Dell Venue 7 Review and RatingsIn the closing months of 2013, we’ve seen tremendous growth—at least in terms of the sheer number of products—in the market for compact Android tablets (that is, models with 7-to-9-inch displays). It’s to the point, it seems, that we’re reviewing a new one every week or two. Some, such as the 2013 refresh of the Google Nexus 7, are fast and aspire to elegance. Others, such as HiSense’s Sero 7 LT and HP’s Slate 7, are no-pretenses budget models.

That second group—budget-priced compact tablets—is where the model we’re looking at here, Dell’s $149.99-list Venue 7, fits in. Like several like-priced, no-frills budget slates we’ve looked at lately (notably Asus’ $149.99-list MeMO Pad HD 7 and HiSense’s $149.99-list Sero 7 Pro), the Venue 7 is light, thin, and attractive, and it performed reasonably well on our benchmark tests given its price. It’s fast enough to perform most tasks comfortably, though not an ideal pick for the most resource-intensive Android games.

Dell Venue 7In addition, the Venue 7 turned in one of the shortest unplugged runtimes in our battery-rundown test we’ve seen in some time—as much as three to eight hours behind some other compact models. We’ll talk more about this tablet’s battery life in the Battery Life & Conclusion section later on.

Our review package contained the Venue 7 alone, equipped with 16GB of internal storage, for $149.99 list. However, Dell offers some interesting bundles on its Web site. You can, for example, choose the Venue 7 with a Targus stylus for $159.99, or a “Venue 7 + Essentials Bundle” for $199.99, which includes the Targus stylus and a 32GB SanDisk MicroSD card, which boosts the onboard storage capacity from 16GB to 48GB.

In addition to the Venue 7, Dell also offers the Venue 8, an 8-inch-screened version of the tablet. It sells in a set of bundles parallel to its smaller sibling’s: a stand-alone Venue 8 version for $179.99; with a stylus for $189.99; and a $229.99 Essentials 8 Bundle with a stylus and a 32GB memory card.

We should also point out that the Venue 8 has a slightly faster (2GHz) Atom processor than the Venue 7’s (1.6GHz), which should, theoretically anyway, make for a slightly faster slate. Also, don’t confuse the Venue 8 with the Venue 8 Pro, which is a full-on Windows 8 tablet. (Hit the link for our review of that one.) In any case, nothing about either Android version, the 7- or 8-inch, is particularly ground-breaking. In fact, the Venue 7 is, for the most part, just another entry-level compact Android tablet. It brings little new to the conversation. At $150, it’s one of the cheaper compact tablets we know of, but certainly not the cheapest. And that’s our main quibble with this tablet: We couldn’t find a compelling reason to recommend it over the other 7-inch Androids out there in its price class.

Dell Venue 7That said, given the price, we couldn’t find any reason not to recommend it, either, for first-time buyers, as a second slate for the family, or perhaps as an inexpensive tablet for a child. Given its comparably priced competitors, though, we’d like the Venue 7 a lot more at $129, or perhaps even a bit less.

See entire review at Computer Shopper.

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Canon Pixma MG7120 Review and RatingsAs we’ve noted over the years, when it comes to printing photos on all-in-one (AIO) inkjet printers (that is, multifunction models that can print, copy, and scan), few solutions provide better-looking photographic output than the six-ink imaging systems deployed in a few higher-end, photo-centric Canon Pixmas. (The Pixma MG6320 Wireless Inkjet Photo All-in-One we reviewed back in February 2013 comes to mind.) Hence, we always pay attention when another new model based on this tried-and-proven imaging technology comes along.

Enter Canon’s MG7120 Photo All-in-One Inkjet Printer, the Japanese electronics giant’s latest model based on that detail-rich, vibrant six-ink imaging system. It lists for $199.99 and sells for roughly $149 on the street. Designed for photo enthusiasts and capable of printing exceptional photographs, this AIO also performs basic office functions, such as printing business documents, scanning, and copying.

Canon Pixma MG7120 (Angle View)The key word here is basic, though. Notably, this Pixma lacks an automatic document feeder (ADF) for scanning and copying multipage documents. What this means is that each page of a document must be placed on the scanner bed one at a time, which can be time-consuming and tedious, especially if your original document is two-sided. These days, it’s unusual for a printer in the $200-list price range to come without an ADF onboard.

In addition, the Pixma MG7120 is—in terms of print speed, input and output volume, and cost per page (CPP)—a decidedly low-volume machine. While everything it prints looks good (partly because it uses six discrete, premium inks), what it prints, as you’ll see in the Setup & Paper Handling section later in this review, costs a bit too much to output for our tastes.

Usually, we ding a printer hard for high CPPs, though we do make some provision for photo printers built around five- and six-ink systems. Typically, you would buy one of these photo-centric models only if image printing were more important to you than office-productivity and convenience features. In these cases, as we see it, it’s important that you understand what you’re getting and why.

Canon Pixma MG7120 (Buttoned Up)As we’ve put forth for years, Canon’s six-ink Pixmas print exceptional images. The business documents it prints look good, too, but, compared to the CPP figures we’ve calculated from many other inkjet-based AIOs, they’re also a bit too expensive. In addition, this machine’s lack of an ADF limits its flexibility as a copier or scanner, which is a pity, because the quality of its copies, as we found in our tests, is excellent.

In light of that, be clear on what the Pixma MG7120 is, regardless of its AIO exterior: a photo printer, first and foremost. There’s no denying that the Pixma MG7120 prints stellar photos, but that’s by far the main reason you should consider it.

Read entire review at Computer Shopper.

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Asus VivoBook V551LB-DB71T Review and RatingsJust as touch screens first appeared on deluxe, high-end systems after the debut of Windows 8 and rapidly moved into the mainstream, Intel’s fourth-generation “Haswell” processors have migrated from ritzy systems like Sony’s VAIO Pro 13 ultrabook to more affordable models in their six months on the market.

Notebooks don’t get more mainstream than the 15.6-inch desktop replacement class—or than Asus’ consumer VivoBook line. The VivoBook S500CA-DS51T we tested in May 2013 was a solid example, with a third-gen Core i5-3317U processor with Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics. Like the Acer Aspire R7 and other laptops with that configuration we’ve sampled, the S500CA offered ample performance for everyday computing tasks such as Web browsing, social media, office productivity, and content consumption, but fell short for high-end multimedia rendering tasks and resource-intensive gameplay.

But today, the $999-list VivoBook V551LB-DB71T flaunts not only a fast “Haswell” Core i7-4500U CPU but Nvidia GeForce GT 740M discrete graphics. While more expensive than the $679 model S500CA, the new VivoBook performs head and shoulders above its predecessor on most of our benchmarks, including the demanding battery-rundown test.

Asus VivoBook V551LB-DB71T rear angleStill, we have some of the same complaints about this VivoBook as we did the last one. For example, as you’ll see below, it’s uncomfortably big and heavy to carry around with you. In addition, considering its price tag, we think it should provide a full 1080p resolution display, instead of the meager 1,366×768 pixels typically found on lower-cost or smaller-screened models.

Furthermore, while the Nvidia chip does boost performance enough to make this machine better than most for serious graphics tasks, such as working with high-resolution images in Adobe Photoshop, it does not deliver enough oomph for playing several of today’s toughest 3D gaming titles—at least not at or near their highest display quality settings, anyway. And that’s despite this laptop’s relatively low native resolution.

Overall, though, especially compared to several slightly cheaper systems, the V551LB is one of the strongest-performing mainstream touch-screen laptops we’ve seen, and the new Core i7 processor and discrete graphics definitely enhance its overall value.

Design

With its classy-looking slim profile, single-hinge design, brushed aluminum lid and metallic texture on the keyboard and palm rest, this VivoBook reminded us of the high-end Asus Zenbook UX51VZ we looked at in February. On the other hand, at 15 inches wide, 10.2 inches from front to back, and weighing well over 5 pounds, it’s a lot clunkier than that ultrabook, or even the 4.3-pound VivoBook S500CA. Call it a cross between the company’s elegant ultrabooks and its entry-level machines.

Asus VivoBook V551LB-DB71T angle

As mentioned, the V551LB uses the same single screen hinge, spanning almost the full width of the laptop, as Asus’ Zenbook UX51, which is plenty sturdy enough for normal laptop operation. As we’ve seen a few times now, however, relying on the same hinge design for touch screens as for non-touch displays can be a bit problematic. Here, for example, when we touched the screen—especially when performing multi-finger gestures—the panel wobbled a little more than it should, which sometimes interfered with our accuracy.

Granted, it’s difficult to design a laptop hinge that doesn’t move a little when the screen is touched, and we’re not saying that this one travels unacceptably. We’ve seen worse, but we’ve also seen better—much better, such as the Ezel hinge on the Acer Aspire R7 we tested in June. The Ezel hinge allows you to position the R7′s screen so that it doesn’t wobble—period.

Read entire review at Computer Shopper.

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Lenovo Yoga Tablet 8 Review and RatingsSeldom do we prefer the smaller, cheaper iteration of any product over its larger, costlier version, but that’s the case with Lenovo’s $249-list Yoga Tablet 8. We liked this 8-inch model better than the $299 Yoga Tablet 10 that we reviewed a few days before it. In fact, the 2-inch difference in screen size between these two tablets is the main reason we found the 8-inch unit slightly more attractive than its 10-inch sibling.

That’s because the two tablets feature the same screen resolution, despite the difference in display sizes. Following from that, the compact-class screen on the Yoga Tablet 8 has a higher pixel density, with more elements crammed into each screen inchPlus, the Yoga Tablet 8 performed a little bit better on our benchmark tests than its full-size big brother. (We classify tablets with 9-inch or larger displays as “full-size,” and slates with screens smaller than 9 inches as “compact.”)

Yoga Tablet 10 and 8 Comparison

The Yoga Tablet 10 (left) and Yoga Tablet 8 (right).

You can buy the Yoga Tablet 8 with either 16GB of flash memory for storage (as in the unit we’re reviewing here) or 32GB, for $249 or $269, respectively. Considering that this is a difference of only $20, the 32GB version seems clearly the better value between the two. However, both models have a MicroSD card slot, which will allow you to expand the storage by up to 64GB, for a total of up to 80GB or 96GB, depending on the version of the tablet you buy. However you slice it, an additional 16GB of onboard storage for just a Jackson seems to us like a good deal.

As you can see in the above image, this 8-inch version really is a miniature version of the larger Yoga Tablet 10. In addition to an identical CPU inside, it comes with the same complement of RAM and essentially the same hardware across the board. Like its larger sibling, this 8-inch iteration is well-built, thin, light, and smart-looking. The Yoga Tablet 8 also has the same round, grip-enhancing hinge-and-kickstand construction, shown in the image below

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 8 (Hold Mode)

That cylinder serves two purposes. An oversize battery lives in inside it, and it also houses a hinged stand that allows you to use the tablet in one of three positions, which Lenovo calls “modes.” It’s these modes, of course, that make the Yoga tablets (as well as Lenovo’s Windows-based Yoga convertibles), so different from other tablets and laptops. However, unlike the three Windows-based Yoga convertibles we’ve tested to date (the Yoga 11s and the Yoga IdeaPad 13, as well as the Windows RT-based Yoga 11), which all have permanently attached keyboards and touch pads, the Android-based Yoga Tablet 8 and 10 have only that kickstand. Unfortunately, unlike the Yoga Tablet 10, which has an optional, matching Bluetooth keyboard/cover available for it, an equivalent keyboard accessory was not available for the Yoga Tablet 8 when we wrote this. When we asked Lenovo when a keyboard dock might come available for the Yoga Tablet 8, the company told us it “had no information” about when or if one might debut.

If, however, you can live without a matching keyboard/cover and don’t need the fastest tablet around, we found several reasons to like the Yoga Tablet 8. First, of course, is the clever kickstand. Then, too, there’s this tablet’s performance on our tests. Like its larger sibling, the Yoga Tablet 8 turned in unremarkable scores on our performance benchmark tests, but, for the most part, both slates scored well within ranges indicative of satisfactory performance for most tasks. The Tablet 8 might, for example, struggle with the most resource-intensive games, but it will do just fine with Web browsing, e-mail, and media consumption—what most people use their tablets for. And where the Yoga Tablet 8 lacked performance pep, it made up for it in superb battery life.

As we said about the Yoga Tablet 10, the Yoga Tablet 8 will please low-tech families and first-time tablet users, and most buyers will find the kickstand flexibility interesting. But compared to our current compact-slate Editors’ Choice, Google’s $229 2013 refresh of the Nexus 7, the Yoga Tablet 8 falls short in overall performance and display quality, even with its inch-larger display. To be blunt, unseating the Nexus 7—with its excellent performance, high-resolution screen, and all-around good value—is going to take a very special tablet, and the Yoga Tablet 8 isn’t quite it. In fact, compared to the Nexus 7, the only way this Yoga makes sense for the money is if the kickstand and slightly bigger screen are must-haves for you. Otherwise, the Nexus 7 slate is an all-around better buy.

We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention two immensely popular, non-Android contenders with the same screen size: the 7.9-inch iPad Minis. Apple’s original iPad Mini (that is, the 2012 model) sells for just $50 more than this Yoga, and the 2013 version, the iPad Mini with Retina Display, starts at $399, or $150 more than the 16GB Yoga Tablet 8. While iPads don’t come with hinges and kickstands for working in various modes, they do tap into the largest repository of tablet apps on the Internet, and they have the largest collection of slate-specific accessories at their disposal. iPad Mini versus Yoga Tablet 8, then, largely comes down to an iOS versus Android choice, seeing as the pricing is so close. (One point in the Yoga 8′s favor: The $299 iPad Mini does have a lower-res screen.)

All told, considering its price, its thin and highly attractive exterior, and the long battery life, the Yoga Tablet 8 provides overall decent value if you’re set on Android. Considering the competition, though, we think $199 to $219 might be a better starting price for that 16GB version.

Read entire review at Computer Shopper.

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Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10 Review and RatingsIn 2013, we’ve seen a lot of innovation in Windows-based tablets, in the form of hybrid/convertible tablets and laptops. One of the leaders in delivering new, cutting-edge devices has been Lenovo, notably in its line of Yoga convertibles, including the IdeaPad Yoga 11 and IdeaPad Yoga 11s we reviewed earlier this year, as well as the IdeaPad Yoga 13 we looked at in December of 2012. All three of these machines easily convert from laptop to tablet and back, via a 360-degree articulating hinge that lets you fold the keyboard fully behind the screen.

Now, the company has extended the Yoga brand to include two new Android devices, the $249 Yoga Tablet 8 and, the subject of this review, the $299 Yoga Tablet 10. (Our review of the Yoga Tablet 8 will go live shortly after this one.) At these prices, both models come with 16GB of storage. For a little extra ($50 for the Yoga Tablet 8, or $20 for the Yoga Tablet 10), you can get a storage bump to 32GB, which in both cases (but especially in the case of the Yoga Tablet 10), seems like a better value.

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10 (Lying Down)Lenovo’s Yoga approach is a little different here than in the Yoga laptops. Unlike in those, these new Android models don’t come with physical keyboards. The Yoga lineage, though, means you can still operate the tablet in various modes, or positions, here via a small kickstand that runs across the bottom rear of the chassis (when you hold the slate in wide, or landscape, orientation). We’ll look more closely at the Yoga Tablet 10’s modes on the next page.

Looking past the kickstand and the flexibility it affords in positioning the tablet, the Yoga Tablet 10 at the core is a midrange 10-inch Android tablet with a moderately strong feature set. Granted, its screen is low-resolution (1,280×800) and therefore far from the best on the market, but that’s not a surprise for the price. During our hands-on evaluation, we found that, for a 10-inch-class screen in a $299 slate, the display panel wasn’t half bad. In addition, the tablet performed reasonably well on our benchmark tests, the most impressive result being its nearly 14 hours on our demanding battery-rundown trial.

Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10 (Modes)We also liked the Yoga Tablet 10’s built-in sound system. Couple the speakers with its decent display panel, and this Yoga plays movies well considering its $299 price tag. We should also add that Lenovo offers an optional, attachable Bluetooth keyboard dock (sold via its Web site for an additional $69.99) that allows you to use the slate as a sort-of Android-based laptop if you position it on a stable base.

Granted, the Yoga Tablet 10 doesn’t bring anything particularly new (aside from the kickstand and the positions it enables) to the Android-tablet market. But it’s well-built and attractive, and it performs relatively well—all for an on-target price.

Read full review at Computer Shopper.

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Lenovo Miix 10 Review and RatingsTrying to shoehorn hardware that can run full Windows 8 into a thin tablet often requires significant performance compromises—especially in brute processing prowess. As a tablet maker, to create a slim, attractive device that’s easy to operate with one hand while you hold it in the other, you have to settle for a tablet-grade processor. By far the most common of these to date in Windows tablets have been Intel’s Atoms, which can run on much less power than the average laptop chip. But, until recently, they put out performance that matched their power-conservative habits.

The chips typically do a decent job stretching battery life, though. Tablets built around Atom processors tend to last longer between charges than slates powered by Intel’s more powerful Core CPUs—often as much as three to four hours longer. And constructing a slate around a lower-power Atom processor also allows manufacturers to make less-expensive devices, like the subject of this review: Lenovo’s $479-list Miix 10, a tablet that comes in at a price point closer to those of Android-based devices.

Lenovo Miix 10 Angled ViewThe trade-off, though—and there’s always a trade-off, isn’t there?—is speed. The Miix 10 turned in a score of 0.53 on our CPU-centric Cinebench benchmark test, whereas full-Windows tablets and hybrid laptop/tablets built around Intel’s laptop-grade Core CPUs, including Lenovo’s own ThinkPad Twist, typically turn in scores four or five times faster. While it doesn’t feel particularly slow for basic tablet tasks, demanding Windows programs do lag, and some won’t run at all.

The thing is, though, because of some recent moves by Intel, it’s more complicated than that: Atom itself is evolving. Most of the Atom-based Windows tablets and hybrid laptops on the market when we wrote this (in late October 2013) were based on Intel’s “Clover Trail” generation of Atom chips. (Indeed, the Atom Z2760 in the Mixx 10 is the same Clover Trail chip powering most of the lowest-cost Windows tablets and hybrids we saw through much of 2013.) That CPU is much slower than a laptop-grade Core i5 or i7 processor, and it supports only Windows x86, 32-bit architecture, as opposed to the 64-bit architecture supported by the higher-end Core CPUs.

Where it gets complicated is with Intel’s recently debuted next generation of Atom chips, code-named “Bay Trail.” Hybrid laptops and tablets based on Bay Trail Atom processors are just now starting to hit the street, and if the first we saw is any indication, Clover Trail machines will need to head toward the discount rack, and fast. The vanguard model we tested, the Asus Transformer Book T100 is an 10.1-inch Bay Trail Atom-based Windows 8 hybrid, and it’s a killer value at $349 to $399, depending on its internal storage. As you’ll see in our test results, it delivered roughly twice the performance of the Miix 10 and its Atom Z2760 cohorts, and it blew them all away on battery life. The T100T isn’t perfect (for one thing, the touch pad is balky), but it rewrites the price and performance equation for low-end Windows 8 tablets and hybrids, and more models like it are imminent. The divide within the Atom ranks will get even greater in early 2014, when a version of Windows 8.1 will roll out that should allow Bay Trail Atom devices to support 64-bit processing.

Lenovo Miix 10 Straight-On View

Bay Trail or Clover Trail, there’s still a sizable performance difference between Atom tablets and Intel Core-powered ones, but the early Bay Trail models appear to reduce that delta by quite a bit. They are looking robust enough and price-aggressive enough to make the Clover Trails look like yesterday’s news.

This brings us back to the Miix 10, which doesn’t differ much from several other Clover Trail Atom-based slates we’ve looked at over the past few months, in terms of configuration and performance. As you’ll see in our Performance section, the Miix 10’s numbers were quite similar to the other Clover Trail slates we’ve tested. Its price, at least within the Clover Trail world, is also aggressive: At $479 list, it was a few hundred dollars cheaper, at this writing, than several competing Clover Trail Atom/Windows 8 models. HP’s business-oriented ElitePad 900, for instance, listed in early November 2013 for $699. But the 10.1-inch elephant in the room (the Asus Transformer Book T100T) seems poised to upend all of the furniture in Clover Trail’s den and crush it underfoot.

It’s not just the chip difference that’s shaking things up, either. Sometimes, a competing tablet costs more because it comes bundled with attachable keyboard cover or a docking station. In the case of the Miix 10, the combination keyboard dock/cover will cost you an additional $99 (list), bringing the total price up to about $580, which was on the low side for a Windows 8 tablet-plus-keyboard until not very long ago. But the clincher for the Transformer Book T100T is that the $350-to-$400 priceincludes a pretty good keyboard base that turns the tablet into a quasi-laptop.

Taken against its Clover Trail competition, the Miix 10 is a capable entry, but nothing much about it—appearance, battery life, or performance—sets it apart. We’d like it better with the optional keyboard case, but our bottom line is that this Lenovo is as middle-of-the-road as current Clover Trail-based Windows tablets come. It’s a decent tablet at a fair price, in the moment in time we write this. But similar Bay Trail models are poised to invade the Windows tablet and hybrid market, and if the first we’ve seen is any indication, they’ll be well worth holding out for.

Read full review at Computer Shopper.

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HP Slate 21-k100 All-in-One Desktop PC Review and RatingsIn short, it’s the Slate that ain’t. Even though HP stuck “Slate 21” into the name of its $399-list Android desktop computer (the full name is “Slate 21-k100 All-in-One Desktop PC”), the Palo Alto, Calif.-based electronics giant is quick to point out that this machine is not a tablet. That’s good, because this over-10-pound all-in-one with a 21.5-inch screen is far too big and heavy to carry anywhere except, perhaps, from one desk to another. Plus, unlike every Android tablet we know of, this one has no built-in battery, meaning that you can’t use it without a nearby power source.

That puts the Slate 21 into something of a category of its own. As we see it, despite this product’s ”Slate” in the name, the inability to run unplugged does indeed disqualify it from the tablet genre. Instead, what you get with the Slate 21 is an inexpensive big-screen all-in-one (AIO) PC running on an operating system seldom seen on any kind of desktop PC (especially the all-in-one kind): Android. Here, it comes with version 4.2.2 (a.k.a. Jelly Bean) preinstalled.

HP Slate 21 ReclinedAn Android AIO: A peculiar concept? We thought so, at first. After giving it some thought, though, we realized that what we were looking at was an inkling of the next contemporary Internet appliance—an inexpensive big-screen content consumer, with the further advantage of a touch screen. We like the concept, in theory—but weren’t particularly thrilled with this first implementation of it.

Indeed, the Slate 21 seems like more of a halfhearted halfway point between product genres than a fully baked new idea. Take the spec list, for example: Aside from the lack of a battery, the Slate 21’s spec sheet—anchored by an Nvidia Tegra 4 ARM processor, 1GB of system RAM, and 8GB of eMMC flash storage—reads similarly to that of the average Android tablet. Both the RAM and storage allotments are on the low side. Most mid-level and high-end Android slates we’ve seen lately come with 2GB of RAM, and at least one that we know of, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition), comes with 3GB. In addition, 8GB of storage space is, well, dismally small for a tablet or an AIO.

HP Slate 21 Rear View

The good news is that the Slate 21 supports both USB and SD-card storage expansion, which is not the ideal approach, but workable. Furthermore, despite the low 1GB of system RAM, across the board the Slate 21 performed well enough on most of our benchmark tests. (We’ll look more closely at performance issues in the Performance section a little later in this review.)

We did find a lot to like about this AIO from a hardware POV, especially its full-HD 1,920×1,080-resolution screen, which is good-looking and crackles with quality thanks in part to its use of IPS technology. Between it and the set of built-in, loud DTS Sound+-enhanced speakers, the Slate 21 is without question one of the better-equipped Android devices for watching videos. Very few 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 a little later on).

The Slate 21 is, without question, a unique device. If you’re looking for a big-screen device for browsing the Web, watching videos, listening to music, visiting social media sites, and e-mail—well, we doubt that you’ll find another large-screen AIO with a nice HD panel like this one at or near this price range. But that only matters if all you’ll be doing on this machine is consuming HD video via, say, YouTube or Netflix. You need to keep in mind that, for the most part, neither Android, nor the apps written for it, are quite ready for this form factor—yet.

Unfortunately, the Slate 21 provides neither a well-rounded Android-tablet experience, nor full-fledged all-in-one PC performance. Our impression after a couple of weeks with this unique AIO is that it’s an interesting first step in what seems to be a somewhat underdeveloped direction, but, like most toddlers just learning to walk, it stumbles plenty. Should the price fall a bit after its debut, we could see it working for us as an inexpensive large-screen Internet appliance and media-consumption device. But as it currently stands, it’s more of a curiosity than a compelling buy.

Read full review at Computer Shopper.

 

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2012 Editors' Choice Logo

One of the more interesting stories in the evolution of Android tablets has been the development of Samsung’s popular line of pen-enabled Galaxy Note tablets and smartphones. It started in mid-2012 with the debut of the first Galaxy Note smartphone, which was quickly followed by the Galaxy Note 10.1—a highly impressive full-size tablet with a 10.1-inch screen that brought all sorts of firsts to the Android slate market. (“Full-size” tablets, by our definition, have 8.9-inch or bigger screens. Slates with smaller screens are “compact” models.) One of those big firsts was Samsung’s unique stylus implementation, dubbed the “S Pen.”

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) Low Angle ViewThat was July 2012, and our take on the Galaxy Note 10.1 at the time was that, while the S Pen had lots of potential, it had a ways to go in terms of overall functionality. We did like a whole bunch of other stuff about that tablet, though, starting with the design. This first Galaxy Note tablet was snazzy-looking, befitting its premium price; it had a gorgeous screen; and it introduced several nascent multitasking features, such as the ability to run apps side by side or in floating windows (with the ability to drag-and-drop data between them). That kind of multitasking functionality was simply unavailable on most other Android tablets.

With the subsequent debut of the smaller-screened Galaxy Note 8.0 (back in April 2013), not only had the S Pen made tremendous strides in overall usability, but the multi-window, multitasking apps had also become more robust and, well, useful. In addition, as shown in the image below, Samsung overhauled the surface look of the Android operating system, making it much more colorful and attractive than the standard Android user interface (UI), and much more conducive to multitasking and stylus support in general…

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) UI

This brings us to Samsung’s latest member of the Galaxy Note line, the Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition). We find it interesting that though released in 2013, the “2014″ in the name suggests that Samsung thinks this unit will be good for a while. This 2014 Note takes up where the Galaxy Note 8.0 left off, with further-refined S Pen support and more robust multitasking. Indeed, nearly everything else we liked about the Galaxy Note products to begin with has been improved. We’ll delve deeper into the new features and enhancements over the course of this review, but suffice it to say here that, as with the previous iterations of the Galaxy Note hardware and software, we were impressed, and, like its predecessors, this Note is well deserving of our Editors’ Choice nod.

You can buy this new Note in either black or white, as shown in the image below, and choose between one of two storage-capacity options: 32GB (which costs $549.99 list) and 64GB ($599.99 list)…

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) Colors

This is a $50 increase over last year’s 10.1-inch models, but for good reason: With the price boost, you also get double the storage space, compared to 2012’s 16GB and 32GB versions.

At first glance, $550 to $600 for an Android tablet may seem a little steep. (Apple, for one, offered the still-compelling Apple iPad 2 at this writing starting at $399.) But as we said about the Galaxy Note 8.0, these Note slates are not your everyday “me too” Android slates. Nothing, from the heavily (and, we think, effectively) skinned interface, to the highly workable multitasking apps, as well as the nicely integrated S Pen and pen-enabled apps, suggests that the Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) is your average Android tablet. It’s a premium product with a premium price, and, as we’ve said about its predecessors, well worth the extra cash.

While the Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) may not be for everybody, it’s one of the most practical Android tablets available if you want to use an Android tablet for real productivity work. Whether you use it for work or play, it’s a sheer pleasure to use.

Read full review at Computer Shopper.

 

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Epson Expression Premium XP-810 Small-in-One Printer Review and RatingsIt’s been almost a year now since we reviewed and raved about Epson’s flagship all-in-one inkjet printer, the Expression Premium XP-800 Small-in-One. It was fast; it had a remarkable feature set for so small a device; and it printed stunning-looking images and business documents. It was, as we noted at the time, a remarkable piece of engineering with just one flaw (albeit, a significant one): It cost too much to use.

Here in October 2013, Epson sent us the XP-800’s replacement to evaluate, the $229-list Expression Premium XP-810 Small-in-One Printer. On the whole, the XP-810 is the XP-800 reheated, with a few cosmetic changes and a $50-lower suggested retail price. However, this new Small-in-One has the same ink-inflation issue as its predecessor, which kept it from winning our Editors’ Choice nod. It uses the same ink cartridges as the XP-800, with the same projected yields. That means it also rings up the same high cost per page (CPP).

Epson Expression Premium XP-810 Small-in-One PrinterThat really is too bad, because otherwise, like the XP-800 before it, we really liked this highly attractive little dynamo. As mentioned, it’s loaded with features, among them an auto-duplexing document feeder (ADF) for scanning, copying, and faxing two-sided documents unassisted, as well as the ability to print labels on appropriately surfaced recordable CD and DVD discs. When it comes right down to it, there’s not much this little all-in-one can’t do—and what it does do, it does well.

Don’t mistake this for a business printer, however, or a model meant for reams of text-document output. Like the XP-800, the XP-810 is above all a photo printer, and like most photo-centric models, its per-page cost of ink is higher than that of many business-oriented AIOs. That said, as we also noted about last year’s model, the cost per page (CPP) is even higher than most other photo printers, too. That issue—the soaring per-page cost of ink—is our only real complaint about this AIO.

But it’s a really big one that, unfortunately, relegates this otherwise impressive piece of hardware to our long list of good “occasional-use” AIOs. In other words, it’s a great printer as long as you don’t print a lot. Compared to several somewhat pricier, higher-volume inkjet AIOs, such as HP’s $399-list OfficeJet Pro 276dw Multifunction Printer, the more you use this machine, the more it will cost you. (We’ll talk more about this model’s CPP in the Setup & Paper Handling section, later on.)

Still, there’s a lot to like about the XP-810: It’s attractive and compact, it prints well (especially photos), and it comes loaded with connectivity options, making it a great match for light-printing small and home offices that need to print often from mobile devices. It works, too, for offices that need immaculate photo and document output, as long as the cost of printing them is not a primary—or even secondary—concern.

Read full review at Computer Shopper.

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OKI MC362w Review and RatingsWe assume that when a small office or workgroup spends $500 or $600 on a color laser-class multifunction workhorse (for printing, scanning, copying, and faxing) with a high recommended output rating, the point is, well, to use it. If you buy a machine that has a high duty cycle (that is, the number of pages the manufacturer says you can print each month without unduly stressing the machine), you intend to churn out thousands of prints and photocopies each month. Otherwise, why spend so much money on such a high-volume machine, right?

As we’ve pointed out many times in past reviews of high-volume laser printers, when considering high-volume models, such as the subject of this review, OKI’s $549-list MC362w, a laser-class multifunction model, the up-front purchase price should seldom be your first concern—especially if you plan on using it at or anywhere near its monthly duty cycle. As you’ll see in our Setup & Paper Handling section a little later in this review, a far more important consideration when buying a mid- or high-volume workhorse is the operating cost per page (CPP). Failure to mind this ongoing expense could cost you hundreds, even thousands, of dollars more than necessary over the life of the printer. No exaggeration.

OKI MC362wBefore we go on, though, perhaps you’ve noticed that we’ve referred to the MC362w as a “laser-class” printer, as opposed to simply a laser printer. That’s because this machine relies on LED technology, rather than the more conventional laser apparatus. The difference between these devices centers on the basic print technology. Instead of using a laser to charge the page image onto the print drum, LED-based machines use an array of light-emitting diodes to do that work. Printer makers substitute LEDs for lasers because they have fewer moving parts, are smaller and lighter, and cost less to manufacture. Otherwise, LED models operate much the same as laser printers do, including how they use toner.

OKI MC362w Front

Although an LED printer is technically not a laser printer, it looks and acts very much like one. Historically, small and home offices have chosen laser and laser-class printers over inkjet models because they print faster and cost less to use over time, despite their somewhat heftier up-front purchase price. Nowadays, though—due to the introduction of high-volume, low-cost-per-page inkjets—you typically have to buy a relatively pricey, high-volume color laser printer to see a speed or per-page-cost benefit. Many lower-volume, lower-cost color lasers no longer have the performance and CPP advantages over their inkjet counterparts. In fact, they sometimes cost more to use.

Furthermore, recent advances in inkjet technology, such as the fixed PageWide printhead in HP’s OfficeJet X line of high-volume printers, have placed even more pressure on entry-level and midrange laser-class machines like this OKI. (See, for example, our review of the HP OfficeJet Pro X576dw.)  And that’s especially true of the MC362w, which is a lower-end, lower-volume model of a pair of multifunction machines OKI debuted recently. The other, the $749-list MC562w, not only has a higher recommended monthly duty cycle (60,000 pages), but it also supports higher-yield toner cartridges than the MC362w does—which translates into a lower CPP.

And that’s our primary quibble with this laser-class machine: By today’s standards, it costs too much to use on an ongoing basis. Apart from that, though, it performed well on our benchmark tests, and, while, out of the box, it didn’t print photos as well as several laser-class devices we’ve tested, its overall print and copy quality was respectable. It comes with nearly every productivity and convenience option we can think of, and it feels very much like it’s built to last.

We like the OKI MC362dw for small offices and workgroups that require fast and dependable laser output, but at relatively low volumes. If you plan to print a lot, there are better values out there, including OKI’s own MC562w. (See a review of the OKI MC562w on our sister site, PCMag.com.)

Read full review at Computer Shopper.

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