Acer Iconia Tab A200 Review and RatingsWith the barrage of new and updated slates released each month, finding the right entry-level Android-based tablet is trickier than ever. Think of all the things in flux: a new version of the Android operating system (OS), more powerful processors, so many different types of screens and expansion options. Taken together, those make shopping for any slate—budget model, or otherwise—like aiming at an erratically moving target. What’s a good buy today could be on its way out tomorrow.

The cost difference between a high-end, full-featured Android-based tablet with a 10.1-inch screen (such as the $499 Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime) and a budget model, like Acer’s recently released $349 Iconia Tab A200, typically runs between $100 and $150. The question, of course, is what you sacrifice for the savings. Some low-cost tablets are constructed with inexpensive materials and feel cheap, or they come with older versions of the Android OS. One way or another, an entry-level price means a compromise or two.

You won’t see these trade-offs at first sight on the Iconia Tab A200. It looks and feels sturdy and well-built. It’s also the first $350 slate to come with the latest version of Android, version 4.0 (more commonly known as Ice Cream Sandwich, or ICS). But the trade-offs are there.

Acer Iconia Tab A200

This value-priced little slate is well-built, runs the latest version of Android, and is a pleasure to hold and use.

On this slate, they come in the form of a mediocre display, the lack of a rear-facing camera, and the absence of an HDMI port. In addition, the A200 is built around Nvidia’s Tegra 2 dual-core processor, which, now that the quad-core Tegra 3 is coming into wider use, will soon become a last-generation CPU.

Aside from these trade-offs, we found the Iconia Tab A200 a well-performing, capable slate. However, considering the state of today’s tablet market, its timing is somewhat concerning. Right now, full-size slates at around $350 with 16GB of storage and running ICS, like our review unit, are rare—but for how long? (Acer also offers an 8GB model for $329, but opting for twice the storage for only $20 more seems like a no-brainer to us.) Plenty of ICS slates are on the horizon, and we expect to see a few under-$400 entry-level models before long running quad-core Tegra 3 processors.

While we’re not overly excited about the A200 in terms of technology and features, we still think it’s a good buy—at least for now.

Read the full review at Computer Shopper.

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Canon Pixma MX512 Review and RatingsGet out your printer scorecards, boys and girls. Just when we think we have more than enough all-in-one (AIO) printers to choose among in Canon’s wide family, the printer stalwart introduces a few more Pixma models.

Here in early 2012, the new ones are three low-cost, business-centric units: the $79.99 Pixma MX372, the $99.99 Pixma MX432, and (the subject of this review) the $149.99 Pixma MX512. These new Pixma multifunction machines all print, copy, scan, and fax, and they come right behind three other similarly priced, photo-centric AIOs: the Pixma MG4120, MG3120, and MG2120. (We tested all three in recent months; click the links for the individual reviews.)

Apart from Canon’s “MX” designation in their names (which indicates that these printers are intended for office use), what sets these new Pixmas apart—specifically, what makes them home- and small-office AIOs—are two features not found on the MG models: the ability to send and receive faxes, and an automatic document feeder (ADF). An ADF allows you to copy, scan, or fax a multipage document without intervention.

Canon Pixma MX512

Canon's Pixma MX512 - long on useful features and output quality, but the exceptionally high cost per page (CPP) of ink will get you.

While these three new Pixmas look a lot alike, the higher-priced MX512 has, as you’d expect, the most features. For the extra $50 over the $99.99 Pixma MX432, you get a 2.5-inch color LCD, support for printing from most popular memory devices, automatic duplexing (that is, unassisted two-sided printing), and a few other options not found on the other MX models. Of these three new AIOs, the Pixma MX512 offers the best range of productivity and convenience features at a reasonable price.

In our tests, the Pixma MX512 printed, scanned, and copied documents and images in exceptional quality. It and the other two MX models are certainly not speed demons, however. A few competing models in this price range, such as the $149.99 Brother MFC-J825DW, do print faster, especially with business documents. If speed is what you’re after, you’d do better spending a little more for a higher-volume AIO, such as the $299.99 HP OfficeJet 8600 Plus.

Overall, the Pixma MX512 is a good little business machine. Our only real concern is this model’s per-page cost of operation, in terms of its ink cartridges. (We’ve got more on that in the Design section of this review.) The trend in the inkjet AIO market of late has been toward lower costs per page (CPPs). This model runs against that. As a result, this printer is a good choice only if your small or home office has modest print and copy requirements, but the prints you do need to make must be top-notch quality.

Read the full review at Computer Shopper.

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Introduction to CSS3Several years ago, cascading style sheets (CSS) revolutionized Web design. CSS freed Web designers from depending on woefully inadequate HTML tables to create highly stylized Web pages. It provided us with the means to format and reformat multiple pages from one single set of styles, thereby liberating us from the tedious task of formatting one page at a time. Enter CSS3, the next generation of Web design. Special effects, animations, transitions, gradients – all the content we’ve traditionally fallen back on graphics and animation software to achieve are now at our fingertips through CSS code. CSS3, the first revision to cascading style sheets since the advent of handheld smartphones and tablets, is here, now, ready for prime time. Don’t miss William Harrel’s Introduction to CSS3 eClasses.org. The first session starts April 16, 2012. See you there!

This is a complete, hands-on class in creating Websites with CSS3. Here’s what we’ll cover:

Syllabus


Week 1 – Introduction to CSS3

  • What are Styles?
  • What are Style Sheets?
  • How do Style Sheets Cascade?
  • Evolution of CSS
  • CSS and HTML
  • CSS—A  Bunch of Rules
  • The Anatomy of a CSS Rule
  • Why CSS3?

Week 2 – CSS3 and HTML5

  • What is HTML5?
  • HTML5 Page Structure
  • HTML5′s Built-In Containers
  • Create an HTML5 Page
  • CSS3 and HTML5 Working Together
  • CSS3 and Earlier Versions of HTML

Week 3 – In Depth CSS

  • Class, Type, ID and Compound Selectors
  • Inline, Internal and External Styles
  • CSS Containers
  • CSS Rules for Adapting to Display Size and Device Type
  • CSS Print Media Formatting

Week 4 – Formatting a Page with CSS3

  • CSS3 Page Sections and Includes
  • Format Boxes with CSS3
  • Format Text with CSS3
  • Format Images and other Media with CSS3

Week 5 – CSS3 Special Effects

  • CSS3 Shadow and other Text Effects
  • CSS3 Box Shadow and other Box Effects
  • CSS3 Color Gradients and Fills
  • CSS3 Menu and Navigation Formatting Effects
  • CSS3 Background Effects
  • Use WebKit, Mozilla and other Browser Extensions with CSS3

Week 6 – CSS3 Animations, Transitions and Transformations

  • Create and Animate Simple 2D Shapes
  • Create Page and Object Transitions
  • Create Object 2D and 3D Transformations
  • WebKit and other Browser Extension Transformations

Week 7 – CSS3 and Mobile Devices

  • CSS3 Formatting Based on Screen Size and Device Type
  • Integrate CSS3 and JavaScript
  • Integrate CSS3 and jQuery
  • Media Quires
  • Viewport
  • Device Orientation

Week 8 – CSS3 Advanced Techniques

  • Fluid, Multicolumn Pages
  • Stylized Links
  • Format Form Fields with CSS3
  • CSS3 Sprites
  • CSS3 Drop-Down Menus

 

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Sony Tablet P - a slate with a different view.

We were wowed by last year’s debut of the Sony Tablet S—a remarkable feat of slate engineering that remains our favorite Android tablet to date. The Tablet S is beautiful and extremely comfortable to hold and use. Plus, it has a gorgeous screen and performs wonderfully. Still, as unique as it is, it looks pretty much like what it is: a tablet.

We can’t quite say that about Sony’s latest offering, the Tablet P. From a distance, there’s no telling what it is. It’s not until you have it in hand and are using it that you realize it’s an Android-based slate. Even then, it’s so profoundly different from what’s come before in tablets that you might find yourself doubting its usefulness. (At first, we did, too.)

As you can see in the image below, the Tablet P is two things. It’s a tablet that folds in the center to make it more compact and easier to carry. But, depending on how you look at it and use it, it’s also a slate with two discrete screens…

Sony Tablet P

Read this review at Computer Shopper

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Brother HL-3075CW

Brother HL-3075CW Review and Ratings

As we’ve noted in a few printer reviews of late, 2012 has seen the line between sharp-printing color lasers and color inkjets get mighty blurry. Some inkjet models claiming “laser-quality output,” such as the $399.99 Epson WorkForce 520 and $199.99 HP LaserJet Pro 8600 Plus, really do print business documents on par with high-volume laser models, in terms of quality and speed. In addition, these new high-volume inkjets perform their magic at very reasonable per-page costs.

Historically, small and home offices have chosen laser printers because they print faster and cost less to use over the long haul, despite their somewhat hefty upfront purchase price. Nowadays, though—due to the trend of high-volume, low-cost-per-page inkjet models—you typically have to buy a relatively high-volume (and high-priced) color laser printer to see much speed or per-page cost benefit. Many lower-volume (and lower-cost) color lasers no longer have the speed and operational-cost advantages over their inkjet counterparts. The case in point is Brother’s $299.99 HL-3075CW, a color LED printer.

Although technically an LED printer is not a laser printer, it looks and acts just like one. The difference between LED-based devices and laser printers centers on the basic print technology. Instead of lasers, LED-based machines use an LED array (an array of light-emitting devices) that charges the page image onto the print drum. Printer makers substitute LEDs for lasers because they have fewer moving parts, are smaller and lighter, and cost less to manufacture. Otherwise, LED models are much the same as laser printers, including their use of toner.

Overall, we liked the HL-3075CW. It printed great-looking business documents and images at respectable speeds for an entry-level LED printer. However, it has a relatively low recommended monthly print volume, and the high cost of its toner cartridges make for, compared to its inkjet counterparts, a high cost per page for both monochrome and color prints. We wouldn’t recommend it as a serious pound-’em-out workhorse printer; it’s best for occasional and light-duty color printing.

Read this review at Computer Shopper

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Hands-On With the GeForce 600M Series

Somebody woke up the giant. In desktop and laptop PCs, it’s been a quiet last couple of years for Nvidia, but the big graphics powerhouse isn’t keeping it down any longer. Nvidia’s big-splash news in early 2012 was its new-to-market, long-awaited revision of its graphics architecture, code-named “Kepler.” Touted since 2010, Kepler showed up in the company’s speed-monster (but power-stingy) GeForce GTX 680 desktop video card, an able competitor to AMD’s best. (See our March 2012 review of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 680, as well as a look at AMD’s leading 2012 video card, the AMD Radeon HD 7970.)

In early March, two of our editors ventured to sunny San Francisco to attend Nvidia’s 2012 Editors’ Day conference, where the company gave us a sneak peek at the GTX 680. But there, they were surprised to see something that’s potentially even more of a game-changer: the GeForce 600M Series, a suite of new graphics-processing units (GPUs) for laptops.

Of course, manufacturers always tout new hardware of this kind as an epochal breakthrough, destined to change the tech landscape. Sometimes it’s true, sometimes, less so. This time, though, we have to say that the new graphics processors Nvidia showed us looked, at least from the claims on the table, nothing short of impressive. And our preliminary tests bear some of this out.

Read the full article at Computer Shopper.

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Lexmark OfficeEdge Pro4000 Review and Ratings

Lexmark OfficeEdge Pro4000 - not everything it could be, but fast.

While most printer manufacturers released better, faster, and cheaper inkjets models in fast succession through 2011, it’s been more than a year since we’ve seen a new multifunction inkjet printer from Lexmark. (Multifunction models, by definition, are capable of printing, copying, scanning, and faxing.) Hence, we were excited to get our hands on the company’s newest offering, the $249 OfficeEdge Pro4000, the smaller and less expensive of two small- and home-office models that Lexmark introduced recently.

The other model, the $499 OfficeEdge Pro5500, offers a wider range of features, such as a duplexing automatic document feeder (ADF), a touch screen, a second high-capacity paper tray, and several other convenience and productivity features. However, its feature list and print-speed ratings aren’t much different from a few other competitors at lower prices, such as the $399.99 Epson WorkForce Pro WP-4540 and the $199.99 HP OfficeJet Pro 8600 Plus. (You can get the latter with a second paper tray for under $300.)

The OfficeEdge Pro4000 prints nice-looking business documents at exceptional speeds, and (if you buy Lexmark’s extra-large ink cartridges) it prints them at a competitive per-page cost. However, it struggles a little when printing photographs, but not so much as to make the output unusable.

Read the review at Computer Shopper.

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HP Pavilion dm4 Beats Edition Review and Ratings

HP Pavilion dm4 Beats Edition - great notebook, great price!

Blame, or thank, the MacBook: Most of the notebooks showing up in our labs lately are coming encased in brushed- or polished-metal chassis—an understated, elegant look that catches the eye. The only problem with the big move to metal: It also makes them look very much alike.

That can’t be said of HP’s Pavilion dm4 Beats Edition, though. This stylish laptop’s all-black aluminum chassis, with a bright-red Beats Audio logo in the center of the lid, definitely distinguishes it from the pack. Its hip appearance gives it a charm all its own, and it definitely won’t be mistaken for any other laptop, HP or otherwise.

The Pavilion dm4 Beats Edition’s different-drummer design is not all it has going for it, though. Lately, you’ve probably seen the Beats Audio logo bobbing around on the sides of the heads of plenty of hipsters and regular folks; the over-ear Dr. Dre Beats headphones are phenomenally popular. The Beats Audio technology has been integrated into the sound system of this laptop, and it makes for a top-notch media-playback machine with excellent sound reproduction. Plus, the generous 1,600×900 resolution on the 14-inch display allows for more screen real estate than on several other similarly priced 14-inch laptops. And the machine has a respectable selection of ports.

In addition, compared with similarly priced and equipped notebooks (such as the $999 Dell XPS 14z), the dm4 Beats Edition performs well. All told, this laptop offers a well-rounded set of features for a very reasonable price, making it a terrific value for the student in your life.

Read the review at Computer Shopper.

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RIM BlackBerry PlayBook (OS 2.0, 2012 Update) Review and Ratings

RIM BlackBerry PlayBook (OS 2.0, 2012 Update) - right the second time around.

Without question, the first release of the BlackBerry PlayBook was a constant and acute migraine for Research in Motion (RIM). Reviewers Internet-wide, including us here at Computer Shopper, were largely unimpressed with the BlackBerry maker’s first hack at the tablet market. The general consensus? This solidly built 7-inch tablet had some impressive hardware, but its weak operating system (OS) and lackluster selection of apps added up to a half-baked product.

Now, nearly a year later, much has changed. The BlackBerry PlayBook has a lower—much lower—price of $199, compared with the original $499, and a new-and-improved operating system. RIM also took the opportunity of the new OS to add in some key features that were missing before.

But a year in the tablet market is a very long time—practically forever—and things change quickly. 2012 has started with a new version of Android (4.0, also dubbed “Ice Cream Sandwich”) and the promise of a soon-to-be-released Windows 8 optimized for tablets. In addition, rumors of an Apple iPad 3 emerging by mid-2012 seem to be gelling into a near-certainty. (Indeed, we expect Apple to have some news on that front on March 7.) Is RIM’s revision of the PlayBook OS too little, too late?

Read the review at Computer Shopper.

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Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime

Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime - what a wonderful slate!

In the highly competitive tablet market, the big news in early 2012 has been the emergence of Android 4.0–based slates. (You might also have heard about Android 4.0 via its code-name, “Ice Cream Sandwich,” or ICS.) To our delight, we got our hands on one of the first tablets that feature the new operating system right out of the box: Asus’s $499.99 Eee Pad Transformer Prime TF201. (Certain older tablets will see updates from 3.0 to ICS in the coming weeks.)

The Transformer Prime is a re-engineered replacement for 2011′s Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101. In addition—as if the new operating system weren’t notable enough—the Transformer Prime is the first tablet we’ve seen that makes use of Nvidia’s Tegra 3 quad-core processor.

All told, we found a lot to like in the Transformer Prime. It’s built well, and it has a gorgeous 10.1-inch screen, a thin design, and strong performance. And because the Transformer Prime makes use of the newest tablet core processor and operating system, it stands out as one of the most impressive Android-based tablets to date.

Granted, $499 may seem like an average price for a high-end slate with a screen this size, but it’s actually something of an aggressive price, in this case. Keep in mind that you get 32GB of storage, not the standard 16GB you see in slates of this price, as well as the up-to-date Tegra 3 processor. (The only major shortfall, for some buyers, will be that the Transformer Prime is Wi-Fi only; if you’re looking for a 3G or 4G tablet, you’ll have to keep looking.)

Read the review at Computer Shopper.

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