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.
Every now and then, an all-in-one (AIO) inkjet printer arrives at our labs that makes us scratch our head shortly after unboxing it. No, it’s not a hygiene thing; it’s because the printer blurs the line between a color laser and an inkjet.
The $299 HP OfficeJet Pro 8600 we looked at in early 2012, a Editors’ Choice winner, is a classic example. Like any multifunction color laser worth its salt (or rather, toner), the OfficeJet Pro 8600 is fast, it’s designed for high-volume printing, and its per-page ink cost is low. But…it’s an inkjet. And furthermore, since, like most of today’s inkjets, the OfficeJet Pro 8600 prints excellent photos, you get the best traits of the inkjet- and laser-printing worlds for a relatively low price.
We consider this trend—that is, high-volume inkjet AIOs with low ink costs and tons of productivity features—an excellent one, providing great value for one-person and small offices alike. Hence, we were excited to receive Epson’s $399.99 WorkForce Pro WP-4540 and put it through its paces. It promised to be another category-bending multifunction printer.
Like the OfficeJet Pro 8600, the WorkForce Pro WP-4540 is serviced by two huge paper trays (though the second tray on the HP model is an added-cost option), and it uses inexpensive, high-volume ink cartridges. Both models have just about every feature any color-printing small office would need, and each of them churns out excellent prints at impressive speeds.
Read the review at Computer Shopper.
One thing’s for sure about Canon: When it comes to entry-level all-in-one (AIO) photo printers, you can’t accuse the company of not providing you enough choices. That’s clear from the early-2012 release of three new low-cost models: the $69.99 Pixma MG2120, the $79.99 Pixma MG3120 we’re reviewing here, and the $129.99 Pixma MG4120. Essentially, in terms of print engine and chassis, these three all-in-ones (AIOs) are identical, but each model provides a different set of features.
The Pixma MG2120, for instance, is completely stripped-down. It lacks Wi-Fi (wireless) or Ethernet (wired) connectivity, as well as support for printing and scanning to memory devices. It also lacks several other features found on the higher-end Pixma MG4120.
In addition to these features, the Pixma MG4120 has a small (2.4-inch) full-color LCD that makes scanning to and printing from memory devices and configuring the printer easier. Positioned between the MG2120 and the MG4120, the $79.99 MG3120, the subject of this review, supports automatic duplexing (double-sided printing, which the MG2120 lacks), but it does not support memory devices (cards or USB drives), and it doesn’t have an LCD screen.
Just over a year ago, Samsung’s first Android tablet, the original 7-inch-screened Galaxy Tab, was hailed as the first true competitor to Apple’s iPad. A noble excursion into the tablet market, that Galaxy Tab was, for its time, an impressive machine. It had a great screen, two cameras, expandable storage, and several other features that were missing on the first iPad (and that remain missing on the iPad 2).
After a full year, though, the Android 2.2 operating system (a.k.a. Froyo) on the Galaxy Tab had begun showing its age. Also, the tablet’s design was starting to look dated—at least as dated as any year-old piece of tech can. For both reasons, in early 2012, Samsung replaced this model with the Galaxy Tab 7 Plus.
Like Samsung’s other Android-based tablets—the Galaxy Tab 10.1and the Galaxy Tab 8.9—the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus is a good-looking, well-built slate. However, a couple of Samsung’s design decisions, such as leaving out dedicated HDMI and USB ports (instead, relying on optional adapters), coupled with the promise of the company’s soon-to-be-released Galaxy Tab 7.7, gave us a few reservations about this tablet.
See the review at Computer Shopper.
As 2011—the year that saw the genesis of the slim-yet-powerful ultrabook—ended, we found ourselves once again awed by today’s mobile-computing technology. From a design and performance perspective, it was a great year for notebooks. With the debut of so many exciting products, 2011 closed with the resounding bang of a laptop lid: Notebook innovation is alive and well.
While fast, superlight ultrabooks dominated much of the mobile-computing conversation during the final quarter of 2011, not all consumers need (or want) the absolute lightest notebooks available, especially considering that these wunderkind laptops aren’t cheap. If a super-portable machine means spending a bunch more money or giving up screen size, storage capacity, an optical drive, and graphics power, all of a sudden, a heavier machine might not seem quite so unattractive!
Case in point: Lenovo’s $899 IdeaPad U400, which, due to its screen size (14 inches) and weight (4.4 pounds), fits into our “thin-and light” laptop classification. (Computer Shopper classifies “thin-and-light” notebooks as models with screens ranging in size from 13 to 14.9 inches, unless they weigh less than 4 pounds; ultrabooks are rapidly redefining these rigid categories, though.) Similar in configuration to Dell’s $999 XPS 14z, which also impressed us, the IdeaPad U400 is a gorgeous machine with lots of great features. Its performance on our benchmark tests was quite similar to that of the XPS 14z, too, which is to say above average. However, a few glaring flaws, such as a serious touch-pad quirk and a lack of a performance boost from its discrete graphics accelerator, left us feeling that Lenovo has some more work to do on this machine.
While carrying a thin, light, and small laptop is easy on your back, there’s something to be said for having all the conveniences of a desktop PC with you wherever you go. Working on a large screen with discrete graphics, and having an optical drive and a huge hard drive at your disposal—as well as lots of ports and a number pad, depending on what you use your laptop for—are not just amenities. For some people, these features are tremendous productivity boosters.
The trick is balancing those items with a notebook body weight that’s manageable—and that’s no easy design brief. But Samsung seems to have pulled it off in its Series 7 Chronos. This laptop, just a few feathers above 5 pounds in the model we tested, costs $999 to $1,299, depending on the configuration. It’s a well-endowed, consumer-oriented powerhouse.
Whichever Series 7 model you may be looking at, this peppy laptop will have one of Intel’s fast Core i7 processors, a good-size (15.6-inch, 1,600×900-resolution) screen, a dedicated AMD graphics engine, lots of RAM, and a large hard drive. The model we tested turned in strong performance on our benchmark tests, including our tough battery-life test. Our only complaint is that it has a somewhat quirky touch pad, which we were able to correct by adjusting its sensitivity.
News flash! The last thing the world needs is yet another entry-level, me-too Android tablet. But that hasn’t stopped adventurous tech companies from trying to carve out a space in this highly competitive market.
The low-end side of this market is especially cutthroat. Manufacturers of low-cost full-size tablets (roughly, those under $400) must cut corners to meet certain price points. Several, for example, run older versions of the Android OS, such as 2.2 (Froyo) and 2.3 (Gingerbread), rather than the 3.xversion (Honeycomb) or 4.x version (Ice Cream Sandwich). Others skimp on construction material, encasing the tablet in a cheap-feeling plastic chassis, or by using inexpensive, lower-quality thin-film-transistor (TFT) LCDs, instead of the much more capable in-plane switching (IPS) displays that premium tablets such as the Apple iPad 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 use. Other cost-trimming practices include substituting inexpensive, slower processors, cutting back on system memory, and providing minimal storage. When comparing low-cost tablets to one another—and to their higher-priced competitors—we determine which options and features were stripped out to hit their price targets and then decide whether those compromises still result in a good product for the price.
See the review at Computer Shopper.
Why do offices choose all-in-one (AIO) laser printers—that is, models that can print, copy, scan, and fax—over their inkjet counterparts? The two main reasons: Laser devices print faster, and they usually cost less over the long haul to print black-and-white pages in volume. The trade-off is that most inkjet AIOs print photographs much better than laser multifunction machines, and, of course, most color-capable laser devices cost considerably more than inkjets.
The rare device, though, can give you the best of both worlds: speed, economical consumables, and excellent photograph printing. And we just found that seldom-seen combination in one moderately priced AIO. Enter HP’s $299 OfficeJet Pro 8600 Plus, one of the fastest, least-expensive-to-use inkjets we’ve seen in quite some time. Not only is it fast, but this model is loaded with features, such as a duplex-capable automatic document feeder (ADF), which allows you to scan, copy, and fax double-sided pages unassisted. It also has a great-looking, big 4.3-inch color touch screen.
Maybe we’ve been watching too much Food Network, or we’re just working too hard, but this latest printer review kept reminding us to go to lunch. (It’s the name.)
In mid-2011, Kodak replaced its well-established ESP line of inkjet printers with its new “Hero” brand of single-function and multifunction models. Feature for feature, we haven’t seen a huge difference between the Heroes and the printers they’ve replaced. What we have seen, though, from our review of the $199.99 Office Hero 6.1 and this look at the Hero 9.1: These printers are not gourmet models. Instead, these Heroes would be Subway’s practical, do-the-job $5 foot-longs.
The Heroes provide a nice array of convenience and productivity features that most small businesses look for in an all-in-one (AIO) printer. Still, as with last year’s ESP models, we noted nothing ground-breaking in the Hero 9.1. But for small offices looking for “reliable” over “remarkable,” this printer is a contender.
See review at ComputerShopper.com
Full-size tablets with 9- or 10-inch screens are great for using around your home or office, but when it comes to walking around with a slate, nothing beats a 7-incher. These small, light tablets are easy to transport, comfortable to type on when held in wide (landscape) orientation, and better for one-handed gripping for long periods.
Only a few manufacturers, such as Samsung and Acer, offer 7-inch versions of their larger tablets, and we’ve seen a few recent 7-inch hybrid e-readers/tablets, notably from Amazon (the Kindle Fire) and Barnes & Noble (the Nook Tablet). Unlike the abundance of full-size slates available, the selection of these handy littler ones is still quite limited. Hence, we’re always delighted to see a well-built, full-featured contender.
Enter Toshiba’s newest little powerhouse, the $379 Thrive. In many ways—primarily appearance and design—the 7-inch-screened Thrive mimics its larger, 10-inch-screen sibling. However, unlike that $479.99 version of the Thrive, this one doesn’t have a removable battery (a rare feature, which the larger Thrive has), nor does it offer full-size USB and HDMI ports.