Epson Expression Home XP-410 Small-in-One Printer Review and RatingsThe market for all-in-one (AIO) inkjets really is a fickle place. A couple of years ago, several models from Kodak (and a few other manufacturers) suggested the end of a long-running trend: specifically, selling entry-level printers at rock-bottom prices, then compensating by charging exorbitantly for the ink. For a while there, we were seeing under-$150 printers with costs per page (CPPs) of about 3 cents for black-and-white pages and under 10 cents for color. It appeared that small and home offices were finally going to get a break.

Alas, here we are in mid-2013. Kodak’s out of the printer picture, due to a recent bankruptcy. Dell and Lexmark have quit the inkjet-printer market altogether. And the survivors, notably HP, Canon, and Epson, are introducing some of the costliest-to-use entry-level AIOs we’ve seen. Case in point is HP’s recently debuted Envy 5530 e-All-in-One Printer. (We have a review of it in the works.) When you use the company’s standard-yield ink tanks, it costs over 9 cents per black-and-white page, and over 20 cents per for color—yikes!

Epson Expression Home XP-410 Small-in-OneThat brings us to the subject of this review, Epson’s $99.99-list Expression Home XP-410 Small-in-One Printer—another entry-level AIO with, alas, astronomical per-page costs. We’ll discuss that issue in some detail in the Setup & Paper Handling section a little later in this review. But those costs, really, are the most important news here.

Why? No matter how strong this printer’s feature set, no matter how well it prints or how quickly, the fact that this AIO costs so much to use relegates it to an occasional-use machine. Prospective inkjet buyers who need to use their printer frequently would be better off paying more—perhaps as much as $100 more—to get a printer with a cheaper per-page cost of ink. Period.

That said, the XP-410 does churn out fine-looking business documents and photographs, and it performed well on our print-speed benchmarks for a printer in this price range. True to its Small-in-One name, it’s light and compact, which makes it easy to situate in even the most cramped home offices. And, despite somewhat flimsy-feeling input and output trays, it feels well-built.

Unlike a few other AIOs in this class, though, it lacks an automatic document feeder (ADF) for scanning and copying multipage documents, and it can’t print two-sided pages without user intervention—meaning that you’ll have to turn the pages over yourself to print the other side (and pay attention to the document order). While neither of these missing features is standard fare on under-$100 machines, some models do provide them. Whether or not this is a deal-breaker depends on how you plan to use the printer. Having both features can save time and frustration if you’ll use your printer for light business/home-office tasks. (And even if not, they’re nice to have, just in case.)

Epson Expression Home XP-410 Small-in-One Front ViewWe recognize that many small and home offices print less and less all the time, relying on their printers as standby machines. From that point of view, the Expression Home XP-410 Small-in-One works for us—as an occasional-use AIO for printing or copying a handful of documents or photos each month. For heavier duty, though, you can and should do better.

See full review at Computer Shopper.

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HP Slate 7 Review and RatingsEver since the webOS-based HP TouchPad debacle back in July 2011, many a pundit has pundit-ized about what role HP might end up playing in the non-Windows tablet scene. With the introduction of HP’s first Android tablet, it looks like that role will be…a supporting actor.

Instead of coming back with a confidenttour-de-force, rolling out something new and ground-breaking, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based giant has quietly sidled into the Android slate market with an entry-level compact slate, the HP Slate 7, that’s more run-of-the-mill than run-of-table.

In a marketplace awash with mini tablets, our first question about the Slate 7, as we took it out of the box and looked it over, was whether this was a serious contender, or just one more me-too tab. The first impression tended toward the latter. And at this stage in the Android-tablet game, HP needed a home run to get a slice of this very competitive pie. How else to make yet another 7-inch slate attractive enough to gain a foothold against the market-dominating Google Nexus 7 and Apple iPad Mini, not to mention the price-chopped Barnes & Noble Nook HD and cheap mass-market tabs from the likes of Hisense and many others?

HP Slate 7HP told us that its strategy for the Slate 7 is two-fold: first, to focus on functionality and features where the market leaders have fallen short; and second, to offer a quality-built, well-performing product at a competitive price. For example, the Google Nexus 7 has only one camera and doesn’t provide a means for expanding storage. The Slate 7, on the other hand, comes with both front- and rear-facing shooters, and you can expand its storage capacity via a MicroSD card. In addition, HP has included Beats Audio enhancement and improved printing capabilities.

We’d say HP has succeeded partially in its aims. While the Slate 7 performs well, and it does feel thoughtfully put-together, it remains a budget tablet at heart. And alas, the compromises of budget-friendly products always shine through somehow. What you give up on the Slate 7 is a gyroscope and GPS, which are standard features on most Android slates. In addition, this tablet has a lower-resolution screen than on most other 7-inch slates that aren’t cut-rate models. And just as much a concern, this tablet didn’t last nearly as long on our battery-rundown test as a bunch of others we’ve tested. That includes several low-cost 7-inchers—notably, the Google Nexus 7 and the Amazon Kindle Fire HD (7”)$199.00 at Amazon.

The question with any low-cost tablet is, of course, whether these trade-offs make sense versus competing models—a question we’ll try to answer over the course of this review. As for the price, you can buy the Slate 7 with either 8GB or 16GB of onboard storage; HP pegs these models with list prices of $169.99 and $199.99, respectively. However, as we were writing this in early July 2013, HP announced an instant rebate of $30 for both versions, dropping them to $139.99 and $169.99.

HP told us that this pricing would last “for a while,” which we took to mean at least for the foreseeable future. In any case, considering current tablet trends and other new players on the scene, such as Hisense and its two under-$150 slates (the $149-list Sero 7 Pro and the $99Sero 7 LT, both exclusive to Walmart), the pressure on HP and others to maintain these low prices—or perhaps drop them even further—is immense.

HP Slate 7 Landscape ViewOverall, the Slate 7 is well-built and attractive, and it performed well on our suite of benchmark tests. Still, given its screen resolution and somewhat diminished feature list, we’d have trouble recommending either model—but especially the 16GB version—at the list price. With the instant savings, it’s a better buy. The problem is, like so many other compact tablets we’ve seen lately, it doesn’t much stand out from its mass of competitors.

Indeed, HP has chosen quite a tough time to enter this free-for-all. We like the Slate 7 as an entry-level slate for first-time buyers, or perhaps as a second tablet for a family with children. But at its list price, you might as well opt for one of our Editors’ Choice compact-tablet winners, such as the $199, 16GB version of the Google Nexus 7, without a second thought. With the rebate, on the other hand, it’s a safe pick if you’re budget-strapped enough that the extra $30 would be a hardship. But know that the 8GB version of the Slate 7 will likely have you scrambling for a $20 MicroSD card before long, dashing much of the discount.

See the full review at Computer Shopper.

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Lenovo ThinkPad T431s Review and RatingsLenovo’s popular business laptop line, the ThinkPad T Series, contains both a thin and light model, the ThinkPad T430s, and an ultrabook, the ThinkPad T430u. The first T Series to combine Lenovo’s high durability and business standards with Intel’s ultrabook requirements, the T430u represents an affordable alternative to Lenovo’s elegant ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Unlike the Carbon, though, the T430u is not—by ultrabook standards, anyway—all that light. In fact, it weighs slightly more than the T430s (4.1 versus 4.0 pounds).

Now Lenovo is giving slimline shoppers a third choice. Not only is the new ThinkPad T431s about half a pound lighter than the first T Series ultrabook (3.6 pounds), it has a few other features that make it more appealing, such as a 1,600×900-resolution display, up from the lowest-common-denominator 1,366×768-pixel panel of its predecessor.

In a further attempt to make the matte black brick ThinkPad more fashionable, Lenovo has also made a few cosmetic changes to the T431s. Though perhaps not as alluring as the brushed aluminum cases we’ve seen on other ultrabooks, this one’s semi-gloss lid, slender side profile, and thin display bezel make for an all-around more attractive laptop.

Lenovo ThinkPad T431s openOne change that ThinkPad loyalists may not like, however, is the new glass touch pad. Instead of three tactile buttons at the top of the pad, you now get the flat, no-button integration we see on many consumer-oriented laptops. TrackPoint pointing stick enthusiasts, we believe, will find this change a minus, because it’s now more difficult to distinguish between the left, right, and middle mouse buttons.

We were also a little disappointed with the Lenovo’s display. While the 14-inch screen displayed text, graphics, and images well enough for everyday business applications, it left something to be desired in overall brightness and vibrancy. In addition, its lack of in-plane switching (IPS) technology made for relatively narrow viewing angles—when viewing the screen at any angle other than straight on, the contents started to appear washed out and distorted.

Overall, though, the ThinkPad T431s, like most T Series models, is a strong business-class laptop. It’s built solidly, with the durability we’ve come to expect from ThinkPads, and it performed reasonably well on the majority of our benchmark tests. It’s thin, light, and comfortable to use, making it a solid travel companion. We don’t recommend it as a consumer-oriented media-consumption machine—there are a number of ultrabooks better suited for that. This ThinkPad means business, and we like it as a highly portable workstation.

See the full review at Computer Shopper.

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HP Officejet Pro 276dw Multifunction Printer Review and RatingsIt’s not all that often that we get to test an inkjet multifunction printer that costs more than $300. (Most inkjets are geared toward consumers and come in below that.) The most recent was HP’s $799.99-list Officejet Pro X576dw, an ultra-high-volume model based on the company’s relatively new PageWide technology, quite different from other machines built around standard inkjet mechanisms. Prior to that, the last $300-plus inkjet we had seen in some time was the Editors’ Choice-winning, $499.99-list Epson WorkForce Pro WP-4590—which we reviewed back in 2012.

What we liked about the WorkForce Pro WP-4590—aside from its strong feature set and its laser-like print quality and print speeds—was its highly competitive cost per page (CPP). This was one of few inkjets (and still is) that delivered black-and-white pages for under 2 cents per page, and color pages for well under 10 cents. Not only are these CPPs extremely low for an inkjet printer, but they are also less expensive per page than many color-laser-class machines. Combine this low cost of ownership with an extensive feature set, a high monthly print volume, and exceptional print quality and speed, and you get a great all-in-one (AIO) machine for small businesses and workgroups that print a lot.

HP OfficeJet Pro 276dwThat’s also what you get with the subject of this review, HP’s $399.99-list Officejet Pro 276dw Multifunction Printer$399.99 at OfficeMax—a highly capable, feature-rich, high-volume AIO with a very reasonable per-page cost of consumables. In fact, feature for feature—right down to an optional additional 250-sheet paper drawer and PCL/PostScript laser-printer emulation—HP’s 276dw and Epson’s WP-4590 have a lot in common. Frankly, we would find choosing between them difficult.

The good news is that no matter which one you choose, both machines provide an excellent alternative to a midrange color laser multifunction printer—not to mention the benefits you get from inkjet technology versus laser technology. Inkjet printers, for example, turn out much higher-quality photographic images and intricate graphics, and they do so while consuming less power than their laser counterparts.

As we see it, then, this really is a battle of two high-volume business-centric inkjet AIOs—the 276dw reviewed here and Epson’s highly capable WP-4590. Aside from the $100 difference in their list prices (which, on high-volume models like these, is less important than their CPPs), the devil is in the details. This Officejet, for example, comes with a high-capacity automatic document feeder, or ADF (holding 50 pages, versus 30 on the Epson printer), and a slightly higher suggested maximum monthly duty cycle (30,000 pages versus 25,000). On the other hand, the Epson model delivers slightly lower CPPs, which, if you print thousands of pages each month, can save you plenty year in and year out.

HP OfficeJet Pro 276dw PrintingOur suggestion is that you check out our reviews of both models and compare them heads up to decide which one better fits your needs. In the meantime, as we said about the WP-4590 last year, we found very little to dislike about this Officejet. It’s hands-down an easy earner of our Editors’ Choice nod.

See the entire review at Computer Shopper.

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Idolian Mini Studio 8 Review and RatingsMakers of Android tablets have it tough. In addition to competing with each other, they need to keep a wary eye on the ever-ticking bomb in their midst: Apple, and its dominating grip on the tablet market. It’s a given that to succeed, any new Android slate must stack up favorably against the iPad in one way or another, whether that’s on features, on price, or on both. To that end, every now and then, we see Android slates that resemble iPads so closely in their feature sets and design that they come close to being clones.

Case in point: the subject of this review, the $198-list Mini Studio 8 by Idolian, a tablet maker based in Southern California. In this case, though, rather than aping the full-size iPad, the Mini Studio 8 takes its cues from theApple iPad Mini. Idolian’s well-built, attractive little slate not only looks like the iPad Mini from the front, but it’s also encased in a similar-looking aluminum-alloy case, has the same screen resolution (1,024×768), and boasts several other features in common. Where these two slates differ greatly, though, is in price: that $198 list price for the Mini Studio 8, versus the $329 at which we typically see the entry-level 16GB iPad Mini. (Plus, at the time of this writing, the Mini Studio 8 was on sale via Idolian’s Web site for $158—just about dead-on half the price of Apple’s Mini.)

Idolian Mini Studio 8In addition, the Idolian Mini comes with several features unavailable on Apple’s miniature tablet. These include an SD-card slot (for expanding the onboard storage) and two ports: a USB connector and an HDMI out. And these features, in our opinion, significantly increase the overall value of Idolian’s offering.

Idolian Mini Studio 8 GameplayOn paper, at least, it may seem that feature for feature, the Mini Studio 8 is something of a bargain, and, depending on what you want to do with your tablet, it may well be. But simply cross-checking feature lists between two similar products doesn’t always tell the whole story. Make no mistake: The Mini Studio 8 is decidedly a budget tablet, and where economy models often pale compared to premium tablets is in the quality of their displays. And that’s the case here. Despite the identical pixel resolution of these two slates, the Apple iPad Mini’s display panel is noticeably brighter and more colorful.

You may be thinking that this is a classic example of you-get-what-you-pay-for, but not necessarily. Several under-$200 tablets, such as the 16GB versions of both the Google Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD (7”), have great-looking, bright, and colorful displays. Still, the comparison is simply a matter of how fussy you are. The Mini Studio 8’s screen is not in any way poor or unacceptable; it’s just not as good as what we’ve seen on these other models.

Idolian Mini Studio 8 OffOur point is that this Idolian tablet and the iPad Mini don’t exist in a vacuum—several other low-cost slates out there compare favorably to the downsized iPad, too. Still, we liked the Mini Studio 8 overall, especially as an entry-level tablet for children and first-time buyers who aren’t sure how much they will actually use their tablet. But we like it much better priced in the $100-to-$150 range. At its list price of $198, it bumps heads with some other compact 7-inch slates that are very strong contenders indeed, even if their screens are an inch smaller. If the Mini Studio 8 piques your interest, definitely try to land it on sale—and look at the screen first.

See the full review at Computer Shopper.

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Brother HL-3140CW Review and RatingsDeservedly or not, inexpensive LED-based printers are enjoying a renaissance of late. Over the past few months, we’ve looked at a bunch of new entry-level, LED-based color printers designed for small and home offices. The three most recent of these low-cost, low-volume machines we’ve tested are Dell’s C1760nw Color Printer and C1660w Color Printer, and Brother’s HL-3170CDW. The last of those is the beefier of a pair of LED-based color printers that the Japanese electronics giant sent us recently.

Here, we’re looking at the slightly less versatile of that pair, Brother’s $249.99-list HL-3140CW. (It’s also the less expensive of the two; the HL-3170CDW lists for $279.99.) Aside from a $30 price difference, this color LED model is much the same as the HL-3170CDW, which we reviewed just a few weeks before this printer. And for that modest $30 savings, we found that you give up a bunch.

The biggest thing you give up in the HL-3140CW is automatic duplexing (which, of course, allows you to print on both sides of the paper without having to manually flip it over). Connectivity and memory are also different; the higher-cost machine comes with an Ethernet port (which the HL-3140CW lacks) and twice the memory (128MB, rather than 64MB). As we noted in our review of the HL-3170CDW, these additional features are hefty sacrifices for $30, making this higher-priced laser-class printer a better overall value.

Brother HL-3140CWIn case you’re wondering why we call these printers “laser-class” devices, rather than simply laser printers, there’s a technical reason. “True” laser printers use a laser mechanism inside to draw the page image to be printed onto the printer’s drum (which then picks up and transfers toner to the page). LED-based machines, on the other hand, charge the page image onto the print drum with an array of light-emitting diodes. Mind you, this isn’t a ploy by manufacturers to make knock-off laser printers; substituting LEDs for lasers simply allows printer manufacturers to make smaller and lighter printers with fewer moving parts. All else being equal, LED models tend to cost less to manufacture than do their laser counterparts. Aside from the economics involved, though, LED-based printers function much the same as laser devices do, and they act identically from the outside; hence, we call them “laser-class” printers.

No matter what they have inside them, though, this class of printers, in general, has become—due primarily to pressure from high-volume, business-centric inkjet models—less and less attractive from a bottom-line perspective. At one time, small and home offices chose laser and laser-class printers over inkjet models because they printed faster, turned out near-laser-quality text, and cost less to use per page on an ongoing basis. However, these low-cost laser-class devices no longer outperform some of today’s high-volume inkjets enough to justify their somewhat higher up-front cost. Plus, some of them cost significantly more to use than many of today’s business-centric inkjets.

It’s that last item—the high cost of the toner—that concerns us most. As we often contend, seldom should the up-front price of a printer be your first consideration when buying a printer for business use. Unless you print very little, how much you’ll pay to keep the printer supplied with ink or toner is much more important. (We’ll show you why in the Print Quality & Conclusion section near the end of this review.)

Where the Brother HL-3140CW outshines not only inkjet printers, but also most other color-laser-class devices in this price range, is in speed. In our tests, it outpaced most entry-level color-laser-class machines we’ve tested. However, what itdid print was a notch or two below the norm for laser-class output. That’s not to say that the print quality was bad, by any means. But we’ve seen better from some other lasers and LED printers.

Brother HL-3140CW Right Side ViewOverall, given the high cost per page, lack of support for automatic two-sided printing, and slightly below-industry-standard output, we found ourselves lukewarm about the HL-3140CW, especially when you can buy the HL-3170CDW (with auto-duplexing and twice the RAM) for just $30 more. And, in fact, that’s our recommendation. If, after reading our review, you decide that the HL-3140CW is the right printer for your small or home office, we suggest that you jump over and read our take on its higher-end sibling, the HL-3170CDW. It’s just a better value.

See the entire review at Computer Shopper.

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Acer Aspire R7 Review and RatingsWith Windows 8, Microsoft has finally given us a truly touchable Windows, and the results have included some of the most fascinating experiments in computer design in recent memory. PC makers are bending over backwards to deliver crossover and hybrid devices that twist and turn this way and that, morphing between laptops and tablets, tablets and all-in-ones, and back again—all in an effort to achieve new levels of versatility, to accommodate the widest range of computing situations and scenarios.

One of the leaders in this march toward making our gadgets more clever and convenient has been the Taiwanese electronics giant, Acer. Back in January 2013, the company’s Iconia W700 was one of the first tablets to move away from the cookie-cutter detachable keyboard dock. A bold move, the W700 met with some skepticism—even here at Computer Shopper, we were a bit dubious at that slate’s unconventional approach to being a tablet that doubled as a desktop PC. We had to give Acer credit for trying something so unusual, though.

Well, Acer’s new notebook makes the W700 look ordinary.

The concept behind the Aspire R7—a laptop that doubles as a tablet—is nothing new. Several recent machines, such as Lenovo’s IdeaPad Yoga 13, come with screens you can manipulate into quasi-tablet positions. That’s a reasonably safe bet. The gamble Acer has taken this time hinges (pun intended) on the way the $999 Aspire’s touch screen attaches to its chassis.

The 15.6-inch screen sits on a uniquely designed hinge—Acer calls it an Ezel hinge—that permits you to move the panel into several positions or modes which change the laptop’s functionality in intriguing and useful ways. We’ll look at the Ezel hinge in some detail on the next page.

Acer Aspire R7 modes

From left to right, the Ezel hinge’s four modes: easel, laptop, presentation, and tablet.

In an even bolder move, Acer has relocated the touch pad of the Aspire R7 from the usual position—in a palm rest or wrist rest below the keyboard—to a harder-to-access location above the keyboard. The company claims that, combined with the Ezel hinge’s ability to move the screen closer to the keys, repositioning the touch pad emphasizes and encourages use of the system’s touch screen and that pointing devices are no longer as necessary on touch-enabled PCs.

Perhaps. But as you’ll see in our discussion on the next page, moving the touch pad is a huge change that significantly affects the way you work. Some users, we fear, may consider this move a deal-breaker, as may serious typists who dislike the lack of a wrist rest.

The Ezel hinge hardware also makes the Aspire R7 a little thick and heavy, so it’s less than ideal for frequent travelers. Otherwise, with its third-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 1,920×1,080 display, and 500GB hard drive, this is a mid-range notebook comparable to several other 15-inch models we’ve seen lately.

Acer Aspire R7 starship

The Aspire R7 does its impression of the Starship Enterprise

As laptops go, this one is well-built, has a great-looking screen, and performs as expected for a computer built around this CPU and supporting components—a bit better than expected in our battery-rundown test. Some users, especially consumers interested in media consumption, will find the innovative Ezel hinge highly useful and convenient—and the R7, in our opinion, a terrific value at $999. If, however, you type a lot, you may find the placement of the touch pad disconcerting, even a bit counterproductive.

See the entire review at Computer Shopper.

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Dell XPS 18 Review and RatingsIt’s been about seven months since the debut of Windows 8, and now that Microsoft has finally given us a viable touch-enabled operating system, the new Windows has brought with it a lot of interesting (if not sometimes a little bizarre) twists on the whole personal computing scene. Prior to Win 8, the differences between stationary desktop PCs and portable laptops and tablets were reasonably clear. Now, though, after only half a year of a truly touchable Windows, nearly every distinction between stationary and portable has been blurred.

One of the more promising product types to come out of this flurry of experimentation has been the portable all-in-one (AIO) PC, the first iteration of which, Sony’s VAIO Tap 20, passed through our labs back in October 2012. AIO PCs themselves—desktop machines with the computing hardware and display built into the same chassis—have been around for a while. But the Tap 20 was the first one we’d seen with a battery inside, which allowed you to detach it from its stand and use it unplugged.

In this way, the VAIO, much like the $1,349 Dell XPS 18 we’re reviewing here today, essentially doubles as a huge Windows 8 mega-tablet. And we do mean huge. With the Sony, for instance, we’re talking about an 11.5-pound slate with a 20-inch screen—not exactly the kind of device you would hold in one hand and operate with the other.

Dell XPS 18 sideAt a hair over five pounds, the 18.4-inch XPS 18 is smaller and much lighter than the VAIO Tap 20, but it’s still a far cry from the typical 1- to 2-pound, 10- to 11-inch slates we’re used to. While the XPS 18 looks and behaves much like a tablet, it, too, is far too big and unruly to hold onto with one hand or balance on your lap. Nor would you want to tote it along with you as a substitute for your laptop or a more traditionally sized Windows slate. In fact, if you tried to deploy it in either of these scenarios, we’re sure you’d find it sorely wanting and disappointing. It’s just too big.

Above all, the XPS 18 is a desktop AIO computer. It’s portable in the sense that you can, at any time, snatch it out of its docking stand and tote it from room to room in your home, or from office to office in your place of business. If you’re like us, at first, this seemingly limited portability doesn’t sound like much—where’s the value in a tablet that you can’t easily pack up and take with you, or lay across your lap or airline tray table when traveling?

Read on, and we’ll show you. As was the case with the Tap 20, after spending several days with this well-built and highly attractive PC, when we stopped trying to compare the XPS 18 to a typical Windows slate, we began to see its potential. The convenience and productivity gains from the ability to simply unplug your desktop PC and carry it from the living room to the bedroom, or, perhaps, from your desk to the boss’s office or the conference room, are huge.

You can buy the XPS on Dell’s Web site in one of three configurations, featuring a choice of third-generation Intel Core i3 ($999), Core i5 ($1,349), or Core i7 ($1,449) processors. The base model has 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive; the upper two come with 8GB of memory, the 500GB hard drive plus a 32GB SSD cache, and the convenient docking stand shown in the images above and below. We tested the middle model.

Dell XPS 18 standup

The XPS 18 on its built-in kickstand feet (left) and the metal docking stand (right).

As desktop AIO PCs go, the XPS 18 is a mid-range machine. By today’s standards, the 18.4-inch screen is a little small. However, as you’ll see, we were quite impressed with its 1080p HD display quality. Overall system performance was satisfactory as an all-around home or small-office solution, though the Dell won’t serve you speedily as a media processing workstation or high-end gaming PC. And, as mentioned, we found ourselves especially fond of the XPS 18′s ability to double as a tablet—a tablet on steroids, to be sure, but a highly convenient one just the same.

See the entire review at Computer Shopper.

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Canon Pixma MX522 Wireless Office All-in-One Printer Review and RatingsIt must be spring—the first in Canon’s line of updated entry-level, business-centric all-in-one (AIO) printers has just arrived in our labs. Every year, almost like clockwork, the Japanese imaging giant sends us three or so under-$150 models in its “MX” line of small- and home office-oriented machines.

And in recent years, we’ve typically responded with something equivalent to “So, where’s the beef?”

While other printer manufacturers, such as HP, Epson, and Brother, consistently turn out new, faster, and sleeker AIOs, Canon, in its recent successive generations of AIOs, has satisfied itself with tacking on a feature or two, upticking the model numbers, and calling these refreshed versions “new.”

Canon Pixma MX522That’s indeed the case with the subject of this review, the $149.99-list Pixma MX522 Wireless Office All-in-One. A refresh of the Pixma MX512 we looked at back in March 2012, the MX522 is the most feature-rich (and therefore most expensive) of a trio of low-cost, office-oriented AIOs in Canon’s vast Pixma stable. The other two are the $99.99-list Pixma MX452 and the $79.99-list Pixma MX392, which are, aside from a few productivity and convenience features, essentially the same machine. (Note: Because they’re intended for office use, these models can fax as well as print, copy, and scan.)

What you give up for the modest price differences among these three models, though, is substantial. For example, for the rough $70 cost savings between the Pixma MX392 and MX522, you’ll have to do without Wi-Fi connectivity or wireless networking. This, in turn, precludes support for Apple’s AirPrint technology (for printing from iPads and iPhones) and the ability to print from mobile devices in general (aside from using Bluetooth), as well as support for Google’s Cloud Print and some other mobile channels.

In addition, the MX522 is the only model of the three that comes with wired (Ethernet) network support, auto-duplexing (for two-sided printing without user assistance), and a color display for PC-free printing, copying, and scanning. Configuring the MX522 is easier, too, with the help of that display. The other two Pixmas come, instead, with two-line, old-school monochrome LCDs.

Where you won’t find many differences, however, is between the Pixma MX522 and its direct ancestor, the 2012 Pixma MX512. The newer Pixma looks and performs nearly identically to its predecessor. Primarily, what makes this Pixma “new” are its expanded alternative channels for printing from mobile devices, which we’ll discuss in the Design & Features section (the next page). In addition to these updates, Canon has done away with the slots for the wide range of memory cards supported by the MX512, leaving only a USB port for direct printing. That may or may not be important to you, depending on whether your small or home office prints a lot of photos.

Canon Pixma MX522 Top ViewAside from that and a slightly tweaked chassis, the MX522 is essentially last year’s machine, right down to its relatively poky performance printing our test business documents, and its too-high cost per page (CPP). Combine those things with its relatively small 100-sheet input tray, and you get an AIO that makes sense only in environments with moderate-to-low printing requirements.

What it does print looks good, though, and with that said, the Pixma MX522 works for us as a light-duty solution for offices with low-volume printing needs—say, a few hundred pages each month, tops.

See the entire review at Computer Shopper.

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HP Envy 120 e-All-in-One Printer Review and RatingsOver the past few years, a trend of sorts has emerged in the market for all-in-one (AIO) inkjet printers. In addition to manufacturing the standard range of practical office appliances for printing, copying, and scanning, most of the major printer makers—HP, Brother, Canon, and Epson come to mind—have added stylish-looking, luxury or semi-luxury models to their product lines. No longer does buying an AIO for your small or home-based office mean you have to choose one bulky, clunky-looking machine over another.

We’ve seen some reasonably good-looking printers over the years, but HP took the first shot in the style-over-substance wars (or at least the style-equal-to-substance ones) about two and a half years ago with the sleek Envy 100 e-All-in-One Printer. For a while, only Canon and HP sparred in this printer maker’s fashion rivalry—Canon with its glossy, elegant cube-shaped Pixma MG6220 and MG8220, and HP with its follow-on Envy, the Envy 110 e-All-in-One, which we looked at back in November 2011.

HP Envy 120Lately, though, Epson and Brother have rolled out runway-ready models of their own—Epson, with its Expression Premium XP Small-in-One line (our fave so far being the Expression Premium XP-800), and Brother with its very good MFC-J4510DW. What this tells us: Buyers of small- and home-office printers care enough about printer appearance to warrant making good-looking printers. Not only are we seeing eye-candy models from a wider range of manufacturers, but Canon sent us a refreshed version of the Pixma MG6220, the highly stylish Pixma MG6320, a couple of months ago, and HP’s update of the Envy 110, the $249.99-list Envy 120 e-All-in-One Printer—the subject of this review—arrived in our lab a few days ago.

HP Envy 100, 110, and 120

The evolution of the Envy line: the HP Envy 100, 110, and 120 (left to right).

What distinguishes this and preceding Envys from its competitors is that, above all, their primary strength is, well, looking good. With the other products we’ve mentioned here, their good looks are secondary—a by-product, if you will, of being premium office appliances.

Take the Pixma MG6320, for instance. As one of Canon’s higher-end photo printers, its primary purpose is to churn out top-quality images, and it does. Meanwhile, Epson’s Expression Premium XP-800, as well as Brother’s MFC-J4510DW, focus first on squeezing as much functionality into the smallest “reasonable” form factor. That you get a machine that looks good in a style-conscious office or your living room is a secondary consideration, not the primary one.

HP Envy 120 Top ViewThe Envy 120 is, as you’ll see in the Design & Features section on the next page, a good-looking printer—one of the tops in that regard. However, as we pointed out about the Envy 110 before it, as AIOs designed for small-offices and small-businesses go, it is not a very practical choice—especially if you do even an average amount of printing.

While, for the most part, it produces good-looking output, it’s slower than most AIOs, regardless of price, and because it has one of the highest per-page ink costs among printers in this price range, it’s expensive to use. Furthermore, it lacks several key conveniences and productivity features, such as an automatic document feeder (ADF). It’s really all about the look.

See the entire review at Computer Shopper.

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