the chassis is small and light. As we said about the more costly C1760nw, the C1660w works for us as a light-duty personal printer in environments where laser-like speeds and near-typesetter quality are what you need, but only when your print volume is minimal.
See full review at Computer Shopper.
If nothing else, the debut of Windows 8 and Windows RT (the lower-powered ARM tablet version of Microsoft’s latest operating system) has brought an increase in system flexibility—and we mean that in the dexterous physical sense, not in the sense of systems actually doing more. Over the past few months, we’ve seen notebooks, tablets, and hybrids whose screens flip, turn, and detach every which way. The convertible tested here, the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11, literally bends over backwards.
Apart from its smaller stature, the 11.6-inch Yoga 11 looks identical to the 13.3-inch IdeaPad Yoga 13 we reviewed back in November 2012. However, except for the innovative 360-degree hinge connecting the screen to the keyboard, the two are quite dissimilar in terms of power, capabilities, battery life, and software availability.
With its third-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB solid-state drive (SSD), the Yoga 13 is a full-blown Windows 8 laptop capable of running virtually any Windows program. The Yoga 11, on the other hand, has an Nvidia Tegra 3 CPU, 2GB of memory, and 64GB eMMC flash memory drive in the $949 configuration discounted at presstime to $599 on Lenovo’s site.
It’s basically, despite its non-detachable keyboard, a Windows RT tablet, limited to the apps it comes with—not an inconsiderable set, since Microsoft Office Home & Student is included—and other RT titles you can download from the Windows Store. Rather than the Yoga 13, it should really be compared to Microsoft’s Surface RT and Asus’ VivoTab RT.
What makes the Yogas similar, of course, is the articulating hinge (highlighted in the image below) that allows you to position and hold either Lenovo as a laptop, a tablet, or to manipulate it into a couple of useful in-between positions, which we’ll discuss on the next page:
These 360-degree hinges permit you to place the Yoga 11 in several interesting positions.
The Yoga lets you fold its lid (the back of the display panel) back until it meets the bottom of the chassis (or back of the keyboard), which in turn lets you position it into four different setups or what Lenovo calls modes: notebook, tablet, stand, and tent. At first glance, this flexibility appears to be highly innovative and useful—and yet so simple that you may be asking yourself why somebody hadn’t thought of it sooner. After spending a few days with it, even though we liked it overall, we also found a few drawbacks to this design. (More on that, too, on the next page.)
You can buy the Yoga 11 in either silver or orange, in either of two storage-size configurations, 32GB or 64GB. Lenovo sent us a silver one with the higher storage capacity—listed on Lenovo.com, as mentioned, for $949 but given an “eCoupon” discount to $599. The 32GB eMMC model is $849 with no discount, which we think answers the question of which one to buy.
The Yoga 11 comes in either silver-gray or orange.Compared to the 10.6-inch Surface RT and 10.1-inch VivoTab RT, the Yoga 11′s screen is larger as well as non-detachable. Aside from the huge difference of the attached, articulating keyboard, the Yoga 11 came configured and performed much like the other RT devices. As we see it, the flexible keyboard, then, is the primary reason for choosing this model over the others.
Overall, as Windows RT devices go, we liked the Yoga 11 enough to recommend it—as long as you understand the limitations, what Win RT can and can’t do, before you take the plunge.
See complete review at Computer Shopper.
Of all the kinds of gadgets we’ve reviewed over the past five or so years, we’ve seen the fewest substantive breakthroughs in printers. Both lasers and inkjets—how they function at the core—have seen few notable changes to the mechanisms inside them.
Lasers draw, or “image,” pages onto print drums, which in turn attract toner particles and fuse them to paper, while the printheads in inkjet printers travel back and forth across the page, micro-spraying ink as they go. Granted, we’ve seen incremental advances in print speed and quality over the years, and all kinds of convenience add-ons, such as automatic two-sided printing and scanning, as well as fancy color LCDs for facilitating PC-free printing. But the way these devices print just hasn’t changed much—until now.
A few weeks ago, we looked at—and lauded—an innovative multifunction inkjet, the Officejet Pro X576nw Multifunction Printer, based on HP’s PageWide technology that debuted in February 2013. PageWide printers differ from standard inkjets in that, instead of relying on printheads that travel back and forth across the page, printing one row at a time, the printhead is stationary. Paper passes under the print nozzles in one swift pass, similar to how pages pass over the print drum on laser devices, resulting in laser-like speeds from an inkjet machine. The result—blazingly fast inkjet devices—is a clear-cut breakthrough.
We should stop here and point out that the PageWide debut was not the first time we’ve seen stationary printheads on inkjet printers. A similar technology, called Memjet, showed up at CES 2011, and we were impressed enough that we gave it our Best of CES 2011 award. Since then, Memjet has showed up in some office-grade printers from LG Electronics, Lenovo, and Lomond—but they’re sold only in Asia and Europe. HP’s iteration of a stationary inkjet printhead technology, PageWide, is the first to be mass-introduced on North American soil.
Today, we’re looking at the Officejet Pro X576dw’s sibling, the Officejet Pro X551dw, a $599-list single-function version of the printer. In all, HP offers four printers built around the PageWide mechanism, two of them multifunction models and two single-function ones. (During our research for the X576dw Multifunction Printer review, HP told us there were six models planned, but the company was offering only four on its Web site at the time we wrote this.) The other single-function Officejet X is the Officejet Pro X451dn, which lists for $449. For the $150 savings, you get a machine rated by HP at 55 pages per minute (ppm), opposed to this more expensive model’s 70ppm, and a lower suggested monthly duty cycle (500 to 2,800 pages per month, versus the X551dw’s 1,000 to 4,200). The X451dn also lacks wireless connectivity.
Instead of the color touch-screen LCD on the X551dw, the lower-priced X451dn’s control panel consists of physical buttons and a monochrome LED, and it has no USB port for PC-free printing from thumb drives. In addition, the less-expensive model doesn’t support the wide range of cloud-printing and HP printer-app options that the X551dw’s control panel does. On the whole, the less costly Officejet X451dn is designed to print primarily from networked PCs. Still, if all you need is the ability to print from the computers on your wired network, it might still be a good fit, despite the slightly lower speed and volume ratings.
The X551dw is a decided step up from the $449 model. Like on the multifunction X576dw, the print quality on the single-function X551dw is excellent, and, when printing photographs, it’s better than most midrange laser printers we’ve reviewed. And it’s at least as fast—in some instances, faster. But what we like most about these new PageWide devices is their extremely low per-page cost of operation, which we’ll discuss in the Setup & Paper Handling section later in this review. The X551dw is cheaper to use, especially when printing color pages, than the high-end business inkjet printers we’ve seen, and it beats nearly every color laser printer we know of, too.
On the whole, this is an exceptional printer if you don’t need the flexibility of a multifunction machine. During our evaluation, we didn’t find any reasons not to recommend it. Like its multifunction sibling, this single-function Officejet easily earned our Editors’ Choice nod.
See complete review at Computer Shopper.
In early 2012, Asus was one of the very first tablet makers to release a slate built around Nvidia’s Tegra 3 quad-core processor—a metal-encased, premium Android-based model, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime TF201. When we reviewed it in February 2012, we touted the Prime as ground-breaking, but at $499.99, it was also a little pricey for many would-be buyers of Android slates—especially considering the entry price of Apple iPads of the time. In response, about a month or so later, the Taiwanese computer (and now tablet) giant fired again, with its entry-level, $399.99-MSRPTransformer Pad TF300, another impressive Tegra 3-based slate, sans the Prime’s all-aluminum chassis.
Now, here we are a few days away from the second quarter of 2013, looking at Asus’ latest Android offering, the $299.99 MeMO Pad Smart ME301T—and that’s where the déjà vu kicked in. The MeMO Pad is essentially the Transformer Pad TF300 all over again, give or take a few minor configuration and feature changes. Here in 2013, in this era of the super-high-resolution Google Nexus 10 and theApple iPad’s gorgeous Retina display (not to mention the Tegra 4 CPU on the horizon later this year), the MeMO Pad takes a very different, humbler path.
Don’t get us wrong, we liked the Transformer Pad TF300—a lot. But a year in tablet technology is essentially a generation, and the MeMO Pad Smart hinges on being a last-gen slate. It brings no new or groundbreaking features, hardware, or apps to the party, and it provides little different from Asus’ 2012 entry-level model—well, except that this year’s model costs $100 less than last year’s.
Asus’ Transformer tablets were named thus because of their optional, attachable keyboard/docking stations that turned them into de facto Android laptops. In 2012, Asus’ relatively new keyboard docking stations were ground-breaking, perhaps even revolutionary. Nowadays, though, given the recent onslaught of swanky new Atom-based Windows 8 tablets, most slate manufacturers offer detachable keyboard docks, often bundling them with the tablet. In this regard, when we wrote this in late March 2013, the MeMO Pad Smart was again headed in the opposite direction: It’s a stand-alone slate, with no dedicated keyboard/docking station available.
Another way to look at this is, though, is that the MeMO Pad Smart, from a specs standpoint—processor, display resolution, RAM, and storage—is essentially a big-screen version of the ultra-popular Google Nexus 7 by Asus, a smaller slate with a 7-inch screen. The thing is, though, the 1,280×800 screen on the Nexus 7 looks crisp, clear, and detailed, but when stretching the pixel density to fill the MeMO Pad’s larger display (from 216 pixels per inch, or ppi, to 149ppi), overall detail and clarity take a big hit. As we’ve said in a few recent reviews, a native resolution of 1,280×800 seems about right on 7-inch Android devices. Nowadays, though, it’s the bare minimum for a full-size tablet (even though we thought it looked great a year or so ago). After looking at several high-resolution 10-inch tablets these past few months…well, 1,280×800 just doesn’t look all that impressive on screens that size anymore.
Unlike the Transformer Pad TF300, which came in storage configurations of either 16GB or 32GB, the MeMO Pad Smart comes in only one: 16GB. On the plus side, though, you can bump up the storage capacity to 48GB yourself via a 32GB MicroSD card you provide—an option unavailable on both the Nexus 7 and the Nexus 10. In addition, the 2012 Transformer Pad came in three colors: Torch Red, Iceberg White, or Royal Blue. The MeMO Pad Smart comes in colors, too: Crystal White, Fuchsia Pink, and Midnight Blue…
Asus sent us the blue one for review, at right. Except in bright light, it looked closer to black to us.
The question is, of course, are the high-resolution slates mentioned above worth an additional $100? Ultimately, this is a matter of choice, but, considering their overall superior detail and display quality, especially when viewing photos and digital videos, we say, yes. (After all, a tablet is nothing if not a screen.) None of this is to say, though, that there’s anything wrong with the MeMO Pad Smart—not at all. It just seems a little late to the Android tablet party.
Still, from a build-quality and performance standpoint, we can’t come up with any reasons not to buy this tablet. Our concerns center on the state of today’s Android market and technology. Asus makes great tablets, and this one, like the Transformer Pad TF300 before it, is well-built and a solid performer. We liked the MeMO Pad Smart, but we’d like it a lot more at $199.99. Now that would make a 2013 rerelease of a 2012 slate smart, indeed.
See full review at Computer Shopper.
Over the past few years, we’ve been watching with interest as Dell’s stable of entry-level and midrange LED printers has continued to grow. Considered “laser-class” devices, machines that employ LED technology rely on LED-based lamp arrays, rather than lasers, to draw the page image to be printed on the machine’s drum. Replacing the lasers with LEDs allows for smaller, trimmer, and lighter printers that consume less energy and have fewer moving parts, without compromising on speed and print quality.
Historically, businesses tend to favor laser or LED printers because they print faster than inkjets. Also, they’re capable of much higher volumes for longer periods, and the cost of using them is typically cheaper over the long haul. (The machine usually costs more up front, but the cartridges cost less per page than most inkjets.) However, much like Dell’s 1250c Color LED Printer we looked at back in November 2010, as well as the 1355cnw Multifunction Color Printer from January 2011, Dell’s $279.99-list C1760nw Color Printer bucks that trend. The device itself is moderately priced for a color-laser-class machine, but the per-page cost is as high as or higher than most inkjets, making it suitable only for small or home offices that need color laser output but don’t print a lot.
In addition to the single-function C1760nw, Dell also sells a multifunction (print/scan/copy/fax) version, the $349.99-list C1765nfw Color Multifunction Printer, built around the same print engine. (We’ll be reviewing that model shortly.) In terms of overall value, gaining the ability to scan, copy, and fax for an additional $70 seems like a good deal to us, making the C1765nfw a better value, even though both machines are quite basic. (All the C1760nw can do is print.)
Indeed, “basic” is the word that sums up the C1760nw best. It lacks an eye-catching color touch-screen control panel with apps for connecting to cloud sites or downloading and printing Internet content. It has no front-panel USB port for flash drives or, for that matter, support for any other type of memory device, and it doesn’t even support auto-duplexing (the ability to print two-sided pages unassisted). Here in 2013, color-printer feature sets don’t get any more basic than this.
If you don’t need the extra features, of course, basic can be good. But what really concerned us about the C1760nw was its ongoing cost of operation, namely the cost per page (CPP). Like preceding LED printers from Dell, this one costs too much to use, which, despite Dell’s maximum duty-cycle rating of 30,000 pages per month, relegates it to light-duty personal printing, not heavy business output. If you actually printed thousands of pages per month on this machine, the per-page cost would, compared to higher-volume machines with lower CPPs, cost you plenty over time—much, much more than you’d save with this model’s relatively low purchase price.
Still, this printer has its high points. The C1760nw performed respectably on our speed tests; its output looked up to snuff for a laser-class device; and it’s light, small, and easy to set up and use. The bottom line for this printer is, the more you use it, the less value it provides. It’s best suited for environments where laser-like speed and text quality are required, but only when you need to print a few pages here and there. It works for us as a personal laser printer, or for home-based and small offices where print volume is very light.
See the full review at Computer Shopper.
Ever since the Google Nexus 7 by Asus set the 7-inch tablet market afire back in mid-2012, we haven’t seen much heat from other small-screen slates, barring the late-2012 debut of the Apple iPad Mini and the separate-but-parallel path taken by Amazon’s Kindle Fire and ”bookseller-centric” slates. Unfortunately for most tablet makers, the conflagration was mostly confined to those three families—the Google slate because it set the bar so high, the iPad Mini because of its lineage, and Amazon because of its massive content clout. They have become the target products to beat and dethrone, in order for other tablet makers to gain a foothold in the compact-tablet market.
Hence, when evaluating competing models, one of the primary questions we set out to answer is: Does this slate bring anything new beyond the models already out there? In other words, why would a potential buyer choose this model over one of those? When a new tablet offers a nearly identical feature set for the same price, our job becomes a little more difficult. When most things—performance, display quality, connectivity options, and so on—are equal or close, we find ourselves looking for smaller, less-significant features to give our readers reasons for buying one device over the other.
That’s the case with Kobo’s Arc, the Canadian e-reader maker and e-content provider’s latest contribution to the market for 7-inch tablets. On the surface, our Kobo Arc review unit looked and behaved much like the Nexus 7, but when we dug a little deeper, we found some notable differences. Partly, it’s because the Arc has a bent toward e-reading, though it’s also a full-fledged Android tablet; it’s part of Kobo’s e-reader line (populated by monochrome models such as the Kobo Mini and Kobo Glo), and a portion of its custom interface is dedicated to new-reading discovery. Most of the differences, though—notably, the Arc’s somewhat slower dual-core processor, versus the Nexus 7’s more powerful and efficient quad-core, as well as the Kobo slate’s lack of GPS and Bluetooth radios—make the case for the Google slate.
Still, we found quite a few reasons to like the Kobo Arc as a tablet, and we also see it as a viable color e-reader alternate if you don’t want to commit to the Amazon empire and its proprietary e-reading format. (Kobo’s content ecosystem is no slouch, either; for more on it, see our reviews, linked above, of the Kobo Mini and Glo.) On the hardware side, despite the Arc’s slower CPU, it has a souped-up graphics processing unit (GPU) that processes high-end 3D graphics faster than the quad-core Nexus 7 does. (We’ll discuss graphics processing and overall performance in the Performance section a little later on.) In addition, the bundled Kobo e-reader app provides some interesting features, and Kobo has made some significant modifications to the Android user interface (UI) that some users may find preferable to stock Android, notably in a feature called “Tapestries.” We’ll discuss the e-reader and the UI in the Features & Apps section of this review.
You can buy the Kobo Arc in either black or white, and it comes in three different storage capacities: 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB. Here, we looked at the 16GB model, which lists for $199.99—the same price as the 16GB versions of the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD. The 32GB Kobo Arc rings up for the same $249.99 as the 32GB models of those two slates. One place where the Arc trumps them both is in its $299.99 64GB version; you can’t buy a 64GB Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire HD.
Now granted, no tablet—even a recipient of our Editors’ Choice award, such as the Nexus 7—is perfect. Interestingly, we have some of the same primary complaints about the Kobo Arc that we had about the Google slate last year. Neither slate, for instance, provides a way to expand storage capacity; nor does either have an HDMI-out port for connecting to an HD monitor or an HDTV.
Overall, though, from a user-experience perspective, these two tablets are quite similar. On paper, with its quad-core processor, a more recent version of Android, and a few other specs, the Nexus 7 looks like a superior general-purpose tablet. But we think that after reading our review, some would-be buyers will find a reason or two to choose the Kobo Arc instead.
And as an alternative to the e-reader elephant in the room, Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD, the Kobo is a bit more flexible and less locked down, especially as it supports full access to Google Play—Android’s official app and content repository—versus Amazon’s more limited subset. It’s also more of a general-purpose slate apart from its e-reading functions, which is why we see the Arc’s competition more as the Nexus 7 than the Kindle Fires.
See full review at Computer Shopper.
In this digitally enhanced era we live in, printing scads of business or personal documents is no longer as big a part of everyday life as it was a short decade ago. With the advent of electronic banking, electronic tax filing, electronic mail…well, electronic everything, the personally printed page is becoming increasingly passé and inefficient.
In fact, the “paperless office” (where nobody prints, making the world safe for trees) predicted by last century’s pundits is becoming—for some homes and small businesses, anyway—at least a partial reality. Still, even though many people have much reduced how many documents they print, nearly everybody enjoys having printed photos on hand. And that’s where old-school, single-function photo printers, such as the $99.99-list Canon Pixma iP7220 Wireless Color Photo Printer we’re reviewing today, come in.
Though it’s a device primarily optimized for printing photos, the Pixma iP7220 is not a “dedicated” photo printer. It will also print documents, and it supports duplex printing (automatic two-sided output), which means you can print double-sided letters, business documents, or flyers as needed. And, like Canon’s other midrange and higher-end photo-centric Pixmas, such as the Pixma MG5420, this one performs its intended tasks—printing exceptional-quality photos and the occasional good-looking document—quite well.
In that regard, much like a few other Pixmas we’ve tested that use Canon’s five-ink imaging system (such as the Pixma MG5420), the iP7220 delivers printed output that looks exceptional, especially photos. However, as with the MG5420, the iP7220’s ongoing per-page cost of its ink, is also exceptional—exceptionally high, that is. (We’ll talk more about the five-ink system and this model’s cost per page, or CPP, in the Setup & Paper Handling section a little later in this review.)
Usually, we ding printers hard if they have high CPPs, especially if they are all-in-one (AIO) models geared toward business-document output. In the case of single-function photo printers, though, where the prime reason for buying one is high-quality image printing, we can accept a higher CPP, so long as the image quality justifies the extra pennies per photo. The Pixma iP7220 certainly meets these criteria. In fact, the only consumer-level printers we know of that print photographs better than Canon’s five-ink machines are Canon’s own Pixmas that use six inks, such as the multifunction Pixma MG6320 and Pixma MG8220.
As a document printer, the Pixma iP7220 delivers output quality that’s about average, and it churns out document pages a little slower than several other competing devices. If you print documents more than “now and then,” many, many other printers out there will serve you better than this one. But if you’re looking for consistently vibrant, colorful, developer-quality images, we can recommend the Pixma iP7220.
See the full review at Computer Shopper.
Typically, we don’t review tablet products designed solely for children, such as the LeapPad 2 Learning Tablet or the Nabi 2 7” Kids Tablet, because they look and behave more like toys than serious computing or communications devices. However, while checking out all the nifty gadgets at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), we came across a device in the something-you-don’t-see-every-day category: a combined tablet/smartphone that also doubles as a child’s learning device. What’s different about Rullingnet’s $249.99 Vinci Tab MV 5″ Tablet & Phone Combo is that it is just as much a full-fledged Android smartphone/tablet as it is a children’s educational tablet. (The “MV” stands for “Mobile Voice.”)
A 5-inch slate running Android 4.04 (also known as Ice Cream Sandwich, or ICS) on a 480×800-pixel display, the Vinci Tab MV 5” has not just one, but two unlocked SIM-card slots for connecting to 3G cellular networks. Here, “unlocked” means that the device is not designed, and therefore not “locked,” to work with any specific cellular carrier. The reason the Vinci Tab MV 5” has two slots: It supports two different sets of 3G protocols, allowing it to connect with a wider range of providers, both in the United States and abroad. (We’ll talk more about the types of networks and U.S. providers supported in the Design section, on the next page.)
That might seem unusual for a “kid’s tablet,” and it is. And that’s not all: In addition to 3G network support, the Vinci Tab MV 5” comes with just about every other standard Android smartphone/tablet feature, including GPS, expandable storage (via a MicroSD-card slot), Wi-Fi connectivity, front- and rear-facing cameras, and support for the hundreds of thousands of Android apps available at Google’s Play Store. As Android tablets go, by today’s standards, it’s a little short on storage (4GB onboard) and system memory (512MB), and the 1GHz dual-core processor is a bit of an underachiever. (Nowadays, most Android tablets run on quad-core CPUs.)
But it’s a heck of a hybrid device for the price, nonetheless. In addition to being a smartphone and 5-inch tablet, the Vinci Tab MV 5” doubles as a child-oriented slate, serving as a front end for Rullingnet’s Vinci learning-system apps and educational videos. An age-based, three-level learning system, intended for children ranging from toddlers up to age 9, the so-called “Vinci Curriculum” consists of several well-designed 3D games, puzzles, and other learn-through-fun apps in six subjects: General Knowledge, Thinking Skills, Language & Literacy, Math & Logical Thinking, Science, and Social & Emotional.
Rullingnet offers educational programs that parents can administer themselves, as well as more sophisticated systems (from a teaching point of view) designed for daycare centers and schools. (We’ll look at these programs in more detail in the Features & Content section a little later.) The tablet itself can be configured so that your child can access only the Vinci content, which is free of advertising and in-app marketing, as well as violence or any other adult-oriented content.
In addition to the Vinci Tab MV 5”, Rullingnet also makes a few other less-expensive slates that, like several of the other tablets designed for children, run only the educational content. But the idea behind this one is a two-birds-with-one-stone approach. You—the parent—can carry it around and use it as a smartphone, tablet, or both, as needed, and you can hand it off to your child at any time, such as, say, while riding in the car (or any other time you need some peace and quiet).
Were it not for the excellent learning system, apps, games, and videos, we wouldn’t consider the Vinci Tab MV 5” particularly impressive as either a tablet or a smartphone. It’s too small and mildly equipped, in terms of the hardware and storage, for a tablet, and it’s a bit too big, thick, and heavy for a cellphone. In addition, it turned in some of the lowest scores on our suite of benchmark tests that we’ve seen from an Android device in some time.
That said, at $250, the Vinci Tab MV 5” fills a whole bunch of needs at least competently. It’s the least-expensive 3G-enabled tablet we know of (without having to purchase a long-term contract, that is), and the inclusion of two different cellular network protocols means that you can use it in most parts of the world. Combine that with the exceptional learning content, and we think that the Vinci Tab MV 5” is a good value for certain users—to be sure, parents, schools, and daycare centers—but also for families that can use a multitasking device that can serve as a phone, general-use tablet, and educational tool.
See full review at Computer Shopper.
After our recent in-depth look at HP’s stellar new OfficeJet Pro X line of high-volume inkjet printers, we’re now finding it difficult to get all that excited about a single-function color laser machine of any stripe. Built around the printer giant’s new “PageWide” stationary-printhead technology, the OfficeJet Pro X inkjets are equal to, if not superior to, small-office and workgroup color lasers in several ways—but most of all when it comes to the per-page cost of consumables. Competition in the entry- and mid-level business-printer market just got fiercer. A color laser printer needs to be pretty remarkable on several fronts to impress, now.
In fact, the introduction of PageWide-based printers into the business-printer market will most likely cause printer makers, includingHP, to reevaluate their color laser pricing and positioning. Recently released color laser models, such as the $329.99-MSRP HP LaserJet Pro 200 Color Printer M251nw we’re reviewing here, may well get caught in the crossfire.
Like its multifunction sibling, the $449.99-MSRP HP LaserJet Pro 200 Color MFP M276nw we reviewed a few weeks ago, the M251nw is capable enough in terms of print quality and speed. We liked these printers well enough in isolation, but the far-too-high cost per page (CPP) of their toner makes them impractical for small offices, small businesses, and workgroups that have more than modest print-volume requirements.
In short, the M251nw costs too much to use. That’s too bad, because it performed respectably on our benchmark speed tests, and we have no complaints about its print quality. However, we did find its lack of an automatic duplexer for printing two-sided pages disappointing. It’s not often that we see an over-$300 printer these days come without support for unassisted two-sided printing. Also concerning was this model’s somewhat small—small for a laser printer, that is—150-sheet input drawer.
In fact, the more we consider it, the more M251nw looks to us like a “personal” color laser printer in a high-volume printer’s body—because the biggest trait of personal lasers, when it comes right down to it, is that they are designed not to be used all that much. That’s at odds with HP’s recommended maximum monthly duty cycle of 30,000 pages for this printer. But if you print that many pages (or even close) on the M251nw, it will cost you plenty extra compared to higher-cost, higher-volume models over time.
In sum, we see the M251nw as a low-volume laser printer, which really is a bit of an oxymoron when it comes to lasers at this price. You can find plenty of lower-cost inkjet models out there that print business documents almost as well—and for less money per page. We liked this machine’s print quality, but given the competition, only small offices and workgroups with very limited print-volume needs will find the M251nw a sensible pick.
See complete review at Computer Shopper.