NEW INTEL HD GRAPHICS, IRIS, IRIS PRO DRIVERS BENCHMARKED

Recently, Intel released new drivers for its Intel HD, Iris, and Iris Pro integrated graphics chips.

To test the company’s claims of improved performance, we downloaded the new drivers, and installed them on a laptop running on a 4th-gen Intel Core i7-4500U processor, which contains Intel’s HD 4400 Graphics GPU.

To establish points of reference, we ran 3DMark Fire Strike and Cloud Gate before installing the new drivers as well. These are popular benchmarks which we use to test graphics performance regularly.

Related: First Intel Core M benchmark scores released

After that, we installed the new drivers, and ran the same benchmarks again. While we expected the new drivers to perform somewhat faster, we were a little surprised by the results.

Read the entire article at Digital Trends.

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AOC mySmart All-in-One Android PC (A2472PW4T) Review and RatingsBack in November of 2013, we looked at an early attempt at an Android all-in-one PC, the Slate 21-k100 All-in-One Desktop from HP. Our opinion then was that running Android—a mobile operating system designed for smartphones and tablets—on a full-fledged computer was sheer folly. Not only was Android clunky on a 21-inch all-in-one (AIO), but several of HP’s hardware and design choices were baffling, too. As a result, the Slate 21 received one of the lowest scores we’ve given to a product in quite some time.

Now, venerable monitor maker AOC has tried its own hand at the same game with its mySmart All-in-One Android PC, another attempt to run Google’s open-source mobile OS on a large-screen AIO. This time, though, there are actually two such models: a $299.99 (MSRP) version with a 22-inch screen and the $399.99 (MSRP) model A2472PW4T, the 24-inch unit we’re reviewing here. Aside from the 2-inch-diagonal screen difference and the ensuing chassis-size change, these two machines are identical in almost every way.

AOC mySmart All-in-One Android PC (A2472PW4T)Note, though, there’s something big the AOC AIO can do that the HP Slate 21 can’t. The mySmart can double as a high-resolution (1,920×1,080-pixel) touch screen for Windows, making it, in a sense, something of a hybrid product. Unfortunately, while it makes a fairly decent monitor for straightforward viewing, this AIO has some serious design and performance issues that affect its overall value and effectiveness as a desktop machine. The touch functionality leaves much to be desired in either mode, too.

In addition, this is the first AIO we’ve seen that comes without a keyboard or pointing device in the box. You’ll have to provide your own, or else resort to typing onscreen, which isn’t at all productive. On the other hand, this AIO has several USB ports, and it supports Bluetooth, so your options are wide open if you want to buy your own input devices. We’ll talk more about these design issues on the next page.

All of this is not to say that there’snothing to like about AOC’s mySmart PC—quite to the contrary. For starters, it’s built around a good-looking 23.6-inch display panel and a decent sound system for watching movies and viewing high-resolution images. Very few Android games and apps, on the other hand, can take proper advantage of the high-resolution screen (which we’ll get into in greater detail in the Features & Apps section). So the screen is really only of note if you’ll be using the display in monitor mode.

On the other hand, for a mid-2014 Android-based device, this one is full of 2013 compromises, were it even just an Android tablet. It’s using last year’s Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, and it came outfitted with a two-versions-behind installation of Android, 4.2. While we didn’t care much for HP’s Android all-in-one, at least the HP Slate 21 came out of the gate with the most modern Tegra 4 CPU and the latest version of the Android OS at the time. Both systems, however, are low on storage (just 8GB inside).

AOC mySmart All-in-One Android PC (Front View)As we said about the Slate 21, this Android AIO provides neither a well-rounded Android-tablet-style experience, nor full-fledged all-in-one PC performance. If all you need is a large touch-screen device for watching videos, browsing the Internet, and managing e-mails and social media sites, this one will do. And, like we said before, it works as a touch-screen monitor—with, as you’ll see on the next page, some major caveats.

Still, realize that you can find basic Windows AIOs starting at about $350 (albeit with smaller screens), and for most users, those will be a far better alternative. Android doesn’t do big screens all that well to begin with, and when you stack on some this model’s shortcomings, it’s tough to get excited about the mySmart in light of what you can get for the same money.

Read the entire article at Computer Shopper.

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Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E431 ReviewAs the maker of the longtime industry standard in business laptops, Lenovo walks a fine line between the practicality expected from loyal ThinkPad users and the pressure to deliver the sexier, thinner, and more stylish products becoming increasingly popular in the consumer-centric notebook market. As we saw with the ThinkPad T431s recently, with each update, the Chinese computer giant appears to be on a mission to make the stalwart, matte-black-brick ThinkPad more fashionable.

But then, the T431s is a member of Lenovo’s higher-end T Series. The company also offers an affordable line of ThinkPads for small business, positioned between the enterprise models and its consumer IdeaPads. Starting at only $599 (before Lenovo.com’s ever-changing “eCoupon” discounts), the ThinkPad Edge Series needs to strike a balance between style and substance while meeting aggressive price points. Doing that while offering the features businesspeople need, as we saw while reviewing last year’s 15.6-inch ThinkPad Edge E530, is, well, difficult.

While we liked the E530 overall, we found its screen, sound, and Webcam quality lacking, to the point that our recommendation was tepid at best. Here, we’re looking at a refresh of last year’s 14-inch model—the ThinkPad Edge E431 ($647 after eCoupon as tested). As with the update of the T430s to the T431s, the E431 is slightly thinner and lighter than its predecessor, as well as a bit more stylish. Better yet, most of our complaints about last year’s Edge models have been addressed, making us much more enthusiastic about this ThinkPad.

The real news here, though, is the introduction of an all-new docking solution Lenovo has dubbed OneLink Dock, which, compared to previous Edge Series docking solutions, provides increased data throughput, as well as compression-free video. As discussed a little later in this review, this new system uses a proprietary data connection between the PC and docking station that Lenovo says not only increases USB, audio, video, and Ethernet transfer rates compared to USB docking, but does so with little to no impact on the laptop’s overall performance.Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E431 open

Speaking of performance, the E431 scored on the low side of average on several of our tests, and slightly above average on a few others. We were, however, disappointed in the Lenovo’s poor showing in our battery-rundown benchmark. The good news is that, unlike most competing models, this laptop lets you swap out the battery, which of course lets you double or triple the time between charges, depending on how many additional batteries you’re willing to buy. Lenovo also offers an optional longer-life, higher-capacity battery for the E431 on its Web site. 

Slotting between the corporate ThinkPads and the IdeaPads for consumers, the ThinkPad Edge targets small offices and value hunters.   

Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E431 frontShort battery life aside, we liked this notebook. True to the ThinkPad brand, it came through where a business-centric laptop should in terms of build quality and security options. Then too, it comes with Lenovo’s AccuType keyboard, one of the best laptop keyboards available, as well as a highly accurate and easy-to-use touch pad. Granted, the Edge is not futuristic, sexy, or stylish, but as sturdy, business-ready laptops go, it provides excellent value.

Read complete review at Computer Shopper.

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New ed2go Adobe Muse course announced

(Camarillo, CA – January 19, 2013) Journalist, author, and online course instructor William Harrel and Education to Go (ed2go.com) have teamed up once again to announce a new online course. This time, the subject of the class will be Adobe’s new WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) Website design app, Muse.

Harrel teaches Website design and animation at over 3,000 colleges, universities, and other online outlets, and ed2go.com is one of the world’s largest and most successful online course publishers.


What is Adobe Muse?

Adobe® Muse™ software enables designers to create HTML websites for desktop and mobile devices, without writing code. Design web-standard sites, like you design print layouts. Use familiar features, hundreds of web fonts, and built-in tools to add interactivity.  Then, publish with the Adobe Business Catalyst® service and redeem site hosting support, or publish with any hosting provider. (Source: Adobe.com)


Course Overview

This new course, which is under development now, will be entitled: Websites without Coding with Adobe Muse, and will consist of six-week sessions (two lessons per week) covering the following material:

Lesson 1: Getting Started with Muse

  • Overview: Designing Websites in Muse
  • Plan Mode – Starting a Website in Muse
  • Design Mode – The Page Design Interface

Lesson 2 : Creating a Basic Site in Muse

  • Mastering Master Pages
  • Working with Boxes
  • Typography: Working with Text

Lesson 3: Using External Content with Muse

  • Using and Formatting Word Processor Text
  • External Graphics and Images
  • Digital Sound, Video, and other Media

Lesson 4: Working with Widgets

  • Creating Compositions
  • Web Forms
  • Making Menus

Lesson 5: More Widgets and Templates

  • Creating Expanding Panels
  • Slick Slideshows
  • Using Templates with Muse

Lesson 6: Using other CS6 Programs with Muse

  • Using Photoshop and Fireworks with Muse
  • Using Photoshop Buttons with Muse
  • Using Edge Animate with Muse

Lesson 7: Interactivity: Triggers and Targets

  • Making Mouse States
  • Interactivity Triggers
  • Page Navigation with Targets

Lesson 8: Creating Sites for Mobile Devices

  • Repurposing Existing Content
  • Formatting Content for Smartphones
  • Formatting Content for Tablets

Lesson 9: Stylizing Type with Typekit and Web Fonts

  • Decorative Type with Typekit
  • 3D Type and other Special Effects
  • Working with Web Fonts

Lesson 10: Advanced Web Design Techniques

  • Accommodating Flexible Browser Widths
  • Embedding Google Maps
  • Embedding HTML Code

 

Lesson 11: Working More Efficiently in Muse

  • Getting the Most from Master Pages
  • Sharing Content between Pages and Sites
  • Sharing Muse Content between Media Types

Lesson 12: Publishing Your Muse Websites

  • Publishing to Adobe Business Catalyst
  • CMS Integration on Adobe Business Catalyst
  • Publishing with FTP

Check back with us for updates and projected course release dates.

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Epson WorkForce Pro WP-4540 Review and Ratings

Epson WorkForce Pro WP-4540 - an impressive high-volume workhorse.

Every now and then, an all-in-one (AIO) inkjet printer arrives at our labs that makes us scratch our head shortly after unboxing it. No, it’s not a hygiene thing; it’s because the printer blurs the line between a color laser and an inkjet.

The $299 HP OfficeJet Pro 8600 we looked at in early 2012, a Editors’ Choice winner, is a classic example. Like any multifunction color laser worth its salt (or rather, toner), the OfficeJet Pro 8600 is fast, it’s designed for high-volume printing, and its per-page ink cost is low. But…it’s an inkjet. And furthermore, since, like most of today’s inkjets, the OfficeJet Pro 8600 prints excellent photos, you get the best traits of the inkjet- and laser-printing worlds for a relatively low price.

We consider this trend—that is, high-volume inkjet AIOs with low ink costs and tons of productivity features—an excellent one, providing great value for one-person and small offices alike. Hence, we were excited to receive Epson’s $399.99 WorkForce Pro WP-4540 and put it through its paces. It promised to be another category-bending multifunction printer.

Like the OfficeJet Pro 8600, the WorkForce Pro WP-4540 is serviced by two huge paper trays (though the second tray on the HP model is an added-cost option), and it uses inexpensive, high-volume ink cartridges. Both models have just about every feature any color-printing small office would need, and each of them churns out excellent prints at impressive speeds.

Read the review at Computer Shopper.

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Toshiba Thrive (7-Inch)

Toshiba Thrive (7-Inch) - Comfort and Power in a Small Package.

Full-size tablets with 9- or 10-inch screens are great for using around your home or office, but when it comes to walking around with a slate, nothing beats a 7-incher. These small, light tablets are easy to transport, comfortable to type on when held in wide (landscape) orientation, and better for one-handed gripping for long periods.

Only a few manufacturers, such as Samsung and Acer, offer 7-inch versions of their larger tablets, and we’ve seen a few recent 7-inch hybrid e-readers/tablets, notably from Amazon (the Kindle Fire) and Barnes & Noble (the Nook Tablet). Unlike the abundance of full-size slates available, the selection of these handy littler ones is still quite limited. Hence, we’re always delighted to see a well-built, full-featured contender.

Enter Toshiba’s newest little powerhouse, the $379 Thrive. In many ways—primarily appearance and design—the 7-inch-screened Thrive mimics its larger, 10-inch-screen sibling. However, unlike that $479.99 version of the Thrive, this one doesn’t have a removable battery (a rare feature, which the larger Thrive has), nor does it offer full-size USB and HDMI ports.

See the review at Computer ShopperToshiba Thrive (7-Inch)

Toshiba Thrive (7-Inch), Review By William Harrel, reviewed December 14, 2011

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Samsung Series 7 11.6" Slate

Samsung Series 7 11.6" Slate. A tablet? Or a notebook with an onscreen keyboard?

It doesn’t take a relationship counselor to see it: In our reviews and others’, Windows and touch-screen tablets don’t have the best reputation for getting along. As we saw with Fujitsu’s admirable attempt—the $849 Stylistic Q550 Slate PC—at massaging Windows 7 to run on tablet hardware, Windows itself is the problem, not the hardware. While Windows does run well enough, with ample speed and performance, once you start to evaluate touch and multi-touch gesture interpretation, you quickly see that Windows is something of a graceless clod. Hence, manufacturers that have ventured into the Windows-slate market have found it necessary to include a digital pen or stylus to help make touch navigation less frustrating.

Leave it to Samsung, a company that has mastered the Android-based tablet with three outstanding models (the Galaxy TabGalaxy Tab 8.9, and Galaxy Tab 10.1) to take the most impressive stab at the Windows-slate market so far. Enter the Samsung Series 7 11.6″ Slate. Instead of trying to squeeze Windows 7 onto a slate running tablet-grade hardware, such as the 1.5GHz Intel Atom Z670 processor found in the Fujitsu Stylistic Q550, the Series 7 uses Intel’s second-generation “Sandy Bridge” 1.6GHz Core i5-2467M mobile processor, which is much more suitable for running Windows 7.

See the review at Computer Shopper.

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Asus ZenBook UX21E Review

Asus ZenBook UX21E - Move Over MacBook Air

It’s not every day that we see a whole new category of notebook computers emerge. Nonetheless, here in late 2011, off we go headfirst into the “ultrabook” era.

A few weeks before we looked at the subject of this review, we tested the first machine to meet the ultrabook outlines as defined by Intel: Acer’s $899.99 Aspire S3-951. As we promised then, Acer’s offering would be the first in what looks to be a long line of thin, light, and powerful laptops hitting the market just in time for the 2011 holidays.

The next thin, light model to meet the ultrabook criteria is Asus’ $1,199 ZenBook UX21E. The ZenBook comes in five basic versions: two models with 11.6-inch screens, and three with 13.3-inchers. The $999 base model (UX21E-DH52) comes with an 11.6-inch screen, Intel’s Core i5-2467M processor, 4GB of DDR3 memory, and a 128GB solid-state drive (SSD). The 13.3-inch models, depending on their processor speed and the capacity of the SSD, range in price from $1,099 to $1,499. The top model of those three, the $1,499 UX31E-DH72, comes with the Intel Core i7-2677M processor and a 256GB SSD. Across all five models, the specifications comply with Intel’s requirements for donning the “ultrabook” name.

See the review here.

 

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Mobile Web Design at eClasses.org

Communications Technology Watch is happy to announce a new course on mobile design at the popular online school eClasses.org. The course covers Web design, but from the perspective of designing for mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. We’ll look at creating HTML, CSS and JavaScript for handhelds. Companies, individuals and organizations that ignore the mobile Web user do so at their own peril! Mobile Web users are by far the fastest growing group of Internet users. This course is designed for students who wish to expand access of their company (or client’s) websites to the most modern of Internet users – people who use their mobile phones and tablets to access the Internet. The emphasis is on creating Web content that displays well and plays properly on the vast and ever-growing number of mobile devices available, today and in the future.

The course’s text book will be William Harrel’s newly released Mobile HTML, CSS and Javascript Development for Dummies. This is an 8-week course. Here is the course outline:

Week 1: Introducing the Mobile Web
  • What is the Mobile Web
  • The Mobile Web User
  • HTML on the Mobile Web
  • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) on the Mobile Web
  • JavaScript on the Mobile Web
  • Software and Utilities
Week 2: In Depth Mobile Technology
  • Types of Mobile Devices
  • Mobile Device Operating Systems
  • Mobile Web Browsers
  • Which Devices can do what
  • Define Devices by Class
  • Mobile Detect and Adapt Systems
Week 3: Creating Your First Mobile Site
  • Your First Mobile Web Page
  • Mobile HTML Page Structure
  • Mobile-Friendly and Mobile Specific CSS
  • CreateMobile Web Page Elements with CSS
  • Design Mobile Web Templates
Week 4: Interactivity and Multimedia
  • Create Mobile Web Buttons and Hyperlinks
  • Create and Format Graphics for the Mobile Web
  • Create and Format Digital Video for the Mobile Web
  • Create and Format Flash Movies for the Mobile Web
Week 5: Mobile WebKit Extensions
  • What are WebKit Extensions
  • Device Orientation
  • Artwork with WebKit Extensions
  • Special Effects with WebKit Extensions
  • Animations with WebKit Extensions
  • Other Browser-Specific Extensions
Week 6: Advanced Mobile Web Technologies
  • Introducing Mobile CSS3
  • FormatMobile Page Elements with CSS3
  • Mobile HTML5
  • Highly Useful Mobile HTML5 Tags
  • Automate Your Mobile Sites with JavaScript
  • Server-Side Scripting with PHP
Week 7: Automating Your Site with JavaScript
  • JavaScript Automation Basics
  • Detect Device Type with JavaScript
  • Adapt Page Content with JavaScript
  • Change Style Sheets with JavaScript
  • HTML Form Field Validation with JavaScript
Week 8: Creating a Mobile Quiz
  • The User Interface
  • Store and Retrieve Data in Radio Buttons
  • Store and Retrieve Data in Check Boxes
  • Format Your Quiz with CSS
  • Script the Form
Bonus Week:
  • Make Your Mobile Site Search Engine Friendly
  • Createa Mobile Search Page
  • Use Mobile Blog Themes
Prerequisites
Completed ‘Introduction to HTML’ (H101) and ‘Introduction to Cascading Style Sheets’ (H151). Knowledge of computer graphics, digital video, and Flash movies would also be helpful, but by no means required.
Requirements
  • Software: Aside from a text editor, such as Windows Notepad or Mac OS TextEdit, there are no required software applications to complete this course; however, you’ll find the following software useful:
    • Dreamweaver CS4 or later: You can download the latest trial version from adobe.com, but if you do, since the trial version is good for only 30 days, do not install it until the third week of the course.
    • XAMPPWeb server software. XAMPP is a free Linux Web server emulator you can use to test your Web pages. You can download it from: http://www.apachefriends.org/en/xampp.html . It comes in both Windows and Mac OS versions.
    • FTP client software: File Transfer Protocol, or FTP, software allows you to upload your Web page files to a Web server. You can perform this function with built-in Windows or Mac utilities, but will find this much easier with an FTP utility. You can download FileZilla for free at: http://filezilla-project.org/ . It comes in both Windows and Mac versions.
  • Webspace: You’ll need a website to which you can upload your assignments. There are several free Web hosting sites available. However, many of them place ads on your pages. This can be very annoying, but if you can live with it, so can I.

 

Books:
Required Book: HTML, CSS and JavaScript Mobile Development for Dummies

 

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Computer Shopper - William Harrel

Communications Technology Watch is happy to announce that William Harrel has been named Contributing Editor for the popular online magazine and buyers’ guide Computer Shopper. Harrel has a long history of writing about information technology, going back to the industry’s glory days, when monthly paper magazines–Computer Magazine, PC World, Windows Magazine, MacWorld, MacUser, and, yes, Computer Shopper–were popular and powerful. A favorable review in one of these publications could make an unknown product famous, and turn small, upstart companies into powerhouse corporations. Those days are over, and once two-inch-thick magazines are now a quarter or less of there size, those that survived, that is. The ones that did make it adapted to the medium of our era, the Internet. Computer Shopper made the transition successfully and is now a trusted Internet destination and source for well-researched and unbiased new product information and reviews–as it has always been. Harrel is currently covering the tablet, notebook and printer beats. See William Harrel’s articles here.

William Harrel - www.williamharrel.com

 

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